Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017-06-26 President's Message...The Extra Mile

Dear Sisters and Elders,
What a great blessing you are to me! You are the best missionaries on earth. I have felt very clearly so many times how much the Lord loves His missionaries. I feel how precious you are. I feel your great, eternal potential. I feel deeply grateful for your sacrifices.
I have learned many things from you and those who came before you. Over time, some very important principles of success shine through. Today I want to share with you a principle that I have seen many, many times. It is the principle of "Going the Extra Mile" or "Fourth Floor Last Door" or "Giving the Lord Everything I have...and then giving some more."
The Lord saves some very special blessings for those who serve Him TO THE END.
For example, last week a pair of missionaries on Palawan decided to go finding along a trail up the mountain. They talked to EVERYONE they saw along the way and approached every house. Their time was almost up and "then I heard a voice in my head that said "Go do one more. I looked up the trail and saw nothing but trees, but decided to listen to the voice and keep going up the trail. After a few minutes we found a house and called out to them. Tao po! A guy came out of the house, looked at us, and invited us in. We went inside and met a beautiful family. A husband and wife and six little kids who are more than prepared to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Another set of missionaries reported: "In spite of the rain we have experienced during the last few days we didn't stop working. Although many people rejected our invitation to be baptized, we never felt discouraged. We continued to work hard and not let Satan win. One time, we decided to explore our area even though it was raining hard. We both felt the Spirit prompting us to continue walking. Later we heard a small voice calling to us. When I looked back, a woman and her child were heading towards us, smiling, even though she was trying to catch her breath. She introduced herself as a member and a returned missionary and was so happy because she finally saw missionaries for the first time in her neighborhood. She said: "Heavenly Father answered my prayer. Please teach my husband."
These experiences happen over and over again. Sometimes the Lord blesses us during the first OYM. He often blesses us during our days and evenings of proselyting. But it seems that He saves special people and special experiences for when we go the extra mile...for when we do something extra that we were not required to do.
It reminds me of what the Lord taught in Doctrine and Covenants 76:5-6:
"For thus saith the Lord--I the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and truth UNTO THE END. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory."
Think of the "extra-milers" in the scriptures:
Samuel the Lamanite Prophet (Helaman 13, 16): "And it came to pass that he did preach, MANY DAYS, repentance unto the people, and they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.
[He worked very hard, was rejected by everyone, and decided to go back to his house. But he listened to the Spirit.]
But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should RETURN AGAIN, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.
And it came to pass that they would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof...
[Think of it! Rejected by everyone. Not allowed back into the city. But He was dedicated to his calling. NOTHING would stop him from fulfilling his calling!]
... and stretched for this hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart....And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city....[those who} did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall;
[THIS IS THE TIME WHEN MOST OF US WOULD HAVE RUN FOR OUR LIVES!]
...but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows. Now when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized...
[THIS WAS THE BLESSING OF GOING A SECOND EXTRA MILE.]
...therefore when they saw that they could not hit him with their stones and their arrows...they went forth to lay their hands on him, behold, he did cast himself down from the wall and did flee out of their lands..."
If we had more of the spirit of Samuel, the Lamanite, imagine the blessings that would come!
Alma the Younger (Alma 8): "Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts..and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him and caused that he should be cast out of their city, he departed thence and took his journey...While he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people...an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying:
Blessed art thou, Alma: therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice, for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God...return to the city of Ammonihah and preach again unto the people of the city...and he returned SPEEDILY to the land of Ammonihah."
He returned and the Lord brought him to Amulek, who would help him convert many, many people to the gospel.
There are many more examples in the scriptures. There are literally thousands of examples in our mission.
Why does this work? It works because the Lord wants humble servants. The Lord wants servants who will give everything. The Lord wants servants will sacrifice and consecrate everything the have. When we do this, miracles come to the lives of those we serve...and another miracle happens inside of us. This is when we finally LOSE OURSELVES IN THE SERVICE OF THE LORD.
I invite you to put this principle to use in your missionary efforts. GO THE EXTRA MILE. Go to one more house. Talk to one more person. Keep going in the heat. Keep going in the rain. Keep going in the mud.
Going the extra mile is a true principle. I promise that you will see amazing blessings as a missionary when you do this.
"Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come!...Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back (the fruit of your labor)..." (DC 31:3,5)
Mahal ko po kayo,
President Creg Ostler

PS: This principle will also hold true for the rest of your life. If you will go the extra mile in the things that really count, your blessings will be multiplied. When a father or mother takes an extra ten minutes to talk lovingly with a troubled child. When a father helps with the children at home even when he is weary and bone tired; When a mother says kind words to her husband even when she feels that the children have taken all she has to give that day; When a home teacher makes the extra effort to reach out to his family; When you read the scriptures every day, even on the hardest days. It is that extra effort, that extra love, that extra mile, that brings so many blessings.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017-06-21 Last Palawan Zone Conference

Elder and Sister Porteous have now transferred over to Puerto Princessa.  The Wolcotts will be helping with the transition of Mission Presidents in Manila.  We had a wonderful time with the missionaries.  They are amazing servants of the Lord and radiate such great spirits.  Just look at their pictures and you will see what we see!  They are such a blessing to the people they serve!











 Caleb's school is out, so he was able to join us.....and enjoy the delicious food Sister Santos makes.

It was hard to leave these incredible missionaries.  But we are trying to focus on the Lord's work instead of our feelings, and that helps.  It has been such an indescribable blessing to serve with these young men and women.  They are all trying so hard in their own opportunities for growth.  It is amazing to see how much they grow.  When they return home to you, you will see it too.  Please know that their growth has come with a lot of hard work and exercising a lot of faith.  We are so grateful for them.  Thank you, parents and families for sharing them with us!


Friday, June 16, 2017

2017-06-18 President's Message

Dear Sisters and Elders,
You are amazing blessings in my life. I thank the Lord for every minute I get to spend with you! I thank the Lord that He sent you and me here to serve Him together. Thank you for being such devoted, faithful servants of the Lord. Thank you for your support and friendship.
There is a great truth that many people never learn. It is the truth that HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. HAPPINESS IS NOT JUST SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU.
So many people say "I will be happy when...
my investigators keep their commitments
when it stops raining
when the weather is not so hot
when I go home from my mission
when I am a leader
when I have a different companion
when my companion changes his behavior
when I get married
when I finish school
when I have a baby
when I have a job
when my spouse improves
when my children grow up and leave home
when I have a lot of money."
Many, many people wait their whole lives for happiness to come to them. They are the "victim of circumstance."
But real happiness does not come from possessing things, or from things that other people do, or from the passing of time.
Happiness is a choice! It is YOUR choice!
What are the sources of true happiness? All of them come from Heavenly Father.
HOPE: "And what is it that ye shall hope for? ...Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal." (Moroni 7:41)
LOVE OF GOD: "And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people....and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the had of God." (4 Nephi 1:15-16)
"...men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25)
BRINGING OTHERS TO THE LORD: "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" (DC 18:15)
FAITHFUL SERVICE TO THE LORD, EVEN WHEN IT IS HARD...ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS HARD: "And it came to pass that while he [Alma] was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul, because of the wickedness of the people...it came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: Blessed art thou Alma, therefore, LIFT UP THY HEAD AND REJOICE; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God..." (Alma 8:14-15)
In the scriptures, there are 10 places where the Lord says: "Be of good cheer." It is interesting that the first 8 references all refer to the love of God or the Atonement. The remaining 2 refer to the joy of sharing the gospel. NONE OF THEM refer to being happy because circumstances are easy, or someone else makes changes. ALL OF THEM refer to the love of God and the joy of bringing others to Him.
"...In the world he shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
"...be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you." (DC 61:36)
"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you..." (DC 68:6)
"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours." (DC 78:18)
"...Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Matthew 9:2)
[When Jesus appeared to the disciples at night, walking on the water} "...be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (Matthew 14:27 and Mark 6:50)
"...behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying: Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world..." (3 Nephi 1:13)
"And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." (Acts 23:11)
"Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name...unto the ends of the earth." (DC 112:4)
Do you want to be happy? Do you want to "be of good cheer?"
If you do, then use the agency which God has given you. Follow the two Great Commandments:
1-"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind."
This means that we love God so much that we keep all of his commandments, we honor our covenants and our whole souls are full of gratitude for the great plan of happiness that comes to us through the Atonement of Christ. This means that we notice, and enjoy and feel a deep gratitude for the blessings He has given us, including the beauty of small things and the value of each soul.
2-"And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matthew 22:37,39)
This means that we serve our fellow men with great love and devotion. We put our own selfish wants and desires aside and we truly consecrate our time, talents and heart to the service of the Lord and our fellow men.
I have now had the privilege of serving with more than 500 missionaries in this mission. The happiest most joyful missionaries are those who live these two commandments. I recently met with a missionary who has made a big change in his life. He has begun to serve with great obedience and great diligence. His countenance is now different...there is peace and strength and confidence and hope in his eyes. He is physically different...he looks like a man of God and not just a boy trying to serve a mission. His investigators and members in his ward have noticed something different. He is receiving more referrals. People are keeping their commitments more often. But most of all, he is truly happy for the first time in his mission...and the first time in his life.
I invite you to choose happiness. Choosing happiness does not mean that "Today I will choose to be happy." It means that "Today I will DO the things that bring true happiness."
Joseph Smith taught: "Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness and keeping all the commandments of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255-256)
May the Lord bless you my dear fellow-servants, that you will DO the things that lead to true happiness.
Mahal ko po kayo,
President Creg Ostler

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017-06-02-03 Palawan Young Single Adult Conference in Narra

The Narra District and Puerto Princesa Stake held a combined Young Single Adult Conference in Narra this year.  It was a spectacular event that was attended by about 150-160 young adults.  It was held in Narra at the Crystal Paradise Inn and Resort, our favorite place on the island.  They welcomed the group as "Mormon's Family" :)




The conference began with workshops taught by President and Sister Ostler.  President Ostler taught the pre-mission aged young adults about how they can and need to prepare for their missions.  Sister Ostler taught the returned missionaries and the girls that dared to come....how to prepare for marriage.  :)









It was a wonderful experience to share together the principles that help us have eternal happiness in our lives and how we can share it with others.  Some of the memorable moments were President teaching the pre-missionaries how to get the courage to do difficult things.......the secret of 1-2-3!  You count to three and on three you just do it.  He taught them many valuable lessons and they seemed inspired to prepare more for their missions.  Sister Ostler taught about how Heavenly Father has a most incredible gift for us (Eternal life with our families) but we are like a child who doesn't open the gift because we are too busy, we need to finish our schooling, we want to have fun with our friends, or we're afraid, so we just don't accept the gift.  We talked about the things that stop us from eternal marriage and how to overcome them.  Everyone who was shy "threw away" their shyness because we all agreed that we couldn't let our shyness keep us out of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.  The true test came that night after a day of games and great food.  There was a DANCE.  The leaders lined up all the handsome RM's and the beautiful sisters and they would dance for 30 seconds, then move down the line.  They needed some encouragement to introduce themselves and start talking, and whenever we saw sisters not dancing, we pointed them out to the brothers and reminded them that they want eternal life :), and the brothers got over their shyness.  It was really a fun night for all.  Even the prophet would have been pleased with the way the brothers did their duty and kept those sisters dancing and feeling special.  The testimony meeting crowned the event and was accentuated by the Tuco (lizard-type animal) calling out "Tuco, tuco" (which president has taught the people it is really saying "templo, templo"..temple, temple).  Everyone laughed when the Tuco called out during a sister's testimony.  It was the only time it had made any noise in the large ampitheater area. Imagine the surprise when President got up at the end of the meeting to give his concluding remarks, and right as he thanked the Tuco for reminding us about the importance of the temple, the Tuco (for only the second and last time that day) called out "Tuco, tuco".  It was a great end to a great activity!


Brother and Sister Papa are the Family History Area Consultants.  They came and taught a workshop to get all the single adults excited and motivated to do their family history.  They did an excellent job.  Their enthusiasm reminds us of Sister Ostler's dad who also tries every way possible to encourage family history.  It was a great blessing to be with them.


 After the conference, President got to interview several people for their missions.


Elder and Sister Atkinson are busy preparing everyone for missions and the temple!




Afterwards, they had a meeting with all the branch and district leaders to evaluate the activity. It's just amazing to see the growth of the church on Palawan.






2017-06-14 Our Last New Group of Missionaries












    We always take the new missionaries to the American Memorial Cemetery where President Hinckley dedicated the land of the Philippines for the gospel to be preached.  It is a sacred place where we remember the sacrifices of so many that allow freedom to be in the Philippines.  We are so grateful for all these brave men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we can be in this land and share the message of eternal, spiritual freedom!



Countries that follow and rely on God are blessed by Him.  May the Philippines continue to be blessed by Him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

2017-06-13 Our Last Farewell Batch

You might ask, "Does it get any easier to say good bye?"  The answer is....after three years of saying good byes.....NO!  I bawled my eyes out again tonight...even though I thought I had it under control.  I guess you just can't help but get your heart involved when you work with these elders and sisters and see how they stretch, sacrifice, suffer, succeed, struggle and rejoice throughout their missions.  So many of them have very challenging situations at home, and to see what they do through on their missions...it just makes you love and appreciate and admire them so much.  Many of them are going home to very challenging situations.  It is very difficult to be raised in cultures or homes where families aren't members, or have different ideas about how to live your life, and many cultures do not give children much agency.  They have very strong expectations that they will work to support their parents and younger siblings when they return home which precludes their education and certainly does not allow for marriage.  But they are being counseled by the prophet to have faith to get their education, get married, work and be self-reliant.  That is so against the culture.  Their parents and oldest sibling have sacrificed so much for them it seems totally wrong to start their own family instead of taking care of those who sacrificed for them.

Yet they all try to follow the prophet however they can.  They have so much faith.  How we pray for them!  How we love them!  Here are their pictures:

































 When we went for lunch to the patron housing by the temple, there was a bus waiting for temple patrons.  The men were very creative and were resting in the bottom part of the bus where the luggage goes.  It was roasting hot outside, but I guess it was cooler down there than in the sun!

 Sister Kumari met a family returning from the temple to the patron housing who are from the ward in India that her brother attends.  It's amazing that the members from India come all the way to the Philippines to be able to attend the temple.

 The late afternoon, we always "practice" what it will be like to have conversations after their missions with someone of the opposite gender.  We try to help them find ways to share a part of their heart and testimony when asked how their mission was.  It's a great opportunity to strengthen someone else as well as it helps others know who you really are.

 It's always awkward at first because they have locked their hearts so well, but with some coaching from President Ostler, they actually learn how to ask people on a date and have meaningful conversation. (We hope it helps! :))


 The final dinner makes it all worth it!



Oh, how we love and appreciate our seniors!