Monday, February 16, 2015

[2/16/2015] Week 102: Last Word

Dear Martin family [and all within the sound of my voice],

Well, here I am at the tail-end of my mission.

It's been an incredible experience and a humbling opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and the children of our Heavenly Father.

I find it difficult to determine how I "should" feel at this point, but I can tell you how I do feel.

I feel extremely grateful that I have been permitted to offer up two years of my life as a sacrifice to my Heavenly Father. I feel humbled that although my efforts weren't perfect, I still feel the Holy Ghost witness that I have touched and brightened the lives of many here in Washington. I feel awe-inspired that so many miracles have occurred and that I have been granted eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:9-16) the great voice of God in my work.

I feel that God loves me and that I love Him. I feel that He wants desperately for His children to recognize the love He has for them, that they might learn to love Him and keep His commandments. I feel that God loves us so much that He has given us a perfect plan, a perfect Savior, and a perfect organization on earth today to pave a path for our return to Him. I feel that as I continue to prepare by exercising faith, repenting, honoring covenants, and seeking after the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I will grow and progress and return to my Father in Heaven prepared to answer to Him for my labors in this life.

I feel that the Book of Mormon is a powerful tool in helping others find true and lasting and substantial faith Christ, for it has served that purpose for me, a foundation of testimony, a springboard for revelation, a well of peace and strength. I feel that God speaks to me through His Holy Ghost to inspire me as to how I might best serve and inspire His children.

I feel honored and humbled to bear the Holy Priesthood of God, and to have borne for two years specific authority to unfold and bear witness of the plain and precious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I feel overwhelmed and yet refreshingly excited for the next phase of my life that will begin shortly. I feel confident that as I keep the commandments of God, He will bless and keep me and will provide me with the guidance and experiences I need to be successful.

I feel sad that here in a just a few days, I am to leave a land that I love. I have developed a deep fondness for Washington and the people that live here. I have grown close to many members of the Church, investigators, recent converts, and especially missionaries with whom I have labored diligently and whom I have striven to uplift, encourage, inspire and bless.

I feel a deep love for and satisfaction from missionary work and I look forward to maintaining that spirit throughout my  lifetime, that I might serve God as a "city...set on an hill" (Matthew 5:14) . I feel that our mission hymn describes the great urgency and divine purpose of missionary work best:

Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

("Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy", LDS Hymnbook, No. 335)

We were sent to this mortality to experience darkness and light, trial and triumph, bitterness and sweetness, misery and joy. In this modern, darkening world, children of God suffocate daily in sin and sorrow. We toil and sink in the murky waters of iniquity and crumbling values, and there is only one way to land: the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the lighthouse, He is the way home, He is the source of Life. And He asks that we as His covenant children labor with Him in directing those who are yet lost or wandering to the truth, to liberty and freedom from bondage. Those who live and strive yet without a fulness of knowledge of the true gospel of Christ need His help to experience true happiness, and He asks for our help in guiding them to Him. Those who invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel are a lower light on a darkened shore to lead people home to their Father, who is the source of all light, life, and love, and a shining beacon of hope in the midst of an ever-darkening mortality.

I love being a missionary!

I shall see you all soon!

With love and deep gratitude,

Elder Cole Austin Martin
Washington Everett Mission
2/2013 - 2/2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

[2/9/2015] Week 101: Faithful or Fearful

Hey, howdy!

This week was...interesting. We had a lot of people misuse their agency this week. Darn the luck.

But there were some cool experiences too. We were tracting one street in Snohomish that we started the first night Elder Cottle was here. We knocked a door, the lady who answered wasn't interested in talking even after a few invitations, so we asked her if she knew anyone else on the street that might be interested. She responded that she didn't, and then her 8 year-daughter, whom she was holding, piped up, "I do!" and pointed us to the house on the corner across the street. So we went and knocked it, and the lady who answered ended up being a long-time friend of a recent convert in the ward. Her friend had been inviting her to come to church for a long time now, we taught her about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, and she invited us back!

Get this: on Monday, we received a phone call from a member of the ward who said she had a possible investigator for us. She decided to pray for an opportunity to share her testimony with someone, and then she met Gail the next day! Gail recently suffered the immense loss of her son and has been grieving deeply. So Sister Fricke (the member of our ward) took the opportunity to bear her testimony about eternal families and God's plan for us. Gail expressed interest in learning more about our faith and gave Sister Fricke her address. Well, we went to the house, and what do you know, but it's a house that Elder George and I tracted almost two months ago! When we knocked the first time, her [other] son answered and was kind, but made it clear he wasn't interested. We probably would never have gone back (at least not until other missionaries were transferred into the area). But because of the wonders of member missionary work, we've been referred to someone who is prepared to receive the gospel! Gail wasn't home when we went over this past week, so we will try again tomorrow, but we need you all to pray that she will be prepared and that her heart will still be softened by the Holy Ghost so that we can begin teaching her and help her come unto Christ. She needs the comfort and hope that the Plan of Salvation brings.

On another day this week, we spent about twenty minutes looking for a less-active's house in the dark and in the rain and in the mud along a very busy highway. When we finally found the house after trudging through a field or two in ankle-deep mud, we knocked and were met with a man who was super creeped out (it was only 7:45 pm) that we came knocking so late, down his long, muddy driveway. Though he brandished a machete as he spoke with us, he was very friendly. He told us the lady we sought did not live there and asked us not to come back. He didn't even want to hear what we had to say about God calling a prophet on the earth today...

On Thursday, we had mission leader council -- my last one ever. I had the opportunity to bear my testimony at the end of the meeting and lemme tell ya, I was reminded of what a blessing it has been to serve a mission. What a blessing it is to have a clear, indisputable path of communication with God. What a blessing it is to hear and feel and recognize His voice in response to a desperate plea. What a blessing it is to show that path of communication to others and to watch them hear and feel and recognize His voice encouraging them to change and reminding them of His presence and His love. What a blessing it has been to serve Him in this capacity and to learn and grow into the person He needs me to be. What a blessing it is to learn how to repent on a regular basis and to feel the redeeming power of forgiveness and the encouragement to keep going, keep trying, keep learning. Ah, I love it.

On Thursday night, we had a sweet pass-off lesson with Frank. He is 27, so we decided he would get better fellowship in the young single adult ward. We called up the Silver Lake elders and scheduled an appointment to meet up with them and Frank. The lesson went wonderfully. Elder Green, who replaced me as Elder Foster's companion, seemed to make a really strong, warm connection with Frank right off. We all read the Book of Mormon together and pointed out to Frank all the marvelous insights that can be learned. He is excited to keep learning and reading and praying and to attend church (well, hopefully, he attended the YSA ward yesterday!). We asked why he decided to start meeting with us. He explained that missionaries have come knocking for years and years, and he has always turned them away in indifferent disinterest. Well, he said that when Elder George and I knocked on his door, he felt, "Why not just give 'em a chance and listen to what they have to say?" and invited us back. Now, he's doing great and his life is changing! As President Bonham would say, we were the "nineteenth person[s] at the bus stop"!

Yesterday, we went with Brother Schwartz to pick up our investigator, Elijah, to come to church with us. Well, we got there, knocked, he climbed out of his trailer in a nice dress shirt and slacks, with his hair slicked back all nice, and I couldn't help but grin at him! He was so excited to come to church! Get this: he told us he wasn't coming to church. I was so confused. Not twenty-four hours earlier, he committed with a firm "I'll do it." that he would give church a try. To confuse us more, he explained that he had been up all of the previous night and that morning reading the Book of Mormon through the middle of the Book of Alma. He decided that "there is absolutely nothing for me to gain by going to church with you". Heartbreaker. He was kind and cordial, but he was firm. The three of us had hard time understanding his concern, and after mulling it over some more, Elder Cottle and I decided that he really did want to come to church -- badly, I bet --, but his wife prohibited him. She has always been sour toward us and she seems to have a good amount of pull on his decisions. We will try back soon, but he seems to want a break from having to "choose" between us and her. If only she would listen to our message too, that would solve all our problems!

Colleen, our 75 year-old investigator, attended sacrament meeting yesterday, and then about five minutes of Sunday school before taking offense at something someone said (the source is still largely unknown) and storming out. She insisted on walking home -- about 3 miles in the rain on a busy street. The young women's president convinced Colleen to let her drive her home and they talked a little on the way. What we learned is that since Colleen fell last week, she has felt distrusted and even "spied on" by all the members of the ward who have stopped in to help with chores or drop off dinner. She described feeling severely depressed and even suicidal. Though she does face immense medical issues and the imminent reality of death -- and I can't imagine how sick of it she must be --, she also appears to be, well, mentally unhealthy. We try so hard to help her, but I find myself frustrated and feeling that there is nothing I can do to help. And then it occurred to me that the help has to come from the Savior. And she has to ask His help in. I just don't know if that will happen before it's too late.

Susan wanted to so badly to attend church yesterday, but Wayne, her sort-of husband, seemed to purposefully lollygag in Everett so that they -- or at least she -- couldn't make it in time. That's how she described it anyway. We will meet with them again tomorrow night.

Ah, what a week. Just gotta do your best to invite!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

PS: Oh, and I found out today that one of my recent converts is going to be sealed to her husband in Utah this spring! Stoked!

Monday, February 2, 2015

[2/2/2015] Week 100: Century Mark

Hey, all!

On a hike at Wallace Falls state park
last Monday.
Wow, I got so many emails of encouragement this week. I feel like I can conquer the world! Or Snohomish, at least. I'm going to finish strong! Promise!

I'm low on time today, but I want to tell you about Frank.

Elder George and I found Frank tracting a while back, and Elder Cottle and I followed up. We taught him a brief lesson on Monday night, and he invited us back on Wednesday. Frank is a firefighter. If you know anything about firefighting, you know it's next to impossible to get a paid position, and every application is an extremely expensive process. Well, Frank got the job on his first application. Other men apply for years to get just one paid position. He considers himself highly blessed because of it. Frank was raised a Baptist down South, but his ex-fiancee, whom he met in the Navy, is LDS. He went to church with her for five or so months, but never really read the Book of Mormon or seriously investigated. Recently, however, he has felt a need to "get back on the wagon".

Ready for weekly planning in our apartment!
So we taught him the Restoration and really focused on why God calls prophets and how crucial it is that He has called a prophet in modern times. I tell you, Frank is a tender guy. He may be ex-Navy and a firefighter, but he's got big ol' Southern heart. And I believe he is sensitive to the Spirit.

We invited him to pray and ask God if what we had taught was true, he happily obliged, and then we paused for reflection after the prayer. If you know anything about the pamphlets we use to teach people, you know that page 16 of the Restoration pamphlet teaches about prayer and page 17 is a picture of a woman praying. It was a little later at night, and Frank hangin' out in his PJ's, which sported the Bud Light emblem as a pattern. Well, as Frank was pondering with his head bowed, his attention was drawn to his PJ pants and the picture of the woman on page 17. When we asked what he felt God was telling him, he responded, "Well, I looked down and I saw 'Bud Light', then I looked up a little and I saw the woman. Those are my two biggest weaknesses: alcohol and women. I feel like God is telling me that I've got a few things I need to get out of my life before I take this journey."
Elder Cottle is super tall!
Wouldn't you know it? Frank exercised faith, and now he feels a need to repent (Articles of Faith 1:4)! Isn't that exciting? I love it. We will teach him again tonight!

I love y'all tons! Thanks so much for the love and support. I will keep working hard and being obedient! There is yet growth to be experienced for me and for those whom I serve!

Elder Martin