Monday, March 30, 2015

Dear Mom, Dad, and Cole Family,

It's a crazy thought thinking that I have less than 100 days left before I will no longer be a studly missionary in the Philippines.  Also, this is the last week of the transfer so next week I will be saying goodbye to my good friend Elder Bienvinuto.  Oh yeah, he just got his mission call and he will be serving in the Philippines, Butuan mission!  It's in the southern part of the Philippines so there aren't any foreign missionaries so at least he had one foreigner companion. Now this next week has me pondering if I will finish out my mission with pure Filipino companions or will I have my first foreign companion.  Who knows?

Work work work, it's everyone's favorite thing; especially missionaries.  Work this past week has been pretty great.  Our lesson numbers are pretty low but we've made up for it in our finding efforts.  This past week Elder Bienvito and I have achieved the standards of exellence with 59 OYM's!!!!  I know that's not very high for my good buddies in the states but for here in San Jose that's pretty gosh darn high.  I think it's almost half the population of San Jose ha ha.  But we have a lot of potential investigators that we can teach now so that's exciting!  I've learned that it's not to hard to talk to people here, it's just finding them at home that's hard.  It's kind of annoying because even if you set an appointment with someone; most of the time they're still not available.  This last week we taught Baby Cam and the spirit was super strong in the lesson!  She is really trying to find out the truth and to see if she should remain a Catholic or convert.  But she told us that she's going to work in Batangas in a few weeks but she still wants to be taught so we're going to refer her to the missionaries over there.  I don't know what's going to happen but I have faith that she'll find the truth for herself someday even if I don't see the fruits of our labors.

  We also had zone conference and we were able to watch "Meet the Mormons".  For those of you who haven't seen it I would highly recommend that movie.  Then President Reeder gave a great discussion about a talk from Elder D. Todd Christofferson  entitled "Free forever, to act for themselves".   He emphasized the topics "Justice, Mercy, and the Atonement"  In the law of Heaven we must be punished for going against the commandments of God so that justice may be satisfied.  But because God loves each and every one of His children so much he gave them a way to return to His presence without taking away their free agency as was recommended in the plan of the adversary.  But because God being the loving father that He is, decided to give His one and only pure child to us.  One who had no sin.  One who felt no hatred toward his brother.  But one who has an infinite love for every human being who had ever lived and ever will live on this earth.  I don't know the anguish the Jesus felt when he suffered for our sins in Gethsemane.  I don't know the humiliation that Jesus felt when he was stripped and whipped by his brethren.  Nor can I comprehend what Jesus felt in his last moments on the cross when he called out, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ all of mankind has the opportunity to repent of their sins and to become like God.  Being a mortal man I don't know have a perfect knowledge about all things; but one thing I know without a doubt is that our Savior Jesus Christ; lives. And because he lives, we will to.  

The Church just came out with a video about Jesus Christ for the Easter season and like we have been inviting people here to watch it and share it with their friends; I invite you guys to watch it and share it on Facebook or anywhere else so that more and more people will see this wonderful video that the church has released.  They wouldn't have spent so much time and money on it if they didn't think that it was important.

No matter how many times I say it, this is one phrase that doesn't lose it's meaning.  Mahal na mahal ko po kayo!!  Each and everyone of you has a special place in my heart.  I have only began to see the love that our Heavenly Father has for His children, May we all enjoy this Easter season and remember that "He Lives".  Ingat po kayo!  May God be with you till we meet again.

Ps. Please don't spoil General Conference for me in your next emails: I don't get to watch in until the 2nd week of April.  Well you can if an angel appears to you and tells you that I need this information but other than that.... you get the picture :)  

                                           -Elder Cole

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Mom, Dad, and Cole Family,

There are way too many people in Manila!!!  Just coming from the airport going to the Immigration Office took us almost an hour in what could have been a 10 minute drive.  I didn't help that I had to pee the whole time we were in the car so I headed straight for the CR when I got out of the car.  I've never seen more foregin people in one place than I have at the Immigration Office.  Koreans, Japanese, Jamaicans, Indians, and of course good ole Americans wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys and cargo pants; all of whom were amongst the population of the overly crowded Immigration Office.  We waited a good 2 1/2 hours just to get our finger prints and picture taken.  Everything is all digital now so I didn't even have to get my fingers dirty with ink which was really nice.  But any ways after the long wait, we were able to go to the biggest mall in all of Asia.  Let me just say that I'm glad I wasn't assigned in Manila because it would be way easy to be distracted from the work.  It took me a little bit to adjust back to provincial life once we got back to Naga and we weren't even there for a full 24 hours.  But being able to go bowling (which was approved) was probably one of the funnest things that I've done in a long time.  I got four strikes in one game which made me get a little more excited that I should have been, especially because there were a lot of people looking at us.  But unfortunately I still didn't win that game!!!  Why do Indians.... sorry.. Why do Sri Lankans have to be good so good at bowling?  Elder Wjendran doesn't like being called an Indian ha ha.

Our numbers this past week weren't super high but we've really got some good progressing investigators.  We were able to teach the Pasciona Family and now they all have a baptismal date for April 18th!!  The only problem is that only one member of the family (Teresa) attended church yesterday so I really hope that they can be baptized all together.  Teresa's birthday is on April 18th (which we had no idea about until we extended the date) so it would be so cool if they could all be baptized on her birthday.  Then we have another fairly new investigator Baby Cam who is awesome!  She's an active Catholic but she listen's to other religions because she is so interested in the differences of churches.  Any ways, yesterday Elder Beinvinuto and I taught her about the First Vision and the Book of Mormon and she had a lot of questions about Joseph Smith and especially about Baptism.  But when she prayed at the end of the lesson she prayed to know which church is true and to help her understand what we taught to her.  She also invited us to come back later tonight which is a great sign!  

I have truly learned to love reading my scriptures since I've been here on my mission and I wish that I would have treasured them more before I left on my mission.  This past week I was reading in Mormon and there was a verse that really stuck out to me in Mormon 9:28.   "Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God".  It was funny because I read this after I went to Manila.  But it really made me think of "How many of the people that I saw at MOA are really giving into the natural man and satisfying the lusts of man".  I know that it's not an easy thing to overcome the natural man that dwells inside of us, but if we heed the advice of Moroni and "ask with a firmness unshaken" that we can overcome the trials and temptations of this world. I know that our Heavenly Father will help us control our natural desires.  Even just playing bowling and walking around the mall made me feel different than when I was in Naga.  I felt the influence of the world on my teenage mind/heart and it was a hard thing to overcome; but through our Heavenly Father nothing is impossible.  

I love you all so much and I'm grateful for everything that you guys have done for me.  I couldn't be a happier missionary.  Just thinking that I have less than 100 days left is mind boggling and that number is only going to get smaller.  Mahal na mahal ko po kayo.  May God be with you till we meet again.

                                                         -Elder Cole

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Mom, Dad, and Cole Family,

Well...... I'm going to Manila on Wednesday!!!!!  All of the foreign missionaries who are going home in 2015 get to go to Manila to have their fingerprints done so it looks like I'll be going to the biggest and most crowded city in all of the Philippines.  Maybe I could get lucky and see a celebrity there ha ha?

This past week has been a lot like last week. Hot, rainy, and there were a lot of punts.  Walking for long distances on a road with very few houses is a hard thing to do, especially when the person you had an appointment with isn't there or is busy.  Welcome to the life the a missionary in the Philippines.  It's pretty easy to get a first lesson, it's just the 2nd and 3rd ones that are difficult.  Sometimes it's more effective just to show up to someones house unexpectedly so they can't hide from you when you show up at the time of the appointment.  Despite the challenges there is a big bright spot in our work.  Angela is progressing very well and at this moment she is going to be baptized on the 28th of this month!!  She is super shy but super smart and when we reviewed the baptismal questions with her she answered them perfectly.  It's hard to believe that she's only 10 and she is that smart.  We also met someone by the name of Baby Cam and she is a devoted Catholic; but when we came to visit she welcomed us in and listened better than almost anyone I've ever taught.  She even took notes about what we shared so she could study it before our next visit which was very impressive.  We also had a service project in Elder Green and Haueia's area which was pretty awesome.  We weeded and tilled this families ground so they could plant more plants.  It sounds pretty simple but my arms were pretty dead after using a hoe to till the ground.  I never have been more grateful for things that I have in America that makes life so much easier.  Afterwards this member family gave us buko (coconut) water for a snack.  Not being prideful or anything but I by far drank the most out of anyone.  The only problem was when I had to pee on the jeepney going home.  

The other day I probably had one of the best personal studies that I have ever had on my mission.  I studied in 3rd Nephi Chapter 17 when Jesus Christ invites all of those who have illnesses and all of the children to come unto him and to be blessed.  I just imagined what it would be like if I were one of those young one's who Jesus Christ blessed and cared for.  When I read that my heart was filled with spirit and I was nearly  in tears when I read there.  I realized that we are all figuratively speaking young children and we need to come and be healed by Jesus Christ and his atonement.  Life is hard and of course we aren't perfect.  But because of the love of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, there is a way for us to become clean and relieve the weight that sin puts upon our shoulders.  All we need to do is come unto Jesus Christ as a little child and become perfected in him.

I love you all so much and I am most grateful for everything that you do for me in my life.  As the sand in my hour glass is about to run out I really have developed a deep love for my Savior and for all that he has done for not just me, but for all of us.  Thanks for your wonderful examples of strength and obedience.  Continue to be strong and to always hold strong to what is right.  Mahal na mahal ko po kayo.  May God be with you till we meet again.

                                                  -Elder Cole

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dear Mom, Dad, and Cole Family,

This last week reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride just without the romance.  There was a lot of hard times, annoying times, but at the end of it all things worked out.  Just for starters, the beginning of our week was boss!!!  Elder Beinvinuto and I OYM'ed this girl named Marjorie on Sunday and got a return appointment with her on Monday night.  At first she really didn't seem interested so we both just hoped for the best.  When we started teaching she told us that she was a Baptist but she was open to listen to different religions.  Then she told us that she had two miscarriages so she doesn't have any kids yet.  At that moment the spirit told me to just testify about eternal families and I could tell that when we mentioned that the family can be together forever she started to listen a little closer.  Her sister Cindy even joined in on the lessons and she is now really interested to!!!  Then on Tuesday we went to one of our further areas and we got punted from most of our appointments within an hour or so which led to tracting.  At first we didn't have a lot of success but before it was time to go back we wanted to go check out this road that we've never been down before.  Let me say that it was a long road and it didn't look like it was going anywhere so we were thinking about turning back; but then we saw a woman walking with her Caribou so we asked her if there were more houses ahead.  She told us that there was a whole little sub-division ahead.  Both Elder Benvinutos and I just turned to each other with big smiles on our faces.  When we got there there was this guy who started talking to us so of course we went up and started talking to him.  As we were introducing ourselves to him people just started to gather around like I was David Archuletta.  I'm serious there were a good thirty plus people just standing around listening to us.  Eventually we started to teach a short simple lesson and because of that we have a lot of return appointments and potential investigators. 

 Long story short the next few days weren't so nice to us.  Walking in the summer heat getting punted, and not being able to find anyone to teach is rough. But that's what the next few days brought to us.  Rian and Mark Dave also told us that they don't want to get baptized.  When we asked them why they said because they had already been baptized.  Well I know that an answer like that doesn't come from a 10 year old so I'm suspecting that they're family members have been influencing them in a negative way. But I guess that right now is not there not time and that they'll have to make that decision when they're a little older.  Bishop Flororita told us to keep teaching them so that they can know the gospel and that maybe they can change their minds.  Things were kind of like that until Sunday when the Lord fulfilled his statement to Joseph Smith "Your trials shall only be a small moment".  One of the members referred one of his friends families to us so we went and visited them before we went to our scheduled appointments.  I truly do have a testimony that the Lord is preparing the hearts of His children, we just have to show our faith in God to find them.  We weren't able to teach the father because he was working trying to get money so they could buy food but his wife and two daughters are golden investigators!!!  They are excited to attend church this next Sunday and they even said that they want to attend English class on Saturdays.

I am so grateful for all that you guys have done and continue to do for me.  I love each and every one of you so much.  I can't picture my life any differently.  I read an article in the new Liahona and it really made me grateful for you guys.  It was about this missionary when he was in the MTC and Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at a fireside and afterwards he gave a hug to his grandson.  This missionary overheard some other Elders saying "Oh it would be so cool to have President Hinckley as my grandpa"  Of course it would be cool to have your grandpa or relative be an apostle but I wouldn't trade my Grandpa Woolstenhulme, Grandpa Cole; or any other relative for anything.  The times that I have had with these wonderful people have influenced me just as much as an apostle has influenced his grandchildren and different family members.  Treasure your families.  Mahal na mahal ko po kayo!!!  May God be with you till we meet again.

                                           -Elder Cole 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dear Mom, Dad, and Cole Family,

BYU beat Gonzaga, well that's always a good thing to hear.  I don't think John Stockton was too happy about it but it's about time that BYU beats a high ranked team.  This past week has been one to remember.  Lot'ts of tracting, lots of punts, but a whole lot of fun.  My new companion is Elder Beinvinuto, he's a short term missionary from Canaman (which really close to my first area) and he is awesome.  I love this kid and it sucks that we'll only be together for one transfer; but at least that means that I'm going to die here in San Jose.  Elder Beinvinuto has so much fire and love for the work it's hard to keep up with him sometimes.  For being a new missionary he has no fear in talking to people and he has great teaching abilities. The Lord has truly blessed me with a great companion.

This last week we've been trying to find all of our hidden less-actives in our area which has led to some pretty eventful memories.  Yesterday we were looking for a guy named Roger and when we got to his house he told us to never come back.  I've met some pretty hard less-actives but I've never been told not to come back.  We also were OYM'ing people while looking for the houses of LA's and one time after we introduced ourselves to this one guy as missionaries he told us "I thought that all you wanted was to know where so and so's house was".  The only thing harder than work this week was pronouncing Elder Beinvinuto's name.  But on the bright side of work we do have potential investigators who seem pretty interested so let's hope that things work out.  Another blessing though is that Rian and Mark Dave finally attended church.  They're both primary age at the moment and I adore these kids to death.  In every lesson they listen and they are super smart so it's not hard for them to understand what we're teaching.  Anyways Elder Beinvinuto and I were sitting in church yesterday and then a few minutes before church started they walked in and I got a super big smile on my face.  I can't explain the joy that I feel when investigators come to church; especially because they came on their own.... well with their aunt who is a member but hey; for being under the age of twelve and coming to church without being forced to is pretty awesome.  

Elder Beinvinuto and I also had a pretty powerful experience yesterday.  One of the recent converts in our area had a stroke and they had asked us to give her a blessing.  So as soon as we finished the lesson that we were in we went straight to the hospital to give her the blessing.  The only problem was that there was no transportation going back to centro so we had to walk to the hospital.  Now this recent convert (Betty)  reminds me a lot of my Grandma Cole and just seeing her lying on the hospital bed reminded me of the last time that I saw my grandma before she left this life.  The spirit that I felt during that blessing was hard to describe; but this is one experience that I will not forget.

Thank you guys so much for all that you do for me.  My life has been greatly blessed from each one of your examples.  Because of you guys I am the man that I am today and the father that I will be in the future.  Don't forget that each one of you has great value to me and that I love you guys.  Take care always.  Mahal na mahal ko po kayo!!  May God be with you till we meet again.

                                                       -Elder Cole