Sunday, August 13, 2017

Got these dope sunglasses my mom sent me
in my package. From left to right Elder Caballes,
Elder Semaning, Elder Alutaya, & I.
So this week was fantastic kids. On Tuesday we had this thing called a "Cluster Conference" in which like half of the mission gathered together to listen to President and Sister Kotter speak to us. Their focus on this cluster conference was planning correctly and learning how to find people to teach correctly. It was nice, but that was kind of mine and Elder Caballes' strong suit, so we didn't really get as much out of it. But it was nice to sit in the air conditioning for a whole day!

Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Hoecherl, who is companions with Elder Duerme. They live in the house with us, so we always work together on stuff. Anyways, it was a really nice day working with him, just two Americans hittin the city and such. But we actually ran into a guy who I had never met before named Michael Pines. He apparently was baptized like FOREVER ago, but he told us that he went inactive about 15 years ago because of some huge mistakes that he had made in the church and the guilt just scared him from going back to church. Anyways, I started talking to him while Elder Hoecherl was talking to some other family nearby about our message. But Michael opened right up to me, telling me that he wants to change and that his past 15 years has basically been hell because of the guilt. But he wants so badly to change and after our long conversation, he thinks now would be an appropriate time to start. I had no idea why he opened up like that to me (seriously, I had never even met him before) but I'm glad he did because I was able to help him and show him that we would be there for him in anything he needs.

Our incredible investigator Maria Christina Saya
Thursday we only got two lessons in the morning with Maria Christina Saya and her niece, Judy Ann Saya. We taught about the Book of Mormon and why it is so important for all of us to read and understand. Maria Christina has quickly become one of my favorites, and she always calls us her sons. I remember when we first met her about two months ago, her life seemed so dark and dreary, and she just had this depressed look about her. But now that she's been doing what we ask her to do and finally went to church last Sunday, her whole countenance has changed and she is always smiling. I swear her face gotten brighter.

We had been walking for about 30 min and just got board
Friday we taught the Docot family and Maria Christina Saya came along because she wanted to listen as well. Well we ended up showing the restoration video, which is basically a little 20 min video about the life of Joseph Smith. Anyways, after we showed the video, they finally understood what we claim as missionaries. They finally understood that we claim that THIS is literally the ONLY true church on the face of the earth. While others may be nice and happy, this is the only one that Christ himself established. Once they understood that we extended the invitation to be baptized on October 7, which they all happily accepted! We are so excited for all of them!

On Sunday we finally saw Maria Christina Saya at church for the first time, and let me tell ya what, that was a hard one to accomplish. But it happened and she had an amazing experience!

Just helping some random people move their 
pumpkins from off the street
This past week has really been awesome! Everything here is still hot and still sweaty (honestly I thought I would just stop sweating after a while, but I guess it just never goes away) but we are still loving it! Being a District Leader is great and I love all of the missionaries in the District. They all have some baptisms coming up as well, so I'm super excited for all of them.

So that's all for now folks. I wish I could explain even 15% of what really happens here, but I guess I'll save it for when I get home to tell you all :) Anyways, I love you guys and hope yalls have a great week!


Elder Austin Cook





Monday, August 7, 2017

Now that both members of the companionship are being obedient and truly loving the work, people just walk up to us on the daily asking if we can teach them and their children

Alright so we FINALLY had the baptism of three of our investigators this week! Sister Lilia Cerdena, Estanley Arao, and Connie Sabas. Their baptism went great and they really really loved it!

Baptism day
This last week Elder Caballes and I have been working hard as usual! It's really funny, now that both members of the companionship are being obedient and truly loving the work, people just walk up to us on the daily asking if we can teach them and their children. In fact, just yesterday we had a woman named Evelyn walk up to us and asked us for a pass along card and told us to come and teach her family so that they can all go to church. So yeah, I'm really loving this area right now!

Baptism day with Estanley Arao


So we have been teaching this one lady named Maria Christina Saya. I've mentioned her before, she's the lady whose husband was basically beheaded in front of her a couple of months ago. Anyways, she has been absolutely LOVING our lessons and the Book of Mormon, and she really has been feeling the spirit when we teach. But last week for some reason she told us that she can't continue listening to us because of "Personal reasons." Well we remembered the last time that happened to us with the Docot family, and we were determined to not have a repeat, so we called her and told her that we would visit one last time and she hesitantly agreed. We went over there and I guess we just asked the perfect questions for her to open up to us. Honestly her reason for not wanting to listen was so sweet. She told us that our lessons and the Book of Mormon have been infinitely helpful in her life, but she knows that we missionaries get transferred around a lot, so she knew that we will eventually leave. She said that Elder Caballes and I are just a perfect team, and that she can see and feel our kindness and love for others, and she said that we are like her sons, so she said that she doesn't want to get too close to us and have it hurt too much when we leave. It really was such a sweet thing coming from the honesty of her heart, but we were able to comfort her and explain to her that even though we might leave, the other members in the church won't and that she will create eternal friendships in the branch in Libon. She really took courage with that and has agreed to continue following what we ask her to do. Even though I'm probably going to get transferred in a couple of weeks, I really believe that she will become a very strong member of the church.

On our way to the baptism
That's really all I wanted to tell about this week! Being a District Leader is really a blessing in my mission and I just LOVE having the opportunity to help all of the missionaries in the District! Every week their work is getting better and better and they are all becoming more and more obedient, I really do love them all!


That's it for this week. I love you all and will update you all again in another short week!

Elder Austin Cook




I dunno... just for fun

Just for fun
super silly selfies
silly selfies

who knows...

photos of our apartment






our apartment ... no air and really hot and humid

our abode

This is actually the area where we sleep. We just lay our little 
pads down on the floor and sleep their with all of the fans



Sunday, July 30, 2017

Being District Leader is awesome because it gives me such a great opportunity to get closer to the lives of all of the missionaries in the District.

Hey ya'll, how is everyone doing? This past week has really been quick, and has been as great as ever!

This is Monique. She's a Return missionary and 
is by far one of my favorites in the branch. 
She's like my sister here, so yeah, she's pretty dope.
So last Monday, literally RIGHT as we got done emailing, we got a text that our branch president's wife had passed away. She has had a REALLY nasty heart disease for the past 5 years that kind of makes it so that she can't even move and literally every breath is painful. So to be honest we were really shocked about it and were really sad, but then when we showed up to President's house he was joking and laughing and getting excited because, in his words, he can finally get married again. He really loved her and took care of her, but we think her heart disease was just a huge trial and burden in his life as well, so he's probably relieved that she's finally in that better place.

The rest of the week was just normal missionary work. Our only problem is that we have A
Having a little fun
TON of people that we want to teach, but it's a bunch of mothers and their kids. Of course, that's not a problem, but as missionaries we have a rule that if we want to teach anyone, there needs to be at least one more male present who is 18 years or older. So there's a lot of people to teach, we just don't have that male presence that we need, so it's kind of bumming us out a little. But we aren't worried  in the least, we always have hope and are always smiling!

We have ourselves several baptisms lined up for this Saturday, so life's going great. Being District Leader is awesome because it gives me such a great opportunity to get closer to the lives of all of the missionaries in the District. Most of the District Leaders that I know hate their calling, but I absolutely love it! All of the missionaries did much better this week than in previous weeks, so I'm proud of them all.


I'm in the middle and Elder Hoecherl is in the blue sweater
That's all for now folks! This week will hopefully bring miracles and awesomeness (Of course, we always need awesomeness) 

Love you all, Ingat kayo!!
Elder Austin Cook

ps:  So Elder Hoecherl is one of my roommates and he found out it was my birthday on the 29th and bought us a cake and stuff, so hes great!




 Elder Caballes 


with my awesome companion

having some fun

Selfie before coming to email today




This is called Fiesta. It's a HUGE event. There are a 
ton of street dancers, bands and stuff literally all day. 
One band group of street dancers can last about 2 hrs

We had to carry a bunch of chairs across the river.
This guy who is carrying 10 chairs...Yeah, hes a grandpa,
about 68 years old.





Monday, July 24, 2017

A lady we teach, after learning about the Celestial Kingdom, said, "I really like going to church because it makes me feel like I'm in the Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father." That was one of the sweetest things I've heard since coming on my mission.

Alright so tons of fun stuff happened this week and I am really excited to actually email about it! 

Just this river that we have to cross every now and then....
So we have been teaching the Docot family (this is actually the parents of the first Docot family who texted us and said they don't want us to teach them anymore) and they were really nice and really progressing and such, but one day we showed up and the father wasn't there and momma had kind of a black eye. We asked them how they were doing and apparently the dad had gotten drunk on Monday night and threw some fists at mom and then wrecked the house and stormed off and didn't tell them where he was going. That happened on Monday, and as far as we can tell, he hasn't come back, so we really don't know what to do there.

So the next day, which was Wednesday, we went to the original Docot family (who is the son of the Docot family mentioned above) to ask them why they didn't want us to visit them anymore. Well we walked up to their house and guess who the first person we see is? Yep, that's right, the dad who stormed out on his family on Monday night. Turns out he went to live with his son for a while. Anyways we got there and things just went really weird. The lady who texted us saying that she didn't want to listen anymore got really mad at us for coming back, but then her husband started yelling at her for getting mad at us because he actually really likes us, and then they got into an argument, and on and on and on. So yeah, things are complicated with the Docot family.  Still trying our best with them. 

picture of chariza cerilo's baptism last week 
But last Saturday we finally had a baptism of one of our investigators named Chariza Cerilo. She's only 19 but she has a child who is three years old (there's many young mothers like that here) so life is pretty rough for her. But she is married and lives with her husband’s family and they are all really strong members so she will be able to stay strong in the church with their influence

This last week we worked with our Branch Mission Leader, Brother Aries Leonor, to see what we need to improve in our area. He talked with us for a whole two hours giving us awesome advice on how we can improve and how we can do better in our area. Elder Caballes and I are VERY excited to start implementing his advice. 


Sunday we had 7 of our investigators come to church and they all love it there. One of the ladies that we teach, after learning about the Celestial Kingdom, told us, "I really like going to church because it makes me feel like I'm in the Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father." That was actually one of the sweetest things I've heard since coming on my mission. We have a lot of baptismal dates lined up with more to come hopefully! Overall, life is just great here. We are working hard and taking on almost more than we can handle, but we are getting better at it every day! I love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook



Don't ask me why but these people think it's a fantastic 
idea to just nail baby dolls to the front of their house. 
I guess it just gives it a homey look

Elder Hoecherl in the background

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Love is a decision." I've thought about that phrase so much in the past week. Love is not only a decision, but it is a conscious effort on our part.

For some reason, when I sit down at the computer it's so hard for me to remember exactly what happened in the last week. But this time I finally brought my journal, so hopefully I'll be able to be a little more descriptive this time.

On Tuesday we had this thing called "Trainer's Training," which is just a training seminar for all of the trainers in the mission. President Kotter and Sister Kotter both spoke to us as a group, and as usual, it was a great experience to have them uplift us with their words. One thing that I really thought was interesting was a quote that Sister Kotter gave to us: "Love is a decision." I've thought about that phrase so much in the past week, and it really is true. Love is not only a decision, but it is a conscious effort on our part.

Wednesday we had a lesson with a less-active family, the Concepcion Family. They are a very poor family and we are just trying to help them see how the Gospel can help them out with all of their problems, whether financial or not.

Thursday was actually the FIRST DAY with Elder Caballes in which we got absolutely zero lessons. But we weren't discouraged, some days that just happens.

Friday we had an amazing lesson with a new investigator of ours named Maria-Christina Saya. This was only the second time that we taught her, and she is so amazing. She told us of the hardest things in her life right now, which are threefold. She told us her hardships started last November when she had a stroke that kind of threw off the left side of her body, and even now she still walks with a limp. Then last December, on Christmas Day, her house got absolutely wrecked by a super typhoon that flooded this whole area. Shortly after that incident, her husband was killed right in front of her with a machete. So it's very obvious to see that she has almost more than she can bear right now. We have been teaching her about the Book of Mormon, and how the doctrine found in the Book of Mormon will help her find peace and joy, despite all of her horrible circumstances. She absolutely loves us visiting, and she told us that we are different and much greater than all of the other missionaries from other churches that come to her house, and told us that every time we leave her house, her mind is cleared completely and she has finally has peace of mind. she is such a choice spirit and I know that she will be changed by what we have to offer her.

Saturday we traveled out to a far area to teach Stanley Araw, who, even though we only gave it to him two weeks ago, has finished the Book of Mormon. The only problem with Stanley is that he might have a bit of a mental problem. He's had a very rough background as well which I won't get into, because I think it might be illegal to even mention, but he's had a broken soul before and he fully believes that this is the true church of Jesus Christ and he wants to associate himself with it. I believe that he will be baptized into the church soon enough.

Sunday was actually a great day, probably the best of this last week. We had 9 of our investigators come to church, and they all loved it! Every week is getting better and better, and the branch is becoming so much more involved in the missionary work and always asking us what they can do to help us out. Sunday we had another lesson with Maria-Christina Saya, which was equally as great as the others, a lesson with new investigators Judy-Ann and Amy, a lesson with Connie Sabas, and a great lesson with the Docot Family. Each one of those lessons was filled with the spirit and we brought a member with us, Brother Cedo, who bore very powerful testimony to each of them about the church.
 

I am very grateful for all of the miracles, both great and small, that have occurred in these past weeks with Elder Caballes. He is such a blessing to this area and to this mission and to my life. I know that it is because of our faith and obedience that we are witnessing these blessings in our area. I love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook

my incredible companion


Monday, July 10, 2017

Our area is great, Elder Caballes is seriously the best and wants to always work and obey the rules. It can't get much better than this :)

This week absolutely flew by and honestly I don't remember much from it because I don't think anything too significant happened...


Just a little contest going on :)
But everything is still as happy as ever! Even though we aren't getting many lessons in a week, our numbers are skyrocketing! We are just talking and helping everyone that we can, and people are coming to church and accepting baptismal dates and really progressing in the church :)

OH WAIT THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED!! We have been teaching this one couple (The Docot Family) and they have two children. The wife is actually inactive and has been since she was 15 years old, so she doesn't even remember the church at all. So we found her one day and were trying to reactivate her in the church, but it just was not working. Then we met her husband who became instantly involved and interested in our message, and even started reading the Book of Mormon! Anyways, we had some great lessons with them, and they just looked so amazing as a happy little family listening to the gospel and wanting to learn more, it really was heartwarming to see. But last Tuesday, sister Docot
taking votes...
sent us the most random, blunt text that I've probably ever received on the mission. In effect she said, "Hello Elders. Don't come to my house again, I don't want to listen to you anymore. Don't waste your time, just don't come." We were taken back so hard when we read that. Then we ran into her husband yesterday and he told us sorry, that he really wants us to come back, but he and his wife are fighting and she was the one who sent the text and not him. Sorry to tell you all, but there still isn't a happy ending to the story, but we are going to talk to Sister Docot today to see what's really going on. Hopefully it all goes well.

Anyways, our area is great, Elder Caballes is seriously the best and wants to always work and obey the rules. It can't get much better than this :) Alright, I love you all, talk to you next week! :)

Elder Austin Cook



















#Team Yellow
Highest class of toilets

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Every day our work is progressing, and there are people literally walking up to us saying they want to come to our church, or they want to be baptized, or they want us to teach them. I know that this is what happens when you work together in a companionship to be worthy enough to have at least a portion of God's spirit with you

So this week has been full of amazement and pure awesome!

I wanna describe one of our visits with our investigator that I mentioned last week named Stanley Araw (The guy who had the vision.) We went deep into the mountains again to teach him and when we arrived, he welcomed us so excitedly, saying that he had read the pamphlet that we gave him that explains the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained how much he loved it and how much he learned, and because of his diligence in understanding our message, we proceeded to teach him about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He loved it all and understood everything we taught as well as accepted to be baptized on the 5th of August. After the lesson ended we gave him a Book of Mormon and he just stared at it like it was a gift from God himself. He then declared with the utmost confidence that he will finish reading the book before his baptism date. He then gave us a closing prayer that lasted about 15 minutes in which he thanked God for Joseph Smith and for Moroni because he hid the golden plates for Joseph Smith to find, and thanked God for the Bible and for us missionaries and for pretty much everything he could thank God for. It was a really sweet prayer, and I really felt his sincerity.

We also had a lesson with one of our investigators named Connie Sabas, who is about 65 years old. We basically had the same lesson that we had with Stanley, and she had the SAME REACTION, saying that she would finish the Book of Mormon before her baptismal date, which is the same as Stanley's.

Elder Cook as he got up to play the closing hymn at the end of Sacrament Meeting
There are tons more stories that I really want to tell you all about, but I just don't have the time, and ya'll probably wouldn't have the time to read it. But it suffices me to say that every day our work is progressing, and there are people literally walking up to us and saying that they want to come to our church, or they want to be baptized, or they want us to teach them. I know that this is just what happens when you can work together in a companionship to be worthy enough to have at least a portion of God's spirit with you. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Austin Cook