Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Love is a decision." I've thought about that phrase so much in the past week. Love is not only a decision, but it is a conscious effort on our part.

For some reason, when I sit down at the computer it's so hard for me to remember exactly what happened in the last week. But this time I finally brought my journal, so hopefully I'll be able to be a little more descriptive this time.

On Tuesday we had this thing called "Trainer's Training," which is just a training seminar for all of the trainers in the mission. President Kotter and Sister Kotter both spoke to us as a group, and as usual, it was a great experience to have them uplift us with their words. One thing that I really thought was interesting was a quote that Sister Kotter gave to us: "Love is a decision." I've thought about that phrase so much in the past week, and it really is true. Love is not only a decision, but it is a conscious effort on our part.

Wednesday we had a lesson with a less-active family, the Concepcion Family. They are a very poor family and we are just trying to help them see how the Gospel can help them out with all of their problems, whether financial or not.

Thursday was actually the FIRST DAY with Elder Caballes in which we got absolutely zero lessons. But we weren't discouraged, some days that just happens.

Friday we had an amazing lesson with a new investigator of ours named Maria-Christina Saya. This was only the second time that we taught her, and she is so amazing. She told us of the hardest things in her life right now, which are threefold. She told us her hardships started last November when she had a stroke that kind of threw off the left side of her body, and even now she still walks with a limp. Then last December, on Christmas Day, her house got absolutely wrecked by a super typhoon that flooded this whole area. Shortly after that incident, her husband was killed right in front of her with a machete. So it's very obvious to see that she has almost more than she can bear right now. We have been teaching her about the Book of Mormon, and how the doctrine found in the Book of Mormon will help her find peace and joy, despite all of her horrible circumstances. She absolutely loves us visiting, and she told us that we are different and much greater than all of the other missionaries from other churches that come to her house, and told us that every time we leave her house, her mind is cleared completely and she has finally has peace of mind. she is such a choice spirit and I know that she will be changed by what we have to offer her.

Saturday we traveled out to a far area to teach Stanley Araw, who, even though we only gave it to him two weeks ago, has finished the Book of Mormon. The only problem with Stanley is that he might have a bit of a mental problem. He's had a very rough background as well which I won't get into, because I think it might be illegal to even mention, but he's had a broken soul before and he fully believes that this is the true church of Jesus Christ and he wants to associate himself with it. I believe that he will be baptized into the church soon enough.

Sunday was actually a great day, probably the best of this last week. We had 9 of our investigators come to church, and they all loved it! Every week is getting better and better, and the branch is becoming so much more involved in the missionary work and always asking us what they can do to help us out. Sunday we had another lesson with Maria-Christina Saya, which was equally as great as the others, a lesson with new investigators Judy-Ann and Amy, a lesson with Connie Sabas, and a great lesson with the Docot Family. Each one of those lessons was filled with the spirit and we brought a member with us, Brother Cedo, who bore very powerful testimony to each of them about the church.

I am very grateful for all of the miracles, both great and small, that have occurred in these past weeks with Elder Caballes. He is such a blessing to this area and to this mission and to my life. I know that it is because of our faith and obedience that we are witnessing these blessings in our area. I love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook

my incredible companion

Monday, July 10, 2017

Our area is great, Elder Caballes is seriously the best and wants to always work and obey the rules. It can't get much better than this :)

This week absolutely flew by and honestly I don't remember much from it because I don't think anything too significant happened...

Just a little contest going on :)
But everything is still as happy as ever! Even though we aren't getting many lessons in a week, our numbers are skyrocketing! We are just talking and helping everyone that we can, and people are coming to church and accepting baptismal dates and really progressing in the church :)

OH WAIT THERE WAS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED!! We have been teaching this one couple (The Docot Family) and they have two children. The wife is actually inactive and has been since she was 15 years old, so she doesn't even remember the church at all. So we found her one day and were trying to reactivate her in the church, but it just was not working. Then we met her husband who became instantly involved and interested in our message, and even started reading the Book of Mormon! Anyways, we had some great lessons with them, and they just looked so amazing as a happy little family listening to the gospel and wanting to learn more, it really was heartwarming to see. But last Tuesday, sister Docot
taking votes...
sent us the most random, blunt text that I've probably ever received on the mission. In effect she said, "Hello Elders. Don't come to my house again, I don't want to listen to you anymore. Don't waste your time, just don't come." We were taken back so hard when we read that. Then we ran into her husband yesterday and he told us sorry, that he really wants us to come back, but he and his wife are fighting and she was the one who sent the text and not him. Sorry to tell you all, but there still isn't a happy ending to the story, but we are going to talk to Sister Docot today to see what's really going on. Hopefully it all goes well.

Anyways, our area is great, Elder Caballes is seriously the best and wants to always work and obey the rules. It can't get much better than this :) Alright, I love you all, talk to you next week! :)

Elder Austin Cook

#Team Yellow
Highest class of toilets

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Every day our work is progressing, and there are people literally walking up to us saying they want to come to our church, or they want to be baptized, or they want us to teach them. I know that this is what happens when you work together in a companionship to be worthy enough to have at least a portion of God's spirit with you

So this week has been full of amazement and pure awesome!

I wanna describe one of our visits with our investigator that I mentioned last week named Stanley Araw (The guy who had the vision.) We went deep into the mountains again to teach him and when we arrived, he welcomed us so excitedly, saying that he had read the pamphlet that we gave him that explains the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained how much he loved it and how much he learned, and because of his diligence in understanding our message, we proceeded to teach him about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He loved it all and understood everything we taught as well as accepted to be baptized on the 5th of August. After the lesson ended we gave him a Book of Mormon and he just stared at it like it was a gift from God himself. He then declared with the utmost confidence that he will finish reading the book before his baptism date. He then gave us a closing prayer that lasted about 15 minutes in which he thanked God for Joseph Smith and for Moroni because he hid the golden plates for Joseph Smith to find, and thanked God for the Bible and for us missionaries and for pretty much everything he could thank God for. It was a really sweet prayer, and I really felt his sincerity.

We also had a lesson with one of our investigators named Connie Sabas, who is about 65 years old. We basically had the same lesson that we had with Stanley, and she had the SAME REACTION, saying that she would finish the Book of Mormon before her baptismal date, which is the same as Stanley's.

Elder Cook as he got up to play the closing hymn at the end of Sacrament Meeting
There are tons more stories that I really want to tell you all about, but I just don't have the time, and ya'll probably wouldn't have the time to read it. But it suffices me to say that every day our work is progressing, and there are people literally walking up to us and saying that they want to come to our church, or they want to be baptized, or they want us to teach them. I know that this is just what happens when you can work together in a companionship to be worthy enough to have at least a portion of God's spirit with you. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Austin Cook

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We are calling down the powers of heaven daily through our obedience, hard work, and love for the people. I know that the Lord is on our side and I have never felt his presence stronger in my life.

This past week has been full of plenty of work and amazing missionary experiences.

So overall this last week, we found 6 new investigators. Honestly, it's not much, but three of those investigators came to church yesterday, and three of them have told us that they want to be baptized as soon as possible and they really mean it.

One of the new investigators, Stanley Araw, kind of has an interesting story. He ran into us in the 
A few of my favorite people
street one day while he was selling ice cream a while back and told us that he wants us to meet him at his home. We were pretty excited because not many people just waltz up to you and ask to be taught, so we knew we needed to make the best of it. Last Saturday, Elder Caballes and I traveled to his home out in a place called Libtong, which was a lot farther than we expected it would be. The rain was absolutely HORRENDOUS when we went to his house and it was about a 30 minute walk in the mountain to find where he lived. But as soon as we got to his house the rain stopped, so that was a nice little blessing. He was so kind and inviting right when we got there; he had already had a little snack and juice prepared for us. He told us to eat some snacks while he went and got changed into the nicest polo shirt he had so that we could share with him.

Then he told us a story that was kind of interesting about how he was living in a far city called Davao, and there he had a type of vision. In this vision he said that he met an angel, and the angel told him to get out of Davao and look for the true church of Jesus Christ, and that this said church should bear the name of Jesus Christ himself. Long story short, Stanley Araw ended up here in our area. When he saw the sign of our church, he knew it was the one that he saw in vision because is had the name JESUS CHRIST right on the front. We proceeded to teach him about our beliefs and the next day, we saw him at church all dressed up. He stayed the whole time, took notes even, and asked us when he can be baptized. We are very excited to see how he progresses.

One of our other investigators is a man named Jason Docot. His wife, Mary-Jane Docot, is actually a member, but has been inactive since she was about 15 years old. However, her husband has never heard of the church, but he is very interested. He's been reading the Book of Mormon and understands it all and really likes it! He is just having a hard time believing that there is a living prophet on the earth right now who has the same power that Moses had. But we are assured that he will gain that testimony if he continues his honest search.

Me and my trainer, Elder Perkins. My love for this kid 
has grown so much throughout my time here. He's actually 
going home in a couple of weeks, so best of luck to him.
So that's all I'm going to say on the investigator part, but we are so ready to see this area finally progress! Elder Caballes is so obedient, humble, willing, and hardworking. I read all the time in the Doctrine and Covenants that it is through our obedience that we call down the powers of heaven. When I was with Elder Nonu, I was having a really hard time believing that because I was trying my best, but the work was just going nowhere; I didn't feel any sort of power coming from heaven. But with Elder Caballes I finally get it. We are calling down the powers of heaven daily through our obedience, hard work, and love for the people. I know that the Lord is on our side and I have never felt his presence stronger in my life.

I love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook ☺

So we were all taken to a huge conference in which all of the missionaries went to Legazpi to hear President Kotter and Sister Kotter speak to all of us. We also got our flu shots there

Our original Irosin group

Sometimes you just gotta have some fun... With Elder Robinson

These are the original Irosin elders in my last area. 
This is the first time that we all got to see each other 
in one place in a long time.

This is the whole Irosin crew in my last area. 
It was literally like a huge family reunion.

Elder Robinson (great guy) leaves the mission in two months
So ANYTIME someone dies, they put them in a car and parade them through the streets with banners and loud music.


Monday, June 19, 2017

I now will be training my NEW companion! I have my vision back of what I want this area to look like, and that's what we are going to be working on this transfer! With my new companion, miracles are going to happen, and I can't wait!!

This week I finally got back in the grove of good, dedicated missionary work.

I traveled by myself to the mission home on Wednesday to pick up my companion, and let me tell you what, it was so weird being by myself, just not use to it, but we got to the mission home and President Kotter gave us a run-down of what it means to be a trainer, and the sacred nature of the calling. He told us that before they became mission presidents, President Kotter and his wife were taught by Elder Holland in multiple seminary. I guess he was kind of like their mentor in teaching them how to be mission presidents. Anyways, in one of the seminars, Elder Holland explained to them that out of anyone that he has EVER met in his life, the one single person who has had the most impact in his life was his trainer on the mission. Despite all of the prophets, apostles, and great church leaders that he has worked with, his trainer left the biggest impact on him. If that doesn't put the pressure on, I don't know what will!
Elder Alutaya (now assistant to the President) and I

Oh and I also got to see Elder Alutaya again! I don't know if you remember him, but he was my

roommate in my last area in Irosin. He just became Assistant to the President, so I was able to see him at the mission home. I'll be honest I almost cried when I saw him because we were so happy to see each other again.

Anyways, after that they introduced us to our trainees and mine was announced to be Elder Caballes! I was so excited to meet him that I just gave him a huge hug and couldn't stop smiling.

That night we slept at a hotel close to the mission home called Jennifers. I remember sleeping there on my first night in the mission and I haven't been there since, but I remember thinking that it was such a disgusting place full of bugs and dirty water and I didn't even want to shower because I thought the bathroom was so dirty... Funny how time changes things. When we slept there this night, it was HEAVEN. There was Air conditioning, soft beds, the water was warm in the shower... Seriously the best nights sleep that I've had since I got here. Nothing changed in the hotel, just my perspective on it, so I thought that was really funny.

Elder Caballes and I with President and Sister Kotter
In just these past couple of days, Elder Caballes has proved himself already to be a hardworking, insanely obedient missionary. He is always smiling, always helping, and always listening to any sort of advice I give him. He really is the trainee that I've been praying for! He's got a vision, and in just these past three days, so much progress has been made in the branch because of our work! God has blessed me so much with giving Elder Caballes to me as my trainee.

All I know is that everything is going to get better this transfer. My whole countenance feels different. You know that scripture, 2 NEP 28:30 “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon  precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”  It’s just like the scripture states and I noticed that with my last companion…. I stopped receiving. We didn't get much work done and as a side effect, my drive and my joy was being taken away. But in just these past 3 days, I’ve started receiving it all again, and the Lord is happy to give it all back to me. I have my vision back of what I want this area to look like, and that's what we are going to be working on this transfer!  With my new companion, miracles are going to happen, and I can't wait!!  That's the update for now!

I love you all and take care!

Elder Austin Cook
All of the trainers and their trainees

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I'm going to be training a brand new missionary starting this Thursday and I am very excited for it!

So transfer day is tomorrow, and Elder Nonu is being transferred to a place called Sorsogon and his new companion will be Elder Rowlings. As for me, I am staying here in Libon and I don't know who my new companion is going to be because he hasn't arrived in the mission field yet! Yep, I'm going to be training a brand new missionary starting this Thursday and I am very excited for it! I don't know if he is going to be a foreigner or a Filipino, but either way, I am very interested to see what it's going to be like!  I am feeling good, but with this last 6 weeks, I feel like I have moved away from the spirit a little bit, just because of the wasted time that we had. But I have a lot of hope for a second chance during my training, and I just REALLY hope that my trainee is humble and wants to be obedient.

As for this last week, we didn't have much happen! Transfer announcements came on Saturday night, so ever since then, we have just been going around to all of the members and stuff so that Elder Nonu can say his goodbyes to all of them. I'm really gonna miss Elder Nonu and all of the stuff that we did together, but he's super excited to be leaving, as he did not particularly enjoy this area. But he will be missed by me and all of the other members.

The members here are okay. It's a branch, so the members are not that strong in the faith and are very unaware of their duty, so that's going to be my first focus when I start training. There are some strong members that I really do like though: The Reblando family, the Cerilo family, and the Sabaupan family are all great and very strong in the church :) They are nice to us missionaries all the time :) Only about 60 people attend church every week, as compared to Irosin where we had anywhere from 120-145. Church is actually not far at all, because it's literally the building next to our apartment 😂 but that brings a lot of problems with the members dropping in our apartment unexpectedly, and some of the members have actually slept at our apartment before. I told them it was not allowed, but the other missionaries in the apartment said that it's okay because no one ever said it wasn’t allowed...

Guys I'm really sorry that I don't have much to say, but I can promise that I will have a TON to say next week with my new trainee! But I am very happy and always am, I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Austin Cook

The only picture I have is just of the activity we did earlier today. We dug a bit and put searing hot rocks in it and then placed food wrapped in tinfoil in the hole with the rocks. And then we covered it with banana leaves to cook. I guess it's a Samoan thing, and since Elder Nonu is Samoan, he wanted to do it before he left.

Monday, June 5, 2017

I can confidently say that those who are following the things that we are teaching to them live MUCH happier lives than others who reject our teachings and messages.

This week was a good one full of some actually pretty good work!

District activity earlier today.
We had exchanges this last week and my companion was Elder Anselmo. He's a good missionary who enjoys doing the work, and within two hours of working with him we were able to find 12 new investigators by just knocking on people's doors! The rest of the day we went around and taught some great lessons to our other investigators we have here. It was really good to get out and just work all day and not worry about anything else!

This last week we taught some of our inactives in the branch here in Libon. It's really interesting to see how their lives have changed ever since they stopped going to church. Before, they had steady jobs, they were doing well with their family, but now their life is just slipping away. We are trying to show them that if they want their life back, they need to live according to the teachings of Christ in order to invoke the blessings of heaven on themselves and on their family.

It's interesting to see the lives of the people here. Being a missionary here in the Philippines gives a one in a lifetime chance to meet as many people with as many different backgrounds as possible. It's amazing to see the differences in their lives and exactly what causes these differences, and I can confidently say that those who are following the things that we are teaching to them live MUCH happier lives than others who reject our teachings and messages. I just hope that eventually they will see that our message is one of hope.

I watched a video the other day that told a story of two young brothers about 60 years ago who found a pair of old boots and a jacket right next to a wheat field. They looked out into the field and noticed there was an older farmer out there who was working. They could tell that the boots and jacket were his, and upon finding the boots, the younger brother who was about 10 years old wanted to hide the old man's boots and jacket and wait and watch from a distance for him to return. The younger brother thought it would be funny to see his reaction as he frantically searched for his hidden items. But the older brother had another idea. Instead of hiding the old man's belongings, he suggested that they each leave a silver dollar in each boot, and then watch and wait for the man to come back. Reluctantly, the younger brother agreed, and that's what they did. Upon arriving back at his boots and jacket, the brothers watched as he slipped on one boot and took it right back off, noticing the silver dollar inside. He removed the dollar and looked around for whoever it was that put it in there, but he could see no one, for the boys were hidden out of sight. Then he slipped on the other boot and noticed the other dollar that was carefully placed inside. When finding these two dollars, he immediately knelt down and offered up a prayer out loud to God, saying his thanks to God because he desperately had been needing money for his wife, who lay ill due to a sickness that threatened her life and did not have the needed money to purchase the medicine. He then asked to invoke the blessings of Heaven upon the people who had placed the money in his boots. The young brothers walked away from this experience and the older brother said to the younger, "There, now doesn't that feel good?"
Just do good to others, and the same will always be reciprocated to you in the end. I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week! 
Elder Austin Russell Cook
District activity earlier today.
P.S.  Mom I’m doing well! I’m all healthy and stuff, but the conditions here are still the same. Earlier today it was raining really hard, so we took a shower under the rain water that drained off of the roof of the church because it's actually cleaner than the water in our apartment. #GoPhilippines
My monthly allowance money is perfectly fine! It's super easy to budget, I ended up with about 35% of my support money leftover at the end of the week, so I've got plenty of money over here :)
I made some chicken wings for us the other day
We took a hike last P-day and this was the view. 
  And yes, that is a huge volcano
Elder Mallapre wanted a photo shoot... I guess

Monday, May 29, 2017


So this week I actually have some stuff to talk about (but no pictures, sorry, I left my camera at the apartment)

On Wednesday of last week, we had a giant service project that took like all day to complete. Well, we thought it was a service project at first, but then turns out that we were just doing landscape work for an old lady in the branch who didn't wanna hire other people to do it. But hey, it was nice, I love doing physical service out here! The rest of the day we went around and tried to find people to teach, but there was this huge event called "Fiesta" going on in Libon. It's pretty much just everyone partying and eating and stuff all day for no reason. So every time we tried to go to an investigators house, they would just say "OH HEY COME IN! IT'S FIESTA COME AND EAT!!" And then we would say no because we had other places to go, but it's apparently SUPER RUDE to reject food at fiesta. So long story short, we ate huge meals at three different houses in succession. That'll hurt your stomach. Woo-hoo Filipino culture!

Thursday we had interviews with our mission president, President Dale Kotter, which was pretty nice. I don't necessarily like interviewing with him just because I don't really know what to tell him. I just told him how the area in Libon was doing and how me and Elder Nonu were doing, so not much really. He took a lot of notes while I was speaking to him, so that made me super nervous too. It's like I was being interrogated. But after the interviews we went home and finished up our studies and that was it for the day!

Saturday we spent the whole day (Yes the WHOLE day) cleaning the branch meetinghouse with the branch members. We weeded the whole yard, moved the coconut trees, and cleaned literally everything! Hard work, but it was good!

Sunday was packed with lessons and stuff, which was really nice! Me and Elder Nonu went on splits, and my companion was a guy in the branch named Aries. He's actually from Manilla, but he's vacationing down here and he is THE BEST member present! He's an RM and He and I went around and did some amazing, spiritual missionary work that I haven't been able to do in a long time. It was such a relief to be able to teach people with purpose and move urgently from appointment to appointment. Aries really is a gift from God in this area. 

Well that's it for this email! Sorry that there are no pictures, but I'll try and send them all next week :) I love you all and hope you have a great week! 

Elder Austin Cook

Monday, May 22, 2017

The scriptures don't lie, by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of ALL things.

Sorry everyone for not getting an email out in the past couple of weeks! We just haven't had much time out here on P-days, and all of these computers are having difficulties, but this week I am luckily able to email you guys! 

This is sister Tewaea, my mother on the mission. 
She is the best and I would take a bullet for her in a 
heartbeat (this was at a zone conference two weeks ago)
I don't remember what I said in my last email, but I'll just give an update on these past two weeks. So Elder Nonu and I are getting along much better than we used to. I finally figured out how to get along with him, so we are happier when we are together, but it hasn't affected our work results at all. I'm still having some trouble trying to get him motivated and focused on the work. I'm 100% okay with that though because I've realized that some people just need help in some areas more than others. He's not a lazy guy, he just needs a little bit of gentle pushing is all. But I can honestly say that we are really happy together!

Our work is still difficult honestly. Last area I had a ton of people and investigators that I would like to email home about, but in this area we just have nothing. The people are a little bit more hardened to our message, but I kind of like it! Every day there is something new to learn, and I am learning things in this place that I would have never learned anywhere else.

Me and Elder Robinson. This guy has been one 
  of my greatest examples here on the mission

The most important thing that I've learned here is the significance of the Holy Ghost. As members of this Church of Jesus Christ, we have all received the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by those who are in authority and who hold the Priesthood of God, but the severely unfortunate fact is that a lot of us don't even know what that means. I've learned that this third member of the Godhead will tell us EVERYTHING that we need to know. The scriptures don't lie, by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of ALL things. He speaks to us constantly. If we heed to his still but ever present voice, we cannot go wrong and we will learn, we will be comforted, we will be preserved and kept safe, and we will witness miracles. I know that the Holy Ghost is one of God's greatest gifts to us, and I urge all of you who are members to heed to his still small voice. 

I love you all and hope you have a great week! :)
Elder Austin Cook
By far my best companion on the mission, 
     Elder Bangal. I miss this guy so much!
Me and Elder Peterson (the only white guy who 
   immigrated with me over here from Provo)
The cutest kids ever The kids in the Reblando family. 
I told the mother of the little 
girl in the very front of the picture that I am 
going to take her home with me when I leave