Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Message

Christmas is undoubtedly my favorite holiday. I mean, who doesn't like giving/receiving gifts, cards, hot chocolate, and if you're English, minced pies! And don't forget Santa Clause (although I was horrified of him as a kid) and reindeer and lights and snowmen (well, not in Tempe at least) but you get the picture. People are generally happier, even if Mums and Dads are under more stress. Oh, and don't forget the lack of school work for a month! It doesn't get better, right?!

Well, I'd say no, because really we should be filled with the Spirit of Chirst, and not simply the Spirit of Christmas. Don't get me wrong, the festive time of the year shouldn't be diminished in our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but we musn't allow materialism and commercialism dominate the true meaning of Christmas, which is the following:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

The spirit in the air should be filled with a love toward others, as that is how we show our love in return toward our Heavenly Father. As a father of mortal children would be ever so willing to bless his children for that with which they are obedient, so our Heavenly Father is anxious to bless us if we follow the example of Jesus Christ, and not rebel to put ourselves in timeout. That is the true spirit with which we should conduct our lives in order to fully utilize the atonement that was given to every individual who ever has and will live upon the Earth.

Let's make sure the Spirit of Christ(mas) lasts throughout our lives!

Merry Christmas!

Love you all,

Elder McCook

Second Transfer - Yeovil

Baptism of Nik Peterson

Things are going well in Yeovil. Nik Peterson is getting baptized this week, and we just have one more lesson to teach him. I feel confident that he's doing the right thing. He's taken the lessons earlier this year, but this time we really emphasized the importance and serious nature of everything that we teach him. Despite his young age, being 18, I feel he is prepared. I'm very happy for him.

Getting organized

Well, every day is different from the other on the mish. Some days go by really fast and are productive, and others slow. This isn't necessarily due to poor planning on our part. It's just the nature of the business.

For example, yesterday was the busiest day of my mission thus far. We had to write up weekly progress reports before Church, greet people, Elder Day was called on to bear his testimony, we taught the combined priesthood lesson, then after Church, the part member family that has been going to Church for a while asked for us to teach them (not until January though), then someone called us in the hospital for a blessing, so we rushed home, stuffed food in our mouths, then ran to the hospital (saves on gas, and it's fairly nearby), then we rushed back to the car, took a 25 minute drive to Glastonbury to visit some people, while on the way ringing the Ward Mission Leader, Bishop, and Relief Society President about the person in the hospital, then we taught an investigator by showing her the Joseph Smith movie (she wanted to see it) and committing her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, then drove to another appointment in Glastonbury while talking on the phone to missionaries in the district, and the Zone Leader, and a potential investigator that was having emotional problems, then we did some service for this less active who is wheelchair bound and gave him the sacrament, then we went home! And then, because Elder Day is a District Leader, we accounted for a couple hours on the phone.

But then there were other days this week that could be summed up by saying "tried to visit people, weren't there, then knocked doors, nobody interested, went home." What a variety! It almost makes life on the edge of your seat never knowing the fun in store. It's almost like a roller coaster, but you have to control emotions whilst on the roller coaster, or else life would be fairly difficult. I know of missionaries that let the roller coaster take charge of them, and it's hard, but I remember the things that are out of my control, and the things that are, and learn to recognize the difference and choose to act on the things that are in my control (circle of influence and concern). It may sound robotic, but that's how I feel.

Volunteering at the Brainwave!
(Steaming a pair of pants)

Another interesting experience was that, while working the till (check-out counter) at a charity shop called Brainwave; I talked with a guy and found out he investigated the Church in Bournemouth, but then moved into our area, and simply lost contact with missionaries and such. It turns out he lives on the same street in Gillingham (in the middle of nowhere) as a former mission president that served in the Philippines! So we're going to visit him along with the former mission president and see if he's interested. This is one reason for doing weekly service.

District having some fun!

We do have plenty of district fun, but it's kind of silly so I wasn't sure if you wanted any pics of that stuff - like fighting each other with foam swords. We got to do some bowling, and hang out at a park one time. There's not a vast amount of recreation available here, so we just do what we can. We would have more district fun functions if our district wasn't so huge land area wise. Our district is about 3,000 sq are miles, so traveling is kind of hard sometimes.

Elder McCook has an English Drivers License!

As far as driving goes, Elder Day has let me drive a few times in the past week. It's waaay crazy here. Like I almost got in an accident twice in the space of an hour and thirty minutes. At first, he was doing short 5 minute drives, but last week he let me drive from Salisbury to Yeovil. Basically, England is the most difficult place to learn how to drive. The roads are half as wide as back home, there's three times the amount of cars, no parking lots (so cars are parked on the sides of the road), and people will trample you if your driving is in any way timid. And there are three lane roundabouts every few hundred yards. So it's pretty fun! I just think of Chris' mission how everyone just walked everywhere, and that sounds heavenly. We all have completely different experiences depending on where you go. I'm sure these skills will somehow benefit me later on in life.

Sherborne Abby

Sherborne Abby Organ

Elder McCook's attempt to make Mexican food with limited resources:
English Mexican Food - pork and beans, Italian beans and sausage.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Temple Coincidence

This is a recent excerpt from man's journal who met Elder McCook last month while visiting the area that he served in a long time ago. He lives here in the valley. ---

"When we were in England, we attended the Yeovil Ward with Margaret and Bruce (members he helped bring into the church). There were two missionaries and one was from Tempe and had just started his mission. I got his name and phone number and told him I would call his mom and report that he is doing well and had a good companion. I forgot about that commitment for several weeks and for some reason recalled the promise a couple of weeks ago, but the note with his name and phone was not to be found. I felt bad that I had made the promise and could not follow through.

On Friday, we went to the Temple to do initiatories. My wife was going to do the work for my recently departed Aunt Yvonne who we knew well and was never active in the church. However, the line in that part of the Temple was too long…over an hour wait. We decided to do sealing instead. Yvonne can wait another week.

During the sealing session, one of the couples was quite young…in their twenties. I heard their name and wondered where I had heard it before. I began to wonder if that was the name of the Elder I forgot. The man sorta looked like this Elder. So at the end of the session, I inquired. Sure enough. This was Elder McCook’s brother!! I was able to give him the report and told him to tell his parents that their missionary was off to a good start. My conscience was soothed.

Are there any coincidences?"

Excerpts from Elder McCook's Mormon Profile

I love my family, friends, music and my religion. I'm currently serving a mission in England!

I am from Arizona serving a two year mission for the Church in England. I left a life of friends, opportunity, family, and education for this short thread of eternity to tell people about something I have a firm belief in. I really enjoy listening to and playing music. I sing, play classical & electric guitar, piano, euphonium & trombone. I did a year at the University studying Civil Engineering, and I'll return to that when I'm off my mission. I like to think, and love to read. I love having good ole fun sometimes, perhaps ice blocking (only choice in Arizona), roller coasters, and just having a laugh. I am under the influence of the spirit of Elijah; I love doing family history work for my ancestors. I've got English, Scottish, Canadian, Danish, and of course, American ancestry. I love life, the experiences I embrace, the hardships as well as the happy times. Being a member of this Church and understanding the doctrines of God brings purpose and fulfillment to my experience on this earth in preparation for a much longer lasting life. I love being a missionary and sharing this with others!

As most people of this Church, I was born a member. I am thankful to God for this, as I've been given a fullness of the knowledge of the gospel to help me in times of difficulty as well as times of joy. Many people ask if I've been born a member, and the apparent answer is 'yes', but the real answer is that "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," (1 John 5:1) and in the words of the Savior himself that "Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). So was I born into a family that taught the principles of our Church and was lovingly guided by parents who knew the gospel of Jesus Christ? Answer: Yes. But there are two life events at which I was tested to see if my individual soul accepted this. It was being baptized, and deciding to serve a mission for two years. I had to really decide if I was to be born of God and accept the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a trial of faith. As I exercised faith, and repented or re-turned towards God and applied the principles given in the Book of Mormon, and felt the converting power of the Holy Ghost, I came to a knowledge of the truth, because by the power of the Holy Ghost, you and I and all of us may know the truth of all things. I came to a realization that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth. None other power than the Holy Ghost can convince me of this. I would invite all to take up this invitation to read the Book of Mormon, for in it contains the words of God given for our day, and is a sure witness of Christ's reality and divinity. It will truly bring you and I closer to God.

I live my faith right now by going out and knocking doors and talking to people a few hours out of the day, strengthening those who have fallen from the truth, and essentially inviting others to come unto Christ. I have decided to do this for 2 years as a missionary because of my knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel and the joyfulness it can bring everyone.

I've also previously had opportunities to serve in priesthood capacities, home teaching, which is visiting people in the Church and uplifting them, and as a primary teacher, or teacher for children under the age of 12. I love opportunities to serve.

Elder McCook has the opportunity to visit wonderful and historic
buildings like Wells Cathedral. Here is the interior.

Exterior of Wells Cathedral

Practicing a door approach with a modern missionary card and a 130-year bible?!

Big smiles on rainy day.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Transfer - Yeovil

Elder McCook and Elder Day - A great companionship!
Elder Day is from England

The mission office is on the London England Temple grounds

President and Sister Shamo (Mission Pres & wife) are serving from Utah

Elder McCook just a little excited about a package from home!

Stonehenge is in Elder McCook's district!

Excerpts from emails throughout the first transfer:

The area I am in is officially called Yeovil. Yeovil is pronounced "Yo - ville." Kinda like "Yo, wassup?" and "ville," like Jackson"ville,"Florida.

Our area is huge. Depending on where our dinner appointment, referrals and less actives our, we base our tracting around that. Oddly enough, tracting is probably the easiest way to find potential investigators here. Working on the streets, especially the town centre not so much because people are focused on buying things and they're in a hurry. Yeovil is fairly family centered, so mothers and such like hearing what we have to say about families. If men answer the door however, it's usually a slammed one. Not all the time though.

The missionaries in England developed a far superior way to do tracting and that is called "presetting." It's basically where we go to a street and place flyers saying that we will be in the neighborhood at a certain time in a few days and that they can call or text to either set up an appointment at a certain time, or say "don't come by" basically. It's a pretty interesting method.

I also had my best teaching lesson thus far. We taught a family (don't know the surname) of a father James, a mother Toya, and children Harry and Billy (3 yrs and 7 yrs respectively.) We had a very spiritual teaching lesson, and we invited them to pray at the end (kneeling prayer.) James said the closing prayer! I love it when investigators pray, it's like they're talking to someone face to face. Anyway, we taught them all sorts of stuff, it was led by the Spirit. We taught them eternal families, temple marriage, the entire Restoration, the Book of Mormon, and prayer. James pretty much self-committed to going to church yesterday. And Toya wanted to read the Book of Mormon to determine if what we're saying is true (which is exactly what we want!)

Anyway, we also finally have a baptismal date for the 18 year old Nik in the ward. He's been going to church forever, but finally is honoring his commitments. He's good about reading and praying daily now. We have a date for the 11th of November. In our district, we have a total of 6 baptismal dates lined up. Basically, people who say you don't baptize in England don't understand that there are those few who are seekers for the truth. In fact, when President Eyring was setting apart President Shamo, he blessed him by saying that during his stay as mission president, 'the seekers would once again find the truth.' Something to that effect.

My favorite meal so far was a Sunday roast yesterday at a member's home. Every family in England has this meal on Sunday which includes a combination of turkey and stuffing and potatoes and vegetables with cheese sauce on it and yorkshire pudding and gravy on the top of everything. Delish! And for dessert; meringue and fruit. Also, I've had scones (like our biscuits), crumpits (kind of like english muffins with holes), nutella (I love nutella), and squash which is like super concentrated fruit juice that you dilute and it tastes really good. Also, the milk here is waaaay better than the stuff at home. On my list of things to try is some sort of pastie, like a cornish pastie. I've only had fish and chips once, and that was at the MTC. The people here drench that stuff with malt vinegar like there's no tomorrow. The mushy peas are really really good here. They taste like refried beans for some reason.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wonderful England MTC experience

Elder McCook safely made it to the England Mission Training Center
on August 26, 2011! Due to the generosity of the staff,
we had lots of photos taken by them during his training.

Aug 26, 2011

Hey Family!

I just want to apologize in advance if this email sounds loopy. I had less than 30 mins of sleep on the plane ride over. Anyway, this email is mostly just to tell you guys that I arrived save and sound, and that the MTC here is great, from what I know. Anyway, time is limited and I have to do more registration stuff. I will be more detailed later.


Elder McCook

P.S. The sign on the bathroom door in the airport said "gents toilets and cleansing ritual room" hahaha! Oh, and signs say "way out" instead of "exit." Also, I can't understand the people in Manchester, so I hope the London area is better. Also, all of the cars here are mercedes-benz and bmw and the only American cars are Fords.

A tired Elder McCook - as this picture was taken directly upon arrival at the MTC.

Couldn't resist a picture of an English car!

The MTC held a patriotic day and each missionary got to
sing his national anthem in his native tongue. The US group was the largest.

The "Moroni" district got their haircut!

Classroom teaching - E McCook taking notes in back

E McCook sharing his "profile" to fellow missionaries

Missionary companion to the right - Elder Destribois from Normandy, France

Singing at a fireside

Buddies from E McCook's district - about half of them

Dining room - check out the view!

President Walker took the missionaries on a Church History tour!
They were able to see where the earlier pioneer missionaries taught and baptized.
This is at the River Ribble where the first baptisms in England took place.

River Ribble

Chatburn Baptismal Site

Downham Village - Heber Kimball found many who accepted the gospel here.

Testimony meeting - E McCook shared of C.J. Thomas (ancestor he was named after)
being one of the early saints to convert in England, leave his successful musical career, push a handcart across the US and under Brigham Young, establish beautiful music in the Salt Lake Valley

17 Wadham Road - Sister Walker (President Hinckley's daughter)
tells of her father's experience at this apartment when he received
a letter from his father saying "Forget yourself and go to work"

Me and my companion Elder Destribois (pronounced Deh-stri-bwa) talked to maybe some 40 people on the streets of Manchester. 38 of them weren't too interested. I learned much about myself. The day before I thought it would be super easy, but when I first stepped on the train to Manchester, I couldn't peep a word to anyone. But as we went out and about we found two people that were willing to hear what we had to share. We gave them a Book of Mormon with a pass along card, and told them to call the number. Since I was still more of a newbie back then I only realized after the fact that getting a name and number would have been more useful. Oh well, I'm sure there was a difference made in someone's life.

Ready to street contact!
Standing in front of the Oblisk in Preston Town Square.

Returning back to the MTC!

Waiting for the Return and Report meeting.

Well, it sure rains here ALL the time. Or at least it's cloudy. So far only one day with six or so full hours of sun shine. Chorley (where I am) is the rainiest part of England. Go figure. I'm pretty sure I was called here for more than one reason, including the weather. The rain even cancelled our planned epic football (soccer) battle between the western and eastern hemisphere. I think I like football, even though it's never played in the states. It brings me back to the good old days of soccer when I was a kid.

A panoramic shot outside Elder McCook's MTC room - WOW!

An English sunset - rare to see some blue sky

The England Missionary Training Center
In the gardens of the MTC

I'm learning loads of stuff here, everything from Scottish slang, to interpersonal relationship struggles, to fundamental gospel topics that I've forgotten over the months of deep doctrine study, to unique personal revelation. I've also learned (or learnt as they say here) that sleep has never been more precious. Although I'm really not as tired as the first few days here, sometimes while sitting I just want to shut my eyes. I've never slept better in my life.

You guys already know this and know that I know this, but I know this Church is true because of revelation that comes through reading the Book of Mormon with prayer, church attendance, and temple attendance. We had a chance to go to the Preston temple for the second time today, and that was a very meaningful experience as I prepared myself and really paid attention. If I didn't already mention it, a useful technique to use in the temple is 1. Identify a principle 2. How does it relate to the Savior? 3. How does it relate to me? Anyway, that's a great thing to use to learn a lot there.

Leaving the Preston Temple

Sept 13th - I leave tomorrow by the way! I'm super stoked, but I don't really know what it will be like. I'm sure it will be fun though. Fun + Obedience = Success is an algorithm of success for missionaries. Today they're doing tons of workshops and classroom things that are making me pretty sleepy, but I'll endure to the end. I can't wait to start arousing my faculties more. The MTC is pretty sedentary, even though they try to keep us moving somewhat.

Some fun and last instructions

Group Shot of Elder McCook's batch outside the MTC

President Hinckley's daughter and husband -
President and Sis Walker preside over the MTC
(Bottom right)