Elder Cooper Siebers has been called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He will serve for 24 months in the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro mission. He enters the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center on 10 July 2013.

Monday, December 30, 2013

25. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

30 December 2013

[On Christmas Day we were able to Skype with Cooper for 90 minutes.  It was absolutely spectacular to see his face and hear his voice and see that he is our same old Cooper.  I regret not taking any notes from our conversation that day, but I am glad I was just able to enjoy having us all together in a room for a few minutes.  It was the best Christmas gift ever.  I am very grateful to J and T, the young couple that he and Elder P are currently teaching.  They had dinner at their home that evening and were able to use their computer to Skype their families.]

Hello Everyone. I hope you all had an awesome Christmas! I would love to hear about everyone´s holiday! 

So this week is going to be a special edition of Elder Sieber´s weekly letter. This was week 25, this week I pass my 1/4 mark on the mission, which is just insane! 

This week I wanted to write a bit about what I've learned, the special people I have been teaching. Some of it may be repetitive, and I apologize for that.

Thus far I've had one baptism. J.A.. J is a very important person in my life, and he's someone I will always remember. Through my experience with him I learned a few things. 

First, the Lord answers our prayers. I may have told this story already, but it was a Thursday night and Elder Parrish and I were saying our nightly companionship prayer. Elder Parrish said in the prayer, "...we ask that a baptism will fall out of the sky". After the prayer I asked him why he said this, especially in the manner of them falling out of the sky. He told me that with a previous companion he had prayed for this at it actually happened. That very Sunday, while meeting and greeting the members of the ward, an unfamiliar woman and mad walked into the doors. Elder P immediately went on the move to meet them. She was a less active member of another ward and had starting dating J, a nonmember. She had always wanted a temple marriage and all the blessings it brings. She knew she needed to introduce J into the church in order for this to happen. We started teaching J immediately after church at his house. He expressed to us how he´s been thinking about getting involved in a church and that he's felt that he has been lacking religion in his life.

Teaching him was an incredible experience. I was a brand new missionary and still pretty new at teaching, and he made it so easy for me. He wasn't quick to doubt and just absorbed everything we taught him. Not many weeks later that baptism happened. It was in all meaning of the phrase "a baptism that fell from the sky". When we prayed we didn't know J, or his girlfriend. 

J is an incredible guy. He has a really warm attitude about everything. The week of his baptism, Elder P. warned him that Satan will try everything to keep him from the font, and if this occurs, take it as evidence that he is on the right path. That week, his brand new bike was stolen from his garage. He didn't let it get him down, and it strengthened his testimony. J fits right it with the  ward, and he will make an amazing member of the church. He is so selfless and willing to lend a hand at any given moment. 

I'm so glad to have played just a small role in helping him on his path.

There may be two more coming in a few weeks. J and T WILL be baptized. We've been waiting for them to get married, which the date set right now is for Jan 21st. We are hoping everything works out! . They are incredible people with bright spirits, and my experience with them has been absolutely incredible.

We taught them the first lesson during my first week here. I had NO idea what was going on, and I tried my best to share my testimony with them. I didn't know how special they were until about the 3rd or 4th lesson with them. As I look back on it now, its been incredible to actually witness how the gospel can bless families. Every single time I'm over there I can feel the spirit with a greater abundance. Their 5 year old daughter, is absolutely adorable. She is really intelligent and she's already talking about our Father in Heaven and the love he has for each and everyone for us. Having this knowledge at such a young age will bless her during her entire life. They are a very special family to me, and I feel TRUE love when I am with them, even though I still don't understand everything that is happening. We laugh a lot about it and they teach me so much. 

Again, I am so honored to have been just a tool in the Lord's hand as he gathers his children into the flock. They are an amazing family and one that again, I will always remember!

Lesson number 2

A mission is not easy. If anyone has seen the video, "The Atonement and the Work" by Elder Holland, it is absolutely inspiring for missionaries. He comments on how some missionaries may question, "if our gospel is so glorious and completely true, why aren't there just flocks of people gathering at the font. Shouldn't my only problem be getting hypothermia from standing in the water all day?" As a Brazilian missionary I've sometimes had this same question. The answer he continues, is that because


The Savior, the most perfect missionary to ever live on the Earth was rejected and persecuted. We must sacrifice and suffer just a small token of the price he paid in order to even just barely even begin to comprehend the suffering that he went through. 

Yeah this mission is hard. Is everyday going to be hard? Probably, but I am learning so much about my Savior and His gospel. That token must be paid in order to attain a greater understanding of our Savior and His love for us.

Watch the video, its really good.

There are plenty others, but I don't have enough time to share them...

In other news

-My Christmas was really special and unexpected. 

-This week has been the most difficult for me,  It's the end of June here remember... school just got out and it's heating up. I've never sweated so much in my life.I'm sweating literally 24/7. Sleeping isn't as fun as it used to be.   I take off my name tag and literally wipe the sweat off my face and it's really gross. The mosquitoes also kicked up their game this week. Sleeping has become miserable, I'm figting the battle of heat and mosquitoes. Just in my underwear I'm sweating as is, but if I don't use a blanket I get eaten. I counted this morning and I have a grand total of 54 bites on my body. 12 of which itch like crazy and 4 of them I've made bleed. So its not the most fun. I bought some insect repellent which should help. ( I have the stuff mom sent with me but its applied to things that you are not supposed to touch with your skin. bag, shirts and pants. It requires an entire day out side to dry so I might make a permanent sleeping outfit today... we'll see...)

-Chilly Dana proved her worth this week. Thanks Mom!  [I had to ask about this, I had no idea what or whom he was referencing.  Turns a Chilly Dana out it is a little gem I found at Walmart and sent to him in his Christmas package.}

Cooper in his Chilly Dana.

[I don't know if he wears this out of the apartment, but if he does, I am pretty sure he doesn't wear it like that.  Can you believe that tan?  He had said he was getting some color, but holy cow, he has never, ever been anything but a very light shade of pale. ]

Well.... I love you all!

Have a good New Year!

Elder Siebs

Sunday, December 29, 2013

22. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

9 December 2013

[While attempting to edit, I accidently deleted this post.  So I am re-creating it from his letter that day, but I don't know how to get it back in order.]

Well week 22 will go down in history as one of much trials and much success.

Monday was swell. After internet and grocery time we went to the ward building and played some basketball with some young men. Also we started shopping at a place called "Assai" which I'm pretty sure is the equivalent of Costco. It's got everything I could need and its super cheap and bulky!

Tuesday was the the best day of the week. We ended up working really hard and taught 9 lessons! Holy cow! I've got the first lesson down pretty well at this point. The Plan of Salvation on the other hand is still pretty difficult but were working on it.

Wednesday I sent some pictures, we had zone conference which took up most of the day.

I thought Id share one story from Wednesday night that Id thought you all would enjoy. It was 8:45 and we were on our way home for the night. As far as i knew, the day was over. While walking down our street, the song "Awwwwww... FREAK OUT" starting blasting and I couldn't help but put some jive in my step as we walked home for the night. A lady stopped us and said something along the lines of "How old are you?, you cant be old enough to know that song" That's where she was wrong. We ended up teaching her about missionaries and the Priesthood Authority which we hold, to teach and baptize. Dancing isn't a finding technique in Preach my Gospel, but maybe it should be!

Thursday everything took a turn for the worst! Elder C. ended up getting really sick and with the same symptoms that Jake said he was having. Headache, nausea, exhaustion and yes, he threw up blood, I saw it and even sent a picture! 

He tried to work, but after a few hours in the blazing sun he was done. I gave my first sealing of an Anointing in Portuguese which went all right as well. Got that under my belt now...

Then to top it off that night we had an incredible rain storm, while during our  nightly prayer the power flickered, and yup you guessed it, just a few short moments later we lost power... If this would have all happened in my first week I don't know what i would have done. BUT, I'm comfortable enough now where it was rather exciting. I love when the power goes out! 

Hows THAT for a day!

The power wasn't out long enough if you ask me, it was restored at 1:30 and everything turned on all at once while we were sleeping.

Friday, Elder C was still sick we worked a bit more but continued to return to the house so he could rest. 

The devastation from the storm was impressive. There was one street we were on that I wish you could have all seen. This huge tree had been blown over, garbage of all kinds tangled in the branches, covering half the road. Then there was a random fire on the sidewalk puffing tons of black smoke into the air. If you would have seen the two of us walking down that road we would have looked like super heroes. Blazing sun, dust and wind, and black smoke, fire and a destroyed tree. ...yeah

Saturday Elder C was STILL sick. The Zone Leaders came by. Elder S talked to Elder C privately for a good hour and a half, and I talked to elder St. about all the questions I had regarding the mission and stuff

Sunday, Elder C was finally feeling good enough to work. He's still a bit ill but hes working through it. Church was pleasant as always. Our newly called Elders Quorum President, I don't think understands the significance of his calling. We've had one of the Stake Counselors with us every Sunday trying to teach him what he should be doing with this tiny Quorum. On Sunday he didn't prepare a lesson again and he didn't seem to want to teach, so again the Stake Counselor had to take charge and teach. Its bad news because our investigators notice.

Anyway we ended Sunday teaching J and T. We taught repentance and it was really emotional. I ended up speaking a few minutes about repentance and in my broken Portuguese.

Last week of the Transfer, wish me luck. 

(Mom, its a 5 week transfer to that transfer day doesn't fall on Christmas)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

24. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

This week was absolutely soul-crushing and reawakening. I had to relearn that anything can happen at transfers. Getting called to be a senior comp and a trainer after one transfer in Arizona was totally unexptected, and losing Elder C was also unexepcted. I had been told that usually the new missionary stays in an area with their trainer and then the new missionary leaves. Not the case for me.  The first day with my new comp was rather dificult. I thought I was receiving an experienced elder that would sit down and destroy the area book and get to know whats been hapenning. That was not the case. He instead asked me, so what do we do?...It was at that moment that  I realized I hardly knew our area, the people we had been teaching and all that jazz. great.  Most of the week was him meeting the people and talking with them about whats been happening. 

The second day (wed.) we had lunch with bishop. He explained all the struggles that the ward is facing, and most of it I understood, just because I've been here long enough to know what difficulties our ward is having. 

The loss of elder C really hurt our small ward.  Multiple members told me that in the past years they have had a BUNCH missionaries who don't know how to do much...  Elder C brought a lot of hope to this ward and things were starting to happen and the members were getting really involved. It was as if luke skywalker flew in, in his xwing fighter and started the epic flight through the death star.  Everyone was holding on tight and knew that he could make it, when all the sudden he was shot down. hope lost. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but i think Elder C meant a lot to these members.

Elder P found our Madureira house absolutely disgusting. He just came from living in a brand new house for the past 8 months in the really nice part of rio to here, and hes been cleaning all week, and our place looks actually pretty nice now. 

Here's some good news... I gotta take things into my own hands. Last transfer I absolutely just followed Elder C. Around and didn't do anything. I am going to learn a lot this transfer which is going to be really good for me.

This week we had a lesson with J and T which was hilarious. J has awesome questions that are sometimes difficult even for us to answer. Like after the family is sealed and one of their kids decides to leave the church and such what happens?  Meanwhile during all of this T was reading in the plan of salvation pamphlet which I don't think he had really read before. In the middle of the discussion he slapped the pamphlet on the table and said something along the lines of, "alright, thats it, we all gotta get baptized".  Now they were already planning on this but now I'm certain that its gonna happen and it means a lot to them.

We had the ward christmas party on saturday night which was supposed to start at 7 but brazilian mormons are worse than normal mormons and even really active members showed up an hour plus late. We had to leave before the dinner even started but they sent us home with some food that I ate last night which was delicious. 

Also I got sick this week.  Calm down mom, its just a cold. I've been taking vitamins every single day so I'm a bit disappointed. The first day was just a sore throat, which went away and now it's just a super runny nose and a bit more exhaustion. I think I'm overcoming it though.

I have a lot more to share but this keyboard is driving me crazy...soooo

Merry Christmas! I'll see the fam on christmas. We set up a skype appointment with a member family for 6 pm our time. they have one computer and I'll let Elder P go first so probably closer to 7 pm our time.

if for some reason it fails, ill call

Elder siebs

Monday, December 16, 2013

23. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

16 December 2013

So much happened this week, I cant even try to cover anything, so I'm gonna focus on some special moments.

The name of the game, was working with members this week. We had two trainings with President Lima this week. On Wednesday half the mission gathered for a special Christmas training. We spent the whole day learning how to work with members of our wards. I was so spoiled in Gilbert, with amazing members that always provided us with work and loved participating in the teaching, (Petersons...!)  Here, they need a little boost. Afterwards we had a small Christmas feast. It was great to see the MTC crew again, minus Elder E [Elder E is a friend from the MTC, he is in Rio, but on the other side of the city, it seems like they meet separately, maybe due to distance?]

MTC mini reunion- Elder A, Cooper, Elder N and Sister C.  (By mission rules the men and women can not touch each other.  So poor Sister C, I know they love her and just want to pull her in close to them!)

Transfer meeting is happening tomorrow and Elder C.  is leaving [for another area] which makes me sooo sad, but I'm staying and getting a new Elder... another Brazilian and  Elder S says he's great soooo yeah!  It's been awesome so see Elder C. grow this transfer, he's learned so much and he's really changing our ward, so it's really too bad hes going. 

These two clowns seem like brothers already.  Happy to see he got his Christmas package finally! I think they are making those faces because Cooper likely figured out that I made Christmas stockings out of some of his old Christmas season  boxer shorts that he no longer wears.  Before you get all grossed out, just know that they were really long boxers and were very clean.

Thursday night was really special. Before I came down to Brazil, I didn't know how people react to Americans. Mallory always tells stories about how in China, she's basically a celebrity. Since I've been here, none of that has happened, it's not anything too special. This is why I was really surprised Thursday. Here's what went down. We were knocking on a door where we had taught weeks earlier. There were three kids playing in the street, and Elder C asked them if they knew the person we were trying to see. They asked why, and elder C explained that we are missionaries with a message to share. They wanted us to share it with them, but elder C insisted that they bring us to their homes to teach their whole family and they didn't want to. We began to walk away and they kept following us insisting that we share with them the message. They followed us for a surprisingly long time once they found out I was American, until we stumbled upon a sister of the ward walking on her way home from work. She knew the kids and brought us to their homes. When we got to the street, there was a huge party and kids everywhere. The kids starting telling other kids that I'm american and they swarmed me with questions. They found it really amusing when I tried to pronounce their names. (The names are ridiculous here). We taught two lessons and had a great night. One of the lessons was with a pastor which ended up being a bit argumentative. He called us a cult, typical. I didn't say a word even though I understood most of what was happening.   I didn't want to risk getting involved and saying something wrong.  I gave the kids my name on a piece of paper because they wanted to add me on facebook. I may have like 15 friend requests now! 

This may be my most favorite photo he has sent
from Brazil so far.
Yesterday was also a crazy Sunday.  We went with a member to pick up an older lady who is less active. She lives on the favela hill and its hard for her to walk. During Sacrament Meeting she got really emotional and thanked us for bringing her! Its crazy how people can forget how much church attendance can bless their lives...

Both Elder C and I spoke in Sacrament meeting.  We taught youth Sunday School and did missionary role playing with them.  We put together a baptismal program on the spot for a 8 yr old. Its funny how they don't have a calling for this, the family just expected someone to take care of it, and I guess its the missionaries responsibility here? Again, I was spoiled in Gilbert!  We had lunch with the Relief Society President.

We stopped by to see J, shes practically a member at this point, minus baptism... but that will come in Feb. She got really upset when Elder C told her that he might be leaving... and now he is.... But she said to come have dinner with them on Christmas Eve and she would make Pao de Quejo, which Sister Lopse says is really good! 

Lastly, we spent three hours with our awesome Bishop Sunday night. We visited two houses of two less actives. We taught two street lessons with him at the very end of the day. Our final plans fell through so we said a prayer to find a family to teach before the day ended. We walked down the road a bit until we decided on the door. We knocked, and found a family with four kids! three of which are 8 years plus! The mom seemed really interested so I'm hoping the best!

Fantastic week, many other stories that will have to wait until we are sitting around a puzzle late at night in a year and a halves time. 

Love you all!

Elder Siebs

Monday, December 2, 2013

21. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

2 December 2013

Holy Wow, I think I could write a small novel about all the things that transpired this week.
The beginning of this week was a turn for the better, I think I finally accepted the fact that I was not in Gilbert anymore and it was time for me to work here. I've gotten more used to everything and my mind stopped buzzing out of control.
So yes we taught a lot of lessons, yes I am continuing to learn the language, but I'll share the highlights of the week.
Thursday we had our "mission tour" which wasn't really a tour at all. Half the mission met in Jacarepagua, yeah its a mouthful... and President Lima and an Area Seventy came and did training. It took up the entire day and it was fairly easy to slip out of attention because of the language barrier.
The church building there is beautiful though. It's huge and the chapel is on a second story.
Elders N, Elder A and  Elder W (Elder H's MTC companion that I got to know on our flight here from Gilbert and on Friday more) and Sister C were all there which was awesome!
I got a letter from dad that he sent Nov 7th that day as well!
Friday was awesome! All the American missionaries had to go to the airport to get all registered with the police and such. We took a train early in the morning than hopped on the metro in Central. The metro system was really classy and clean. I was really impressed! The mission office is in Flamengo and its beautiful there. It was as I pictured Rio to actually look like. Much more similar to NYC! We had some down time while we were waiting for the secretary to arrive. Elder C and a pair of sister missionaries thought it would be cool to check out the beach.  It was awesome! Flamengo beach is gorgeous. Tons of beautiful sand and water. It's not crowded at all and you can see Pao de Açucar towering over everything around you. I wish I would have had my camera, but I took a detailed mental photo that I will never forget! I think this is the area where most missionaries desire to serve.. I know i do. We were at the airport for a good long time.

I exchanged my 150 american dollars for reis and got 333! Thats a month and a halves worth of cash!! Awesome!
Our area is basically from one busy street to the other.  There are tons of small markets, appliance, pet stores, pretty much any thing you can think of.  Our area is surprisingly lacking "gift shop" type things, they were all over Flamengo though.  I love my current area.  When walking home that night after being in Flamengo it felt like returning home!  The bar on the corner never fails to have a big churassco (BBQ) with the same drunk people.  The same drunk, jolly man dancing while nibbling on a shishkabob.  The huge wall next to where we live reads "Lava Jato.  Bob Esponja".  In English- "Jet Wash, SpongeBob".  It reminds me of Riley each day!  It's those little things that make me love Madureira.

I finally got that huge package from Morgan and Andrew. It was filled with chips, goldfish and Ramen noodles!!! I don't have their emails, MOM, please send Morgan and Andrew a HUGE thank you text! It made me sooooo  happy! It is just what I needed!
a package of treats from those who know him well

Saturday was kinda cool, the third person I contacted on the street my first day here, really wanted us to come by and teach. Goes to show that even through seriously broken language you can invite the Spirit into their lives! We taught him and it went really well. His name is Pedro.
Sunday was awesome as well. Fast and Testimony meeting was awesome. I didn't know was to expect with such a small ward, but after the first person, a line of 14 people gathered on the stand, and there was even enough time  for everyone. Way cool.
I love Elder C.  He is so humble, he always feels like he isn't doing enough (when in reality he is).  Being humble and looking for ways to improve is GOOD.  I always have to reassure him that he's doing a good job.  We celebrated his 24th birthday this week, by ordering pizza- not the pizza I am used to!

He thinks it is so cool that I am from New York!  I tell everyone I am from New York because even most Americans don't know where CT is... plus, it's hard to pronounce (Connechicutch).
Sunday night the ward threw a Christmas presentation, we had about 9 nonmembers show up and we gave them a Book of Mormon, Liahona issue and a Christmas dvd.  Afterwards it was pouring rain! I've learned to always bring an umbrella when it's cloudy because the rain is really unpredictable. We walked all the way home in the pouring rain in our suits with cars splashing muddy water on us here and there. We finally got home, its about a mile plus walk, and elder C realized he left the house keys in he chapel.... yup ...... so we made the trek two more times. Definitely one of those memories I'll smile and reflect on one day.

Everyone says you learn a lot about yourself while on your mission.  This is a true statement.  There are things in this life that you need to learn for yourself.  You need to put the puzzle pieces together for yourself. So here is what was going on in my mind that Sunday night walking in the pouring rain.  I noticed that I wasn't upset.  I thought, "I have every reason to be at a minimum just a tad bit distraught", but I wasn't.  I have always considered myself an optimist.  This have everything to do with it.  My next thought was "What makes one an optimist?"  I came to the conclusion that there are two major principles that really coincide with one another:
Seeing the Bigger Picture:  After Elder C forgot his keys he kept apologizing for the mistake he made and the circumstances he put me through.  But I knew that it could have been me that left the keys.  In fact, I know that I have made mistakes that have affected other people.  It's a part of life.  When we understand the bigger picture it's much easier to forgive others of their mistakes.  In fact, it's very easy.  I know that some day in the future I'll remember that funny night and a small smile will show on my face.

Hope: During my time as a missionary I have reflected on this word.  This is why I have a testimony. In my reading of the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary this week I stumbled upon this simple but profound statement "Hope, that which makes one a true optimist."  (p 24)  This hit me with such force... puzzle pieces snapping together in my mind.  One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:4.

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with a surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, whichc hope cometh of faith, maketh an achor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good   works, being led to glorify God.
I have shared this scripture plus a short message time and time again with members.  Hope cometh of faith.(Moroni 7:40-42)  Sometimes I wonder i I have enough faith, having a great abundance of hope reassures me.  I have hope and this will help comfort me when I go through the saddest times of my life- like losing a loved one.  I can remain optimistic because I have hope that I will see them again.
Gotta run
Love ya
Elder Siebs

Monday, November 25, 2013

20. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

25 November 2013

Excerpts from this week's letter to home:

...Elder Cassimiro and I are an interesting pair.  He is a convert of a few years.  He and his mother are the only members in his family.  He is a wonderful teacher!  We have become very good at understanding each other.  When he speaks I can just about understand everything he says.  He knows my vocabulary now and is teaching me.  These last few days we have been pretty quiet as we have walked around though because it has been been raining.  He is only one transfer ahead of me [meaning he has only been in Rio six weeks longer than Cooper] and this is his first time training.  Poor guy got stuck with a fresh American.  He is showing extreme patience. But I feel like my progress is paused because I can not speak the language.  I know the things that we SHOULD be doing, but with this  language barrier I cant get any of it done. It's frankly quite frustrating!

...It is so funny that you look at the clock and wonder what I am doing because so many times I wish you all could get a snapshot, or even better a live feed of what is going on.  I remember thinking this while we were teaching a woman named Paola (the Portuguese version of Paula) and thought to myself, "Mom would love to see this."  We taught her late at night in a dark alley where she lives.  These moments and so many others I wish you could just see!

...The highlight for this week is T and J. Their two little ones opened up to us and we've been playing with them a bit.  But more importantly they both accepted a baptismal date which wont be until February.  They have to get married first. But they've been coming to church. And although in the lessons I can't say much there is a great bond between us and we are always laughing.

...A favorite ward family is S and her daughter C.  We had Family Home Evening at their house with an investigator CH and three of her five daughters.  The youngest, probably just three years old, walked all they way there in her flip flops- about a mile each way!  C is 15 years old and can't wait to serve a mission.  She has come with us several times to teach investigators which is good because I am basically useless.

...I did the sealing on three blessings which I was not prepared for at all. It's the faith and Priesthood that matters though, not the words.

...In other news, I definitely am learning how to survive here. I found the Doritos, so I should be good if all else fails. The food really is fine though. I learned how to change the shower temperature, and how to start the washing machine! Baby steps!

...Guarana is the main drink here, like the Coke or Pepsi of America. I think I've had tried it before at Epcot at that soda drinking place. It's not too bad. Some amazing food here-Maracuja: Passion fruit juice; Açai- delicious berry, in shaved ice form!

...We had grilled bologna sandwiches after a lesson with T and J.   They were surprised that I put the butter on the top and bottom. I hate being that foreign person that everyone thinks is really incompetent!

...We walked three miles to go to McDonald's. The chicken sandwich was a big McNugget on a bun, and when I asked for "minus salad" I got a side of salad instead of my french fries!  Vanilla cone was awesome though!

...Its been overcast for 4 days now. Scattered rain throughout the day which is awesome! I'm not sweating and I love the rain.

...Saturday and Sunday are for parties.  People gather together on the streets and put together a "churassco" or barbeque.  So on Saturday we were walking in the pouring rain.  A group of people, thirty or so, were gathered under some roofing.  The steam from the grill flowing everywhere, and the song "The Heat is On". It was just so funny to see.  This is what people live for here.  

...I finished a run through of the Book of Mormon I started in the MTC. I've chosen my own 30 "Scripture Masteries" and I'd like to share one of them with you all that has been bringing me strength this week. I'm just gonna take a part of the scripture, Alma 17: 11

"...be of good cheer and let us go in search of the flocks, and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water..."

Ammon was literally talking about sheep that had dispersed, but we should always apply the scriptures to our own lives.  I need to be of good cheer always! Although the language is a problem I know it will come. In the meantime I'm helping those lost sheep return to the water...the Living Water of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should I ever be upset?  "Thine afflictions will be but a small moment".  (D&C 121:7-8)

I'd love to hear about detail about thanksgiving this week!

Elder Siebs

[Cooper would really like to hear from you!  Please consider sending him an email this week.  He now has the ability to print emails and will then try to respond to them the next week.  Email him at cooper.siebers@myldsmail.net.]

Monday, November 18, 2013

19. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

What a week it has been!  Full of excitement!  This will be a long post covering a lot of conversation and random communications with Elder Siebers.

Last Monday November 11th Cooper left the area of Gilbert AZ that he had grown to love so much.  We were able to talk to him twice, once while he was still in Phoenix and again while he was in Atlanta.  He was honest about feeling kind of depressed about leaving Gilbert.  He truly loved many people there and felt he had a lot of work still undone.  He didn't find out for sure that he was leaving until just the Friday prior when President Nattress called him.  But he had had a few hints to know it was coming.  One, he had received a letter from President Lima in Rio welcoming him.  And, possibly more telling, each missionary is given a monthly "allowance" for personal needs and some groceries.  The first day of November, he was given only half of his allowance, with no explanation.  He was very grateful that he found out on Friday and was able to say goodbye to so many people that weekend.  To his dear friends there- he plans to visit Gilbert as soon as his mission ends in the Summer of 2015.... maybe on his way out to school.

We asked how he felt about his Portuguese, he said he was feeling pretty good because he had two sentences memorized "Help me." and "Show me the way..."  He told us he was not worried, refused to stress and planned to just "go with the flow".  He was also very grateful that he had had an opportunity to teach the Gospel in his native language first- he feels his teaching skills were much stronger because he had been able to serve in Gilbert for 12 weeks.

Dad caught him up on the NFL and Red Line Derby.

We were able to conference in Mallory from Dachong, China; but it was 3 am her time and she sounded very groggy.  However, I could hear the excitement in both of their voices when Mallory got on the line.

We encouraged Cooper to make a small soda purchase with his personal debit card so that we could maybe see where he was.  It worked!  On Thursday Scott checked his online banking and there was a $13.03 purchase which we later found out was water.

The next Morning we received a scanned copy of a handwritten note from Cooper:

  • He told us that he and Elder E (a buddy from the MTC) got the center row of the plane to themselves and that they spent a lot of the time talking about their experiences since they separated in late August.
  • He said that he ended up talking to a pastor of another faith who "hadn't talked to a Mormon since 1996"- Cooper was traveling light but was able to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon edition of the Ensign
  • He was grateful that President Lima spoke slow and simply to help these new Elders understand.
  • The freeway took them over a favela and he said "don't worry mom, President Lima says they never send the Elders in to the favelas."
  • Every apartment has a washing machine
  • It reminded him of St. Thomas but much much busier
I loved having that handwritten note and was once again very grateful for technology and a Mission President that clearly understands how much parents worry.

A couple of days later we received a welcome letter from President Lima with this photo:

President and Sister Lima with Elder Siebers

That brings us today.  We received an email this morning, a bunch of photos and then... what a treat- he hand wrote a five page letter, took photos of each page and then was able to send those along a few hours later.  I just love him.  He remembered to tell me all the things I needed to know so my heart and mind could calm down a bit.  I have combined it all in to one letter:

18 November

Well...The good news is that I'm still alive... At least that was I had to keep telling myself the first day I was here. Its really not that bad anymore.

So I only have one hour to respond to two hours of email. GRRRRRR And this stupid keyboard is different and he space bar is terrible.

Getting here:   When I was first in the car with President Lima and saw the favelas they reminded me of my Lego table as a kid- buildings often without roofing, made up of all different materials in all kinds of colors. Most of Rio, including the area I am living in looks that way.

This is not Lego Land.

Tuesday: Anyway, after President Lima picked us up from the airport we went to a church building and had some lunch. Then the American missionaries received instruction from the assistants. That only lasted a mere hour and then we had a very quick transfer meeting. My companion is Elder Cassimiro. He's from Sao Paolo and is only one transfer ahead of me. He only speaks Portuguese, a few English words here and there though. Elder Cassimiro and I then rode a crowded city bus darting through the city with  55 and 68 pound suitcases with a bunch of people I couldn't communicate with. That day we walked around a bit and practiced talking to people on the street.  No one could understand me, and I couldn't understand them.  We had Correlation meeting that night with our Ward Mission Leader.  He speaks English pretty well, so now I know where to go in a true emergency.  That first day was truly bad.  We didn't have any clean water or toilet paper. I would put a face [emoticon] there but i don't know how.  So yeah, that day really stunk as I went without water all day.

Wednesday I woke up to lots of bug bites on my feet.  We took a trip in to a favela that day, and to be honest it doesn't seem that dangerous.  We talked to a lot of people in the street that day, but the person we went there to see was not home.  We finally went to the store and I got the things that would carry me through the week.

Thursday I started to feel more comfortable; the food, water, safety, all is okay.  We taught several lessons that day but it's all kind of a blur as I didn't understand most of it.  We were out from 12-9 that day which killed my feet and back.

Friday I tightened my shoes and switched to my MountainSmith backpack [it has lumbar straps] and this helped so much!  I have been fine ever since.  We visited the Zone Leaders place and it is SO much nicer than ours, which gives me hope.

Saturday was blazing hot and all of our appointments fell through.

Sunday was the best day of the week, it rained all day.  I loved going to Church.  We brought T and J and their two little ones with us.  The brother who plays the piano is really talented and plays arrangements of all the hymns at a much faster and brighter pace.  So much fun to sing the hymns!

Language and Companion:  Elder Cassimiro is a great and patient trainer and is hindering the work to have me learn. I contact a minimum of 15 people each day on the street and have  spoken in every lesson. The people really couldn't understand me at first but its getting much better. At the beginning of the week I could understand about 5%. Now I'm anywhere from 30-80%, depending on how fast and how terrible they talk. [apparently people in Rio tend to slur their words together?]  On Sunday I spoke for about five minutes and people gave me a lot of compliments, but I think it is because I know mostly Church vocabulary.  But I know I am improving and that is all part of this experience.

(I've been learning so much so fast. I learned that "Cooper" is slang for "jogging".  Strange.  And cars have the right of way.)

Food- Food has been awesome so far. Members typically give us money for lunch and we go to this buffet, where I eat chicken tenders, rice, fries and a couple other new things here and there. Its awesome.  The homemade dishes are awesome as well. We had dinner at the Bishops on Sunday which was awesome. Probably the best mashed potatoes I've ever had!  I've had an apple for breakfast and Ramen for a late night dinner.

Health- Has been completely fine, just a bit red from the sun.

The area we live and serve in is called Madureira, and we also serve in Osvaldo Cruz. Our apartment is tiny and is pretty sketchy, but that's probably  because I had just come from Gilbert, which was pretty cruel. This place is pretty small and compact.  The houses are stacked on top of one another and are not very pleasing to look at.  It reminds me of Curacao.

There seems to be a lot of success here because many of the people have nothing to do.  They often just sit in front of their house and watch the world go by.  They listen to us because they have nothing else to do. In the States people are so caught up in their lives.  We have all these other things that bring a false sense of success to our lives, money, sports, or whatever.  The people here are looking for something that gives them real purpose.  The Gospel offers just that!

Email:  A lot of people emailed me this week and I feel really bad because I just didn't have time to respond to all of them, but I very much appreciate that they are all thinking of me.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I am going to be here for another year and 7 months, but this mission is fulfilling three of my life values and goals:
  1. Always have the spirit of adventure!
  2. When you are uncomfortable you are learning
  3. Strengthen my Testimony
I love you all so much!

Elder Cooper Siebers


Sunday, November 10, 2013

18. Gilbert to Rio de Janeiro

10 November 2014

Elder Siebers will leave Gilbert AZ where he has been since late August and fly to Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. It has been a fun and exciting week for us back on the home front as we have received some photos from those in Arizona that he spends a lot of time with.

He got a "blast from the past" when Cheryl Christiansen, who lived in the West Hartford (or was it Hartford 2nd then) Ward with us back in 1996.  Cheryl lives in Gilbert now and was able to meet Cooper and Elder H at Dunkin Donuts.  Luckily she came with proof that she knew Cooper back then because he had to admit that he did not remember her.

Another great example of our ward family- from friends in our BYU wards, to friends who have long left Connecticut, to brand new friends who have taken Cooper into their home while in Gilbert-  I am so thankful for the many people who have been an example and friend to my kids.

Cooper and Sister Christensen

Dropping in to say goodbye to another family (the S Family) who often cared for Elder Siebers.

With J and her kids!

Sister P texted me this morning.  She knew she would see Cooper later today and said that if I wanted to send any photos she could print them and send them along.  (How great is that?)  I saw her text just as I sat down in Sacrament Meeting- and thought to myself- more than anything I think Cooper would appreciate hearing from all his friends in the Canton Ward.  

The P Family took the Elders to Five Guys- looks like Cooper went with his traditional hot dog.

And a few more Goodbyes.  Apparently Cooper told Sister P that you gotta handle good byes like a band-aid, just rip them off really fast and then they don't hurt as much.

Elder Sievers and Elder Siebers!

The Elders at the Gilbert "house".

Tomorrow... instead of an email- we should be getting a phone call during his layover in Atlanta.  We are all so excited to talk to him.... even hoping to conference Mallory in from China!  I do love technology.

11 November

We got to talk to Cooper for almost an hour today while he was in Phoenix and then for another 30 minutes tonight while he was in Atlanta.  For the earlier call we were able to conference in Mallory from China. Mallory and Cooper have always been very close and it was so fun to hear the excitement in both of their voices.  Then Riley and Madison came home from school and all six of us were "together" for just a few minutes.  It was a lifetime highlight for me.  Here are a few highlights from our chat today:

* The elders in his "house" in Gilbert are getting memory foam mattresses donated by ward members tomorrow!  He can't believe his misfortune in missing out on that.

* He found out last Friday that he was traveling today, but he had a few hints, the most obvious being when his November "allowance" from the Gilbert Mission was given to him in late October and it was half of what it is supposed to be.

* Most of the members of his wards knew he was leaving and so he was grateful that he got to have a full Sunday of saying goodbye.  Over and over he mentioned names of families that are so dedicated to member missionary work and were so good to him and his companions.

* When I asked how he thinks his Portuguese is fairing after 3 months off he said "well, I know how to say 'help me' and 'show me the way', so I am not worried, I am ready to go with the flow.  It's gonna be great."

* He expressed gratitude for getting to serve in the US (in his native language) for a while before going.  He feels like he has become a better and more confident teacher.  He said that when you learn to teach the Gospel in another language it is somewhat rudimentary.  He feels he has advanced his ability to teach, now his Portuguese just needs to catch up!

* Thee of the five pants he took are falling apart.  Great.  This would have been good information to have a WEEK ago when Amazon Prime was useful to us.

* There were fifteen (?) Rio bound missionaries that entered the Provo MTC on July 10th with him.  Three are in Brazil.  Cooper and Elder Evans arrive tomorrow.  And the rest are patiently and happily enjoying their stateside missions for now.

* He asked about the Hartford Temple progress and if it had started.  We told him that some dirt has been moved around, but we also know that contractors and their families are moving to the area so we know we will see more action soon.  He pointed out that he should be returning right about the time the Temple is done and ready for the Open House to the public.  He was excited about volunteering at the Open House and sharing the Temple with many of his friends here.

* His pday will still be on Mondays- so we get to enjoy another week of wondering where he is and what he is doing.  I reminded him that when he arrived in Gilbert, one of the first things he did was make a $1.51 debit card purchase as a Circle K and it thrilled us to know where he was. (You gotta love online banking.) I told him to buy a soda "on me" as soon as he can.

* We talked a little bit about missionary work and what members can do to help others draw closer to Christ- I loved his answer "Missionary work is simple.  It's all just about loving other people.  You feel Heavenly Father's love and you share that with them.  That's it."

And that's a wrap.  This mom is missing her son, but as I said to someone earlier today, there no where I would rather have him be at this time, and we spent the first 19 years of his life with serving a mission as the goal. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

Luckily, I have good friends who take good care of me.  One sent me this today:

“You are doing God's work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you, and He will bless you, --even--no, -especially--when your days and your nights may be most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master's garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and weep over their responsibility as mothers, `Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well.” 

― Jeffrey R. Holland

As far as contacting Cooper- you can still reach him at his email.  He has had a hard time reading all emails since they have less than an hour to read and respond.  Our family is looking at a website called Mission Ties.   It is essentially a Dear Elder website for Brazilian Missions.  Apparently for the same cost as mailing a letter from the US, you submit it online, they print it in Sao Paolo and mail it to him, so he gets it within two days (as opposed to 2-4 weeks.)  We are going to try it out and try to send most of our letters this way so that he has them to read DURING the week and not during his email time.

But that being said- please drop him a quick line and let him know you are thinking of him.  I know he would love it!  cooper.siebers@myldsmail.net

Monday, November 4, 2013

17. Gilbert AZ

4 November 2013

Hellow Everyone, I don't have a lot of time to write a lot of things are going on! And forgive me for any bad grammar and incorrect spellings, my fingers are flying.

On Monday we got some other missionaries to go to the park with us and spent the day outside playing soccer, volleyball and frisbee. It was really nice.  That night we taught J once again. We went over all the questions she had about her temple visit. We talked about Joseph Smith and the life of the early saints.

Tuesday night we taught B once again and read 3rd Nephi 12. We only got half way through the chapter before we had to go give blood in the blood drive. He's coming along nicely though.

That night we had our usual correlation meetings. The Mesquite ward was having all of their mutual nights and we were flying around talking to everyone and I just really felt like part of the ward! It was really fun!

On Halloween we had a huge mission conference. I got to see Elders from my MTC district and my trainer.  We were trained for 5 hours on a temple presentation to give to nonmembers who are planning to attend the temple open house which was announced to be mid Jan- mid Feb. That night we got permission to watch "17 Miracles". Good movie. Pretty depressing

On Friday we spent much of the day helping the wards set up for a huge stake family history event called the "Ellis Island Project". They really went all out with it and had tons of cool decorations. Very Disney World like. They had the youth dress up as newsies and such. Pretty Impressive.

That night a member family invited over a Portuguese speaking lady over for dinner. It was pretty rough, especially because shes from Portugal and all of her pronunciations were much different than from what we have learned.

Was the big day for the Ellis Island Project. We had a ton of non members come through which was really nice to see. Some nice work will come out of it. They had a total of about 650 people come through which is pretty impressive!

Gilbert Stake's Ellis Island Project

Sunday was absolutely awesome.

-G Sang "As I have Loved You" at the pulpit for her testimony
-One of our investigators bore his Testimony at the end of one of the ward's meetings and everyone gave him hugs and patted him on the back. A lot of people were impressed!
-J received the Aaronic Priesthood. YES!
- A woman invited a group of 100 people from her work to come to the temple open house.

Then we capped of the day with an investigator we taught at the very beginning of the transfer. W, if you remember is a 17 year old kid who is very intelligent. He may be a famous philosopher one day... Anywho he called us Sat night (we hadn't heard from him in 5 weeks!) saying he really needed to talk to someone. We met Sunday night and he told us that he had two gun shots fired at him that night and was reconsidering life after death and the purpose of life. We sat down with him and the first thing he said to us was, "Is there anyone beyond redemption?"

Good Question W.

We discussed with him the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement for a good hour or so. The whole time his head was down with his long locks covering his face, tears dripping down to the floor. Yeah. It got pretty emotional. It was truly an incredible experience. He's already read the entire Book of Mormon, but he hasn't prayed. He expressed that he is afraid to in fear that he wont get the answer that he is seeking. He wants it all to be true, but won't know where to turn if it isn't. He said he would come with us to Church this Sunday.  I hope he does!

For today we are spending the day with the P's. They are the family I am close to.   I got a good feeling that I'm outta here in a few days....I received a letter from President Lima [his Mission President in Rio de Janeiro] saying Welcome to the Rio Mission.  I'm excited, also really depressed, not to mention scared for whats to come. I have too much stuff on me.  I'm going to try and send as much of it home as possible.  [When I first read this I thought he meant stress, burden.  Then I see that he means quite literally- "too much stuff".]

I love you all. Great stories are to come once I hit the foreign city :)

Elder Siebs

Tonight I rec'd a text from Sister P- she had Elder Siebers and Elder H over to her house for their Pday evening for "craft night".  Is this woman my soul sister or what?  Then she sent me photos of her with the Elders working on their projects.  Such a great memento of his time in Gilbert.  Thank you Sister P!

Sister P had them choose quotes and scriptures to put on the back of their ties!  Such a clever idea.  I love it!

Elder Siebers, Elder H and Sister P (their second mom)