Sunday, December 10, 2017

I don't believe that there are "difficult areas," I just believe that sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places, and therefore not finding those who are wholly prepared to receive us.

We were really able to get a much stronger, renewed vision of our are this past week. I don't know what it is, but Elder Del Pilar and I got much more motivated and dedicated to the work, and now we are very set on reaching new goals and finding more people to teach. I don't believe that there are "difficult areas," I just believe that sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places, and therefore not finding those who are wholly prepared to receive us.

The Ramos family is progressing as usual. We are visiting them literally every day in order to prepare them for their baptism on the 23 of this month. They are really great and by far my favorite family, but our struggle with them is the fact that they are all very uneducated. It's not a bad thing, but we have to teach them VERY simply, and even when we do that, we still have to repeat some lessons two or three times; hence the daily visits we have with them. They might be slow to understand all of the doctrine and such, but they understand what we say through their feelings, not so much through their minds. Even though they can't read, they all know the Book of Mormon is true because every time we read it to them, they say they can feel that it's true and that it can change their lives. It's true that you don't need to be educated in order to be considered the elect of God.

Jingky on the other hand (I'm not sure if I've written much about her) but she really wanted to change her life when we first met her and she said many times that she really wanted to come closer to God. Well just the other night she texted us saying that her schedule is so busy that she just doesn't have the time to fit it all in one day, so she has evaluated and decided that she no longer has time to meet with us. She said she will still continue to do the things that we have taught her, like pray and read the Book of Mormon, but she no longer has time for us to teach her. We tried our best to tell her that she was making a mistake, and she is very sad about it, but her mind seems set. It's really sad because she was one of our most progressing investigators and now she's just gone. But we hope and pray that she will realize that she needs God in her life again...

Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi
 (which is like a meeting for all of the Zone Leaders) 
OH GOOD NEWS! Last week I was able to go to an Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi (which is like a meeting for all of the Zone Leaders) AND I SAW ELDER CABALLES THERE!! If you don't remember, he's the missionary that I trained. I was so surprised because he's only been on the mission for 6 months and he's a Zone Leader now. It was so great to catch up with him. I love that kid like a brother.

So this week is exciting because we have a general authority, Elder Hayne, coming to visit our mission, and we as the Zone Leaders get to have a special leadership training with him this Tuesday at the mission home. I'm kind of nervous for it because I feel like he's just going to chastise us. But I'm sure it'll be great either way!

And that's all for this week folks! Sorry if I don't send many pictures in my emails, we literally just don't have time to take pictures in our day because literally every minute counts here and we are trying to work as much as possible. But I try to take at least a few!

Elder Austin Cook
Elder Del Pilar, Elder Caballes and me being a nut

The Ramos family is my absolute favorite family here in Masbate!

So as the first week of the transfer, this week was pretty disorganized. I feel like I say that every week though... Oh well, guess it's just a part of being a missionary. Anyways, we got two new missionaries in our zone, and they seem super excited to be on Masbate Island and we are very grateful to have them here!

Our last week was spent teaching as many people as possible, but our most progressing investigators are still the same: the Ramos family, Jingky, and Christian. The Ramos family is my absolute favorite here in Masbate! Jimmy and Angelica go to all of the church activities, and any time there is a baptism they come to it as well. Their baptism is on the 23, so we are very excited and hope that nothing gets in the way so that they actually get baptized on that date.

Most of these people are VERY uneducated when it
comes to world history, but at least they have
fun decorations on their homes
I am so sorry that this email is so short, but we just got informed yesterday that we are going to Legaspi today, so we get to travel on the boats again! And then next week we have a huge mission conference in Legaspi again where of the 70, Elder Hayne, is coming to speak to all of the missionaries here in our mission. Busy stuff, so we are very excited for all of it! Again, sorry for the short email (and next weeks might be short too because we have to travel again) but I got some good pictures to send! But I'm still happy and Elder Del Pilar and I are doing great! Love you all!

WATERWORLD! I just like taking pictures of these houses
because the construction is so interesting.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

We decided to use the church's Christmas initiative "Light The World" in order to spread the Christmas spirit

Us and the Ramos family
Transfer announcements were just two days ago, and it turns out I will be staying here in Masbate for the Christmas season! That's a really good thing because I don't wanna spend my Christmas in a brand new area, that's no fun. Anyways, these past two weeks we have really been spending most of our time teaching our investigators that have a date set for their baptism and setting up for our Christmas activity that we had yesterday. So more than a month ago we suggested to the branch leaders that we were going to set up a missionary activity on November 26, and since then we have been trying our hardest to get the members involved in the planning and preparing, but no one moved an inch when we tried to make an activity. That means that this past week, Elder Del Pilar and I have been trying to set EVERYTHING up for the branch activity. Needless to say, it was a very exhausting week, but we held the activity yesterday, and it was pretty successful.

This was our activity: We decided to use the church's Christmas initiative "Light The World" in order to spread the Christmas spirit. The church released 25 different videos that relate to each day leading up to Christmas, showing us different ways to serve one another on the days until the 25th of December. Our idea was to put up a huge projector screen in the middle of an area where tons of people walk by as a type of advertisement for the "Light the World" initiative. We invited all of the Branch members and we gave them a stack of 300 different handouts to give to people who stopped to watch the videos. Filipinos are a very curious people, so many people stopped by to watch, and by the end of the night, all 300 of our handouts had been given out to people. Not only that but we got the numbers of some people who want us to visit them in their homes and teach them! So I think it was a pretty successful activity.

Sorry, I spent most of my time today emailing my family individually, so my mass email is pretty short. But I'll send some good pictures!

Elder Austin Cook
 District activity. We just put all of the food on a banana leaf & eat it w/our hands

The mama lamb chased him around after this because he took her baby

This dogs name is whitey. He's absolutely disgusting and pitiful,
but he leaves outside of our apartment and always follows us when
 we go outside. Figured I'd take a quick picture with him before he bites the dust.
Yes we do feed him mama!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Love you all, life is hard, but it's also very good

With the Ramos Family
This past week has given us some relief that we have been hoping for! I'm not sure if you remember them, but the Ramos family came to church again yesterday, with four of their children, and they all loved it! The father, Jimmy, has told us that he has completely stopped drinking ever since we started teaching them, and he doesn't miss it at all. The amazing thing is that we never even asked him to stop drinking, he just decided it was probably the right thing to do.

Two weeks ago we met a girl named Jingky who is 18 years old and is actually the maidservant for a very active family in our branch, the Montilla family. She's not a member, but since she works and lives with a family full of very active members we reached out to her to ask if she was interested in learning more about the church. She responded very warmly towards our invitation, and just last Saturday we were able to finally sit down in a lesson with her and the Montilla family. We started by asking a question that we NEVER ask because the answer is always SO obvious for people here but it felt like an appropriate question to ask at the time: Do you believe in God? Surprisingly enough, she fell silent. She thought for quite a bit and told us that she isn't sure, but she thinks that she feels His presence every now and then. We asked her to explain a little bit more and she told us that when she was much younger, she very much believed in God but because of a health incident that took her father's life, she doubts very much. She thinks that after that incident she moved very far away from God and wants now to make the journey back to him. She told us that when we first came up to her and asked if she wanted to know more about the church, she really felt that that was God's way of giving her another chance to come back. She has expressed to us that she is very willing to do whatever it takes, and has proved that already; just yesterday she went to church all by herself without even doubting it a bit! We are very excited for her!
Me and my Companion

The Ramos family continues to improve. Yesterday we taught them about the Word of Wisdom and they all jumped a little bit when we told them that we aren't allowed to drink coffee or tea. But after a little bit of explanation as to WHY, they all confidently declared that they want to and are ready to follow the word of wisdom by not drinking coffee or alcohol or tea, and not smoking. Funny thing is that we ran into Jimmy later that night with a lit cigarette in his hand! But hey, repentance is a process right?

Anyways, that's all for now folks! Love you all, life is hard, but it's also very good. Ingat kayo!!
Elder Austin Cook
All the students attending my English class I teach


Sunday, November 5, 2017

me and Elder Bangal my 2nd companion on my mission
So only half of this last week was actually spent in our area, and the other half was spent in the area of the Assistants to President in Legazpi. But in the half week of work that we got, I thought it wasn't too bad. We have been really working with the leaders in the church to get some awesome activities set up in order to find new people to teach, but the leaders seem to be moving pretty slow with all of it, so we are just gonna have to take the initiative ourselves to work it out if they won't work with us. We are writing some letters to get permission from the area officials in order to use certain facilities in the city to present some videos and put on a Christmas show for the people in Masbate.

Last Tuesday we went to Legazpi to have MLC again, so we were able to receive some great direction from President Kotter. Also I got some more letters from Twinkle and her family, so those always make me happy because I know that at least they haven't forgotten about me!

Last week we had an area realignment with the Sisters in our Zone, which means that we took a part of their area so that we can proselyte in it. In that area that we just took from them, we found a whole new family of investigators, the Ramos Family, and right away they came to church with us! Just yesterday we stopped by their house to pick them up and we walked with them all the way to church, and we have another return appointment with them tomorrow, so we hope that it will go well.

We also have been working with a less-active girl named Rea this past week. Actually we have been working with her for the past two months, and she has yet to come to church again. She has opened up to us saying that she WANTS to come back to church because she really misses it, but she is just having a problem working up the courage to actually make the journey back to church. But yesterday she FINALLY came back to church! She only stayed for the first hour, but hey, we gotta start somewhere right? We really hope that she will continue to progress towards becoming active in the church again.

Elder Bangal & I at MLC, He was my 2nd companion on the mission
Last night we met with the Cantre family for the first time. They are a less-active family that was baptized about a year ago, but it has been a really long time since they have had any contact with the church. We only met with the mother, Melissa, and talked with her about why they stopped coming to church. She explained that they ARE going to church-just not our church. They have found their way back to their Catholic traditions and roots and no longer have the desire to come back to church. She refused to accept it, but her life seems to have gone significantly downhill ever since they left. Her husband used to have a smoking and drinking problem which went away when they joined the church, but we saw some cigarettes hidden in the roof in their house, so obviously that problem has come back. Also her husband does not treat her well at all and always yells and gets mad at her and the kids. We just hope that we can somehow show her that we can help her through the Gospel. But as sad experience shows, once members go less-active, it is so much more difficult to bring them back to church.

Elder Pullicar (He's a cool guy from Idaho) 

These are the cemeteries here in Philippines.
We just kind of walk all over them and stuff, so that's fun

Filipino Cemetery 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

Hey kids, so this week was pretty fantastic, if I don't say so myself. This was the hardest working week I've had in this area by a longshot: We tracted almost all day every day and literally talked to everyone we could to find new investigators and share the gospel. And guess what happened? That's right boys, we got ZERO lessons! I think it's kind of funny though, no big deal. That's actually the second week in a row that that has happened to us, so we are starting to think that maybe tracting isn't our best bet here in this area. But because we have been punted for these two solid weeks, we are really digging down looking for new ideas in finding people to teach and the ideas we have come up with thus far are:
1. City wide film showings in which we put on a performance and show Christmas videos for the people
2. Go caroling with the members here
3. Teach at schools (like actually enter into the classrooms and teach the students)
And we have like a ton of other ideas, but it's hard to explain to people that aren't missionaries haha.

ANYWAYS, elder Del Pilar and I are really doing great in our companionship, we get along super well! This last week we had a lot of stuff happen in the zone that we needed to deal with (just some problems and such) that was kind of a hindrance to our work. But today we are headed to Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi to see what kind of things we need to learn as leaders in order to help our zone progress. We are very excited for it.

We talked to an older lady last week while we were traveling around, and we got to the topic of the after life. We asked her what she imagines when she thinks of the after life and her answer was really interesting. She told us that we will all just be friends (no families there) and no one talks to each other. We just stare. No speaking. But we will still be happy just staring at each other. We asked "Well why don't we talk to one another?" She said "Well there's nothing to talk about!" We then asked, "Well what exactly do you think we will be doing when we get there?" And she said, "Oh you know, just praying and being happy."

I am so glad that the truths of our after life were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because of the Restoration of the Gospel, we know that the after life is significantly more hopeful than what this older woman described to us. We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

I love you all and will email again in another short week! (Sorry no pictures, I just didn't take any last week. Too busy with the work)
Elder Austin Cook

Monday, October 23, 2017

Wednesday we were able to go on a radio show in order to introduce ourselves and who we are a little bit.

This week was actually really tough when it came to the work. We don't have many investigators, and I'm still really new to this whole Zone Leader thing, yet here I am trying to train someone to be a Zone Leader, so it's rough stuff. Needless to say, this last week was pretty scattered with our list of things to do as the transfer began, but hey, we are doing our best. Elder Del Pilar is having a tough time leaving his last area because he loved the members a lot and the work over there was progressing really well, and I don't think he enjoys this area too much because we are kind of building the area from the ground up. That seems to be the theme of my mission: Arrive to a new area, realize that there's no teaching pool at all, and then get to work and start building it up. So we're just trying to find new people that are really interested in the Gospel that we are sharing.

One cool thing that happened is that last week on Wednesday we were able to go on a radio show in order to introduce ourselves and who we are a little bit. We also announced our English class that we are teaching every Tuesday and Thursday, so that was pretty good advertisement. The radio station is apparently the most listened to station here in Masbate (but I'm not sure that really means much) so we are hoping that it gets the message out there.

Our English class is actually pretty successful as well. Last Thursday we had about 20 people attend (only like 5 were investigators though) and we are hoping that more will be coming in future days.

That's the short email for today, sorry, this week was kind of lame when it came to the work and such. Hopefully we will be more organized this week in order to find more investigators. Alright I love you all, take care!
Elder Austin Cook