Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Nothing short of the hand of God

Hey kids I'm getting transferred. I'll be leaving this Tuesday morning to a new area called Daraga and will be the new Zone Leader out there. It's an area that's pretty close to the volcano, so at least I'll be able to get some cool shots out of it! I don't know what to expect in this next area, but I know that it's definitely a bigger city than here in Masbate, and I assume that this will be my last area before I head home, but I don't know what God's plans are.

This last week was really weird, because last Wednesday we had interviews with President Kotter in the mainland in which he told us that BOTH Elder Del Pilar and I were going to be transferred. We were kind of shocked because two missionaries don't usually get pulled out unless they did something disobedient. But President Kotter told us that we didn't do anything wrong, he just feels that the area needs a fresh start... Well, I'll still be a Zone Leader and Elder Del Pilar is going to be a branch president on an island called Catanduanes, so we were assured that we didn't do anything wrong because obviously President still trusts us.

On our way back from interviews we had a really neat experience on the Roro. The roro took us back
Chillin at the pier
to Masbate from the mainland at about 10:00 PM, so we left really late and got home at about 3:00 AM. Normally Elder Del Pilar and I just sleep on the roro because it's a really big boat and there's nothing to do, and obviously we were really tired because it was late, but it just so happened that there were two younger girls about the age of 20 looking for some places to sit on the boat. We moved around some of our stuff to make room so they could sit down, and so they did. Now, Elder Del Pilar and I HATE talking to girls our age out here, because they ALWAYS get the wrong idea when a foreigner talks to them, but when we gave them some room to sit down, we were instantly launched into a conversation that lasted the entirety of the boat ride, yes, five hours. When we first tried to teach them/get them interested in the Restoration, they just kind of laughed, but after we persisted, they actually got pretty interested and started bombarding us with questions about the Restoration, the Gospel, and the Plan of Salvation. Long story short, in the span of 5 hours we pretty much covered the full content of all of the basic missionary lessons in detail. We assumed that they were from Masbate and we were about to get trasnferred, so we figured we wouldn't see them again after that, but we decided to ask them where they were from anyways. Well, turns out the one girl is actually from my hometown Irosin! And the other girl is from Masbate, but the cool thing is that they are both studying in a college in Daraga right now, which is my new area! So we got their numbers and I told them that I will contact them as soon as I get to Daraga, and they said it would be totally fine with them if we continued to teach them. How perfectly did that all line up right? Nothing short of the hand of God. I just hope that we actually can CONTINUE to teach them in Daraga.

Family home evening w/ Martinez family & the Ibanez family
I'll be very sad this transfer day to leave the Ibanez family, the family that we just found while tracting a couple of months ago. They are so amazing, and they absolutely LOVE living the principles we teach them. Brother Livino told us that before we taught them, he used to get very mad very easily, and his wife, Shannie, agreed with that. She said that one time she remembers that he came home with blood on his feet and with a machete in his hand... We didn't inquire further about that incident haha. But if you were to meet Livino now you would NEVER think he was like that: he is the most cool headed, humble, loving man that I've met out here. And they just want to be baptized so bad, so I'm sad that I won't be here to continue to witness their progress :(

But that's my life this week! Good luck to the next elders in this area (One of them is Elder Semaning who is literally my best friend out here. He was my roommate in irosin).

P.S. So my boy Elder Cabellas, is gonna be presidents assistant, which means that he will be giving ME training when we go on exchanges! I think it's awesome haha.

Me and Brother Garganta. This guy is flippin hilarious
so I had to get a picture with him before I left.

This girl was actually taught by Fraser Lefevre before.
She called us randomly & now she wants to be baptized!

Monday, February 12, 2018


Just kidding. I put that as the Title heading just to scare my mom. Love ya mom!

We got some interesting work done this last week. Transfers are a week away, and I think I might be getting transferred to another area, but we'll just wait and see. Elder Del Pilar really wants to get out of this area... Poor guy is dying out here haha. 

Update on the Ramos family: Tatay Jimmy has COMPLETELY gone apostate and won't let his family go to church anymore. We went to go visit them the other day and Tatay was drunk again and wanted to fight Elder Del Pilar. We left shortly after that, but apparently after we left Tatay punched Nanay, and then Nanay threatened Tatay with a machete in her hand. So yeah, we don't really know what happened there. They went from absolutely LOVING church and wanting to get sealed in the temple and everything else, to going completely backwards and hating the church. We are really sad about it, but at least we know that we've done everything we can to help them. I don't even know if we can ever go back to them... It just breaks my heart. Please add them to your prayers!

 Elder Caballes, Elder Hoecherl, and I at leadership training
Let's see, what else happened... Oh, well we went to Legaspi and had some leadership training out there which was nice. Then two days after that, President's assistants came to our area for exchanges which was really nice (mostly because we didnt have to take public transportation that day because the assistants have a car)

Every other update I have would be boring to explain through email haha! It's just missionary work and trying to fix up broken branches and trying to save the world... You know, just kool kid stuffs. But despite all of the difficult stuff that's going on, I'm still really happy! In fact, just the other day, Elder Del Pilar was telling me that I was TOO happy. But hey, I'll take that as a compliment 

Anyways, I'll email next week with some updates on transfer announcements! Love ya'll!

 Elder Caballes, Elder Hoecherl, and I at leadership training

This is the big boat that we take to and from the island.
It's called a RowRow. It's really slow. There's a smaller
one called a Fastcraft, but it's more expensive.

 We got to church early and got bored

My shoe is hungry  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

He challenged literally EVERY point that we made with an intellectual question

This is how the jungle people do laundry.. lol
Not much happened this week, but we found a great new investigator named Ronnie Villamor! I want to write about him because he is probably the most intelligent person that I've ever taught here on my mission. I'm just used to teaching people that sit there and listen and have NO QUESTIONS EVER because they just have absolutely no prior knowledge about the Gospel, but this Ronnie guy asked so many questions about everything. He challenged literally EVERY point that we made with an intellectual question, and to be honest, we aren't used to that out here. But it was so much fun teaching him because it actually makes us think while we are teaching, kind of gives us a challenge. But he's great because he actually accepts the answers we give him in response. We found him last week while tracting and have already taught him twice and have a return appointment with him this Wednesday.

Fat people can climb too!
Sad news though. Remember the Ramos family? Well, Tatay Jimmy Ramos has kind of apostatized this last week. So what had happened was this: We taught him about tithing, saying that NO MATTER HOW POOR YOU ARE, you still have to give 10% of your income to God, because that is the simple commandment, and in return you will receive huge blessings. So he understood that and agreed to it. But then our Branch President interviewed him, and in this interview the Branch President told him that since Tatay Jimmy is so poor, if he can't give the full 10%, that's okay, he should at least give what he can. So boom, Tatay Jimmy got confused, and because of his confused frustration, he got drunk, and TA-DA he's refusing to go to church now and is not allowing his family to go to church either. We have no idea what to do there, but we will see in the coming week how we can help. I still have hope, however, we aren't too worried about it. God is watching over him and will help us deal with the situation.

So I guess our ray of hope right now is the Ibanez Family, Livino and Shannie. They really love us teaching them and they absolutely love the Book of Mormon. They say that they try and share it with their neighbors, but all of their neighbors just laugh at them and tell them that "Mormons" is a cult and that we don't even believe in Jesus Christ. But Livino and Shannie know very well that our church is centered more on Christ than any other, this is, after all, His church right? That's why they are great, because they really believe and don't care what their friends and neighbors say. We have high hopes for them.

Super far area 
Thats all for this week folks!

My pants after coming home from very far area

my kitchen... 

my bed room

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mount Mayon is exploding like crazy and thousands of people are being evacuated

So this week was just spent trying to find people to teach, but the hate in this area is RAGING. EVERY ONE knows the "Mormons" and all of the different pastors talk bad about us to their congregations. We are learning from a lot of people that we talk to on the street that their pastors actually pull out the Book of Mormon in their churches and teach the people why it's not true and why this church is a cult. So pretty much everyone we talk to is really mean to us, and everywhere we go, people just run inside and refuse to come out of their houses. Our power is growing by the day haha.
Matching ties

I'll just give some weird updates that aren't really missionary related, because we don't have much work anymore since all the peeps here hate us. But Rowena Ramos (13 years old) got a job that makes her work 15 hours every day, and in that entire 15 hours, she gets paid 50 pesos. THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR PEOPLE!! The poverty is real out here. But even for the Philippines, that rate is WAY low, so we told her she should quit, and then she did. So happy ending I guess.

What else? Oh, Mount Mayon is exploding like crazy and thousands of people are being evacuated, but we are just chilling over here on our little island super far away from all of the problems. Good thing that we got assigned here in Masbate during this time.

Do you see the color of the water that she's swimming in?
You see how it's like gray colored? That's not from the camera,
that's literally the color of the water because of all the sewage
that's drained into that water. Literally she's just swimming in
sewage. #thuglife

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mount Mayon Volcano erupting 
This week was full of ups and downs. Elder Del Pilar and I were laughing by the end of this week because we noticed a pattern where one day was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME, but then the next day was ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE. I do not kid when I say that that pattern lasted for the full 7 days of this last week. But by about the fourth day we had learned our lesson to be happy and energetic despite anything that could possibly happen.

We had some really good investigators totally fall through. What I mean is, we are starting to really doubt if they are going to be able to progress any further in the Gospel. This area is getting progressively more and more difficult, because all of the people are really starting to hate us. For example, we have this one small little area that we work in called "Waterworld," and I swear, the SECOND that we step foot in that area, ALL of the doors shut and everyone runs inside. It's fantastic, it's like we have some sort of superpower. We have a lot of investigators that live in that area, and a lot of them are getting pulled under and listening to all of the evil that is spoken about us as missionaries. We are also having some problems with the other churches here as well. We respect them and their beliefs, but they have certain pastors or priests or whatever it is that offer money, or "scholarships" to those who join their church. So when they discover that we are teaching someone and they are developing interest in the Gospel, those church leaders quickly move in and offer them money and such to join their church... It seems like we are no match for them haha. But we press forward nonetheless and try our best to share, because even though we don't have money to give them, we have the truth and we know that the truth is worth more than any amount of money that can be given.

Elder Del Pilar and I are just focusing on finding (as usual). We share the Gospel SO MUCH every day, but no one cares. It's funny because you can talk to someone for as long as you want, and they will be SO KIND to you, but the second that you mention God or Jesus Christ or ANYTHING religious of any degree, they turn their back on you. Just the other day we were having a really nice conversation with an old lady about her life, and as soon as we mentioned "the Gospel of Jesus Christ" she literally stopped speaking to us and would not even notice our existence... super weird stuff. But I think it's kind of fun dealing with people of this caliber. It's like Expert Mode missionary work!

Mount Mayon Volcano erupting 
Last week we also went mainland to Legazpi to have our missionary leadership council, and while we were there, Mount Mayon (which is the giant volcano right next to Legazpi) erupted! It wasn't very huge, but it was definitely a once in a lifetime thing to see.  We are now back on our island safe and sound. But the missionaries in that area have to wear masks in their proselyting because of the ashfall.  

Remember the Ramos family? The really uneducated family that didn't really understand how to divide by ten? Well, Tatay Ramos was a real drunkard before his baptism, and we thought he had totally stopped drinking. We had asked him about 5000 times if he was drinking and he always said that he hasn't been drinking at all. Well just the other day, we learned that he didn't actually understand the meaning of "not drinking at all." He told us that he has COMPLETELY stopped drinking - except for a couple of drinks here and there. He hasn't been trying to lie to us or anything, he just honestly did not know the meaning of "No alcohol." So we explained to him that no alcohol means that he can't even have a tiny little bit, because even that is harmful to his body. We think he finally understands now because he said, "Oh, well that's different. But still easy, I can do it!" It's so interesting trying to teach to their level of intelligence. But we love them to death and they are SO WILLING to follow Christ.

Day time photo of Mount Mayon 
Last week we also found some great new investigators, the Ibanez Family. They are really searching for Christ in their lives, and they really like what they are learning with us about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Sister Shannie Ibanez shared with us that her neighbors were telling her a lot of bad stuff about "Those Mormons." Their neighbors told her that our God isn't Jesus Christ, but that our God is a guy named Mormon. Oh, and they live in Waterworld, the place where everyone hates us. But they aren't listening to them, and Shannie actually defended us, saying that the only thing we have taught them about is Jesus Christ. We are very excited to see where their progress in the Gospel takes them.

That's all for this week! Love you all and I'll write again soon!
Elder Austin Cook

Marimar Ramos is a really heavy sleeper, compliments of siblings
The Ramos family always writes the things we teach them
on the wall of their wooden home so that they won't forget
Super Awesome

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I love this opportunity that I have to be serving in some of the most humble circumstances. I'll be sad when it all ends

Last week on Monday, after we finished emailing, we cooked a TON of lumpia shang hai (if you don't know what it is, just google it cause it's delicious). In the end, we had about 100 of them made for just the two of us, so that's pretty much been our life for the past week.

On Tuesday we went tracting a lot to hopefully find new investigators, but it didn't work at all. In other areas of the mission, I swear, tracting is GOLDEN and it works so well, but in our area, almost everyone knows the missionaries and EVERYONE talks trash about us. We are literally the nicest guys out here, like, how could you NOT love us right? But they all hate us, and when we go tracting, people shut doors in our faces, yell at us to leave, or just flat out ignore us when we talk to them, as if no one is even speaking. That's why we are REALLY trying to focus on getting referrals from the members here, but the members aren't really used to giving referrals or sharing the gospel with their friends, so we are teaching them slowly but surely!

Wednesday was the day that my Christmas package from home FINALLY arrived! Only about a month late, but hey, at least it arrived right? I would just like to make a shout out to my mother and her great packing skills because that box was SUPER heavy. Also shout out to the LeFevre family for giving me some much wanted Children's Songbooks :)

On Thursday we taught the Ramos family, and they shared with us something that really made us feel special. They were apparently taught by the missionaries for a while before we showed up to their door, but Nanay said that even though those missionaries tried their best to help the Ramos family change, nothing worked; Tatay still drank nearly every day, and none of them wanted to affiliate with the church. But Nanay told us that the first time we sat down in their house, they felt like we were their children, so they listened to everything that we told them, and since then, Tatay hasn't drank even once and they have gone to church every week. Even though 99.9% of the people don't listen to us, we work to find those that WILL, and it makes it all worth it.

Friday was pretty uneventful, but we walked into the house of the Ramos family without them knowing because we were going to surprise them, but then we found them all sitting in a circle saying a family prayer to bless their food. When Nanay saw us afterwords, we asked her if they do that at every meal, and she said, "Of course! that's what you taught us to do!" I love that family so much. They might not be the most educated people, but their hearts are so pure.

Saturday, while we were tracting, we knocked on one house and there was a lady who instantly started yelling at us and said, "Go away! We already have a religion, we don't want missionaries!" But we just said, "WAIT! We just wanna get to meet you, we aren't going to make you change religions!" She just stared for like 4 seconds and then said, "okay come in." Her name is Leonisa Pepito, and turns out she is actually a member of the church! Well, she used to be, but after some members said some horrible things to her, she left the church and now her whole family is part of a different religion. She has forgotten all of the beliefs of the LDS church, but she was very nice to us and told us that we could come back. I just think it's so sad that people can stray themselves so far away from the truth... It's going to be interesting to see what happens with her and her family in the next couple of months before I leave. I Hope they will accept us...

Other than that, nothing else is happening! Just finding and working and doing what we can while the day lasts. I love this opportunity that I have to be serving in some of the most humble circumstances. I'll be sad when it all ends, but I'm doing what I can while I can still do it. The church is true and I love you all! Till next week :)

P.S. I got some dope pictures, but I left my camera at home. Also I took a ton of videos but they are too large to send over email :(

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I will spend a total of 6 months here in Masbate, just like my past two areas.

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).

The whole Ramos family.  Mind you I'm only 6ft 1 inch
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!

Found some stuff for a face mask in some of the Elders
apartment. I did this one time at a friends house back at home
 so I decided to try it again! 
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 thing we have as missionaries, so we don't have a minute to spare out here.  Elder Austin Cook
Got board one P-Day, so Elder Del Pilar made 
a tower with his spare change.  I wanted to 
make a whole Utopian City but we didn't 
have enough coins :(

Inside another Elders Apartment 

local scenery

Local scenery

It's so hot here so I shower before bed then sprinkle tons
 of baby powder on my bed.  Its the only way I can sleep.
 I know the mattress is so dirty.  my sheets are hanging out
to dry from washing them.
White boy tarzan

The sweet Ramos's

 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

Inside the Ramos home

View from another Elders apartment

The local homes where we live

When it's raining, literally NO ONE goes outside