Thursday, July 23, 2015

2015-07-20 President's Letter

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Congratulations on the marvelous work you are doing! This week you baptized more people than any week in the last 6 months! This was also a great week for temple ordinances, full activity and temple preparation. Thank you for catching the Mission Vision!

Two of the favorite hymns in the church are "Families Can Be Together Forever" and "I Am A Child Of God." The first hymn starts off with the words: "I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me." The second hymn includes the words: "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has give me an earthly home with parents kind and dear."

For many of you, these words do NOT describe the home you came from. In fact many of you come from homes where the parents are not active, or they are separated, divorced or missing completely. Some of you were raised by relatives or foster parents. Some of you were raised by both parents but your home was a battleground of arguing, fighting and other severe problems. My heart and love go out to each of you.

Several of you who come from these kinds of backgrounds have expressed that it is a little  uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful, to teach and testify about happy, eternal families. Some of you have asked for counsel about how to deal with this. Here are some thoughts for you to consider.

Those of you who come from difficult homes are in GREAT position to testify of the importance of stable, loving, gospel-centered families! You know from personal experience that there is a great need for both a father and a mother in the home. You know from personal experience that there is a great need for kindness, gentleness and love in a home. You know without any doubt that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is an inspired document. You know what it feels like to desire with all of your heart to have a loving, eternal family. Because you "know the bitter", you can more easily "know the sweet" of eternal families.

Even though you did not come from such a family, you have seen strong, loving, Christ-centered families. You have been in their homes. You have felt the spirit there. You have seen the difference the gospel makes. You can testify of that difference. You can be open with investigators and others about your background and you can express with all of your heart your great desire to have the blessings of the gospel that you have seen. You can invite them to join with you in receiving these blessings.

My parents both came from broken homes. They came from homes where there was much bitterness. My mother joined the Church as a teenager. When she and my father married, they married in the temple. They made the decision that their home would be different than the homes they grew up in. They made the decision that their children would have love, stability and the great blessings of the covenants of the gospel. For each of you that came from homes like theirs, you too will be able to establish your own eternal family. You do not have control over the family of your youth, but you do have a great opportunity yourself. You will establish a loving, supportive, family who has been sealed in the temple. You will have the family you dream of if you live righteously and pray for it with all your heart. Your service as a missionary and your obedience to the Lord will be the keys to this future blessing. Do not be shy to testify and teach about eternal families.

2 Nephi 31:20: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

For those of you who come from supportive, gospel-centered, covenant-keeping homes. You can testify from personal experience what it feels like to have that blessing. You have visited homes where there is much sorrow and wickedness. You have seen and felt the difference between these homes and the one you grew up in. You can testify with the same strength that the gospel is true and that families are important to Heavenly Father. You too will establish an eternal family that will bring joy to your heart.

May the Lord bless you my dear fellow servants. May He bless you with the Spirit of Elijah to witness to your souls that families are central to God's plan. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ and to establish eternal families. Our message is a message of joy, love and eternal happiness. It is the best message in all the world.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015-7-12 President's Message

Dear Elders and Sisters,

A few years ago, while serving as bishop of our ward, the deacons brought me the sacrament tray with the water. They had accidentally not filled several of the cups in the tray. I selected a cup with water and drank it but I could not remove from my mind the image of the empty sacrament cups. As I sat on the stand, looking at the ward members who I loved, and as I thought of my family and the many other people I cared about, I wondered what would have happened if Christ had NOT atoned for us. What if there was never any water in the sacrament cups and no bread on the trays, because he hadn't atoned for us? What if baptism meant nothing more than getting wet? What if the temples were locked and closed?

As I thought about this, my heart filled with gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ. As He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and as He realized, maybe for the first time, how painful and deep this was going to be he asked "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But then, in the greatest act of selfless love in the history of the world he said: "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."

I imagine all of us, waiting to come to earth at that time, holding our breath and feeling very anxious. We knew our Savior. We knew He was pure and strong and good. But we also know that it was His CHOICE. He was not required to do this for us. I imagine my deep relief and gratitude as He made the choice to show His love in such a personal and painful way.

I also imagine that the Father may have let us know something about the depth of Christ's suffering. I imagine my heart aching, feeling broken and unworthy as He paid such an terrible price for me. I imagine praying for Him will all my heart. I imagine being so grateful that the Father sent angels to "strengthen him." I wish I could have done something to strengthen Him or at least, in some way, show my gratitude for Him.

I imagine watching his humiliation, torture and crucifixion, all of which are also part of the Atonement and wishing that somehow Pilate would stop, that the soldiers would stop, and that someone would just be kind to the Man who had just done so much for me!

I imagine being relieved when He finally gave up the ghost and died, so that His suffering would be complete.

I imagine feeling amazing joy and rejoicing when He was resurrected, somehow opening the door for me to someday gain an eternal, resurrected body myself.

My heart fills with gratitude, joy and hope as I thank the Lord for His love. My heart fills with desire to serve and share and sacrifice in a small token of thanks. The words to a favorite sacrament hymn go through my mind:

"As now we take the sacrament, Our thoughts are turned to thee,

Thou Son of God who lived for us, Then died on Calvary.

We contemplate thy lasting grace, Thy boundless charity;

To us the gift of life was given, For all eternity

As now our minds review the past, We know we must repent;

The way to thee is righteousness--the way thy life was spent.

Forgiveness is a gift from thee, We seek with pure intent.

With hands now pledged to do thy work, We take the sacrament.

As now we praise thy name with song, The blessings of this day

Will linger in our thankful hearts, and silently we pray

For courage to accept thy will, To listen and obey.

We love thee, Lord; our hearts are full. We'll walk thy chosen way.

(As Now We Take the Sacrament, Hymns, 169)

As Nephi said:

"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children [and those we love] may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26)

My dear fellow missionaries, may we go forward this week with hearts full of love for God, love from God and love with God for the people we serve.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler

Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015-07-05 President's Message

Called of God

Dear Sisters and Elders,

We are currently in the middle of our quarterly mission president's interviews. As you know, I truly enjoy spending time with each of you. Your faith, dedication and humility inspire me. Each of you has put so much "on the altar of sacrifice." Each of you truly wants to serve God and to help His children. Each of you is showing by your actions who you really are.

I do have one particular worry or concern. It is the same concern that the Lord had with Moses. As told in Exodus, chapter 3, when the Lord called Moses to go to Pharoah and bring all of His people out of Egypt, Moses did not realize the power of his calling. He said to the Lord: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharoah (the most powerful man in the world at that time) and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt (hundreds of thousands of slaves who did not know how to survive in the wilderness and who did not respect Moses)?"

Then the Lord assured Moses: "Certainly I will be with thee."

Moses was worried that the people of Israel would not believe him. "What shall I say unto them?" The Lord gave him His name to share with the people ("I AM") and gave him instructions and reassurance: "I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all my wonders...I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians..."

My concern is that many of you do not fully realize or feel what it means to be literally Called of God. You have been individually and personally called by God to do things that are beyond your natural power. You have been given power and authority to do miracles in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the way the Lord works. He takes the "weak and simple" and uses them to do amazing things. He did this with the disciples He chose during His life on earth and He does this now.

Remember the promises you have been given:

"Wherefore I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, the thrash the nations by the power of my spirit; and their arm shall be my arm and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet..." (DC 35:13-14)

"...thou shalt preach the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth in these last days, the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel. And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and i will be with thee and go before thy face." (DC 39:11-12)

I pray that your eyes will be opened so that you can see the great power of your calling. I pray that you will be able to see that you are faithful, spiritually powerful servants of Heavenly Father.

I INVITE YOU to search the scriptures for the promises the Lord makes to His servants. Write them down. Put them up in your apartments. Send them to me in your emails. Share them with your family. Live to make them true. I promise that the Lord will pour out blessings on you. It was YOU that Joseph Smith prophesied about when he said:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly and independent until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country and sounded in every ear, til the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say, the work is done."

Thank you for living your lives so that you could be called of God to serve Him in the greatest mission on earth!

I know you were called of God.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler

Thursday, July 2, 2015

2015-07 Mission Leadership Council (MLC)

 Today was one of our favorite days of the month.....Mission Leadership Council!  It is
such a spiritual feast for all of us.

                    It is also a time Angel cooks a delicious lunch for the missionaries.

 Here is a most incredible group of wonderful men and women who have been called to lead their fellow missionaries.  As leaders, they are required to be in the front, setting an example.  This group is doing that very well.  The Manila Mission is blessed because of them!