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, March 24, 2014

37. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

23 March 2014

Wow. I've been here in Madureira for more than half my mission now. It's scary how well I know this place now. I know all of the roads, and I can go anywhere and orient myself home now. 

Anyways. As you know, I'm training this transfer. On Monday we headed over to Andaraí for a trainers meeting. We received the usual training from the APs and from President Lima about how to be good trainers, good examples, and the impact a first companion has on a new missionary. The first missionary you have in the field really is important, and helps the new missionary accustom to the life of a good missionary. My first companion surely had a great impact on me and really taught me all that I needed to know to have success on my mission. I still think about and apply the things I learned from him in my daily work.

We headed down to Botafogo on Tuesday to pick up our new companions. I picked up my new elder. Elder S. from Natal, Brazil. He is 23 years old and applied for the mission 7 times until the 8th attempt finally worked out for him. He had a series of medical problems that kept him home beforehand. He is a convert to the church and was baptized at the age of 16. He is a great elder and has a lot of desire to serve and to be exactly obidient. The only things that holds him back is that hes deathly afraid to do contacts and to talk to random people on the street. Naturally that became our focus this week. We got him to do 35 contacts or so, and slowly well make our way up to the standard of excellence, 105. I had to show and teach him how to do very simple contacts and then he would imitate.  He also doesnt like getting rejected in any form, but I think that will get better with time and after a lot of rejections. :D

Anyways, this week we walked a TON. Probably more than other week in my mission. We are in the beginning phrases of really rebuilding  this area and our teaching pool. We visited all of our investigators that havent been visited since the Carnaval disaster and we hope to get back on track with them. 

Another task we had to accomplish this week was a list of 20 unknown names our Bishop, and the rest of the wards in the stake received to contact by Satuday. We walked all over our area to get to these people and the majority of them moved away or passed away. Along the way though, we had some great contacts that we will be visiting in the future and hopefully teaching. We are working really hard to get all the records straightened up and updated for the ward. My new missionary expressed how he doesn't feel like he doing anything, but this work is important to the ward, bishop and the Lord. It may not be teaching, but it's aiding the ward in which we serve. 

So just another week for me. It's been raining for days straight now.  We've gotten drenched on some occasions, but its better than the sun. We had a lot of appointments fall through, we have been exhausted, and we watched a car accident. Just another week in the mission!

Add "Custard Apple" to my foreign fruit list. You eat the insides, which is like a super mushy banana and spit out all the black seeds. Unique in taste. 

Looking forward to new investigators and people to teach. Stay in tune!

Elder Siebers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

36. Madureira Rio de Janeiro

17 March 2014

Well, I know your probably dying to know about transfers, but I'll make you all suffer and anticipate like I have to when waiting for a transfer call. 

Not much to report about this week. First of all, I learned the more [this is where we start to see his Portuguese sentence structuring kicking in, in English we would say "rest"] of the story about the Bishop that died in this ward 2 years ago, and it's quite tragic. The ward was flourishing (as I picture it) and everyone really loved the Bishop. Until one tragic day, not only did he pass away, he was murdered. yup. At his work he found out some employees were involved in a scheme and so they shut him up for good to make sure he wouldn't spill the beans. His family is still in the ward. It's been two years, but they are such strong members of the church and have incredible testimonies. The mom works like crazy and she as two teenage girls, 16 and 13 to care for. Rough stuff. I cant even imagine what it must of been like. 

So now that thats out of the way. (I just thought that might give some insight on my Ward's history. In Doctrine and Covenants it talks about how the Elders should know a lot about the history of where they are serving, I forget the reference.) 

Anyway the best experience I had this week was Saturday night. The chapel was absolutely flooded with people. The Relief Society had a Stake party to celebrate 172(?) years. The Elders from Bangu held their baptism here because their investigator and all of her friends were attending the party, and to top it off there was a farewell for a Sister missionary. Throughout all of this, Elder M, Bishop and I hung out in the Secretary's office. He was updating the ward list when we found him. I made and left a sheet of less active visits we had mad during this transfer with notes about their situations. (most of them have moved away). We showed him how to use the ward list on LDS.org and the interactive map that puts the members on the map. We settled some strange names that live way outside our ward boundaries. Bishop assigned us over 20 other names on the ward list to update. 

I can imagine when Bishop G was suddenly called to serve as the Bishop (he's from another ward not to mention) he came in with a lot of other things in mind. He didnt know the members, and suddenly he had to replace a beloved one. That is not an easy task. Develop relationships, pick up where everyone left off, get the ward back on track, keeping everyone calm about what happened. We're really starting to hammer down on it now, so that's what matters.

So. What I thought would happen did. Got the call last night that I'll be training. I have to spend my pday at a trainers' meeting and then tomorrow is transfer day. I'll be emailing at strange times today because of all this so just don't even try to predict when I'll be online. I am excited and also frightened.  I learned so much when I was training Elder H, and we've been neglecting our area the past three weeks so it's time to get started again. We have a lot of work to do.

I'll most likely be receiving a Brazilian comp. because I'm still new to the language and because a new rule was instituted by the Church. Any missionary who served for more than 2 months stateside while waiting on a Brazilian Visa will come to the São Paulo MTC for 2 weeks and refresh on the language, then will be sent to their missions. 

Some other notes.

Dad, Austin told me last week that Devin Hester is being released by the Bears. Thats just too bad, but he set the NFL record with them so thats what counts I guess. I'm afraid Bears Hester jerseys will become very expensive here soon, so if you could use my personal funds to get a hold of one before that happens, I would LOVE that! 

Mom, I'm still doing well as health goes. I'm still taking plenty of vitamins and doing exercises in the morning. 

Aunt Shauna- thank you for the Valentines. The chocolate bar was liquid but it was still good!

[I had asked him about any news on the Rio Temple]
The Rio Temple site is set. If will be built on the Barra Tijuca. Right on the beach in a beautiful location. I've also heard that we have a ton of land so I won't be surprised if the foliage is stunning. 

[I also told him about how a member of the Boston Mission Presidency came and spoke to our Ward last Sunday about being more personally involved with the missionaries and making them part of the fabric of our Ward and our home.... his response]

I think as members we've had this idea about the missionaries and how to do the work with them.
"I'll feed them from time to time, when I have someone they can visit I'll give them the name and address, let them know about service opportunities when they come up". That's just the way things have been going.  But now we have been directed with the First Presidency's push to Hasten the Work of Salvation. If we want progress, growth, acceleration, we can't just keep doing the same old things. This applies to both the missionaries and the members. This a new era, and a time for members to be more proactive and creative and using the missionaries in any way that they can to build stronger Wards. It may require you to spend some time thinking about ways to involve them in your life more, it will require you to spend time with them, it will require more. It sounds like everyone is excited about the Sisters in Canton Ward, everyone has been telling me about them so they must be good. Take advantage of the time they are there. Make the Canton Ward a better place for everyone. The missionaries have time, motivation, and are more sanctified from the world to do this type of work. Get going!

When I get home, theres nothing more I want to do than help the Canton Ward in any way I can. My mission has shown me that anybody can reach out, and there is no excuse not to. I'm not a different person then when I left, but I'm talking to new people everyday and reaching out. If I can do it now, what should stop me later? I know the reality of life will most likely set in when I step back into the real world, but I have so much drive right now to do missionary work. I guess the mission does that to you!

Alright I love and miss all of you so much. It's gonna be a wild ride starting this week, but I'm excited. 

Till next time, Elder Siebers

Monday, March 10, 2014

35. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

10 March 2014

So this week ending up being pretty uneventful. Carnaval "ended" on Tuesday, and I was hoping things would return to normal...yeah that's not how it works. People didn't even begin to start working again until Thursday. The aftermath was unreal. We had two heavy days of rain here and the streets were flooded with puddles, small rivers, and bits of pieces of costumes, beer cans, and tons of random items. It looked like a circus train flew through Madureira leavin' behind all of its contents. 

Not the happiest camper about Carnaval Aftermath

We had a Zone Training on Tuesday, we preparing for GeneralConference coming up (which I cant believe is happening again already). 

I spent a day with a bed ridden Elder and just slept all day. P.S they too have a nice house, so the only things I'm looking forward to when I'm transferred is a better home. 

We went to confirm the day and time for a meal at a member's home, but instead we found some less active members. She is the mother of the members we were looking to confirm with and she misses church so much. Shes been taking care of her mother since 2009 and has almost no time for herself. Her mother is the most dead looking person I have ever seen in my life so I really felt for this woman. We gave her a blessing and well keep her on our radar to help out when we can. 

Sunday was pretty low key, we didn't have any investigators at church, which was sad, but not surprising... But of note, T recieved the Priesthood so that was pretty neat. Sunday night was another crazy night. There was a HUGE party on our street and it was just ridiculous. A woman flashed our Zone Leaderss while they were coming home (they live on the same road as us).

Sorry about the uneventful week, but its a dark time for us here in Madureira. We have some serious iniquitous people, which only makes our calling that more important! 

Elder Siebs

[The following are excerpts used with Cooper's permission from an email he wrote to Mike and Tyla Permenter.  Mike was Cooper's Young Men's President for two years and their family has often taken good care of Coops.]

As for my favorite section of the Book of Mormon, I think it has to be the story of Nephi, son of Helaman. (Helaman 3-11, with chapter 5 being the highlight) I love chapter 5, Nephi gives up the judgement seat and decides to preach the gospel with his brother Lehi for the REST of his days. As a missionary his story is inspiring to me and he has become my favorite Book of Mormon character. Helaman 5: 4-7,11.

As for me, the mission is not easy. in my letters, I try to keep it a positive experience for the readers, and don't get me wrong, my mission is a positive experience, but there are countless day to day trials and burdens that make the mission very difficult. But every time I feel like I'm being overburdened I remember the Savior, and his sacrifice for us. There is no earthly trial that can even compare to the Atonement. There are some great scriptures as well that talk about the value of sacrifice and trials. I especially love Romans 5:3-5.

Monday, March 3, 2014

34. Madureira, Rio de Janeiro

3 March 2014

Hello everyone!

Unfortunately, this week was pretty weak as far as the work goes. Madureira is one of the hotspots for Carnaval here in Rio. One of the larger roads that cuts out area in half was blocked off for hardcore samba dancing, drinking, nudity and mayhem. All of our plans fell through because NO ONE was home. We spent a lot of time at member's just asking to give us some service. We mopped a house one day, better than nothing! 

J and T had their wedding reception this week and it went over really well. The members went all out to make it memorable. We have photos, and I'll try to send them later. I was put in charge of the bishop's video camera for the night. 

This week I got a hold of the LDS.org Ward member list. (I recently learned I have access to an online list of the wards I am in.) I found 16 less active family names and addresses and we spent the early part of the week tracking these people down. Of the 16 we already got some sort of contact with 9 of them, 2 of the families still live there, 6 of them moved away, and one of them the wife passed away, and the husband moved out.

These are the types of things that really need to be updated on the ward list so future missionaries and accurate family home teachers can be assigned. Hope to get things all updated for the ward this week. 

Anyway the three wards that meet in this building had combined Sunday meetings because of Carnaval. The attendance was that of a normal Sunday, as to say that 1/3 of the wards attended. It was kinda cool to have a full gospel prinicples class with all the missionaries and their investigators together.

The highlight of Sunday was testimony meeting. J had to leave early to help make some food for an old lady, but we got T to bear his testimony. I lead the way for him, he followed with a very sincere and powerful testimony and Elder M followed. I know all the other investigators were touched by T's sincere testimony. He told us later that he prayed before hand that the spirit would guide his words to help the investigators who were present. 

I've said it time and time again, but this family is so elite. They really GET IT, and apply it. They are an inspiration to me. 

*I finished the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, cover to cover. It took me three months, and it was a great read. Thanks again dad.

Thanks to everyone who sent letters this week. There´s nothing I enjoy more than reading letters from home and friends and the end of exhausting week. 

And just for a side note, don't ever open a bottle of hot sauce near your face, it really burns the eyes!

Love you all!

Elder Siebers