Sunday, July 8, 2018

This week was even better than the last! Elder Villegas and I set some pretty high goals when I first got into the area, but those goals have unfortunately not yet been met by us. But I can say with absolute certainty that we are doing everything in our power (physically, mentally, spiritually) to continue to reach those goals. It helps us think harder, plan smarter, and work with more urgency.

This week has been full of just straight work and finding. Some days we don't even have full time in the mornings to get ready or to study because we are excited to rush straight to work. I love Elder Villegas because he loves to work just as hard, so we get along real well. In our work we are serious and diligent, but we are also very close and love to joke around with everyone. It's a really good mix that we have in this companionship.

Honestly, I don't really know what to update on here. I'll just slip in some personal thoughts.

Last week we met a man named Emilio. He claims that he has no specific religion, but he studied at a religious seminary for ten years, so he knows a lot about the Bible. He started by telling us that he had only ONE question for us, and that if we could answer it, then he would listen to our message. He asked: If Adam and Eve were both white, then where did all of the different races in the world come from? We were pretty unsure if we should answer him or not because we felt like he wouldn't accept our answer, so we just told him that we didn't know. He proceeded to tell us that back in ancient biblical times, angels came down from heaven to marry people here on earth, and the angels that married women and DIDN'T return back to heaven because of their disobedience were cursed with black skin. We tried to explain to him that the answer to his difficult question can actually be found in the Book of Mormon, but he absolutely refused to receive anything that came from the Book of Mormon.

We were pretty speechless after that because his claim has absolutely no realistic basis...

Weird stuff right? But it pointed out, yet again, that no matter how much knowledge a person has about the bible and religious things, if they don't accept the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, then their knowledge pretty much levels out to nothing. This man continued trying to make endless points on doctrine that is very vague in the Bible, but is so clear in the Book of Mormon. If this man would have only accepted the Book of Mormon, he would have the answers to literally all of his questions. We laughed about it afterwards because most of the primary children in this church know more about God's plan for us than Emilio did.

In conclusion, the Book of Mormon is true kids! Read it! That's it for this week, thanks for tuning in, stay classy ya'll ;)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I LOVE THIS NEW AREA!!! This area is great, my companion is awesome, and the members and investigators are the best.


This area is great, my companion is awesome, and the members and investigators are the best.

So my new area is a small area called Comun. Our apartment is in a city called Tabaco, and in order to get to our area in Comun every day, we need to take a 30 minute tricy ride in order to reach our area, so it's pretty expensive for travel here. But this apartment is BY FAR the cleanest, largest, and nicest apartment I've been in my whole mission, and it really helps me to focus on the work more.

My companion, Elder Villegas, is a high quality missionary. He's actually really new on the mission (about four months) so he really wants to learn as much as he can from me in my last month here. He's very humble and is always asking me to teach him how to do certain things better (finding, teaching, planning, etc), and he always applies my advice into his work. We have set goals to find ONE FAMILY every week to baptize. Let me tell you, I have never dedicated myself to the work harder than I have this last week. All of the prayers, the planning, the awkward Gospel conversations with people just to find families is extremely hard work. But this last week we were able to find one absolutely golden family, the Bermundo family. We were only able to teach them once, but the father of the family is very interested in what we are teaching. In our first visit with them, they told us that they are looking for Jesus Christ's true church (I can't make this stuff up) and we just straight up told them, "HEY YOU FOUND IT!!" We also found two other really good families. They aren't as golden, but they have a lot of potential.

Our efforts don't stop there though, we have to find another family this week! So back to planning and goal setting in order to find them.

The members here are also great! I don't know what it is about this area, but as soon as I met all of the members here it felt like I had known them for years. I feel like I'm already best friends with all of them! Our attendance at church yesterday was 52, and I already know almost all of their names and have already visited their homes. There are A TON of part members here, so that is our hunt for this next transfer. The members are VERY excited to refer their family members to us to teach them, so we will be working very smart and quickly in order to befriend and teach all of the part members here. I'm just wondering why the past missionaries haven't been seeing all of these ideas, but I've since learned that there has been a lot of disobedience in this area for the past two years or so. But the trust of the members is practically already solid with us, so we are set!

Elder Villegas and I are so excited for this next transfer in every way. I might not be around to see all of the fruits of our labors, but that doesn't stop us from giving it our all. The church is true and this is the greatest work that we can participate in!!

(Sorry, there are NO pictures for the week... My mom's gonna kill me...)🔫
Me my last new companion, 
Elder Villegas and a stellar member


Sunday, June 24, 2018

I got the news that I will be transferred to a new area called Comun. President is sending me out there to help my new companion to be a leader

I learned a priceless lesson this last week. The whole of the lesson was actually learned in about 20 minutes or so, but I think the Lord has been preparing me for the last four and a half months to get me to those final 20 minutes, in order to teach me the things that I needed to learn. I won't go deep into the details, but Elder David and I have really been having a lot of friction this past transfer (so for the past 6 weeks) but neither of us talked about it. It was kind of under the surface stuff, but it was VERY obvious that both of us were irritated.

Well, last Friday, we finally opened up to each other about all of the things we were irritated with. We used very blunt words to explain what we were feeling, and turns out that we were both feeling the EXACT same thing about each other. The conversation lasted about 20 minutes, but by the end, there was not even a trace of anger or frustration between the two of us. Crazy how we both just sat and suffered for 6 weeks when all we needed was a twenty minute talk to put it past us. Valuable lessons for the future. I assume this lesson might come in handy when I'm married hahaha.

Anyways, as far as the work goes, this last week was GREAT for finding! We have made it a goal to talk to as many people as we can in the streets, and really focus our finding efforts on families. So anytime we saw a family sitting together, or just a couple sitting together, we just walked straight up to them and tried to introduce the Gospel. We ended up finding two families who are very humble, kind, and interested in the Gospel and in what we have to share. We are very excited to see the progression these two families will make. We were able to teach both of them in their homes, and they really seemed to get what we taught and showed that they were very interested.

We also found an attorney! That probably doesn't sound that cool to you guys, but here it's a pretty big deal because all of the attorneys and the lawyers here are VERY prideful and don't want anything to do with us. But we were tracting late one night and found this guy named Edgar Abitria. We briefly shared a 2 minute message of the Restoration, and he told us to come back the next day to teach him in his office. We did, of course, come back the next day, and it was one of the most professional visits that I've experienced here on my mission. He was actually very humble and respectful (asked a ton of questions) but he told us that he wants to hear more about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Cool stuff right?

Just last night I got the news that I will be transferred to a new area called Comun, which isn't too far from where I'm at right now. I know nothing about this new place, all I know is that it's supposed to be a very beautiful place. I don't know who my new companion is, all I know is that he's a special assignment for me. The Assistants told me that President is sending me out there to help my new companion to be a leader. I guess we will see how these next six weeks go! I have high hopes though. Either way, I'll be home pretty soon, so I plan on giving it my all in this new area.

 Photo with some ward memebers
we are different at when we come home at night

This is Fred! Hes from Pennsylvania, and he's super cool. We took some farewell pictures with him. He lives in the apartment underneath us. He hates Mormons, but he loves us haha.

Nothing like a fresh shower in the rain

Monday, June 18, 2018

And to my surprise, when we exited the chapel after the conference, I saw Twinkle Frilles waiting outside to meet me!

This week was great yet again! Elder David and I have been working really hard to get the members to start working with us, and we learned that these members are capable of working miracles if they just put their minds to it! They have helped our investigators read the Book of Mormon, come to church, pray to God, and many other things. Especially our Bishop, Bishop Serrano, is helping us a ton.

One new progressing investigator that we have found is a girl named Aileen. She's about 30 years old and can't walk at all. She has legs, but they haven't really worked since birth, so she has a really hard time getting around. Poor woman has no one else living with her in her house, so she has to rely on infrequent visits from family and neighbors when she needs help with something. But she still does her own laundry by hand, her own cooking, cleaning, etc. Anyways, she has a baptismal date for July 28, so we are doing everything we can to help her reach that goal date. The only problem is her church attendance (because she can't walk) so we are going to make arrangements this next week for a member to pick her up to come to church. Wish us luck!

We also found a family (the Del Castllo Family) two weeks ago, and from what we see, they are very much ready to receive the Gospel. The first thing we asked when we met them was why they allowed us into their home to teach them, and they responded by saying that they really want to change their lives, come closer to Christ, and they felt, when they saw us, that we were the key to get closer to Him. We have only taught them twice, but they are really excited to go to church next Sunday, so we are very excited to see them progress.

The Magdaong family is just kind of on and off. Sometimes they show progress, and other times they don't. We still have hope for them, but they just seem to be having a very difficult time progressing.

Last Saturday all of the missionaries in the Legazpi Mission had a conference with a member of the Presidency of the Quorom of the Seventy, President Ucida. It was only a two hour conference, but it was an amazing spiritual experience, and we all learned a lot. President Ucida is a very bold man, and used the phrase (almost shouted it) many times, "I invite you to repent NOW." I think it was the closest I've ever come to being chastised by a general authority haha. But I learned a lot and received some answers to some questions that I've had for more than a year now.

And to my surprise, when we exited the chapel after the conference, I saw Twinkle Frilles waiting outside to meet me! Twinkle was one of my converts in Irosin, (my very first area on my mission) and probably the strongest convert I've met on my mission. I was seriously so shocked and excited to see her. It's been more than a year and a half now since I have seen her, so I was definitely not expecting it! Our conversation was only about ten minutes (which made me really sad) but it was the BEST ten minutes!!  haha. It really made me MISS Irosin a lot!  haha.  It was such a blessing to see her and those she traveled with because I didn't expect to see her again while on my mission.

Well, that's it for this week! Pictures will come in a separate email! Love you all!! :)
Elder Austin Russell Cook

               Surprise visit from Twinkle Frilles :)

                Service project for our bishop. 
They dont have lawn mowers, so we just use machetes

We had like 11 missionaries sleep at our apartment 
one night, and this is how we fit them all 
(good thing they have a balcony)

Monday, June 4, 2018

These weeks are just full of pure tracting!

These weeks are just full of pure tracting!! Something is happening in this area and tracting just doesn't seem to be working. We have set some good solid goals for ourselves and our area, but they are just not being reached by us... But we still work, and we aren't getting down! Well, sometimes we do, but we quickly pick ourselves up afterwards!

Our only progressing family, the Magdaong Family, have finally missed their fourth week of church attendance, so we don't know what is keeping them from coming... That's our struggle with them. They read, pray, and keep all of the commitments we give them EXCEPT coming to church. We might have to get some more members involved with this one.

That's pretty much it for this last week! Hopefully I'll have more to report on next week haha. Sorry mom for the short email. Love ya'll, have a great week!

Since my SD card got stolen I have been using my companions to add photos.  But now I have a new companion and he doesn't have an SD card.  Ill try to buy a new one or use another missionaries SD card.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

We had a total of 8 baptism interviews for a set of Elders in our zone. It was such an amazing experience

This week has been full of our favorite activity... Tracting!! So we have this problem in our area (well, in pretty much EVERY area) where we teach tons of people once or twice and then they start hiding from us or become really rude to us for no apparent reason. But this past week we just couldn't find ANYONE to teach! We tracted probably a total of 30 hours and didn't find a single lesson from it... Probably the first time on my mission that that has happened. But we still laugh and have a good time while sharing the Gospel with others. Elder David is a great companion and we bond really well through tracting haha.

Last Tuesday we had a total of 8 baptism interviews for a set of Elders in our zone, and all eight of them passed! It was such an amazing experience interviewing each of them and getting to know their conversion story and what it really was that showed them that this Gospel is true. Each of them are so established and firm in their testimonies, and I'm not sure that I've met more converted people out in the Philippines.

Sorry if my email is short, but that's all I really have to tell this week... Just tracting and baptismal interviews. But I still am working hard and always look forward with faith to find success in our area. If people didn't accept us last week, which just means we are sifting through those that don't care about our message, so our chances this week for finding will be higher! (Hopefully haha) Love you all, have a great week!