Sunday, November 12, 2017

We are writing some letters to get permission from the area officials in order to use certain facilities in the city to present some videos and put on a Christmas show for the people in Masbate.

So only half of this last week was actually spent in our area, and the other half was spent in the area of the Assistants to President in Legazpi. But in the half week of work that we got, I thought it wasn't too bad. We have been really working with the leaders in the church to get some awesome activities set up in order to find new people to teach, but the leaders seem to be moving pretty slow with all of it, so we are just gonna have to take the initiative ourselves to work it out if they won't work with us. We are writing some letters to get permission from the area officials in order to use certain facilities in the city to present some videos and put on a Christmas show for the people in Masbate.

Last Tuesday we went to Legazpi to have MLC again, so we were able to receive some great direction from President Kotter. Also I got some more letters from Twinkle and her family, so those always make me happy because I know that at least they haven't forgotten about me!

Last week we had an area realignment with the Sisters in our Zone, which means that we took a part of their area so that we can proselyte in it. In that area that we just took from them, we found a whole new family of investigators, the Ramos Family,, and right away they came to church with us! Just yesterday we stopped by their house to pick them up and we walked with them all the way to church, and we have another return appointment with them tomorrow, so we hope that it will go well.

We also have been working with a less-active girl named Rea this past week. Actually we have been working with her for the past two months, and she has yet to come to church again. She has opened up to us saying that she WANTS to come back to church because she really misses it, but she is just having a problem working up the courage to actually make the journey back to church. But yesterday she FINALLY came back to church! She only stayed for the first hour, but hey, we gotta start somewhere right? We really hope that she will continue to progress towards becoming active in the church again.

Last night we met with the Cantre family for the first time. They are a less-active family that was baptized about a year ago, but it has been a really long time since they have had any contact with the church. We only met with the mother, Melissa, and talked with her about why they stopped coming to church. She explained that they ARE going to church-just not our church. They have found their way back to their Catholic traditions and roots and no longer have the desire to come back to church. She refused to accept it, but her life seems to have gone significantly downhill ever since they left. Her husband used to have a smoking and drinking problem which went away when they joined the church, but we saw some cigarettes hidden in the roof in their house, so obviously that problem has come back. Also her husband does not treat her well at all and always yells and gets mad at her and the kids. We just hope that we can somehow show her that we can help her through the Gospel. But as sad experience shows, once members go less-active, it is so much more difficult to bring them back to church.

Love you all,
Elder Austin Cook

Love you all, life is hard, but it's also very good

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!

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

Hey kids, so this week was pretty fantastic, if I don't say so myself. This was the hardest working week I've had in this area by a longshot: We tracted almost all day every day and literally talked to everyone we could to find new investigators and share the gospel. And guess what happened? That's right boys, we got ZERO lessons! I think it's kind of funny though, no big deal. That's actually the second week in a row that that has happened to us, so we are starting to think that maybe tracting isn't our best bet here in this area. But because we have been punted for these two solid weeks, we are really digging down looking for new ideas in finding people to teach and the ideas we have come up with thus far are:
1. City wide film showings in which we put on a performance and show Christmas videos for the people
2. Go caroling with the members here
3. Teach at schools (like actually enter into the classrooms and teach the students)
And we have like a ton of other ideas, but it's hard to explain to people that aren't missionaries haha.

ANYWAYS, elder Del Pilar and I are really doing great in our companionship, we get along super well! This last week we had a lot of stuff happen in the zone that we needed to deal with (just some problems and such) that was kind of a hindrance to our work. But today we are headed to Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi to see what kind of things we need to learn as leaders in order to help our zone progress. We are very excited for it.

We talked to an older lady last week while we were traveling around, and we got to the topic of the after life. We asked her what she imagines when she thinks of the after life and her answer was really interesting. She told us that we will all just be friends (no families there) and no one talks to each other. We just stare. No speaking. But we will still be happy just staring at each other. We asked "Well why don't we talk to one another?" She said "Well there's nothing to talk about!" We then asked, "Well what exactly do you think we will be doing when we get there?" And she said, "Oh you know, just praying and being happy."

I am so glad that the truths of our after life were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because of the Restoration of the Gospel, we know that the after life is significantly more hopeful than what this older woman described to us. We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

I love you all and will email again in another short week! (Sorry no pictures, I just didn't take any last week. Too busy with the work)
Elder Austin Cook

Monday, October 23, 2017

This week was actually really tough when it came to the work. We don't have many investigators, and I'm still really new to this whole Zone Leader thing, yet here I am trying to train someone to be a Zone Leader, so it's rough stuff. Needless to say, this last week was pretty scattered with our list of things to do as the transfer began, but hey, we are doing our best. Elder Del Pilar is having a tough time leaving his last area because he loved the members a lot and the work over there was progressing really well, and I don't think he enjoys this area too much because we are kind of building the area from the ground up. That seems to be the theme of my mission: Arrive to a new area, realize that there's no teaching pool at all, and then get to work and start building it up. So we're just trying to find new people that are really interested in the Gospel that we are sharing.

One cool thing that happened is that last week on Wednesday we were able to go on a radio show in order to introduce ourselves and who we are a little bit. We also announced our English class that we are teaching every Tuesday and Thursday, so that was pretty good advertisement. The radio station is apparently the most listened to station here in Masbate (but I'm not sure that really means much) so we are hoping that it gets the message out there.

Our English class is actually pretty successful as well. Last Thursday we had about 20 people attend (only like 5 were investigators though) and we are hoping that more will be coming in future days.

That's the short email for today, sorry, this week was kind of lame when it came to the work and such. Hopefully we will be more organized this week in order to find more investigators. Alright I love you all, take care!
Elder Austin Cook

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