Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I've really come to the point that I don't want to leave this area, but I will go wherever I'm called without complaint. I am very grateful for Elder Caballes and everything that he has taught me and helped me with.

This last week we did some of our best work yet and have OFFICIALLY established this area. We have baptisms lined up for literally every week in October and some for the first weeks of November, and all of them are very excited (about 15 in total). But the sad part is that I will probably be leaving this next week :( but at least I know that I am leaving the area in the very capable hands of Elder Caballes! By the way, just for the record, he's from a place called Baguio.

Nothing much happened this last week other than the usual work, and we found many new people who really want to hear our message and are very willing to accept our invitations to them. I've really come to the point that I don't want to leave this area, but I will go wherever I'm called without complaint. I am very grateful for Elder Caballes and everything that he has taught me and helped me with. He has by far been my best companion and I couldn't have asked for a better trainee/companion/friend. It's honestly going to be very hard to part with him.  I imagine if all missionaries had the love and drive that Elder Caballes does, this world would be much more prepared for the second coming of the Lord

So I guess I'll just highlight a couple of parts from last week. The best part is that we found three new families to teach, but I want to talk about the Renancia Family. The father, Santiago, had a stroke last February and because of that it is very difficult for him to walk and to talk to us. But we found him and his family last week while we were tracting. We actually found his 13-year-old daughter, April Joy, and she was very kind to us and kind of showed us around her "neighborhood" and introduced us to all of her neighbors that we could teach. She was actually very mature for her age so we asked her if she could introduce us to her family, which she was happy to do. So we taught their family, and turns out their mom actually left to Manilla last year and told them she wasn't ever going to come back, so now it's just Santiago and his four kids. But they accepted us into their home and we taught them and it was a very fantastic lesson in which they all listened really well. Santiago tries to speak to us sometimes but we don't really understand him because of the stroke, so sometimes April Joy has to translate for him. At the end of the lesson, I gave them a picture of Jesus that I had just so happened to be carrying that day for no real reason, and as soon as I gave it to them they ran and taped it to the wall in the center of their home. I really love them and we are going back to them today to teach them again. :)

Cleaning the church with investigators 
Also last Saturday we had a branch activity to clean our meetinghouse so that it's not so dirty for all of the visitors. And the best part is that three of our investigators came! We didn't even ask them to, they just told us they were coming to help us clean. To be honest, we didn't actually believe them, but then BOOM they showed up and wow that was a huge surprise haha.  Oh also when we were cleaning the church, we have this kitchen in the upstairs that NO ONE uses because it is so disgustingly dirty. But I took on the challenge of trying to clean it by myself and the entire time I was like "Oh man, I wish mom was here she's a champion at this stuff. She would have this done perfectly in like 10 minutes"

But that's all I have time to type out today! I'll send some pictures of this week (even though I didn't take that many, sorry Mom) Love you all and hope ya'll have a great week!!

Elder Austin Cook

Family home evening at the Cerilo Family! They are members
in the branch and by far one of my favorite families :)

Sometimes we take pictures for no reason, so I really
don't remember what we were doing in these pictures.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

To be honest I don't really even remember much of what happened this week, awesome right??

But I know that our work is going well! Just the other day, we had a random investigator show up at church who we only taught once and that was like two months ago. She's 16 years old and came to church with another one of our investigators, and then after church, her and two other of our investigators decided to join in on a church choir practice! It was actually really funny because they didn't know the songs at all, they just thought it would be a fun way to get involved in the church I guess. So yes, our investigators are doing well!

So transfer day comes up in about 2 more weeks, which means in about two weeks, I will most like be leaving this area. It feels like I've only been here for about two months, so I guess time is moving pretty fast. I remember when I came into this area, I had the worst attitude about it. Between the companion and the difficulty of the work, I just wanted to leave the area. But fast forward 6 months later, and I could easily stay in this area for the rest of my mission. That's how it was in Irosin as well, I could have stayed there forever (Except Irosin has a more special place in my heart). I love this area and the people that I've met and the relationships I've made, and I especially love Elder Caballes, he's a champion. I'll be really sad if I don't get to stay with him for another transfer, but hey, I know it's all in God's hands.

It's interesting to go around all day and get a really close look into so many people's lives. We really get to see what makes people happy, what makes them sad, what makes them excited, satisfied, hopeless, loved, etc. And I can say with confidence and conviction that it is our message that makes these people find true happiness. One of our investigators just said to us yesterday, "Elders, I've lost my home, I had a stroke, and my husband was killed just earlier this year, but somehow I am happy. I don't know what you two have done to me, but I am so happy now." Well it's because she finally has a perspective that she has never had before. We have opened her eyes and she has found that source of eternal happiness. It makes me so sad when people reject us without even giving us a chance to tell them what it is we have, they are voting against their own happiness by rejecting us. I wish that everyone could just accept what we are teaching because it is the truth, and I love inviting everyone to learn what we have to teach because it has blessed my life and has blessed the life of my family.

I guess that'll be my short little email this week, but I love you all and hope you all stay well this week :)
Elder Austin Cook

Following is some photos from our activity today!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Got these dope sunglasses my mom sent me
in my package. From left to right Elder Caballes,
Elder Semaning, Elder Alutaya, & I.
So this week was fantastic kids. On Tuesday we had this thing called a "Cluster Conference" in which like half of the mission gathered together to listen to President and Sister Kotter speak to us. Their focus on this cluster conference was planning correctly and learning how to find people to teach correctly. It was nice, but that was kind of mine and Elder Caballes' strong suit, so we didn't really get as much out of it. But it was nice to sit in the air conditioning for a whole day!

Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Hoecherl, who is companions with Elder Duerme. They live in the house with us, so we always work together on stuff. Anyways, it was a really nice day working with him, just two Americans hittin the city and such. But we actually ran into a guy who I had never met before named Michael Pines. He apparently was baptized like FOREVER ago, but he told us that he went inactive about 15 years ago because of some huge mistakes that he had made in the church and the guilt just scared him from going back to church. Anyways, I started talking to him while Elder Hoecherl was talking to some other family nearby about our message. But Michael opened right up to me, telling me that he wants to change and that his past 15 years has basically been hell because of the guilt. But he wants so badly to change and after our long conversation, he thinks now would be an appropriate time to start. I had no idea why he opened up like that to me (seriously, I had never even met him before) but I'm glad he did because I was able to help him and show him that we would be there for him in anything he needs.

Our incredible investigator Maria Christina Saya
Thursday we only got two lessons in the morning with Maria Christina Saya and her niece, Judy Ann Saya. We taught about the Book of Mormon and why it is so important for all of us to read and understand. Maria Christina has quickly become one of my favorites, and she always calls us her sons. I remember when we first met her about two months ago, her life seemed so dark and dreary, and she just had this depressed look about her. But now that she's been doing what we ask her to do and finally went to church last Sunday, her whole countenance has changed and she is always smiling. I swear her face gotten brighter.

We had been walking for about 30 min and just got board
Friday we taught the Docot family and Maria Christina Saya came along because she wanted to listen as well. Well we ended up showing the restoration video, which is basically a little 20 min video about the life of Joseph Smith. Anyways, after we showed the video, they finally understood what we claim as missionaries. They finally understood that we claim that THIS is literally the ONLY true church on the face of the earth. While others may be nice and happy, this is the only one that Christ himself established. Once they understood that we extended the invitation to be baptized on October 7, which they all happily accepted! We are so excited for all of them!

On Sunday we finally saw Maria Christina Saya at church for the first time, and let me tell ya what, that was a hard one to accomplish. But it happened and she had an amazing experience!

Just helping some random people move their 
pumpkins from off the street
This past week has really been awesome! Everything here is still hot and still sweaty (honestly I thought I would just stop sweating after a while, but I guess it just never goes away) but we are still loving it! Being a District Leader is great and I love all of the missionaries in the District. They all have some baptisms coming up as well, so I'm super excited for all of them.

So that's all for now folks. I wish I could explain even 15% of what really happens here, but I guess I'll save it for when I get home to tell you all :) Anyways, I love you guys and hope yalls have a great week!

Elder Austin Cook

Monday, August 7, 2017

Now that both members of the companionship are being obedient and truly loving the work, people just walk up to us on the daily asking if we can teach them and their children

Alright so we FINALLY had the baptism of three of our investigators this week! Sister Lilia Cerdena, Estanley Arao, and Connie Sabas. Their baptism went great and they really really loved it!

Baptism day
This last week Elder Caballes and I have been working hard as usual! It's really funny, now that both members of the companionship are being obedient and truly loving the work, people just walk up to us on the daily asking if we can teach them and their children. In fact, just yesterday we had a woman named Evelyn walk up to us and asked us for a pass along card and told us to come and teach her family so that they can all go to church. So yeah, I'm really loving this area right now!

Baptism day with Estanley Arao

So we have been teaching this one lady named Maria Christina Saya. I've mentioned her before, she's the lady whose husband was basically beheaded in front of her a couple of months ago. Anyways, she has been absolutely LOVING our lessons and the Book of Mormon, and she really has been feeling the spirit when we teach. But last week for some reason she told us that she can't continue listening to us because of "Personal reasons." Well we remembered the last time that happened to us with the Docot family, and we were determined to not have a repeat, so we called her and told her that we would visit one last time and she hesitantly agreed. We went over there and I guess we just asked the perfect questions for her to open up to us. Honestly her reason for not wanting to listen was so sweet. She told us that our lessons and the Book of Mormon have been infinitely helpful in her life, but she knows that we missionaries get transferred around a lot, so she knew that we will eventually leave. She said that Elder Caballes and I are just a perfect team, and that she can see and feel our kindness and love for others, and she said that we are like her sons, so she said that she doesn't want to get too close to us and have it hurt too much when we leave. It really was such a sweet thing coming from the honesty of her heart, but we were able to comfort her and explain to her that even though we might leave, the other members in the church won't and that she will create eternal friendships in the branch in Libon. She really took courage with that and has agreed to continue following what we ask her to do. Even though I'm probably going to get transferred in a couple of weeks, I really believe that she will become a very strong member of the church.

On our way to the baptism
That's really all I wanted to tell about this week! Being a District Leader is really a blessing in my mission and I just LOVE having the opportunity to help all of the missionaries in the District! Every week their work is getting better and better and they are all becoming more and more obedient, I really do love them all!

That's it for this week. I love you all and will update you all again in another short week!

Elder Austin Cook

I dunno... just for fun

Just for fun
super silly selfies
silly selfies

who knows...

photos of our apartment

our apartment ... no air and really hot and humid

our abode

This is actually the area where we sleep. We just lay our little 
pads down on the floor and sleep their with all of the fans