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