Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello from Brussels

Hey mom i hope you get this.        Friday Morning Nov 26th, 2010
I will be calling as soon as you should be awake. 
I dont have a number to get a hold of you so i will try dads
office number because i don't know your cell numbers and we dont have a
home phone anymore it looks like. 

 Thanksgiving Day in Riga at the Mission Home

This is what happened: Our plane in Riga couldn't leave on
time because of ice. This made us miss our flight in Brussels. 
We got us new tickets but they are for tommorow. So I wont
be getting into Idaho Falls until SATURDAY 9:14pm. 
I am safe and in the Brussles mission office. 
I Got sick a couple days ago so i am just completely drained of energy. Especially since i got three hours of sleep last night and four the night before. We should sleep well tonight however. 
We are just chugging along though. 
Dont worry about anything. 
WE will see you on saturday. 
Love you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

ONE LAST LETTER November 22, 2010

Dear friends and family,
    It's the last time I will be writing you from Lithuania. I am sad to leave and excited to see all of you. They need to make a new word in English that describes how I am feeling. Hopefully you can just know what I am talking about. I received an email from president Dance asking me to send him an e-mail talking about my mission and the miracles i have seen and the changes i have noticed in myself. I thought that for this letter i would just send you my letter to him as well: 

Our arrival to Riga as Missionaries for 
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints   Jan 21, 2009

Dear President,
    Well I guess it's about that time. In a way it has felt that these two years have gone by in a blink of an eye and in another way it seems like i have never in my life NOT been a missionary. This has turned into an entire way of living. It has left an effect on me of eternal consequence. One of the greatest changes I have seen in myself is a love for truth. I love this gospel more than I ever have. I love the simplicity and power of the light we have received from modern day revelation.
   My testimony has grown in such wonderful ways that I can't describe it any other way than just bearing it. It's all true and I know it. I thought I knew it, but I didn't. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that he has redeemed mankind. We can gain power from that sacrifice through diligent obedience to the laws of God. It is the only way to true happiness. I have seen this so many times out here. I have seen people learn the designs of God and begin to live accordingly and because of that they have been blessed every single time. I have also seen the other side of that process. When people fall away. It has not been a terribly fun experience to see but it has helped me grow in ways that I know will be needful later in life. That is how to accept peoples free agency after doing all that you can do. But we keep faith.
   That is one thing that will remain priceless to me. How to keep going when things get tough. The harder it is to do something the more heart you have to put into it and thereby showing the true makeup of your character and faith. When it has been the hardest for me and i have stuck it out with faith and not complaining (as I was more compelled to do before I was a Baltic missionary) I have seen the most miracles and felt the most successful. This last transfer I have felt the workings of the spirit so strongly. I feel a large part is due to the faith of me and my wonderful family. It has been quite an experience and has been an incredible ending to a dream of a mission.
    I am leaving my area with the wonderful feeling of success. This young man Dainus will get baptized here and  if I had come for two years just for the change I have already seen in him then my mission was not in vain. It is so wonderful that so much more than just that was accomplished. I would not trade these years for anything. They have been full of lessons that I feel have greatly changed me as a person. 
  My commission I have given to myself is to never forget these lessons and to live up to the knowledge that has been revealed to me while I was a set apart servant of God. I could thank you for a good paragraph now but I will save that for our interview in a few days. If anything know that I love this place and I love you and Sister Dance. See you on Thanksgiving.

Elder Cooke

To all my friends and family. Know also that I love you all and am so grateful for the crucial part you played in this process with your prayers and love and support. You are all so dear to me and I have missed you all. It's now time to leave the work here but the work will continue back home. I would ask you all right now to be patient with me as I try to improve myself each day. I am not perfect but I am trying. See you all soon.

Elder Cooke 
Lithuanian:  Vyresnysis Kukas - The Coolest One
Russian:  старейшина kyk
Latvian:  Elders Kuks
Estonian:  Vanem Cooke



Monday, November 15, 2010

This will be my last full week in Lithuania

Sweet Week

My shoes: I went through a couple pairs, two weeks ago

Last week was absolutely amazing. Everything was just clicking. Even with all the distractions of registering for classes and whatnot, we were able to get so much done. It all started with district meeting. It was a great spiritual feast for all of us. I spent the entire time trying to get the other missionaries to find their inner conviction as to why they are truly here. Because with all the exchanges and preparation days and meals to cook and things to see and words to memorize and everything it is vary easy to miss the point that we are here to bring others to Christ. Everything else is but an appendage to that. We eat so we can have energy to work. We sleep so we can work. We learn to speak Lithuanian not to speak but to have another tool to touch these peoples hearts and make it easier to feel the spirit which converts people. Everything is centered around the true purpose. This is a principal I want to bring home. I am not going to school just to go to school. I dont go to church to go to church. I don't obey the commandments just for the fun of it. All these things are tools and mediums God has given us to reach our highest purpose, Eternal Life. That is the reason for everything. Without that end then everything leading up to it is in vain. That end, which is not an end, is the reason I get up in the morning. 
Keep that in mind. 

By the church at district conference with Vlanetinas and his family. 
It's the last time i will see them for a while...
Now, after that We set a goal as a district for 7 new investigators. 
It was shooting high because the week before we had gotten only one as an entire district. But I knew that if we recommitted ourselves then miracles would happen. Elder Graham and I were focused and diligent. If you dont know what a new investigator is, see: *Preach My Gospel- pg 1  . . . a person who "is searching for purpose in life.  They are concerned for their families.  They need a sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values.  They want "peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come" d&c 59 : 23, but they are "kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" d&c 123 : 12". 
We share our testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them learn & receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end which is the only way we can find eternal happiness.  If they want to learn more We set up a time to meet with them again.
Our district had a slow start in the week but it picked up. We started finding new investigators. Every time a new investigator was found, I called the district. We started to see the miracles of faith. By the end of the week we had found 12 new investigators as a district. Elder Graham and I had not only found 8 as a companionship but we committed one of them to be Baptized and he accepted for Jan 1st . It was quite an experience. 
I feel so effective as a missionary right now. 

Yesterday I gave my final talk in our branch. I will still be here next week but this was when they had me speak. Its bittersweet as you can imagine. But this week is going to be awesome. It will be my final full week here and i want it to be full. Tonight we are all going to Vilnius for an early zone conference on Tuesday. 
Elder Schwitzer from the 70 will be leading zone conference. It should be quite the experience. 

Inga and her family in Siauliai

Dainus is still doing very well. He is still good to go on the 27th but we want to make sure he is good and prepared before that. I think he could very well make it by that date. I am excited for him.

our sweet pumkin we carved for halloween. The symbol is an old symbol of Lithuania

The work is going. I am going. 
I guess next week will be the last email you write to me out here. 
I cant believe its already getting down to the nitty gritty. 
Well, third round third mile!

A building in Kaunas that makes me feel like I live in Transylvania

Love you,
Elder Cooke


Monday, November 8, 2010

Thank you for the prayers

Well, It was a fun week with an even better ending. I had to go on an exchange with Elder Gearhart in Vilnius so I was able to to go by some old friends there. It was great. Afterwords I went on an exchange to Šiauliai where I was able to go by Inga and her family and Valentinas and his family. The next day I went to district conference with the whole branch. Way fun to see everybody again. My heart was so unbelievably full. I was so happy. Then we got to Kaunas where the conference is held and all my friends from all of Lithuania were there. All the people I have come to love so much. It went well. All the speakers were very good and President with Sister Dance were awesome as always. It was very bittersweet to see/say goodbye to everybody as it was the last time i would be seeing most of them. They are all just such good people. Later that night we taught Dainus. He is so solid. We taught him about tithing and when he learned anything he just accepted it wholeheartedly. The branch is working a lot better with the missionaries now. Our mission leader is softening up a bit. Thank you for the prayers on that one. Other than all that life is about the same. Just trying to get some odds and ends tied up before I leave but I think that missionary work should stay about the same until the end. We dont have much going on this week. I need to get the visa work done for three new missionaries this week at immigration. Hopefuly that all goes well. There always seems to be some problems that come out. This will finish up a procces of about 6 months for each individual missionary to get there allowence to live in Lithuania. After I get taken care of them i will need to re-register myself in preparation to leave the country. Fun stuff right? It is!
I hope all is well for all of you.

I love you all.

Elder Cooke

Monday, November 1, 2010

Staying Strong Til The End

Dear Mom,

My companion and I found a boy this last week contacting- which is turning out to be the one fruitful contact of my mission. He is very serious about getting baptized. His date is for the day after I leave my mission. I just hope we can get the branch to support him. I want that they will support our investigator in the branch here. His name is Dainus.

So how are you and dad and Kyle doing?
The best thing to do is to keep busy and focus on others. I promise that will help. I know it’s easier said than done but it’s the best way. Plus, being busy and serving others isnt hard for you. :)

The less I think about the tragedy the better I can focus on the Lord’s work. Tell Kyle I will be way excited to live with him when I get back.
Also tell dad to keep an eye out for any jobs so I can keep myself busy with until i go to school. Although i am sure you will need my help at home, which I will be happy to do. I just want to stay busy.  I will have to make sure Kyle and I have some fun when i get back.

How is grandma H doing? 

We actually have conference next week as well.  I have to speak in the branch the week after and then the week after that- will be my last Sunday.

I love you.
Tell everyone the same.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Truth will prevail

Dear family,                                               10/25/2010                                                                                                           
   I was very glad to get your letter. I know the news still isn't good but I at least wanted to hear something from my family. This whole week I have been in a strange state of being. In times of extreme grief of pain you feel as though everything is a dream and you are just waiting to wake up from this unreal existence. This was made even easier to believe none of this was real as the only thing I had to go on was a call from my mission president. I have never felt so disconnected from all of you in my life. It was the first time on my mission that i truly felt the enormity of distance between us. I tried to stay focused this week but I felt my mind wander back to the situation and what all of you could be doing at any given time. My heart still aches for all of you. I feel, however, that I have avoided the temptation to let it become an excuse for me to take time off for myself. This is a critical time in my mission and if I haven't learned how to deal with tough times up to this point then I don't really know what I have been doing out here. If I truly know that the work is true then nothing should stop me from moving forward. So forward we go.
   I spent the first 4 days of the week in Riga where we received extra training on teaching. When I finally got back to my area I again was relieved that I could speak in Lithuanian with people again and not Russian or Latvian. We got right to work and in the few days we had we found 6 new people to teach. This Sunday a less-active that we have been working with for the last 2 months finally came to church to take of the sacrament. It was a small victory for sure. Last night we got lost. We had gotten on an unknown bus which took us near the outskirts of town and then the bus driver said, "get off!" We were alone on the bus except for an old lady who quietly got off the bus. My companion and I tried to find our way back to the main road. We thought we knew where we were so a little to hasty we went of into the dark and 15 minutes later found ourselves having walked in a huge circle. I took a minute to asses our situation. I looked around and in the distance I saw a church. That gave me some bearings and I realized where we were. As we were walking to the stop we found the old lady who couldn't see well and who was also lost. She asked if we knew how to get to center. We were in a very bad area late at night so I told her that we would walk with her to the bus stop and get her to center. We made it to a stop and a bus soon showed up and we made it back to center. It seemed as though whether we wanted to be or not, we were going to be led to help that old lady. God puts things in motion to bring about his purposes. We might feel like we are lost at first but if we can take a minute and find our bearings then we can be prepared to help others that are also lost in the dark. God loves us and wants us to be happy. Simple words with a deep eternal meaning. I feel peace for our family as I recalled some words from my Patriarchal blessing that I was confused about until now. Paraphrased, it just simply states how all at home will be well when I return. I know that scars sometimes remain as a memory but the pain fades away and we are strengthened in the process. I love all of you so much. Don't forget who we are and what we have.

with love,
Elder Cooke 

Angela's accident 10/19/2010

President Dance called me last night and told me about Angela's accident. I was shocked and confused about what i could possibly do. He told me that I should write you all. I feel such an immense amount of grief as I am sure all of you do. My thoughts keep returning to Kyle. I cannot begin to comprehend how he must be feeling. I don't feel that any words from me could ease that pain but I just want Kyle to know that I love him. I believe in him and I respect him more than he understands. My prayers return again and again to the plea, that He would know how much we all care about him and loved Angela. Angela was an embodiment of care and kindness. She loved us and we loved her. She was my sister and I will miss her a great deal. I am sorry I cannot come to the funereal even though nobody expects me too. I would do absolutely anything to make this time just a little bit easier for any one of you. Especially Kyle. I know that Kyle is a rock and can tough about anything out but this must seem like just too much. I hope Angela's parents and family is doing alright. I don't know what aright means in this situation but I hope they are at least surviving. This must be so difficult for all of you right now. I wish none of you had to experience this. I hope that everyone in this family remembers the things they have said to others when others have grieved for somebody that they have lost. When we are in the situation it is sometimes harder to remember the blessing and designs of God. But this is the time to see the gospel in action. You have gone to church, served callings and testified of the truthfulness of the Plan of our Father. You have all been strengthened for this day. God saw this day a long way off. Now is when we see the fruits. This is what it is all about. To overcome the hardships of the world and to grow. I know it is a time for grief and I know you have all heard the routine of, "everything will be alright" a hundred times. I don't want to vainly repeat these words of support but it's true. Everything will be alright. It will be. I can't express this thought strongly enough. And if you already understand it then let that one truth ease the pain and bring you peace. Time is never an object to God.  He wants you to know that. If you know that then you know how soon we will all see Angela again. She is just fine. I know that she is ok. That brings me a great measure of peace. Now my one wish is that all of you would be alright. I know it will take time but just know that I love all of you so much. I don't want anybody worrying about me. This is not about me. I will be fine. I am in good hands out here. I can feel God with me and I know he is with you. He loves all of you. You are all so strong and when you are together you are even stronger. Cookes don't quit. Tell Gabe that Sorensens don't quit either. In others you will find peace. Dont distance yourself from those around you. Find solace in the love that you all have for one another. Again, i love you all. I love you Kyle as I am sure you are reading this. Don't lose faith. Don't let yourself be brought down by what I imagine is an immense load. Your one of my biggest heroes. I want to be like you. I wish I could be with you through this but you have everybody else to help you in my place. I know that you would want nothing more than for me to keep going strong out here until the end. Know that I will do that. Turn to Christ. You will learn so much from this and it will benefit you the rest of your life. I know you might not value that very much right now but God does. I know Christ is our savior and redeemer. He is with us when we think all is lost and he will stay with us until we learn that all is not lost if we stay with him. I know that Angela will be seen again. I know she is happy and wants us to be happy. I know that we are all bound together. She has been separated from us for only a short time. We will all be together again. I know it. I love all of you. Know that my prayers are with you. Don't lose faith.

Elder Cooke