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)