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