Friday, September 23, 2016

Do your absolute best, because not everyone has the opportunity you all do. So go out there and give it everything you've got."

So this is finally my last week at the MTC! Some pretty cool stuff has finally happened this last week, some of it good, some of it sad, but overall it was another good week.

Me and my Companion Meditating in our room :)
First off, things with my companion are so awesome, I finally love this kid, and we have so much fun together. He's still the same guy and I'm still the same guy, but something just finally clicked with us. Serving him as much as I could and being as nice as possible finally paid off because we get along so well now! I guess Brother Blackham was right, you start to love the people you serve.

Last picture with Elder Harmer before he goes home
Sooooo I think it was yesterday that Edler Harmer that's in our district got some really bad news. He had only slight head pains and an increase in blood pressure, but I guess when he went to the doctor's office with those symptoms, they gave him a medical release form. That's right, after just a short five and a half weeks and after all of his preparing, Elder Harmer got sent home. He came back to the rooms with the news and just broke down. We were all in the room and he ended up wanting me to give him a blessing of comfort. I was really touched that he wanted me to be the one to do it, and after the blessing we all got in a circle with our arms around each other. He told us "Guys, I want you to promise me one thing. I might not be able to come back out, I'm not sure. But all of you need to promise me to do your absolute best, because not everyone has the opportunity you all do. So go out there and give it everything you've got."

It was really sad, but it kind of made me take a step back and take a look at the mission I'm about to serve and I really thought about how hard I need to work. I don't want to take this for granted like a lot of missionaries do, so I'm gonna keep what he said in mind and serve as hard as I can.

Anyways that's all I have for this week! I finally get shipped off to the Philippines this next week, so I can't wait to see what's in store for me there. I promise to send cool pictures of the places that I see!

Love you all and I'll email soon!

Me and Elder Jensen

Me in the Provo Mission Training Center Cafeteria 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God does not protect us from pain. He perfects us through it.

Man, these P-Days come by real quick! Maybe it's because nothing really goes on here, so these emails are really tough to scrape up, but I do it anyways!

So I tried Brother Blackham's advice of serving my companion. Last P-Day, while he was napping, I decided to iron all of his shirts. I didn't tell him or anyone else because I'm not supposed to expect anything in return. And honestly, after doing that, it made it a lot easier to be kind and accepting to him the next couple of days! He's still the exact same, but it made me feel like I'm supposed to take care of him, so I was just a lot nicer.

I'm branching out more to other districts and zones, because conversing with the same 15 missionaries can get kinda boring. It's really nice to meet other people because they all have different stories and personalities and characteristics, so it's all a nice change of pace.

During choir on Sunday I think it was, our choir director shares a ton of stories and stuff, and everyone loves it! So the story that he shared this particular Sunday was my favorite. His story (from his perspective) was this:

So I was watching a video of this man showing a demonstration of this machine. He grabbed a chunk of peanut butter, and slapped it on top of this black rock looking thing. Then on top of that, he put another black rock. So basically it was a sandwich of these black rocks and a chunk of peanut butter. The man then proceeded to put the "sandwich" in this machine that compressed it into a tight ball. The ball then started to heat up and glow a hot red. The man demonstrating the machine said "Okay, now we are going to let this sit here for a couple of days before taking it out, and we will see what happens." So they let it sit there, burning itself up for a couple of days. Afterwards, the man turns off the heat, and takes out the ball of burnt mass left inside. He takes a hammer and cracks the black ball in half and to my surprise, he takes out a beautiful diamond.

The demonstrator said that this diamond was the peanut butter. After all of the heat and pressure put on it, it looks almost identical to a normal diamond, and almost indistinguishable to the naked eye.

His point to telling this kinda weird story was this: If that peanut butter could think and act for itself, there's NO WAY that it would want to be put into that burning compressed furnace for days. It would be terrified to face that kind of challenge. However, after going through it, after seeing what it became, there’s no way it wouldn’t want anything different.

our teeny tiny classroom 
God sometimes works this way with us. He puts us through difficulties and trials and hardships that seem impossible and terrifying. But after we've pushed through it, we look back and are so grateful for it.

God does not protect us from pain. He perfects us through it.

Anyways, that's just my thought for the week. Sometimes it's comforting to know that there's always a reason for our struggles. I'll talk to you in another short week! I love you all!

Elder Austin Russell Cook

Elder Brown took my phone and took this fantastic selfie
my companion
All of the languages taught in the MTC

Friday, September 9, 2016

The only way to PURLEY love someone is to serve them with all our being

Hey everybody! This week has been another week full of the same stuff. Classes all day, personal studies, Tough companion, and long tired days. BUT, that doesn’t mean some pretty cool stuff happened this week!

The classes surprisingly are getting more bearable, and I'm able to stay awake for most of them. I've gotten a lot closer to all of the guys in my district, and It's really nice being friends with all of them! Everyone is getting along and there’s literally like no problems between the guys at all.

Okay so there's really not much to write about this week, but there is one thing I want to focus on. One of my teachers pulled me aside because they all know my companion is going to therapy, and is just a tough guy to deal with all together. So this teacher (Brother Blackham) Is a super awesome guy and I really like him. He sat me down and we talked for like a full hour about just everything that we wanted to talk about: Family, friends that I miss, MTC life, and especially my companion.

He told me that on his mission in the Philippines, he got called to serve as a companion to this one elder who was just notorious for being difficult and lazy. Brother Blackham said that this guy literally hated him for absolutely no reason at all: He swore at him and hit him all the time. But Blackham said that he made it his goal to not only get along with this guy, but to actually find it in himself to love him. Blackham said he started by being as nice as possible to him: Making his bed, making him breakfast, giving him compliments. He even made a list of 100 reasons why his companion was a good guy. He said at the end of the 3 months of serving with this companion, the guy STILL HATED HIS GUTS. But Blackham said that even though his companion still hated him, Blackham loved this guy.

Brother Blackham said the only way to Purely love someone is to serve them with all their being, and expecting absolutely nothing in return: Not a smile, not a thank you, not even an acknowledgement of your service. He said that by doing all of these things he loved his companion. So, I've decided to do the same. I'm going to try (No matter how hard it is) to serve my companion as much as I can, and expect nothing in return. I don’t know how well it’s going to work, but I’m hoping that it will help me get along with him!

Anyways, that's pretty much all I’ve got for this week! I love you all and pray for you all constantly!

Elder Austin Russell Cook

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I will definitely come back as AUSTIN FLIPPIN RUSSELL COOK

So a lot of the stuff here is pretty routine and the days just blend together. Sometimes it feels like I just got here yesterday, while other days it feels like I've been here for 6 months. But I'm still loving it! There's just not much to write about since every day is almost the same. But I'll try and write something worth while.

I'll start off with my companion. He's pretty much the exact same, but I've learned how to deal with him real easy. He just likes to be ignored, and to sit there and do nothing. At first I tried to get him to do stuff, but I've learned it's easier to just let the little guy be himself. He doesn't study the language at all, so during lessons and stuff I take over while he does nothing since the lesson has to be in 100% Tagalog, which I'm okay with now. In fact, I kinda like teaching the lesson by myself. He's actually going to therapy now because the teacher notices all of his dark "Kill myself, kill you, kill babies" comments, so I guess that's a step in the right direction!

The language was super hard to understand at first, but this last week something just clicked and now I understand how it works so much better, and can learn it significantly faster! Sometimes it's hard when we aren't allowed to speak English in lessons and I'm trying to get my point across but no matter what I do I just can't. But I know that it will all come in time!

So I've had this worry that I'll change so much on my mission, that by the time I come back, I will just be an unrecognizable robot of boringness. It literally has been my biggest concern and worry probably ever since Danielle left on her mission. I've been praying so hard for comfort for this and that I won't change too much but I was still just so distraught. Then one night me and Elder J_____ were playing mini soccer in his room. Elder J_____ isn't in my district, but I hang around him a lot of the time. He's super disobedient, and honestly not the best missionary, but he's hilarious and I love the kid. Anyways, I had told my problem/worry to my roommates and stuff, but everyone gave me answers that still left me worrying that I was going to change in a negative way on my mission. But while playing soccer with Elder J_____, I voiced my concern to him. His answer was "Elder Cook, that's literally the stupidest thing I've ever heard." He went on to say (not in these exact words) that God has sent me to the Philippines, not to change who I am, but BECAUSE of who I am. He sent me for ME. He sent me to change the people of the Philippines who I serve through my abilities, talents, and capacities. If I were to change, my mission would be pointless. Sure I'm going to come back changed in the sense of having a higher ability to love and serve, but I will definitely come back as AUSTIN FLIPPIN RUSSELL COOK.
Beautiful Provo temple in the evening

I did think it was interesting that the answer to my prayers came from Elder J_____: A disobedient, rowdy missionary. But I'm glad that I did get an answer FINALLY!

Anyways, I love you all! I'm doing my best for all of you and I'm gonna do the best that I can do, and be the best that I can be. I'll talk to you all next week!!

Elder Austin Cook

I found my cousin Jake's best friend here at the MTC, 
I sat next to him during choir and we talked the whole time, 
I was so glad to finally catch up with him love that kid

Inline image 1
My companion just printed it out from somewhere and drew on it. 
He did it to everyone in our room...Don't ask my why?