Sunday, January 7, 2018

Chillin laid back wit mah eyes closed
Let's give some quick updates shall we? Sorry, I haven't sent out a group email in about three weeks (things get busy with the holidays). But in the past three weeks Elder Del Pilar and I have been KILLING IT in our work, and we are finding much more success because we are working a lot more efficiently. We aren't working any harder, we are just working smarter (because we realized that some of our methods of planning and such were pretty much useless haha). 

But last week we finally witnessed the baptism of Nanay Angelina Ramos and Tatay Jimmy Ramos! They were probably one of the most difficult baptisms We've had out here. Not because of their problems, however, but because of their literal lack of education. We have been teaching them nearly every day for the past two months because if we miss even one day, they completely forget what we taught. I remember when we taught them about tithing, we had to teach them how to divide by 10 so that they could actually pay tithing. After that, they STILL didn't understand, so we had to teach it three more times... But such is life in the Philippines haha. Anyways, after all of our teaching, they FINALLY got baptized! And they have about five or six children to be baptized in the next couple of months, so we are very excited for that.

Aside from that family and their baptisms, we are still searching high and low looking for those that will accept us. Our goal is to set up this area so that after we leave, the following missionaries can have weekly baptisms. So far, it seems to be set up pretty well. 

This seems like an appropriate time to insert a fun story. We walking down the street and
there was a vendor frying empenadas in a big bowl of oil. Right as she was frying them, this HUGE flying cockroach landed right in with the empenadas and got fried to death. In the meantime, the girl nonchalantly removed the cockroach and continued frying her food to sell to the people... Maybe that's the reason we are told not to buy street foods. The best part of the story: we still bought from that vendor haha!

Transfer announcements came last Saturday, and turns out I will be staying in Masbate for another 6 weeks! Which means that I will spend a total of 6 months here in Masbate, just like my past two areas. That also means that Elder Del Pilar and I will be spending a total of four and a half months together as a companionship - my longest time spent with a companion. My time is going by so fast here, especially now that I have 7 months left. I know it's still a  long time, but I also know that once it's over, it's over, and there is no going back. Therefore, I am trying my best to make it all count and not skip any of the seconds. Time is the most valuable and precious
Found some stuff for a face mask in some of the
elders apartment. I did this one time at a friends
house before I came out here, so I decided to try it again
thing we have as missionaries, so we don't have a minute to spare out here. 

Love Elder Cook

Got bored one P-Day, so Elder Del Pilar made a
 tower with his spare change. I wanted to make a
whole utopian city, but we didnt have enough coins
Mastering the art of palm tree climbing

Inside of some of the elder's apartment

Scenery in my area

My process to go to sleep. I cover my sleeping pad
with baby powder, place a fan at my feet and just
crash. This is actually my first time using a pillow
in about a year

The Ramos Family

scenery in my area
Us with some of the members of the Ramos family.
On the left is Marimar, the lady behind me is Nanay,
and the one on the right is Rowena

This high-tech, 21st century medical care
that no other country can beat

This is where we buy our fruit. Sometimes you find cockroaches
climbing around on it, but only if you're lucky

View from another apartment

Local peoples homes in my area

When it's raining, literally NO ONE goes outside

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dear parents of Legazpi Mission,

We wish you a merry Christmas. Thanks for giving us the gift of your sons and daughters.  They are the best and are serving the Lord well. 

With love,
President and Sister Kotter

you can find me in the bottom photo far left middle row :) 


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Last week was great! On Tuesday we traveled to get to a Conference with Elder Hayne of the 70, and it was really a great conference! He talked about the gathering of scattered Israel, and how it is our job and calling as missionaries to find this "scattered Israel." As of now, he said, our mission is doing a pretty bad job at finding, but he gave us some great ways to find the elect in each of our areas. One of the problems that this mission is having is that all of the missionaries are wasting a lot of time teaching people that will NEVER progress, and we are just trying to force them to change. Elder Hayne made the point that, "when you find scattered Israel, everything is easy." Meaning that they accept all of our invitations to read the book of mormon, go to church, and to be baptized, because they were already prepared before we even met them. He told us that simply FINDING these types of people is the hardest part, so we need to commit ourselves to finding through the members of the church and finding through referrals.

To be honest, if you're not a member of this church, the above paragraph probably made ABSOLUTELY no sense, and even if you ARE a member, it's probably confusing, but hey, I'm just giving updates on what I'm learning. Elder Del Pilar is really getting stronger desires to be obedient and work hard all day, and for that I am very proud of him. He has changed so drastically in just these past two months that I've been companions with him, and I really look up to him for that. We got home from the conference really ready to go out and start finding those who are prepared to receive us, but literally that whole day was just met with pure rejection. We actually thought it was really funny because we were SO pumped from the conference and had such a fire in our hearts to just get out and teach everyone, but we just fell HARD on our faces. But we aren't even a little discouraged, we are working just the same and will continue to work just the same until our last day.

Saturday there was a huge tropical storm that came through our island of Masbate, so we were kind of on lockdown that night and weren't allowed to leave our apartments. There were a lot of areas that flooded, but everyone was safe for the most part, nothing to dramatic happened. Oh and I'm sorry because I actually got some really good pictures this last week, but I LEFT MY SD CARD AT THE APARTMENT AGAIN. Oh well, ya'll will get those next week. But until then, take care and have a merry Christmas!!

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