Monday, December 29, 2014

What better gift than a baptism?

Hola Familia! 
 



 
 


We talked over skype a little about the baptism, but there is more to know! Yesterday Mirna was confirmed a member in sacrament meeting. And the same night, Mirna was CONTACTING people in the street with us missionaries!!!!! No joke. One day a member, the SAME day a MISSIONARY!! Oh it was glorious! We had an activity where we sang Christmas carols in the central park here in Villaflores. And man alive we had a HUGE turn out with the members who came to help sing! This activity got them EXCITED ABOUT THE WORK!!  While we sang Hermana Mirna went out contacting, talking to people about the church. I gave her like 20 cards of El es la Dadiva (He is the gift) and she kept asking me for more!! Wow what a strong member she already is. I think we baptized a convert for LIFE! It is very safe to say that we will be baptizing Alondra and Octavio (the family of Mirna, her aunt and uncle) on the 3rd of January!!!

Contacting in Central Park




Let{s just say this week there have been angels protecting my companion and I.
 
 

God{s power is real and so are angels!!
 
 



Miracles are happening everyday like I always say. We have been teaching a younger girl here named Carolina for quite some time now. She has almost all the lessons, but she isn{t really progressing right now. Anyway we usually teach her outside of her house where her mom is vending hotdogs and hamburgers. And little did we know that all this time, her mom Fe, has been listening to all that we have been teaching to Carolina! And so we went the other night to teach Carolina and discovered instead that Fe wants to listen to us! She said lately she really feels like she is missing something in her life and we were able to teach a powerful lesson on the importance of attending church. She also accepted baptsim... wow lots of work to do.
 
 



I don{t remember if I told you about Fernanda, but it{s a similar story to what happened with Fe. All this time that we have been teaching Alondra and Octavio, Fernanada has been silently growing a testimony and coming to church!!! Well we finally began teachinger her because we got it out of her that she wants to here the lessons and be baptized!!! Fernanda is actually 19 too and she is almost going to have her second baby here soon. She has had a hard life but right now she is changing. We want to help her back to the path of her Heavenly Father. Fernanda actually came with us to the activity in the park as well, and she handed out 1 card of he is the gift to another person!! And she is only an investigator!! Wow I couldn{t believe it.
 
Angels in the Christmas pageant
 



I love you family and cant wait to send more pics of the baptism of Alondra and Octavio.
 
Christmas morning- Our gifts to each other!
 

Fiesta following Mirna's baptism!

 
On Christmas Day, we ordered pizza!


Love

Hermana Cook 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tuxtla Gutierrez Temple!!!

That's right family!! I went to the Tuxtla Gutierrez temple!!! Oh my heavens mom and dad I went to the temple and did a session in SPANISH!!!!!! Oh it was amazing!!!! Que padre... 


I think as a missionary there is always something to be learned from the examples of other missionaries. It's so fun to pick out the different characteristics of different missioanries and apply them to myself. One of our zone leaders here ALWAYS says, Que Padre.... And I love it!! It brings so much enthusiasm for the missionary work. If we get rejected by all 20 of our contacts in one day... Que padre, because we're gonna have more children of God to talk to tomorrow!! And que padre!! If we have problems with our companion... QUE PADRE that we can conquer them with Jesus Christ! If we feel like we're having a hard time, QUE PADRE that God is preparing something good for us around the corner, because God ALWAYS keeps His promises!!! And QUE PADRE!!! Wow what a life lesson to be learned from these 2 simple words. I want to learn how to say QUE PADRE even when it's difficult. Even when I want to quit. Because I have God and Jesus Christ on my side, I can say Que Padre. It's all about the attitude...



When I was in the temple I thought a lot about how my happiness and my attitude should not depend on other peoples happiness and attitude. If someone is unhappy, I'm going to try to be the light for that person.



I just have to do my best in everything, and literally I know that Jesus Christ will do the rest through the enabling power of the Atonement.



The other night we were in a lesson, and I felt the Holy Ghost working through me, leading me and guiding me in what I should say. I am certain that the spirit was doing some of the work. I'm learning spanish and the spirit is my teacher. I was talking to Hermana Hansen at a zone conference about spanish. She told me if I start learning all the phrases of the Chiapans they will love me more... And so that is what I'm doing. Que padre...



We have been visiting this family recently of less actives. It's a HUGE family!! ! We are talking like 14 kids running around in the street in front of their house. I don't exactly know whose child is whose... but I feel so priveleged to teach them. I feel something so special every time we go. It's like a feel God's presence just a little stronger with them because they are sent straight from Heaven above. All of them are around the age of 10 and younger. I just feel like all of them are REALLY children of God... It's so real. And QUE PADRE that God has sent me here to preach to these people here in MExico!! 



We were talking to the momma of some of these children and we invitied her to come to church. She pointed over to her house where there was an old man sitting in a chair, looking very old and sickly. She preceeded to explain that she has to tend to her grandpa, that he is very sick and he needs her help. She is the only one who can help him on Sunday. What are we supposed to do as missionaries in this situation... I just love her and we sang another hymn and shortly after we left. At first we didn't know that she was baptized. At first we thought she was another investigator because we had contacted her in the street. But when we went to teach her the lessons, she said she was baptized... and we were blown away. She has years that she hasn't been to church. 



There are children here who live in the street begging for food and money. The other day two ninos came to me and asked me for money. We can't give out money because it's a rule, but man alive my heart hurt for them. Also in church they pray for the ninos de la calle, or the children of the street. Please pray for the children here. 



I love you,



Hermana Cook

 

ALSO WE REALLY ARE HAVING A BAPTISM ON THE 24 OF DECEMBER!!! MIRNA!!!! MY FIRST BAPTISM!! 

 

 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Orienteering in Villaflores :)

Hola Familia!!
 




 
Wow has it been a crazy week! For the first time in forever we received permission from the momma of Mirna for her to be baptized!!!!!! I could not believe my ears when she said yes!! I am so happy! And what{s more, is she is going to baptized on December 24th!!! (Christmas day here in Mexico is on the 24th)!! We are so excited!! The day that Mirna{s mom said yes was the first day for my new companion here in Villaflores. My new companion arrived on Tuesday the 9th of December. Wow, we are so happy for Mirna. She has wanted to be baptized this whole time but her mom would never give permission every time we asked. Mirna is 11 years old. I will keep you updated on Mirna. 
 

 
Also, Hermana Alondra and Hermano Octavio accepted a baptismal date! They are the family of Mirna. The goal is for the 3rd of January. We have taught them almost everything, but it was a little difficult to get them to accept a date. And now they finally have. I am starting to realize that our investigators need to be walking to baptism. As missionaries we should not be dragging them to baptism. 
 



 
Well I have been navigating around my area since my companion is new. I feel a little alone sometimes because it{s hard. And since I am the only one who knows the area and the people I have been doing all the planning also. I feel a lot more responsible now than I did with Hermana Rodriguez. But God leads me on when I don{t know where I am. Somehow the spirit whispers to me where I need to walk or suddenly I can visualize where the house is. I need to recognize when this happens and thank God for this miracle because there is NO way I could do it without Him. This is hard, but I am going to climb this mountain, step by step, spanish word by spanish word, lesson by lesson, and day by day. "Godspeed" as Grandpa Holley would say.
 
 

This week there has been lots of fiestas and parades and confusion about Mary and Guadalupe... Here in Mexico, the "day of the virgin" is on the 12th of December. We were talking to a guy the other day and he asked us why we don{t worship Mary (and this whole time in my mind I was thinking... Why DOES Mexico worship Mary?) Well it was the first time I{ve been asked that question, but the answer seemed clear- refer to the 10 commandments. So we talked about how God is the only God that we worship. I think it went well, and we invited him to church.
 
 

Also as part of the tradition for the 12th of December, Mexicans from all over Mexico take part in "the walk to Mexico City." They walk and walk and walk to Mexico city over the space of one week. And they literally SLEEP in the street when it{s the nighttime. THey just stop and sleep at whatever location they are at and then continue walking the next day. It{s really weird... Anyway we were contacting in the street one day during this past week and it was starting to get dark and all these people had blankets and backpacks and they were all just bedding down for the night on the sidewalk for the night. It was the weirdest thing I{ve ever seen... Also there are lots of parades with moraccas and these people in creepy costumes and they like to saranade everyone they pass in the street. ha ha.
 
 

My new companion is 27 years old and she is from Puebla Mexico. She has been out in the field for about 8 months. She is great! I enjoy teaching with her. She allows me a lot more opportunities to teach than I had with Hermana Rodriguez. Maybe it{s because I can actually speak a little bit more of Spanish now... ha ha. I still have lots to learn. She had the dengue really bad in her last area. But she is doing great now and I{m excited to work with her. 

I just love Villaflores and I fear that I won{t ever have an area as Celestial as this again. I love the people here. A few days ago I was having a hard day and feeling inadaquate until I contacted this old lady sweeping her porch. She just dropped her broom and held open her arms and hugged me like a sister- and man alive I needed it. Oh how divine is the love of every woman- especially the love of a mother. Mom I miss you so bad and I love you. I wish I could have a hug from YOU!! 

We visited a less active member yesterday and talked about prayer. He hasn{t prayed in 12 years but we were able to get him on his knees to say a prayer by the end of the lesson. After he prayed he said he felt clean. I was so happy to be able to remind him that Heavenly Father wants to hear from him every day.

I{m also learning that teaching the gospel is knowing the gosel on a whole different level!! I feel like with every principle of the gospel that I teach, I am learning it on a whole new level. This is why they always say that the teacher learns more than the student. THe people here are teaching me. For me, teaching is the key to really understanding and knowing something. This is why I think asking questions is really important, because in a way you are inviting your investigators to teach you what you just taught them. If they can answer, then you know that your investigator really understood what you taught. 

This year for Christmas I hope that my gift to the Savior can be at least baptizing 1 soul into his kingdom. How great would be His joy and how great would be mine! My companion and I are going to work very hard with Mirna and our other investigators to prepare them well for their baptisms. 

How glorious it is to be able to say at the end of the day, "Today, I lost myself in the work of the LORD." 

Love,

Hermana Cook

P.S. Gracee ¿Como esta? ha ha. How is the spanish coming? :)


Monday, December 8, 2014

HOLA FAMILIA!!




Boy is Mexico full of change!! These first six weeks we haven{t had a baptism, but the next six weeks are looking very promising. We need to teach Araceli (the momma from the rancho) a little bit more before her baptism. But her husband is going to baptize her!! We are hoping for the following week. And yes there is a baptismal faunt in the house of prayer where we have our baptisms.



Well I am getting a NEW COMPANION for the rest of my training (training lasts for 12 weeks). We just found out this morning!! I am staying here in Villaflores and my companion is going up by Sancristobal to be an hermana leader (capacitadora) I don{t remember what it{s called in english... sorry. And I am getting a new native companion and that means I have to show her all the ins and outs about this area and about our investigators!! I am so excited and nervous. I{m so sad to be losing Hermana Rodriguez, we have had so much fun working together. But I know with this change I can learn even more. She leaves tomorrow, TUesday the 9th of December.



This week has been an ADVENTURE!! We had intercambios with the hermanas in Tuxtla!!!!! I went to TUxtla for 2 days with another American Hermana (who speaks spanish really well) and my companion stayed here in Villaflores. I learned so much that will influence the rest of my mission! The Hermana I was with is Hermana Juliana. She taught me how fun contacting in the street can be! Those 2 days I was in Tuxtla, we contacted about 61 people!! When I came back to Villaflores I was so excited and on fire about contacting that I felt bad passing anyone in the street!!  The day I returned my comp and I contacted about 49 people. And in total for this week between the city of Tuxtla and Villaflores with Hermana Juliana, we have contacted about 202 people!!!!!!!! My companion says that she has never contacted that many people in one day let alone in one week in her entire mission!! It was incredible!! I have learned that no rejection is too great, no frown too sad, and no person not worth talking to. Every person is a child of God. I{ve been singing that since I was a little girl... 



I love talking to people!!! It was so much different during the intercambio in the city of TUxtla, because we were talking to so many people, and so fast, that I had one person all to myself to contact and no companion to help me with Spanish. Hermana Juliana was talking to one person at the same time I was talking to another. I didn{t have Hermana Rodriguez at my side ready to say what was needed. It was all me and God. And I loved it!!! Scary, and a bit of a rush, but I loved it!! TUxtla is HUGE!! It is a huge city, fast and loud, with lots of cars and buses and lights and sounds and smells. IT{s very different than Villaflores...I learned the best way to contact is to teach on the spot. I taught a man how to pray on the bus and testified that GOd is real. We had to rush off the bus soon after, but he was so grateful. He seemed so lost in his life and I was so grateful to teach him how to pray. IT was so fun!! THat{s the real test for my spanish right there...



Back to Villaflores... There is a member here who I love, and her name is Rosy. She is so strong in the gospel. She accompanies us to lessons, and God{s love for her is very strong. Well, she has a husband but he left her about 10 years ago to work in the US for money for Rosy and his family. Well, he never returned since and Rosy tells us that his calls became fewer and fewer over the years. A few days ago she found out that he is now with another woman. What a hard life she has had and a difficult time she has to pass through right now. She has children but the youngest is 22. She is so lonely in her house and it{s so sad. My heart breaks for her. Well, my comp and I went to visit her to comfort her, and I shared this scripture with her: Alma 26:12 (look it up). The spirit was so strong and she cried... I testified that the only person taht really knows her and how she feels right now is JEsus CHrist. My comp adn I cried with her and I just pray for her every day. 



The other day we went to visit Hermana Brenda (the member who has the husband who drinks) to find out that her husband Carlos is drinking again. It{s such a vicious cycle, and what a grip alcohol has on its prey. He says he{s going to stop and come to church but he never follows through. He tells Hermana Brenda that he would rather spend his money on alcohol than on clothes for her and his children. Well we told her to keep fighting. And I told her that for now, maybe all she can do is tell Carlos that she loves him every day. Because he won{t listen to her read the scriptuers either... She is such a strong woman. THere are so many solo moms here. It{s so sad. While Hermana Brenda was telling my comp and I all of this, some music came on from the houses close by and then we all just started to cry (well I did ha ha) This all just seems like a dream and I feel the spirit so strongly all the time. And when I was with this family I knew it was exactly where I needed to be. While the music was playing, it was as if it was orchestrating the life of this family if only for a moment and again I couldn{t believe that GOd has given me this opportunity to teach his children of Mexico. It{s magic as Doris Day would say... 



It{s very interesting teaching the apostasy here because the people here are in one!!! Literally!!! When they finally understand the apostasy it{s like they finally understand what state they are in (at least this is how I think of it).



Well, the ball is just starting to roll here in Villaflores, and in the next six weeks I plan to work with my new companion to baptize about 6 children of GOd. People are always changing here and I have learned that anything can happen in MExico, but this is my goal. I will keep you updated. 

 



I love you all!!! Gabby congrats on baLLROOM!! you look gorgeous and i{m sure it went great!!! I miss you!! Gracee again congrats on hallelujah!! DOn{t stop the good work!! Talmage I miss you.



Daddy I love you. 



Love,



Hermana Cook

Monday, December 1, 2014

Permission for Baptism

Hola familia!!! Le extraño!! 


I love hearing the people here pray for the first time, it is incredible!! We teach them how in the first lesson and then we invite them to pray at the end of the lesson. All of them say the most beautiful prayers. Here there are many different ways to pray. Memorized prayers, and believe it or not prayers similar to those in the book of mormon and the rameumpton- i{ve seen this way here and it{s a little weird. The people are not accustomed to praying the way we do, beginning with Heavenly Father and ending with in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. Also for a prayer to be a personal communication with God and that they can say whatever is in their heart is foreign to them as well. 



When my companion and I have problems, we work together to figure out a solution. This past week our water in our house was not working for about 2 days, so we couldn{t wash our dishes (which brings in the ants like crazy) and we had to use or drinking water (in the jugs) for showering. We just kept buying more drinking water until we contacted a mechanic who came and fixed it. 



The young kids here are my favorite if you haven{t guessed... They are so full of life and faith in God and family is the most important thing to them. They have much respect for one another in the family. Well we have been teaching an 11 year old girl named Mirna for quite some time. She has a strong testimony and wants to be baptized. I have grown close to her teaching english too. I love her so much and admire her faith in the message we share. HEr mother is a less active member. Her mom won{t give Mirna permission to be baptized because she doesn{t want her to fall into a less active life in the church after baptism just like she did. She kept saying no when we were talking with her, but we managed to ask her to pray about this decision and told her we were aiming for the date of December 6th for her baptism. I just pray to God that he will soften the heart of the mother. Time and time again we teach the young kids here, but their parent are firm in the traditions of their fathers or in the catholic religion or some other reason and they won{t give us permission to continue teaching much less than baptism. Because i love the young kids here so much, it breaks my heart everytime this happens. And it happens a lot. In this same day, we taught 2 young kids for the first time about prayer and that God is real. I immediately loved them so much. Well we commited them to baptism, and just as the younger boy was about to pray for the first time, (Jose) their mom came out to meet us and wondering why we were inviting her kids to church. She went on to say that they are JEhovah witness or pentacosta in "their own way". Well my heart was breaking for the third time, but my companion managed to schedule another appointment with them. Jose prayed and the mom felt the spirit and I think she likes us a little more now. 



It will be my love for the young kids here that will drive me to fight for the salvation of their souls. 



I love you family and can{t wait to talk through skype.
 
Love,
Hermana Cook
 
 
Beautiful Chiapas!
The fruit I am holding is called a granadilla. it has a soft shell and you pull off the top and its a slimy fruit with seeds inside. Yum!
 
Look at that spider!  She's a beauty! I just need more of them so they will eat the bugs that are biting me!







 
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

I LOVE THE BOOK OF MORMON LANDS!

Familia!!!

Wow. There is something very special about this place, I can feel it every day. The people here have a spark of divinity inside of them, and I suspect it{s because they are the very descendants of the Lamanites. And these are the Book of Mormon lands! Almost every person here, no matter what religion they are, has a firm testimony that God lives and that he is a God of miracles, and also that Jesus Christ lives and that he suffered for our sins. It is just incredible. The faith they have is a beautiful gift from God and I love the people here. It{s no coincidence that they have such faith, this I know. I love the people so much here, that it breaks my heart when they choose not to listen to the restored gospel.

Update with Gil... I learned a lot this week, and one of those things is that not everyone is prepared to hear the gospel, even if we think they are. It{s all about GOd{s will and God{s plan for his children. After the amazing lesson we had with Gil, we returned to teach him again and invite him to baptism. Well, Gil and his family are catholic, and we were turned away because his family doesn{t want any other religion but the catholic reiligion. Well, my companion says that things like this happen all the time, but it was really the first time it happened with me. It really hurt my heart that this family wouldn{t allow their son, Gil, who wants to hear this message, hear it. I couldn{t understand why God would allow this to happen. And so I cried a lot and prayed a lot. And I learned that God has a plan for Gil, and if for now it was for us to plant a seed in him that first time that we visited, then that is that. But I will never forget the spirit I felt in that lesson and how incredible it really was. It is so sad, but things like this happen in missionary work, and I am just learning this.

Update on Hugo- Hugo now is working instead of school, he is 14 years old. Well, since he is working sometimes he can{t come to church. And as you know, he needs to come to church in order to be baptized. Well, we are still working with him because he has such a strong testimony. We had an 8 year old baptism the other day and he came to watch!! It was a baptism under the stars in the casa de oracion (it{s not a chapel) it{s called a house of prayer because it{s like a giant house where we have sacrament. The baptism was so spiritual, and I know angels were watching!! Hugo felt the spirit too, and he wants to be baptized too. We will work so hard for this goal. He needs to come to church 5 times before he is baptized, and he has 3 times. 

We have a baptism though for THIS Sunday!!! IT{s the wife of the man who runs the RANCHO!!! Her name is Araceli!! We are so excited!!! We have been teaching her on the rancho, and it looks like she will be my first baptism!! I will send pictures.

Also, we found a family who is ready to hear the gospel!! They are catholic, surprise surprise, but they accept everythying we teach. They read the book of mormon together!! We are working on a baptismal date with them for the 3 de Enero.

I just can{t believe that God has given me this amazing opportunity to serve here in the lands of the book of Mormon and with the people whose ancestors may have been the Lamanites. I know this is exactly where I{m supposed to be. This mission is very unique and special. I feel that when I return from my mission, my very nature will have changed because of the work I am doing and especially because I get to be among the very people whose ancestors wrote the keystone book of our religion. It is beyond anything I have ever dreamed and I love every minute and the very sacred ground I stand on.
Also a shout out to Johanna and Ingrid for making me a pillow!!!! I love it so much and it was the best surprise for me in the MTC!! You guys are so sweet, and I appreciate it so much!! 

Talmage I Iove you and I wish you could see all the bugs and lizards that are here...keep working hard with b ball
 
 
Gabby... i love you and good luck with your first ball room performance!!

Congrats on your accompanying the combined choirs at school on the Hallelujah Chorus GRACEE!!! I love you

Love, 
Hermana Cook

Monday, November 17, 2014

La Gripa!

Hola Familia!!

 

La Gripa: pronunciation: GREE-PA. At this time of the year in Mexico, many people contract this sickness, similar to the common cold in the United States. Lately we have been knocking on lots of doors and then we get rejected because, "Yo tengo la GRIPA!!" ("I have the stuffed nose and the sneezing and the hacking and I cant talk...") ha ha. I think the name of "gripa" is hilarious!! It sounds like the grim reeper or something!! And it{s even funnier that people have it right now because it{s dying hot here!! But really it{s their "cold season." Anyway, don't worry, I don{t have la gripa... 



To answer some of your questions... yes we have a house of prayer here. It{s very nice compared to some of the houses here. The building is fairly new but the church has been here in Villaflores for about 30 years. Here there are so many different churches I can{t name them all, but the main one is catholic. There{s lots of Jehovah Witness, pentacostals, and seventh day adventists. It{s an interesting mix of beliefs, and lots of confusion about the God head and the trinity and Mary and all that... Also, Villaflores is about 2 hours from the city, Tuxtla, and about 6 hours from the sea. The fish we eat comes from lake Angostura in a big vending truck that drives through the town.



I didn{t know this but a little part of Oaxaca is part of my mission mom and dad!! My companion (who yes, is very experienced) served there for a time. She has a picture of her in the most beautiful Oaxacan dress with her companion!! Maybe I will get to serve in Oaxaca as well, who knows.



We went to the rancho for the second time and taught the plan of salvation. It was a great lesson, and the spirit was there! The wife of the man who runs the rancho is getting baptized on the 29th of November!! I{m so excited for this family to be together in the gospel. Dad you would love this ranch, they have these wooden chairs with deer skin stretched over them to sit on. They have this sic like igloo made out of clay that they smoke meat and cook meals in. They have this giant basin filled deep with water and FISH!! I'm not sure what type of fish though... This rancho is literally in the jungle and it is GORGEOUS!! Next time we visit to teach I will get a picture because it will take your breath away!!! 



Okay we had the funnest time this week!! A little girl named Alondra had her fifth birthday!! She is the daughter of hermana Brenda, who I told you about in the last weeks letter. Because her momma is a little short on pesos, we decided to buy her a cupcake. We put some candles in it and we went to their casa with the candles lit and singing feliz compleanos. It was the sweetest thing ever!! You should have seen the look on her face when we gave her that cupcake!!! It was like Christmas morning!! We had cupcakes with the whole family and helped them sweep up their floor. You have got to see the pictures I got with this sweet family and with Alondra. I will send them in just a sec. They are PRICELESS!! I love Alondra so much, she loves us too, everytime we go over, she always says, "hermanas, hermanas, hermanas!!!" Brenda's husband Carlos is still not wanting to shake his alcohol problem, although we have had many lessons with him and Brenda to try and help him stop. It{s really sad, but we continue to comfort Brenda through this hard time. We ate there the other day, and we had jalapeños on the salad!! I was crying!! My companion too and she is from Mexico!!! Also she lived in ciudad Juarez for four years!! 



Update on Ivan and Hugo... We had the most amazing lesson with Ivan. It was so incredible. Every investigator has a story, and it{s so fun to learn what that story is and how the gospel can help them in their lives. We taught Ivan about the plan of salvation. It was so amazing, because it was as if he remembered his life in the premortal world, and as we taught one principle, a light would turn on in his head and he would teach the rest of that principle!!!!! We were talking about how we lived with God before this life and how we were spirits. Then directly after that he said, "Oh yeah, and we came to this earth for our spirits to have a body. And after that when we die we separate from our body again and return with God." And my companion and I just looked at each other like, "How in the world could he know this?" We had never taught the plan of salvatino before, only the restoration and temples and the scriptures and prayer, and baptism. It was amazing, basically he filled in our sentences about the premortal life and about what happens after we die. It was so amazing, he has a testimony of the restoration and of the book of mormon and now of the plan of salvation. I{m so happy for him. It{s like my comp and I are his mothers and he is our little boy. Well, Ivan has a girlfriend his brother Hugo tells us that whenever he isn{t home for a lesson, he is probably hanging out with his girlfriend.... My companion and i just hope that his love for God is stronger than his love for her.... We want him to be baptized but it{s hard when he{s never home to teach a lesson. But Hugo is on track to be baptized for the 6 of December. I am so excited for him and I love him so much, he is so full of excitement and a testimony of the gospel although he knows so little. 



I cannot believe how smart the younger kids are here! We contacted this 12 year old boy in the street last week named Gil. We had our first lesson with him a few days ago, and it too was absolutely incredible!! God gave me the gift of tongues in this lesson, because I don{t even remember the things I said, or even how to say them now. This little boy, listened to us talk about God and Jesus and the Holy ghost like no one I have seen listen before. He listened actively even though there were distractions in the street (like always always). He seemed to have the wisdom and patience of someone far beyond his years, because after we asked him what he is searching for in life he said this: "What is my purpose in this life?" oh. my. goodness. he is 12 years old!!!! Man alive he blew me away!!! That{s the age old question that so many people don{t know. So many people are searching for the truth and they are only half satisfied with the church they are attending, whether it be catholic or Jehovah's witness, or whatever! It{s because this church is the only true one!! Well, we didn{t have much time, but since he loves to read, we left him wiht the pamphlet on the plan of salvation and scheduled our next appointment to teach it to him. IT{s tonight and I CAN{T WAIT!!!! we are inviting him to baptism tonight as well... i will keep you updated on him next week...he closed that last lesson with a prayer (which we taught him how to pray in the first lesson) and asked God that very question, "what is my purpose in this life?" and I know God is going to give that boy an answer, because wow, what faith he has!! (he is catholic btw)



We teach lessons in the most awesome places!! We taught an older man named florentino with his wife who is a member RIGHT NEXT to the river in the dirt!! florentino has had a really rough life with a dark past, but when we taught him by that river about repentance, I felt God{s love for him and i knew that the power of the atonement is far greater than any of the darkest times of his life. he has already changed so much, because he is willing to listen to the truth, and he is searching for it. every time we go to the river for a lesson with him and his wife, he is just laying in the dirt because he works hard every day, and he{s exhausted. he also has a problem with alcohol, but not lately it seems. This man is always willing to talk about Jesus. He reminds me so much of the man talked about in the poem, "the touch of the Masters hand." In the movie of this poem, (which i love) it shows a homeless man traveling through his life day after day living off a "mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game, and he travels on..." He feels like it{s too late for any hope for himself, and he{s about to jump off a bridge into oncoming traffic on the freeway, when someone reaches out, and touches his shoulder. The man turns around to see the Savior. At that moment he realizes that he is never too late to change, and that if he will take the Saviors{ hand, he can be cleansed from sin and live with him once more! Just as a master luthier can make a beautiful melody out of an old, beat up violin, the Savior can heal our broken hearts and souls if we are willing and have faith in his atoning sacrifice. I testified to this man, florentino by the river that God and Jesus Christ will forgive him if he will only repent. The guy has a long way to go and he is a little confused about the trinity, but we are willing to work with him and help him come unto Christ.



Another lesson we taught in my favorite place- the streets of Mexico!! Literally, i sat in the street and my companion sat on the curb and we taught an 11 year old girl named Tania who still has that light in her eyes, and the submissiveness of a child. We taught her that death is not the end of our lives and that she can pray to her Heavenly Father while she is on this earth. What a privilege we have to help her on her way to eternal life. 



I am convinced that missionary work is the best calling in the church!!



grace and gabby and talmage, mom, and dad, i love you



hermana cook 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I love being a missionary!

Hola Familia!!!!!


Wow do I have some stories for you all!! Every day I try my best to understand every word that people say. I understand most of everything and so it{s frustrating when I can{t say what I think they need to hear. But it{s teaching me patience and to really rely on the spirit when I open my mouth. 





We were contacting in the street a few days ago and we passed by this lady. The spirit told me we needed to go back and talk with her, and my companion felt the same way because she was already backtracking towards the lady before the time I could say, vamos!! (let{s go) Her name is Sandra, and at first she was a little hesitant to let us in until I told her I could play my violin for her. BTW I play my violin for almost every family we teach. If I don{t play my violin my companion and I sing hymns together at every lesson. She let us in and I played my violin for her. She loved it and afterward said yes to baptism! She won{t commit to a date yet though. The second lesson with her was not as successful but we are going to keep trying. 



Ivan (the young guy I told you about in the last letter who took notes during the lesson about the book of mormon) has a brother!!!! His name is Hugo and he is even more excited about the church believe it or not!!! We teach them together as brothers and I love them so much!!! I want them to be baptized together, but Ivan is moving a little slower in progress because I found out he has a girlfriend... He is actually 17 not 15. And Hugo is like 13. Well my companion and I bear our testimony to them as often as we can and we love them. Everytime we talk about the book of mormon they take notes and ask questions, they are really brilliant boys. Hugo is going to be baptized on the 29 of this month november!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love him!! He will probably be my first baptism, along with another young girl named Mirna who is 11. Gracee and Mal and Abby you guys would like Mirna and get along with her well.



A lot of time my comp and I are contacting, we go into the house of older ladies, and they will just pour out their life story and cry to us. One lady, named Magdalena has sort of like a prodigal son. She just cried and told us that she doen{t even know where he is at right now. She thinks he is in a lot of trouble. She loves him so much. We just listened to her, sometimes as missionaries that{s all we can do. And then we told her that we would pray for her and her son, Samuel. I hope that they can be reunited someday. We are going back to teach her soon.



Yesterday I gave my first talk in sacrament meeting!!!!!! It was on missionary work and charity. I think it went well. I smiled a lot, and I think that helped. OUr branch needs a tiny bit of cheering up. It{s the weirdest thing where thet people are so loving and inviting when they are in their house or on the street, but as soon as they come to church it{s a little solemn. We need to work on unifying the members a little bit. 



I want to write a little bit about a recent convert named Brenda. Brenda{s husband is out late a lot of nights drinking, although he is a member. He has a really bad habit. Hermana Brenda is a faithful member who comes to church every week with her 3 children, small daughters. But I can see the weight she carries in her eyes. She is very strong and works hard, but this is difficult for her. She has no money and sometimes she cannot feed her children, and yet she has us over every week to feed us. I know this is a huge sacrifice for her driven by her love for us. We have been trying to work with her husband and help him return to the light of the gospel, but he doesn{t have that desire to act. Brenda is sad that her husband doesn{t have that desire. She is so sweet, just a young mom trying to live the gospel. Yesterday at church we talked with her and she cried about all of this. All we really could do was hug her and try and put ourselves in her shoes. Her life is not easy, but she makes the best with what she has. 



Another really cool story is about another less active lady, Hermana Dilcia. Dilcia has a past with witchcraft and working with bad spirits, but she is just now returning to the church!! She has so much potential for good I think, and she really is a good lady. Her son, Johan, comes teaching with us sometimes. He is a strong convert to the church and is going to serve a mission in about a year. She also has three other children, all quite young. She is starting to attend church and come to activities throughout the week because she has that desire. She is hungry for the truth after being in darkness for so long. When we teach her she is excited to learn and she keeps her commitments. It{s really quite amazing her progress in the church. 



There is big drive here to learn English, and I can{t pinpoint exactly why. And so, now I teach music classes and english classes. I help lots of young kid with their English homework. Also I wish I knew the guitar because everyone here wants to learn the guitar. One member here who is learning English said he has read the Book of Mormon seven times to learn. He said it{s because he wants to hear what the prophets say and understand. 



Another less active we visit is Hermana Milady. She has the worst arthritis I have ever seen, and is confined to a wheel chair becaue of the inflamation of her legs and feet. She is so sweet and mom you would get along well with her, she loves earrings and necklaces and fashion ha ha. She has got a personality to boot as well. But she lives alone and she is so lonely. There was a man passing by her house, and was very interested in religion and talked to us for a minute. I felt prompted to give him the book of mormon and so I did. He was excited and we scheduled a time to teach him with Milady. 



My favorite thing is when my investigators say yes to baptism and then they start changing their life because of what they know. It is so amazing, especially with the younger kids. They have so much faith. 



The street.... I have to describe the streets here because it is really something else!!! I can hardly put into words how beautiful the streets are here. I love everythying about them!! The colorful rundown houses, the trash in the gutters, the beautiful trees and plants growing up through the sidewalk, the strange smells from the vending carts, the smashed flowers all over, the uneven sidewalks, the homeless dogs, and even the bread and banana venders on bikes that play creepy carnival music when they pedal!! Here everybody is a vender. Wether on a bike or in a little mini store at the front of their house, they are venders. They sale bread, tortillas, fruit, vegetables, hot dogs, tacos, and all sorts of Mexican food. There is always always always Spanish music playing from different houses and buildings and venders. The children here just stare at me with their mouths open... ha ha. lots of them reach out and touch me. Dad it{s exactly like you in New Guinea!!! Elder Coook Elder COook and they touch your skin cuz it{s white!! ha ha. Lots of swerving and speedign in the street, walking, bugs, strange birds, coconut and mango trees, beautiful mountains of JUNGLE with a giant cross at the top of the mountain, the smokey haze from cooking fires and construction, and last but not least, the way I feel walking down these streets being a MISSIONARY!!! I LOVE IT!!! 



Love,



hermana cook

Thursday, November 6, 2014

VIVA MEXICO!

I LOVE MEXICO!!!!!! IT IS INREDIBLE!!!!! WOW. I have so much to write!!! 

After a really long plane ride here, with throwing up on every single plane and all, I arrived in Mexico and then everything was good!!! No more throwing up!! ha ha I thought it would be the other way around!!!!


When I got off the plane it was so humid and I loved it immediately!!! After the airport, we went to the mission home and after meeting a few missionaries and having a lonely night with a Peruvian hermana I got my companion the next day!!!!!! and I love her she is from Chiuaua Mexico and she is 22. She is sooooo tiny we look so funny together because I´m so tall and white. We work very hard together. We got on a bus and rode to my area, Villaflores, about 2 hours outside of Tuxtla. AND I INVITED A GUY TO BE BAPTIZED!!!!! ON THE BUS!!!!! I´m not sure what he said after I invited him, but it was amazing!!! I also gave him a picture de JesuCristo. my companion was so proud of me!! She prompted me to ask him and so I did. In the past week I have invited 15 other people to be baptized and it has been INCREDIBLE!!!! Most of them say yes and then after we say a certain date they say they are catholic. "Soy catolica soy catoica..." But right now we have about 5 investigators who are going to be baptized!!!!

IT IS A JUNGLE!!!!!! AND I LOVE IT!!! Dad no joke I had the same experience as you did when you were in New Guinea... no joke... the third day here, we visited a part member family and the kids had not a stitch of clothing on running around and the mother served us this soup with an entire fish inside!!!!!!! The head and the fins and I sort of frieked out inside but I kept smiling. but it turned out to be the most DELICOUS thing I have ever eaten!!! Dad and mom you would have loved it !!! After we had to wash our hands in this water out back behind the house in this cement like basin fillled deep with river water I think and I saw  FISH swimming in it!!!!!! I just carry my hand santizer wherever I go. I am eating so healthy here it´s not even funny. Lots of fish!!! The members here cook the entire fish and get the skin really crispy and it is so delicious!!!!! 

We went to another part members house and I ate the entire fish minus the bones and it made the lady so happy that she started to cry. She said she forgot about the sadness of her children´s inactivity in the church when she served us the fish. And she let me have another whole fish!!! It was my pleasure, it was so good. I gave the lady a picture of Jesus with a nino in His arms. it was amazing. I know her children will eventually join the church. 

Other food here... this type of sauce called mole (it´s like chocolate with tomatoes and other vegetables) with chicken and it´s delicious!!! And sorry I can´t speak English anymore it´s weird. Also sweet pumpkin...mmm.. they cook it and it´s dulce. 

I understand almost all of what people say but I can´t say a lot yet. It´s mostly the invitation to baptism, my testimony, and EVERYONE WANTS TO HERE THE GIRL FROM THE UNITED STATES PRAY!!!!!! EVERY LESSON!!! AND I PLAY MY VIOLIN FOR MY INVESTIGATORS!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT´S SO FUN!!! And I taught a music class to the ninos and ninas here in Villaflores!! It was the single most amazing experience ever!!! I taught them music in SPANISH!!!! I taught the note names and rythm and the staff and all of that sort of thing...There were a few adults there too, who learned as well. I fiddled for them and it was amazing. A lot of the kids here have music in their souls but they just need a teacher. I have never seen a kid that age learn so quickly to play the piano!!!! His name was Reuben Roberto, probably 10 ish! I taught him in like 30 seconds how to play i am a child of God and it was incredible. The children here sing at the top of their lungs and it is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. I love the children here so much. It was amazing. They all call me Hermana Coooook because they can´t say Cook. 

Dad you should see the cows here!!!! or more like bulls... They are huge!!!! And they have big horns. They are hitched to this little cart and pull stuff aruond in la calle, or the street. 

Did you know that the tradition here is everyone kisses each other on the cheek when they greet each other!!! And I love it!!!!!!!! It´s so fun but probably not very sanitary. I like it because it really brings everyone together in a weird way. 

Dad. The people are so peaceful. And president george says it is the safest mission in Mexico because we have 96 hermanas here. It´s the most hermanas besides one other mission with 100 hermanas. I am the first hermana from the united states to be in my area though!!!!!!!! And also the fifth missionary in this area!!!! ever!!!!!! I feel very safe and I know I willl be safe for my entire mission. 

Tuxtla is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It is so gorgeous. Mom you would die to see the flowers here growing everywhere!! purple and yellow and pink and blue!!!!! Here there are no rules in the street. Everyone passes everyone in the street. There are no lines and I have only seen 1 policeman and he was just bumbling along looking lost. ha ha. It´s so funny. 

My apartment is interesting. The ceiling is falling down and so me and my companion are always sweeping up the pieces and the dust. We have a bucket and a cup to shower. It´s great!!!! I love it!! We can heat the water in this kettle and use that for showers. My first night here we swept up the apartment and then we went street contacting. I love the people here!!! They are so loving and I have never been turned down to go into their house!!! Okay maybe twice.... but hey it´s amazing



All of my dreams came true when I saw ants in the kitchen and la cucaracha in the bano (which btw we tried to kill for 30 MINUTES but to no avail until we used the broom) and a lizard on the ceiling. I wouldn´t have it any other way!!!! 

I also hear roosters crowing at night it´s great!! Here they raise and kill chickens to eat. It´s a little tough but delicious!! 

Also children sale the most beautiful bundles of roses IN THE STREET. LITERALLY. They go from car to car and from street to street saling roses. It is so sweet !!

Well the field is ONLY white here in Villa flores!!! I feel like everyone here is a golden investigator!! Our investigator Ivan accepted my invitation to baptism and I was soooo happy!!! He is only 15 years old and he got out a notebook and took notes when we were telling him about Lehi and Sariah and Nephi and Sam and Laman and Lemuel!! These people are just searching for the truth and we have it!!!! My cmpanion tells me that I give her an excitement and a fresh view of how marvelous missionary work is! I was so happy to hear that I am helping her and it´s not just her helping me with spanish. it´s cool because i teach her english and she teaches me spanish. she is pretty fluent at english but could use a little more help and so I help her. 

A few days ago we taught this family on a beautiful rancho, or farm. It was so beautifully lush and green. There were giant spiders ev erywhere, black and yellow and huge flying things that I don´t know what to call them. We taugh the restoration and it was amazingh. The spirit was so strong when I said the first visison, the light came through the trees with purple flowers, and it penetrated my heart.I knew it. I knew it was true in my heart so strong, and I will never deny it. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet and that he restored this church or I wouldn´t be here.  also testified to them that death is not the end and that they can be with their 2 tiny babies forever. 

Yesterday I bore my testimony in la casa de oracion, or house of prayer for church. I love the building it´s so retro and most of all i love the members and my investigators!! They are so lively and there is no judging here or jealousy. It´s so beautiful. My companion is so patient with me and she will explain things in spanish two or three times until I understand. 

I love it here and I couldn´t be happier! There´s no bank in our area so once a week we go outside the area and get pesos from the atm to buy everything. 

My filter water bottle that you gave me dad is working well and thank you. I figured it out and i squeezed it out once before I started drinking from the faucet. The water is a tint yellowish when it´s not clean. But i use my filter always.

Mom i love you i wish you were here, because i know you would think all of the same things as me about the people and the trees and the culture and the food!!!! 

I love you talmage and gracee and gabby start thinking about a mission now.

love 

hermana cook 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

First off, the tender mercy of September 17th....

My companion and I experienced the feeling of love for another of God's children like we have never experienced it before. M, our investigator, told us that she is really a member of the church (just acting as a Spanish investigator), but all the problems and experiences that she has shared with us about her life have been true. We were prepared to teach her about the commandments for the next lesson, when we had a tender mercy from the Lord. She just broke down and told us her whole life story. And my companion and I just wept with her. And listened to her. And we mourned with her. Her life is falling apart, but you would never know that because she is the most animated and happy person you've ever met! She said she was tired of doing the same thing over and over again every day, and the only joy she finds is when she come to the MTC to be with us missionaries. She said this "job" at the MTC is the best job ever because she has at least 10 sets of missionaries praying for her everyday when they go to teach her for practice. She is dizzy every day because she is diabetic and overweight. Her husband has pretty much abandoned her, and he only visits her from his job in Texas once in a while. Her daughter is inactive in the church. She said that she wanted to take a vacation and go and die up by the "Y" on the mountain. It was so sad. 

And so, as she told us this and more, the spirit carried my words, and told me exactly what I needed to say, because as soon as I told her, she covered her face and bawled; like she was so grateful that I had said that. I told her that God loves her and that all her efforts are not all for naught. I told her that she needed to get on her knees that night and pour out her heart to God and that He would hear her. She had gotten up earlier that morning to make my companion and I some Mexican cookies, and I thought that was so sweet. She has had a special bond with my companion and I and we felt that when we taught her every time. 

After the lesson, my companion and I were a complete mess, we ran into the nearest classroom and bawled and stuttered out a few words about how we had never felt this kind of love before. It was like the sort of love where you honestly want to save a soul. We were experiencing the feeling of why we are really on a mission. And that reason is love. empathy. compassion. We cried tears of joy and thanked God for this tender mercy that he had bestowed on us that night. I felt so much for M, that after we cried in the classroom I ran into the nearest bathroom and vomited! I wasn't sick I promise, because I could have eaten a hamburger right after. I just was so overwhelmed with the spirit of love and mourning for M that things just came out.... We went to our dorm after that we wrote in our journals and cried and then went to bed.





And now... for the musical number. So after my audition they assigned me to play for all the new Senior Missionaries that arrived this week! I got to play "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" for the Senior Missionaries in the most beautiful rock chapel with beautiful acoustics just North of the MTC. (pic included) It was really an amazing experience and I had many of the Senior Missionaries thank me for it. I was a little sad that I didn't get to play for the missionaries my age, but all is well, because I got to do something EVEN BETTER! So we had a little extra time one day and my district begged me to get my violin. I grabbed it and came back, and burst through the classroom door whilst' fiddling!! It was AWESOME!! I wish you could have seen their faces! Soon enough, a few Elders from the other classroom trickled in. And soon after that, more. And more. And more. Until the whole classroom was PACKED with Elders- pretty much our whole zone was in one tiny classroom all wanting to listen. I took everyone's requests- hymns or not- and THEY LOVED IT!! 
 

Anyway the Elders were all just yelling out one song after another and pretty soon I was modulating two songs together that they had requested and it was just incredible!! It was like a bunch of boys on Christmas morning- you should have seen their faces!! One Elder, Elder Burns, sat right in front of me on the floor, "Indian style." I played everything from Tarzan to Frozen to Come thou Fount.

I am also accompanying a musical number for our zone's last sacrament before we leave. My district is singing and I'm playing a violin part to Come thou fount. It'll be AWESOME!! 
 
 
Mom I wish you could sing with me at the MTC when all 2,000 of us are singing- there's nothing like it! POWERFUL!! But there's no one to sing harmony with... I miss you and your singing
 
My miracle of the week has been about strengthening my own personal faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ's atonement for me. Sometimes God tests our faith and until we act and show our faith, we won't receive an answer or a confirmation, as Ether 12:6 says. 
 
Well, I love you all family

And next time I'll be in MEXICO!!! 

Love,

Hermana Cook!!