Sunday, November 27, 2016

President's Message 2016-11-28

Dear Elders and Sisters,

We are approaching the month of December, the month when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ into the world. This month is the BEST month of the year for a missionary. This is a sacred time.

I remember very well my first Christmas as a missionary. I was far, far away from home, in Vienna Austria. I was serving in a different climate, a different language, a different culture. I was still in my training and I still did not understand most of what people were saying. I was a little worried that my first Christmas away from home would be difficult, that I would miss the food, family and traditional celebrations that I love so much.

As I think today about my first missionary Christmas in 1976, tears come to my eyes. Why? Because that was such a sacred time. I felt my heart filled with love for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I felt His love for me. I felt so happy to give the small sacrifice of time with my family so that I could show my love for Him. I will never forget the spirit my companion and I felt in some of our lessons and as we sang the songs of Christmas to many people. On Christmas Eve, a kind member family invited the two of us to their home for a traditional Christmas Eve meal and games with their family. I loved them and I felt their love for us.

Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ during the Christmas season filled my heart with a joy I had never felt before. It is the joy of sacrificing something that is important to me for Someone who is much more important. I felt that I could give my small gift to the Lord.

The next year I was with the same companion and our month was full of teaching and serving and singing. The branch primary asked me to be "Sankt Nikolaus" (Santa Claus) for the primary Christmas party. I remember that Christmas as well and the great love from Heavenly Father that filled my heart for the people I served. I knew that God was pleased with me and that my small sacrifice of serving away from home was valued by Him.

32 years after my first missionary Christmas I visited the family who had invited us to their home that year. The sister was much older, widowed, and her children lived far away. We shed tears as we shared the sacred memory of a missionary Christmas in her home so many years before. I thanked her with all my heart for her service to me.

Christmas as a missionary is the BEST Christmas in the world!

Treasure this time. Work with all of your heart, might, mind and strength to show your gratitude for the gift of Christ in your life.

This is a time when people's hearts are softer and more open to the things of the spirit.

I invite you to say out loud, many times, the words of John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

I thank the Lord that I have been called again to serve during Christmas time. This time I leave my parents and siblings, as well as most of my 7 children and 17 grandchildren. It is a sacrifice? Yes. But it is a sweet sacrifice and a sacred feeling.

I thank that Lord for you, my precious fellow-servants. May He bless you to give His love to all you meet. May He fill your heart with the sweet spirit of this season.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler

In November, we had the Mission President's Seminar where we met with the Area Presidency and all the mission presidents and wives from the Philippines.  It was a spiritual feast and a great blessing. We feel so blessed to be associating with such a wonderful group of consecrated souls!