Sunday, December 25, 2016

Because of Typhoon Nina power was cut off for about a week for Elder Austin Cook so we didn't get to have our Skype on Christmas Day from him. 

Dear Brother and Sister Cook,
 We are currently in the middle of the annual typhoon season in the Philippines. Every year, more than 20 typhoons come to this island nation. These typhoons originate in the Pacific, east of the Philippines and then move in our direction. Our mission is often in the path of these storms, especially our outer island Catanduanes.  Prior experience has prepared this region to weather the various storms well. We have missionary housing that is selected for resistance to high winds and located out of the flood plains.  Each missionary area has an emergency plan for preparing for and responding to all natural disasters.  Areas that are remote from the mission office have local priesthood leaders that provide direct oversight of the safety of our missionaries.
Currently Typhoon Nina is head in the direction of the Legazpi Mission and is expected to pass over our mission the evening of December 25th.  It is expected to bring heavy rains and some floods in the low lying and/or coastal areas. Each companionship has been notified of the incoming storm and have been asked to follow our emergency plan. The safety of our missionaries is our #1 priority. Each missionary has a 72 hour kit of food, water and other supplies. They should also have an emergency supply of cash and a fully charged cell phone. As soon as the storm passes each missionary will contact their leaders to report their condition and that information will pass through our communication tree to me shortly thereafter.  
If the storm compromises our electrical or Internet infrastructure, this may impact the ability of your missionary to complete their Christmas phone calls and/or normal preparation day emails.  Be assured, I will be constantly monitoring this situation, and they will have opportunity to reschedule their calls at the first opportunity. We love your missionary and will always care for them as if they were our own son or daughter. May the Lord bless you for sending your precious child to serve the Lord. You would be so proud of who they are becoming and the great work they are doing.
If there are any further developments that would impact our missionaries, I will let you know.  Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.  Serving the Lord is a joy!
Warmest regards,
President Dale Kotter
This was 10 min we got with Austin on Thursday
Before the Typhoon just to make sure Skype was working.
Thank goodness we got that.  Helped not seeing him Christmas
Day bearable
Philippines Legazpi Mission

Prediction path of Typohoon Nina

Actual satellite of Typhoon Nina

Mission President letter telling us
all elders were safe :)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Honestly not much happened this week! We are having a zone wide baptism service on the 24th, so there are a bunch of missionaries in our district who have people they are going to baptize on that day, so they all needed those baptismal candidates interviewed this week. Since Elder Perkins is a District Leader, we had to go do all of the interviews, and each interview takes about an hour to do. So needless to say, our whole week was just filled with interviews. Well, he interviews, and i just sit outside playing with a yo-yo or something.

So my 12-week training is almost finished!  After those 12 weeks are up, I get a new companion, which is going to be crazy!  It's weird to think I've already been here for 3 months, which I know is nothing compared to 2 years, but still. I really have no idea what's gonna happen to me after Elder Perkins leaves, and I'm kind of scared to see who my next companion is going to be. I kind of want it to be a Filipino just because I need my Tagalog to get better, but I guess we will see.

Honestly not much to update on this week! Sorry about that, but next week will be better because I will have Christmas to talk about! Alright, I love you all and will write again next week! 
Elder Austin Cook

Elder ALutaya enjoying the Christmas tree that mom sent

Me and my Filipino mom who always cooks
us burgers. She runs a burger stand (but does not
own it). On this night, we went there, and jokingly
I asked if I could cook myself a burger. Not only
did she let me cook my own burgers, but she straight
up made me cook burgers for a couple of customers
as well! She's literally my favorite woman here.

Mine and Elder Montemayors cute sock picture

Sunday, December 11, 2016

These people totally want to listen! Almost every person we talk to wants to hear our message, and many of them are willing to hear more.

So this week was another successful week in the hottest place on the planet! Actually I learned that this place is in the cold season, it actually gets about 25 degrees hotter than this in the summer, so that's going to be TONS OF FUN!!

Anyways, this week started off pretty dang well! We teach at the local prison every Tuesday, which is super awesome and I really enjoy doing it. And that same guy who just looks like the most thug looking man I've ever seen is still just blowing my mind. (I think I talked about this guy like two weeks ago, so I'm not going to give another description in fear of sounding repetitive)  We give everyone we teach these pamphlets in order to teach some of our lessons a little easier, and apparently there's a section in the back of the pamphlets that have lists of scriptures and a blank space underneath to write your thoughts about each scripture in the Book of Mormon that you read. I didn't even know these spaces existed (Because no one ever does them) But I noticed in his pamphlet, literally every line is filled out with his personal thought on his reading of the scriptures, and there's probably a good 30 different scriptures that it lists for people to study. I'm pretty sure he wants to be baptized too, but he's not allowed out of the prison to do it, so that's the only bummer for him.

And wow, it barely hit me this week that Christmas is literally right around the corner, and I barely even noticed! They have some Christmas decorations and music here, but it's not nearly the same as back home. Seriously, there's no cold weather, no caroling, the decorations and music aren't the same, and overall it's just kind of a drag. But that's okay, I mean, my mind has been elsewhere because we have been so busy with the work, which is really nice.
Every time we teach Tony, he always calls all of the little kids 
walking by to come over and listen.  He says, "Hey! Come 
Listen! Bible Study!" and they always listen to him.  So this is a 
picture with some of the cute kids who listened in on our lesson

This week we have found some super golden people to teach. These two older men, Tony and Luis, are just so prepared to receive this gospel it’s crazy. They come to church and love it, they read the Book of Mormon without us hardly even asking them too, and they ALWAYS have questions about the church and always accept the answers we give to them. Really, they are just ready for all of this, and I am super excited for both of them. I know there may be some road bumps (as there almost always seems to be) but I believe that they can work past them.

Another thing that's been different about this week is our street contacting. We've made a goal to talk to 30 people randomly and talk to them about what we believe, which sounds crazy, but these people totally want to listen! Almost every person we talk to wants to hear our message, and many of them are willing to hear more. It sometimes takes guts to talk to people out of random (Especially when you don't know the language) but seriously, it works in this area, it's amazing!

Me and Elder Montemayor ready to take on the world
That's about all for this week! I know that even more stories will come with next week, and they will be awesome! Don't worry about me, I'm super happy over here, and I hope that you are all happy back home. Love you all, and can't wait to tell you more next week!

Love Elder Austin Cook

Some young women in our brand

Another birthday Party we attended

 This is the beautiful land of the Philippines
 (And also the place where they conveniently 
decide to dump their trash) so sad :(

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I know that this is where I'm supposed to be right now, and that there is no greater work I could be doing in my life right now.

You know you've officially hit rock bottom when you're like 95% sure the food you're eating has ants in it, and you don't even care and eat it anyway. Yep. That's where I'm at. Not too bad though, it's probably healthy for you or something (at least that's what I tell myself so I'll be okay with the fact I'm just eating ants).

Awesome gate we found. The guy whose house 
it was attached to told us to take a picture with it 
(so we obviously had to)
But hey, this week went awesome! Tuesday we had exchanges, which I love doing. I got paired up with a guy named Elder Robinson, and he's super awesome, really nice, and a really awesome missionary. He taught me so much in honestly just one day of working with him, but he taught me something very valuable when we were doing companionship study. I couldn't figure out what to teach our recent convert family, the Gernali's, and he just said that sometimes, when he can't figure out what to teach someone that day, he just imagines what Christ would teach them if he were there, because after all, he is the perfect teacher. That was actually pretty dang valuable advice, so I'm going to start applying that this week!

That Tuesday night we had literally 8 Elders sleeping over at our apartment because the next morning we had to all wake up at 3:00 AM and go to this event called a cluster conference. So we kind of had a mini party with all of us, which was really fun (But don't worry, we still got to bed on time). Oh, and a cluster conference is where all of the missionaries in the Legaspi mission get together at the chapel in Legaspi, which is a three hour drive away from us, and listen to the Area 70 who addresses us. Our general authority who presides over our mission is named Elder Bowen, and it was really amazing to hear him address us.

We got to the chapel at 7 and Elder Bowen got there at 8 and asked us to all get in a line so we could shake his hand and introduce ourselves. Then he started giving us this whole lesson he had planned out that lasted like 3 or more hours. The first half of his address was about 5 specific things that we need to do that will absolutely change our mission. He talked about how important it was to wake up right on time, the significance of talking to everyone, and basically got our whole mission motivated to do better. It was really nice, because I've been trying to motivate Elder Perkins to do all of these things, but he never cared until Elder Bowen talked about it. Either way, I'm happy because now he's super excited to work as hard as we can, and that's exactly what we've been doing ever since Elder Bowen talked to us.

His whole talk was super amazing and very interactive, honestly, I would have been totally okay with listening to him talk for the whole day. He really got all of the missionaries pumped to work as hard as they can, and for these past couple of days it seems to be working!

Picture with more random cute kids on the street
On Saturday Elder Perkins and I went tracting and just went around talking to as much people as we could, trying to find people to teach. Then we came to this one man named June. It was the coolest lesson I've ever had with anyone. We knocked on his door, and just straight up told him we were missionaries and that we had a message about the restoration of the church of Jesus Christ and that angels still visit the earth and that the power of God is on the earth again. He just stared at us and told us to start teaching. We basically told him all of the stuff that makes us different, and he listened and just looked at us the whole time like we were angels sent from God. We then just handed him a Book of Mormon and he said he would definitely read it and that we could return anytime to continue teaching him.

That's what I love about the Philippines: there are so many people here that are prepared to accept this gospel. They are humble and listen to us because they believe that we have information that can change their lives, and I promise it does. These people are really amazing, and I'm grateful that I'm able to serve here. I know that this is where I'm supposed to be right now, and that there is no greater work I could be doing in my life right now.

Well, that's all for this week! I'll send pictures this time because I actually have my camera this time! Alright I love you all and I'll email again in another short week!!

We got Yna a cake for her birthday!
Love you all, Elder Austin Cook

The writing on it is my favorite. 
(It basically says the elders are the most handsome)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I'm starting to realize how important a belief in God is.

So this week was really good! We found some super fun people to teach, kept ourselves pretty busy, and just had an overall great week!

So one of our new favorite groups of people we like to teach are the boarder girls. I don't remember if I mentioned them last time, but while we were going door to door looking for people to teach, we ran into this one house where like four 21-year-old girls opened the door and just started screaming because they were so excited to see two white guys standing at their door. Before we could even tell them who we were, they just told us to come inside. I didn't want to (because there was no man in the house, and it's not allowed to teach girls without another male present) but Elder Perkins kind of disregarded that, so I followed him inside. Turns out it was a boarding house, a place where college girls live because it’s close to where they go to school, so there were like 20 college girls in there who were all just so excited to see us. We were only there for like 5 minutes before I finally got Elder Perkins to leave, but they were SUPER excited for us to teach them. We've been back a couple times since then (And yes, we bring an older guy with us who is like 35) and they are so excited for us to visit. I was pretty sure it's just because we are white, but hey, whatever works. Eventually, I thought, they'll start listening to what we have to say and believe in what we teach. And this week that happened! Two of the girls we were teaching now want to be baptized! One of them especially really believes in what we teach, and absolutely believes in the Book of Mormon, and in the Plan of Happiness. And I really have high hopes for the rest of the girls in there.

And then there’s the boarder guys. They are also college students who all live together, and they love it when we come around and teach. We haven’t seen much improvement in them, but there's this one guy, Sherwin, who is awesome. He’s super funny and inappropriate and he's just the best. He doesn’t do anything we ask him to do (read the Book of Mormon, pray, go to church, etc) so we didn’t have any expectations for him. But then one day we asked him to pray and ask God if our messages were true and if the Book of Mormon really is another testament of Jesus Christ. He then asked us and told us that he doesn't even know why it’s important to pray about it, because apparently HE ALREADY BELIEVED US. Here we were just assuming he didn't believe us because he hadn’t been praying or reading the Book of Mormon, but here he is the whole time already believing that Joseph Smith restored Christ's church to the world again, and he believes that the Book of Mormon is true. Needless to say, he now wants to be baptized. So yeah, everyone we are teaching really seem to be progressing!

Our Zone
Getting ready to take a photo of our zone 
I'm starting to realize how important a belief in God is. Honestly, if we as people don't have any belief in God, or put any thought into what our purpose here is, or where we go after this life, we need to really reconsider our train of thought. I think about it, and our time here on Earth is short compared to all of Eternity. And if we live this life right, we can go back and live with our Heavenly Father again. Now, if we don't put any thought into religion, or God, or any of this, our state after we die will be pointless. In this life, we just eat, drink, and sleep, just like any other being does, but after we die, then what? There HAS TO BE MORE. If there isn't more, then there is no point in living, we would just die and disappear. But we don't. We are here to be the best we can be, to follow in the footsteps of Christ so that we can make it back to the presence of our Heavenly Father who loves us with an infinite and unconditional love.

That was just a little thought I had this week. Maybe it doesn't make sense the way I worded it, so sorry about that. But that's what I believe. Anyways, I still hope all of you are doing well and are happy and keeping yourselves out of trouble!! I love you all and miss you all a ton!

Love Elder Austin Cook

Sunday, November 20, 2016

One of the biggest lessons I learned this week is this: When you work hard, you are happy. Period.

A lot more happened this week than last week, thank GOODNESS! I'll start off on Monday. On Monday of last week we went to two different families homes for Family Home Evening, and it was awesome! The family home evenings here are WAY cooler than the ones in Vegas because they get like five families together and just play games and do tons of fun stuff!

Our super fun family home evening
Then Tuesday was actually a super dull day. We taught like 3 lessons and just didn't really do much. That was the day I finally decided that I just needed to talk to Elder Perkins about all of the time we were wasting, but I didn't know how to bring it up in a nice manner yet, so I just kept my mouth shut. But we did teach Jose today, which was nice. If you all remember, Jose was the guy who had a really huge smoking problem, but as of now, he hasn’t smoked in over a month, so that's really amazing! But he's kinda weird about it. He said that he quit smoking because he wanted to get baptized, but now he's saying he doesn't know for sure yet if this church is true, so we don't really know where to go with him. But he did say that every time we come and teach him he feels so much happier and so enlightened, so I definitely have hopes for him.

Wednesday was an interesting day. I don't remember much from it, but I remember that Elder Perkins finally talked me and the two Zone leaders that live with us to play a super fun nerdy game.  I really didn't want to cause, you know, I'm not a nerd and stuff, but I did it because he seemed super excited about it. And honestly, I have not laughed so hard since leaving home as I did playing that game with everybody. For some reason it was just hilarious, and we all cried laughing like 6 times. Honestly it was SUPER relieving, I really needed a good laugh, and for some reason, that nerdy game was able to be pretty fun.

OKAY NOW THURSDAY! Sorry, it's not that exciting, I just wanted to type in all caps. Anyways, today we went tracting for like two hours. Tracting (For those of you who don't know) is just going door to door and asking people if they wanna hear our message. In the states, tracting is pretty ineffective from what I hear, but over here it's insanely effective - probably one in every 5 people let us in to teach (mainly because we are white, but hey, whatever works). We got tons of success that day, and I and Elder Perkins made it a goal to do at least one hour of tracting every day, which will hopefully get us a little busier. Today I also told him that we were wasting way too much time just talking to people for fun, and he actually agreed. So instead of staying at people's home for 2 or 3 hours, we decided that we needed to make our visits about 30 minutes each. I was so glad that he was able to agree with me and not get upset that I thought we were wasting time.

And those are really the only key things I wanted to touch on from this week. The Philippines is becoming a lot easier to live in surprisingly. I made it a goal to talk less trash about the Philippines (Because I used to talk bad about this place a lot, just cause it's so easy to) and that goal has helped me be a lot happier here!

Elder Perkins & I riding on top of a Jeepney 
(cause that's how we get around here) dude,
 the transportation is so unsafe here, but its 
so much fun.  It costs like 50 cents to get to
 a place an hour away
One of the biggest lessons I learned this week is this: When you work hard, you are happy. Period. Working hard keeps your mind away from worry, away from useless problems, and it keeps your mind thinking about how you can help other people. And that's not just on the mission either! I remember at home, when I was working hard (And not having a bad attitude about it) I was so happy, especially when I was working with my dad. (Shout out to dad for being the best dude ever). So if I'm gonna stay happy here, all I gotta do is work, it's just that easy!

Alright that's all for this week! I’ll send some pictures separate from this email to all of you! I love you all, always do your best and great things will come of it!

Elder Austin Cook

Me and Elder Downing. Hes from Gilbert Arizona
 and is seriously my favorite guy out here
P.S.  Oh also, I remembered a story from my past this week that I thought I would share with you.

I remember when Landon and I were young (back when we would hang out with Cory and Colton like every dang day) and I was telling you how rich and stuff they were and blah blah blah. I was talking about how they had a TV in their room, they had a pool table, arcade games, a theater, a pool, etc. And then you just said "Yeah but we have something that's worth more than all of that combined that THEY don't even have: The gospel!"  You probably didn’t think much of saying that, but seriously when you told me that, I was like "DUDE OH MY GOSH SHES SO RIGHT." And ever since then, I've always looked at the gospel like the pearl of great price that it is. So I just wanted to thank you for that :)

picture of the letter that Margie wrote me! Shes so funny.
My camera has a setting that highlights 
the color red and turns everything else 
black and white. I guess my face was 
red enough to capture

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mom I wanted to tell you that honestly I took everything that you did for me for granted

So not a lot happened this week. I really don’t have hardly anything to write about! We have just been teaching lessons, and the work is just slow. Elder Perkins is kind of getting lazy with the work. We spend like 3 hours at each lesson, and I just get bored. We really don’t do much, and I’m always pushing him to get up and go teach as many people as possible, but it never works sadly. I’m going to try to do things differently to get him motivated this week, but we shall how that goes.

But I’m still working as hard as I can despite that! We finally had a service project this week in which we built a fence for the Hernalis! Well I and the grandma built the fence, while Elder Perkins just kind of sat on the porch and watched us. But it was super good to finally do some physical labor!

I LOVE YOU ALL!! ESPECIALLY FAMILY! And mom, sorry for the short mass email this week, but there just wasn’t much going on. I’ll be sure to email more next week for sure I promise!

Oh also, I got a super ugly haircut at the salon the other day. I didn’t have the vocabulary in Tagalog to actually tell them what I wanted, so I just let em have at it, and now it’s ugly. So I didn’t really take pictures with myself in them this week, sorry guys!

With Love,

Elder Austin Cook

P.s. Mom I wanted to tell you that honestly I took everything that you did for me for granted. Being in the Philippines is making me SO MUCH MORE grateful and hardworking. You really were and are the best mom!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Hernali family was so happy to be baptized!

So we had a pretty good week this week and I finally had my first baptism!! The Hernali family was so happy to be baptized finally; it was cool to see how happy they were about it.

me and Elder Peterson (The homie)
So I'll start from the beginning. First off, on Wednesday, we had this thing called trainers training in Legaspi, which is like a three hour drive away from my area, Irosin.  It was REALLY nice to go there because I finally got to see Elder Peterson again! He's doing super awesome, and it was really nice to see a friend from the MTC. We spent a good portion of the day in the mission home (Which is a super nice house that the mission president and his wife live in) just listening to people talk about how to be the best missionary we can be. After the whole training thing was done, me and my trainer, and Elder Peterson and his trainer, went to get something called sili (chili) Ice cream. Let me tell you what this stuff was so weird. It’s basically just super-hot ice cream. They had levels from 1-3 and obviously we all had to choose level 3, and honestly, it was just the weirdest thing ever.

The rest of the week we just spent most of our time preparing the Hernalis for baptism. We were setting all of the details up on Friday, the day before, and asking all of them who they want to baptize them. Amy and Nanay Hernali both wanted Elder Perkins, but for some reason Lory Anne wanted me to do it for her! I was so surprised, I thought for sure she would want Perkins (considering I can’t even speak her language all that well) but I was very grateful that she chose me. The actual baptism was super cool. We were going to do it at the beach, but the weather was supposed to be horrible, so we moved it closer to this one pool nearby. It was still really nice, and all of the Hernali's loved it.

That's really all that happened for this week! I’ll be sure to be more descriptive next week in my email, but I kind of ran out of time today (whoops). But I love you all and pray for you! I'll email again in another short week! :)

Elder Austin Cook

Elder Perkins and I pulling a G.Q. pose..just for fun!

Me and Elder Perkins in our SUPER SEXY JUMPSUITS

Elder Perkins and I

The Hernali family

Me photo bombing Lory Anne's picture

Lory Anne my first convert baptism :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The FHE's here are SUPER CRAZY!!

This week was actually super kicked back surprisingly,  which  was kind of nice.
our family home evening

I'll start at last P-Day. Right after we got done emailing, we went to a member's house for "Family Home Evening." The FHE's here are SUPER CRAZY!! There were like three or four families who got together in this tiny little home, and we just played games and ate food and talked for like three hours! If you lost at one of the games, the winners take a brick of charcoal and wipe it on your forehead and cheekbones. It was so weird, but honestly I thought it was SO MUCH FUN!!

Then I guess I'll just skip over to Thursday. Thursday, after teaching them for a couple of months, the Hernali family has finally decided to get baptized! There were a lot of steps involved to getting them to this point, but they finally want to get baptized. But on Thursday we learned that Sister Amy is actually not married with her current partner, but they still have kids. That’s a common thing over here actually, but luckily, by doing some research into the technicalities of it all, she actually can still be baptized without waiting to get married! And my biggest hope out of all of this is that they will want to get baptized at the beach, because honestly, THAT IS MY DREAM. To baptize someone at the beach is the coolest thing ever. Plus it makes for some super awesome pictures.

Honestly not much else happened this week. We spent most of our time preparing the Hernali family to be baptized. We spent probably more time over there than we should have, but since I’m a trainee, there’s not much I can do about it. Once we spent THREE HOURS at their house. I thought it was ridiculous, but I have no say in what we do since I'm brand new and stuff. Whatever though, if that's my biggest complaint, then obviously things aren’t too bad over here!

That's all for this week! I hope you are all doing well, and I pray for you all every day! Keep doing your best. Make me proud, and I'll make you proud!

Elder Austin Cook 

The food is really good but is SUPER simple. It's always just rice with something on top of the rice, usually meat or noodles and I haven't had any problems with it honestly! I'm not necessarily homesick, but I do think America is BY FAR superior to everywhere else in the world and that I do miss.  I sleep VERY WELL at night, especially if I shower right before bed because it's so hot and humid. I have a fan that blows over me the whole night and it keeps me super cool.  I use the little blue micro fiber towels you made me to wipe my face. Of course you were right about those, they are so helpful!

Washing my clothes is kind of a pain in the butt. We just soak them in water with detergent and then scrub them a couple of hours later. It honestly is not efficient!  
Elder Robinson (This guy is by far one of my favorites)

Fireside we had last Saturday
One of Amy's kids. Literally the ONLY child who doesn't like me

Picture from the beach again today
Some missionaries in our Zone

Monday, October 24, 2016

I can really see the pure joy and peace that this gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into their lives. It's amazing to see people's hearts change.

Alright, so there’s a ton of stuff that I got to email about this week as usual. Overall, this week was really good! We officially have 5 people with baptismal dates! It's amazing to see how much happier people become as they accept the gospel and live by its teachings.

                Me with Brother Sonney. He’s a member who 
                         always works with us, he’s super cool
First off I want to talk about the Hernali Family. There’s Lory Lynn (17) Amy (36) and Nanay Hernali (Some old age that I don’t really know). They all have been investigating the church for some time now, and just last Friday they all decided to get baptized on Nov 5. We asked them why they decided to get baptized, and all of their answers were awesome. Lory Lynn says because every time she reads the Book of Mormon, some reason she just feels like she wants to be a better person and that every time she prays about it, she can feel that it's just a true book. Amy says that her answer was pretty much the same, and when she tries to live by the teachings of the Book of Mormon, she feels such immense happiness. And Nanay Hernali says that every time she goes to church she just feels like its Heavenly Father's true church. And seeing them make this change, I can really see the pure joy and peace that it has brought into their lives. It's amazing to see people's hearts change because of this gospel.

Let's see, next up is Jose. He's the one who has had the huge smoking problem, but still hasn’t thought about smoking since the 12th. He says he has come so far to risk it all on cigarettes. I really like him, and he really listens when I talk. He says that every time that I speak to him about the gospel; he says that he can feel in his heart the truth of what I say. That brings me a lot of comfort because I feel like I suck at Tagalog, but apparently it means something to him. He's also getting baptized on the 5th of November so I'm really excited for him!

Alright, so I'm just going to write about the Philippines in general and about the people here. First off, it may be dirty, but it’s beautiful! The beaches and rivers and volcanoes are just amazing.

The people here are pretty dang cool too. Although I can't speak the language perfectly, I've realized that a lot of conversation doesn't need to be through speaking. Honestly, I can make these people laugh so much with just some body movements and a word or two in Tagalog. It's so great I love them! They just need to learn how to shower a little more often is all.

Also they have these little motorcycles that have a 
side car attached to the side, and the sidecar has a 
roof. Here we are riding on the roof of one going 
about 30 miles an hour. Just because I know that 
you love me to be safe ♥ w/companion Elder Perkins
Something I never thought about before coming here was being white. Seriously, people here treat me like a celebrity. They all think I am the best looking human being on the planet, and it's so weird. When we are walking down the street literally EVERY PAIR OF EYES is on me. They all just stare and shout "GUAPO" or "POGI," which essentially means handsome. Honestly, I don't really enjoy it all that much. It's so weird walking down the street knowing that every pair of eyes is on you, so usually I just keep my head down so I'm not making awkward eye contact with them. Sometimes I have fun with it, but honestly, it's kind of weird.   But the people here love me.  At least the women over HERE appreciate me!! Just kidding, but seriously.  The language is weird. I can understand a lot of what they say when I try really hard, but speaking it isn’t as easy. It’s tough to get all of the right grammar down.

Some of the mannerisms are different here too. Like instead of saying "Yes," they just raise their eyebrows. Or instead of asking "what?" they just look at you and open their mouths. Sometimes I don’t know what they are doing, and I think it’s probably going to take a while for me to get used to.
Well that’s it for this week! I love you all!! Keep me in mind, because i promise i keep every single one of you in mind! I'll email again in another short week!

I love you mom and dad and Brooklyn and London and Danielle so dang much. Keep doing what you’re doing and stay close to the Lord. I love you so much :)

P.s.  I got me a GUITAR!!  This guitar was the best purchase ever over here! It was only like 25 US dollars.  It’s not the best thing, but heck it works. Everyone in the apartment uses it (I totally forgot to tell you that I room with the ZLs too) and they all love it. Thank you for the strings. I’ve started practicing my piano music, but transferring it over to guitar, so i can actually make some improvement on my guitar. I want to get really good by the time I come back home.

Also there aren’t many blackouts, and sleep isn’t that bad if you shower right before bed! We all have our own fans that the mission provides and they are super powerful. So they just blow over your body at night and honestly sometimes I even get cold! The cushions are actually pretty comfy that we sleep on too, so it’s not too shabby :)  The shower water is actually super cold so that’s nice too. And yeah, my shoes are doing fine! I have had to use some decongestants but the need for those is slowly fading away, so that’s good!

Eating a super good lunch on the beach side
straight up beautiful beaches here
Just stunning beaches

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Some places in the world, missionaries will go knocking doors for a whole week and get no success. Here we knock like three doors and we already have someone who wants to hear our message!

Okay so this week was pretty dang good, and so much happened! It's really tough to get it all into one email, actually it's impossible but I'll try and do I anyway.

So there are a couple of people we are teaching who I want to talk about. The first is Jose. I don't
Waiting for the bus. ( I dunno whats up with my hair there)
know if I mentioned him already, but he’s had a smoking problem, and last Tuesday was supposed to be his last day of smoking so he can be baptized, and he’s actually been doing really well with it! I really like teaching him, and he knows quite a bit of English as well, so he always tries to talk with me in English, just to be nice. Anyways, I started telling him the blessings that we receive from obeying Gods commandments in one of our lessons. I explained that even though I was terrified of going on a mission, I did it anyways because that is what Heavenly Father wants me to do. I told him that I can’t even begin to explain the blessings that I've already seen because of my willingness to serve; some blessings have come that I would have never expected to have come. After I was done sharing, he looked at me and said "I don't know what it is, but for some reason I can feel, in my heart, that everything you are saying is true." He seemed so confused that he could feel the truth in my words and I really thought it was amazing. Missionaries always have these stories, and I thought they just sugar coated them to make it sound better than it really is, but honestly, when the spirit speaks through you to others, there's just an unexplainable feeling of peace and happiness that you receive.

And then we have Yna and John Ray. I don't know if I said anything about them, but they both speak English pretty well, so I enjoy teaching them. Plus they are super nice and funny. Yna is 14 and John ray is 12. They are brother and sister and were recently baptized like a month ago. They aren't really reading the book of Mormon as much as they should, so I decided to take one of our planned lessons a different way and just read the book of Mormon with them. We just read first Nephi and they said they finally understood the stories in there, and they thanked me for helping them understand. Ever since then they have been reading the book of Mormon every day! Elder Perkins (My trainer) really likes me because he believes that since I am a fresh missionary and have no screw ups yet and am basically 100% obedient that the lord is blessing us with all of this success. Maybe that's the case, maybe not. Either or, I'm going to be trying my hardest to stay obedient.

Aside from the people we are teaching, this place is pretty strange and different from what I am use to and kind of gross. Nothing is ever clean: not the buildings, not the water, not the food, not the people. I straight up saw a kid pee into his hand and just drink it. I see grown people walking around with no pants on. This place is just a free for all where anything goes I guess. But the people actually are super nice. Some places in the world, missionaries will go knocking doors for a whole week and get no success. Here we knock like three doors and we already have someone who wants to hear our message! I’m not sure if it’s because of the people, or because we are white, but either or, they are open to what we have to say!!

I’ve been missing home and friends and family a lot this past little bit. Not enough to get depressed or anything, but I do miss home. Sometimes we will walk down a street and hear a song that reminds me of home, or see a sign or restaurant that they have in the states, and we just start reminiscing. It’s tough, but I know that it will get easier from here! People who have been here for even just a couple of months love it to death, and I just can’t wait for that to happen with me.

So that's all for this week really, nothing else really worth mentioning I don't think. But yeah, for the most part everything is all well with me! I haven't gotten a tapeworm yet so that's good. (At least I don't think I do) Anyways, Ill email again in another short week!! I love you all, take care!!

Elder Austin Russell Cook

Monday, October 10, 2016

Joy and happiness are not dependent upon the circumstances on which you find yourself in.

Oh my gosh so where do I begin with this? It's been forever since I sent my last main email, and honestly so much has happened. So I guess I'll just skip to landing in Legazpi.

This is what all of Legazpi looks like!
So when we landed in  Legazpi the humidity hit me like a wall of bricks (It's way more humid here than in Manila) All of the Elders who flew with me all loaded up in vans, and they drove us to a main tourist spot in Legazpi that's on this big hill that kind of overlooks the whole city. Everyone was saying how beautiful it was and stuff up on this mountain, but honestly all I could focus on was how dang hot it was! I kind of regret that, but it's whatever, because I got some really neat pictures! Anyways, the point of going up to the mountain was to finally meet our mission president and his wife (Dale K. Kotter & Lori J. Kotter) He gave us all a mini interview. He pulled me aside and I was so glad to finally meet him for the first time! He's this awkward little old white guy, but he's so great and nice I love him! He basically asked if he could trust me with anything, and I was like yeah...of course. So that was the point of that whole deal.

A little excursion my triner Elder Perkins 
   & I went on today for P-Day activity
Anyways, my second day here I FINALLY met my trainer!!! His name is Elder Perkins and when they announced he was my trainer I nearly died of happiness BECAUSE HE'S AMERICAN!! There's like no white missionaries here, and I was so glad because now I can speak English to someone! He's been a really great trainer so far, and I'm really loving what he has to teach me! We get along way better than my last companion too, so that's good. 

My random fan club that followed us everywhere for like 45 minutes
My first assignment is in the Bulan Zone to labor in the Irosin area.  So this place is really cool. It literally makes me feel like I'm on vacation sometimes because literally the whole place is jungle. But the people we teach are amazing! There are so many investigators here, it's insane. There's literally not enough time in the day to get all of our work done because there are so many people to teach! The kids though are by far my favorite. They see us walking down the street and just run up to us and ask for high fives. And they speak such simple Tagalog, so I can actually talk to them! This one time we had literally a random 25 kids just following us around for like 45 minutes just because we are Americans. I seriously feel like a celebrity!

But as for the people and families we are teaching. I can understand up to 80% of what they say when we are teaching them, it's just hard for me to respond correctly. But when we are teaching them, they are so receptive to the gospel, it's amazing. Never in my life have I ever seen a more humble people willing to hear what we have to say. The spirit is so strong in the lessons, and even sometimes what I say (however simple it may be) can touch them and make them feel the spirit.

Me and my Companion Elder Perkins tracting in Legazpi Philipines
Overall, I'm way happier than I thought I would be here. I know the prayers of people back home are helping me so much here! And I know that there's no way on this earth that I could ever learn a language this fast if it wasn’t for the help of Heavenly Father. And if there's one thing that I've learned this week, it's that joy and happiness are not dependent upon the circumstances on which you find yourself in. These feelings really are independent on any outside factor. Watching these people and observing myself, I've learned that no matter the situation, you can always find happiness. Praying and studying the scriptures and serving with all my heart, might, mind, and strength really help me to be so much happier here than I could have ever imagined.

I pray for all of you at home, I really do! I hope you're all doing well! Love you all and I'll email again in a short week! 

Elder Austin Russell Cook

P.S.  My apartment has running water, a shower, a toilet, a fridge and freezer, places to cook food. Literally it has everything you need! My comp is from Washington but his family moved to Cali while he was out. I gotta go! I love you tons dad! I pray for you and the family all individually. Don't worry about me everything is well here!   

My Companion getting some rest and me on the left settling in

Notice the fans.. It's HOT!