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 jalapeƱos 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