Monday, March 26, 2018

Hey kids, this week was pretty interesting!

So we've boiled down this area to the core, and we have learned the sad fact that we only have ONE investigator ready for baptism. She's great and 100% ready, but only one nonetheless, so we've gotta start changing something in the way we work.

So anyone who is familiar with the work knows that the best way to find investigators is through referrals from the members. Usually you would go visit the members, share a short message about the Restoration of the Gospel, and then ask who they know who could benefit from our message, and then BOOM you have a referral. Well our problem is this: We have about three active members in our area. All of the other members (which are many) live in the area of the other Elders in the ward, and we aren't allowed to cross area boundaries to visit those members, so we never get referrals! This means that all of our work comes from tracting... And we can see how effective that is, considering we've been straight tracting for 6 weeks and we only have one investigator that is progressing haha. But such is life.

We decided that if the only thing we can do to find is tracting, we must perfect the art of tracting. So we put together a little bundle kit type thing to give to people while we are tracting, or we just straight up give them a copy of the Restoration DVD so they can watch it on their own time. Our bundle kit that we hand out basically consists of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," "The Living Christ," and a really cool pass along card with our names and information on it. Until thus far we still have yet to see anything great happen from it yet... But we won't give up easy, we will find those who are ready to receive the Gospel.

We also had this idea where we just bring a piano out to the park in Daraga and just sit me down in front of it to play. We don't really know much of a plan past that, but we think having a random white foreigner playing piano in a public place would attract a lot of attention, and maybe get some people to ask us what it is we are up to. At the very least we could just play some hymns in public as like a service thing that the people can enjoy.

Johnathan & his sister Lannie (our only investigator).
 Lannie has a scar on her face because she got
in gnarly accident on her motorcycle a month ago
That's pretty much it for our finding ideas though. Our investigator, on the other hand, is doing great! Lannie used to be scared to death of the Mormons, and now she really likes church and reads the Book of Mormon every day, and she's super excited for her baptism on May 5. She even came to a service project that the ward did last Saturday, so she really is getting involved with the church!

Elder Faka'osi and I are doing great! He's really cool and has a great desire to improve the work in the area. Overall, although our numbers are low here, we are happy!

This church is true, there's no simpler way to put it! We tell people about our message so many times in one day (and get rejected every single time) but we can't get tired of it. This is the Lord's work, so we just do efficiently and effectively.

Me and Elder Faka'osi
Love you all, and I'll email again next week!

Me and the kids in the Dean Family.

Made about 100+ Lumpia rolls for our
 food for the next two weeks.

Part of our apartment


Bedroom..notice the pillows my mom sent me and my comp

Nice living space with fridge too!

Tried some face masks...haha

Walking the streets of Daraga

Streets of Daraga
Met these kids that found a HUGE butterfly

Gotta love the size of the bugs

Walking to our Service Project

Johnathan and Lannie

Service project where we just tore down this house.
A member named Nanay Atos owns it

Service project... safety first

service project

My hair looks grey from all the dust

Waiting for a Jeep to pick us up

Sunday, March 11, 2018

She leaned over to me and asked, "are there requirements to be baptized into this church?

Me, Sister Ieremia, and sister Marcos
Typing up emails every week is low key a struggle for me, because I have to type like twenty thousand other things besides my email... But I do this for all of you! So just remember: if you think no one loves you, at least I'm using effort to email you haha.

Last week was pretty hard work. I've learned this new thing where we just talk to everyone, and I think I pretty much spend every day talking until we go home at night. But of course it's not just talking, it's sharing God's plan with the people! Last week President Kotter just randomly showed up at our apartment on morning and told us that he was going to work with us that morning. I had always heard that he pulls stunts like that, but I've never had it happen to me until just last week. Anyways, we went out and taught one of our newest investigators named Cha, and she turned out to be SOO interested in the Book of Mormon! She had a whole notebook and was writing down everything that she learned from her reading inside of that notebook. She told us that it's SO AWESOME that there's another book about Jesus Christ with different characters testifying about him. Amazing right? Well, President Kotter took a picture with us and Cha as a remembrance for him working with us. And then a couple days later, at a mission conference, he displays this picture to the mission and tells them the story of how we found Cha, how we taught her, and how we got her interested in the Book of Mormon. He kind of used us as examples in the work, which was a really good feeling.

Well, the next day (after the mission conference), we went back for a return appointment with Cha to teach her more from the Book of Mormon, but right as we got there, she completely and flat out told us that she doesn't want us to teach her anymore. She said that she doesn't like the fact that there's another book about Jesus Christ because one is already enough, and she also doesn't like the fact that these characters in the Book of Mormon are different than the Bible... These were literally the SAME EXACT reasons that she LIKED the Book of Mormon just a few days before, so we assume her neighbors are talking really bad about us. I guess that problem is still ever present, even in this area. But we are now teaching Cha's brother who is like 24 years old, and he seems to be showing a lot of interest. We just hope he doesn't follow the example of his sister haha.

Mission Conference
We had only one investigator come to church yesterday, but while she was listening to the testimonies of each member, she leaned over to me and asked, "are there requirements to be baptized into this church?" So I opened up to Moroni 6:2-3 and told her that those are the requirements. We had to leave church early that day, but she ended up staying the whole time even though she knew absolutely no one there. We have a lesson with her tomorrow, so we will probably ask her if she wants to be baptized. Wish us luck!

So when you train a new missionary on the mission,
that missionary is called your "son." So Elder Caballes is my son.
This is a genealogy picture: Me, My son Elder Caballes,
my Grandson Elder Spencer, and my great grandson Elder Duarte

 The White Crew

 I don't know why my body is like that in this picture. Oh well

 That's mah companion

taking photos with my Companion

Sometimes I wear my glasses

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I know that the Gospel is the ONE path that God created for all of His children

I love being a missionary!

Since Elder Caballes is the new Assistant, we got to go
on exchanges! That means I gotta work with
MAH BOI AGAIN!! Love this kid so much
This last week we hit the "reset" button on this area, so we basically tanked all of our old "investigators" because none of them really had any interest. I guess the other elders were teaching them just so they could have some numbers to report every week, but there was never really any desire in the people they were teaching.

So, yet again, I come into an area with absolutely no ground work, but I can say from the bottom of my heart that that is now my favorite thing to do! It's great because you know that everything you do from here on out is because of you and the Lord, so you can actually be proud of the investigators you find and the progress you help create in the Ward.

Anyways, we've hit the ground running this last week by talking to literally EVERYONE. Okay, I know that I'm already a talkative guy, but I can say with a surety that I have never talked so much and to so many people in my life. After about two hours of proselyting my mouth has run out of saliva, but we still have 6 hours after that, so we just press on with joy! We've already been experiencing the miracles from it! For example, last Friday we were tracting ALL DAY and didn't get ANYTHING and we were so close to giving up, but we refused to. At the end of our proselyting we were about to go in for the day, but we decided to just go one more, and that family let us in the second we knocked on their door and now they are very interested in our message! That happened maybe 4 or five times last week and now we have a couple new investigators to be teaching this week!

It's just amazing how the Lord fulfills his promises. In D&C 84:33 the Lord said, "For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying of their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies." Every time I get exhausted and feel like giving up, I just shove a little more faith in it, and when I do that, my strength is renewed and I forget that I'm even tired. I love this Gospel and the blessings it brings. People always think and say that there is a different path for everyone, but I know that the Gospel is the ONE path that God created for all of His children. And that's why I'm out here- just to share this plan with others.

having some fun with Elder Cabelles
I hope you all have a great week! Love ya'll!
Elder Austin Cook ♥

Elder Cabellas and I

Workin in da Jungle!

Walking with my current companion 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My first time serving as a missionary in an actual ward and not a branch

Hey kids, my new area is great! Here in Daraga is my first time serving as a missionary in an actual ward and not a branch. It's weird getting used to the fact that we have an actual bishop here, but it's a good change to get used to! Oh, and my new companion, Elder Faka'osi, is the greatest! He's from Tonga and is truly one of the kindest, most loving companions I have had on the mission. I have yet to hear him say anything negative about any circumstances we have been placed in so far, and he is also very obedient to the mission rules, which is a huge weight off of my shoulders. (also he's a giant)

The gang is all here. Elder Peterson to my left and comp to my right
We also have two other Elders staying in our apartment, and one of those Elders is Elder Peterson! We were rooming together back in the MTC days, so it's great to have him back as a roommate.

So my new area, Daraga, is actually a pretty big city (I think it's like the second biggest city in our mission? Not sure) But our area, fortunately, is mostly out in the mountain areas, so we are doing a lot more walking than we used to. In Masbate, our area was about the length of two or three football fields, so this area is giving my feet a little more of a work out.

I've only been in the area for less than a week, but I see infinite potential here: both in the members and in the investigators. It's going to take a lot of dedicated work, but we can do it! Elder Faka'osi is 100% ready to help and get the work going faster than it has gone before, so we are just so excited for this transfer!
It s good to be back in the mainland

Outdoor shower time!

Oh yeah, Elder Del Pilar and I showered at a well. 
The water in our apartment ran out, so we just had to 
fetch some pails of water. #jackandjillswags

My companion on the right

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Nothing short of the hand of God

Hey kids I'm getting transferred. I'll be leaving this Tuesday morning to a new area called Daraga and will be the new Zone Leader out there. It's an area that's pretty close to the volcano, so at least I'll be able to get some cool shots out of it! I don't know what to expect in this next area, but I know that it's definitely a bigger city than here in Masbate, and I assume that this will be my last area before I head home, but I don't know what God's plans are.

This last week was really weird, because last Wednesday we had interviews with President Kotter in the mainland in which he told us that BOTH Elder Del Pilar and I were going to be transferred. We were kind of shocked because two missionaries don't usually get pulled out unless they did something disobedient. But President Kotter told us that we didn't do anything wrong, he just feels that the area needs a fresh start... Well, I'll still be a Zone Leader and Elder Del Pilar is going to be a branch president on an island called Catanduanes, so we were assured that we didn't do anything wrong because obviously President still trusts us.

On our way back from interviews we had a really neat experience on the Roro. The roro took us back
Chillin at the pier
to Masbate from the mainland at about 10:00 PM, so we left really late and got home at about 3:00 AM. Normally Elder Del Pilar and I just sleep on the roro because it's a really big boat and there's nothing to do, and obviously we were really tired because it was late, but it just so happened that there were two younger girls about the age of 20 looking for some places to sit on the boat. We moved around some of our stuff to make room so they could sit down, and so they did. Now, Elder Del Pilar and I HATE talking to girls our age out here, because they ALWAYS get the wrong idea when a foreigner talks to them, but when we gave them some room to sit down, we were instantly launched into a conversation that lasted the entirety of the boat ride, yes, five hours. When we first tried to teach them/get them interested in the Restoration, they just kind of laughed, but after we persisted, they actually got pretty interested and started bombarding us with questions about the Restoration, the Gospel, and the Plan of Salvation. Long story short, in the span of 5 hours we pretty much covered the full content of all of the basic missionary lessons in detail. We assumed that they were from Masbate and we were about to get trasnferred, so we figured we wouldn't see them again after that, but we decided to ask them where they were from anyways. Well, turns out the one girl is actually from my hometown Irosin! And the other girl is from Masbate, but the cool thing is that they are both studying in a college in Daraga right now, which is my new area! So we got their numbers and I told them that I will contact them as soon as I get to Daraga, and they said it would be totally fine with them if we continued to teach them. How perfectly did that all line up right? Nothing short of the hand of God. I just hope that we actually can CONTINUE to teach them in Daraga.

Family home evening w/ Martinez family & the Ibanez family
I'll be very sad this transfer day to leave the Ibanez family, the family that we just found while tracting a couple of months ago. They are so amazing, and they absolutely LOVE living the principles we teach them. Brother Livino told us that before we taught them, he used to get very mad very easily, and his wife, Shannie, agreed with that. She said that one time she remembers that he came home with blood on his feet and with a machete in his hand... We didn't inquire further about that incident haha. But if you were to meet Livino now you would NEVER think he was like that: he is the most cool headed, humble, loving man that I've met out here. And they just want to be baptized so bad, so I'm sad that I won't be here to continue to witness their progress :(

But that's my life this week! Good luck to the next elders in this area (One of them is Elder Semaning who is literally my best friend out here. He was my roommate in irosin).

P.S. So my boy Elder Cabellas, is gonna be presidents assistant, which means that he will be giving ME training when we go on exchanges! I think it's awesome haha.

Me and Brother Garganta. This guy is flippin hilarious
so I had to get a picture with him before I left.

This girl was actually taught by Fraser Lefevre before.
She called us randomly & now she wants to be baptized!