Sunday, February 26, 2017

I KNOW that Elder Bednar is one called of God himself. The quiet but piercing spirit in the room was like fire circling the room.

So this week was a very busy week for me and Elder Maga! I guess first I'll start with Tuesday when Elder Bednar visited.

So for all of those here who aren't members of the church, Elder Bednar is one of the living 12 apostles. So just like back when Jesus Christ called 12 Apostles back in His time to help Him with His work, we have 12 apostles in this church who are called of God to help the Prophet with his work. So they are just insanely smart, spiritual, powerful people, and no, they are not paid for what they are called to do.

Anyways, Elder Bednar came, and when an Apostle comes to your mission area, it's a HUGE deal, so EVERYONE was super excited for it. We all expected him to come in and lecture us for two hours or so on how to be good missionaries. But he got up to the pulpit he talked to us like you would talk to a friend. He asked us questions, conversed with us, and let us ask him questions. I was fortunate enough to sit in the front of the stands right next to him so I could focus a lot better and not have any distractions. It was a really neat experience. One of the biggest lessons that I learned was actually not about being a missionary at all. The greatest thing I took out of his visit was how important it is to parent your children correctly, allowing them to do things for themselves and allowing them to exercise their agency. A lot of things happened there that would just take a long time to explain, but I do wanna say that I KNOW that that man is one called of God himself. The quiet but piercing spirit in the room was like fire circling the room.  I also need to add EVERYTHING that Elder Bednar did was an exact mirror of what my dad would do. I'm not kidding. While he was in the chapel with us, I was on the front row like 6 feet in front of him the whole time cause I was the piano player, and I just watched him the whole time. He speaks, moves, acts, talks and does everything just like my dad. It was literally like my dad was standing in front of me the whole time, like dang, it was so comforting!

So this week was supposed to be our baptism for Twinkle, but during her interview, some problems surfaces that made us postpone the baptism for this week. I honestly love the fact that we interview people before they are baptized. It's such an important decision, and we have to make sure that they are willing to follow Jesus Christ until the day they die. I don't know how the religions are back home, but over here certain religions just baptize anyone who says they want to be baptized. But for us, they need to go through a process of repentance so that we can see that they are fully ready to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ himself.

We also had a ton of service projects this week, one of which was building a slaughter house for pigs, so that's tons of fun! The members of this branch are really progressing. All of them are really coming together in a united effort to find more people to bring into the fold of God. They are doing their meetings now like they should, their sacrament meeting is more cordial, and they are just being strengthened in their overall testimonies, and that really makes me proud of them!

Yep! that's the duck we killed...pretty tasty
I think my time in Irosin is almost up. I think in this next transfer in three weeks I'm probably gonna leave, which makes me really sad, but I guess I'll see where the Lord wants me to go when it's time. Anyways, that's pretty much it for this week! I don't have much pictures this week, and for that I am sorry and I'll make sure to take more this week! I love you all, have a good week!!

Elder Austin Cook

We attended another church service at another church,
just to see what they were all about
Picture with the minister from the other church we attended

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

God loves us and He has an individual plan for each of us, and it is up to us to choose the right for ourselves. God is our Father in heaven, Jesus Christ lives and is our perfect example

This week went by so fast, really it did. It feels like I was here just two days ago. But that's good because we were able to keep ourselves really busy this week! We didn't get in much proselyting hours because we had like 4000 service projects this week, but that's alright because service projects are really one of my favorite things out here.

One of our service projects of destroying the roof of this house
So last Wednesday we did a service project for an inactive member named Maya. She hasn't been to church since I got here back in October, and I never really could figure out why. The rest of her family goes, but she never comes with them. Last week I asked her why, and her response really shocked me. She says that she has a reason- a huge reason. But she has never told anyone about it since she stopped going to church in 2010. So it's been 7 years since she last went to church and she has not told a single soul why. But when I asked her what her reason was, she told me that she would tell me, but not in person. So when we went to her house on Wednesday for the service project, she gave me a 3 paged letter explaining three different reasons of why she doesn't come to church anymore. The reasons were really sad; she's done some things and other people in the church have done some bad things to her and she has just stopped coming because of that.

Me and Elder Semaning
After she gave me the letter and I read some of it, I thought really hard about what I was supposed to do. I was the only person she has told in 7 years, and that alone was just insanely stressful. But on Saturday night, I and Elder Maga went on splits, and I was paired with an 18 year old kid in our branch named John Paul. Anyways, some events transpired that are too long to explain, but we ended up finding ourselves literally sprinting to Maya's house Saturday night in order to talk to her. We got there completely out of breath and we just promised her that if she came to church she would feel at home, she would feel peace and happiness, and she would feel the love of everyone there. After we said that, she just looked at us and said, "Okay, what should I wear?" I was so excited. We just said to wear anything, we didn't care. And with that we said goodbye and sprinted away in order to make it back home in time.

The next day, there she was, sitting in church with everyone else smiling and laughing. Miracles. We still have to visit her sometime this week in order to ask her how it went, but I already know she loved it.

So this next Saturday Twinkle and her sister are getting baptized. Last night I went on splits with John Paul again in order to teach Twinkle and her sister. In the end of the lesson, I asked her and said, "I know you want to get baptized, but this isn’t like other religions. We aren't here to baptize you and then watch you leave. This is something that we need to do till the end. We need to serve God literally until the day that we die. Are you sure you're ready to do that?" And she responded with the most confident yes I've ever heard. I was kind of surprised that she wasn't scared of that question, so I asked her why she answered so confidently. She said, "Because a couple of nights ago, after I read some chapters in the Book of Mormon, I said a prayer before I went to sleep asking God to give me some sort of sign that this is the right path for me." That night she said she had a dream, and in the dream she said there was an American Mormon and in front of him there was a "sea of glass" and something else (to be quite honest, I didn't really understand her description, whoops) but because of that, she says that she knows this is right for her and she is SO excited for it.

Oh yeah, the ducks here are super chill.
Probably ridden with disease, but they are still cute
In all this week was amazing and very inspirational. A lot of other things happened that I don't really want to email about, but please just know that God loves us and He has an individual plan for each of us, and it is up to us to choose the right for ourselves. God is our Father in heaven, Jesus Christ lives and is our perfect example, this is His church here on earth and He is the head of it, and the Book of Mormon is true and was given to us for our own happiness and peace in this life if we just reach out and accept it. A lot of people here say, "Oh, this isn't for me. This 'Mormon' thing is good for some people, but not for me." But I know that it is for everyone. True happiness can only come through this gospel, and I truly have learned that here on my mission.

I love you all and am excited to email again next week!!

Yep. That's our dinner. We straight up chopped a live duck's head off.
In our laundry room.   Literally right where I wash my clothes.
Like.... My goodness... what is this place
This is how you survive in the Philippines

This little kid is one of my favorites,
 but I swear he is just INSANE
Exhibit "A"

Pictures whilst in the magnificent rice fields

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Elder Bednar is actually coming to our mission on the 22nd of this month and I get to play the piano for it, which is actually pretty cool.

So this week I got another new companion, Elder Maga! He's pretty cool and we get along really well! He doesn't know how to speak English very well, so we only speak Tagalog, which is helping me improve my skills a lot! He's hardworking, and is like super obedient to all of the rules which is a huge relief.  He's basically just like Elder Thompson, who was my companion in the MTC, except a lot nicer. He just has the same social skills.

I don't think it gets anymore Filipino than that to be honest
This week not much happened. We didn't get much work in because we had a lot of meetings and a lot of random craziness, but that's alright!

One story that I want to share just because I think it's so dang cute is when we went to go teach the Porcado kids. Yna, who is 15 and speaks perfect English, and John Ray, who is 12. We went to go teach them, but only Yna was there, and she told us a little story about John Ray. She said that he has been pretty upset with life, and just kind of sad this past week. She says that whenever he is sad, before he goes to sleep at night on his spot on the concrete floor, he takes all of their copies of the Book of Mormon, and all of the little pamphlets we use to teach them, and he lays them in a perimeter around his sleeping area. Yna says he feels safer and happier when he does that because he thinks all of the Book of Mormons and stuff will protect him and keep him happy when he sleeps. I don't know why I wanted to share that, I just thought it was such an awesome thing that he did that. Whether it helps or not, it makes him feel safe and happy.

So not much for this week, but I'll have more for you all in the coming week, I promise! Alright I'll email in another 7 days, and remember, I love you all!!

Good old yummy chicken feet
P.S:  Elder Bednar is actually coming to our mission on the 22nd of this month and I get to play the piano for it, which is actually pretty cool.  Also Brooklyn asked me if I have been sleeping ok.  Sleeping is easy here.  I’m pretty use to the weather now, so I don’t sweat hardly anymore.  Oh and we got to plant rice out in the rice fields last week and I felt like a true Filipino.  I also get to play the piano in sacrament meeting every week.  The piano is super crappy and wobbly.  There are a ton of normal upright pianos that I play here also.  So some of the crazy foods I have eaten here are chicken heart and chicken feet.  I’ve eaten pig skin, chicken fetus, and pig and cow intestines.  Yeah, we pretty much eat everything over here.

Planting rice with Elder Maga

Gettin into it!

We went tracting and found TARZAN'S HOUSE.
But he wasn't home. We suspect he was out buying groceries
Yep!  I'm Tarzan... Pretty Cool

That's Nanay Bulowin. Literally the #1 champion 
of the year. She's so hilarious and a low key kinda crazy, 
but I love her to death

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Time is already flying by. I've already finished 1/4 of the mission! But it really scares me as well, because every day that I get close to coming home is a day that I get closer to never being able to do this again in my life.

So this week Edna's kids were finally baptized! It was really a neat experience for all of them! That's pretty much the highlight of this week, so I'm going to focus on that.

Not a great picture of the baptism, but that's as good as it gets
So the baptism started at like 4, and it was held in the middle of nowhere in this random hot spring. Seriously it was such a beautiful spot to do a baptism! The baptismal service itself went until like 8:00 PM, so we baptized them in like pitch black darkness, and there was just a perfect silence among the crowd, seriously it was so beautiful. But the kids were super excited and the mom especially so. It was such a blessing to see a whole family accepting this gospel and desiring to live by it in their lives.

Later that day, we also had transfer announcements! I was honestly super scared, because I did not want to be transferred out of this area yet. I have way more work to do here before I'm done. But anyways, turns out Elder Bangal is being transferred! After only 6 short weeks, he is being transferred to Legaspi to be a zone leader there. He's really excited for it. I wish he could have stuck around because we get along SO WELL and he is really such a hard worker. But I hear that my new companion is really nice and humble, so that's great to hear! Anyways, I guess I will find out tomorrow when I meet him!

So that's pretty much all for this week! Gosh... I know coming home in a year and a half is going to
Broadcast- Bulan zone
 be awesome, but time is already flying by.  I've already finished 1/4 of the mission!  But it really scares me as well because every day that I get closer to coming home is a day that I get closer to never being able to do this incredible stuff in my life. Bu I do want to talk about and highlight one of my favorite principles of this gospel. This week we taught the Plan of Salvation to Twinkle and her family, and they asked what happens to babies if they die without being baptized. Because here, they believe that they all go straight to hell. For me, that is the most depressing thing that anyone could possibly believe and it breaks my heart to know that so many people believe that. But I was so grateful to have read to her the chapter in the Book of Mormon where it explains that children who die without being baptized are wrapped up in the arms of God and are taken to live with him. What an amazing and blessed piece of doctrine found only in this gospel. When we taught them that their whole family absolutely loved it, and they just said it made sense. Honestly, I cannot express how true that is and how loving our Heavenly Father is to allow those children who die to be brought back instantly to his presence.

Yeah so that's a volcano exploding. so yeah. That's pretty cool
Anyways, that was just a thought that I had throughout this week. But that's all for now! I love you all and I promise I am keeping you all in my prayers! I'll email again next week!

Elder Austin Cook

I (Austin's mom) asked him a few questions and these were his responses:
The Church of Jesus Christ in the Philippines is ran pretty disorganized.  The missionaries here have an infinite amount of responsibility.  We find, we teach, we anchor, we act as friends, teachers, counselors, auxiliary leaders.  I'm not kidding when I say we are literally in charge of everything.  We are not jut baptizing people, it is our job to quite literally establish the church here.  It's so hard, but it keeps us busy... and BUSY is HAPPINESS!

Isn't the Volcano erupting awesome! and no it doesn't kill people.  A couple years ago it killed a couple hundred I think.  But those people were living literally on the volcano, so we are safe.

I know coming home is gonna be awesome! Time is already flying by.  I've already finished 1/4 of the mission!  But it really scares me as well, because every day that I get close to coming home is a day that I get closer to never being able to do this again in my life.

Volcano erupting behind me

Just a cool bridge we found while we were tracting

a banig by hand.(something you sleep on)

Bicol express!

Branch Home Evening

pig face and squid, actually really good!