Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017-01-09 President's Message

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Thank you for your faithful service to the Lord. Thank you for sharing His love with everyone you meet. Thank you for your sacrifice.

The Philippines Manila Mission is one of the great missions of the Church. The work of the Lord is blossoming here. But sometimes, in the ward or branch or area you are serving in, it feels that the work is dead or that it is going backward. I have heard many times from missionaries that "This is a hard area." "The members in this ward do not support us." "It is hard to work here because we are so far from the church building." "We have already talked to everyone in our area." "Our area is too big." "Our area is too small." "No one wants to talk to us." "The rain makes everything muddy."

As you know, I served for two years as a missionary in Vienna Austria, seven years as stake mission president in Chicago, four years as a counselor in the Chicago missionary presidency, and many years in leadership callings in Arizona. In every place I have lived there were places that the missionaries said were "dead areas." Through all of this I have learned this one truth:


To put it another way:


YOU are the one who makes the difference!

When President Thomas S. Monson said: "Your future is as bright as your faith" he was talking about the missionary work in YOUR area.

When you read this, what are you thinking to yourself?

Are you thinking: "I can do this. I will exercise great faith in Jesus Christ. I can pay the price to have the Spirit of the Lord with me. I can find the elect of God and bring them into the waters of baptism."

Or are you thinking: " companion is X, my area is X, my Tagalog is weak, there are too many rich people here...or there are too many squatters here...or people are so busy here...or people cannot afford fare to come to church...or I am new here...or I have been here too long."

Whenever you are called on to have faith and your response starts with "Pero..." or "But...", you are already weakening your faith.

Think about the Ammon the missionary in the Book of Mormon. He was not assigned to a good area. He was the son of King Mosiah in his own country. He was a prince. He could have stayed home and eventually become king of the Nephites. (You think that you sacrificed a lot to serve a mission?)

He was basically a slave or servant of the king. The king talked nicely to him at first but he was basically assigned to a "dead area." In fact, it was literally a "dead area." The previous servants assigned to that area were killed by the king because some local bullies stole the king's sheep.

We can learn a great lesson from Ammon's actions in this "bad area."

In Alma chapter 17, Ammon was new in the area (3 days) when they took the king's sheep to water at Sebus. The bullies immediately came and scattered the sheep.His companions started to murmur and complain: "Now the king will slay us, as he has our brethren because their flocks were sacttered..and they began to weep exceedingly, saying: Behold our flocks are scattered already. Now they wept because of the fear of being slain."

This is similar, as a missionary, to being assigned to a hard area and then bad things start to happen. Your companion complains and murmurs and wants to give up.

What is Ammon's response? "Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy: for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow servants." Here is Ammon in an "impossible situation." His circumstances were bad. But he had faith. He encouraged his fellow-servants to believe. They all ran and gathered the sheep again. Ammon fought with the bullies and killed and wounded many of them. His courage led to the conversion of the king, his family, and thousands of Lamanites. It started with a faithful missionary being assigned to the "worst area in the mission." It was not easy. It took time. It took great faith. It took a positive outlook. Ammon's success was as bright as his faith.

Elders and Sisters, I have been here in this mission long enough to see EVERY area in the mission on fire at one time or another. It is not the area, it is the missionary!

Christ said: "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." (Matthew 17:20)

Is it easy to light your area on fire? Is it easy to find scattered Israel? Of course not. But with God, ALL things are possible.

Alma 26:22 "Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing--unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance..."

In the Philippines we have a saying: "I will be the one." Now is the time for you to be the one. Do not wait for a transfer, for a different companion, for the weather, for members, for anyone. Be the one! It does not take a thousand matches to start a fire. It only takes one.

Ammon gives us the formula in Alma 26:22: repent, exercise faith, bring forth good works, and pray without ceasing...and the Lord will bless you.

I believe in you. I believe in the Lord. Together with the Lord, all things are possible.

Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler