Monday, May 30, 2016

Trip to Montreal. Change is difficult for I came on a mission...HA! The Refiner's Fire.

Hi everyone! :)

It's been a pretty great week. We spent what felt like forever driving to and from Montreal this past Wednesday and Thursday, but apart from that, it's been great! We had a good deal of rain come in, so that cooled things down and it's been very pleasant outside for the past few days. :) I love the rain. My companion thinks I'm crazy, but hey, I'm from Arizona. I'll take every drop of rain I can get. :)

We had some interesting experiences while in Montreal. I was on exchanges with another missionary while there and we were just walking down the street when two teenage girls started yelling at each other and arguing a little ways in front of us. They were walking ahead of us (there weren't too many people on the street) and we were just kind of awkwardly listening in to see what they were arguing about. It's possible that they weren't speaking French, but if they were they were speaking way too fast for me to catch anything. Anyways, they kind of stopped arguing and kept walking and we just figured okay, no problems. Then like a hundred feet farther down the road, one of the girls all of a sudden leaned over holding her stomach. We got closer to see if she was alright, but kept a couple feet away just in case she had a tendency to projectile vomit. :P But after a few seconds she looked up and said in French, "I can't breathe." And then just fell over on her side. Her eyelids were fluttering a bunch and I thought maybe she was having a seizure of some kind... I'm no doctor. Another man happened to be walking by in the opposite direction and so he was standing there with us. The other friend, this man, and us all just kind of stood there watching her for a solid second or two, not really sure what to do. Then the man turned to us and said, "Hey, we should probably call 911." So we called 911 and then everything went into super speed. The cops showed up, then an ambulance, then some other friend of theirs, and a bunch of convenient medical personnel happened to be passing by. We were kind of unsure what to do after that... she recovered quickly though and was able to get up and walk around before we left. The whole time I was just thinking, "I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED MORE CLOSELY WHEN I GOT MY FIRST AID MERIT BADGE DANG IT." Go to Scouts kids! You're gonna need it one day! :)

In other news... my trainer is getting married this summer to a sister missionary from France that he met while serving here in Quebec. You know that feeling when the people around you all start getting married? Yeah it's a weird feeling. I kind of don't like it. XD Mewage. Mewage is vut bwings us togevah today. And wuv. Twoo wuv.

For the record... that is an amazing movie.

Anyways. Things have just seemed a little hectic lately. Our mission president is going home in about a month and we're receiving a new mission president and that change is throwing me for a loop. Elder Peery is going home in about a week and that's just weird. In two weeks' time I will no longer have any companions in the mission field. I will be left all alone to write the sad story of my people. :(

With all of these changes and new situations and other stuff, I've been thinking a lot about growth. I'm usually the kind of person who really likes to have a good plan in place and to know what's going to happen. And changes are kind of difficult for me to handle. (hahaha. so I came on a mission. Equivalent to being claustrophobic and moving into a beaver dam.) But I realize often how much I have learned and grown with these changes I have experienced.

Sometimes changes can be really hard. Four months ago when I was transferred to Quebec from Victoriaville, I was pretty shaken up. There were a lot of new people, it was a completely different atmosphere, and everything was just very very different. Really, adjusting to missionary life in general has been one of the hardest changes I've ever had to make in my life. My heart and mind have been twisted and turned and molded throughout my time here, and I am no longer the same person that I was when I walked into the MTC. I don't think I could go back and be the same person I was before, or do the same things I did before. 

I love the terminology of the refiner's fire. We are placed into the furnace of affliction during our lives, usually more than once or twice. Our imperfect and mortal hearts and minds are cleansed and purified by the struggles through which we live, and we are gradually transformed and molded into the image our Master has designed for us. But I was thinking about this analogy and I realized something. The furnace into which the untempered steel or silver or gold is placed does not add new material or element to that which is being refined. Rather, it burns away the impure and imperfect elements from that which is most pure. In brief, the pure brilliant element was always present; it just took intense heat and the touch of the Master's hand to bring it out. Personally, I've always expected that the Lord will simply give me new qualities if I ask for them, pulling them from the heavens and infusing them into my soul. But I've come to recognize that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, created with the potential to become perfect and pure as He and our Savior are. He gives us struggles so that we can burn away the less pure elements of our divine spirits and shine brilliantly as a light unto the world. He does not give us struggles to make us unhappy, but to help us grow and to be literally purified of not only our sins but all of our imperfections.

I'm not saying I enjoy this process. But knowing why we must struggle and hurt and work so hard helps me to continue in faith and hope. And because I know that our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ love each of us so incredibly much, it is much easier to endure the refiner's fire, knowing I am in Their perfect hands.

I love you all.

En avant!
Elder Bryan McOmber

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cocoa Puffs & Orange Juice. Sore but incredibly happy. Olaf and I have a lot in common... More pics!

Hey guys! :)

So it's been a very interesting week. As my companion and I visited the Montreal temple the Friday before last, we didn't have a normal P-day last week. And this week, our P-day was moved a day back because yesterday was a holiday here in Canada. So... IT'S BEEN SO LONG SINCE I HAVE GOTTEN A P-DAY. Today is glorious! :)

I had a lovely experience during breakfast this past week. I was pouring myself a healthy nutritious breakfast of Cocoa Puffs. I had the cereal in the bowl, and an empty Tostitos salsa jar next to it for my daily dose of orange juice. I had the milk and orange juice out on the washing machine (we don't have much counter space, so we use the washer and dryer :P). I was thinking about something else and wasn't paying attention. And I picked up what I thought was the milk to pour in my Cocoa Puffs. Elder Peery was getting out of the shower when he heard from the kitchen, "Awwww mannnn...."

Suffice it to say, Cocoa Puffs aren't quite as tasty when you eat them in a bowl of orange juice. (I wasn't just gonna throw any of it away... I'm a starving missionary! :P)

Other funny things... well, I'm incredibly sore. I don't know if that's funny to me... but maybe for ya'll. We went on exchanges with the Sainte-Foy elders on Saturday, and Elder Noorda took me to do a service project. "We'll just be covering the garden with some dirt."

Well. We drove up to the Sainte-Foy branch president's house to find a giant hill of dirt on his grass. Turns out, he wanted us to cover his whole yard with a layer of dirt. Also, fun fact! His house is on a hill! Do you know what that means? That's right! Elder Noorda and I spent five hours filling wheelbarrows with dirt and carrying them up and down a hill while the sister missionaries raked it level. Man we worked hard. But it was actually super fun. :) But we were super exhausted. And I spent the majority of the weekend rubbing Deep Blue on my calves. :P Then, yesterday, we had the immense pleasure of helping a family in our ward move from their second-floor apartment to a third-floor apartment across the parking lot. That was loads of fun. :) I'm pretty sure my legs may need to be amputated, but no problem!

Honestly though, we had a super fun week. I really love these people who I'm serving with. I love this gospel and I love the fact that I get to share it here in Quebec. Sometimes it's miserably hard work, and sometimes I really just want to crawl into a corner and curl up in a ball. Sometimes people can be really mean. But this is the best thing that I have ever done and I wouldn't give up this chance for all the world.

I am a witness of the truthfulness of this gospel. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live, and that They love us. And that fact gives me more joy than I can even begin to explain! :)

I love all of you!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

P.S. It's warming up here. I feel like Olaf singing about summer. "Put me in summer and I'll be a.... happy Elder!" :)

True table tennis! :) 

 This was a super sweet picture if I do say so myself. Voici, Le Chateau Frontenac! :)

 A view of Vieux Quebec from the Fleuve. On my exchange I got to cross the river on a ferry! :)

 Downtown Quebec with the setting sun.

 Elder Noorda et moi! Super fun exchange!

 The Fleuve St-Laurent with rain approaching.

 The Fleuve St-Laurent with rain approaching.

 Hahaha. Elder Peery ate this block of sucre a la creme in one bite. (Basically a block of fudge, without chocolate and with a bunch more sugar. It's a Quebecois thing)

 A river near our apartment. Just got this from the car window. :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

STILL SNOWING! Sight-Seeing in Quebec City...lots of pics! Leading is serving...especially when it's hard.

Hello my dearest loveliest friends and family! :)

Man. That was a long greeting. Sorry.

Anyways. Great week! And hey! Guess what! It snowed again this morning! In the smack middle of May! Quebec is insane! :P

Well, taking a look at life... hmmm. Well, we got the chance to go see Old Quebec this past Monday! That was super fun! I did learn a lesson though: if you're going to visit historic sites... don't take the sisters in your district with you, because they will take a picture of everything in sight. We had to stop about a million times so they could get the perfect shot of the river or the castle or the gate or the cobblestone or that dress in the shop window. Every time they made us stop, us elders just turned and looked at each other and grunted something about football. :P Don't get me wrong. Sister missionaries are the best. They're super fun and they work super hard. I just might hide their cameras next time we have a district activity is all. ;)

Funny story. So Elder Peery and I were getting ready to leave our apartment. I walked out into our living room and Elder Peery said, "Elder. I want you to look outside."


"Just... look outside."


So I walked over to the door and looked out onto the balcony... and there was a squirrel. Sitting on the edge of the balcony. On the third floor. I have absolutely no idea how he got there... because there's like nothing for him to have climbed to get there. It was pretty cool. So Elder Peery threw out a bunch of almonds on the balcony, and our friend the squirrel just started eating them right up. I took some pictures of him and will send them later. When we got home later, he was gone, and so were all the almonds. So that was fun. A few days later, we found him (or one of his friends) chilling in the grass below our balcony. We haven't named him yet... we'll see if he comes back. :)

We had a call last night with our mission president in which he emphasized the importance of leadership. I've been thinking a lot about this topic lately and I've come to understand more fully something I didn't quite understand before.

Highly visible positions of responsibility are not the epitome of leadership. If we take the Savior as our Example (as we all should), taking a look at His leadership, we can learn much. The Jews believed that their great Messiah would come flying in as a great militant ruler, with trumpets and banners and swords, saving them from the Roman empire. They expected a Messiah to hold a highly visible calling, recognized by all who viewed Him as the great Savior of the people of Israel. In stark contrast, the greatest King this world has ever seen spent His time walking in their midst, a common citizen like them. Many of the very people He'd come to save were those who despised and rejected Him. During His most important moment, in those dark hours on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, when He was performing His greatest act of love and leadership, only three men were there to see it, and they slept. And yet He continued to give everything He had to His Father's purposes.

So should we.

“Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then he pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no, not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little place for me.”
And the word he spoke, it was not stern;
“Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

-Meade MacGuire (quoted by President Thomas S. Monson in a talk, "Your Personal Influence")

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber
 Looking out over the river and a bit of Old Quebec.

 We have chosen a name. He shall be called SquirrelyMcSquirrelySquirrel.

 "Uh... so that's a long way down... I honestly have no idea how I'm gonna get down from here. HELP!"
A street in Old Quebec. Take note of the random French guy walking.

 Another street in Old Quebec. Even more French people.

 I am a French nautical captain. Can't you tell by my short legs and my clothing in popular primary colors?

 A giant mural. The Chateau Frontenac is back behind the trees.

 A very old French looking square. You can tell it's French because of the way it is.

 Another road in Old Quebec, with a view of the Chateau.

 This is the oldest street in North America. Or Canada. I don't know, the plaque was in French.

 The Chateau! It's a giant hotel! :)

 A view from the Chateau of Old Quebec and the Fleuve.

 Do ya'll see the cannons???? Sadly, they are not loaded. :(

 Apparently, Elder Peery and Elder Obering don't know how to smile.
At the bottom of the picture is the wall that surrounds the Citadel of Quebec. On the left is a statue of some French guy. I didn't get the chance to read his plaque. Stay tuned. :)

Monday, May 9, 2016 MAY. Seriously?! Yay for family!! Forgiveness has never come free, but it brings freedom.

Well hey there ya'll! :)

I am slightly upset. It snowed this morning. Not a lot, and not for very long, but still. WHY MUST SNOW CONTINUE TO FALL. It's seriously MAY. People have been wearing T-shirts in my hometown for months, and I'm currently wearing my snow jacket. Quit messing with me Quebec! I just want San Diego weather year-round! Is that too much to ask?! :P

Okay. Rant over.

Aside from that, my week has been pretty good. The rest of the week has actually been pretty warm; so warm, in fact, that many rather overweight Quebecois men have decided it is a great time to sit outside on their balconies in short shorts and just tan while smoking. I don't know who invented this part of the culture, but they should be cursed to spend forever walking down a dark hallway littered with Legos.

Oh, and yeah. I got to talk to my family. That could probably be mentioned. You know that feeling when you haven't seen your favorite people on the planet for like 5 months and then you get to talk to them for an hour? No? Well, it's like the best feeling in the world. All you people who don't spend much time with your parents and siblings, STOP IT! Go hang out with them cause they're like the best people ever! Even if they steal all of your clothing while you're a couple thousand miles away freezing to death. :)

Funny story from this week: Well, it's better explained in pictures, which I will send, but during our weekly planning session this past Thursday, Elder Peery and I were getting REALLY bored of just sitting there (weekly planning takes FOREVER). So, in order to stay focused, we had to keep changing how we were sitting in our chairs. At one point, I was talking about an investigator while simultaneously adjusting my position in my chair until I looked pretty much like a human pretzel. I asked Elder Peery a question and he didn't answer, so I looked up from my notebook and he just said, "That can NOT be comfortable. Where is my camera." Sadly, I couldn't hold the way I was sitting so I fell out of my chair before he got a picture. But we did get a couple pictures to send.

This week, one of the biggest things I've learned is that forgiveness is real. Both in people with whom I've served and in my own life, I have seen the power of forgiveness change people's hearts. I promise that no matter what you may have done, no matter how many times you may have fallen, no matter how far you may have strayed, you have never gone so far that the Shepherd will be unable to seek you out and bring you back. Repentance isn't easy; it takes humility and courage and work. It takes a recognition of our failures, and an understanding of His chosen path for us to return to Him with "clean hands and a pure heart." Forgiveness has never come free; but it brings freedom. I promise that any regret or pain or guilt we might feel from past actions can be totally and completely removed from our souls if we are willing to let Him take it all; if we are willing to do what it takes to lay down our heavy burdens at His feet.

His path is an uphill one; but how beautiful the climb! His way is not without responsibility; but how light His yoke! I promise that the peace Jesus gives is worth all of the pain of repentance. I promise that He wants nothing more than for us to continue to accept His Atonement and let Him change us for the better. I promise He is real. I know He lives! 

En avant!
Elder Bryan McOmber

District photo! :) Left to right, back to front: Back row: Me, Elder Obering, Elder Noorda, Elder Pinkham, Elder Peery, Elder Perkes. Front row: Sister Clark, Sister Goaslind, Sister Calderon, Sister Sheehy, Sister Westover, Elder Westover.

Weekly planning...

Monday, May 2, 2016

If I...King Julian... :) My Conversion Story. My Anchor.

Hey guys! :)

So this week has been pretty cool. The craziest part of the week was Wednesday; we had transfers and four out of the five teams in our district had one or both missionaries transferred. In total, five new missionaries came in. Crazy! But super fun. We spent a good deal of time driving around and calling people to make sure everyone got where they needed to go. A little stressful, but super cool to meet all the new missionaries! We got together with the Rimouski elders and the Ste-Foy elders and went to this really good poutine place (the first time I've had poutine in several months, for the record) called L'Intuition. I had a smoked meat poutine that convinced me I am not allowed to eat poutine ever again because I will end up like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who turned into a giant blueberry. Anyways. It was a good day. :)

Well, I guess the funniest part of this week would be the fact that I have gotten Elder Peery to start speaking in the King Julian voice. That was pretty great. At random points in time we will just start quoting him and it's pretty dang funny. "No, thank you." "Um, yes, thank you, it's my plane!" And so on. We've had a good time. That is the second companion I've gotten to start speaking in the King Julian accent. For the win. :)

I was thinking this week about what to talk about in this letter home, and I honestly wasn't sure. Then I remembered a question a friend asked me in an email recently. She asked me if I'd share my conversion story. To explain, I was born into an LDS home; the missionaries never came to teach me the gospel and baptize me; I'm not a "convert" in the common sense of the word. But my conversion story is still real, because there came a time when I made the decision that this gospel I'm out here sharing is true. And that's my story; I'll share it with you all today.

I was always a pretty good kid. I mean, sure, occasionally I opened all the Christmas presents three weeks before the big day, but for the most part, I tried to be obedient. And all my life, I believed pretty easily in the things I was told at church and that I read in the scriptures. My parents knew it was true, so obviously it must be true. And I stayed like that through most of my younger years.

Things started to change when I got into middle school and high school. The people around me became less innocent, and I found myself in several situations in which I had to defend my faith. So I decided that if this were going to continue, I needed to know what I believed better than I then did. I began to study the scriptures much more in depth. I got into the habit of reading every night before bed, and I came to know the stories in the scriptures pretty well.

As I got into high school and life became slightly more complicated, I made some decisions in my life that I wasn't very proud of. I never did anything illegal or incredibly wrong, but I also wasn't perfect. This was the refiner's fire of my testimony. As I completed my junior year of high school, something clicked. Something deep down in my soul realized that it was decision making time, and I couldn't ride on what anyone else believed anymore. It had to be my testimony; it had to be what I believed, what I KNEW to be true. And at that point... I didn't know. I believed... but I didn't know.

And so the work began. I threw myself into deeper study of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. I wanted to come to truly know my Savior, to feel in my heart that He was there and He cared for me. I read through every account of His life in the four Gospels as well as His ministry to the people on the American continent found in the Book of Mormon. I prayed like I never had before, seeking out quiet solitude and having very personal conversations with Heavenly Father. I begged, multiple times, to know. It was no longer enough for me to believe everything; I needed to be sure.

I wasn't illuminated in a ray of light. There was no vision that came to me to clear my soul. I didn't converse face to face with the Creator of Earth and Heaven.

But I did get my answers.

They didn't come all at once. But gradually, I would come upon my answers in the scriptures, or I would have thoughts come to my mind accompanied by powerful feelings of love and peace as I prayed.

I've been told that everyone needs to have an anchor; something that holds them firm while the waves of doubt and questions and accusations threaten to toss them about. Well, my anchor is the first thing I came to truly know for myself; the first thing the Spirit testified to me was an unchanging, doctrinal truth.

Jesus Christ is our Savior.

I can stand before anyone and declare shamelessly that I have been washed clean, and continue to be washed clean, through the blood of the only perfect Man who ever lived on this Earth. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is REAL. It applies individually to you and to me and to all of us. I know it, to the deepest part of my soul.

I have come to know many more truths through this same process of study and prayer; the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith, the individuality of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, and many more. These are things I know for myself, and no power or influence can remove that testimony from my heart.

And so my conversion story continues. I grow and learn more and more each day. I know things now that I didn't know before and I will continue to become more and more converted to the Savior and His teachings as I serve and strive to be obedient to the commandments He has given.

I know He lives!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber