Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elder Maliu, is headed home today, and it's a really weird feeling, even though it's not even me going home.

This week has been weird to say the least. So my companion, Elder Maliu, is headed home today, and it's a really weird feeling, even though it's not even me going home. Just to think that missionaries actually GO HOME makes me feel different, I don't really know how to explain it, it's just an odd feeling. I feel really bad for him too because he's taking it really hard and is really sad about going home. Although he's going through an emotional roller coaster, It's not affecting the work at all, but I wish I could be better at consoling him in his time of struggle, but I have no idea what's even going on in his mind :(

But the work this week, we found about 15 new people to teach. The problem, however, is that when we find new investigators and set a return appointment to teach them again, they just hide from us when we come back. No matter HOW NICE they are in the first visit, there's like a ninety percent chance that they will hide from us on the second visit, so it's a little frustrating, but hey, we just smile and laugh about it! That seems to be the biggest struggle in this area though. President Kotter told us that because we are the Zone Leaders, we are supposed to be the "Lighthouse Area" for all of the other missionaries, but despite our best efforts, our area refuses to progress. Yesterday we were supposed to have about 5 people show up for church, but all of them canceled that morning, so we were kind of bummed. But again, we aren't getting down on it, Elder Maliu and I are still killing it at this missionary work.

I am very grateful to have had Elder Maliu as a companion, even if it was for just a short 6 weeks. He's leaving later today to head back home to Australia, and this mission is really going to miss him. Even though I was with him for such a short time, we really became good friends in only a couple of days. I remember on the second day of our companionship we were just laughing all day and for that entire week we just had a late night talk every night, discussing literally every subject that we could cover. He has quickly become one of my best friends, which is good because he is my 6th companion (which means that his personality is the personality of my future wife) But I really hope he does well back in Australia, seeing that I probably won't see him again in this life. I know he's gonna do well and I fully expect to see him again in the Celestial.

This next transfer is going to bring a lot of changes, but I am confident that I can handle it. I'll be training a new Zone Leader, which is going to be interesting because I don't even know fully how to be a Zone Leader, but I'll do what I am called to do. Wish me luck, pray for me, and I'll pray for you! Love you all, take care this week!

Elder Austin Russell Cook

Monday, October 9, 2017

We need to focus on the Gospel and see through the lenses of reality, or the lenses of the gospel, rather than the lenses of the world.

This is a style of eating here in the Philippines.
You just throw a ton of rice and food on these
banana leaves and den ya all just eat it wif ya hands.
Yeah, we is kind of like monkeys here lol
This past week was an interesting one to say the least. So last Monday, right after we got done emailing, we headed out to Legaspi to the training meeting for leaders. It was a good meeting seeing that they taught some really good principles for us and such that we can hopefully apply to our zone.

I don't know why but this week is just kind of fuzzy. I guess some weeks are just like that though. Up until General Conference started, our work was super slow, we just didn't have our heads in the game as much as we should have, and it definitely showed in our weekly report to President Kotter. But once General Conference came last Saturday, it was such a needed relief to just sit in the chapel and listen to the words of the Apostles and Prophets of our time.

The theme that I noticed for this last General Conference was that we need to not focus so much on what the world is doing, because if we do that, then we are sure to see ourselves as worthless and not good enough, because that is how the things of the world make us feel. Instead, we need to focus on the Gospel and see through the lenses of reality, or the lenses of the gospel, rather than the lenses of the world. I've really been trying to focus on how I can become a better person and see people for who they really are. Sometimes I have the habit of seeing people and just looking at their bad side, but I've been putting in the effort to see the progress people have made in their lives, or really see the good things in them. I'll tell you what, it's quite the effort, but it makes the world a much brighter place.
Anyways, I know that this church is true. We had the opportunity of attending another church last Friday. They presented a broadcast in which the leader of their church spoke to all of their members (much like our General Conference) and to be honest, the spirit was lacking so much. Compare that feeling to the next day, in our general conference, when we got to listen to real Apostles and real Prophets speak the word of the Lord, and we saw a huge contrast. If you have the knowledge and understanding of the background of our church, it's so simple to see that this is really the only true religion here on the earth. It's the only place where you can find the fullness of the Gospel and the full Plan of Salvation.

That's it for now, the internet is really slow, so I can't email much, but as usual
I love you all, Ingat kayo!
Elder Austin Cook

Me and Elder Semaning 

Our district here in Masbate

Chapel in Legaspi w/a volcano (Mount Mayon) in the background

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Some days it's kind of difficult, but it all works out in the end.

Just Walking
Hello, so I don't have like any time this week to email because we have to travel all the way out to Legazpi, so we have like 6 hours of traveling ahead of us today. But this last week was just full of finding people to teach. Literally, in order to find people to teach, we just tract all day every day. Some days it's kind of difficult, but it all works out in the end.

Our best finding experience of the week was finding a young couple, Bon and Ilene, who were very interested in our message. Ilene is basically on the hunt of a lifetime just searching for Christ's true religion and told us that she has gone to almost every single church except for "Mormons," so she really wanted us to teach her and her husband. We sat down in their home and taught them about the Restoration, and about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they absolutely loved it. They had so many questions (and not the type of questions that are challenging, but truly sincere, soul-searching questions) and we tried our best to answer them all. In the end, we just left them a Book of Mormon and told them to read some pages and we would return next week to give them an explanation about all of it. They were really excited to read it.

Other than that, we have just been searching for people who will receive us. Between all of the interesting people we have found to teach, we are really enjoying the work. And even though Elder Maliu only has 13 days left on the mission, he's still a hardworking kid, and I really respect that. But that's all I have time for this week! Love you all!

A part member family that we love visiting
Elder Austin Cook

Us while emailing you now

 I don't even know, we just found this in a house we taught at

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Hey! Elders! Come to my house! Teach me!" If we come unto Christ, we will naturally become better people through Him, and that is the greatest part of our Gospel.

Hello to all and a Merry Christmas!! Oh yeah, that's a fun thing they do here in the Philippines. They start celebrating Christmas stuff in September. They just say that they celebrate Christmas in all of the -BER months haha.

So this week was just full of a lot of finding and such. It feels like I just moved into my last area again. I remember when I got transferred to Libon we literally only had one investigator to teach, and that investigator wasn't even interested in the church. That's kind of how it is here as well, so we are working really hard to get more and more investigators. This past week we found a total of 16, but only about 8 of those are promising, so we will see where that goes.

One super cool experience of last week was with an old man named Emilio. We were tracting in this one area that we have, and this random old guy called out to us from nowhere and said, in English, "Hey! Elders! Come to my house! Teach me!" He really struggled getting those sentences out in English, so we spoke with him in Tagalog and he literally just started walking to his house without any further explanation, so we decided it would be best to follow him. He lives pretty deep within this one community, but when we finally arrived to his house we asked him why he wanted to teach us, and he just said because he knew that God would bless him if we taught him. This past week we have taught him a total of 3 times, and he has read the Book of Mormon every day and absolutely loves it! We asked him who his favorite characters were and he goes, "Well obviously, Nephi and Lehi!" He absolutely loves The Book of Mormon. Our next goal with him is to just get his wife involved in the lessons, because she's always at work when we teach him. But fear not, her time will come.

Elder Maliu and I have changed our tracting approach to a new and improved version of the Restoration lesson. We teach the whole thing in about 5 minutes and we've really just cranked it down to the pure doctrine of the Restoration, and by the end of the lesson, we are really able to tell who is prepared to receive this message and who is not. It's amazing finding the people who are interested in this message and in this gospel. I really love it and I think it's interesting to see that what the Prophets and Apostles say is absolutely true: The Book of Mormon is the foundation of our testimony in this Gospel. I've really come to believe (Before my mission I would just say it but not believe it) that if a person reads the book of Mormon with a real intent to change themselves, not just to read it but to ACTUALLY try and become a better person through it, it will happen and they will come to know that the book and the message it contains is true. Our message is not only that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, but our message is that through this Gospel we can truly find a way to change ourselves to become something better than we ever thought we could. As Moroni invites every one of us to do in the last chapter in the Book of Mormon, "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him." If we come unto Christ, we will naturally become better people through Him, and that is the greatest part of our Gospel.

I love you all and I have finally got some pictures to send to you! Have a great week!

These are all just some pictures in our area. The area is so beautiful and surrounded by beaches :) The big black guy is my companion, Elder Maliu, and the little Filipino is the 19 year old guy who always works with us, Brayan Ramirez, and is always smiling

Friday, September 22, 2017

Turns out there was a typhoon while we were riding the Row Row! Fun stuff right?

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