Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A beautiful Christmas.🎄 Freezing rain🌧 makes for some unplanned ice skating!⛸ Goals & priorities.

Hey guys! :)

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I sure did. :)

We had some fun. We got the chance to eat with several different families during the Christmas weekend, which was an awesome experience. I just love these people so much. And then I got to call my family and talk with them face to face (by Skype... same thing! :P) for the first time since May! That was my favorite gift. :)

Elder Colunga and I also made some very good food this past week. Pork burgers, sweet and sour stir fry... maybe all is not lost in my chances of surviving college! :P

We had a crazy day yesterday (Monday). No idea if any of you have experienced freezing rain in the past.... I had not until I came here to Canada. Well, yesterday the temperature rose just enough for the snow to turn to rain; then it froze as soon as it hit the ground. Elder Colunga and I live on a street that goes downhill; therefore, when we walked out in the evening to go to a dinner, we ended up ice skating down to the metro station... and then to all of our appointments that evening. I am pleased to report that neither of us fell once (albeit we had more than a few close calls, one of which may have involved a very large truck almost running my companion over as he jumped onto the curb). But we had a great time laughing and sliding our way around the city. Somehow we actually made it on time to pretty much all of our appointments! :) (this is proof that I am no longer the same person as when I left!)

Well, New Year's approaches. I love New Year's because it gives me another excuse to have a fresh start, make some resolutions to be better, and then keep them (which is always the hardest part). I know all of you will be thinking of some resolutions this week (if not, you probably should). :) I think my own will have to do with priorities. I find that I become the most stressed when my priorities are not clearly defined. If you know me well at all, you'll know that I am probably one of the most organized people on the planet (behind my mother :P). I have some moments when I can get pretty stressed out and that's when I go into anti-stress-organizing mode. Thus, my room stayed pretty clean most of the time. :P But I think a great way to set some New Year's resolutions is to make a list of priorities. What is most important to you? How will you show that?

I encourage each of you to make the gospel of Jesus Christ your top priority. This comes down to two questions, or rather, commandments that I will phrase as questions, which I will have as my top priorities this next year.

1. How can I love the Lord with more of my heart, might, mind, and strength?

2. How can I gain and show greater love for each of those who surround me?

I encourage each of you to try to find how to apply these two commandments specifically in your life in two or three ways this next week. Set goals and strive to meet them; that's how growth happens! :)

I love and miss all of you!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, December 19, 2016

🎄He is real. He lived. He died for us...and He lives again! I love my Savior.❤️

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Christmas is next Sunday. How fitting and how wonderful. I`m very excited. But I wanted to do something a little different than usual this week.

This week`s email won`t have any pictures. And I`m not going to talk about the weather, or funny things that happened, or anything else.

I want to dedicate my letter this week to the Savior.

I try to imagine sometimes what it was really like. I try to really see His story as it was. Sometimes I imagine myself standing nearby as the shepherds had the living daylights scared out of them by a choir of heavenly angels, and then realized that this was the day that their Messiah would be born. Sometimes I imagine myself sitting in the crowd as a 12 year old boy taught the scriptures better and clearer than the greatest scribes and teachers in JĂ©rusalem. Sometimes I imagine myself walking through the fields in Galilee with the Twelve, following in His footsteps and listening as He taught about the purpose of our lives here and His love for us.

Sometimes I imagine what it would feel like as I walk with Him up the hill to Gethsemane, confused at His sadness and grief. Sometimes I try to see Him kneeling there in that garden, and wonder how He felt as He saw and thought of me. Sometimes I stand in the courtyard and listen as He is condemned to death by the very people who claim to represent Him. Sometimes I watch as He hangs between sinners on a crudely made wooden cross, and listen with tearful awe as words of forgiveness and selflessness flow from His lips.

I try to feel what Mary felt when she recognized it was really Him in the garden tomb, and at times I can almost hear her whisper of disbelief, "Rabboni?" My eyes lift with those of the Twelve to watch Him ascend again into heaven, and I can hear the angels calling out, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." I can almost feel the courage and comprehension as Peter recognizes his calling when his Savior says, "Feed my sheep."

He is real. He lives. These stories, aren`t stories. They happened! He lived, He died for us, and He lives again! If you don`t know it for yourself, know that I know it! That I have felt it and that I know it! If you`re wondering if He cares, He does! If you`re wondering if He`s there, He is! 

Jesus is the Christ! He is the Messiah. He is our Savior. He is my Redeemer, and yours. That is an eternal truth and it will never change.

I love Him!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, December 12, 2016

The gift that never fades...the greatest gift EVER. Rejoice! Pics!

Hi guys! :)

Not a bad week. :) A little cold, but hey, it`s Québec. I continue to fear the negative 30 températures that approach in the distance. :P People keep looking at me funny when I walk up all bundled up in my giant coat and scarf and gloves and hat and still look freezing cold. It`s a great contacting method though.... "I`m from Arizona, OK?!?"

This week did feel somewhat long. Not sure why, it just did. :P But it was fun. Elder Colunga and I have some pretty funny stuff we say and do sometimes. Like yesterday, we were talking about trying to make sure we were being urgent as we went about doing this work. So as we were going down the escalator into the metro, he turned away and I started running down the escalator two steps at a time. I was pretty close to dying a couple times and my arms were flailing everywhere trying to keep my balance (my coat changes my center of gravity... yeah sure, that`s it) and at about this point Elder Colunga turned around and saw me. I made it to the bottom in one piece and turned around and he was just dying laughing as he came down the escalator. This caused me to laugh pretty hard as well (because hey, I am a pretty funny guy (cue my dad saying, "funny looking")). It was one of those moments where every time you stop laughing you think of what happened again and one of you starts laughing again and then you both just laugh again. We were barely keeping it together for a good five minutes until the metro came, at which point we managed to get ourselves under control. It was pretty great; I`m just really glad we didn`t get it on video. XD

I think the biggest thing on my mind this week has been that of remembering the real meaning of Christmas. I know this is repeated all the time, but I just want to give my thoughts.

Why does everybody love Christmas so much? The lights, the music, the parties, the gifts... it`s just a holiday full of gladness and things to look forward to. There`s also the joy of giving, which I think I underrate far too often.

There is an innate joy that comes from the season. Many of us come together with family and friends to talk and laugh and enjoy each others` company. Many of us have wonderful traditions (for example, my family takes our gingerbread house out to the desert and shoots it up with firearms. To each their own).

We are surrounded by so much rejoicing and happiness. And I think back to the birth of Christ so long ago, and I think all too often we start to look at all the différences between Christmas now and Christmas then. But there is one thing that I`ve thought of that is the same: there was rejoicing. In fact, the heavens opened to the shepherds in the fields and they saw "a multitude" of angels singing and praising God. So I want to ask this question:

Why were the angels singing? Why were they rejoicing?

Why are you rejoicing? What are your reasons?

The greatest part of Christmas, the greatest thing about Christ, is that His gift never goes away. His gift never wears out or gets old. His gift was Himself. He gave Himself as our Savior, from sin and pain and anguish and imperfection. And that is an eternal truth, an incredible and neverending fact.

Let it be known that I love Jesus Christ. This Christmas, I have so many things to rejoice about. But the greatest gift I have ever received is that of a Savior. And I am so grateful that He takes me where I am and helps me to step even farther and even higher.

So wherever we might be in this world, and whoever we might be with, my commitment for this Christmas season is this:

Rejoice! There`s so much to be grateful for. :)

I love you all! En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Poutine from La Banquise. Elder Colunga convinced me to get the grand size... neither of us finished. My favorite (the one I got) is called La Festival. It`s got fries, gravy, cheese curds, onion rings, hamburger, banana peppers, and a whole lot of calories. We didn`t feel like eating anything for the rest of the day. He got the poutine that was loaded with every kind of meat available... it was insane. XD

We were walking under the bridge to get to church yesterday morning and I just really liked the view.

This is what we woke up to this morning. Beautiful... from indoors. :)

This is the sugar cookie goblin I made last week. I made it into actual cookies later. :P

Monday, December 5, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD! Sugar cookies...they LOOK easy to make. Parents everywhere...you are AMAZING!

Hello all ya`ll in warmer climates :)

It snowed again today. Big snowflakes, too! I`m still in that stage of the winter where the wonder of crystal snowflake formations is entertaining rather than infuriating. :) We`re so Lucky that we get to stay in a warm apartment every night... there are so many people who are out on the streets all day and night. Counting my blessings. :)

It`s been a week of learning. First off, I loved beginning the 25 days of Christmas for #LIGHTtheWORLD! While there are certain things I couldn`t do as a missionary, I found those things that I could do and I learned and felt a lot of great things as I did. For example, day 3 talked about how Jesus helped others to see, and so can we. So I studied the gospel accounts in the New Testament of when Christ healed the blind. And something I learned is that He didn`t heal everybody in the same way. Based on their situation and their faith, He used different methods to help them see. I loved this, because I as a missionary am pretty focused on trying to help people see, spiritually speaking. And I recognized that I can`t just try the same method with everyone, because everybody is different, and I have to adjust how I help them to what best works for them.

We had a lot of funny expériences with food this week... for example, one night I had a taste for some sugar cookies. Thanks to my family, I had a convenient mix for sugar cookies that could be put together and baked in basically 30 minutes... or so I thought. The problem is that things are more difficult if you don`t really have anything to mix the dough with. So... after slightly longer than 30 minutes, I was getting a bit frustrated and I just turned it into a Play-Dough face with a creepy witch nose. Elder Colunga took a picture, which was our phone`s screensaver for a few days. Pretty sure I`m gonna have nightmares. The next day, I proceeded to burn all the garlic bread we were trying to make, as well as accidentally spill out half the package of stir-fry veggies on the floor. Elder Colunga found all of these hilarious and proceeded to take pictures of my pitiful efforts at cleaning up all of the messes. By the end of the week, I found myself eating frosting out of the can with a spoon. I just had a clumsy week. :P

December 2nd in #LIGHTtheWORLD was the subject "Jesus Honored His Parents, And So Can You." I wanted to take some time today to honor my parents - and parents everywhere. I think there are too many parents out there who think that they are failing because of what their child says or how their child acts in the moment. It`s like the sugar cookies I made... I put together the mix, and maybe I didn`t do everything right, and at first, my beautiful sugar cookies looked like a creepy goblin creation (this is a spiritual analogy; I`m not calling anybody`s baby a goblin.... :P). But I kept working and I didn`t give up and I did what I could, and after a while in the oven, they came out warm and sweet in little round cookie shapes (and were even better when covered in frosting... but I think I got lost in the metaphor). Anyways, what I`ve come to realize is that there are lessons that my parents taught me throughout my life that continue to come back to mind, even here, many years and many thousands of miles later. Particularly in trials, in the furnace of affliction, I have come to remember very specific phrases and lessons I was taught both vocally and by example by my wonderful parents. And how silly it is to me that parents get upset and self-critical because they aren`t perfect. How on earth would I have learned to truly repent if I hadn`t watched my parents do it? How better for me to learn humility than to watch my dad or my mom apologize for having done or said something wrong?

I`m saying this to all parents reading this. Look. You`re not perfect. Embrace it; you`re perfectly imperfect! Our loving Heavenly Father decided to give you some of His precious spirit children to raise here in mortality. God doesn`t make mistakes, and He made you a parent. You are doing so wonderfully. Keep working. Keep trying. I promise your children will thank you eternally simply for waking up and giving it your best every day. I would NOT be here, I would NOT be who I am today, if it weren`t for the incredible examples of my parents. Callings in the Church or social position never took a part in how I viewed them; just the effort they gave. I love you, Mom and Dad. You`re amazing and I am so grateful for every moment you gave and are giving. You`re doing so well.

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Your average Montréal metro platform.... :P

Welcome to the Hochelaga district. :) Left to right: Sister Johnson, Sister Poulton, Sister Davis, Sister Hoffman, Sister Christensen, Elder Christensen, Elder Sykes, Elder Landetta, Elder Saunders, Elder Roubicek, Elder Colunga, et moi. :)

Driving the mission van through downtown Montréal.... (We were helping with a move :) ) Don`t worry Mom... Elder Colunga took the picture. I had both hands on the wheel, I promise. ;)

More downtown Montréal....


Last picture of downtown :) (btdubs, the buses are actually surprisingly comfortable here. Who knew?)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Miracles. Running into people from home! Singing on the Metro. When everything crumbles, lean on the Savior. Pics!

Hey guys!

It was a good week. :) For starters, I was able to open up my Christmas package (thanks to my wonderful family! :) :) :)) and then we just had some really cool miracles throughout the week.

Oh! And I have a new companion! His name is Elder Colunga and he is from West Valley, Utah. He speaks Spanish, which makes my third companion who is fluent in Spanish. Crazy, right? :)

Also... super crazy moment in district meeting. We were talking with the sisters serving in the YSA branch. One of them just arrived in the mission this past week; her name is Sister Davis. In the course of the conversation, it came up that I had lived in Houston, Texas for around 7 years. 

Sister Davis: "Wait. Where in Houston?"
Me: "Pearland." 
Sister Davis: "No. Way. Do you remember the Davis family?"
Me: "Holy cow. Wait a second. Are you Lauren Davis?!?!?!?!"
Sister Davis: "I knew you looked familiar!!"
Me: "Whaaaaaaaaaatttt?!?"

So like... yeah! Turns out, Sister Davis and I actually were in the same ward for like 5 or 6 years when I lived there! It was super crazy! Small world! :)

Another funny experience. I was with Elder Colunga and we were heading home for the night. We had gotten off of the bus and we were walking back when we passed these two guys who are often just hanging out around the metro. I know most of their names by now, so I started talking to them and we asked them if we could do anything for them. They asked for some money, which we didn't have, but we asked if there was anything else we could do. To which one of them said, "Sing us a song." So... we sang "Aimez Vos FrĂšres," one of the only hymns in French that I know by heart. (It's "Love One Another" in English) They loved it! It was a great way to end the night. :)

My first invitation for all of you is this: starting the 1st of December, all of you should go to mormon.org
 and start #lighttheworld. In 25 ways, over 25 days, each one of us can find a way to light the world, as the Savior did and does. You can go and watch the video right now at https://www.mormon.org/christmas/light-the-world
.

I had a really cool experience last night in which I was able to converse with someone who really... gets it. This man is from Haiti and he was there when the earthquake hit some years ago. His office building crumbled around him and many of his colleagues died in the destruction. He spent 24 hours buried under rubble, not knowing whether or not his son and his wife, pregnant with his second son, were still okay (thankfully, they were alright). He was pulled out the next day and over the next few months had to have one of his feet amputated to stop an infection.

He sat in front of me and thanked the Lord for his blessings. I have never seen this man frown. He is always incredibly full of joy. Being around him makes me happy. I love this man. And he has gone through so many different trials. So I asked him, "How do you stay so happy? I would think you're not dealing with any problems at all." And he said, "I decided, long before any of these things happened, how I would react in trials. I learned to remember that all that I have comes from God, and that nothing I have is truly mine - except my will. I could lose all of it, my family, my home, my job, my life... but I can decide how I react. And I choose to lean on the Savior. He has made me promises and I know He will keep them and in the end it will all be for my good. When everything else crumbles, I lean on the Savior."

That is my second invitation for you all. That is what I have committed to be better at this week.

When everything else crumbles, lean on the Savior.

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Last picture with Elder Aulner. :(

First picture with Elder Colunga! :)

Sister Davis! (So... I had just jumped into this photo when it was taken... thus my weird pose and my bag is in there....)

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's snowing!! We absolutely CAN choose our attitude. Happiness lies in gratitude! Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey everybody!

So... it`s winter. As I am typing here at the library, there is about an inch or two of snow on the ground. It started falling last night while we were on our way home and hasn`t really stopped for too long since... but it`s not too cold so it may not stick (crossing my fingers). :) I threw the first snowball of my last Canadian winter last night... I may or may not have hit Elder Aulner in the shoulder... on camera. No biggy. I may go into the MLB when I get home. Who knows?

Anyways, we got transfer calls last night... and it was kind of crazy. Elder Aulner will be going to Cornwall, a city in Ontario, speaking English (his French is already crazy good so that didn`t surprise me too much). I`ll describe to you all how the rest of the call went.

"Elder McOmber, how do you feel about French?"

"Oh poop. Don`t tell me they`re kicking us both out."

"Actually, you`re growing your family tree."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

"Your new companion is very experienced and knows what he`s doing. His name is Elder.... greenie." (if you don`t know, a "greenie" is a term used pretty often to refer to a missionary who is fresh out of the Missionary Training Center)

So.... I will be receiving another new missionary this Wednesday. Which gives me a few days to do all the freaking out that I want. Which... I have been. :P Because, you know, why not stress myself out and get no sleep?

Other than that, this week has been full of a lot of walking. :) Not complaining... it keeps me healthy!

I`ve learned a lot this week about attitude. Lately missionary work has seemed pretty difficult, with a lot of cancelled appointments and a lot of walking.

We have to choose to be cheerful. I can`t tell you how bad things seem to go when I give in and decide that I`m just gonna have a bad day. I start to see everything through a darker lense and I stop seeing the blessings. And then I find myself at the end of the day saying, "Wow. Today was a really bad day."

Well, duh! I made it that way!

I remember when I was a kid, I was getting into the car after church one day. I turned and saw this man walk by and my dad was talking with him for a second and then he walked away. My dad turned to me and said something that has stuck with me in the 10 or 12 years since. He said, "That man is one of the happiest men I know. The world could be crashing down around him and he would say, `Man, this is such a cool crash.`" In my mind at the time, I thought, "What, is he crazy? If the world is crashing down, hide or something!" But this experience has stuck with me ever since, and seems to always come to mind when I`m having a "bad day." And immediately, one part of my brain says, "Sure. Right. I don`t think it`s that easy to just choose to be happy." And for some silly reason I choose far too often to listen to that voice and then I have a bad day.

I have come to know for myself that happiness lies in gratitude. Why? Because our perspective is different. The events in our lives may not change, but our way of seeing life does. Have you ever looked at one of those black and white images where one person says it`s an old lady and another person says it`s a young woman? (We talked about these in my psychology class one time) The thing is, if you focus hard enough, you can change the way you see the image. It was amazing to see how much effort some of the kids in my class would focus to try and see the other image! It was such an uneventful thing, and yet we all were trying to see it the other way. And after a little effort, we all could!

My point is, we have to change our perspective. We have to look for the good; flip the image, if you will. There are times where it takes a little more focus to flip our perspective around; it`s a lifestyle change. But eventually, our spiritual "eyes" will adjust to the new way of seeing things. So the commitment I have given myself for this week (and that I extend to all of you) is this: every time the moment comes when you want to complain or see fault, mentally or vocally, replace it with a blessing you are grateful for, and try not to think of the same blessings as you have before. Notice the good! Seek out the smallest tender mercies, and suddenly you will recognize that the Lord has really blessed you more abundantly than you can fathom.

I know God lives. I know He loves us. Happy Thanksgiving! :)

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Exchange with Elder Roubicek! :)

WE FOUND A WENDY`S IN OUR AREA!!!!!! I WANNA FROSTY SO BAD!!!

......................snow......................

Last pic with Elder Aulner. :(

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lord expects our best efforts...give it our all...even when it's hard. It's worth it!

Hey everybody!

So, it`s been kind of a tough week. Not too many fun expériences, but we did have a great zone conference with Elder Bennett of the Seventy. He came to visit our mission, and he reminded us how much we really have to put into this work if we want to see the miracles the Lord wants to give us, but makes conditional on our obedience.

I don`t have too much to say about this week, other than what my thoughts have been focused on since our meeting with Elder Bennett.

The Lord asks us only for things that He knows we can give, and He promises us that we will be blessed beyond measure for doing those things. I don`t know why it is sometimes so difficult for me to get up and get moving; I don`t know why I wake up sometimes without the desire to go out and talk to people. But I do. And I try to talk to as many people as I can. And sometimes there are days when opposition is real and people are cruel and it seems that no matter how big I try to smile and no matter how much I testify and no matter how many times I push through the fear and discouragement and talk to person after person, everybody I talk to just doesn`t care. There are days where I feel very, very ineffective. There are days where I don`t give it my all. There are days where I feel like my work doesn`t count for anything. And that hurts.

I have been reminded this week that the Lord expects our best. Every time I walk up to somebody, my success has absolutely nothing to do with their response.

He asks us to give it our all. And it`s hard. And there isn`t always an immediate outward result. The scripture doesn`t go, "If ye want immediate success, keep My commandments." Christ says, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."

If we love Him.

I could spend the rest of my mission talking to thousands of uninterested people and it would be worth it. Because I love Him. I love Jesus Christ. He is my strength and my support. He is there for me when nobody else is, when nobody else could be.

We are effective, we are doing everything that could possibly be expected of us, if we love Christ so much that we will keep all of His commandments. If we do our best, it is always enough. And when we don`t, we repent, and we try again.

This gospel is real. It is true. It is incredible. And I love it.

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Monday, November 7, 2016

One more reason I miss my sister! :) Growing a testimony...God can REMIND us of things we used to know, but may not now remember. Pics!

Hey guys!

So it`s been a pretty warm week. My coat gets a little too hot sometimes... people tend to ask me why I`m dressed so warm sometimes and I respond, "I`m from Arizona." Turns into a great contacting tool! :) But yeah; it`s been pretty pleasant this past week. :)

Probably the greatest moment of this week happened while I was on exchanges with Elder Sykes. He and his companion live in the same apartment as 2 other missionaries who are called in Mandarin. While we were doing our nightly planning, they came in and started talking to us. Turns out Elder Lan (one of the Mandarin elders) knew a guy who taught him how to give killer shoulder massages. So we finished our nightly planning while Elder Lan gave us shoulder massages. Sometimes you`ll do anything to lose some stress. XD Honestly, probably one of the biggest things I miss from back home is getting back scratches from my sister... but I suppose sacrifice is a part of conversion. :P

I was sitting in church yesterday, listening to a great talk about the importance of writing in our personal journals (no, I`m not joking, it was awesome) and while the talk was being given I had one of those moments where a totally unrelated but inspired thought enters my mind and I learn something cool. I`ve been thinking a lot lately about testimonies; more specifically, how to grow our testimonies.

Before this life, we lived with Heavenly Father. We did not have a body of flesh and bone, but we were spirits, and we looked just like we do now. As the Lord says to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee." We lived with Him before, and He created an amazing plan of happiness to allow us to become perfect like He is and have all the blessings that He does. He taught us of this plan, and we learned and understood the importance of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Now I`m approaching my point. We knew before we ever came here to earth that God is our loving Heavenly Father. We knew that our families could be together forever. We knew that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer. We knew the truthfulness of His gospel. But when we were sent here to earth, we had to forget these things, in order that we could walk by faith and not by sight. Why? Because faith is a building block for our souls; we need faith to grow.

Here is the thought that crossed my mind yesterday; it is a point I have read before but I think I`ve gained a greater understanding of it:

Growing a testimony is not introducing new material to our souls; it is reminding our spirit of what we already know, but cannot recall. When we ask if something is true, we are not asking the Lord to force a new truth into us; we`re not asking Him to place a square peg in a round hole, as you will. We are simply asking Him to remind us of what we already know deep down in our hearts. In effect, we already know it.

Sometimes we all need that reconfirmation that something we love and believe is true. It is not a sin to ask again, to ask the Lord to remind us of the answers we have received to past prayers. I believe we can each ask again to know the truth of the Book of Mormon, of modern prophets, of the Restoration of Christ`s Church, of the role of Jesus Christ, and of the reality of God and His love for us.

I love you all! En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

The new district! From left to right: me, Elder Aulner, Elder Saunders, Elder Sykes, Elder Roubicek, Sister Johnson, Sister Dinge, Elder Tallon, Elder Yerke, Elder Christensen, Sister Christensen, and Elder Landetta.