Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 21, 2017

Today my Facebook memory was the first blog post for Chris. I find it appropriate that I post his last post today. 

Dearest familia,

What to say about the last full week in the mission... I'll get the bad news out of the way first I suppose. So, I'm almost certain I inadvertently donated my iPad to another North Side Wal-Mart patron because it has not turned up. I was pretty bummed about it most of the day to be honest. You probably could've taken me out for bacon-wrapped filet mignon I would have still come out angry. Oh, wait, that happened... Side note, a member took us out to Texas de Brazil where for a small price of $44.00 a plate, they bring around various cuts of meat until you can eat no longer. But, yeah, the iPad is gone and it was terrible.

That night, the combination of excessive meat in my stomach and the fact that I lost the iPad seemed to prevent me from sleeping. Elder Ball couldn't sleep either so after about two hours we got up and watched Ephraim's Rescue until we were tired. While watching all these pioneers sacrifice so much, I thought to myself, "Am I willing to sacrifice my iPad in addition to the bike, two red light tickets, towing fee, blood, sweat, tears, and dignity I've already sacrificed, for the Lord? Yep, I think I am!" From that point on I've just been praying that some sort of good will come to someone from the loss of my iPad. If somebody were to become curious about the Gospel because of my highly restricted iPad with Jesus' face and the Church's name appearing on the home screen, I'd have no regrets about losing it. I'm just going to assume that's what is happening.

Most of the rest of the week was spent trying to get Barry ready for baptism. Satan was sure giving his best effort to prevent it from happening--including a car tire completely snapping off its axle. Fun story there, I'll tell y'all later. We came out on top in the end though! One other obstacle that we had to overcome was the fact that Barry is in a hard cast up to his mid-thigh from a foot surgery he had recently. We ended up using a white garbage bag, plastic wrap, and some tape to cover the cast. The issue of his leg not being able to bend was solved by having a priest in the water with us to make sure Barry's leg went under. It turned out well and I only had to baptize him once. Miracles!

The priest was also pretty proud that he got to help baptize someone.

After the baptism, we were driving home and saw one of our investigators sitting alone in the Subway he works at. We went inside and ended up teaching him and setting a baptism date. Cool. He also makes good sandwiches. No one makes 'em like Maurice.

Well, I suppose this is the end of an era for our family. I don't think the English language allows me to fully express my feelings for my mission. It has been everything I hoped for and so much more to use a cliche. I've thought a lot about whether I would serve this very same mission again, and though I don't necessarily feel ready to do everything over again right now, I am incredibly grateful for every experience I have had participating full-time in the work of salvation in Texas. That includes the good and the bad. I cannot thank the Lord enough for the person He has molded me into and the knowledge and wisdom He has allowed me to gain. The main thing I will take home and keep with me is the knowledge that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me deeply and is always guiding me- that He has given me His Firstborn and Only Begotten Son to pull me out of sin and sorrow. I know the Lord has been there with me every step.

I'm extremely grateful to the Lord for these beautiful two years He has gifted me and for the love y'all showed me throughout this journey. Texas will forever be sacred ground to me because of what I have become and the miracles I've seen here. It has truly been a loaves and fishes experience.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sent from not my iPad

And to me he sent - El restaurante mexicano está bien para mí. Ellos hablan Español allá?
Sí o no? Está bien si no. No hablo español pero un poquito.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 14, 2017 (One more to go)

Dear family,

I had a lovely email almost typed this morning, but I seem to have misplaced my iPad somewhere between Walmart and my apartment. We checked there and they haven't seen it. Could be on the road somewhere, could be stolen, could show up sometime in the next 10 days, who knows. 

Well, looks like Barry will be baptized this weekend which is great. He asked me to baptize him which will be a great way to close the mission. 

JeJe still hasn't committed to baptism but says she thinks she will be "very soon." 

I finished my study in the topical guide this week. Overall, my testimony grew of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, the Only Begotten, the Firstborn, and the Son of God among other things.

Love ya'll! Try not to lose valuable items like some people.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 7, 2017

Dear President Whitney,


Dear Family,

It was a bit of a slow week overall but we made progress with Barry at least. First of all, he came back home and is no longer missing. That means he's able to stay on date for the 19th which he's still excited about. We've starting getting some fellowship going for him as well which will hopefully keep him grounded in the church while he's vulnerable. Another plus is that he made it to church yesterday! My only concern is that his date is coming up on us quickly and we're still only on lesson 3 with him. I guess if he's ready, he's ready and if he's not he's not.

We didn't meet with JeJe this week but that was because she was invited over to a member's house. She reached out to them first and wanted to get their perspective on the things she's learning. I was okay with it because they could testify of things like tithing a little better than we can and we were thinking maybe she would ask them questions she wouldn't be comfortable asking us. The members reported back to us afterwards and it sounded like it went well. This week we definitely need to meet with her though.

I was also able to bear my testimony one last time in front of the ward. That was a special experience. I'm slowly getting used to the idea of going home though it still seems a little surreal. I never thought this would be such a strange concept. I'm sure I'll be fine though!

This week I was able to study Jesus, Taking the Name of. My favorite scripture was Acts 5:41 "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." This is when John and Peter had just been arrested and tried before the council. The statement that they rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" really made me consider the times that I've suffered shame in this work. Of course, it hasn't been to the extent of any of the early Apostles, but it still happens on a smaller scale. People just don't see us as humans sometimes and it's kind of sad to see and often hard to take.

For example, this week some other Elders went to visit one of their members at the Baylor All Saints hospital when they were stopped by a woman who had just lost her child and was pretty desperate. They called us to come over and talk to her since they had to get to their own member so we willingly went to see what we could do. When we got there, a hospital volunteer was with the other elders and thanked them for stopping and helping out a bit. She then told us and the lady that a chaplain was coming soon but was busy on the phone right now. So, we let this lady vent to us a little and tried to convince her to wait for the chaplain with us because she wanted to leave and rest a bit. Really all we did was stand there until the volunteer came over with the chaplain and thanked us for keeping the lady company. The chaplain however had fire in her eyes and asked, "What are they doing here?" then turned to us and said "you cannot be here unless you're visiting a specific person. She asked to see me not you!" Exact quote. She then spent the next five minutes or so telling the volunteer and a security guard how we were trespassing while the lady who lost her child sat and waited for her. Long story short, we were essentially kicked out of Baylor All Saints by a chaplain.

I'm slowly getting over it, especially with that scripture that helped me realize those kinds of things are a characteristic of the lives of worthy disciples of Christ's true church. It's been that way since Adam and Eve.

Back home, I'm up to seeing anyone that wants to see me, haha! So, I'd be glad to visit with Bishop Nelson for a bit. I think I'd like to see David as well if he's available that night.

Have a good week! Love y'all!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 31, 2017

Dear family,

It's hard to believe tomorrow I'll be entering the last month of my mission. I was going somewhere with that, but don't even know what more to say... Anyway, it was a good week. We were able to set a baptismal date with Barry who we met last Sunday. Well, Elder Ball did while I was out of the area on exchange. It's set for August 19th which is my two year mark and last weekend in the mission. He seems excited about it too. Unfortunately, when we went by yesterday to see why he wasn't at church we were told that nobody has seen him in a few days. Brings me back to the beginning of my mission! This was never a problem I considered before my mission... Well, we'll be praying he comes back. If he doesn't come to church next week I'm afraid he'll have shot himself in the foot as far as his baptism date goes.

We were very close to setting a baptismal date with JeJe as well but she told us she'll just call us when she feels ready to be baptized and basically we can do it as soon as possible after that. We're working on it. She did fast with us which was great to hear. She seems to have her tithing concern mostly resolved and I'm sure the Word of Wisdom will come.

While I was on exchange in the YSA Ward this week we were on our way to do some service when one of our back tires blew. I think that's number seven or so for the mission. We had a good conversation with another guy waiting at the shop though. He's a Pentecostal and just finished Bible School recently so it was an interesting discussion. Luckily it didn't get bashy or anything either.

This week I really enjoyed studying Jesus Christ's relationships with the Father in the Topical Guide. It was interesting to read about their unity and how unashamed Christ was to call God his Father despite the persecution that came because of it. Once again, it helped me realize the depth of love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ had for each other and how real of a sacrifice the Atonement was for each of them.

Have an awesome week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 24, 2017 (only 4 more)

Dear family,

That's exciting to hear that Southern Alberta is getting a YSA Stake. And right when I get home too! It'll be interesting to see how all that works and I'm sure a lot of callings are going to be extended in the next month. Now, as for my homecoming, I would prefer to have it on August 27th rather than September 10th. I know that will interfere a little with the big YSA meeting but I just want to do it while all the feelings and stories are still fresh. I hope that's okay with everyone.

Unfortunately we're still having a bit of trouble getting in contact with all our investigators. Belen has been dealing with some family drama I guess, so that has been distracting her quite a lot. JeJe did make some progress this week however. Once again, she shared with us a few of her other concerns about tithing and the Word of Wisdom. It seems to be mostly fear that is getting in her way; she wants to keep the commandments but is afraid enough of others' thoughts and opinions that she doesn't 100% of the time. She's working through it slowly though. We taught her about fasting a couple weeks ago so this Sunday we decided to put it into practice and fasted with her. Granted, she didn't come to church, but it was a positive experience nonetheless . We did have another random guy come to church with a less-active member. We're teaching them both on Tuesday.

My final Zone Conference went well too. It wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. Basically the whole transfer really has been pretty much the same as the last few. Other than planning for home a bit more that is.

My favorite scripture from this week was Isaiah 22:23 "And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house." I think it's an interesting comparison there. Just as a nail was put in a sure place to hold Christ up on the cross, Christ is a nail in a sure place to hold us up.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien

Monday, July 24, 2017

July 17, 2014

Dear family,

As expected, it has been a week of change. Saying bye to Elder Brinkerhoff was a little difficult at first since we've been companions so long. I definitely consider that a blessing. I think we got to the point where we were just two friends having fun doing missionary work. Elder Ball and I are getting along fairly well too. Now if only our investigators would meet with us! It's been one of those busy weeks for everyone I suppose. We were able to meet a couple new people that could potentially become investigators. They just couldn't give us an exact time to stop by again so we'll have to see what happens. I suppose that's the nature of some of the areas we work in around here.

We have quite a few people that are sort of "dipping their toes in the water" right now but are having trouble making time to meet with us. That's always frustrating but what can you do, right? We technically had an investigator at church yesterday but we just referred him to the Elders over African immigrants so he's not technically our investigator anymore. I'll count it as a success I suppose.

On the bright side, over the last few months Elder Brinkerhoff and I really connected with the ward more so that's still going. At first I wasn't sure if I really wanted to stay another transfer here but the ward makes it worth it. They're really making an effort to get to know Elder Ball as well which is great. He's slowly starting to figure out the area. Though I felt a little bad for him this week since there's so much to know about the area.

This week I was able to study Christ's millennial reign as well as a few talks. The verse that struck me most was Revelation 20:4 - "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

I pondered about this in the context of something I had read earlier. I can't remember where exactly I read it, but it basically said that our goal is not to adjust to the world, it's to disrupt it. Anyway, I felt like that verse was saying essentially the same thing. We don't reign with Christ for those thousand years by assimilating into the world; we have to disrupt it. The world won't like it of course, but it's worth it.

Well, my last Zone Conference is this week which means I'll have to bear my departing testimony. Wish me luck! Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 10, 2017

What a week, what a week! Fourth of July was on Tuesday of course. It's never quite as fun as a missionary since nobody really wants to talk to you or anything. We were able to get together with a few members and watch a small parade followed by some burgers and such. The rest of the day we did a bit of service and tried to contact some potential investigators to no avail. We then decided to just start texting some people since we knew they'd be at least looking at their phones.

Wednesday we had our last district Meeting of the transfer and later discovered that we had a flat tire. It's only the sixth or seventh on my mission. So, that took a chunk out of our day. The rest of the evening we had dinner and contacted some bible referrals. Later that night, around 10:00pm, is when it got crazy. Well, not really but anyway, Elder Brinkerhoff got a call to be a Zone Leader in $outhlake for hi$ la$t tran$fer. They're pretty wealthy over there. That left me wondering what would happen with me. At first, staying another transfer in the area seemed like a pretty scary nerve-wracking concept and I was getting pretty anxious about it. I've just gotten so used to being with Elder Brinkerhoff here and all the weird things that happen everyday get a little much sometimes. I also don't enjoy having to introduce a new companion to the area too much. I prayed a ton though and let the Lord know exactly what my desires were and eventually got to the point where I could say, truthfully, "thy will be done." 

Yesterday we had a pretty awesome day at church and all the members were sad to see Elder Brinkerhoff leave. I think that's when I really decided I'd be okay with staying  and, alas, I am! My new companion will be Elder Ball who I replaced in Heritage. He's a pretty social guy so that will be good. 

We got another solid new investigator this week from one of the summer sales guys. They do our tracking for us, it's great! He was anxious to read the Book of Mormon and has already "met seven or so Mormons that were really great people." This means he's statistically likely to be baptized, 'cause that's all that matters right? But seriously, he's awesome and he's searching for something more in his life so I'm excited to teach him. 

Belen also was able to make it to church once again. We had a great lesson with her on Friday and she expressed some of her concerns with us. They had had to do with her wanting to become better though, so we can work with that!

In my studies this week, I went through "Jesus Christ, Lord" in the Topical Guide. One thing I've been doing a lot of is defining words and looking especially at their origins. The word Lord comes from Old English hlāfweard, or 'bread-keeper'. That last part, weard, is the origin of the word Ward, meaning to guard or protect. Knowing this made the scriptures I read a lot more meaningful. 

Love y'all, have a great, earthquake free week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, July 7, 2017

July 3, 2017

Dearest family,

I hope everyone's Canada Day was enjoyable. I for one celebrated by teaching people and stuff as usual--while wearing a red and white tie. Patriotic, I know. I did also wore my new Canada shirt last P-Day. I'm repping the shirt again this week, only with blue and white shorts this time for the USA effect. Double patriotism if you will.

We've continued to see miracles in the area this week. Once again we had two completely new investigators at church this week. Now we just have to get everyone here at the same time! They both are pretty open and hopefully at least one of them, Belen most likely, can be baptized soon. She's a referral we received from the mission office this week. When we first taught her I wasn't completely sure she was actually interested in the gospel and thought maybe she just might be curious about the Book of Mormon. Lo and behold, she committed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and came to church!

The other lady that came to church is the girlfriend of a less-active member. We taught her after church and she was open to the idea of a restoration for sure. She just doesn't want to rush into baptism too fast because her parents once joined a cult accidentally so she's a little cautious. Understandably I suppose. Her boyfriend should be a huge help though; it sounds like he's only less active because he got busy with medical school.

The scripture I'd like to share this week is Doctrine and Covenants 45:67 "And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion."

This was under the "Jesus Christ, Glory of" section of the Topical Guide so that's what I focused on. It struck me that that same glory that will empower the righteous in Zion will terrify the wicked.

Have a wonderful week and try not to fry!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June 26, 2017

Dear Family,

This week was pretty routine up until yesterday. Miraculously two ward members brought potential investigators to church yesterday. One was a less-active and his wife and the other was a random lady that a summer sales guy met so there's some potential there. We gave both of them a copy of the Book of Mormon and got their information so we can visit them this week. We also came across a lady later in the day who had taken interest in "the lost books" and specifically asked us about the Book of Mormon out of curiosity. We briefly explained it to her and invited her to read it. We were actually looking for someone else but she said she might come when we teach next time if she can make it. Elder Brinkerhoff and I talked about it yesterday and decided that most of our visible success in the mission has had no direct connection to anything we did like a door we knocked, someone we street contacted or anything like that. All we do is stay diligent and every few weeks something falls into our laps. Like with Amy a year ago almost to the day, Elder Reich and I worked hard all transfer and nothing really happened until the last day of the transfer when Elder Reich was packing and I was reading the Ensign. That's when a member from another Stake referred her to us and boom, three baptisms.

Yesterday I also gave a talk in sacrament meeting. I was given my choice of topic so I decided to speak a little bit about the temple and how and why it became important to me. I shared a little about the trips we would take down to Cardston from Calgary for the temple and such. To continue, I shared Doctrine and Covenants 109:22-23, 2 Nephi 31:20, and a quote from Elder Holland. He discusses the connection between the endowment and missionary success which I have certainly gained a testimony of. I'll copy and past if for y'all:

"When  you  go  to  the  temple,  you  will  begin  to  understand the  significance  of  those  temple  covenants,  the inextricable link  between  your  endowment  there  and  your  missionary  success. Indeed,  the  very  word  endowment  conveys  the  essence  of  that vital  link.  An  endowment  is  a  gift.  It  contains  the same root  word  as  dowry,  which  is  a  special  gift  to  start  a  new couple  on  their  married  life.  While  I  was president  of Brigham  Young  University,  I  spent  a  certain  amount  of  my time  trying  to  build  up  the  university’s endowment,  its treasury  of  gifts  from  generous  donors. That  is  what  God  does for  us  every  time  we  make  a  covenant  with  Him.  He  endows us. ... This  work  is  so  serious  and  the  adversary’s  opposition to  it  is  so  great  that  we  need  every  divine  power  to enhance  our  effort  and  move  the  Church  steadily  forward.  The key  to  that  for  us  as  individuals  is  the  covenant we  make in  the  temple—our  promise  to  obey  and  sacrifice,  to consecrate  unto  the  Father,  and  His  promise  to empower  us with  'a  great  endowment.' " (Jeffrey R. Holland "A Message to Future Missionaries")

As for this week's Topical Guide thought, I really enjoyed the "Jesus Christ, Firstborn" section in general. All the scriptures really brought it home to me how literal that concept is, that Jesus was the first of all our Heavenly Parents' posterity and how significant that must have been for them. I wonder at what point they realized they would have to sacrifice Him for the rest of their spirit children. I discussed it with Elder Brinkerhoff and he basically said, "Probably in a conversation like this one." Woah, crazy to think about. Who knows though?

It also struck me how much love Jesus must have had for us having been alive in the spirit to see everyone of us created spiritually. I imagined Him being like the big brother that gets all excited when He gets a new sibling to love. Maybe that's why it had to be the firstborn, so He could have an individual relationship with every single spirit. I'm excited to eventually learn about all the details of these kinds of things.

Well, have a wonderful week! I sure love ya and God does too!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 19, 2017

Dear family,

This week was not as productive as we had hoped in a lot of ways but we did get some good work done nonetheless. We finally were able to meet with Jeje again this week even though she didn't come to church. She still has been making a lot of progress. She is so close to baptism right now but keeps getting in her own way! I'm pretty sure she just needs to decide one day and she'll be ready. That's improvement still for sure.

We also did some service for a member referral this week helping in her yard. She asked us specifically about our beliefs so we taught a bit in a conversational sort of way and shared the Book of Mormon with her. She then said, "my friend said I was supposed to meet with some people soon, is that y'all?" Of course we said yes so she told us she'll call us soon when her yard is under control. She sounded sincere too. It was a miracle for sure.

Yesterday was a pretty awesome awesome day at church. We had three recent converts receive the Melchizedek Priesthood yesterday so it was cool to see that. I'm getting to the point where I know most of the members in the ward so church is fun.

My favorite scripture from this week was Philippians 2:8 "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." I just really liked the phrasing of "being obedient unto death." Nothing special I discovered other than that. It's this kind of obedience that I know I strive for as a missionary and that we all strive for in life. Jesus Christ certainly personified this throughout His whole life. That's one of the major themes I'm finding in my study; He is obedient, even unto death out of love for us and of course His Father.

I hope y'all enjoy the beginning of summer this week. In my mind there seems to be something significant happening this summer but I can't quite put my finger on it... oh well, take care!

Elder O'Brien

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June 12, 2017

Dear family,

It wasn't much of eventful week here overall. We did have a zone conference on Wednesday which was nice. We talked a lot about changing things up a bit if what we're doing isn't working as well as it could. It's always an adventure trying to do that but we have been trying some new things like working with the young men more.

For lunch, the Relief Society fed us these awesome Navajo tacos. Unfortunately, the meat was under cooked or something because our entire zone at least was sick the next day. I'm sure it was the same for the other Zone as well as President and Sister Whitney. It was a funny experience.

Things are starting to slowly improve again in the area. We finally got Jeje to church again this week which was wonderful! She seems to be closer than ever to baptism. We weren't able to meet with her this week but apparently she almost called us on Wednesday to set something up. While she was thinking about this, she pocket dialed us and we texted her asking if she called. She told us no but must've felt guilty because she was telling us about this yesterday. She did see it as a sign from the Lord though so that's good! Jorge unfortunately wasn't able to come to church and couldn't even meet with us this week. Hopefully things improve there.

Well, the only other news I have is that I went golfing this morning on a 9 hole course nearby. Elder Brinkerhoff and another Elder in the zone are really into it so they set it up with a member for free. It was a first for me of course so I was pretty terrible. Not the worst though! I had a good time still.

In my studies this week I stumbled across John 17:19 "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." I was struck by the love this shows, especially the first statement. I noticed that it says 'sakes' referring to us as multiple individuals and not as a collective group. His Atonement truly is personal. Hopefully that makes sense. I'm in a little bit of a hurry because I am 100% out of time. Ironically, I don't have time to write everyone individually... I still love all of you and it was great to hear about your weeks!

That's just about it for my life this week! Have a good one!

Elder O'Brien

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 5, 2017

Dear family,

This week really wasn't that interesting in general but it was a good one nonetheless! We were able to meet with a couple people that we haven't been able to get a hold of for a bit. That was good. Jeje is finally making progress on the Word of Wisdom so she's getting pretty close to being ready for baptism. Now to help her realize that! Jorge is making slow progress it seems. Neither of them were able to make it to church unfortunately. Jeje had a migraine and Jorge apparently has four Sundays of work then four off. That means he won't be able to reach his baptism date. I wish life would be easier on investigators somehow! Anyway, all we can do about those kinds of things is pray I suppose.

I did get the package this week and it is very appreciated! I got a kick out of all the Canadian stuff, especially the shirt. I'll wear it proudly when I get a good opportunity.

This week in my Jesus Christ Topical Guide study I really enjoyed Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

I believe these verses were grouped with a few other references about Christ's condescension, how He descended below all things so He could be our advocate and succor us. The first verse to me is a call to hold fast to our testimonies and proclaim them without shame. The second verse describes why we should do so, being that we have a savior that was truly "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" and "was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin." He understands us completely and knows exactly how to help us overcome every trial of our life because he already did! How, of course, we don't understand but I believe every word of it. The last verse is an invitation to use Christ's Atonement so that one day we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy," or approach God without fear or guilt. That reminds me of a statement a member in the ward made a couple weeks ago. He said, "Grace is getting what we don't deserve. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve." Anyway, that last statement, "and find grace to help in time of need," was interesting to me as well. The way it is phrased tells me that we should both seek grace for ourselves when we need it and seek grace so that we can help others when they need it.

Hope you got something from that! Love y'all!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, June 12, 2017

May 29, 2017

Dear family,

We had a decently successful week I think. We were able to meet with Jorge several times to prepare him for his baptismal date in June. Our lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ was probably the best I've been a part of in a while. He really seemed to grasp the concept of repentance well which lead right into discussing baptism and why it's important. He's super humble but just needs some help overcoming temptation. He holds himself accountable to us though which is nice, he texted us this morning to let us know he broke the Word of Wisdom and felt bad. Unfortunately he didn't make it to church yesterday... and neither did Jeje... We're working on it. 

This week I was also able to go on exchange in the Fort Worth 5th/Chapel Creek area. That was the day that was super hot so it was a bit of a struggle but luckily they got a brand new car the day before with excellent AC. The most interesting part of the exchange was probably our last lesson of the night with a guy named Brian. He openly admitted to being on the verge of drunk but chose to talk with us anyway. Apparently he acted no differently than usual. Anyway, at this point in the mission I'm getting tired of beating around the bush with people so I was being pretty bold with him. He told us he prefers it that way actually, so whenever he would say something I knew was false I'd just kind of look at him with a straight face for a moment then teach him the truth as best as I could. According to him, my body language was showing that I wasn't being straight with him. I thought I was, but I basically just didn't hold back and tried to be  even bolder. He still was not getting it but oh well. I tried.

I was very surprised this morning to find out I'll be staying in Fort Worth with Elder Brinkerhoff. I really couldn't be happier, it just wasn't something I was expecting! We already got our flight itinerary together this week and now we'll be starting MyPlan together in a few weeks. President must really have faith in our enduring to the end! Hopefully we can live up to it! 

I guess as far as my study of Christ this week, the verse that stood out to me was John 20:7, "And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself." I was wondering why this specifically was mentioned so I studied in the Institute manual and this is what I found:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Together they view the grave-clothes-linen strips that have not been unwrapped, but through which a resurrected body has passed. And then, upon John … the reality dawns first. It is true! They had not known before; now they do. It is the third day! Christ is risen! ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ (1 Cor. 15:54.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:842).

"These details about the position of the grave clothes rule out the possibility that Jesus’s body had been taken by grave robbers or Jewish leaders conspiring to prevent claims of a resurrection (see Matthew 28:9–15; John 20:2, 13). Anyone interested in stealing Jesus’s body would have either unwrapped it, leaving the linens behind in a heap, or taken the body while it was still wrapped."

It was another testament to me that Christ truly did rise from the grave, allowing us to eventually do the same. 

Have a wonderful week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, June 9, 2017

May 22, 2017

Dearest family,

Sounds like everyone had a wonderful week and that summer is finally coming. We've had a few storms this week but they all hit us at night or barely at all. Lame. I need to see at least one more good storm before I leave Texas. 

The work has been going pretty well here anyway. A lot of our Bible referrals actually cooperated with us so we were able to teach them without much trouble. It was nice. Nobody who immediately wanted to be baptized or anything, but we at least got in the door. We still have one that's homeless and keeps chatting on asking why she hasn't gotten her Bible yet but doesn't answer her phone. We just laugh it off and keep trying to call. 

We were also able to set a baptismal date for June 24th with Jorge this week. He's been taught in the past and almost got baptized but hit some obstacles so he really wants to do it this time. He's going to begin working towards keeping the Word of Wisdom but church also seems to be an obstacle for him. He hasn't made it yet despite committing to several times. I suppose we'll have to keep working at it with him. Other than that things are great with him. He's always super happy and positive which is great. I'm thinking I may be transferred next week so I probably won't be here for the baptism. Jeje is basically in the same spot. She's slowly working towards baptism but it may be a month or two. Unfortunately she didn't make it to church this week either.

Well, since I've begun my study of Christ in the Topical Guide along with Mom, I figure I might as well share what I'm learning with everyone. The verse that struck me most this week was Luke 2:34 "​And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this ​child​ is ​​​set​ for the ​​​fall​ and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against." This of course is when Jesus is presented at the temple and Simeon rejoices over Him. I pondered a bit about that phrase "the fall and rising again of many in Israel," for a bit and wrote: What does this mean?

He is the Holy One of Israel. He is the savior and Israel's only means of salvation--all they looked forward to--yet he was rejected by them. Because they rejected him and remained in their sins, Christ had to call them to repentance and ultimately allow justice to take hold of them. This is the fall. 

Still yet, we are gathering Israel to this day under the Savior's direction and power given him of the Father. In ancient times Israel may have rejected him but when he comes again, they will see Him for who He is and He will cause them to rise again. 

He is a stumbling block, as described in scripture, and a stepping stone.

It's been an exciting study so far! I look forward to continuing it. Anyway, have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 15, 2017

Dear Family,

Once again it is time for another "we just talked yesterday, what do I say?" email. Luckily I get to actually pause and think while I'm writing so I've actually remembered some things I didn't talk about. I mentioned that Wednesday was a pretty unique day and I actually remembered everything this morning! So, it began with a bible referral appointment. When we showed up she was waiting on her porch which is totally weird because almost nobody even keeps their appointments, let alone waits outside for them! We talked with her for about a half hour and shared a little of the restoration with her. Turns out her husband is atheist and she was planning on leaving him hay day. She was surprisingly casual about it... Anyway, the guy came out at one point to smoke and just stared at us the whole time. 

After that appointment, we went to another one with a referral from other missionaries. Her name was Terry and she was pretty solid. We asked about her relationship with God and she described some experiences she's had that have impacted her. We then taught her a little more about the restoration and asked what she'd do if she found out it was true and she said she'd have to join the church. We then explained a bit about baptism and she said she'd be baptized if she finds out its true. We asked her how she'd find out and she told us she'd read the Book of Mormon and come to church. Of course we told her to pray about it too but the point is she gave all the answers we were hoping. She didn't actually make it to church unfortunately but neither did any other investigator so...

After our lessons we went out for some Mexican and saw some nasty words about Donald Trump in he bathroom. We then went to the church to get some referral info and Jeje dropped us over text but said she'd still come to church. 

The rest of the afternoon we contacted potential investigators and that's when two homeless people asked us for money within a single minute. I didn't have any cash but Elder Brinkerhoff had a $20 which he didn't want to give out. Had. The first guy said that was fine and moved on. The second guy said he knew we could just go to an ATM and get more and other stuff like that so Elder Brinkerhoff caved. 

Later that night we had a lesson at the church and Jeje was there bringing her son to cub scouts. Long story short we convinced her to keep meeting with us. 

It wasn't the weirdest day ever but a bunch of random things happened that made it unusual I suppose. Oh, and just to clarify from yesterday, of the stories I said I'll tell when I get home none of them involve having guns pointed at me. I hope you find comfort in that. 

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 8, 2017

Dear Family,

It's been a good week in the lone star state. Real summer is starting to creep up on us slowly so we had a couple days in the low 90s and high 80s. It's going to get pretty toasty this summer I think.

Hard to believe it's already Mother's Day next week and time to Skype again. I'll either be calling at 4 or 5 your time depending on our schedule that day. I'll shoot ya'll an email that morning and let ya'll know! And remember, it's 45 minutes this time! I'm not even going to talk about what number call this is for my mission. Anyway, looking forward to it.

So quick taco story. There's this fancy/hipster taco place, Velvet Taco, that I've been wanting to go to ever since I got here and we either haven't had the time or money to go until this week. On Wednesday for dinner I finally got to experience these miracle tacos for myself. I got a brisket and a pulled pork taco and they were seriously the best I've had ever. The brisket one had cheese melted on the outside of the tortilla. Crunchy. Delicious. Amazing. I spent about $9 on my two tacos and Elder Brinkerhoff spent about $11. For the next few days we couldn't stop talking about it and kept wondering when we could go next. Two days later we were on exchange (Elder Brinkerhoff was out of the area) and our dinner appointment wanted to take us to Chuy's, another Tex-Mex place. Turns out there was going to be a 45-60 minute wait because everyone was celebrating Cinco de Mayo. So where did we go instead? Velvet Taco. Elder O'Brien: happy. Elder Brinkerhoff: not so much. This time I got some sort of buffalo chicken taco and, get this, a water buffalo taco. Remarkable. That wasn't as short as I thought... oh well.

None of our main investigators were able to meet with us this week unfortunately. I'm thinking Jeje may have kind of gotten cold feet after we committed her to pray about a baptism date. She also has been battling allergies lately which doesn't help. Texas allergies are quite literally the worst for some. Luckily It hasn't really affected me. Hopefully this week she'll get feeling a little better and we can help her move forward. I have no idea what's going on with Marcello. Apathy and fear maybe.

We have Elder Lawrence of the seventy coming to our mission tomorrow so that will be exciting. I've been lucky on my mission to meet quite a few general authorities and I always come away a little happier and more confident about the work. It's nice to get that boost once in a while.

Have a nice week! Sorry I can't share my heavenly tacos with you!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

April 17, 2017

Dear family,

No weird stories for this week, just an awesome one and a couple funny ones. I'll start with Monday, that's when most notable things happened. I sent a picture of the text we got last week but I'll explain a bit more. So, Brother Johannsen was baptized when he was a kid and apparently it was essentially against his will and as he grew up he came to hate the church quite a bit. Around the same time I came to the mission, he was led to meet with the missionaries again and, long story short, they couldn't find his records so he got rebaptized just over a year ago. Since he decided to come back to church he's been really pushing his wife to join but she was pushing back for a while. He let off for a few months and I guess she decided to really read and pray about the Book of Mormon and come to church more often. The second one we noticed of course so she was on our radar a bit. Anyway, on Monday she decided to get baptized. She's been taught the lessons and everything so we set the date for this Saturday. I honestly didn't think those kinds of things actually happened but there you go. Definitely will be an exciting weekend.

Later that night we'd finished up for the night so we were just relaxing in the apartment when suddenly I saw an odd, brownish spot on the carpet. We both checked our shoes and turns out Elder Brinkerhoff had stepped in dog poo and got it all over the carpet. 🤢 Nasty... We got all of it out though!

I think it was a couple nights later that a huge storm came through overnight. I always enjoy storms so that wasn't a problem. However, in the morning, I got out of bed and was about to get ready when Elder Brinkerhoff informs me that the roof is leaking... on my bed! A couple buckets and some shifting around of furniture and that was fixed. The roof is a bit more of an issue though. Hopefully the mission office can get the landlord on that soon.

The only other news I really have is that I'm staying in Fort Worth 8th with Elder Brinkerhoff for another transfer. I was pretty excited about that. The rest of the Zone is changing a ton though. Even within the last transfer we've had three missionaries go home for different surgeries and such. That's never fun to hear about. Let's hope everyone sticks around for a little longer this transfer.

Hope y'all had a happy Easter and hope your week is awesome!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 1, 2017

Dear Family,

Happy May! Hopefully spring is making its way up there. It's been down in the 50s and 60s the last couple days so I for one have been freezing.

We had a great week other than nobody showing up to church. We've gotten the whole situation with Jeje living in another ward sorted out. Apparently her ten year old son told her that if she switches churches one more time he's not going so the Assistants and the Stake President have given us permission to teach and baptize her with the goal of getting her to her proper ward soon. So, we're trying to coordinate something to help her son make friends there. We almost set a baptismal date with Jeje on Wednesday but she wanted to pray about it. At first she said, "It'll happen before you leave Elder O'Brien!" then I told her that might be in a month and she wasn't quite as sure. She totally could though! We'll just have to see.

I can't remember if I've talked about Marcello and his family before but I'll explain just in case. They live next to one of the ward members and Marcello met with the missionaries several years ago when he lived in Arkansas. There are six in the family. Anyway, we had a church tour with them on Saturday that went decently well. They had a lot of questions which their neighbors helped answer for us since they came along. We talked a lot about baptism when we got to the font which prompted a lot of the questions. Marcello seems to have an attitude that he isn't capable of staying true to any commitment like baptism so he's mostly just meeting with us because he knows he should. That's something though! He didn't end up coming to church so of course the rest of the family didn't come either. We'll keep trying!

Love y'all! Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious week! (Challenge accepted and accomplished Julie)

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

P.S. The mission office called me and said they're sending my flight itinerary soon so that's weird.

April 24, 2017

Dearest family,

I can hardly even remember what happened this week other than the last three days but I'll do my best! Luckily we didn't have any dog poop or leaky roof incidences, just the regular sort of random things. We were finally able to get in contact with a couple of referrals that we've been trying to for a while. One of them is named Jorge and was a referral from California. He had met with missionaries there a couple years ago and even had a baptismal date! A few days before his baptism, he drank a coke or something and thought he broke the word of wisdom. That led him to get super depressed so he smoked a cigarette... Oops. He seems to being willing to give it a try again so hopefully that goes well. We're meeting with him again tonight.

Sister Johannsen's baptism of course was the most eventful Part of the week ...

Somehow I hit the send button prematurely with my elbow...

Sister Johannsen's baptism of course was the most eventful part of the week. It was a little stressful putting it all together but it turned out quite well considering. There was also a funeral that day for the last bishop of the ward who passed away after battling cancer for six years so the baptism was a good pick-me-up for everyone. It was one of those events that everyone was hoping for for a while. Definitely a good day.

That's about all I've got this week. Sorry for the short email! I still love ya'll and hope your weeks are glorious!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

April 10, 2017

Dear family,

Well, it's been a fairly average week. Again, not too weird not too normal. No bearded ladies or anything. I think the weirdest thing that happened was that we went to visit a guy who was taught pretty consistently a few months ago that was never dropped. His first lesson report said he was totally crazy and ready for the gospel at the same time. By the end we determined he was mostly just crazy and probably not fully capable of grasping Doctrine much at all. He has an interesting story though and has been in the local news a couple times for non-crime reasons. He has lithium poisoning apparently and was homeless for a while. While he was living in the forest off of East Lancaster a couple charities took notice of him and he did a little painting for them. He then discovered he actually has quite a talent for abstract art and auctioned some off to help support other homeless individuals. The charities got him set up with a home and other amenities so he's doing a little better now. This has been within the last couple years.

Anyway, he also believes the heavens have called him as a high priest and doesn't quite understand why people don't take him seriously. We talked about random things for a bit and tried to direct it towards doctrine but Texans like to talk, so... The visit ended with him explaining some of his art to us. At first it didn't really make a whole lot of sense but the longer I stayed the more I understood. He pointed out a mustache playing piano in one and I could totally see it! Seriously. Elder Brinkerhoff said I was crazy but haters gonna hate. I'm going to have to google this guy's name when I get back so I can show you. I have a few pictures and a video that Elder Brinkerhoff took.

This weekend was definitely an up and down one. Most of Friday and Saturday was spent contacting people who were either too busy or not really that interested. Yesterday made up for it though because we got four bible referrals. One of them we taught within an hour of receiving the referral. She seems pretty open but I'm not quite sure about her husband. We'll see. There was another one named EJ who was originally contacted by one of the Spanish companionships. His brother joined the church not too long ago so he had heard a bit from him and was super excited to get a Book of Mormon. He also is recovering from a bit of scuffle with one of his other brothers. Apparently his brother is going through some things and got irrational for a minute, had a sword for some reason and went to hit EJ with it. EJ put his hand up to block it and now his hand is not doing so well. Go figure. He said he's totally forgiven him though. That was definitely not the type of story I've heard before. It sounds like he has a lot of potential with his brother and all so we'll see what happens!

Oh, also, I had super awesome cake yesterday. It tasted exactly like orange creamsicle and I didn't even get a chew in before I could tell it was amazing. I may have to get the recipe before I leave.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 3, 2017

Dear Family,

We had a pretty busy and somewhat weird week. Not too weird not too normal, just as I like it. We managed to convince the mission office (via the Zone Leaders) that we need more miles so that really helped this weekend. We were able to contact most of our new bible referrals within a couple days and seem to have leveled off at fifteen to twenty uncontacted at a time. Of course, there were odd ones. The short story for this week involved a lady who ordered both a Bible and a Book of Mormon. We set up an appointment with her on Wednesday afternoon I believe and showed up right on time. She had just woken up after having "a crazy night" and kept moving her head around like she was going insane. She also had 5 o'clock shadow. Not even kidding. I could go further but I won't.

In other news, conference was awesome! I don't think I can pinpoint a favorite talk but I did learn a ton in general. There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on re-centering ourselves on Christ. I found it interesting that President Nelson mentioned that we shouldn't speak of the Atonement as something independent of Christ. President Eyring and Elder Holland mentioned that same thing during the face to face event last month so it's obviously a topic they've been discussing. It amazes me how careful the brethren are about wording and how it affects our thoughts processes. John 3:16 was also quoted several times. One thing I took away from all this talk of Christ was that I should study "The Living Christ" and the topical guide sections on Christ. That's my next project after I finish the Book of Mormon again.

Two other things that stood out to me were that it is within my power to follow spiritual promptings more and "look up and drink" as Elder Choi put it. I'm pretty sure I've felt a need to be more positive after every conference on my mission so maybe I'll do a little better this time! I think the key may be asking "what can I learn from this experience?" I'm good at doing that after the fact but not so much during. Oh well, repentance!

Have a wonderful week and remember to look up! I'll let you know how that goes in Texas rain.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March 27, 2017

Dear Family,

I had a slightly less interesting week than last week but it was still good! We were super low on our mile allotment and unfortunately a lot of our appointments cancelled but we made the best of it I suppose. I felt sort of empty on Wednesday because we didn't go to the weirdest parts of our area so the whole day felt normal. Anyway, if nothing else, Jodi's baptism on Saturday made up for it. She was excited and ready which is always a relief and the baptism went very smoothly. I even got to baptize her and only had to do it once!

Yesterday we met a few potential investigators from a few months ago that we were able to set appointments with so hopefully that will go well. They were both a little odd but hey, we don't judge. We also saw a lot of cats. Like, a lot. I've never seen so many stray cats in one neighborhood.

Unfortunately, we were not able to meet with Deloris this week. She did however stop to talk to us when she was driving by us a few days ago. Other than that, we have a few investigators who are starting to come out of the woodwork. They're all still not making it a priority to meet with us though so it's pretty sporadic.

This next week should be a good one, especially with general conference this weekend. It's like the best time of year for missionaries. Finally something that you know won't be cancelled last minute! I look forward to sharing what we've learned from it!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March 20, 2017

Dear Family,

Oh my... this was an interesting week. I'll have to go day by day on this one because a lot happened.

On Monday we did our regular P-Day stuff and then had a lesson with some less-actives. They have a son, David, who's about our age and is quite the character. He was showing us a few of his knives and the spear that he got his dad for his birthday. More on him later. The dad is interesting too. Picture a mechanic who is a little larger and has a white handlebar mustache. Now picture him cuddling with cats and falling asleep several times in a lesson. That's him.

Tuesday we had a Zone Conference we didn't know about until last weekend. Luckily we didn't have any set appointments that day anyway. We talked a lot about giving out copies of the Book of Mormon and how we should never give it to someone without reading from it first. It actually does help a lot. The rest of the day we just did some finding (which is always a little weird) and taught our recent convert from China.

On Wednesday we stopped by Jodi for a bit to follow up on some things and make sure she was ready for her baptismal interview on Sunday. She was in good spirits which was nice to see. We then contacted some new investigators that hadn't been visited in a while. One of them apparently has had a couple strokes the last few years and now is completely unable to swallow--including his own saliva. He'd just spit it all out every minute or two. Nasty. I felt bad for him though.

We also contacted a bible referral named Deloris. The info said she was super nice and excited to meet us which was mostly true. She was willing to sit down with us and talk about the Book of Mormon and such but we don't know what to think of her really. She told us she'd come to our church before and that it was good up until they started talking about saving the dead. We got a return appointment though! More on that later... On the way to some more referrals we saw a lady singing some improv gospel music at the corner of an intersection so we (mostly me but Elder Brinkerhoff didn't argue) decided to go talk to her. She was super excited to see us and talked our ears off for about 20 minutes but it was worth the stop! We gave her a Book of Mormon and prayed with her. She was quite vocal during Elder Brinkerhoff's prayer so he started laughing and tried to make it sound like crying. No harm done though.

On Thursday morning I had an appointment in Carrollton and it was my first time driving there from Fort Worth. I'm wondering if they have a "Texas Freeways for Dummies" Book out there. If not, they should. The trip there wasn't too terrible; we only went the wrong way once I think. The way back was insane though! First of all, I had to merge on this one freeway and of course was in the furthest right lane. I looked at my GPS to discover that I would soon have to exit from the furthest left lane. Over to my left, to my small-town upbringing horror, I see six more lanes. I obviously am still alive to write this email but only barely. A couple minutes after merging off of that freeway I took a wrong turn somewhere and just about ended up driving through the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. In other news, I found out the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has a road running through it. I managed to get off of the road in time though and eventually made my way back to the apartment.

After lunch we sat down to do our weekly planning and barely got in a half hour before David, the less actives' son from Monday, called us and asked us to come over NOW. He sounded a little distraught so we rushed over as fast as we could, expecting the weirdest. When we got there he said, "Hey guys! I just invited y'all over to chill 'cause I was bored." We did stay but we didn't "just chill," we actually tried to teach a lesson. Before we began he told us a few random stories and uttered the unforgettable quote, "I got in a high speed chase with twenty cop cars! Just ask my mom." He was caught at a hot house that he didn't know was a hot house apparently. We based our lesson on standing in holy places.

Later that night we had a nice normal dinner with a normal family. A couple minutes after walking in we got a call from a Utah number. We didn't recognize it so we silenced it and left it for later. Turns out it was a call from an attorney at the firm that works with the church. She left a message asking me to call her back so I did the next morning. Apparently they're working with a senator to pass a bill that will make it easier to get R1 visas so they wanted to put some faces to the bill and were led to mine. I told them about a few good experiences I've had doing service projects and such. They're putting together an article for Deseret News that should be published around Conference weekend so I may be quoted in it.

That finally brings us to Friday. Again, we did some finding and went to our appointment with Deloris. We taught her the Plan of Salvation to the best of our ability and it went well for the most part. It went down hill when we got to the Atonement though. We tried to testify of how it has helped us through our struggles but she insisted that we were not old enough to have struggles yet. She also had problems with our claim to authority, baptisms for the dead, and a couple other things. She's been reading and praying about the Book of Mormon though so hopefully her heart will soften.

On Saturday morning we had a special mission Conference with Elder Rasband, Elder Hallstrom, Bishop Caussé, and our area seventy Elder Willis. Now that was a meeting! I don't have time to write everything they spoke about but a lot of it it had to do with how we should come to every meeting to change or else the meeting has no purpose. Elder Rasband also spoke about how miraculous it is that we have the young missionary force that we do.

Finally, on Sunday, we had a special Stake Conference with Bishop Caussé mainly talking about Christ, the temple, and proxy ordinances. It was funny because Deloris came and they taught a lot of the same things we tried to teach her. It just goes to show that we're all on the same page when it we follow the spirit.

Jodi also got interviewed for baptism and passed so she's good for this Saturday. I'll be baptizing her which will be a new experience. I'm looking forward to it!

Well, I've been writing for a while now and could still say a whole lot more about this week. It really was a weird one. A rollercoaster for sure. I hope y'all have a wonderful week. Enjoy the sunshine!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 13, 2017

Dearest family,

It's been a fun week introducing Elder Brinkerhoff to the area. As usual, there were a ton of things happening that just made us go "Huh?" for a second then move on. I think it was Thursday night that we were contacting bible referrals in the north part of our area and we came across this one that was sent about four months ago. The information said he was living out of a car but there was an address so we just went for it. There was a fence around the yard so we stood there for a moment trying to think of what to do. Suddenly we hear a voice from behind us saying, "Use the gate by the driveway."

I stood there looking around for a the guy who spoke and discovered that he was sitting in the car parked directly behind us. We then told him we were looking for a Bobby and he said, "Nope, no Bobby here... Oh, oh, unless you're looking for me!" We then gave him his Bible and Book of Mormon and talked with him for a few minutes. I'm getting so good at contacting Bible referrals I'm starting to contact homeless ones!

Elder Arndt and I had an interesting experience at the beginning of the week. We were doing our normal thing and this one lady asked us to give her son a blessing for his ADHD. We didn't pronounce healing upon him or anything but it was cool to see that this lady recognized us as people with authority to do such things. Unfortunately she didn't keep her appointment the next day and we haven't been able to make it back. Hopefully later this week we will.

Most of our investigators, including Jodi, didn't make it to church this week unfortunately. We were able to get Jhansi there for the first time since we came to the area. She's the one who moved from India several years ago and is currently working on her PhD in Chemistry. It's been a good week overall!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, March 10, 2017

March 6, 2017

Dear Family,

It's that time of mission again. Transfer calls came this morning and surprisingly Elder Arndt will be leaving and I'll be leading the area. The poor guy is one-and-done-ing his third area in a row. When we first got the news that he was leaving I thought, "Seriously? I'm taking over the area after less than a transfer? I was just getting comfortable!" Then the Zone Leaders told me Elder Brinkerhoff would be my new companion and I thought, "Oh, well, that works!" He's awesome. I seem to just be cycling through people I already know.

Referrals are still abundant so that'll keep us busy for a while still. We actually had a couple that showed a lot of interest in the Gospel this week. We taught them about prophets and everything and the wife asked us to come back before we did. It's probably the most potential I've seen in a new investigator that wasn't a referral ever in my mission. We're hoping for the best there.

Jodi unfortunately was not able to make it to church yesterday so we're a little worried. We'll just have to teach her the best we can and hope she understands everything a little deeper. Jeje however was able to come which was exciting. The sad thing about her is she lives in a different ward so we actually need to refer her over.

Elder Arndt and I were talking this week and realized we probably have one of if not the most diverse teaching pool in the mission. Currently, with investigators and recent converts, we're teaching people from China, India, and Indonesia. Then you have different races, upbringing, etc. and it makes for some interesting visits.

Wish me luck with transfers! Should be an interesting week.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, March 3, 2017

February 27, 2017

Dear Family,

It's been your average week here. Plenty of bible referrals as usual. One of them has potential which is nice. He told us however that he wants to finish the Book of Mormon before he meets with us again. It's still something.

We had a really good lesson with Jodi on Tuesday. It wasn't what we planned at all but she ended up sharing some concerns we didn't know about that I can sort of relate to. We're working on getting her help with that so she can continue to progress. Unfortunately Jodi wasn't able to make it to church yesterday because there was a marathon holding up traffic so she gave up and turned around. We had to wait an hour for it to pass and missed PEC but luckily we made it in time for sacrament. I guess there was more marathon after we passed through though. Sabbath marathons are of the devil, I'm telling you.

I gained some interesting insights from 2 Nephi 31:5-9 at a zone council this week. Basically, Nephi is discussing why Christ was baptized and says that, "it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter." I decided to define a couple words in there including "gate." The origin of the word is related to the Dutch word "gat" which refers to a gap, hole, or breach. In my mind I imagined a barrier separating us from God and in the barrier there is a single breach: making and keeping covenants and specifically baptism. If you wanted to go into it further you could think about how Christ forged that breach and how it's the search and discovery of that breach that allows us to learn and progress. Anyway, I'll send a screenshot of my notes there if you'd like to look at them.

I'll leave you with that for this week. Have a good one!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 20, 2017

Dear Family,

Well, once again we basically did the same thing as last week. Say it with me! "We contacted referrals." We finally got it down to about 35 uncontacted though. Then we got two more this morning but I think we're finally on top of them enough that we can get at the least the new ones contacted quickly enough.

This week we actually got to meet the guy from whom the lady was demanding chicken and who "was taking care of business downtown." Let me tell you, that situation makes even less sense now. They were just neighbors that do random favors for each other sometimes, including bringing each other chicken I guess. Anyway, we sat down with the guy to teach him and he ended up talking at us for about an hour and a half. He has a triple combination and says he believes it's all true but the problem is he's basically taught himself from it. He got a couple things right like a few things about Adam and Eve. The rest of it was weird, random theories. It's like he put our doctrine in a blender, drank it, and spat it all over us. It got weirder too. Some Sister missionaries called him in the middle of our lesson and he put it on speaker. He explained that he was currently meeting with missionaries and they sounded super confused. We assumed that they were calling from the referral center to follow up with him since they've been doing that a lot with our referrals. After the lesson we got the number so we could call and tell them how it went and apparently they were actually proselyting missionaries in Austin that received the exact same referral we did for a different city. The guy must have referred himself twice and not put the city in one of the times. It made for a very awkward conversation... but we got it sorted out.

We do have a couple of investigators who are beginning to progress a little more, neither of them from bible referrals. One is a lady who began investigating in New Mexico and recently moved here. She is a self-proclaimed free spirit which makes for some funny conversations sometimes. Right now we're working on getting her to commit to a baptism date and gain a more sure witness of the Book of Mormon. She keeps most of her commitments so it's going pretty well.

Our other investigator moved from Indonesia fifteen or twenty years ago. A friend of hers who happens to be in our Ward introduced her to the church a few weeks ago. She's sincerely seeking for truth right now so she is determined to figure out if the church is true. She's been reading the Book of Mormon pretty much whenever she has free time. Our goal with her is basically just to help her understand how to recognize the spirit so she can really get that answer.

Things are going relatively well so let's just hope that keeps going!

One thing I forgot to mention earlier was an interesting activity we did at a dinner this week. We were eating with an older couple and they set an extra place for an ancestor of our choice. We each went around the room and talked about who we would invite to the dinner. I thought of Grandma Wood at first of course but then I thought wait, what about Edward J. Wood? So I invited him and talked about his missions to Samoa a bit. I thought he'd enjoy a missionary dinner in Texas. He's also been an inspiration to me on my mission. I wish I could talk about my mission like he did but I'm not quite to that point yet. Maybe someday. I'm sure Grandma Wood came too, she doesn't need an invitation.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 13, 2017

Dear Family,

It's been another interesting week in Fort Worth. I really wasn't kidding when I said we get 2 or 3 bible referrals a day. Most of the week was trying to take care of those. We're hoping to get some other work going in the ward besides delivering bibles. It's great to only talk to people that have already agreed to but most of them still aren't really seeking for truth. They just want the free bible 'cause why not. Some good will come of it soon enough I'm sure.

Another thing we do a lot of is giving blessings at hospitals. I've given three since I came to the area. I think that's mainly due to the fact that we have a couple major hospitals in our area. On Monday we're pretty sure we saw a girl who had overdosed. She was curled up in a ball on a stretcher in the hallway next to a police officer. That's about the worst thing we've seen so far in the hospitals. Could be worse I suppose.

Last week we met this one bible referral that was pretty interesting. He invited us in and everywhere we looked there was wine, whiskey bottles, and evidence of just about every vice known to man. That happens, that was no big deal. What got us was when we looked over his bed and saw a Melchizedek priesthood ordination certificate. Next thing we know he's showing us his temple rec month or two ago. That's pretty much all there is to the story but it just left me scratching my head you know?

Probably the funniest story I have for the week happened on Saturday morning. We were trying to find a bible referral in an apartment complex when suddenly this large lady sitting on a bench across the street yells, "Hey, y'all from the Church of the Mormons?" We said yes and then she told us to come over. I knew she was either going to anti us or praise us. Before she started talking to us she told us to wait a moment, called someone with her landline phone (it was in her pocket) and said, "Hey, bring me some chicken! I'm hungry! And answer your phone! Pick up your phone and bring. Me. Some. chicken. I'm hungry!" We then talked about the Book of Mormon a bit and found out the guy she was demanding chicken from was our bible referral. He was "taking care of business downtown" in her words.

Mission life is back to normal.

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 6, 2017

Dear Family,

Well, that all happened fast. I mentioned last week that I'd be emergency transferred in the next few days probably. President Whitney told me it would be at least until Tuesday before him and the assistants could figure out all the logistics but sure enough I got a call at about 6:00pm. He told me I'd be going to Fort Worth 8th with Elder Arndt (if I would've written down a guess, that would've been it so that's cool) and that his assistants would get back with me on when that would happen in the next day or two. Since it was official I went to tell one of our Ward Mission Leaders I'd be leaving sometime during the week. While there, the assistants called and asked if I could be ready to leave at 11:30 the next day! I told them I could then went back to the apartment to pack frantically.

I suppose you probably want to know a bit about my new area. It's definitely one of the more interesting areas I've been in since it covers downtown and pretty much most of Fort Worth. I'm definitely not in suburbia anymore. It makes for some interesting views driving around all day. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. Probably because I'm not the one driving right now but hey. The traffic was especially bad this week because of the stock show too.

Most of the work here right now is contacting bible referrals. We get one or two a day it seems and when I got into the area we had sixty or so that weren't contacted. Elder Arndt and his old companion were whitewashed in at the beginning of the transfer so they had all this kinda plopped in their laps and now I do! The difficult part is trying to get everyone contacted without going over our mile limit. It takes a lot of planning and making people work around our schedule. They're getting a free Bible though so it should be all good.

The people in general are a lot poorer and more diverse than in Heritage. Nothing against either area, it's just true. The culture is just overall different. My first meal in the area was spaghetti and cornbread which I didn't mind at all. It was delicious just not a meal I think people would think of in Heritage.

Anyway, it's been fun. I'll tell more funny stories and hopefully send some pictures next week. For now, I have to go to the zoo since it's in my zone again. Love ya!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

P.S. I wrote this 5 hours ago and just got wifi. Also, I'm sitting in a hospital waiting to give someone a blessing. Life is crazy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

January 30, 2017

Dear Family,

Crazy week to say the least. I'm sure you've heard about the new key indicators and schedule. After thinking about it a lot it seems to be a step in the right direction. I can't tell you how many times I've heard of missionaries just doing things so they can count a lot of lessons or something. As for the rest of the week, I'm just going to copy and paste my journal entry that I've been working on all week. 

It's been a couple of those days again. Wednesday was transfers and half my district finished their missions. I especially had gotten close to Elder Rarotoga and Elder Reich so it was super tough to see them leave. Overall, I felt that my mission this transfer has as much to do with my companion as it does my area and that the Lord is pleased with me. 

Thanks for all the prayers! Love ya'll!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January 23, 2017

Dear Family,

Well, probably the toughest transfer of my mission is coming to a close... aaand I'm training again. How do I keep ending up agreeing to this? Curse you submissiveness! It'll only be for a transfer this time though because the Elder is already a transfer into his mission. His name is Elder Peck and he'll be coming to my current area. Just to clarify, Elder Rarotoga is indeed going home this week along with two others in the district. Actually, the only missionaries leaving our zone this transfer are going home. There's only one way out! Kidding of course.

You would think that I'd be used to training by now but it freaks me out every time. I could hardly sleep last night worrying about the area and Elder Peck. It's really hard to describe. I guess I've survived everything in my mission so far, so I'll most likely survive this too. Plus, maybe some greenie fire is what the area needs. We'll have to see what happens I suppose.

I really have nothing to report teaching-wise for this week. We're still working with members, trying to help them with their missionary work. I can see slow and steady improvement though. Timber Creek almost has a Ward Mission Plan put together so that should get things moving a little. Hopefully I'll have happy news for everyone soon. Until then I'll have to just make the most of what the Lord is giving me. There must be something I'm supposed to be learning.

Take care! Thank you for all your support and prayers!

Elder O'Brien

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 16, 2017

Dearest Family,

We actually had some good stuff going on in the area this week. In Timber Creek we got to meet with our new ward mission leader and get a plan going. He's really awesome so hopefully we can get the work moving a little more with his help. In Heritage we finally got to teach a couple of less-actives that we haven't been able to contact in a while. Unfortunately that lady we taught last week has apparently been avoiding the friend that referred her. We talked to her briefly on Friday while we were waiting for our ride to dinner but I guess the friend hasn't had contact. We'll give it some time, she might come around.

In other news, there is a new family, the Sheens, that moved into Timber Creek last week. You know where they're from? West Lethbridge! Actually it's just the husband right now because the wife is about to have a baby and that's a lot cheaper to do in Canada. Anyway, we met him yesterday when the family we had dinner with invited him over as well. It was like two worlds colliding! I would have sworn up and down that the Canadian accent isn't a thing before yesterday, but he had one. Even said "eh" a couple times. Don't tell him I said that... Also, fun fact, he said it felt colder here than in Canada the day he moved in.

The highlight of my week, even with meeting another Canadian, was probably going to the temple on Tuesday. It had been eight months which is way too long, so it was a much needed trip and everything just fell into place to go. A senior couple from my district in Denton and a few other missionaries were also in the session which was cool. The session itself was also super awesome of course. I've been studying the creation and fall a lot the last few months so light bulbs were going off all over the place in my head. Both those make for some interesting symbolism. The overall impression I got from the session though was that I just need remember who I am and answer to the call. I think the same is true for all of us.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the younger)

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 9, 2017

Dear Family,

Things actually sort of started to get moving in the area this week. The first half of the week was mostly talking to random, uninterested potential investigators in our area book. On Friday though a member from another Stake called us and said she set up an appointment for us with one of her friends. We taught her on Saturday and it turned out to be a pretty decent lesson. She has a couple doctrinal concerns to work through but has a lot of potential otherwise.

We also got a new ward mission leader in Timber Creek yesterday. He's a pretty awesome guy so I'm excited to work with him. The ward fast in Heritage went well from what I heard. I went to the other ward yesterday but Elder Rarotoga said there were a couple of good testimonies about missionary work. Hopefully that continues and we can get people thinking about it more.

As you saw, it was rather chilly this week. Let me just say that you get used to Texas weather fast so when cold first hits, your face is like "what is this sensation? This is not normal." It also doesn't help when your furnace breaks in the middle of the night. Yep, that was fun. Luckily it got fixed before we went to bed the next night. I'll send some pics of the snow just to prove it happened.

I totally forgot! This week we had interviews with President and Sister Whitney was here too. Sister Whitney, me and a couple other missionaries were talking in the hallway and Sister Whitney mentioned that there was a baptism on Saturday in Denton 5th. I got excited and asked who and she told me it was a young man named Rocket. Here's the story: Back during my first transfer with Elder Cockrell we had a dinner with a family and the teenage daughter told us she felt strongly that this was the school year she was going to get someone baptized. A few weeks later she brought Rocket to church and eventually to Amy's son's baptism. We later heard that Rocket basically thought Mormons were a cult and all that and had no belief in God. He kept coming to church for the couple weeks before I left Denton though and we'd just talk to him a bit here and there. That's pretty much all it was on our end. I guess he's baptized now though. Cool.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien

 Chris' snow