Friday, September 22, 2017

This week was awesome! I left my camera at the apartment, so no pictures :( But I took a lot of pictures this week, and i will send those all as a part of my email NEXT week.

So last Tuesday we had a meeting at the mission home for all of the Zone Leaders, which was a really great meeting. But we are all the way out here on the island of Masbate, so it takes us a total of about 12 hours to get all the way out to the mission home. That means we had to leave on Monday afternoon, literally right after we emailed. There are two types of water transportation to get back to the mainland: Row Row or Fastcraft. We decided to take the Fastcraft because although it is more expensive, it only takes two hours rather than 4 or 5 like the Row Row. We boarded the Fastcraft with our stuff and about 20 minutes into the ride, the waves on the ocean were HUUGE, and the boat was getting slammed really hard, which made us turn back to the island because the waves were too big to get anywhere. Now, the Row Row is much bigger than the Fastcraft, so it's able to handle the bigger waves, so we just boarded the Row Row after returning back to the island. But about two hours into the Row Row ride, the waves got really rough and started throwing the Row Row around, but we were already too far into the journey to turn back. Elder Maliu and I didn't know why the weather was so bad, so we asked about it, and turns out there was a typhoon while we were riding the Row Row! Fun stuff right? Lucky for us it was far away, but the sea was really affected by it. But no worries, we made it in the port safe and sound :)

Tuesday we finally got to go to the meeting for all of the Zone Leaders, which was a very inspiring meeting for all of us, and I think I finally figured out exactly what it is that I'm supposed to do in this zone with my new calling. The meeting lasted about 6 hours (with really good lunch included) after which we traveled home again, and didn't land back in the island until about 1:00 AM. But President Kotter gave us permission to sleep in until 8:00 the next morning, which I don't think I've done in the past year of being here. But at the meeting I finally got some letters which Twinkle and her family sent me!! Gosh, I miss them so much, I just hope all is well. They still are my favorite family out of all my areas.

On Friday, President Kotter gave us a new initiative/way to teach the Restoration and the Book of Mormon in just under 5 minutes. Elder Maliu and I have been trying it ever since then, and it REALLY works! They understand the lesson so well, and it always gets them interested in our message! And then the ones who aren't interested, we just move on like it's whatever because we know that right around the next corner there are other people who will accept us. In this area, the people just accept us so well. Knocking on doors is one of my favorite things to do here because you get to meet tons of new people and they are surprisingly accepting. But when I came into this area we had like no investigators at all (just like my last two areas) so we are just working on building up our teaching pool so we can get the work moving. 

Adjusting to a new area is never easy, but this has been the easiest adjustment so far. I'm still not completely familiar with the area yet, and I don't really know many of the members, but I am really enjoying the area so far. I still miss Libon and the members there, and I especially miss Elder Caballes. I heard he's training an American right now, so that's gotta be tough for him to try and speak English, but he'll do great. 

That's all for today! Sorry again for no pictures, but next week there will be twice as many! I love ya'll, stay out of trouble!

Monday, September 11, 2017

This church is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone can know for themselves if they just ask with a sincere heart

This is the boat that blew up
Hey kids! So last Tuesday I got transferred to my new area in Masbate. It was actually pretty difficult leaving Libon. Honestly it felt very similar to leaving Irosin or leaving home, but I've pretty much gotten used to that feeling by now. So on Tuesday we got on this boat called a Row Row, which is the boat that they use to get people out to Masbate, and it's actually a really nice boat! They have two decks, and the upstairs has really nice indoor seating with really good movies playing (No, we didn't watch the movies, we stayed outside the whole time). So we started our travel at 7:00 PM and the Row Row takes about 4 hours to get to Masbate, so we were planning to be arriving at about 11:00 PM. But about two hours into our travel, the engine of the boat blew out. And when I say that, I mean it was for real, like something you would see in the movies. It sounded like 4 gunshots and steam and smoke just SHOT out of the main engine room and then everything stopped. We thought we were gonna stay there all night, but in about two hours they got the boat up and running again, so we arrived in Masbate safe and sound at about 1:00 AM.

Me and Elder Montilla out in their area in Cataingan
The next morning we woke up at 6:30 AM as usual and got right to work! My new companion, Elder Maliu, used to be President Kotter's Assistant, and this is his last 6 weeks here on the mission, so he is a very experienced missionary. He is one of the kindest guys I've met out here, and I am so glad to be his companion, even if it is for just one transfer. So we've basically just been working so much every day, and I really love it. The people here are THE BEST!! They are super welcoming, even though they just met us, and they are actually intelligent. The main struggle of my last area was actually getting people to just understand our message about Christ, but it kind of seemed like they didn't really understand us, it just didn't click in their brains. But here the people are very kind and they understand us, so it is a very nice change of pace!

Also this place is actually a lot cleaner than my last area, especially the water :) To be honest this island is known for having horrible water. But since we are in the nice part of the city, we have really clean water! And our apartment has 3 bathrooms, and one of them has a shower head! But we only get water in the apartment at certain times of the day. The city controls when we do and don't get water. We get water in the morning and at night, so it actually works perfectly because that is the only time that we are home :) So I really have no complaints about the area! Our apartment is really unorganized, but I'll be fixing that this week as soon as I get time.  I don't have a lot of time because we gotta head out to the mainland in Legazpi and we won't even be coming back until Friday. Being a zone leader is busy stuff this week.

Nothing much is different here on the island, environmentally speaking. The food is the same, the transportation is the same, the plants and houses are pretty much the same. Oh, but the one thing that is different here is that the language is different. They don't always speak Tagalog, a lot of the time they speak Masbatanio, which is a mix of Vesiya and Bicol. So we get to learn even more languages out here, WOOHOO!! No worries though, it's actually a lot easier to learn it. Once you understand Tagalog, these other island languages are pretty easy to pick up on.

I don't have much time here, so I just want to share one neat spiritual experience before I head off. So we teach the Villamor Family, just a couple, Babylon Villamor and Mary-Jane Villamor, with two small kids. They were actually supposed to be baptized last week, but some issues came up and they couldn't be baptized, which really bummed us out. So we went to their house, last night actually, to see what the problems were with them not being baptized. We wanted to know what the problem was: were they scared, worried, or just not wanting to? So we got there and turns out that Babylon really wants to be baptized, but his wife does not have the desire. She's not totally sure if Joseph Smith was a real prophet of God, so if he's not a prophet, then this church isn't true, so we could see her worry. We told her that there is NO WAY that she can know if he really was a Prophet if she doesn't pray about it and ask God herself. So right there in the lesson, we told her to say a prayer and ask God directly and specifically if Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and if this is the true church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. So she did. After she finished saying the prayer, it was silent for about 30 seconds before she finally spoke, telling us that right when she asked if it was all true, she felt an indescribable feeling inside of her, and she was so excited about it that she held up her arm to us to show us her goosebumps. She said that she was trying really hard not to cry because of what she felt, and we testified to her that that was the spirit telling her that it was indeed true.

I just love all of this. I feel bad for anyone who misses out on this Gospel of Jesus Christ because they are truly missing out on the eternities. This church is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone can know for themselves if they just ask with a sincere heart.

Also about my friend in my last area, Aries Leonor, he always told me that when I go home that I would forget about him, but I always thought it would be the other way around. He sees missionaries come and go all the time and honestly I thought he would just forget about me haha. But it's really touching to read all of the things that he wrote about me. But yeah, he really was the best member in the branch, and I'll miss him so much. I never really mentioned him in my emails sent to home, but he really has helped change my mission for the better. I never assumed so much help would come from a member :) There's about 98% that I don't get the time to write about in my emails sent home 😂 But Aries changed my mission, he truly did.

I love you all and hope you all have a GREAT WEEK!!!
Love ya kids, Ingat (Tagolog for "take care")

Elder Austin Cook
I have already made a great friend in Masbate,
Brayan Consulta Ramirez I LOVE THIS KID..
HE'S THE BEST. He literally works with us EVERY DAY.
It's pretty much like we are in group of three as missionaries,
he just doesn't wear a name tag 😂

The three photos below is of our last family home evening with the Secillano family in Libon :'( Love them

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I am going to be transferred to an Island called Masbate, and apparently I will be the new Zone Leader there! I am really grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve here in Libon. So much has happened for the good and I thank God for it every day.

Soooo lots happened this week, but I don't have hardly any time to email!  First off, last Wednesday (while we actually slept) we got a call from President Kotter.  So we woke up and spoke with him and he first talked to me and said that I am going to be transferred to an Island called Masbate, and apparently I will be the new Zone Leader there.  Then he told Elder Cabelles (my current companion) that he will be training next transfer as well!  I was soo excited for hi that he will be training ALREADY!  That just means that he is already 10x the missionary I ever was.  It was actually kind of sad though to know that I am going to be transferred.  Elder Caballes has truly become my best friend out here, and we were really hoping that we would get another transfer together.  But I guess it's just not in the stars.
Myfriend and member named Wengie

Taken just before church
I am really excited for Elder Caballes because I know that he's going to do great things in life.  I don't just mean in the mission only, but throughout his whole life.  I know he will be a disciple of Christ until his last day.  I will have to sadly say goodbye to him tomorrow at 6:30 am and then I travel out to Masbate with all my luggage and stuff.  Also, Mom I don't need anything, I'm all good with what I have :) Elder Caballes will be left here in Libon to train...Thank goodness! So the good work will continue.  I just hope his new trainee realizes how lucky he is to have Elder Caballes as a trainer !!

With Aries Perez Leonor and other incredible members
I am really grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve here in Libon.  So much has happened for the good and I thank God for it every day.  I will miss the sweet people and members here and especially Aries Perez Leonor, one of the best and faithful members in this area!

I am glad to say that I actually know my new companion out in Masbate.  He use to be an assistant to the President, and he is one of the nicest guys ever.  I really don't know anything about the new area but I just heard it's a really good area.  I just hope and pray that the water is cleaner than it is here in Libon.  lol   I am grateful to get another good companion, but this is actually his last transfer, so I hope he stays focused on working hard :)

I think this might be all for this email this week.  Sorry that it was so short.  I love you all and hope you have an awesome week!

Love Elder Austin Cook

Meet Queenie, another sweet member here in Libon!
We helped clean the church again this last week, found these Helping Mormon Hands shirts and took some pictures

We took these all before heading to church yesterday.. First two are of me and Elder Caballes.  The six after that are of

This is Nanay Cerilo! She is a champ and by far another 
one of my favorite people in the branch here ).

The photos below were sent to my mom on Facebook from my incredible friend Aries Perez Leonor.  These are just some photos of just a few of my experiences in Libon!

Message from Elder Cooks Mom:

There is NOTHING BETTER in this world than receiving messages from people clear across the world letting you know how special your child is. These are blessings from our Heavenly Father and tender mercies from the Lord. I received this today from an incredible young man, Aries Perez Leonor, whom my son Elder Austin Cook has grown to love while serving in the Libon, Philippines area. This sweet young man sent me this today:

"It is my pleasure to help Elder Cook do the work of the Lord, your son is an amazing missionary, he really does value the people he met and encountered here. He really did a great job. We're gonna miss him for sure...actually I already miss him. He is like my younger brother, his influence really has affected many lives here specially to those he has taught and baptized.. we love him so much! I love him from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for raising such a great son... he would never be what he is now if it weren't for you, you did a great job as his parent so thank you so much...  I am so grateful that we crossed paths.  I am actually from Manila and moved here to Libon and it just so happened that Elder Cook and I arrived here in Libon at the same time and I believe Heavenly Father wanted us to meet and help each other grow spiritually...your son reminds me of what I was like during the time I was serving my mission. He is such a loving friend and a brother.  I am the youngest of three brothers and Elder Cook, Elder Caballes and the two other missionaries from our branch are like my younger brothers and it makes me happy.  Saying goodby was never an easy thing to do but I am grateful for his love for us.. like you said we are eternal friends.. I would like to consider him as my brother from white parents... haha.  Last night they visited me in the cafe where I work to bid farewell and at first I just felt a normal feeling cause I know missionaries just come and go but talking about him right now makes me sad because I am gonna miss that funny, witty, adorable and loving friend and brother, I have teary eyes right now but I am sure he will be a blessing to those people waiting for him in Masbate, just like he was a blessing to all of us here in Libon.  I am sad because he plays the organ in our branch but we don't have him as our pianist anymore.  He helped us to have a wonderful sacrament meeting by playing the organ and I know for sure that all of us are going to miss him and his music! I served in Cagayan De Oro Philippines Mission the northern part of Mindanao.  All of the missionaries there were Filipino due to terrorist not liking foreigners, but it was a great place.  I told him a lot of my beautiful missionary experiences hoping that it will inspire him to enjoy his work even if it's hard.  Elder Cook already has a Filipino accent and is very good in speaking Tagalog.  Every single person they talk to are so amazed to hear a white guy speaking our language fluently.  It's really cool and hilarious seeing their facial reactions every time Elder Cook speaks  I am also fruit of missionary work.  I was baptised when I was 19 and since that time I promised myself to love and help missionaries do the Lords work, that is the reason why I served a full time mission.  My father and I are the only members of the church in our family and I am trying everything to set the best example I can and convince my brothers to also join the church.  My mom passed away last year but I am now working on her baptism by proxy hoping that she will accept it on the other side of the veil.  I love my family and I will never get tired showing them my love for the gospel." ♥ 

Eating with Aries night before my transfer

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I've really come to the point that I don't want to leave this area, but I will go wherever I'm called without complaint. I am very grateful for Elder Caballes and everything that he has taught me and helped me with.

This last week we did some of our best work yet and have OFFICIALLY established this area. We have baptisms lined up for literally every week in October and some for the first weeks of November, and all of them are very excited (about 15 in total). But the sad part is that I will probably be leaving this next week :( but at least I know that I am leaving the area in the very capable hands of Elder Caballes! By the way, just for the record, he's from a place called Baguio.

Nothing much happened this last week other than the usual work, and we found many new people who really want to hear our message and are very willing to accept our invitations to them. I've really come to the point that I don't want to leave this area, but I will go wherever I'm called without complaint. I am very grateful for Elder Caballes and everything that he has taught me and helped me with. He has by far been my best companion and I couldn't have asked for a better trainee/companion/friend. It's honestly going to be very hard to part with him.  I imagine if all missionaries had the love and drive that Elder Caballes does, this world would be much more prepared for the second coming of the Lord

So I guess I'll just highlight a couple of parts from last week. The best part is that we found three new families to teach, but I want to talk about the Renancia Family. The father, Santiago, had a stroke last February and because of that it is very difficult for him to walk and to talk to us. But we found him and his family last week while we were tracting. We actually found his 13-year-old daughter, April Joy, and she was very kind to us and kind of showed us around her "neighborhood" and introduced us to all of her neighbors that we could teach. She was actually very mature for her age so we asked her if she could introduce us to her family, which she was happy to do. So we taught their family, and turns out their mom actually left to Manilla last year and told them she wasn't ever going to come back, so now it's just Santiago and his four kids. But they accepted us into their home and we taught them and it was a very fantastic lesson in which they all listened really well. Santiago tries to speak to us sometimes but we don't really understand him because of the stroke, so sometimes April Joy has to translate for him. At the end of the lesson, I gave them a picture of Jesus that I had just so happened to be carrying that day for no real reason, and as soon as I gave it to them they ran and taped it to the wall in the center of their home. I really love them and we are going back to them today to teach them again. :)

Cleaning the church with investigators 
Also last Saturday we had a branch activity to clean our meetinghouse so that it's not so dirty for all of the visitors. And the best part is that three of our investigators came! We didn't even ask them to, they just told us they were coming to help us clean. To be honest, we didn't actually believe them, but then BOOM they showed up and wow that was a huge surprise haha.  Oh also when we were cleaning the church, we have this kitchen in the upstairs that NO ONE uses because it is so disgustingly dirty. But I took on the challenge of trying to clean it by myself and the entire time I was like "Oh man, I wish mom was here she's a champion at this stuff. She would have this done perfectly in like 10 minutes"

But that's all I have time to type out today! I'll send some pictures of this week (even though I didn't take that many, sorry Mom) Love you all and hope ya'll have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook

Family home evening at the Cerilo Family! They are members
in the branch and by far one of my favorite families :)

Sometimes we take pictures for no reason, so I really
don't remember what we were doing in these pictures.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

To be honest I don't really even remember much of what happened this week, awesome right??

But I know that our work is going well! Just the other day, we had a random investigator show up at church who we only taught once and that was like two months ago. She's 16 years old and came to church with another one of our investigators, and then after church, her and two other of our investigators decided to join in on a church choir practice! It was actually really funny because they didn't know the songs at all, they just thought it would be a fun way to get involved in the church I guess. So yes, our investigators are doing well!

So transfer day comes up in about 2 more weeks, which means in about two weeks, I will most like be leaving this area. It feels like I've only been here for about two months, so I guess time is moving pretty fast. I remember when I came into this area, I had the worst attitude about it. Between the companion and the difficulty of the work, I just wanted to leave the area. But fast forward 6 months later, and I could easily stay in this area for the rest of my mission. That's how it was in Irosin as well, I could have stayed there forever (Except Irosin has a more special place in my heart). I love this area and the people that I've met and the relationships I've made, and I especially love Elder Caballes, he's a champion. I'll be really sad if I don't get to stay with him for another transfer, but hey, I know it's all in God's hands.

It's interesting to go around all day and get a really close look into so many people's lives. We really get to see what makes people happy, what makes them sad, what makes them excited, satisfied, hopeless, loved, etc. And I can say with confidence and conviction that it is our message that makes these people find true happiness. One of our investigators just said to us yesterday, "Elders, I've lost my home, I had a stroke, and my husband was killed just earlier this year, but somehow I am happy. I don't know what you two have done to me, but I am so happy now." Well it's because she finally has a perspective that she has never had before. We have opened her eyes and she has found that source of eternal happiness. It makes me so sad when people reject us without even giving us a chance to tell them what it is we have, they are voting against their own happiness by rejecting us. I wish that everyone could just accept what we are teaching because it is the truth, and I love inviting everyone to learn what we have to teach because it has blessed my life and has blessed the life of my family.

I guess that'll be my short little email this week, but I love you all and hope you all stay well this week :)
Elder Austin Cook

Following is some photos from our activity today!