Monday, June 27, 2016

Changes = Lessons Learned. Work is fun! Creating a silver lining so you can enjoy the ride no matter what.

Hey guys! :)

It's been a pretty good week. We had our farewell meeting with President Patrick... that was kind of sad. I'm very excited to meet President Phillips, but I'm also a little sad to realize that I won't be seeing President Patrick for a while (or getting brownie bombs for my birthday from Sister Patrick). Change is interesting, to say the least. It's funny... one of the greatest (and hardest) things about serving a mission is that your whole life can change on a dime. Often you have very little warning, and all of a sudden you're in a new area, or you have a new companion, or a new mission president, or a million other things can change. It's all over the place, and it's insane. And I can't say I always like it. But I do love serving my mission. And with every new change comes a new lesson, bringing about a new change in me.

We had a super fun day on Saturday. We woke up and went through the normal morning routine, but instead of changing into proselyting clothes (white shirt and tie), we put on service clothes (t-shirt and shorts) and went out to start what would end up being 11 hours of moves, yardwork, driving, and really good food. To start, we drove to a member's home, where we worked together with several other members to get all of their furniture and boxes from their 4th floor apartment down into the moving truck. From there, we followed the truck across town to unload all of the furniture and boxes into their new basement apartment. After that, we drove to another member's home, where we spent several hours putting branches into garbage bags. The highlight of this part of the day was that this family made us brochettes (kabobs) for lunch. Cool fact about French brochettes - sometimes, they take the brochette and they get a baguette and you put all of the onions and meat and peppers from the brochette into the baguette and then you eat it and then you feel really really full and really really tired. We then proceeded to drive back across town to a Native American town called Wendake, where we helped the Quebec sisters with another move. And then we drove 30 minutes out of town to a place called Shannon, where we mowed the lawn of a member who was out of town for the day. Then another member family in Shannon had us over for dinner. (If you ever get the chance to eat dinner with a family from the Philippines, DO IT) By the time we got home, we were dead tired and covered in sweat and dirt. It was awesome. I slept like a log and woke up Sunday morning feeling like I'd been beaten up by a moose. How grateful I am that the Sabbath is the day of rest. :)

I think one of the biggest things I've learned this week is that no matter what we are asked to do, we can always choose to have fun with it. I've had a really hard time learning this lesson in my life. When things haven't gone according to plan, or when I've been asked to do a task that I really would prefer not to do, I've had the tendency to get kind of melancholy or just grimace and do whatever needs to get done, trudging dejectedly through the mud of my own self-pity.

How silly of me!

Of course we don't have to like everything that happens to us or that we're asked to do. It's pretty unlikely that we will always be given milk and honey through our whole lives (If one of you has figured out how to make that happen... please explain how to me so I can apply your method). But I've also learned that every dark cloud has a silver lining; and if it's up to us sometimes to create that silver lining ourselves, all the better! Whether it be an exhausting day of work, an annoying boss, or an incident involving two children opening a whole lot of Christmas gifts several weeks before the big day (there's a story behind that one... ask my parents), there's always a way to find joy in the journey. There will most certainly be moments where the climb gets steeper and handholds seem few and far between, but if we wait to find enjoyment until everything is going according to plan, I am convinced we will miss out on a majority of those precious little moments that make life so worth living. So let us whistle while we work and enjoy the ride! :)

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Elder Sykes, Elder Bird, and me! MTC district homies! :)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weather whiplash! Almost got beat up. Credit where credit is due. Pics!

Hey guys!

Hot. Hot hot hot. Hot. This weather is making me trunky because it is reminding me of home. As most homes here don't have air conditioning, my companion and I just have two fans blasting on us all night. It's kind of fun and at the same time kind of annoying. I'm trying to focus on the work we do rather than the discomfort of the weather. :P Anybody know where to find a cheap AC unit? XD At night I go in and take a freezing cold shower just to convince myself that I am still in Quebec. It's a surprisingly pleasant experience. However, I have not yet reached the point where I am asking for the winter to come back. I'm not that desperate. :)

Oh. Another fun note. Do you know that moment where you're emailing home and you realize that you have exactly one year left in your mission? Yeah. It's a weird feeling. I'm trying to ignore it.

Fun stuff from this week. Well, my companion and I almost got beat up, so that was fun! We had parked on the side of this street and we had our windows down. We were searching for an address, and while Elder Blackwelder looked through a binder, I looked over and saw a man walking out of his home. He walked up to a car on the other side of the street. He looked a little bit terrifying - his head was shaved and he was covered in tattoos, and he carried what looked to be a permanent grimace - but there's plenty of terrifying people on the planet, and some of them can be very pleasant, so I waved at him and said hello. He stopped and looked at me and said, "Do we know each other?" I smiled back and said, "No." And he just looked at me and said, "So why did you just say hello to me." My smile was becoming a little bit difficult to hold. "Just to say hi. You know, being nice and stuff." And he just rolled his eyes, then turned around and started talking to this woman in her car. Then he turned around and walked back inside. Elder Blackwelder and I turned to each other and were like, "Wow. He was kind of rude." And then I started putting the address into the GPS. After a few seconds, Elder Blackwelder tensed up and said, "Dude. Dude. Dude. Dude." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the same man walking out of his house toward us. I kept putting in the address, then I realized he was crossing the street to the car and looking right at me. At about the moment I was wondering how fast Staci could accelerate, he yelled out, "Hey!" So I looked at him, pretty sure I was about to be yanked through the window. He walked on up and crossed his arms and leaned up against the side of the car, with his face right in my window. I could smell alcohol and there were a lot of alarm bells going off in my head. Then he asked us if we were Jehovah's Witnesses (a really really well known religion here). We said we weren't.
"Well who are you then?"
We explained who we were and he said, "Here. Pull into my driveway, and come around behind my house. I wanna talk to you." Then he walked back behind his house.
For a solid few seconds, Elder Blackwelder and I didn't say anything. Then I pulled forward a ways (not into his driveway), but left the car in such a position that we could dive in at a moment's notice and burn rubber outta there. We had a very short discussion about the pros and cons of the situation and decided to go ahead and go back behind the house. And we very tensely approached the little gate that led into his backyard. As we walked up, we found our scary friend sitting around a table drinking beer with a few other slightly less scary men. One of them yelled out in super thick Quebecois, "Hey! You're the Mormons, right?" To which I responded that we were. And all of a sudden they invited us to sit down and he started explaining to us that he helped to build the chapel where we go to church. He talked about how much respect he had for the Mormons and how beautiful the chapel is. Then a little girl ran out and started running around the table. And right then we felt safe. :P Funny how a little toddler can do that to you. Anyways, we had a pretty cool conversation with these guys for a while and then we went on our way. It was pretty fun! :) But yeah! I didn't get beat up! Cool!

The biggest thought that has been on my mind this week is about my role as a missionary. I had some experiences this week that really made me think about what I can take credit for in this work. And the fact of the matter is, I can't take much credit at all. Although my role as a missionary is important, and I need to give it everything I have, there is very little credit - or blame - that I can take for the decisions of those I teach. When an investigator decides to keep a commitment, or to accept a baptismal date, or to keep the Word of Wisdom... the credit for that decision goes to their agency and the power of the Spirit changing their hearts. Likewise, when someone I teach decides NOT to keep a commitment, etc... they take responsibility. This fact does not diminish my responsibilities; I should still be working and praying and trying to do my very best. But in the end... it's not about me. I take full responsibility for all of my own decisions, not for those of anyone else. And I am responsible to do my best. To be exactly obedient and to talk to everyone and to study and pray and be humble and love those around me. I have a lot of work to do.

I think it is very common to become overloaded with a feeling of responsibility for the choices of others. But that simply isn't right. It isn't true and it isn't divine. Our responsibility with regards to others is to teach what we've learned with humility, to expound gospel principles with clarity, and to exhort to repentance with love. That is our calling as members of Christ's church. We are responsible for what WE do. So let us focus on what actions we can take, and give our all to do so.

I love you all!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber
Exchanges with Elder Caine and Elder Critchlow! :)

 Exchanges with Elder Sumsion and Elder Roubicek! :)

Sunset from up the hill looking out across the city.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Car antics. Learning to listen. Pics!

Howdy friends! :)

It has been a pretty stressful week. But super fun.

The first part of the week was spent driving all over the city so Elder Peery could say goodbye to everyone. The second half of the week was spent driving all over the city again so that Elder Blackwelder could say hello to everyone. It's been kind of insane. The most crazy day was definitely Wednesday. Let me give you the run down.

So Elder Peery's bus left at 8:30. We got ready and left at 7:45 to get to the Sainte-Foy bus station by about 8. Nice and early and on time and everything. As we were pulling off the freeway near the station, all of a sudden Elder Peery said, "SHOOT." Naturally, I assumed we were about to be totaled by an incoming semi. So I tensed up and prepared to go into evasive maneuvers. Only to find that he was just looking at his ticket with a very confused face.

See, normally, when missionaries leave/arrive in Quebec City, we meet them at the Sainte-Foy station. It's super close to the bridge across the river, which is pretty much the only way to get to Quebec City within a long distance. There is, however, another station, called the Quebec Centreville station, right in the middle of downtown. The office had bought the ticket to leave from the Quebec Centreville station. And we both had only just then noticed this rather important fact. So we picked up the Sainte-Foy elders at MacDo and hopped back on the freeway... just in time to hit traffic. We were still a good 20 minutes away from the Centreville station as the clock ticked past 8:30. So we decided to flip a U turn and fly back down the freeway to the Sainte-Foy station, just in time to catch the same bus as it stopped by the station on its way to the bridge. So Elder Peery ran in and hopped on the bus just before it left. Craziness.

After he'd left, we drove up north about 30 minutes to help our bishop move some furniture (turns out he's moving to Arizona... like 10 minutes away from my house! What?? :)). We spent the next couple hours moving couches and boxes and stuff. Elder Blackwelder was supposed to get in at around 12:15, so we went back to the institute in Sainte-Foy and for their correlation meeting. We stayed for a short time before we had to hop back in the car to pick up Elder Blackwelder. So where do we, as intelligent elders, go to pick him up? Obviously the Sainte-Foy station! :)

We're not very bright. :P

So we finally managed to get down to the Quebec Centreville station at around 1:00 to pick him up. He'd been waiting there for about 45 minutes. Don't I make a great first impression? :P

Anyways. Other than that, we've spent the majority of the week driving around introducing Elder Blackwelder. It's been pretty fun. He's a super chill missionary and works really hard. We're gonna have a great time! :)

One thing I've been thinking about this week is the importance of listening.

For those of you who know me well... you may have noticed (and been too polite to tell me) that I'm not really the best at listening. I've been known to hear problems and simply want to run in and fix them at the first moment's notice. When people have come to me to talk about a problem they have, my first instinct has always been to simply tell them how I think they should fix it. I rarely have been inclined to listen carefully to everything someone has to say.

I've been thinking about how our Heavenly Father communicates with us. When we speak with Him in prayer, it is pretty rare that in the middle of talking about our problems, an angel from heaven shows up to say, "Hey, look, all you have to do is this." (If this is what happens with one of you... please let me know your method. And maybe write a book about it. 'Cause that's pretty extraordinary.)

As I have prayed about my problems and questions and joys and failures and successes, the majority of answers that I've received have not been immediate. The only immediate response I receive most often is the feeling of love and care from my Father in Heaven. My most memorable and sacred moments, those times when I have felt closest to Him, have been those moments where I have felt simply that He is listening. Where I have felt as if He stood just beside me as I prayed. Where I have felt as if no matter how silly or foolish or guilty or annoying I think I may sound, He just loves me and cares about me and wants to hear everything I have to say.

I am convinced that one of the defining characteristics of pure love is the ability to listen. And if we desire to be as our Heavenly Father and His Son are, how important it is that we master this virtue.

God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us and He wants each one of us to talk with Him. We are never, ever so far from Him that He cannot or will not hear us. He is real, and He cares. I know it!

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber

Driving to Trois-Rivieres this week, Elder Peery got a hold of my camera, and this is what happened...

More of Elder Peery's antics...
My personal favorite...

Monday, June 6, 2016

My new comp! Two soaked but happy Elders...I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!! Pics!

Hello dearest and darlingest people of mine! :)

It's been a hectic week! My companion is going home in 2 days and so we have been visiting lots of people so that he can say goodbye! And suddenly EVERYONE wants to feed us so I feel about like I'm going to explode. We've had crepes, homemade brioche, grilled pork, more grilled pork, bacon-wrapped grilled cheese (SO not good for you), and in the next few days we are to have even more food. Kind of insane. I don't know if I will be capable of eating anything for the next few weeks.

Fun fact! Did you know the best way to eat a crepe is to just put butter and a light amount of sugar on top and then roll it up and eat it and smile? I do now. :)

Other fun facts. Well, I'm receiving a new companion! His name is Elder Blackwelder and he will be joining me in this lovely city of Quebec for at least the next 6 weeks. So this should be a wonderfully joyful time. It's also kind of insane because during this next transfer (6 week period) I will hit my year mark and that means I will have less time left in the field than I've spent in the field and I am SO not ready for that point. But hey, it hasn't come yet so I will content myself in ignorance. :)

Another fun story. We had two exchanges in a row this past week, which was kind of fun! But also crazy. Anyways, in the first exchange, I was with one of the Ste-Foy elders, Elder Obering (who happened to be in the MTC at the same time as me, but he was called in Spanish). He's serving in the same city as me, but his area is downtown so he doesn't have a car. So I took his companion's bus pass and we bused around my area of Quebec for the evening. Sounds fun, right? Well, kind of.

It started off all right. We went to do some service in his area, and Elder Peery and Elder Noorda dropped us off and left with the car. We did some gardening with a member's friend for a couple hours, then the member took us back to the Ste-Foy elders' apartment. We had appointment soon, so Elder Obering changed into his white shirt and tie and we planned on stopping by our apartment on our way to our appointments. Except the buses took like a million years to get back to our apartment, so we were already late and I ended up just going to our appointments in my service clothes. Which, honestly, was kind of fun. People were a LOT more willing to talk to me when I wasn't wearing a white shirt and tie. Anyways, we went to our appointments and everything was going great. It was lightly raining when we left our last appointment, and we were feeling good. But as we walked a couple blocks over to the bus stop, suddenly the angels in heaven started a gigantic water balloon fight. We started walking much quicker to get to the bus stop, only to find that it was the ONLY bus stop in Quebec without the slightest covering. So we continued to get soaked. The only other man at the stop was wearing a rain jacket and he was laughing at us pretty hard. We were laughing too, and it actually helped us have a pretty great conversation with him. He gave us his phone number and name and we're planning on going to see him sometime this week. It was definitely interesting pulling out my planner and pencil in pouring rain and trying to write down his number. In a heavenly miracle, the one spot on my planner that didn't get wet was the part where I had to write his phone number. God is good. :) It was super funny watching people's faces as we got on the bus that night, one wearing a white shirt and tie, one in a t-shirt and shorts, both wearing name tags and both soaked straight to the bone. Honestly, it was super fun. :)

Man, I love being a missionary. :)

All I can say this week is that the Lord loves us. It would have been really easy for me to have been depressed and angry that while I was trying to serve God here in my mission, I found myself shivering in freezing rain at night in the middle of a foreign country, being made fun of in a foreign language by foreign people who don't even know my name. And yet honestly, I was incapable of wiping the smile from my face that entire night. I am not who I used to be. The Lord has taken my heart and changed me for the better and I owe everything good I do and am to Him and His love. I am so grateful that He loves me enough to let me struggle, to let things not go right in my life. I am so grateful that He loves me enough to catch me when I fall, to inspire me when things get rough and when I feel like I don't want to take another step. I'm not perfect, and I'm not always happy and optimistic. But I am different and I love the Savior for helping me to sacrifice what I want for something better.

Missions are amazing!!! :)

En avant!

Elder Bryan McOmber
We stopped by the fleuve while on exchanges in Montreal.

Elder Caine! He's from the island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa. Super cool elder! :)

Le Super Berger! :) (super bear-jay) In English, super shepherd! We taught Primary last Sunday and he played a very important part in the lesson.
That moment when you get wrecked by a Quebec rainstorm...
Stillllllll smilin' though! :)