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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

77. Rio das Ostras, Rio de Janeiro

30 December 2014

Well everyone, seeing as I'm writing a day late, you can probably guess what happened to me yesterday, but before we get to that, let's recap my last week in Alcantara. My time in Alcantara came to a peaceful close as the week of Christmas passed by. I got to talk to my family which was awesome as always. As I have said before, that skpye call is always so strange for me, its like I just want to hear you guys talk and you guys just want to hear me! I enjoyed the musical number! How did caroling work out (this keyboard literally doesnt have a question mark button) Anyways, I hope you all had an awesome Christmas! In the last week in Alcantara we had a dinner at Shana´s. Pork Leg, Turkey, rice, beans, farofa, and a ton of desserts. We ate so much and it was good company. I taught the kdis how to play Spoons and we had a blast. 

So late Sunday night we were at a members house, we had dinner with X, recent convert, whose going to travel to Forteleza unitl Februrary, so it was kinda a send off. While muching on hotdogs we got the phone call that both Elder Ribeiro and I would be transferred. Turns out that was the theme for the entire mission. Almost every single area is being whitewashed. [Whitewashed: both missionaries leave and two new ones come in.] In our Zone of 8 areas. 5 of them are being whitewashed and only 4 of the 16 elders stayed. 

I stayed up until 3am putting my suitcases together, which is reaching their limits, SO MUCH STUFF!!!! I had to write detailed intructions to help the new guys work their way around the area, find lunches, and investigators and all that stuff. I woke up at 6:30 and we took of to Botafogo for our transfer meeting yesturday. It was intense to say the least. I'll spare the details. I was transfered to an awesome area. My two good buddies Elder Evans and Elder Luque were here together before me, and they stayed in the zone as the LZs but in a different area now. Without any further ado, check out my new area on google maps-

Rio das Ostras! 

This area is BEAUTIFUL! Its a big city that is settled on the beach. It kinda feels like Masquamacut and Hammonassett. [Uhm no- I think he is really stretching it to say that this feels like a Connecticut beach.]   I'm so excited to explore the area today! 

From Botafogo, a member of the ward called us and asked us if we needed a ride. HECK YES!!!! We pulled up, we threw our suitcases in his car, and we took off for the 6 hour trip! We were cramped in his small Fiat. but it was way better than bus. We darted through Alcantara, Itaboraí and Rio Bonito on our way here and the trip was awesome. I got the same feeling I get when taking our trip to the Weber Cabins, the highway curved between tropical hills and this part of Rio is gorgeous! We stopped in Cabo Frio as well to drop some luggage off there for the other elders!

[Looking at the image of the Rio de Janeiro mission , you will notice that he is on the most northeastern edge of the mission boundary.  Rio das Ostras is near the city of Macae on this map.]

So yeah thats really about it! My new comp is Elder de Oliveira, he has 4 months in the mission., from Natal, Rio grande do Norte. He seems like agreat guy and were gonna get along well! 

Elders Siebers and Ribiero in Alcantara.

I love you all so much, 

Happy new year!

Elder Siebers

Monday, December 22, 2014

76. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

22 December 2014

Well everyone, I can't believe how quickly Christmas has arrived once more. It's hard to imagine that classic Christmas atmosphere that I grew up with and love, with this 100 degree plus weather and beaming sun. But that's just the way it is, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else at this time in my life than where I am! 

So this week was......intense. 

[Cooper shared with us a very long story about a man they have been teaching for weeks.  I would love to share it with you all because there are so many great lessons in the things that have transpired.  However, I really feel that I must protect this person's privacy. 

I can paraphrase this part-  Our missionaries today commonly use Family Search to teach people how to find information about their ancestors.   If you are not familiar with Family Search, it is essentially the same as Ancestry.com, except that it is free- for everyone.  A few weeks ago Elder Siebers and his companion showed this man how to log in to Family Search and start looking for his ancestors. This was the first time this man had EVER been on the internet- which I imagine is hard for many of us to believe or relate to.  He doesn't have a smartphone, or a even a cell phone, or even a landline phone.  He was fascinated by Family Search and the idea of learning about his family.  However, a few days later when he shared his excitement with a "friend", this man his told him that "hackers had stolen all of his personal information and put it online."  This man has had a troublesome past and has no understanding of the internet.  He thinks the kind little woman volunteering in the Family History Center is the culprit/hacker and he is mad and and he is struggling over whether or not he can continue to talk to the missionaries.]

Although he LOVES so many of the members of the ward he cant seem to get over this one sister and unfortunately its costing him his eternal happiness. And yes. We told him that directly.. and many others things in a loving and caring manner. 

I've been reflecting on this unfortunate circumstance for a while now. How often do we let simple things get in the way of our happiness? Why do we tend to focus on one small bad thing compared to thousands of uplifting things? 

That poor sister who has NO idea that any of this has even happened, she was just trying to do her best in fulfilling her calling, she couldn't have predicted any of this, and she made the most out of it that she could. While someone else has felt deceived by her actions. How often do we do something that offends others and we don't even realize? It doesn't even have to be anything wrong. This sister is voluntarily making a weekly trip and hour away to help others and someone ignorantly judged her for deception. Although others may be in the wrong, could there be others in our lives who have misjudged our actions and intentions and turned away from us? 

Life is interesting. 

I love you all so much. And I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. Make the most of it. and remember the very first present that was given to us..Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal happiness. 

Elder Siebers

We've been sharing a recent church video "He is the Gift" with everyone and I encourage y'all to check it out as well! 

Community of Saints part 2

I love connections.  I love people connections.  I love missionary connections.

Thirty (!) years ago these two young men were serving LDS missions in the California, Sacramento Spanish mission.  They become good friends.  You may recognize one of them as Cooper's dad- Scott.  The other is Alan (AJ) Tantillo.

Elders Tantillo and Siebers 1985

After their missions they were roommates at BYU.  In the Fall of their Junior year they moved in to apartment 462 in a complex known for its fun people and activities (The Colony, of course.) Not long in to the semester they met two girls from apartment 394, myself and Linda Smith.  Linda and AJ were married the same summer we were.

Five years later we found ourselves living in CT and the Tantillos were in NY.  Each of us had two little kids, and our youngest were just weeks apart in age.  We spent Thanksgiving together that year along with some other great friends from Scott's mission and childhood- Jeff and Cami Smith- who also had a little girl the same age as Cooper.

Cooper, Samantha and Bonnie.  November 1994

Last year these three cute little babies all left to serve full time missions.  Cooper and Bonnie Tantillo were called to Brazil and Samantha was called to Mexico.

Cooper visa waited for a while in Arizona, and Jeff and Cami Smith were able to take him to dinner one night while he was there.

Bonnie also visa waited and was assigned to the Boston Mission!  Just a few weeks after Jeff and Cami took Cooper to dinner, we were able to go to Boston and take Sister Tantillo  and her companions to dinner.  It all had a very symbiotic feel to it, and would be a great story if it ended there, but it doesn't.

Bonnie's visa never came, but she was okay with that and when given the option, chose to be assigned to the Boston Mission permanently.  She has served mostly in the Boston area with Portuguese speaking people.  However, two weeks ago she was transferred to Bridgeport, CT. Last week Sister Tantillo's dad called his old mission companion Elder (Scott) Siebers, and asked if we could help Sister Tantillo with a task.  She had been teaching a young girl in her last area of Marlborough, MA and this young woman was being baptized on Sunday.  Sister Tantillo had grown very close to this young girl and really wanted to be there for the occasion.  She was given permission to attend, IF she could find a ride.

Of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Not long in to our journey, Sister Tantillo mentions that she is looking forward to seeing her companion (and friend) that she was with when she was in Marlborough - her name is Sister Lima and she is from Brazil.  She also mentions that her dad is a Mission President in Brazil.  It took like three seconds for Scott and me to put this together... yes- Brother and Sister Lima were Cooper's Mission President and wife when Cooper arrived in Rio.

Elder Siebers with President and Sister Lima

When we arrived at the baptism we were able to meet Sister Lima and show her ^this^ photo of our son with her parents.  That really surprised her!  She was so excited to see a photo of her parents.  We got to sit down and chat for a while.  She was able to tell us a lot about the area, she even translated some messages I have received from ward members there.  (She grew up in Manaus, Brazil and had moved to Rio when she was 16 and her dad was called to be a Mission President.)

We then took the photo below and she sent it to her parents today.

The world truly feels smaller to me today.

Sisters Tantillo and Lima

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

75. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

15 December 2014

Hey ya´ll. 

I hope you are all enjoying the cold weather, cuddled around the campfire, because I would love to be enjoying that as well. I'll just have to wait another year though. This week was HOT. And it's only gonna get hotter until March when things start to cool down again. My tan line is outrageous. 
You guys are going to get a kick out of it! 

Anyway so this was a solid week. We had our Christmas Mission Conference. This the first time since I've been here that the entire mission got together for a meeting, so that was pretty awesome. I got to see so many old and new friends. Just good times! 

So X is still coming along. One thing I've learned out here is that people have so many reasons that they do or don't do something with their lives. The motives are endless, and there's not always one solution to help someone make that decision. X has been loaded with trials that we've had to overcome, and we've come a long way since the beginning. He's ready for baptism. We even had him interviewed, he's just not ready to make the commitment. He's the type of guy that acts only with complete knowledge of the outcome, no risks. He knows baptism is essential, this guy knows the bible cover to cover, he's been attending churches for the past 20 years, and never made the commitment to join any of them. He's afraid of the responsibility that comes with the covenant made with God and not fulfilling his part. He doesn't feel ready to hold the priesthood, or have a calling in the ward. We talked about these concerns this week. We compared it to being a mother or father. I don't think anyone feels ready to have their first child and start their family, but it's the right thing to do, and sometimes we have to take that step and know that Heaven Father will qualify us when we take a risk, a step into the unknown. 

But that wasn't even the highlight of this week. So let me backup about six weeks ago. I was leaving the chapel with Elder L when a short homeless man came to the church gate. He asked us if he could perform his "composition". With the stench of beer oozing from his mouth and holding our hands he sang to us "Ele Vem, Ele Vem, Ele Vem!!! Para nos buscar!"  (He comes, He comes, He comes, to search for us") The masterpiece lasted for quite a while and we just joined in on the singing since the song was rather repetitive.  Three weeks ago at the baptism of X2 he made another appearance. We were all just conversing outside the chapel and he sang for all of us once more and celebrated drinking guaraná with us. We invtied him to church just for the heck of it, why not? And he didn't think anything of us. So I guess we know where this is going.
So as the prelude music began last Sunday I was sitting in one of the pews with a AWESOME guy from Niterói (who saw the chapel while working here in Alcantara and wanted to make a visit.) So I wast sitting there and when I look at the doorway, our short little homeless man enters. A member points him in my direction and we sit down as the meeting begins. He reeked of beer and pee but that's ok. I was interested to see how he would act and more importantly how the other members would act. Things were calm until the first hymn. He sung like a drunken pirate, and each hymn was concluded by a victorious "HALLEUJAH JESUS!" 

it. was. awesome. 

It's good for members to recognize and respect the ways other people worship, and sometimes as members we get so accustomed to the rigid reverence. I for one was a fan. During the meeting he kept nudging me asking me if it was his turn to perform his composition" at the pulpit. I calmly treated him, and told him that his turn was coming, that it was the speaker's turn for now. He would wait and ask again until the end of the meeting came and I took a sigh of relief. At the end we had a number of things to plan and resolve with visitors and members, and I couldn't quite give him full attention. He asked me if I could "grab the pastor" so that he could preform.  Finally he just went on his own and performed in the front of the chapel for the bishop and his family, and then left silently. 

Who knows when well see our little friend again, but it was a great experience. He recieved an invite to the Ward Christmas dinner, and members talked and hugged him. 

Fun week! 

I love you guys so much! I received that EPIC packge this week,. You guys are too much! My personal favorite were the letters you wrote me, and I'm in the process of responding with handwritten letters. Hope to send them off this week! Madison wrote twenty pages, and I absolutely died laughing reading her stories. Thank you so much! 

The "epic" package- thank you Purser Family!  (note the white neck)

I'm so grateful to have such an incredible family. I was reflecting on the fact this week that if I were stranded on an island with you five, with no other human contact, I would be perfectly content. 

I love you all so much! 

Elder Siebers

Monday, December 8, 2014

74. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

8 December 2014

Hey Everyone, sorry about the late start today, but another good week has come and gone! 

We had some incredible progress with our main investigators including X who came to church once more this Sunday! Hes really enjoying it. He loves the members here too and feels loved each Sunday.  The church of Jesus Christ is a very fitting place for him and is helping him acquire a more optimistic lifestyle. 

Also Y finaly read from the Book of Mormon this week. She tells us how she has realy desire to read from the Book of Mormon just that she is a very lazy reader (I can relate!). However this week she struggled to sleep as her 4 year old daughter kept her awake all night. At 2 am she had the impulse to read for the first time and felt that if she read she would be able to sleep. She did just that. One verse that we had left for her 10 year old daughter actually, Mosiah 2:41 and she fell right to sleep afterwards. She was decided to come to church this week for the first time as well, but another long and sleepless night kept her sleeping in. But her oldest daughter  came and genuinely enjoyed church. Y is starting to see some good changes in her kids who some have been coming to church and all have read from the Book of Mormon, and we just are going to keep helping her get there herself. 

Lastly, we had Mission Tour this week, Elder Aidukaitus (spelling) of the Seventy gave a great training on how we can work with the members more effectively. 

No letters or boxes were delivered; We have one final chance but I should be getting the box this Wednesday, its the mission Christmas conference. 

Well I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Siebers

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

73. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

1 December 2014

What an incredible week it was for us over here in Alcantara! This week had some unforgettable experiences.

First off, I finally finished my study of Jesus the Christ which began at the beginning of the year. I could write all day about the many things I learned from the reading but that would take days to write. It suffices to say that I learned mostly about the teachings and life of Christ and about much of the historical background that took place in his mortal ministry. The teachings, healing, parables, and his example were all examined thoroughly and once more I testify that He is our Savior and Redeemer. His life was scourged with the most brutal of mortal experiences, highlighted by his crucifixion and his atoning sacrifice for mankind. Through it all he managed to fulfill the Father´s will perfectly and without flaw. Because he lived, endured, served, and lives today, So. can. I.

Well, we've had some amazing miracles here in the past few weeks, most notably the high frequency of investigators having dreams, and the blessings didn't stop! X, whose been a slowly progressing investigator since day 1 here finally made it to church this week. He had been attended his church at 9:00 Sunday every week for the past 20 years and he had a dream this week that a close friend of his (not identifiable) advised him to stop going to the place where he didn't feel loved and comfortable, and to go to the place where he felt in family. He decided he would never return to the other church and was set on coming to church this week. AND  HE CAME. and LOVED it. The members embraced him lovingly and were on track for his baptism on the 13th.
In other news we had a massive Helping Hands project in the Stake center in Arsenal. Several local business came in offering free services and we weren't allowed to do any proselytizing work but we had a booth and many people took interest, ask us questions and took home church materials! Many of my Itaboraí friends were there so that was awesome. Also I got my health checked and I'm doing really well. My glucose was 103, after eating a pizza, I'm 5 10 and 135 pounds. heart rate was 130/80. Also I started some chinese audio therapy. They implanted some seed into various points of my ear and I have to keep them there for several days and iI'l start to have less pains in my back, shoulders and lumbar. We'll see how it turns out!

Lastly, that same day a missionary choir came to sing and Christmas special. I saw many of my good mission buddies, but the highlight was running into Bishop Silvio from Madureira! I had written a letter to him and was going to give it to the Elders from Mad. but I had my chance to hand it to him directly. J and T are swell, have callings and are preparing for the temple in the upcoming months. Junior and his younger brother are active and teaching with the missionaries frequently. I love that ward!

I hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving and black friday! I would love to hear some stories!

Love you all

Elder Siebers

Monday, November 24, 2014

72. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

24 November 2014

WOOOOOOOOOOOOO, this week was well beyond belief. This entire week was dedicated to preparing X for his upcoming baptism on Saturday. Things went without a hitch! I'm so grateful to be a missionary at this time in my life, not only to help others come to the truth of the restored gospel, but for my own personal conversion to the gospel as well. Through the experience we witnessed with X, my testimony in sincere prayer and fasting were solidified. I witnessed people with faith, people with sincere desire, calling upon our God,  to receive a testimony of His truth. Frankly, I'm speechless to the matter, and my mind has been left to reflect these past few days about it all. We will continue to teach Y and the gang, they are coming along. They also have desire to know if all these things are true. They've just haven't quite acted upon that desire yet. The formula is simple. Read. Attend Church. Pray and Ask, and these things will be made manifest unto those who do so with real intent and that have even just the smallest seedling of faith.

I have a lot of photos, but I don't have a method of sending them today. I'll try to work on that some more. The baptism was excellent. The bishop, the first counselor, the Elder's Quorum president, a recent convert, some other recent converts, and an investigator all attended! Elder L came and preformed the ordinance and also Elder E, his new comp. So it was awesome to see my MTC bud again!

Things are going swell here, the work continues, the members here are stoked to work alongside with us, and we´ll just keep on working here! Don't worry about me one bit!
I love you all so much and hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving!!!!

Elder Siebers

PS.  I'm so excited for the package. Our zone leaders were in the mission office and they called me saying, "Elder Siebers, your package is too big for us.  We can bring it to you if your are in NEED but we would have to sacrifice the packages of the other elders of the zone because its sooo big!" This Saturday is one more opportunity to receive a package so all should work out this time! 

[Here's a shout out to some great people who used to live here in Canton, and recently moved to Idaho.  I am not even sure if they knew Cooper very well as he was at college most of the time they lived here.  They had an opportunity to go to Rio last month and asked if they could hand deliver some items to the Mission home there.  Considering that a large flat rate box through the only "authorized and recommended" postal system costs $80, has a 20 pound limit and takes 4-6 weeks to get there, if it gets there at all- I jumped on the offer.  My poor friend in Idaho.  The most efficient way to get it to her was to order a bunch of stuff on Amazon - Prime of course!  I have no idea how much I even sent, probably a large suitcase worth.  They were able to hand it off to the missionaries who live in the Mission home two weeks ago.  It was simply the nicest gesture to offer to this missionary mom.  This family has a couple of boys who will likely serve missions of their own one day and I truly believe that someone will pay this forward for this family.  Thank you Ps!]

Monday, November 17, 2014

71. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

17 November 2014

HEY EVERYONE, sorry for the late start today! Today was transfer day. I'll get into the details later!
I want to testify to all who read that God truly does exist and he has taught us clearly through the scriptures about the ways we can call upon his almighty help to bless our own lives and the lives of others. 
This week we had an incredible experience with one of our investigators. X had been keeping all the commitments we left with him, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, and going to church and still had not received that witness that these things are true. Elder L and I prayed for him frequently, and on Friday we fasted so that he could receive and recognize his answer. On Sunday he came to church and we taught him after. Get this. On that very Friday he dreamed he was in a white room, looking into a mirror. He saw a bunch of chairs and a painting on his side and a voice that told him to listen to his heart and to do what is right. We hadn't taught him yet about temples, but we taught him Sunday and he was stunned. That's not all folks... Saturday he had another dream that he was being baptized by E. . We had a incredible and spiritual lesson and we marked his baptism for this Saturday.

A Sealing Room in an LDS Temple- where marriages are performed for time and all eternity.
So, transfers was kinda crazy, we didn't get the call until 10:00 last night. and turns out E. L was transferred. Yeah.... we called X and he and his neighbors, whom we are teaching also (Y and the gang), they came and visited us and X called off the baptism. I kept my faith up and I talked with President this morning to get permission for E. L to come on Saturday to baptize him and he permitted it. Tonight were going to teach X to get things all planned out. 
I'm kicking it here in Alcantara. E. L is starting his fourth transfer in the mission and going to his 4th area!  I love that guy so much and it's been awesome to have a comp like him! He's now with Elder Evans from the MTC in Cabo Frio. I'm now with one more Brazilian, Elder R from Rondônia. I knew him a bit from the Madureira Zone. In other news, Sister Tingey from the MTC goes home this week and becomes the first of us to finish. It was hard watching her give her final testimony, I cant believe how fast the time has flown by!!!!!!!

Teaching Geneology in the Family History Center
Well there's just a small part of this hectic week I had. I love you guys so much and hope you have an awesome week. I know I will!

Elder Siebers
The closest temple to Rio- Campinas, Brazil.  

P.S Got word today that J and T are all set to head to the temple in January!!!!!  [J and T are a couple that were baptized back in January and Cooper has been able to stay in touch with them although he is in a different area.  Once a person has been a member for a year, they can have their civil weddings sealed for time and eternity in the temple.  This is why Cooper is so happy for them.]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

70. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

10 November 2014

Hey Everyone, I hope everyone is having a swell day! This week was just insane! We worked a ton, the heat was intense, we had some ups and downs but at the end of the week we had some miracles!
This weeks highlight goes to X. I don't believe that I've mentioned him up to this point. We got to know him a few weeks ago through one of his friends we were teaching. We originally just met him and invited him to church but we frequently ran into him on the street so we began teaching him! He's very intelligent and had already attended various faiths including that of our own. He just wants to be happy but has the thought in his mind that he isn't able to stop some of the things that he loves to do. Well we taught him several times this week sitting in front of the shop where he works, about faith, repentance, the atonement. Saturday night rolled around and we had marked to teach him. His grandmother told us that he left early that morning and hadn't seen or heard from him all day. We made one final attempt to find him around 8:00 pm and encountered his cousin who stalled us just long enough.  He came home with his shirt in hand around 8:20. . We reminded him of church the following morning at 9:00 am, he said he was gonna be there. Sunday morning came around and during Elders quorum [meeting], he entered the room! He actually enjoyed church! He talked about how it's completely different than what he's used to, but he noticed a warm atmosphere and genuinely good people. He told us how he just wants to be happy, and we're striving our best to help him find that happiness and hope. We taught him the Plan of Salvation after church and he was impressed by the doctrine and the overall logic of the plan in accordance with the scriptures. He told us how on Saturday he went his way in to the local Favela to [return to a bad habit] and was threatened at gun point which he said really opened his eyes to the fragility of this life.
Other than that we are teaching another incredible family that all of the kids went to church yesterday minus the mom, but shes working on it. Things should work out that they can be getting baptized here at the end of the month!

Life is awesome, the work is hard, but there's nothing better than helping another on their way!
Elder Siebers

Monday, November 3, 2014

69. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

3 November 2014
This was another solid week for us here in Alcantara! It was another strange feeling to be completely secluded from major holidays like Halloween, the strangest  part was that I didn't even feel like it happened. But, I hope you had a Happy Halloween!
The highlight this week goes to X. We had left to teach some investigators with our Ward Mission Leader. We had just left a lesson and were planning our next stop when we received a phone call from him. The call didn't come through right, and he attempted twice more to call. We were close to his house so I said "Vamos lá!" We had initially marked for 7:30 that night so we thought he may have just wanted to remark to cancel the lesson. We got there in 2 minutes and his look on his face when we got there so quickly was priceless. He informed us that he had been reading Moroni 10:32-33 and felt the need to talk to us sooner. The night before he had read and had incredible desire to show up at the chapel but didn't because he didn't know if anyone would be there.. (we were....) We had an incredible lesson with him and confirmed that once more he had felt the Spirit that urged him to come unto Christ and believe in the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thats really all for the big news here. I love this ward, this area and my awesome companion so things are going swimmingly!

(NOT the hospital where Cooper was treated last month.)

I love all of you so much!
Have a great week!

Elder Siebers

Monday, October 27, 2014

68. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

27 October 2014

Well another solid week has flown by and I just continue to be blown away at how fast the time passes! We had a great week here! Some of the highlights included going on division in Itaboraí, showing the new elders how to get around,  and I also got to visit some old investigators including X! Photo attached! That was awesome!!!!!!! X2 was also baptized that day, I barely missed it but I got to congratulate her and unite with the Rio Bonito clan one last time!

We are also working with an investigator here whose name is Y.   Hes been progressing rapidly, but we also run into problems even with the greatest people. He doesn't want to come to church because his other church meets at the same hour. He's been going there for 20 years calling them out on what he says are "their false doctrines and ordinances", yet doesn't want to leave for that purpose! Kinda funny, but we're having a hard time bringing him to the Church of Christ. He says that he will, but Sunday comes around and he decides not to. This  Sunday we went early to talk to him, showed up while he was taking a shower and answered the door in his towel. We had an intense conversation with him that morning. He was planning on going to his other church and we urged him to say a prayer and ask God what he should do. He resisted but did... and then went to the other church.... but it won't get our faith nor our hope down. We're gonna keep working with him because it will all work out in the end!

Also we had interviews with President Cabral. I expressed my concern to him about how I don't want to finish my mission without learning the most fundamental thing there is to learn during these two years. I know what things I need to learn, but I was just worried that maybe I was missing something. He closed his eyes for a moment and told me that the answer was rather vague, but that it would be up to me to interpret the answer.
"Andar com Deus"
"Walk with God"
I have been reflecting on this phrase all week, and I still haven't fully interpreted it. My understanding is following though.
This past General Conferance, a lightbulb went off in my head about the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the Priesthood. I think it was during President Eyring's Priesthood session talk... It's something we say, but its another things to comprehend and live accordingly. In all places where I go, I am accompanied by the presence of the Holy Ghost and the Holy Priesthood which I bear.;. I need to have a constant remembrance that they are in REALITY on my side. Walking ever step with me. If I enter a place where they would not enter, neither shall I enter in such a place. If I begin to do something that they would not approve of, I as well shall not do such. I guess what I mean to say is that sometimes we forget that these blessings are promised to be CONSTANT companions. I easily forget this and feel sometimes that it's just me and no one else. In the same sense walking with God can be interpreted very literally. We need to see our selves walking along his side. Doing the things he does. Tracing his footsteps. Obeying his words at all times and in all places.
I love you guys so much, and hope you have a fantastic weeeek!!

Elder Siebers

Monday, October 20, 2014

67. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

20 October 2014

Hey everyone, just one more incredible week here in the mission. This week couldn't have gone any more smoothly than it did. I went on several divisions this week which included a day as a trio which was a new experience for me, but it was fun teaching with three!

I am so excited to be working in this ward. We have a new Ward Mission Leader who got back from his mission two weeks ago and is completely devoting all his time to help us. We had a correlation meeting this week with a newly called activities planner and we put some awesome things together for this week! We are going to start Ward Family Hone Evening, and some other activities to come with the holidays. I'm so stoked to be in this ward!

Y was also baptized this week, we got to the area and he had already been prepared by other elders, but he's awesome! He understands everything really well. He got to know the church through a member that invited him to sing in the stake choir. Always invite people to activities because you never know....

We had Stake Conference this week which was just full of surprises including President Cabral's appearance and talk. 

Also I got to see many familiar faces from Itaboraí! It's kinda weird to be transferred within the same stake, but awesome at the same time. I snapped a photo with Leo, I think it should have sent it to you by now....He said he had talked to mom and dad this week?
Life is swell, I'm excited for the future and just trying to soak up all that I can with the months remaining. I love you all!

Elder Siebers

Monday, October 13, 2014

66. Alcantara, Rio de Janeiro

13 October 2014

Hey everyone! 
So this week was amazing! There's something awesome that happens when two missionaries get together for the first time in a place where neither of them have set foot and with hope and faith that things will start happening, they do. So we got working. We knew where our house and the chapel were. The previous Elders didn't leave ANY addresses behind, just some notes on some investigators they were teaching. We hit the pavement, we talked to a TON of people this week and already found some people to teach. 
The most incredible was a man named Y, whom we began teaching at his doorstep and then he invited us in to learn more. We watched the Restoration movie and he related very well to Joseph Smiths story. He has been confused for some time about all the world religions, he's been seeking to be baptized and take of the sacrament and he told us that his main concern is that he wants to be ready when the Savior comes again. One day before we knocked on his door he was watching TV and saw a program about the "mormons" on TV and was interested. Then who shows up?

Oh, I don't know... maybe THESE two?

We also added an investigator who is a good friend of a member that I actually met in Itaboraí, and he's on date to be baptized this Saturday! Y2 is incredibly prepared and super excited to become and member of the Church!
Anyway, we had some incredible experiences this week. My companion, Elder L is awesome and is very charismatic and everyone loves him. Hes a hoot! The ward is very friendly and I am absolutely stoked to be serving here along with Elder L.

We are living in a MASSIVE apartment, it's not super clean but its spacious. 2.5 bathrooms! I'm with my Ecuadorian comp and a Chilean and another Brazilian...

Alcantara is an old city and has a MAJOR bus stop that runs through the center of town. You have to come here to catch any bus to any other part of Niteroi, São Goncalo or Itaborai. I passed through Alcantara TONS of times in my time in Itaborai.

View of Alcantara from their massive bedroom.
General Conference in his last week in the Itaborai Ward, but ironically in a Chapel in Alcantara.

So yeah that's about all for this week, great things are to come!
I love you all soooo much!

Elder Siebers
PS.  I am 100% perfectly healthy now!

Monday, October 6, 2014

65. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

6 October 2014

WOW, Well I'm sorry for the late email today. I don't have anytime to even begin to write about the many adventures I had this week! 

Here's just a quick summary, I hope it doesn't leave you all with more questions than answers.

The week began with interviews with President.  He stated that Elder S and I would stay together at the next transfer.

Thursday comes around and I wake up with some epic body pains. I thought it might have been just an awkward night's sleep so I just kept chugging. At around 5:30, trying to make a visit,  I just about passed out! We sat briefly and headed to the chapel, called sister Cabrel and one of the  craziest nights of my life ensued. Sister Cabral recommended I go to the hospital. Yeah so there isn't a hosptal that accepts Sul America health insurance so the public hosptal it was for me. I'll have to write a novel of the experience another day. We got there at 6pm and I left at 4am... walking in the rain heading home. (our cellphone died :D ) Good news is that in 10 hours I learned I have an infection. After a blood test and xray they "weren't able to localize the infection" but they hardly tried- really poor quality hospital. They recommended some meds I am 3 days on them and I'm almost back at 100%. It was easily one of the most brutal sicknesses I've caught, but it's all over now. Please don't worry mom, I'm really fine!!!!

X is on fire this week! After she almost quit for good she took the invite to read the Book of Mormon seriously this week and it's incredible to witness its promise come true. Her whole aura changed this week. She was so happy and loved talking about the things she was learning, reading and feeling as she read throughout the week!

Conference was amazing of course! We had a baptism of X2 who is a friend of a member! We're working with her mom and other friend as well. In no time Rio Bonito will open a branch!

I have no photos or anything today, because today turned into a crazy day. 

Saturday night I found out I was being transferred (I told you its not even worth predicting because even when Pres tells you you are staying anything can happen!!)  I dragged my loaded beaten bags through public transportation which is always a hoot, to find out I'm moving areas RIGHT NEXT DOOR! We  literally caught a bus in my new area this morning. I was in the chapel in this area for General Conference this week. So funny!!  [For my local friends, it would be like taking all your belongings in two suitcases and traveling from  Canton to Manhattan via bus, only to find out you are moving to Bristol.  It does seem somewhat inefficient at times.]

So my new area is Alcântara. It's a town in the city of São Gonçalo, just west of Itaboraí. I'm only a 20 minute drive away from my old area! 

My new comp is another new missionary, he just finshed hs first 12 weeks in the field and he's a GREAT Elder!!! His name is Elder L, from Ecuador.  [Cooper's first non-Brazilian companion since arriving there!]

Our new apartment is a MASSIVE. It's on the 6th and final floor of an apartment complex. It's dirty, but that can be fixed. There are four of us missionaries here with plenty of space! 1 american, 1 from ecuador, 1 brazilian and 1 chilean!

All right family, I hope your weeks were a little more down to earth than mine was. I can't even think straight right now.! We are both new in the area, it's a SUPER busy place, and we have to explore it together to know whats going on! 

A lot of discovery work to be had this week, but adventures into the unknown excite me!

Google image of his new area:  I think he's gonna like it here!

I love you all so much

Elder Siebers

Thursday, October 2, 2014

64. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

29 September 2014

Well, I'm here again! It was a week full of good experiences as well as trials. My time here in Itaboraí, dividing the missionary labor in a ward, spending every waking moment of the last four months with Elder S has been an incredible experience. We have both grown so much together, and have become better missionaries together. In what may be our final week together here in Itaborai we are looking to finally break this dry spell of baptisms since day one. In Rio Bonito beginning last Sunday we began teaching [X2 and Y2], who are neighbors of a referral from members.  They have been going to church the past 3 weeks and have loved it. They don't comprehend all that we teach them , nor all that they learn at church, but most importantly they feel the spirit there each Sunday, and they always tell us how when it ends that say, "did it end already!?" They are on board to be baptized after the first session of General Conference in Alcântara where conference will be transmitted for the stake. It's going to be really special for everyone. Rio Bonito has already had the branch close twice in the past, and the stake is looking at the possibility to open it again. Two more baptisms and many more to come (waiting marriage) will help support the Branch big time. It's a huge sacrifice on our part to go there, 13 reais each trip which we don't receive reimbursement for, but it's worth it. I love seeing the work of the Lord march forward!

In other news we continued to teach [X] and overcome the many difficulties that come along with it. She has people talking to her daily about the Church, we fielded questions this week about animal sacrifices, brain washing and black people not being allowed to enter the church. We taught her almost every single day, and she is feeling the spirit stronger than any other investigator I have ever taught! She was set on this Saturday to be baptized and we planned it all out, the only thing that could prevent it was being absent at church this Sunday.   Lo and behold she got really sick on Saturday (when we had planned to bring her to a baptism of the other elders) and Sunday. We've had tooo much of this kinda stuff happening with our investigators and it is really soul crushing. But we won't give up, she´ll get better here soon, we'll continue to help her feel the spirit, plan again for the upcoming week, and all will work out. Mighty prayers are always appreciated! 

We also had zone conference this week, I learned a lot, I'm beginning to view my work a tad differently, in a good way! When I first walked into the chapel I came across a familiar face that shocked me. It was one of those weird moments where someone you know appears in a place you never thought! Elder S, who was in the other District at the MTC heading to Rio [back in July 2013], went to Gilbert with us [as a Visa waiter] and got his visa two weeks ago. He really struggled with the idea of switching missions [when missionaries hit the half way point of their mission and are still waiting for a VISA they are given the option to simply stay where they are currently on re-assignment] but went for it..... He's REALLY suffering with the switch, so elder N and I sat down and talked to him for a good while. It was REALLY hard leaving Gilbert after just 3 months there, imagine a year and 2 months! Really rough...

On the good side, I caught up with the most recent Madureira elders, J and T are doing fine, active and happy! Two elders from my district are being sent to Madureira together now. I sent them with a handwritten letter for J and T, and  encouraged them to prepare them for the temple. A year is passing by quickly and in Feb/March they could be on their way! I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

Another lady, who is a friend of J's, lives pretty much next door to the church, whom I taught a bit with E. C and E. P back in December/Jan, is going to to be baptized. 

Dad, I got a truck load of letter this week and enjoyed reading them throughout the week, thanks again!!!

Love you all so much and hope you have another good week, I know I will, I'll be back writing you guys here soon!

We're in the tie making business these days, finally putting to good use all the sewing equipment mom sent me with. First tie of the season, came out pretty well for my first time.  [Those who know me well will imagine just how exciting this was for me!  I sent him with a very small sewing repair kit- essentially a couple of needles and thread.  I have many questions about where he is getting fabric and if he made a pattern etc.  I have to assume he hand sewed the entire thing and I am highly impressed!]

Elder Siebers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

63. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

22 September 2014

Hello family and friends!
This week was pretty decent, I had some fun adventures while on a division ["divisions" are when two companions split for the day and pair up with a different companion] this week in the other half of Itaboraí, which including [this made me laugh, has he forgotten how to conjugate English verbs?] seeing an ostrich, getting swarmed by mosquitoes and teaching some really poor people. 

"I like Acai."

While on division, E Van W and my companion taught X. She has already received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true and we've been trying so hard to help her take the next step on faith. She's having some serious issues letting go of the church and relationships that she has grown to love in her other church. The Elders said they had a super spiritual lesson with her and she accepted to be baptized on the 27th. When Sunday came around she didn't show up, we went to pick her up, no luck and we called her several times with no success... really depressing, but we'll get a hold of her this week and find out what's going on.

In other news, an awesome family from Rio Bonito is helping some people come to church.  It started off as one lady, she brought her friend last week, and the friend brought her mom this week. We went and had an FHE there last night and we taught the restoration. They all are loving the church and expressed that they have fought depression for most of their lives. They heard many people saying [he did it again!] to find a church to help and they never found a place that relieved the pain. They both said that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they found peace and solace. They finally found a place that relieved them. They accepted a date for the 4th of October, we just need to help them prepare for that day now!

Life is good as for now! Just another week ahead of us, full of walking, learning and teaching!

It's Volleyball pday and rocking my comps HUGE tie!

Love you guys so much!

Elder Siebers

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

62. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

15 September 2014

Hello friends and family,

Man, I get blown away at how fast the weeks are beginning to pass. I'm sitting here again in awe that an entire week passed by since the last time I sat down to write ya´ll. I hope you all had a great week! On another note, it's been fun to slowly change my weekly email addresses of my friends who are leaving for missions.  QP [almost two months in Honduras] and Parker today [left for Mexico]! I'm so excited for all of them! 

This week was pretty good... we ran into some difficulties with X this week, which seems to be an reoccurring pattern with the people that we teach. We helped her recognize that she really did recieve and an answer through the Spirit that these things are true, and she truly believes that they are, but shes having a hard time leaving the church she currently attends. A church that really helped her change her life. It's hard to work with people who have had such spiritual experiences in other places, but we are working with her. We acknowledged that she really did have a true life changing experience with that church and pastor, that it was all in preparation to hear and accept the message of the restoration of the Church of Christ. She really is feeling 50 50 and doesn't want to have to leave the church that has brought her so much happiness over the past two years. We invited her to read Enos, someone else who was desperate for guidance from God and was stubborn in receiving such an answer. She read and prayed and on Sunday had changed ger mind to attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with us, but her Pastor called her and needed her help with some assignment in church, so she went there... We´ll keep working with her, pray that she can make the right choice and following the answer that she has received.

Other than that, life is pretty swell here. The heat is on its way back, I'm starting to feel scorched again at the end of the day, the mosquitoes are swarming, but we are fighting back! 

I love all of you guys so much! Have a great week!

Elder Siebers

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

61. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

8 September 2014

And once again, I'm seated in the same LAN house, with that same relaxing feeling of pday. It's really amazing how fast time flies, and how routine my life has become. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting here writing my last email.

Once again, there were a lot of things that went down this week. But I'll keep it to just a few short highlights.

So grateful for the member families that feed our missionaries.  Four at a time!

X [In order to protect people's privacy, I am moving away from an initial to a simple X for female and Y for male, Note that there will likely be multiple X and Y in each letter and they may or may not be the same person.] is progressing really well. I can't believe that just two weeks ago we talked to her on the interphone and she said we could come back and teach her. She went to church this week and she enjoyed it. We are going to continue working with her this week to prepare her for the 20th, but things are going swimmingly as of now. Keep her in her prayers! 

This weeks highlight was last night. When we came to Itaboraí back in June, opening the area, the other Elders told us about the people they were teaching and passed them to us, which can sometimes be a difficult process. It took a while but we finally got to teach X and Y.   X is a member of the church who was  recently returned to Church and Y is a strict Catholic who has read a lot of anti things about the Church, but had been coming to Ala Itaboraí [Ward/congregation] recently. We had a dinner last night there and then taught them about the love our Father in Heaven has for us. Y has been pounded for some time now [from prior missionaries I imagine] about the Restoration and, because it was our first visit with him, we didn't want to approach him with all the Restoration importance again. Our priority is to help him feel the Spirit, when that happens he will be more open to us and open to accepting the message. We watched a video and it instantly brought the Spirit into the room. We discussed some of the things in the video and starting asking X and Y some questions. 

The following was probably one of the most heartbreaking things I've witnessed out here.  After talking about the love our Heavenly Father has for us:

Elder S.,  "X, besides God, Christ and the Gospel, what is the most important thing in you life?"

X in tears "My husband. I love him so much that I can't imagine not being together with him,  and being married after we pass away. It pains me that he believes that this isn't possible."

We let the Spirit work and let Y reflect on that for a few minutes. 

Elder S., "Y, besides God, Christ and the Gospel, what is the most important thing in your life?"

After some time, and with a low, choaked up voice:

Y said, "My family and my wife......... more silence passes................I just believe that after this life we all will live, but only as brothers and sisters. and I cant get myself to believe in anything else than this"

It was heavy. The Spirit was strong. the love between them was evident. The disagreement in faith overbearing for all of us. 

We wrapped up the lesson, inviting him to REALLY ask our Father in faith, with desire to know the truth, without doubt, whether possible or not. 

We'll head back there this week to see how it goes.

Being a missionary is such a blessing, I love this work. With everyday that passes, I feel the subtle changes in my heart, desires, and behaviors. I feel the calling of being a servant of Christ bestowed upon me. I witness others come close to our Savior, and that's what makes this sacrifice worth it. 

I love you guys so much, And hope you all have a great week!

Elder Siebers

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

60. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

1 September 2014

Hey everyone, I hope you all had a great week! I'll keep my message rather short today because I'm already low on time! 

We had a lot of ups and downs this week, but one of the highlights this week, was our experience with a new family. We've been knocking on doors of this one road for the past few weeks now and it never seems to fail us. Almost all of our current investigators live on the same road these days! We stopped at this one house, all the houses here in Brazil have a gate in front. and in this case the house wasn't visible because of the nice brick wall they have in front of their house. We hit the intercom and we talked to the mom about visiting another day to share a message. That was on Monday. Tuesday we came back and met the mom, her daughter in law, and her son. They loved the message of the restoration so much that they wanted us to come back as soon as possible. We came by on Thursday and taught the Gospel of Christ and invited them all to baptism. They all accepted and are really excited to learn more about the church and the Book of Mormon. The mom told us that she read the chapter we left her that very first night we were there and felt the Spirit so strongly. She prayed and recieved a clear answer that the Book of Mormon is true. The mom also testified to the rest of the family what had happened. She said she really loved the message we shared and that she actually has interest for the first time to read from the scriptures. She said that our message was really real, and that we don't force people to see what we see. 

I love all of you so much, and please keep this family in your prayers.

Elder Siebers

Monday, August 25, 2014

59. Itaborai, Rio de Janeiro

25 August 2014

Hey everyone! 

Another week has just come and gone here in Itaboraí. Most notably the weather took a drastic change. Last week we were enjoying nice 65-70 degree days and it shot up to about the 90s all week. Summer is on its way back and I'm not looking forward to it, but just one more time!

This week wasn't too bad, but wasn't too exciting either.  We have been working with one person since the beginning of June and its been a roller coaster ride. Last week she had told us that she didn't have any desire to go to church and still was full of doubts about things she saw at church. We passed by there Tuesday and she said that she had prayed and was going to church this Sunday. We finally thought that she had received a sure answer and was set on going. Sunday came around, we went there to pick her up and she didn't want to go anymore. Well keep fighting but it's been a brutal two sided fight since day one.

We have some solid investigators who are progressing right now, C and E who we found knocking doors two weeks ago. They already had some contact with the missionaries in the past and have always been curious the learn about the church. They are coming a long great and the next step is to help them come to church.We also found Cx knocking on her door and she is great. Of all the investigators I have ever taught she really understands the message we bring and is full of great questions. She is very intelligent and understands that to receive and answer from God about the truthfullness of the restoration she needs to exercise faith in the Book of Mormon and in the message we share. She is reading a ton and we are so excited for her. This week we had to field one of the most difficult questions with an investigator. Upon learning that the authority to baptize had been restored, and is found today in the Church of Christ, she asked, 

"I was baptized my immersion and I truly felt like it played a role in my conversion to the gospel of Christ,.... are you guys saying that my baptism was invalid?" 

We asked her about her baptism and asked about how it had changed her life. Baptism is an ordinance we do to show our Heavenly Father that we have had a change of heart, and have desire to follow him. Baptism doesn't save our souls if we truly are converted to the gospel. We affirmed that she fulfilled with many of the steps of baptism; immersion in water, a true desire to follow Christ, and a devoted life to the Gospel of Christ. Those things WERE real. We explained [priesthood] authority and one more step to baptism, that she could fulfill. She understood really well and I think she felt like the Savior knew she was doing her best with the knowledge that she had. That what she did in faith, was real. Now she has more knowledge and she will be accountable for the new information about the priesthood that she has received.

She understood and we continued!

It was a great week here in Itaboraí. In other news both me and my companion are staying here for one more [transfer]! Elder VW is also staying here, which is crazy because after this transfer he will have 9 months in this area...

I love all you guys! Have a great week!