Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas from the Legazpi Mission

Dear parents of Legazpi Mission,

We wish you a merry Christmas. Thanks for giving us the gift of your sons and daughters.  They are the best and are serving the Lord well. 

With love,
President and Sister Kotter

you can find me in the bottom photo far left middle row :) 



CHRISTMAS DAY SKYPE 2017


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Conference with Elder Hayne of the 70

Last week was great! On Tuesday we traveled to get to a Conference with Elder Hayne of the 70, and it was really a great conference! He talked about the gathering of scattered Israel, and how it is our job and calling as missionaries to find this "scattered Israel." As of now, he said, our mission is doing a pretty bad job at finding, but he gave us some great ways to find the elect in each of our areas. One of the problems that this mission is having is that all of the missionaries are wasting a lot of time teaching people that will NEVER progress, and we are just trying to force them to change. Elder Hayne made the point that, "when you find scattered Israel, everything is easy." Meaning that they accept all of our invitations to read the book of mormon, go to church, and to be baptized, because they were already prepared before we even met them. He told us that simply FINDING these types of people is the hardest part, so we need to commit ourselves to finding through the members of the church and finding through referrals.

To be honest, if you're not a member of this church, the above paragraph probably made ABSOLUTELY no sense, and even if you ARE a member, it's probably confusing, but hey, I'm just giving updates on what I'm learning. Elder Del Pilar is really getting stronger desires to be obedient and work hard all day, and for that I am very proud of him. He has changed so drastically in just these past two months that I've been companions with him, and I really look up to him for that. We got home from the conference really ready to go out and start finding those who are prepared to receive us, but literally that whole day was just met with pure rejection. We actually thought it was really funny because we were SO pumped from the conference and had such a fire in our hearts to just get out and teach everyone, but we just fell HARD on our faces. But we aren't even a little discouraged, we are working just the same and will continue to work just the same until our last day.

Saturday there was a huge tropical storm that came through our island of Masbate, so we were kind of on lockdown that night and weren't allowed to leave our apartments. There were a lot of areas that flooded, but everyone was safe for the most part, nothing to dramatic happened. Oh and I'm sorry because I actually got some really good pictures this last week, but I LEFT MY SD CARD AT THE APARTMENT AGAIN. Oh well, ya'll will get those next week. But until then, take care and have a merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I don't believe that there are "difficult areas," I just believe that sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places, and therefore not finding those who are wholly prepared to receive us.

We were really able to get a much stronger, renewed vision of our are this past week. I don't know what it is, but Elder Del Pilar and I got much more motivated and dedicated to the work, and now we are very set on reaching new goals and finding more people to teach. I don't believe that there are "difficult areas," I just believe that sometimes we are just looking in the wrong places, and therefore not finding those who are wholly prepared to receive us.

The Ramos family is progressing as usual. We are visiting them literally every day in order to prepare them for their baptism on the 23 of this month. They are really great and by far my favorite family, but our struggle with them is the fact that they are all very uneducated. It's not a bad thing, but we have to teach them VERY simply, and even when we do that, we still have to repeat some lessons two or three times; hence the daily visits we have with them. They might be slow to understand all of the doctrine and such, but they understand what we say through their feelings, not so much through their minds. Even though they can't read, they all know the Book of Mormon is true because every time we read it to them, they say they can feel that it's true and that it can change their lives. It's true that you don't need to be educated in order to be considered the elect of God.

Jingky on the other hand (I'm not sure if I've written much about her) but she really wanted to change her life when we first met her and she said many times that she really wanted to come closer to God. Well just the other night she texted us saying that her schedule is so busy that she just doesn't have the time to fit it all in one day, so she has evaluated and decided that she no longer has time to meet with us. She said she will still continue to do the things that we have taught her, like pray and read the Book of Mormon, but she no longer has time for us to teach her. We tried our best to tell her that she was making a mistake, and she is very sad about it, but her mind seems set. It's really sad because she was one of our most progressing investigators and now she's just gone. But we hope and pray that she will realize that she needs God in her life again...

Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi
 (which is like a meeting for all of the Zone Leaders) 
AND I SAW ELDER CABALLES THERE
OH GOOD NEWS! Last week I was able to go to an Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi (which is like a meeting for all of the Zone Leaders) AND I SAW ELDER CABALLES THERE!! If you don't remember, he's the missionary that I trained. I was so surprised because he's only been on the mission for 6 months and he's a Zone Leader now. It was so great to catch up with him. I love that kid like a brother.

So this week is exciting because we have a general authority, Elder Hayne, coming to visit our mission, and we as the Zone Leaders get to have a special leadership training with him this Tuesday at the mission home. I'm kind of nervous for it because I feel like he's just going to chastise us. But I'm sure it'll be great either way!

And that's all for this week folks! Sorry if I don't send many pictures in my emails, we literally just don't have time to take pictures in our day because literally every minute counts here and we are trying to work as much as possible. But I try to take at least a few!

Elder Austin Cook
Elder Del Pilar, Elder Caballes and me being a nut

The Ramos family is my absolute favorite family here in Masbate!

So as the first week of the transfer, this week was pretty disorganized. I feel like I say that every week though... Oh well, guess it's just a part of being a missionary. Anyways, we got two new missionaries in our zone, and they seem super excited to be on Masbate Island and we are very grateful to have them here!

Our last week was spent teaching as many people as possible, but our most progressing investigators are still the same: the Ramos family, Jingky, and Christian. The Ramos family is my absolute favorite here in Masbate! Jimmy and Angelica go to all of the church activities, and any time there is a baptism they come to it as well. Their baptism is on the 23, so we are very excited and hope that nothing gets in the way so that they actually get baptized on that date.

Most of these people are VERY uneducated when it
comes to world history, but at least they have
fun decorations on their homes
I am so sorry that this email is so short, but we just got informed yesterday that we are going to Legaspi today, so we get to travel on the boats again! And then next week we have a huge mission conference in Legaspi again where of the 70, Elder Hayne, is coming to speak to all of the missionaries here in our mission. Busy stuff, so we are very excited for all of it! Again, sorry for the short email (and next weeks might be short too because we have to travel again) but I got some good pictures to send! But I'm still happy and Elder Del Pilar and I are doing great! Love you all!

WATERWORLD! I just like taking pictures of these houses
because the construction is so interesting.



Sunday, November 26, 2017

We decided to use the church's Christmas initiative "Light The World" in order to spread the Christmas spirit

Us and the Ramos family
Transfer announcements were just two days ago, and it turns out I will be staying here in Masbate for the Christmas season! That's a really good thing because I don't wanna spend my Christmas in a brand new area, that's no fun. Anyways, these past two weeks we have really been spending most of our time teaching our investigators that have a date set for their baptism and setting up for our Christmas activity that we had yesterday. So more than a month ago we suggested to the branch leaders that we were going to set up a missionary activity on November 26, and since then we have been trying our hardest to get the members involved in the planning and preparing, but no one moved an inch when we tried to make an activity. That means that this past week, Elder Del Pilar and I have been trying to set EVERYTHING up for the branch activity. Needless to say, it was a very exhausting week, but we held the activity yesterday, and it was pretty successful.

This was our activity: We decided to use the church's Christmas initiative "Light The World" in order to spread the Christmas spirit. The church released 25 different videos that relate to each day leading up to Christmas, showing us different ways to serve one another on the days until the 25th of December. Our idea was to put up a huge projector screen in the middle of an area where tons of people walk by as a type of advertisement for the "Light the World" initiative. We invited all of the Branch members and we gave them a stack of 300 different handouts to give to people who stopped to watch the videos. Filipinos are a very curious people, so many people stopped by to watch, and by the end of the night, all 300 of our handouts had been given out to people. Not only that but we got the numbers of some people who want us to visit them in their homes and teach them! So I think it was a pretty successful activity.

Sorry, I spent most of my time today emailing my family individually, so my mass email is pretty short. But I'll send some good pictures!

Elder Austin Cook
 District activity. We just put all of the food on a banana leaf & eat it w/our hands

The mama lamb chased him around after this because he took her baby


This dogs name is whitey. He's absolutely disgusting and pitiful,
but he leaves outside of our apartment and always follows us when
 we go outside. Figured I'd take a quick picture with him before he bites the dust.
Yes we do feed him mama!




Sunday, November 12, 2017

Love you all, life is hard, but it's also very good

With the Ramos Family
This past week has given us some relief that we have been hoping for! I'm not sure if you remember them, but the Ramos family came to church again yesterday, with four of their children, and they all loved it! The father, Jimmy, has told us that he has completely stopped drinking ever since we started teaching them, and he doesn't miss it at all. The amazing thing is that we never even asked him to stop drinking, he just decided it was probably the right thing to do.

Two weeks ago we met a girl named Jingky who is 18 years old and is actually the maidservant for a very active family in our branch, the Montilla family. She's not a member, but since she works and lives with a family full of very active members we reached out to her to ask if she was interested in learning more about the church. She responded very warmly towards our invitation, and just last Saturday we were able to finally sit down in a lesson with her and the Montilla family. We started by asking a question that we NEVER ask because the answer is always SO obvious for people here but it felt like an appropriate question to ask at the time: Do you believe in God? Surprisingly enough, she fell silent. She thought for quite a bit and told us that she isn't sure, but she thinks that she feels His presence every now and then. We asked her to explain a little bit more and she told us that when she was much younger, she very much believed in God but because of a health incident that took her father's life, she doubts very much. She thinks that after that incident she moved very far away from God and wants now to make the journey back to him. She told us that when we first came up to her and asked if she wanted to know more about the church, she really felt that that was God's way of giving her another chance to come back. She has expressed to us that she is very willing to do whatever it takes, and has proved that already; just yesterday she went to church all by herself without even doubting it a bit! We are very excited for her!
Me and my Companion

The Ramos family continues to improve. Yesterday we taught them about the Word of Wisdom and they all jumped a little bit when we told them that we aren't allowed to drink coffee or tea. But after a little bit of explanation as to WHY, they all confidently declared that they want to and are ready to follow the word of wisdom by not drinking coffee or alcohol or tea, and not smoking. Funny thing is that we ran into Jimmy later that night with a lit cigarette in his hand! But hey, repentance is a process right?

Anyways, that's all for now folks! Love you all, life is hard, but it's also very good. Ingat kayo!!
Elder Austin Cook
All the students attending my English class I teach

I



Sunday, November 5, 2017

me and Elder Bangal my 2nd companion on my mission
So only half of this last week was actually spent in our area, and the other half was spent in the area of the Assistants to President in Legazpi. But in the half week of work that we got, I thought it wasn't too bad. We have been really working with the leaders in the church to get some awesome activities set up in order to find new people to teach, but the leaders seem to be moving pretty slow with all of it, so we are just gonna have to take the initiative ourselves to work it out if they won't work with us. We are writing some letters to get permission from the area officials in order to use certain facilities in the city to present some videos and put on a Christmas show for the people in Masbate.

Last Tuesday we went to Legazpi to have MLC again, so we were able to receive some great direction from President Kotter. Also I got some more letters from Twinkle and her family, so those always make me happy because I know that at least they haven't forgotten about me!

Last week we had an area realignment with the Sisters in our Zone, which means that we took a part of their area so that we can proselyte in it. In that area that we just took from them, we found a whole new family of investigators, the Ramos Family, and right away they came to church with us! Just yesterday we stopped by their house to pick them up and we walked with them all the way to church, and we have another return appointment with them tomorrow, so we hope that it will go well.

We also have been working with a less-active girl named Rea this past week. Actually we have been working with her for the past two months, and she has yet to come to church again. She has opened up to us saying that she WANTS to come back to church because she really misses it, but she is just having a problem working up the courage to actually make the journey back to church. But yesterday she FINALLY came back to church! She only stayed for the first hour, but hey, we gotta start somewhere right? We really hope that she will continue to progress towards becoming active in the church again.

Elder Bangal & I at MLC, He was my 2nd companion on the mission
Last night we met with the Cantre family for the first time. They are a less-active family that was baptized about a year ago, but it has been a really long time since they have had any contact with the church. We only met with the mother, Melissa, and talked with her about why they stopped coming to church. She explained that they ARE going to church-just not our church. They have found their way back to their Catholic traditions and roots and no longer have the desire to come back to church. She refused to accept it, but her life seems to have gone significantly downhill ever since they left. Her husband used to have a smoking and drinking problem which went away when they joined the church, but we saw some cigarettes hidden in the roof in their house, so obviously that problem has come back. Also her husband does not treat her well at all and always yells and gets mad at her and the kids. We just hope that we can somehow show her that we can help her through the Gospel. But as sad experience shows, once members go less-active, it is so much more difficult to bring them back to church.

Elder Pullicar (He's a cool guy from Idaho) 

These are the cemeteries here in Philippines.
We just kind of walk all over them and stuff, so that's fun

Filipino Cemetery 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

Hey kids, so this week was pretty fantastic, if I don't say so myself. This was the hardest working week I've had in this area by a longshot: We tracted almost all day every day and literally talked to everyone we could to find new investigators and share the gospel. And guess what happened? That's right boys, we got ZERO lessons! I think it's kind of funny though, no big deal. That's actually the second week in a row that that has happened to us, so we are starting to think that maybe tracting isn't our best bet here in this area. But because we have been punted for these two solid weeks, we are really digging down looking for new ideas in finding people to teach and the ideas we have come up with thus far are:
1. City wide film showings in which we put on a performance and show Christmas videos for the people
2. Go caroling with the members here
3. Teach at schools (like actually enter into the classrooms and teach the students)
And we have like a ton of other ideas, but it's hard to explain to people that aren't missionaries haha.

ANYWAYS, elder Del Pilar and I are really doing great in our companionship, we get along super well! This last week we had a lot of stuff happen in the zone that we needed to deal with (just some problems and such) that was kind of a hindrance to our work. But today we are headed to Missionary Leadership Council in Legaspi to see what kind of things we need to learn as leaders in order to help our zone progress. We are very excited for it.

We talked to an older lady last week while we were traveling around, and we got to the topic of the after life. We asked her what she imagines when she thinks of the after life and her answer was really interesting. She told us that we will all just be friends (no families there) and no one talks to each other. We just stare. No speaking. But we will still be happy just staring at each other. We asked "Well why don't we talk to one another?" She said "Well there's nothing to talk about!" We then asked, "Well what exactly do you think we will be doing when we get there?" And she said, "Oh you know, just praying and being happy."

I am so glad that the truths of our after life were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because of the Restoration of the Gospel, we know that the after life is significantly more hopeful than what this older woman described to us. We have been given infinite potential from our Father in Heaven to become like Him and to gain eternal families. I thank God every day for these truths and clarity.

I love you all and will email again in another short week! (Sorry no pictures, I just didn't take any last week. Too busy with the work)
Elder Austin Cook

Monday, October 23, 2017

Wednesday we were able to go on a radio show in order to introduce ourselves and who we are a little bit.

This week was actually really tough when it came to the work. We don't have many investigators, and I'm still really new to this whole Zone Leader thing, yet here I am trying to train someone to be a Zone Leader, so it's rough stuff. Needless to say, this last week was pretty scattered with our list of things to do as the transfer began, but hey, we are doing our best. Elder Del Pilar is having a tough time leaving his last area because he loved the members a lot and the work over there was progressing really well, and I don't think he enjoys this area too much because we are kind of building the area from the ground up. That seems to be the theme of my mission: Arrive to a new area, realize that there's no teaching pool at all, and then get to work and start building it up. So we're just trying to find new people that are really interested in the Gospel that we are sharing.

One cool thing that happened is that last week on Wednesday we were able to go on a radio show in order to introduce ourselves and who we are a little bit. We also announced our English class that we are teaching every Tuesday and Thursday, so that was pretty good advertisement. The radio station is apparently the most listened to station here in Masbate (but I'm not sure that really means much) so we are hoping that it gets the message out there.

Our English class is actually pretty successful as well. Last Thursday we had about 20 people attend (only like 5 were investigators though) and we are hoping that more will be coming in future days.

That's the short email for today, sorry, this week was kind of lame when it came to the work and such. Hopefully we will be more organized this week in order to find more investigators. Alright I love you all, take care!
Elder Austin Cook

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elder Maliu, is headed home today, and it's a really weird feeling, even though it's not even me going home.

This week has been weird to say the least. So my companion, Elder Maliu, is headed home today, and it's a really weird feeling, even though it's not even me going home. Just to think that missionaries actually GO HOME makes me feel different, I don't really know how to explain it, it's just an odd feeling. I feel really bad for him too because he's taking it really hard and is really sad about going home. Although he's going through an emotional roller coaster, It's not affecting the work at all, but I wish I could be better at consoling him in his time of struggle, but I have no idea what's even going on in his mind :(

But the work this week, we found about 15 new people to teach. The problem, however, is that when we find new investigators and set a return appointment to teach them again, they just hide from us when we come back. No matter HOW NICE they are in the first visit, there's like a ninety percent chance that they will hide from us on the second visit, so it's a little frustrating, but hey, we just smile and laugh about it! That seems to be the biggest struggle in this area though. President Kotter told us that because we are the Zone Leaders, we are supposed to be the "Lighthouse Area" for all of the other missionaries, but despite our best efforts, our area refuses to progress. Yesterday we were supposed to have about 5 people show up for church, but all of them canceled that morning, so we were kind of bummed. But again, we aren't getting down on it, Elder Maliu and I are still killing it at this missionary work.

I am very grateful to have had Elder Maliu as a companion, even if it was for just a short 6 weeks. He's leaving later today to head back home to Australia, and this mission is really going to miss him. Even though I was with him for such a short time, we really became good friends in only a couple of days. I remember on the second day of our companionship we were just laughing all day and for that entire week we just had a late night talk every night, discussing literally every subject that we could cover. He has quickly become one of my best friends, which is good because he is my 6th companion (which means that his personality is the personality of my future wife) But I really hope he does well back in Australia, seeing that I probably won't see him again in this life. I know he's gonna do well and I fully expect to see him again in the Celestial.

This next transfer is going to bring a lot of changes, but I am confident that I can handle it. I'll be training a new Zone Leader, which is going to be interesting because I don't even know fully how to be a Zone Leader, but I'll do what I am called to do. Wish me luck, pray for me, and I'll pray for you! Love you all, take care this week!


Elder Austin Russell Cook

Monday, October 9, 2017

We need to focus on the Gospel and see through the lenses of reality, or the lenses of the gospel, rather than the lenses of the world.

This is a style of eating here in the Philippines.
You just throw a ton of rice and food on these
banana leaves and den ya all just eat it wif ya hands.
Yeah, we is kind of like monkeys here lol
This past week was an interesting one to say the least. So last Monday, right after we got done emailing, we headed out to Legaspi to the training meeting for leaders. It was a good meeting seeing that they taught some really good principles for us and such that we can hopefully apply to our zone.

I don't know why but this week is just kind of fuzzy. I guess some weeks are just like that though. Up until General Conference started, our work was super slow, we just didn't have our heads in the game as much as we should have, and it definitely showed in our weekly report to President Kotter. But once General Conference came last Saturday, it was such a needed relief to just sit in the chapel and listen to the words of the Apostles and Prophets of our time.

The theme that I noticed for this last General Conference was that we need to not focus so much on what the world is doing, because if we do that, then we are sure to see ourselves as worthless and not good enough, because that is how the things of the world make us feel. Instead, we need to focus on the Gospel and see through the lenses of reality, or the lenses of the gospel, rather than the lenses of the world. I've really been trying to focus on how I can become a better person and see people for who they really are. Sometimes I have the habit of seeing people and just looking at their bad side, but I've been putting in the effort to see the progress people have made in their lives, or really see the good things in them. I'll tell you what, it's quite the effort, but it makes the world a much brighter place.
Anyways, I know that this church is true. We had the opportunity of attending another church last Friday. They presented a broadcast in which the leader of their church spoke to all of their members (much like our General Conference) and to be honest, the spirit was lacking so much. Compare that feeling to the next day, in our general conference, when we got to listen to real Apostles and real Prophets speak the word of the Lord, and we saw a huge contrast. If you have the knowledge and understanding of the background of our church, it's so simple to see that this is really the only true religion here on the earth. It's the only place where you can find the fullness of the Gospel and the full Plan of Salvation.

That's it for now, the internet is really slow, so I can't email much, but as usual
I love you all, Ingat kayo!
Elder Austin Cook

Me and Elder Semaning 

Our district here in Masbate

Chapel in Legaspi w/a volcano (Mount Mayon) in the background





Sunday, October 1, 2017

Some days it's kind of difficult, but it all works out in the end.

Just Walking
Hello, so I don't have like any time this week to email because we have to travel all the way out to Legazpi, so we have like 6 hours of traveling ahead of us today. But this last week was just full of finding people to teach. Literally, in order to find people to teach, we just tract all day every day. Some days it's kind of difficult, but it all works out in the end.

Our best finding experience of the week was finding a young couple, Bon and Ilene, who were very interested in our message. Ilene is basically on the hunt of a lifetime just searching for Christ's true religion and told us that she has gone to almost every single church except for "Mormons," so she really wanted us to teach her and her husband. We sat down in their home and taught them about the Restoration, and about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and they absolutely loved it. They had so many questions (and not the type of questions that are challenging, but truly sincere, soul-searching questions) and we tried our best to answer them all. In the end, we just left them a Book of Mormon and told them to read some pages and we would return next week to give them an explanation about all of it. They were really excited to read it.

Other than that, we have just been searching for people who will receive us. Between all of the interesting people we have found to teach, we are really enjoying the work. And even though Elder Maliu only has 13 days left on the mission, he's still a hardworking kid, and I really respect that. But that's all I have time for this week! Love you all!

A part member family that we love visiting
Elder Austin Cook

Us while emailing you now

 I don't even know, we just found this in a house we taught at




Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Hey! Elders! Come to my house! Teach me!" If we come unto Christ, we will naturally become better people through Him, and that is the greatest part of our Gospel.

Hello to all and a Merry Christmas!! Oh yeah, that's a fun thing they do here in the Philippines. They start celebrating Christmas stuff in September. They just say that they celebrate Christmas in all of the -BER months haha.

So this week was just full of a lot of finding and such. It feels like I just moved into my last area again. I remember when I got transferred to Libon we literally only had one investigator to teach, and that investigator wasn't even interested in the church. That's kind of how it is here as well, so we are working really hard to get more and more investigators. This past week we found a total of 16, but only about 8 of those are promising, so we will see where that goes.

One super cool experience of last week was with an old man named Emilio. We were tracting in this one area that we have, and this random old guy called out to us from nowhere and said, in English, "Hey! Elders! Come to my house! Teach me!" He really struggled getting those sentences out in English, so we spoke with him in Tagalog and he literally just started walking to his house without any further explanation, so we decided it would be best to follow him. He lives pretty deep within this one community, but when we finally arrived to his house we asked him why he wanted to teach us, and he just said because he knew that God would bless him if we taught him. This past week we have taught him a total of 3 times, and he has read the Book of Mormon every day and absolutely loves it! We asked him who his favorite characters were and he goes, "Well obviously, Nephi and Lehi!" He absolutely loves The Book of Mormon. Our next goal with him is to just get his wife involved in the lessons, because she's always at work when we teach him. But fear not, her time will come.

Elder Maliu and I have changed our tracting approach to a new and improved version of the Restoration lesson. We teach the whole thing in about 5 minutes and we've really just cranked it down to the pure doctrine of the Restoration, and by the end of the lesson, we are really able to tell who is prepared to receive this message and who is not. It's amazing finding the people who are interested in this message and in this gospel. I really love it and I think it's interesting to see that what the Prophets and Apostles say is absolutely true: The Book of Mormon is the foundation of our testimony in this Gospel. I've really come to believe (Before my mission I would just say it but not believe it) that if a person reads the book of Mormon with a real intent to change themselves, not just to read it but to ACTUALLY try and become a better person through it, it will happen and they will come to know that the book and the message it contains is true. Our message is not only that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, but our message is that through this Gospel we can truly find a way to change ourselves to become something better than we ever thought we could. As Moroni invites every one of us to do in the last chapter in the Book of Mormon, "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him." If we come unto Christ, we will naturally become better people through Him, and that is the greatest part of our Gospel.

I love you all and I have finally got some pictures to send to you! Have a great week!

These are all just some pictures in our area. The area is so beautiful and surrounded by beaches :) The big black guy is my companion, Elder Maliu, and the little Filipino is the 19 year old guy who always works with us, Brayan Ramirez, and is always smiling




















Friday, September 22, 2017

Turns out there was a typhoon while we were riding the Row Row! Fun stuff right?

This week was awesome! I left my camera at the apartment, so no pictures :( But I took a lot of pictures this week, and I will send those all as a part of my email NEXT week.

So last Tuesday we had a meeting at the mission home for all of the Zone Leaders, which was a really great meeting. But we are all the way out here on the island of Masbate, so it takes us a total of about 12 hours to get all the way out to the mission home. That means we had to leave on Monday afternoon, literally right after we emailed. There are two types of water transportation to get back to the mainland: Row Row or Fastcraft. We decided to take the Fastcraft because although it is more expensive, it only takes two hours rather than 4 or 5 like the Row Row. We boarded the Fastcraft with our stuff and about 20 minutes into the ride, the waves on the ocean were HUUGE, and the boat was getting slammed really hard, which made us turn back to the island because the waves were too big to get anywhere. Now, the Row Row is much bigger than the Fastcraft, so it's able to handle the bigger waves, so we just boarded the Row Row after returning back to the island. But about two hours into the Row Row ride, the waves got really rough and started throwing the Row Row around, but we were already too far into the journey to turn back. Elder Maliu and I didn't know why the weather was so bad, so we asked about it, and turns out there was a typhoon while we were riding the Row Row! Fun stuff right? Lucky for us it was far away, but the sea was really affected by it. But no worries, we made it in the port safe and sound :)

Tuesday we finally got to go to the meeting for all of the Zone Leaders, which was a very inspiring meeting for all of us, and I think I finally figured out exactly what it is that I'm supposed to do in this zone with my new calling. The meeting lasted about 6 hours (with really good lunch included) after which we traveled home again, and didn't land back in the island until about 1:00 AM. But President Kotter gave us permission to sleep in until 8:00 the next morning, which I don't think I've done in the past year of being here. But at the meeting I finally got some letters which Twinkle and her family sent me!! Gosh, I miss them so much, I just hope all is well. They still are my favorite family out of all my areas.

On Friday, President Kotter gave us a new initiative/way to teach the Restoration and the Book of Mormon in just under 5 minutes. Elder Maliu and I have been trying it ever since then, and it REALLY works! They understand the lesson so well, and it always gets them interested in our message! And then the ones who aren't interested, we just move on like it's whatever because we know that right around the next corner there are other people who will accept us. In this area, the people just accept us so well. Knocking on doors is one of my favorite things to do here because you get to meet tons of new people and they are surprisingly accepting. But when I came into this area we had like no investigators at all (just like my last two areas) so we are just working on building up our teaching pool so we can get the work moving. 

Adjusting to a new area is never easy, but this has been the easiest adjustment so far. I'm still not completely familiar with the area yet, and I don't really know many of the members, but I am really enjoying the area so far. I still miss Libon and the members there, and I especially miss Elder Caballes. I heard he's training an American right now, so that's gotta be tough for him to try and speak English, but he'll do great. 

That's all for today! Sorry again for no pictures, but next week there will be twice as many! I love ya'll, stay out of trouble!

Monday, September 11, 2017

This church is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone can know for themselves if they just ask with a sincere heart

This is the boat that blew up
Hey kids! So last Tuesday I got transferred to my new area in Masbate. It was actually pretty difficult leaving Libon. Honestly it felt very similar to leaving Irosin or leaving home, but I've pretty much gotten used to that feeling by now. So on Tuesday we got on this boat called a Row Row, which is the boat that they use to get people out to Masbate, and it's actually a really nice boat! They have two decks, and the upstairs has really nice indoor seating with really good movies playing (No, we didn't watch the movies, we stayed outside the whole time). So we started our travel at 7:00 PM and the Row Row takes about 4 hours to get to Masbate, so we were planning to be arriving at about 11:00 PM. But about two hours into our travel, the engine of the boat blew out. And when I say that, I mean it was for real, like something you would see in the movies. It sounded like 4 gunshots and steam and smoke just SHOT out of the main engine room and then everything stopped. We thought we were gonna stay there all night, but in about two hours they got the boat up and running again, so we arrived in Masbate safe and sound at about 1:00 AM.

Me and Elder Montilla out in their area in Cataingan
The next morning we woke up at 6:30 AM as usual and got right to work! My new companion, Elder Maliu, used to be President Kotter's Assistant, and this is his last 6 weeks here on the mission, so he is a very experienced missionary. He is one of the kindest guys I've met out here, and I am so glad to be his companion, even if it is for just one transfer. So we've basically just been working so much every day, and I really love it. The people here are THE BEST!! They are super welcoming, even though they just met us, and they are actually intelligent. The main struggle of my last area was actually getting people to just understand our message about Christ, but it kind of seemed like they didn't really understand us, it just didn't click in their brains. But here the people are very kind and they understand us, so it is a very nice change of pace!

Also this place is actually a lot cleaner than my last area, especially the water :) To be honest this island is known for having horrible water. But since we are in the nice part of the city, we have really clean water! And our apartment has 3 bathrooms, and one of them has a shower head! But we only get water in the apartment at certain times of the day. The city controls when we do and don't get water. We get water in the morning and at night, so it actually works perfectly because that is the only time that we are home :) So I really have no complaints about the area! Our apartment is really unorganized, but I'll be fixing that this week as soon as I get time.  I don't have a lot of time because we gotta head out to the mainland in Legazpi and we won't even be coming back until Friday. Being a zone leader is busy stuff this week.

Nothing much is different here on the island, environmentally speaking. The food is the same, the transportation is the same, the plants and houses are pretty much the same. Oh, but the one thing that is different here is that the language is different. They don't always speak Tagalog, a lot of the time they speak Masbatanio, which is a mix of Vesiya and Bicol. So we get to learn even more languages out here, WOOHOO!! No worries though, it's actually a lot easier to learn it. Once you understand Tagalog, these other island languages are pretty easy to pick up on.

I don't have much time here, so I just want to share one neat spiritual experience before I head off. So we teach the Villamor Family, just a couple, Babylon Villamor and Mary-Jane Villamor, with two small kids. They were actually supposed to be baptized last week, but some issues came up and they couldn't be baptized, which really bummed us out. So we went to their house, last night actually, to see what the problems were with them not being baptized. We wanted to know what the problem was: were they scared, worried, or just not wanting to? So we got there and turns out that Babylon really wants to be baptized, but his wife does not have the desire. She's not totally sure if Joseph Smith was a real prophet of God, so if he's not a prophet, then this church isn't true, so we could see her worry. We told her that there is NO WAY that she can know if he really was a Prophet if she doesn't pray about it and ask God herself. So right there in the lesson, we told her to say a prayer and ask God directly and specifically if Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and if this is the true church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. So she did. After she finished saying the prayer, it was silent for about 30 seconds before she finally spoke, telling us that right when she asked if it was all true, she felt an indescribable feeling inside of her, and she was so excited about it that she held up her arm to us to show us her goosebumps. She said that she was trying really hard not to cry because of what she felt, and we testified to her that that was the spirit telling her that it was indeed true.

I just love all of this. I feel bad for anyone who misses out on this Gospel of Jesus Christ because they are truly missing out on the eternities. This church is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone can know for themselves if they just ask with a sincere heart.

Also about my friend in my last area, Aries Leonor, he always told me that when I go home that I would forget about him, but I always thought it would be the other way around. He sees missionaries come and go all the time and honestly I thought he would just forget about me haha. But it's really touching to read all of the things that he wrote about me. But yeah, he really was the best member in the branch, and I'll miss him so much. I never really mentioned him in my emails sent to home, but he really has helped change my mission for the better. I never assumed so much help would come from a member :) There's about 98% that I don't get the time to write about in my emails sent home 😂 But Aries changed my mission, he truly did.

I love you all and hope you all have a GREAT WEEK!!!
Love ya kids, Ingat (Tagolog for "take care")

Elder Austin Cook
I have already made a great friend in Masbate,
Brayan Consulta Ramirez I LOVE THIS KID..
HE'S THE BEST. He literally works with us EVERY DAY.
It's pretty much like we are in group of three as missionaries,
he just doesn't wear a name tag 😂
























The three photos below is of our last family home evening with the Secillano family in Libon :'( Love them