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!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

We are in Hong Kong right now and HOLY CRAP THAT FLIGHT WAS SO TOUGH

Hey mom! We are in Hong Kong right now and HOLY CRAP THAT FLIGHT WAS SO TOUGH. Seriously so long and I couldn't sleep very well even with the pillow you gave me, and the lady on my right (probably like 23 or so) kept falling asleep on my shoulder. But I'm all safe and stuff so don't worry! Love ya mom, I'll email as soon as I can again!

So we are in the Mission Training Center right now and have 30 minutes to email! This MTC is a lot smaller but a lot nicer than the one in Provo, and there's only like 200 missionaries in it. The humidity here is not as bad as I expected, and honestly I'm so glad I worked construction before coming here because it really prepared me for all of the sweating! But all is good here, we actually get to have an activity tomorrow where we go outside of the Mission Training Center for 5 hours and go street contact people for real this time! CRAZY RIGHT?? Anyways, email me back if you can! :)

Haha wait, I just realized it’s like super late about 2am in Vegas, so just kidding! But I made it safe and this place is great! I love you mom! Also I think I'm supposed to be able to email next Wednesday (Tuesday in Vegas) I just don't know what time. But I'll email soon! Tell the family I love them!!

Our last picture at the Provo MTC with our teacher
Elder Smith, me, and Elder Anderson at the Manila MTC

Me and Elder Brown "looking awesome" at the manila temple