"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!" ---D&C 128:19

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Life of a Senior Couple

Hey family! Man that trip in the canyon sounded pretty cool. I didn't know you all bought hammocks. It would definitely fit in with Surinamese culture, 90% of the time in our lessons we sit in chairs and our investigators will sit up in their hammock.
Life as 20 year old senior couple missionaries is pretty fun. Basically all of the problems in Suriname get delegated to whatever companionship is assigned to the responsibility. There are a lot of moments where you have to go with the flow...an elder or a sister has an inner-tube pop and we go and try to fix the bike as best we can in time to make it for an appointment, or a missionary has an ingrown toenail so we take them to the doctor, things like that. I feel bad when I write letters because a lot of our week is spent trying to organize things for the actual senior couple that will be coming to Suriname on June 22 and I don't have too much to write about.
I will say though that out of all the issues we have helped with the best one probably came from this morning. We got a call from the sister missionaries serving in the same branch and they told us about a problem that they had in the apartment. We asked them what it was and they described how insects were crawling out of the countertop, up the wall, leaving a sticky substance behind as they made a hole in the ceiling. We realized after they described the bug that they had a termite problem. Good times. Haha
Another highlight from the week came with an investigator we had named "J." "J" is a no nonsense man. He will always explain his thought process and then follow it with, "Am I wrong or no" and we can basically tell it to him how it is. We taught about the Pre-Mortal Life in our last lesson and he just had to take a moment to really ponder about what we were teaching him. He came to church yesterday and was asking several questions about the Sabbath Day since that was something we were discussing during third hour. We are pretty excited for him, hopefully he can be ready for baptism before I have to leave.
To answer a couple of questions that you had,
1. I am driving. We will have to give the truck up pretty soon when the senior couple arrives but for now I am the one driving. It's nice when it starts to rain and you don't have to worry about getting wet. At first it was a little difficult to get used to how narrow the streets are here but after awhile it's just like driving in the states.
2. My companion's name is Elder Orton. He is from Cedar City and is on his last transfer. He is really organized and wants to go out with the torch still lit which is good. He was actually in the MTC just a month before our group got there so we saw him and his group there for the first little bit.
3. I haven't touched my suit jacket since I got in Suriname. It's still in good shape and I have not gained a single pound on the mission so everything still fits.
Sorry it's not much this week, President Egbert is coming this weekend so we are excited.
Hope you all have a good week!
Love you!
Elder Cooper

Monday, April 18, 2016

Transfer Calls

Hey Family! So first things first, transfer calls! On Saturday I got the call that I would be leaving Commewijne. Which is sad because there are a lot of people here that I will miss. I took pictures of some of them after church Sunday.  There are other people and it's sad to say goodbye, but I know they'll be ok. Now, as far as where I go, I will be serving in a branch in Suriname called Tammenga as a zone leader with Elder Dibb! In case you forgot, Elder Dibb and I went to the same high school and played on the same baseball team! Needless to say we are super pumped.
This week had some cool moments with investigators and less-actives. We saw "J" this week and taught her about tithing and fasting. She should be baptized either this Saturday or the next. When we taught her about tithing we asked her if she would be willing to keep it and her response was awesome. She basically said "Of course, I'm committed to this point so there is no point in being half-in half-out." She has been super prepared because of the example of her brother, basically a testimony that you can help someone just by the example you give.
 My biggest spiritual experience came as I spent the entire week studying faith, hope, and charity. After reading President Uchtdorf's talk called "A Summer with Great Aunt Rose" I saw that one of the things he named as a key to happiness are these three principles so I wanted to look into it more. I learned a lot and it brought a lot of reflection on my attitude now and my attitude in the past moments of my mission. I think the biggest conclusion I came to is that it all starts with a desire to do God's will. The scriptures call this being meek and lowly in heart. I learned that happiness and peace does not come because of people or circumstance but because we place our faith in God and His timing, strengthen our hope in the Atonement, and develop a love of God and man. Our hope and faith isn't based on the impossible dream that everything will go well in our life, but if we have faith and hope in God then everything will work out for our good.  When I recalled the happiest moments of my mission I realized that these three principles were involved somehow.
I think my favorite scriptures I came across about these principles were Hebrews 6:10-20 and Moroni 7:41. Hebrews took a little bit to figure out, but basically what Paul was trying to teach the Saints is that God, ensures his promises with an oath or a covenant. As if it wasn't enough to know that God cannot lie he made our hope more sure by putting his promise to an oath, or better known as a covenant. This then made what Paul calls the two immutable things, 1. God will fulfill his promises and can swear by no greater power or authority then his own and 2. He cannot lie, therefore our hope in Him and His promises is made sure. So we can, as Moroni said have a hope to be resurrected and raised to eternal life.
Anyways that was the quick version. I hope you all have a good week! I love you and miss you!
Elder Cooper

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Big News!

Bro. Turley, the assistant church historian. Bro. Turley is touring the mission with the Egberts and gathering historical information on early converts in each country.

Happy Easter! Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend. That photo scavenger hunt sounds pretty crazy. I feel like that game might have shown a little bit of favor to the girls before it started though. :)
This past week was pretty crazy. I think the meeting with the Church Historian was my favorite part though. His name is Bro. Turley and he gave a pretty good presentation about the Prophet Joseph Smith's story. It was pretty cool because he talked a lot about the personality of Joseph Smith which surprisingly doesn't get brought up too much. There were so many details that it would take forever to write them all. I think the highlight for me though is when we compared and contrasted the Prophet's early journal entries with the Book of Mormon manuscript. Joseph Smith hated writing and a lot of the time he would dictate the things he wanted to be written. It was amazing to see how Joseph Smith's lack of education showed in the things he wrote by his own hand. There were several grammatical errors, a couple of spelling mistakes, and he had crossed out an entire paragraph. At the very end of that journal entry it was clear to see that he had noticed his weakness and wrote a small but simple prayer to the effect of "Oh may God grant the success of his servant in this sacred work." I'm paraphrasing, but it was clear that he had seen the weakness in writing and knew he would need strength. After reading some of the things he taught out of things like Teachings of the Presidents of the Church it is clear that the Lord was able to take him to a lowly status to one where he could give amazing sermons and powerfully worded discourses about the Gospel. But his early journal entries, contrasted with the Book of Mormon manuscript was night and day. The Book of Mormon manuscript just flowed smoothly, no grammar mistakes, nothing crossed out and reworded, just one smooth narrative. It was pretty cool.
All of that definitely helped me to gain an appreciation of just how much the Lord qualifies whom he calls. He took someone like Joseph Smith and through him brought the Restoration of all things and helped Joseph Smith become one of the best teachers of the gospel and one of the most Christ-like individuals. It's clear from that example and then just instances in my life that the Lord will just make things work, despite the fact that we are imperfect.
Not much else happened in the week, we had the flu so we had to stay in on Friday. It was the first day I ever had to stay in because of sickness which meant I couldn't fulfill the dream of being the Cal Ripken Jr. on my mission. But now we are fully recovered.
I'm excited to watch General Conference and to listen to the talks and references to the resurrection of Christ. I'm grateful for the hope that the resurrection gives us. Because of that we do not have to worry or fear if death will last forever. I like the way it is worded in Alma 22:14; "the sting of death is swallowed up in the hopes of glory."
I hope you have a great week!
Elder Cooper
P.S. There is no "big news" as the subject line states. I was going to pull an April Fools joke on you and tell you that I decided to extend my mission. ;)

Monday, March 14, 2016

These Days Are Fast

Hey family,
It's crazy how fast time has flown by. Elder Beuhler and I  joked around earlier this morning that it seems like only two hours ago that we emailed our families so it's hard to remember sometimes what we need to write about.
I've really appreciated the emails you've sent in the past little while about families and family history. This story I'm about to share needs to be given some context to get the full gist of it but it here it goes.
Every transfer the district and zone leaders gather together for a quick hour to plan out things like exchanges and p-days. But also we discuss what we can do to help the zone grow. It's very similar to a branch council or other council in the church, it's pretty cool. We were talking about how we could be more "full-purpose" missionaries and we were talking about how it would be cool to share the spiritual experiences we had about having our prayers answered. The reason why we chose this as our goal was because we didn't want to focus on a number as in "so many member referrals" or whatever but we wanted to allow every companionship to seek after the thing their area needed the most and to pray and even fast for it and then when we went into district meetings we could report those spiritual experiences and be uplifted by all the experiences everyone had. One of the things we mentioned is that often times we ask the Lord for a specific blessing and then forget to look for it later, never realizing that the Lord answered our prayers. It reminded me of my time in Paramaribo North. It was a real struggle to try and find people in that area. It was even more of a struggle to find families and I had a very strong desire to find a family to bring into the church. I must have asked for that in prayer for two whole transfers. After awhile we found "E" and I always figured that was what I was supposed to do in that area and kinda stopped praying to find a family.
Now, after two transfers in Commewijne I realized that the Lord has answered my prayer in his way. We are teaching more part-member families than I have ever taught in my mission. In that way the Lord has answered that prayer of finding a family.
My testimony has definitely been strengthened of how the gospel blesses families since having come on my mission. It has become very clear over the past year and a half that Satan attacks the family on as many fronts as he can. He will do everything he can to have a broken up family keep someone from accepting the fulness of the gospel. There are many people who've told us we can't come anymore because their parents don't want them to accept visits from us, or the spouse does not agree with the religion and so we can't come anymore. That being said, there are many that I've seen accept the gospel, together as a family. Sometimes it was through efforts in my area and other times through efforts by other missionaries. I've come to realize that when it comes to missionary work, everyone takes a part and every part is necessary. No one did the work "all by themselves." Usually, someone sews the seed, another finds the sprout, and yet another cultivates it into the tree.
I'm really excited for this transfer because I'm going to keep track of what I ask for in prayers and then write down when or how that prayer is answered in my journal. I'm hoping it'll really open my eyes to just how much the Lord gives his tender mercies and just how much he answers our prayers.
A lot of cool things happened this week, one of our investigators asked to be baptized during gospel principles, another couple of investigators agreed to have their spouse sit in the upcoming lesson, and we met the wife of one our less-actives. I wish I could go into more detail about that, but I wanted to share that spiritual experience. I'll talk about the investigators a little more next week, because they should be able to just sky-rocket in their progress.
Love you guys!
Have a good week!
Elder Cooper

Transfer Call

(This email was from March 7th, 2016)

Hey family. So apparently it was a big deal to know where I was going to go for this next transfer. So I will start with that news, I will be staying in the Commewijne area for another 6 weeks! Me and Elder Buehler were discussing it the week leading up to the transfer call and we both agreed that there is just too much left undone to take either one of us out. We have several people on a baptismal date for the middle of April and we both want to see those people through. Me and Elder Buehler are excited to stay together this transfer. We enjoy working with each other and we are excited to see how much more Commewijne can grow in the coming month and a half.
I will still be the district leader which I'm excited for. I like being the district leader, it's a good time.
I have definitely gained a stronger testimony of visual aids in the past two weeks. For the most part we used things like the Resto video for those investigators whose understanding is a little slower, but this week we saw it really help an investigator of ours named "M", who is actually really quick at understanding. He was supposed to come to church last week but then his work called him in and asked if he could work for the next two weeks. When we sat down with him it was a little difficult at first because he had some questions about different church policies, which are not bad questions but a thought that kept coming to my mind was how the only question that really needs to be settled is if Joseph Smith is a prophet and if the Book of Mormon is true. After sharing the Resto video the Spirit helped him to come to that same conclusion and that he needed to start making it a priority to pray and read daily. He came to that conclusion all on his own which was super cool. Seeing the video really helped him to see how much of a priority Joseph Smith made it to find his answer and how he could go about doing the same thing.
Last week we found someone that is super prepared! Her name is "Z". She is probably in her 30's and lives alone, but when we first met her she said that she was not currently going to a church since none of them would baptize her! We explained that we could do that but that we would want to explain what needs to happen. She came to church for the first time last week and this past Sunday was her second time. She likes it and expressed her desire to stay in this church which was super cool. During the lessons she always says how the other churches don't teach her these things, for her it's kind of a testimony builder that this is where she needs to be. She agreed to be baptized on the 16th of April so we are excited.
I've definitely gained a testimony in the past two transfers of how much this gospel benefits families. In my last area it was really hard to meet with families since most people either lived alone,were retired or not everybody in the family was interested, which made things really difficult in helping people come closer to Christ since they did not always have family support. In Commewijne we have had several families all together start investigating which is super cool. I'm excited to see the progress they all make.
Hope you have a great week!
Love you!
Elder Cooper

Monday, February 15, 2016

Family Bonds Mean Everything

Hey family! Sometimes I hear about how cold it is over there and get a little jealous because it is so humid and hot here. But then someone mentioned inversion in their emails and I realized that the real reason why the  cold is so bad there is because of inversion which will probably kill me when I get home.
This week was awesome. The highlight was definitely sacrament meeting. We had several investigators show up. One of them was someone that the members brought along and introduced us to so that was cool. We are excited to follow up with her.
So I'm pretty sure I've mentioned  "M" in previous emails but he has definitely made the most progress out of all the investigators since we have come into Commewijne. We had committed him early in the week to pray and ask the specific question of if  the Book of Mormon is true and on Saturday he had not done that. So we took the lesson to just talk about that. We had a return missionary member come with us and it was clear from the thoughts he shared that he had served a mission and had retained a lot of it. We talked with "M" about Moroni 10:3-5 and helped him to understand what the Lord's requirements are for an answer. The reason why we did this is because he said that he felt like he would need to finish the Book of Mormon before he could ask that question, also he felt like he needed to learn more before he could know. What was cool to see is how the Spirit just worked on him. He went from feeling like he could not ask that question specifically to that was the only thing he should be asking. The Spirit definitely helped him to realize that all other questions would fall into their place once he knew that about the Book of Mormon. At the end of the lesson he said he would pray on his knees and ask the specific question and listen closely for the answer. We are seeing him again on Wednesday so that'll be exciting to hear how it went. The Spirit was so strong.
One thing that has been kind of sad to see in the area is that several of our investigators have asked us to stop coming because of some conflicts between family members having different beliefs and feeling that it is not necessary for them to even investigate. It's really sad because it's clear to see that the adversary tries all kind of avenues to get someone from receiving the restored gospel. It has just been a big testimony builder  for me of how important it is to develop the kind of family relationship where righteous desires are supported. The family is definitely ordained of God. Seeing  how sad someone's life is made when their family relationship is less than favorable has shown to me how important it is to maintain family bonds. I don't know if that makes sense, but basically Satan is attacking  families and it is sad to see.
That's all the time I have, hope you all  have a great week!
elder Cooper

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Morpho Butterfly

Hey family! So, in Suriname how it works is... the Chinese people basically run the show. All major grocery stores, auto and bike repair shops, multiple cybers and such are run and owned by Chinese people. Everything was closed on Monday for the Chinese New Year. So that's why I didn't email yesterday.
Please tell Joey I said congrats, that's awesome that he got baptized this weekend. I forgot that chapel was the chapel I was baptized in. I remember very little. Mostly how confused I was as a kid when everyone would bear their testimony and say how they knew that this is the only true church. For me, I understood that to mean that that church building was the only true church. Not completely knowing that they meant the organization as a whole and not the individual building. Haha good times. What I do remember though is how I felt on my baptism day. I know I have a journal that has a small page in very big letters that talks about how I felt.
This week was an awesome week! We had zone conference and it was amazing. President Egbert talked about the Atonement and narrowed it down into seven main points:
1. Forgiveness of sins
2. Ressurrected bodies
3. Justice satisfied
4. Resist Satan
5. Strength in trials
6. Power to change
7. Heals infirmities
All of these seem very simple and they are, but there are so many places in the scriptures that talk about what Christ has to go through in order to make these things possible, how we access it, all that fun stuff. He challenged us to find the scriptures we knew about  the Atonement and to put them into one of these seven categories.
A favorite example of mine that was shared in zone conference was the example of what is known as the Morpho butterfly. I wish I had a picture to show you about it, but basically it is an amazing example of God's creation. It is fairly large and is just this amazing bright blue. President Egbert used that example to symbolize the power the Atonement has to change us. We go from caterpillars to butterflies thanks to the Atonement it was a cool way of visualizing that for me.
I really loved a talk that a return missionary gave for district conference since that was also this past weekend. He talked about how the Book of Mormon gave him confidence as a missionary to answer people's questions and teaching. He talked about how he could go into a lesson and know that he would get to teach with Nephi or Moroni, or Lehi because he was using their words. Then, whenever the investigator had a question he couldn't directly answer he would jokingly think to  himself "Alright Nephi do you want to help me  out here? I think you've got this." Pretty funny plus I liked the visual.
I'm running out of time so I'll have to stop for right now. But I realized that of all the things I can say I've learned the most about on my mission, I have learned so much about the Atonement. I am so grateful  for that. I would not trade it for  anything. Obviously I still have a lot to learn about it and the rest of the gospel, but that realization came to me as I sat in zone conference this last Friday.
I love you all! Hope you have a great week!
Elder Cole Cooper