Monday, December 29, 2014

[12/29/2014] Week 95: He is the Gift


He is the Gift
What a week. Of course, it was filled with the flurry of Christmas and gifts and food and a final push to distribute "He is the Gift" cards to whoever would take them, but it was still a week of proselyting and living and working in the service of the Lord.

Mandy is still doing well. She needs prayers from everyone. She is learning and growing bit by bit, but we feel she isn't recognizing the answers to her prayers that she is receiving or has already received. She's almost grown stagnant in that she's learned all the lessons and lives all the commandments, but hasn't been baptized and doesn't have a baptismal date, so she's kind of just in "limbo". This is where the fundamental of "teaching people, not lessons" really comes into play. We're trying to really discern what her needs are and what will help her to set a new goal for baptism. At this point, she's unsure about a lot. She feels she doesn't know enough or doesn't know for sure that the Book of Mormon is true or that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. So this week, we focused on helping her recognize how faith grows and it turns out that she related fairly well to Alma 32 because she herself is a gardener!

We're teaching another young man named Troy, who has recently escaped an ugly situation with his (now ex-) girlfriend of two years. She was extremely physically abusive and verbally volatile. And when he tried to do anything about it, she would threaten to call the police and his employer and lie to both to ruin his life. It sounds really funny, and he sees the comedy in it, but it's been a huge headache for him. Anyway, he finally got a protection order and she left, though he had to attend a court hearing on Christmas Eve to try and finalize things. The protection order was dissolved, but it looks like she's out of the picture for good. Now, Troy has become far more open and eager to meet with us and wants to progress. The whole ordeal with his ex-girlfriend has been emotionally draining for him, and he needs healing.

On Tuesday, we taught an investigator named Colleen, who has met with sisters for quite a while now, but will meet with us from now on since they closed the sisters' area (the mission is shrinking!) a few weeks ago. She is 75 years old and, well, let's just say she's a handful. She has hard feelings towards males in general (I think because of trials from her past) and she has always felt that elders are too pushy, too demanding, too callused, and too rigid. She made her expectations very clear from the start: she wants to time to chat and talk with one another every time we start a lesson; if she needs help with chores or lifting heavy things, the missionaries always help after the lesson; no being pushy or she'll close right up. On top of that, she has Mersa, which has prevented her from being baptized for several months now as she can't be in water with someone else while the infection is active. All in all, we love her and are impressed with her vast reservoir of wisdom. She's a charming lady and she seems to love the Church--she just isn't going to be told what to do.

It was quite enjoyable to see you all on Christmas, and it always goes so fast. But no worries, I shall see you all again shortly.

Dad, I actually remember hearing about that movie [Foxcatcher] in my first area from a less active member who was way into wrestling. He mentioned to me that it was still in the early workings---it's crazy how fast time flies!

It's good to hear the ol' Martin family DVD-givin' tradition is still alive around Christmas time. Classic.

I love you all, and I hope that your New Years is dazzling.

Seth, happy birthday. I thought of you on Saturday morning and it blew my mind that you're eighteen now. You're an adult! I was [technically] eighteen when I left home. Isn't that insane? You've grown so big, my wittle Schteph.

Mom, here's a happy birthday in advance! I love you so much, even though you're technically a senior citizen now. That's ok, friends have been asking me since the third grade if you were my grandma. Blame the platinum blonde!

Elder Martin

Monday, December 22, 2014

[12/22/2014] Week 94: Faithful at Christmas


Here's the coolest story from this week (It's actually from last night!):

We have set a goal in the zone to tract for two hours every evening so that we are sure to talk with more people at home and thus find more prepared families to teach. This is difficult to commit to because the evenings are very dark in the winter and people get mad when you knock on their doors. Anywho, Elder George and I planned to do part of our tracting on Avenue H in downtown Snohomish, and we got there later than we had planned. In fact, we only had about fifteen minutes to tract before going in to start reporting numbers for the week. Because of our time limitation, we nearly decided to change our plans tract somewhere a little closer to the apartment than Avenue H, but we didn't. So we parked on said avenue, and get out, and head for the first door, whose house is ablaze with Christmas lights. We knock and are answered by a lady named Susan. Susan is just the sweetest lady. We talked with her on her doorstep for nearly 30 minutes and here is the synopsis of our experience with her: she came to believe in Jesus Christ because of trials she has faced in life, she has made lots of mistakes in her past that she is striving to overcome, she doesn't attend a church anymore because she feels they are all flawed,she's never heard or learned much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we taught her the Restoration and prayed with her, she wants to learn more, she wants to meet again on Tuesday at 8 (a commonly difficult slot of time to make productive) and she has never been baptized, though she sees it as something she still needs to do. So we had a super miracle come from our very, very last proselyting efforts of the week!

In other news, I will plan on being ready to Google Hangout on Thursday morning at 10:00am! I am fine with whatever format you'd like to do. As long as I get to see the fambam.

The other day after dinner with the bishop, I enjoyed a Tim-Tam Slam.
Tim-Tam Slam (Wikimedia)

That's an Australian dessert-game.


Elder Martin

Saturday, December 20, 2014

[12/15/2014] Week 93: Man, I love being a missionary

Hey, howdy!

A sick rainbow!
Mandy decided to postpone her baptism! This news was out of the blue, but it turns our that her dad doesn't support her decision to be baptized (religion is man-made, he says), and so she needs more time because she respects her father deeply. Though she turns 18 in January, she may continue to put off her baptism beyond that out of respect (some might call it appeasement) for her dad. We need prayers! Actually, Mandy needs prayers. And her dad. And us.

I am just finishing the war chapters of Alma in my personal study, and I have really come to love and admire the example of Captain Moroni. He was an excellent example of honoring the priesthood of God and he always remembered which way he faced, as Elder Robbins of the Seventy would put it. I want to be like Captain Moroni in every aspect of my missionary work. I feel that one of Captain Moroni's most astounding attributes was his virtue. He was a man with a pure heart and every intent to serve God.

Elder George of Rexburg, Idaho
I love serving with Elder George! He is such a great missionary in every way. He understands and remembers the scriptures so clearly, he is persistent and diligent in every contact, he teaches with boldness and love, and he is super smart and way fun to serve with. I am learning a lot from his example every day.

Saturday was a day of powerful learning for me. At first, it was a crummy day. I mean, we tracted a lot, and nearly everyone was uninterested and many were rude and condescending. It was a real trial of my faith. I prayed personally a few times through the day for the strength to keep on truckin' and work joyfully. I was deeply grateful for a companion to bear me up and keep me goin', even if he didn't know how much help he was. We had some great laughs to make things more bearable.

Eventually, tracting through a fancy neighborhood, we happened upon an older man, Fran, who, though firmly Catholic, offered us wisdom and encouragement that I really needed to keep going. He was an answer to my prayers. He said, "When people slam doors on ya, don't take offense, because there are just as many more who will listen or at least be nice." It was a small thing he did for us, but it was God's hand in our work, helping me to keep going.

After dinner (and lots more tracting) on Saturday, we stuck to our plans to tract nearby our dinner appointment and met many nice people despite the late hour. By nearly 8:00, we came to a house whose second story was an apartment at the top of a separate flight of stairs (this means it was a door that was a little more questionable/uncomfortable to knock). The first floor was dark and no one answered, but we decided by a hair to go ahead and knock the top floor apartment. We were met by Brynn, who happened to be meditating just as we knocked. She took this timing as a sign. We started into a long conversation on her doorstep about faith and higher power, she asserted some ideas about quantum mechanics and love, we taught about prophets briefly, her boyfriend, Billy, arrived home and they invited us back another time.

The whole day, I had this feeling we were working for some blessing that would come later. And so we just needed to hang in there and be diligent, and God would guide us.

But wait! There's more!

At about 8:35pm, we decided to go try a referral we received from a potential. The referral was for a guy he'd seen living in a camper in a field by the Snohomish river, who was allegedly a drunk. We found the camper, parked nearby, and approached cautiously. Just then, the camper rocked back and forth from the motion of someone shuffling around inside. In all honesty, we were shakin' in our boots. Our imaginations ran wild, and we almost high-tailed it back to the car to try back another time -- you know, in the daylight.

Snohomish Railroad Crossing (courtesy of C. Harmon)
Somehow, we just went for it anyway. We softly knocked, a light flicked on inside, a man in his late 60's came to the door, and we explained exactly why we were there: we were missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ who had heard that he could use our message. And he invited us in. Because it was cold. And we accepted. He took us each by the hand and helped us up the rickety makeshift "staircase" of stacked rocks that led to his door, and we huddled around the small table in the camper in the back of his late 1970's Ford pickup. As he said down, he said, "Now that I know you're missionaries, I can put this away," and he pulled from his waistband a six-inch silver dagger that gleamed in the low light and set it gently on the pleather seat next to him.

We learned his name to be Jesse, and we listened as one life adventures story of his molded into another. We served in the military, met a Korean lady during his service, fell in love, and chased after her for years to come. He's always had trouble with the law, going in and out of jail, and through it all, he has tried to recognize God's hand in his life. He drinks, he smokes, he swears, and he even battles addiction to meth. He's been "healed by Jesus Christ" and every dollar he makes "signing" he credits to God's divine providence.

This was the typical man you see out on the street corner asking for money, and yet we saw him in an entirely different light. He's a child of God. He has a name and a story and a faith. He has struggles and trials. We started to teach Jesse about the Restoration, to which he responded, "Oh, I know about Joseph Smith. He's the modern-day prophet who designed the temple with just the right shafts so they could go and put elevators in 80 years later. Amazing." I asked how he knew so much (Of course, he wasn't entirely accurate, but it was clear he'd had some experience with the Church) and he replied, "I was a Mormon for a little while when I was younger. That was the happiest six months of my life." We asked what he meant, and he said he just loved the family feel of each ward (he used the term) and how he always felt right and loved and at home. He even told us he almost went on a mission. Can you believe that? Who would have ever thought he'd had all this experience with the Church and the gospel just from a glance out the passenger window at a busy intersection?

We invited Jesse to church the following morning, and he said he had to watch football, but that next week could work. By the soft orange glow of the one working bulb of his wimpy reading lamp and through the hazy smoke of the cigarette he'd rolled during our talk, we prayed with him and bid him goodnight. As he walked us to our car, he told us we could stop through anytime and get warm in his camper, even if he wasn't home -- "The lock is broken anyway!".

Man, I love being a missionary.

Elder Martin

Monday, December 8, 2014

[12/08/2014] Week 92: Snohomish!

So I was transferred to the stake just next door to Everett, called Snohomish (In fact, the Silver Lake YSA ward, from whence I came, draws young single adults from both the Everett and Snohomish stakes, so I know many of the members and a little bit of the area already). The ward to which I am assigned is the Snohomish ward of the Snohomish stake. It is also the Snohomish zone leader area. And let me tell ya, I love Snohomish! I love my new area, I love my companion, and I love the missionaries in the Snohomish zone. This place is great! Snohomish!

We have seen a great deal of good results this week in our finding and teaching efforts. What's interesting is that our investigator who is set to baptized this month, Mandy, actually received the very first Restoration lesson from Elder Haupu and I a little over three months ago, as she was introduced to the Church by a member of the Silver Lake ward. We then handed her off to the Snohomish ward elders because she is still seventeen and in high school. And then I got transferred here! This past Friday, Elder George and I taught her about missionary work from Chapter 3, lesson 5 of "Preach My Gospel", which was the very last lesson she needed to learn before baptism. So there you go, it's full circle. I got to teach Mandy the very first lesson and the very last lesson. But what's far more remarkable than any involvement I have had is the commitment Mandy has shown to the gospel in such a short time. She bore her testimony during her first sacrament meeting in the Snohomish ward, she has attended all three hours of church for ten weeks in a row,  she attends seminary every morning before school, she's most of the way through the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, and she is anxiously awaiting her baptism on the 21st of this month. I gotta tell ya, member missionary work is the way to go.

I must admit, however, that a few of the progressing (or close to it) investigators we're currently teaching in Snohomish were found tracting -- and live at the end of very long driveways at that. Don't let anyone ever tell you that tracting (or "porting", as the Frenchies call it) is worthless!

We were invited to dinner with a less-active member, Brother C, on Wednesday. He has an enormous home and a great job, but he wants nothing to do with the Church at this point and he just didn't seem to be truly happy. During the course of our conversation with him, we learned that he made some pretty big mistakes on his mission that very clearly altered the course of his life. I am sure grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve a mission, and that I have taken it seriously. I certainly haven't been perfect, but I have grown immensely, and I must say that my experiences so far in Washington will as well have certainly altered the course of my life.

This night was far more eventful than I am at liberty to say via email, so I'll have to share my three-page journal entry with you all when I get home.

Elder George and I are getting along just wonderfully. We are diligent and obedient every day, and he is certainly an inspired missionary. All of our plans so far have resulted in some progress of some person in our area. It's great!

Well, my good friend Amanda (you may have met her; she was at my farewell talk) went home from her mission about a month ago, and my other good friend Leanne (you know her) went home this last week. So I'm flyin' solo for friends. But I've still got my best friend, Christian, for the rest of my mission. And my lyfe.

I'm so happy to hear about Seth every week. How is he doing on mission preparation? I have been praying for his health to improve continually so that he can serve a regular proselyting mission. He is going to love it! Yesterday, Elder George and I attended priest's quorum during Sunday school, and the lesson was given by a young man named Peder. Peder is 18, a senior in high school, and way too big for his age. Like 6' 3" and 205-ish. And, of course, he wrestles. His lesson on examples of Zion in the scriptures was very well-prepared, and he was very organized and mature in his presentation of it. He reminded me a lot of Seth.

How is Margo doing? I guess marching season has come to an end, and I'll bet that right about now, they're working on the rendition of "Sleigh Ride" that Mr. G. likes to perform every year and some other beautiful Christmas piece with lots of long, warm tones and edifying chords. I miss Mr. G. sometimes!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Monday, December 1, 2014

[12/01/2014] Week 91: Launch Into the Unknown!

I found out this morning that I am being transferred. Of course, I can't say I'm surprised. So it should be exciting! I don't have any idea where I am headed, and I'm pretty sure I will no longer be assigned as a zone leader. I heard that President Bonham will be assigning a number of the zone leaders to be junior companions this coming transfer. Should be interesting! I am kind of excited, but also super nervous.

My Thanksgiving was fabulous. We had breakfast with a member of the ward, then played football with the assistants and about half the zone. It was sweet! I will have you know that I had some sweet diving touchdown receptions. In case you were curious. Afterward, we had Thanksgiving dinner with the stake high councilman assigned to missionary work, Brother Vance. On the outside, he seems like a pretty dry guy, but he got to talking about his childhood shenanigans growing up on the farm and I had to question how he ever survived his younger years! The rest of the day was chill. Just did normal preparation day stuff.

I found out this morning that I am being transferred. Of course, I can't say I'm surprised. So it should be exciting! I don't have any idea where I am headed, and I'm pretty sure I will no longer be assigned as a zone leader. I heard that President Bonham will be assigning a number of the zone leaders to be junior companions this coming transfer. I am kind of excited, but also super nervous. It's been a long time since I was transferred! But that's ok. Change is good for growth. I have really committed myself to giving my all this last twelve weeks. I want to be sure I do it right. I want to make sure that whoever I serve with gets the very best of me!

On Friday, before I began my personal study, I received a phone call from Brother Tuck, a member of the bishopric, asking me to speak in sacrament meeting on Sunday, as one of his others speakers had cancelled. Since I'm a missionary, I was happy to oblige (Either way, I think I would have been happy to help)! So I spent the next few personal studies and lunches putting together a talk on "expressing gratitude through obedience". I felt like the talk went pretty well, and I certainly learned a lot about gratitude and obedience. I think the most valuable insight that came to me was this: Heavenly Father doesn't ask us to be grateful or obedience for his profit (Mosiah 2:20-21); he asks us to be grateful and obedient because to do so profits us. These attributes are necessary for us to grow spiritually and become like Christ.

A number of my close mission friends went home yesterday. I really look up to a lot of those missionaries and I will be happy to see them again someday, but I will certainly miss them. On to the next phase!

I am really grateful for Elder Foster. I have grown so much with him as my companion. I have never had a companion that took scripture study quite as seriously as he does. I admire him for it and hope to know and understand the scriptures the way he does one day.

He is the Gift card/link
We've used the "He is the Gift" cards a little bit so far. With about 9 cards per day, we feel like we have to be extra careful with who we offer them to, and then somehow the day just gets away from us and we still have four or five left for that day. But we've used the video at dinners to invite members to take this initiative and run with it! I think this is going to be great.

I feel bad that I used to be super detailed in all my emails home, but now I just kind of struggle to share anything cool. Like Christian's emails. Haha. I promise I'm having a great time and learning a lot! I will really miss the mission when it's over. But that ain't yet!

Like I said, I can't really think of anything for Christmas. Maybe new road bike handlebar wraps? I've got some electrical tape holding the old wraps down, so that's not a big deal. I think a written letter from each member of the family (current goings-on and testimony included) would make my day! I know I don't often reply by written letter, but I love receiving them!

I love y'all!

Elder Cole Martin

Sunday, November 30, 2014

[11/27/2014] Week 90: Irony


Man, it's crazy how fast time flies. I've been in the Silver Lake ward in Everett for five transfers now, which
Went bowling with the district
is abnormally long. And what's weird is that I've worked super hard the whole time I've been here, yet not a whole lot of people have progressed in their learning about the gospel. But this past week, we had a ton of success finding people and meeting with them to teach them more. It's been a blast. But it's just weird how it didn't really start happening until my very last week in the area. I think it was a humbling experience for me. We as humans can't really do anything for ourselves. In this kind of work, God is really the moving force behind everything. I definitely learned that. I just offer Him my best, and let Him do with it what He sees fit.

This week, we taught one young lady named Sarina. We got a member fellowshipper there and everything, and the lesson was awful. The room was loud, Sarina and the member did not click, our teaching was clunky and our questions were canned, and Sarina seemed less and less interested as the minutes rolled by. Then, at the end of the lesson, we invited her to pray. She did so, shyly. She buried her face in her arms on the desk, prayed silently, and said "Amen!" when she was done, almost playfully, as though she hadn't taken it seriously. Then she described her experience: "I got butterflys! I don't know why, but it just brings me to tears." Later, she texted us saying, "Thanks for meeting with me today. It was exactly what I needed." So that just goes to show that we are not the teachers; the Spirit of God is.

Makin' s'mores with Elder Foster after a long day at work!
[regarding long underwear] Pops, I don't really know. I have the waffle kind now, and they do well, but I'd be happy to try the synthetic. Whatever's cheap! And was that first line of your email a pun? If so, good one. If not, good one.

When you get a chance, go watch the "He is the Gift" video newly created by the Church. It's a good reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Then post it to Facebook! And get ready to share with friends the pass-along cards that come with this month's Ensign. Member missionary work to the max!

Love y'all!

Elder Cole Martin

Monday, November 17, 2014

[11/17/2014] Week 89: My Testimony


Emailing didn't go as planned this week, so I'm short on time. But I think I'll just take a moment to bear my testimony of the restored gospel.

I know that there is a God. I know that He has a very particular and a very perfect nature. We as a people are made aware of His nature by virtue of a prophet -- a man called of God in modern times to describe the nature of God to others, to broadcast and testify of God's plan for the salvation of all men, and to invite others to experience the very real power of God in their lives, that they might gain for themselves a life changing conviction of what is real and true. Such conviction comes by exercising faith unto repentance. Repentance is the precious opportunity God gives us to change, to recognize our true nature and realize our true potential. If a person truly wishes to experience lasting change for the better, I encourage them to read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is full of witnesses of God's power. It is full of true accounts of people whose lives have as well been changed by looking to the example of Jesus Christ and modeling decisions after it. I know I have been changed by the word of God. I almost didn't even notice it. Gradually, I have changed in my heart. I have changed in my thoughts and my desires. I have changed in where I place my love and my trust. If one were to sincerely study the message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they would see as I have seen that it is a masterful creation that could only have been created and orchestrated by the hand of God. The priesthood of God has been restored for the salvation of all men and women who choose to come unto Christ. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent and yet He knows me. He is aware of me. He knows I chose to come here in spite of the mistakes He knew I would make. He blessed me with a Savior. It is a perfect plan. When I am not enough, I turn to Christ for repair. When I am alone, I turn to Christ for refuge. When I am wronged, I turn to Christ for recompense. When I forget who I am, I turn to Christ for remembrance. I have been blessed in my life to have been led to a knowledge of God's plan for me and of the reality of a Savior, and He invites all people to afford themselves the same opportunity to learn of Him, follow Him, and become like Him.

I love being a missionary, and I love to do God's work. I love to see the change that occurs in others and simultaneously witness a powerful change in myself. I'm grateful for this opportunity I've had.

Elder Foster and I set a goal last week to work with members more. This week, we've been spending the last [and darkest] hour of each proselyting day to sit down with members of the ward and help them establish a personal mission plan. So far, it's going pretty well. We're already seeing stake referrals flow in! And get this: some of them have come from members outside of our ward with whom we haven't set up mission plans. Blessings all around!

Well, all for now. Ta ta!

Elder Martin

Monday, November 10, 2014

[11/10/2014] Week 88: Humbled by God's Love

Hey, hey!

This week was awesome in that I learned a lot about the love of God and my love for Him. It was not awesome in that we didn't get to see a lot of our investigators or they otherwise dropped us. But that's the nature of the beast, I guess. We're just gonna keep our shoulders to the wheel!

On Tuesday, we had zone conference with the Lynnwood zone and we got to watch Meet the Mormons. If you haven't seen it yet, do everything within your power to go and do. Moreover, do everything within your power to get a nonmember friend to see it with you. It will shatter any false or "weirdy" misconceptions they have about the Church of Jesus Christ and its members. It will also help them feel the Spirit of God testify that what they are watching is true. It's great.

On Wednesday, I went on exchange in the Mill Creek ward with Elder Nelson, who just entered the mission field two months ago. We had a fantastic day and we saw so many miracles tracting and just had so much fun working hard together. On top of that, it was my first time back on a bike in a while, so that felt great. I missed my girl, Gwendolyn (that's what I named my mission bike). Then I crossed a busy street a little too soon/late and came pretty close to a Jeep, so I had to book it across and ended up popping my tire trying to hop a curb. I guess road bikes aren't built for that. Let me tell you, it was a huge blessing to work with a new missionary. I felt rejuvenated! He has so much faith and is so far along already in his growth as a missionary. He recognizes clearly the difference it makes to work hard and be obedient. If you remember my mention of a young married couple, Brady and Haley, Elder Nelson and I went back to teach them again and now they are investigating in the Mill Creek ward!

On Thursday, we attended the most powerful mission leader council of my mission. We discussed how to create a celestial, Zion-like culture in the Washington Everett Mission. There was a lot of great discussion and really open, sincere comments. It seems like sometimes we as missionaries focus on the wrong things, or we do the right things for the wrong reasons. We forget what it is we're really doing out here. This is the work of salvation! This is how Heavenly Father reaches out to his children and invites them to come back to Him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We must never forget that this is His work. We determined that it has a lot to do with virtue and charity. It has to do with the true desires of your heart; the pure love of Christ and of Heavenly Father for His children -- including us, His servants; and aligning our will and our ways with His. If we can all purify ourselves and become like Christ, we will, by necessity, come together and be "one mind and one heart" -- the definition of Zion. Elder Foster and I had the privilege of giving a short spot of instruction on love during mission leader council (hence how I learned so much about love this week) and it ended up being really powerful for us. I can't believe sometimes how blessed I am and how much God loves me. Really, we are all so incredibly blessed to live at this time in this dispensation, and in fact, God loves all of His children uniquely and personally. It's up to each of His children to determine and seek out that relationship and learn to recognize His affection.

I'm grateful for the support I receive at home and abroad. You're all swell! Thank you for your sacrifice and I encourage you each to keep on truckin'!

Elder Martin

Monday, November 3, 2014

[11/03/2014] Week 87: Rocks and Rills and Socks for Christmas

Dear fambly,

Again, this week was a looker-upper. We found two new investigators, taught our first member-present lessons in quite a while, and were "this" close to having investigators at church.

We taught Abdul twice this week, and he kep
t all of his commitments perfectly. He understood clearly Alma chapters 40-42 and found that reading the Book of Mormon answered all of his questions that stemmed from reading the Plan of Salvation pamphlet. So when we came to teach him and follow up on his experience reading the Book of Mormon, he had no questions for us! We moved into teaching him the gospel of Jesus Christ, focusing on a standalone lesson on repentance. We employed the bold commitment found in Preach My Gospel, "Will you repent of your sins?" to which he joyfully responded that he would. He has a tender heart -- as it seems most African people do -- and was highly concerned with how to properly perform restitution for mistakes he made in Africa when he is now living in America. We taught him that we may not always be able to perfectly restore the damage we do, but that it's important to remember the last step of repentance listed in the pamphlet: "Acknowledge the Savior". We testified that though we cannot ever become clean and pure for ourselves, the Savior provided a way for us to bridge the gap between spiritual death and eternal life--a bridge that, when crossed, is not meant to be looked back upon. I love repentance. I love the opportunity to erase our mistakes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and move onward and forward with happiness in our hearts, peace in our minds, and priceless experience in our remembrance.

Last night, Elder Foster and I contacted a potential investigator that the Thomas Lake elders initially found. His name is Canyon, and he's way interested in learning more, but I want to touch a little on what happened after we got back in the car. It ended up being that I said and taught a lot more during the contact, whereas Elder Foster said relatively little, which is uncharacteristic of our companionship. When we sat in the car, I asked whether there were any particular reason he hadn't talked as much, as I had tried to provide opportunities for him to transition in. When I asked this, I came off accusatory and condescending, though I didn't intend to. What followed was a heated argument about our companionship and whether we communicate effectively enough. Once we calmed down, we had a really, really effective companionship inventory-esque conversation about where the breach really seems to be in our communication. What we learned is that each of us admires the other more than he realized and is internally trying to "measure-up" to the other. We talked a lot about the strengths we see in each other and how, even though we're two very different people and think entirely differently, we can work together really well and complement each others' weaknesses.

I found out today that my trainer, Elder Deakin, is getting married in December. #mindblown

Christian, all of the elders emailing here with me enjoyed hearing about your encounter with the storm trooper. It's little moments like that that make a mission priceless.

Oh, Mom and Pops. I don't really need anything for Christmas. If anything, I'd really like your help getting some things home (like my mission bike, stuff I've acquired, etc.) when the time comes. I think a couple of pairs of gray and blue socks would be helpful just to make it through these last few months. But that's all. Otherwise, use the extra money on other people at home, or on other Elder Martins! On that note, I did get your Halloween package, as well as one from the Sanfords (they are awesome). Thanks so much for your love 'n' care!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

[10/27/2014] Week 86: Blessings of Faith

Hey, y'all!

This week was awesome! Towards the beginning, things were a little slow-going, but by the end of the week, we saw some pretty cool miracles.

Last night, Elder Foster and I went to go tracting in one of the nicer complexes in Mill Creek and we started at building Y. The first door we knocked was answered by an older gentleman who was not excited to see us at all. He firmly expressed his disinterest, and firmly shut the door. We moved on to the next few doors, and a few moments later, his wife popped her head out darted a glare our way, and yelled at us saying, "What you're doing is illegal! There's no soliciting here! Get out of here now! I know who you are. You're Mormons. My great-grandfather was Wilford Woodruff! Now leave before I call the office!" So we were cordial as could be and walked away. From her apartment building. And went to another one in the same complex (what we do isn't illegal because we don't sell anything). So we tracted that building out and on the top floor, we had a miracle! We knocked on a door to find Brady and Haley, a newly wed couple. They told us they were staunch Christians just moved up from Alabama, heard a quick door approach on the message of the Restoration, kindly told us they weren't interested, shook our hands, and shut the door. We moved on. Oddly, we knocked the two doors on the other side of the floor before coming back to knock the second one across from Brady and Haley. When we came back to try their neighbors across from them, the door we'd already knocked flew open, and Brady and Haley walked out. We stumbled awkwardly because we thought they were just leaving and here they'd caught us about to "swoop in" on their neighbors. They stared at us, beaming, and invited us in. We weren't sure how to react. She reiterated: "Come on! Come inside." as she might have called puppies inside from the cold. Eventually, we wiped the bewilderment off our faces, shuffled inside, and perched ourselves on their felt sectional. They told us they had gotten to thinking and decided that it would make sense to invite us in to hear more about our faith and beliefs so that they could be well-informed. They felt it would be the Christlike thing to do to invite us in and hear what we have to say. What followed was an edifying discussion on the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how our Church differs from what they believe and practice. It was awesome! They are open to hearing more about the Book of Mormon from the Mill Creek family ward elders. I know that during the short space of time between when they first shut the door and when they opened it again, the Spirit worked with them and softened their hearts to help them understand that we truly are representatives of Jesus Christ. It was a miracle! This young family with their first baby on the way will be well-rooted in the restored gospel in no time!

If you remember my mention of a contact with Mark, a very wealthy, very humble man in Mukilteo, Elder Goodey and I went back to see him on Saturday while we were on exchange together. The timing was such that we caught him home -- usually he is out with his wife on Saturday afternoons, but she is out of town on business -- just before he was about to go work out. He was happy to see us again, and invited us right in. We taught him the Restoration and really utilized silence to let the Spirit do the talking. Elder Goodey did an incredible job bearing testimony, especially as he his recounted his experience learning that the Book of Mormon was true. When Elder Goodey described the feelings he had had and the profound joy he felt after praying over it for months, Mark remarked, "Yeah, I've never had anything like that..." And so we promised that he could. We testified that he could know as we know that this message is true if he would ask. And he committed to do so, understanding that his answer would come over time. When asked when he could meet again, he made sure to schedule a time that his wife, Kim, could join in the discussion.

Last week, Elder Foster and I tracted into a prepared lady named Sarah, who has been married for nearly 2 years and just had her first baby 6 months ago. This past week, she and her husband met with the Mill Creek elders and agreed to meet again this coming week.

So, as you can see, we've been really blessed to find people who are certainly prepared and seeking for the family ward missionaries in our zone. And that's ok, because I love to teach the gospel and see people make progress regardless of age or marital status!

In other news, we had a powerful lesson with Adam this week that was mainly about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. A lot of his concerns are about whether God really does care about him specifically and whether the Plan of Salvation really makes sense. I tell you, the Spirit was so powerful. I felt the Holy Ghost guiding me so clearly in what to say, when to be silent, and especially in the questions I asked. He remarked at feeling over and over through the lesson that he just needs to get back into studying his scriptures. Then, the Spirit prompted me to point out that what he was describing was revelation from God, thus proving that He loves and is reaching out to Adam even now. At this point, there was an outpouring of love and joy from the Spirit, and he knew what I was saying was true. He's making great progress!

We also found a new investigator, Sarah, yesterday who just moved out of her mom's house and into her first apartment. She was way open and invited us back next weekend. I believe we found Sarah -- as well as Brady and Haley -- not only because we had been obedient and diligent all week, but because we stuck to the plans we made to go tracting after church and followed through with faith.

That's so weird to see a picture of Wim! Glad to see he's still happy and healthy.

Elder Martin

Monday, October 20, 2014

[10/20/2014] Week 85: And the Beat Goes On

Well, it's been a great week.

We recently went to the bishop of the Snohomish ward to talk about the young single adults in his stewardship and how we could help out. He gave us a list of all the members between 18 and 30 and included detailed notes about each of the ones he is familiar with. This was extremely helpful for us. Elder Foster and I went to work on this list and met a few of the key names the bishop asked us to focus on.

One young man, named Adam, was kind and excited to meet us. He served a mission in McAllen, Texas not too many years ago, but has since struggled to remain active in the Church. Based on a few hints here and there, we think he may face same-sex attraction. We asked him yesterday about his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith, to which he responded that he still believes it all firmly, but expressed concerns with the Plan of Salvation such as, "If God knows me perfectly, then why does He send me here when He knows I'll fail? Do I really have agency if God knows perfectly everything that I'm going to do, or am I predestined? I have a cousin who is 100% gay. Why did God put him in that situation if it's exactly in opposition to the Plan of Salvation?" For a moment, Elder Foster and I were stumped at these deep, heart-wrenching questions. However, we role played these concerns this morning and we totally received revelation! It was revealed to us that, yes, God does know the end from the beginning, but we don't. Though he admitted to having made some serious mistakes in the past, Adam is selling himself short, or, rather, selling himself out to the devil by believing the lie that he is going to fail. Mortality ain't up yet. Adam can change now and succeed at last, but the adversary is keeping him from believing that so that he chooses not to repent ever. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Adam -- and every one of God's children -- can achieve absolute victory over sin and death.

We will be meeting with Adam again on Wednesday evening.

On Saturday, we stopped by the house of a former investigator, Joe, whom we haven't found home in quite a while. As we walked up, we found him out on the porch, smoking. Elder Foster and I have been working more on asking inspired questions lately, and this was an opportunity to try it out. Elder Foster asked, "If you could have anything in the world right now -- aside from money, cars, whatever --, what would you want?" Joe responded in a word: "Peace." Of course, a person could respond to that question in a lot of different ways, but I know Elder Foster was inspired to ask it because of how Joe responded. We testified of how the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to receive from our Father in Heaven true and lasting peace. We knew it rang true with Joe. We'll see him again on Friday.

On Wednesday, we taught Abdul, who is from Sierra Leone and was raised as a Muslim. When we followed up on our previous commitment for him to read the Restoration pamphlet, we asked what questions he had about what he'd read. He said, "I have only one. What is the 'Atonement'?" What a spectacular question! We taught him about how without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, none of us could hope to return to our Father in Heaven, and yet that is the whole purpose of this life; to prepare to return to live with Him!

Mom, it sounds like you are being a Christlike example in your visiting teaching assignment. Way to be! I know that you are having a profound impact on that sister and are strengthening her testimony of the gospel through your diligence and charity (both Christlike attributes, found in Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel).

Elder Martin
Silver Lake ward

Monday, October 13, 2014

[10/13/2014] Week 84: The Members Make All the Difference

Hey, hey!

This week was slightly better as far as finding and teaching goes. But I found that the more productivity was found within our companionship. Elder Foster and I had conversations not a few about what's really happening in our area, why we're not being able to find people who will progress, what the Silver Lake sisters are doing right (admittedly, it's hard not to compare, but we're just trying to learn from them), how to remain humble, and how to serve each other better. You know, I thought I was a pretty good companion. But I learned from Elder Foster yesterday that I've done a pretty sorry job at serving him on a deeper level. I learned that he's felt really frustrated at his circumstance. He's finally got an area that has seemingly limitless potential -- which, at the same time, is an overwhelming prospect --, but we can't seem to do things right. I mean, we keep the missionary schedule, are obedient and virtuous, work with members, strive to serve our zone, are diligent from sun-up to sun-down (I guess the phrase has less meaning in these Washington winter months!), and pray with great faith. And things just don't go the way we'd like.

Honestly, I've tried to think about what the deal is the whole time I've served here, and I've come to one conclusion. Tell me what you think: In Blaine, I was certainly an obedient missionary, but it's become more of a quest here in Everett. Yet, the investigators and baptisms just flowed. The members brought us people to teach left and right. It seemed we hardly had to do anything for the Lord to bless us. Here in Everett, I've become the best missionary I've ever been and I'm working harder with my companion than ever before, and at the same time, the baptisms just...stopped. The conclusion I've drawn up is that I'm having to learn that it really has nothing to do with me or my efforts. I don't know. I mean, I know I have to be obedient and worthy of the Spirit, but that is simply so that Heavenly Father can do His work through me. He's still the one doing the work. So whether I'm a stellar missionary here in Everett and not seeing baptisms, or whether I've still got a lot to learn in Blaine and baptizing monthly, it's up to the Lord to bless the area in which I serve with people for the missionaries to teach, and it's not up to me. I think I'm learning to be humble.

But tell me what y'all think? I'm not sure if it's doctrinally correct... Haha.

Well, we just got transfer calls. Elder Foster and I are both staying. That's five transfers, or seven-and-a-half months in Silver Lake YSA. Crazy! I'm excited!

I am blown away by Margo's missionary efforts. That is so awesome! I love to hear about member missionary work going on at home. That's the way it's supposed to be! And kudos to the missionaries for getting her family involved. As President Bonham would say, "We need to find somefamily to teach!" (see Preach My Gospel, "Talk with Everyone" p.156)

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Monday, October 6, 2014

[10/6/2014] Week 83: Tough Week


This week was rough. We really, really worked hard and it seems like the agency of others got the best of us. We had so many appointments fall through. It was disheartening, but as Elder Foster and I have talked about it, we feel that we really did our best to stay committed to our purpose, always sticking to back-up plans and even getting creative to stay diligent when we ran out of those. So in other words, I still feel successful, and I have felt a confirmation of that as I've accounted in my prayers.

Elder Foster and I have thought a lot about how to better serve the zone and how to help them re-commit to their purpose. We felt, during companion study, that we would take a day to fast for the deepened conversion of the other missionaries in our zone in preparation for General Conference. We also invited the missionaries in our zone to participate if they chose. We will invite them to share experiences from Conference and from the fast.

General Conference was powerful. Just twenty minutes before the afternoon session began, Elder Foster and I were sitting in the chapel listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform via satellite broadcast. We both noticed a young man whom we did not immediately recognize sitting in the back corner of the chapel by himself waiting quietly for the program to begin. He was dressed in street clothes. We received a prompting to go and introduce ourselves -- after all, he was a young single adult. When we sat down next to him, we discovered he was sobbing and clearly in great emotional distress. We learned of his name - Samuel - and then, as it turns out, Elder Foster knows his family from a former area. Samuel was an active member of the Church all throughout his childhood. He began work on his mission papers before joining the Marine Corps. He was recently discharged from the Marine Corps and now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been living at the Everett Gospel Mission, a nearby shelter for homeless people, for about a week. Elder Foster attested that the fact that he came to the Church for help is a huge step for him. Our bishop met with him promptly, and we will be meeting with him regularly this week.

All for now.

Love ya!

Elder Martin

This morning, we went on a stinkin' sick hike to what's called Evergreen Mountain Lookout. It is an old fire lookout station, built in the 30's or 40's and restored in the 90's. Now, they allow people to rent it out and camp in it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

[9/29/2014] Week 82: Miracles in the Street

Hey, howdy!

This week was full of miracles!

On Saturday night, Elder Foster and I planned to tract on Wetmore Avenue in North Everett. When it came time to do so, Elder Foster said, "I thought we had planned to go to East Marine View Drive because that's where we saw a ton of YSA's walking around." I thought on this, and we decided to go ahead and tract East Marine View; it felt right. Well, right when we parked our car and got out, we came to a group of four young single adults who were walking together. It was about 8:15pm, which, this time of year in Washington, means it was really dark. As though the six of us had rehearsed it, we said hello and they lined up in an arc for Elder Foster and I stand before them -- almost Dan Jones-style (PMG, pg 1, minus the soapbox) -- and teach them about the Restoration. We were filled with so much energy and fervor as we unfolded the wonderful news that God had called a prophet. Two of them, Damien and Tyrell, brothers, expressed electric interest and affirmed that they wanted to attend church the next day. Come Sunday morning, Elder Foster and I were skeptical -- I guess it seemed too good to be true --, but we called to follow up anyway, and they told us they were still on board. They came to church, were attentive and participatory the whole time, learned a ton in every class, and even expressed a desire to be baptized. It was incredible how the ward did such a great job fellowshipping and nurturing with the good word. They'll be coming to family home evening tonight and church next week.

The Church is fixing to roll out a new website here in Washington called "". I'm really excited to see how will affect the work here in the mission. In other missions, missionaries have reported five times more contact with nonmembers, which is a pretty attractive statistic! It'll also be exciting to have the opportunity to serve more people, since, normally, our offers to help take out the trash or whatever are usually

Elder Foster and I are really, really doing well. I would really love to serve with him for another transfer since we only got five weeks together. I think he's stressing a lot about whether he'll know the area well enough by the end of this transfer. We're really seeing a lot of great things together, and I think another six weeks would do a lot of good. But I understand that Heavenly Father may have more growth for me elsewhere.

Elder Martin
Silver Lake ward

Monday, September 22, 2014

[9/22/2014] Week 81: Door attack!

Well, I don't know what to tell y'all.

Seriously. I don't know what to say. All the weeks are the same. We just do the work. We get blessed. We repeat.

Occasionally, we go to meetings and give instruction.

I am very fortunate to have a companion that really understands the scriptures very well, so I am proud to say that I officially understand Jacob 5. Blew my mind.

Personal revelation is a lot of fun.

What's even more fun is when you and your companion receive revelation at the same time for the same cause.

This week, we called a young man, Alex, who, though he was baptized two years ago, hasn't been to church in about six months. He invited us to come right (I use the word "right" lightly, as it was about a 30-minute drive from our church building) over the next day, saying he had some questions for us about the Book of Mormon. We prepared to resolve anti-Mormon concerns that he may have heard attending the local Lutheran college here in Everett. In fact, he did have a concern that was anti-esque: he was concerned that we believe in a record of supposed ancient American inhabitants when there is little to no archaeological evidence of such a civilization. However, we asked some inspired questions to first get a feel for how and why he decided to join the Church in the first place. We learned that when he first met the bishop of the Silver Lake ward, he could sense the authority he had been given from God. He reasoned that this authority had to have been given to him from somewhere, and concluded that if the bishop has real authority, so must the living prophet, which meant that Joseph Smith must have been given the same authority in the early days of the Restoration. We taught straight out of Preach My Gospel, chapter 5 about how the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. The prophetic calling of Joseph Smith is inseparably connected with the veracity of the Book of Mormon, and vice versa. We testified of this truth, and the Spirit of God filled our hearts. Alex responded, enlightened, "I had never thought of it that way. Makes sense. I'll be at church tomorrow." And he was!

Let us not take for granted the simple truths that are so clearly from God. Though we've heard them all our lives, there are others not of or not active in our faith who still seek the full light and truth of what Heavenly Father has to offer us through His restored gospel. Don't assume they don't want to hear it!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Door attack!
Some members came in the middle of the night and attacked our door. Kinda nice. Hahaha.
Elder Martin, the hipster

Monday, September 15, 2014

[9/15/2014] Week 80: Abdul

Hey, howdy!

This week was so awesome!!

Elder Foster and I are companions!
My new companion is Elder Foster from Rigby, Idaho. I don't remember if I have previously made mention of him, but he and I were actually in the same MTC district! We've never served anywhere near each other until now. But man, have we had a total blast this week! He is super funny, and super, super obedient and hard working. I love serving with this guy so much!

We found three new investigators this week, which has been the most in a while. I will just tell you about one, named Abdul.

After church yesterday, we had a lesson set up with James (another of our new investigators) for 4:30pm, but he wasn't there. So we tried some other potentials along West Casino Road, and we found none of them home. As we were driving up and down West Casino, I had the distinct impression to go and see Alhaji, a recent convert from Sierra Leone, who hadn't been at church that afternoon (the YSA ward doesn't start until 1:30pm). So we stopped by Alhaji's house, and Alhaji wasn't home! But! The door was answered by Abdul, Alhaji's nephew, who just moved here from Sierra Leone last week. He attended a church only occasionally there, and told us that if he were to attend a church here, it would be with Alhaji and and Alhaji's mother. We started to teach him the Restoration out of the pamphlet, and only made it a few minutes before he invited us in to sit down and share more. He described the feelings he's had when he has prayed in the past: Heavenly Father seems to be there with him, all around him. When we invited him to pray and ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet, he responded by saying, "I have always known that is true." We asked if he had attended our church in Africa or been baptized there, to which he responded that he hadn't. He said, "It is just how I am. There are things I know to be true and things that will never be true. I know that this is true." We invited him to be baptized, and he agreed! Abdul, 18, was studying sociology at a university in Africa because he has ideas and goals for improving the standard of living in his community. He looks forward to attending the local community college here.

I'll tell you what, when you work hard, are obedient, and exercise great faith, Heavenly Father gives you prepared people. I'm very grateful for the miracle Heavenly Father blessed us with yesterday.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Monday, September 8, 2014

[9/8/2014] Week 79: Emma is baptized!

Emma's Baptism
Well, shoot.

This was the end of my third transfer with Elder Haupu. We both learned and grew a lot, having finally figured out how to get along and stay along. Emma Torve was baptized last weekend, but I didn't have time to tell you about it. She's the investigator that Elder Haupu and I taught for about three months, and then handed to the sisters in the Silver Lake ward because Emma's mom thought she was only being baptized because she was infatuated with elders. But what her mom doesn't know is that Emma has read through about three-quarters of the Book of Mormon by now and has a brazen testimony of its truthfulness.
Emma Torve
That young lady faced a lot of trial and opposition from even the closest members of her family, but she knows what is right. Man, she is just like a pioneer from early Church history. Now, she's a ward missionary, and she even helped us teach an investigator, Mario, who lives across the street from her.

Speaking of, Mario has continued to make progress, and really, really tried to come to church yesterday, but his dad nixed that with a last-minute order to help install new stereos in the family car. It seems as though his parents are more opposed to Mario's decision to be baptized than they are letting on. After all, they raised him Catholic. He feels our message is true and he enjoys reading the Book of Mormon, but at this point, he doesn't recognize the need to do what is right in the face of opposition. He'd rather stay where he is comfortable.

We reached out to Bonnie again this week, and she finally responded, and she even came to church yesterday! However, she complained the whole time that it was boring, and blah, blah, blah. If she would agree to meet with us, she would learn more about the gospel, would understand what is being taught, and would learn to love church! But she's really busy getting ready for the new semester and whatnot.

We're teaching another young man named Aaron. Once the star quarterback of the local high school and on his way to greatness, his life has been ravaged by idleness and addiction. Every time we teach him, he asks about how he ought to go about being baptized, but as one might guess, he has an issue with commitment. We were able, however, to knock on his door at 1pm yesterday, get him dressed and walk with him to church for sacrament meeting at 1:30. Every one of the testimonies given seemed geared right at him, and he knew it. The Spirit testified to his heart that it was true. But it seemed too much for him. He walked back home after the first hour. I asked him how he felt about the meeting, and his response, "I feel dirty..." was telling as to the true role of the Holy Ghost in conversion. Brother Donaldson of the Missionary Department of the Church taught when he visited our mission that when people come to church for the first time, they ought to feel terrible. This is because they look around at all of these people who seem to be perfect and they feel the Holy Ghost prompting them that they need to change.

So we're working with a lot people who have immense potential to be changed and do a lot of good for others, but don't seem to have enough interest or commitment to progress. Right now, I'm just trying to pray for more charity for these people and for more faith in Jesus Christ.

Josh, a young man who is returning
to activity in the Church.
Well, we got transfer calls this morning, and Elder Haupu is leaving. After eighteen weeks, they're tearing us apart. And he's training too! So that'll be good. He's a great guy with an awesome testimony. He always knew just what to say in contacts when I got caught up. He's certainly a "Preach My Gospel" missionary, and I'm going to miss him.

Please pray for my new companion and I to have a great start to an awesome transfer!

That's heart-breaking to hear about Roland. I remember he was always the go-to guy for anything maintenance-related. That is an immense trial to endure, but I think he can do it. Elder Haupu trained a missionary from Utah named Elder Bahr who was born with clubbed feet. He had many, many corrective surgeries throughout his life, but missionary work is a lot of walking, so he faced a lot of pain and suffering. Eventually, he had his right foot removed, and he ended his mission after three months, but his story and testimony are very inspiring. That kid works hard with the right perspective. His name is Ryan Bahr; maybe he's on Facebook or Blogspot or something.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[9/1/2014] Week 78: Rush

Hey, I don't have any time today. The family history center wasn't open until just recently.

Know that I'm safe and well. I'm so excited to hear about how all of you are doing.

Go read 2nd Nephi 26, and think about how Nephi's visions of the First Coming of Christ and its antecedent events are applicable for our looking forward to the Second Coming.

I love you all!

Elder Cole Martin

Monday, August 25, 2014

[8/25/2014] Week 77: Feeling the Spirit

Hey, hey!

It was a fulfilling, diligent week.

The best miracle of the week! We asked the Mukilteo sisters where in their area we could tract for them, so they prayed and felt inspired to send us to Park Avenue--the same street I tracted nearly a year ago with Elder Turley on exchange (if you remember, it's where we found Jasminder). Park Avenue is lined with large and beautiful homes that overlook the Puget Sound. Mostly, people were nice, but uninterested. We moved patiently from door to door, and progressively, the houses grew bigger and the views more breathtaking. About halfway up the hill upon which Park Avenue is situated, we met a hardened old atheist named Don who would pop in and out of his house as he unloaded the trunk of his Jaguar and would talk to us during the brief stints of time that he was outside. He demanded of us the physical locations of heaven and hell; if we could answer him that, he would "come back to religion". We really tried "going to heaven", as President Donaldson of The District 2 would say, for an inspired question, but eventually, he stopped popping out. So we moved on. We came to an off-shooting driveway that led to one house right near us and to another house, which was at the top of the hill, out of sight and was prefaced by "Beware of Dog" signs. At the first house was Jamie, who was kind, but uninterested and informed us that the next house was "a long jog" up the hill, and "they probably aren't home anyway." Of course, we went ('twas indeed a long jog), it was a spectacular view of the Sound and the Mukilteo ferries, we knocked, and we were met by Mark, a kind humble, meek, and warm gentleman in his early 40's with a tired look in his eyes. We talked with Mark for probably 30 or 40 minutes and learned quite a bit. When asked what his faith in Jesus Christ is like, he responded admittedly and wistfully, "I would say it's lukewarm." He discussed with us his experience with past churches, and we discussed with him our purpose as missionaries. We asked inspired questions and both parties seemed content with the long stretches of silence that punctuated each thoughtful statement or question during which the Spirit so clearly worked with his heart. The air was clear, the sky was blue, it was evening time, the water in distance was calm, the ferries lumbered by sleepily, the wind blew gently. When asked what makes him truly happy, he at first jokingly responded that he would "be truly happy when [he was] finally done with [his] Master's degree." Then, with impressive love and warmth, he described watching West Wing on Netflix in the downstairs room with his wife and taking turns picking at the show and laughing together. It was a tender truth from deep within his soul that he shared with us. This is exactly why I love being a missionary.

The Eames' (Jake and Mariah)
We invited Mark to meet with the sisters in the Mukilteo ward, and he agreed. I think he recognized the power and truth in what we young people proclaim to all the world, and I think that once he starts meeting with them, his life will be greatly impacted for the better, and he'll be able to serve others and impact them for the better. If you were curious, we didn't so much as hear a bark from any dog!

This was certainly one of my favorite moments from my mission.

Elder Christian Martin
I can't believe Christian is gone-ski. Once again, I'm not the only Elder Martin in the field! I know he'll do an incredible job. He's always been just stellar!

Thanks for your love and hard work and prayers and everything else!

Pix: Enrique and the Eames' (Jake and Mariah), all of which are headed back to Provo this week. So sad!

Elder Martin

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

[8/18/2014] Week 76: Risks of the Truth

This was a long one.

Me on the ferry. Again...
Zone meeting was probably my favorite part of the week. I always love seeking inspiration and inviting other missionaries -- who don't typically get opportunities to instruct -- to give instruction at zone meeting. After zone meeting, we went with the Mukilteo elders out to South Whidbey Island to help find potentials -- something we do about once a transfer to remind the sisters there that they're not forgotten. We met up briefly at Dairy Queen to talk with the sisters about where they felt inspired to send us in their area. This time, however, Sister Ah-Chong requested that we all pray together for opportunities to find and teach. The street that Elder Haupu and I tracted was not enormous, but we ended up spending about two and a half hours there because nearly everyone was home! What a miracle! We found several promising potentials for the sisters and even kept a detailed tracting record so they could follow up with others who had said to "come back". Isn't it neat what happens when you and those with whom you work receive and follow inspiration?

Tim and Robert, a couple of guys who served in the Fresno
mission together and moved into our ward for work.
Swell fellas.
We met a few interesting people on Saturday. One talked with us about government conspiracies and his experience meeting a "nephilim" and another spent quite a while talking with us about our beliefs before telling us we needed to read the Bible more (which, admittedly, is true). It is true that I question the things that I believe and preach frequently. But I find it difficult to compromise my values and my testimony based on experiences that I have with unique and misguided teenagers or angry born-again Christian folks. These people, though children of God and striving to do what is right, are imperfect. Why prioritize their doctrines over that which I have received from God? As I partook of the sacrament yesterday, I was reminded that I do what I do because I know it is completely right and I know it is eternally true and I know it will bring to anyone who participates the peace and refuge from the burdens of mortality they sincerely seek. We had the opportunity yesterday to give several blessings, one of which was to a member of the ward who was wrestling with the decision to talk with the bishop about some mistakes he had made. I'll just say I love the Atonement and I love the priesthood.

Alayna Hudson, who reports for the Paris mission on the
same day as Christian. However, she'll be speaking French.
Amid all of the happenings of this week, we did find two new investigators, but it turns out one lives in Marysville, so we handed him off. As well, our investigator Bonnie is doing fine. She raised a ton of concerns about how she doesn't believe in God and how answers to her prayers are actually self-produced and not divine. Then we invited her to pray at the end of our lesson, and she talked with Heavenly Father about her real concerns. She knows Heavenly Father is there because she feels Him, but she is afraid of upsetting her parents, who are stout Buddhists in Korea. After her prayer, we confirmed that this is the root of her concern, and that the other worries she brought up are ploys to avoid the main issue she faces. That is, that her parents will disown her and bring her back to Korea if she is baptized.

Christian--last hugs with Mom and Margo
I can't believe Christian reports this week. Well, Elder Martin, officially. I miss that guy!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[8/11/2014] Week 75: Are We Not All Beggars?

Austin Goodwin, a super cool hippie in the
ward, who drives and cherishes his
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
I ran out of time (you'll shortly discover why), so here is my letter to President, recycled:
"This week, we found Bonnie. She was invited to church by her friend, Taylor, and she loved it! Since last Sunday, she has attended Ward Home Evening, the ward's Summer Blowout activity, and the mission Cottage Meeting. We taught her the Restoration before the Blowout activity and she loved it! She was raised a Buddhist in Korea, but is here in Washington to further her education and has, as a result, had the opportunity to broaden her spiritual horizons! After praying and asking Heavenly Father for truth, she described feeling "more peaceful than when [she goes] to Buddhist temple". She feels strongly that God led her to us, and is excited by the prospect of being baptized for the remission of her sins, but expressed concern, saying, "I might have to do it in secret because if my family learns that I am a Mormon, they will expel me [from the family].

"I had the privilege of spending a day with Elder Christensen in Silver Lake YSA this week. You'll read more details on the exchange form, but I really admire the sincerity of his teaching and testifying. There is some real power in that missionary.
Enrique Castro, a super cool member of the ward.
"Well, I was side-tracked just now for about twenty minutes by a man who walked into the family history center looking to borrow fifty dollars to get to Eugene, Oregon by bus. I called the transient bishop, though I was pretty sure he is only able to help baptized members of the Church, and Bishop Burton affirmed that. He asked if he could borrow the money from us (Elder Haupu and I and about four other missionaries), to which we responded that we couldn't, for our money is from sacred tithing funds. He asked for a ride to the bus station in North Everett, but we told him we couldn't help him there either for insurance purposes. It was tough, because I wanted to help, but I felt like we really couldn't do anything. We did inform him of job training through Deseret Industries down in Shoreline, but he wasn't interested in that. How do you suggest missionaries handle this type of situation?"
I did receive letters from Dad, Seth, and even Sister Thornock, but I did not receive a package. But now you've got my hopes up!

I can't believe Margo is fourteen now! Happy birthday, Marg-Schmarg! Now you can go to dances. But you still can't dance with anyone. Seth will see to it that the boys don't even think about it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

[8/4/2014] Week 74: Sticking to Plan

Hey! Wow, since that companionship inventory last week, things have been much, much better. Communication is occurring much more "openly and frequently" (MHB, p. 30), and our unity has become powerful.

We tracted so much this week. And, actually, it was quite fruitful. The only [not-so-] bad news is that everyone solid we found was for the family ward! So we were basically full-time finders for the zone this week. But hey, we were as committed as could be!

I'm way stoked that Christian was endowed [in the Temple] this week. I would like to hear his thoughts on the experience, so he should email me! Man, 16 days!

My sister, Margo
Wow, Margo is so grown! Remember, no dating till you're 30.

I've been learning a lot from Elder Haupu about sticking firmly to plans you make, especially according to the Spirit. So we did that on Saturday, and witnessed a small miracle when we went to contact a less-active at his home. As we peaked the final hill on our bikes at exactly 11:30am, a young man by the name of Anthony came up the other side of the hill on foot, headed to work at Subway. We greeted and asked if we could walk with him. He agreed heartily, so we embarked. What ensued was a long conversation about his experience with religion, his dark past, his current trajectory, and his dreams and aspirations to do great things. When we parted ways, we grabbed his contact info and will see him again soon! If we had not been exact with our plans, and had we not been riding bikes, we would not have contacted Anthony! Blessings!

Well, I love y'all!

Until next time:
They traded our gold 2013 Corolla (cleverly named the Golden Calf)
for a 2013 Ford Fusion. We call her Onti (Alma 11:6,13).

Elder Cole Martin

Monday, July 28, 2014

[7/28/2014] Week 73: Where does the time go?

Wow, we worked super hard this week. We did so much finding! It felt really good each evening to know that we had been diligent all day. We did find one new investigator, Aaron, who accepted baptismal date right off! We will see him again this evening before ward home evening.

DeMarkeyas (my immediate right) was baptized into the Mill
Creek ward on Saturday. He and his new wife, Osharrhea, moved
back to Alabama for school today. They are so wonderful!
I was secretly hoping that I would stay with Elder Haupu. We had a (I don't know if this is really the right terminology, but I'll use it because it's fun to say) knock-down, drag-out companionship inventory -- where we discuss personal and companionship goals, point out strengths, and ask for suggestions on how to improve (Preach My Gospel, p. 150) -- this week. We finally were able to flesh out every little thing we've been bothered or concerned about, and honestly, things are so much better now. I look at the missionary that I was two transfers ago and compare that image to who I am now, and I'll tell you what, I have learned so much from Elder Haupu. He's helped me get out of a lot of shells, and I'm really grateful for that. During district meeting this week, we were trained on companionship unity and loving and serving each other, and that was super helpful as well; I learned a lot about Elder Haupu that was pretty crucial in communicating with and understanding him specifically. I was sad knowing that we had finally gotten past all of this negativity/unaddressed friction and that it was likely we would part ways after this transfer. But hey, we all know how unpredictable President Bonham is.

I can't believe Christian goes through the Temple to receive his own endowment on Thursday! I'm so excited for him to start his mission!

Wellp, a new transfer ahead. Should be a wild ride!

[From my Dad]: I told Cole I was going to meet a young man and his pastor for lunch tomorrow. I was anxious that the Pastor would attack me for talking to his protegĂ© about the Gospel, "trying to lure him away." I wasn't, and I only wish to share good feelings and fullness of truth with other Christians. I don't want to fight about the Gospel with anyone. The next couple of paragraphs contain his response to my fears. I definitely needed to hear his reassuring testimony.] 

And Dad, this morning, in fact, we were perusing ties in Value Village (a common thrift store up here) when we were approached by a random stranger who had all kinds of crazy things to say about our beliefs. He just wanted to argue. In the middle of the store! He had no interest in our thoughts or in having a healthy conversation. With all the respect we could muster, we invited him to have a nice day. That's something that I face nearly every day of my mission. A lot of people like to tell us what we believe. There is a lot of persecution. I can tell you that these experiences rarely get to me and do not shake my faith. It is because I do my best to fear God more than man. I know that my conviction is a precious gift given to me by God. It came through no one else. It was a powerful answer to my prayers, and I know it is real. I don't need imperfect men to tell me what I believe about God when I have learned about God from God Himself. The adversary will try and get you to forget that, and he can be pretty good at it. But remember who you are. Pops, you as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and as a holder of the restored priesthood of God represent Him. You are entitled to inspiration. That inspiration will include what to say as well as how to act. I have learned time and time again as a missionary that it is more important to preserve His image as humble and meek and loving than to get your words in there and prove yourself right --- if it gets to that point, I promise your "contender" won't even hear you.

That's my two cents. I know you already know that. But I just took the opportunity to write that to remind myself of what I know.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

The district!