"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, October 27, 2014

1st Week in Suriname

Hey everyone! I made it to Suriname! I'm here safe, and everything went well traveling here. First things first. I feel really bad because this week was hectic and I came into the internet cafe and realized I had taken no pictures! I feel really bad. But I promise there will be like 10 next week. I want you to see my apartment, companion, and a couple of the people that I met that are really cool.
To start out, I'll talk about my companion. Elder Beckstrand is from North Ogden Utah and has been out in the mission field for 1 1/2 years. He served in Alabama the first bit of his mission, and then got his visa. He is cool. He's soft spoken and he is really patient with people. He sees the good and even though people have a hard time making it to church he is patient, still loves them, and can see what they can become.
The apartment is nice. Since the humidity gets bad they don't have carpet. So it's all tile. Every apartment has a filter so even if the water wasn't filtered it would be fine. Elder Beckstrand has used an unfiltered faucet to brush his teeth and has never been sick from it. Apparently most of the water in Suriname is fine. Our apartment also has air conditioning which is really nice when we get home at the end of the day.
I like the area and the branch. It's different here. The people live in really humble circumstances. Almost half of the people we visit live in wood shacks that don't take up a lot of space. They are really nice people though for the most part. There is one recent convert named B- who only speaks the local language called Sranan Tongo and French. It's tough teaching him because Sranan is a basic language so words like Agency don't exist. He has a French book of Mormon and he reads and highlights what he likes. He can only read so much and so fast in French or Dutch though. I can only imagine how tough it is for him in church. The meetings are in Dutch and so he can only can get so much out of it. It would be an easy excuse for him not to come but he comes anyway. In Gospel Principles he read quietly aloud to me from the Dutch copy of the Book of Mormon. It was really cool to see. I'll get a picture with him this week so you can see. He is really awesome.
We have focused a lot this last week on less actives and recent converts. On average they have about 65 people come to church and you need a 100 to have a building made. Right now they just rent out a building. My first Sacrament meeting was a Primary Program. All the kids were dressed in lime green and shared their testimonies and small talks. It was cool. The members are nice and I'm excited to meet more of them and to get to know them better.
As for the language I have a hard time understanding the people. They speak with a "wa" the same way we pronounce the letter, but it's tough because all I had heard in the MTC was pronounced with a "v" they also speak really fast! Especially the younger people. We visited one member who had two girls there that were like 17 or 18 years old. I'm not sure how they are all related, but the younger ones were saying all kinds of stuff about how dangerous the neighborhood was. It was basically a lot of rumors and nonsense. They asked for a Book of Mormon so we handed them out but we are not sure if they will begin to be progressing investigators.
As for the food, it's ok. It usually has curry in it, and most of the dishes here have chicken in them. It tastes fine but I know I won't want to have a lot more of it come a year from now. They have their own soda company which is pretty good. It's different a little bit from soda we have in America but the stuff in Suriname is still good. Fruit comes and goes out of season, which is crazy to think about. In America we always have access to whatever fruit we want, or vegetable. Here you have to wait until they come into season. What I will say is that we take a lot of things for granted. Just our home and the access to a variety of foods in general.
The music here is terrible too by the way. I swear it's the same music in the background just different words. I hate to say it, but one of the first things I will do when I get home is listen to good music. What was fun is when we went to an investigators home and someone had I'll Be There For You by Bon Jovi playing from a speaker. It was a nice change from the music here.
The climate here is hot. They say that this is also the hottest time of the year and that this year in particular is one of the hottest years in a long time. Just in time for me to make it.
Well I've got to run but I will see you all next week! With pics!
Elder Cooper

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Finished with the MTC!!

Me and Brother Norton

An Elder who went to Sweden

My weekly submission to Nat Geo

Hey guys!! I just wanted to thank everybody that sent me a letter or package while I was here. It means a lot and it confirmed to me what I already knew and that is that I'm loved.
So everyone wants to know if me and my district got our visas and I think we are good to go. All of us got our individual flight plans and it shows us landing in Trinidad. I guess they tell you by where your travel plan says you're going. Needless to say we are all super excited.  
As far as contacting you guys, the rules they gave us are that parents can't meet their missionary at the airport. What we can do though is use some calling cards (like the ones you gave me Mom) and call during our layovers. I don't know how it works and I don't how long we will have to go through security and customs but I will do my best to send out a quick call to you as often as I can. 
I know they will need to see my collar bone Mom, I'm ready for it. I also have all the important documents in the same place, as well as my passport. It'll be good. We're in a group of 17 so we'll have each other's backs. I guess there are 12 others going to the West Indies at the same time. I'm honestly so ready to go. The food here is just not doing it for any of us any more. We also could use a bit of a change in routine. 
So just yesterday was our last lesson with one of our teachers. He and his family are going on a vacation so he is leaving tomorrow. We have had some amazing spiritual experiences with him. We joke that he will be a prophet some day. His name is Brother Norton. I'll include a picture. 
So on Monday he went into a two hour long spiritual thought that answered some of our doctrinal questions. It was sweet. He is really good with scripture references. Rather than just simply telling you, he took us to different scriptures from Old Testament, New, B.O.M D&C and Pearl of Great Price as well as teachings from the prophet Joseph Smith, and a quote by Kimball, to back up his answers. I'll summarize it down to the good parts. 
One of the things that we learned was that Jesus Christ attained Godhood before coming to the earth. A really interesting concept considering we have to come here and be tested before we can reach Godhood. Of course Jesus Christ was unique and had a different calling then us but Brother Norton shared a scripture from D&C 138:56 which reads "Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men." So part of our agency might have included receiving these lessons. Almost like going to church every Sunday. 
The other thing that was interesting to learn was that we showed our faith in the pre-mortal life. The scripture Brother Norton referenced was Alma 13:3 "And this is the manner after which they were ordained-being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God," This means that God carefully watched us in the pre-mortal world and called us to different things according to that knowledge. "on account of their exceeding faith and good works." Sometimes I wonder why was I born in the Church. Why am I blessed to live in a good family while others are not? This scripture offers some explanation as to why. That doesn't make me better than anyone since unto whom much is given much is required. But what was significant from that verse for me was that somewhere deep in my soul is the disposition to do good works and to be faithful. Sometimes I doubt myself and I wonder how can I have more faith. I need to realize that I have been faithful and that I can be. I just need to walk up to it. It gave me strength and faith to realize that I can do this. And that I can do hard things, through the Lord. 
I really hope this makes sense and if it doesn't just tell me and I'll try to send a letter to clarify. 
I'm excited and ready to go! I hope you all have an amazing week. Everybody is "peacing" out so I'll have to say goodbye. I'll email again on Saturday!!
Elder Cooper

P.S The one with the selfie is an elder who went to Sweden and is really funny. And the third is the weekly submission to Nat Geo
P.S.S. As far as I know we won't have to worry too much about being out in the jungle. The areas don't go out very far is what Brother Norton told us. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Week 6 Begins

Hey you guys!! "Hoe gaat het?"
Some good news. Conference was a fun change of pace from the monotony of the MTC. (You can tell I'm ready to get out of here). My favorite talk was a toss up between three. Elder Holland, who apparently was a favorite among all of us for his emotion and power. Elder Uchtdorf's talk on receiving personal revelation and using the right tools the same way astronomers view the night sky. If I had to choose one that stuck out to me that wasn't as obvious was D. Todd Christofferson on Saturday. He talked about personal accountability and being accountable for our actions stuff. He talked about how many people will make excuses for not reaching their potential. Some will say they lived in a poor family and couldn't get any opportunities, things like that. He shared the story of the mom who made all her kids read books and then report back to me. I interpreted that talk to mean that I am accountable for the success of my mission. If my mission isn't successful it won't be because of "negligence" from my mission president, or because my companion did/didn't do something, or a tough investigator. Odds are they are doing there part. It's on me to study, learn, grow, and then teach. There were plenty of talks that I liked and I took notes for almost all of them. 

So I'm debating which story I want to tell you. I think I'll explain the pictures of us with the headbands and the mustaches. So you can probably tell from the picture we don't take ourselves too seriously and try to have fun. Before gym we put on the headbands and mustaches, took some pictures and went off to play four square. I had never played the game before I got into the MTC, especially since it's more of elementary school playground game. But we make it competitive and try to keep it fun. Thus the headbands and mustaches, the fort, the assault tie headbands, etc. 
The other picture with us three in front of the temple is just a funny one. The sun was right in our eyes as I'm sure you can tell, and we decided to go one two three and then we'd open our eyes, but the elder taking the picture snapped it pretty quick. I think the picture says the rest. 
The other one is a super close up of angel Moroni, it was what I was going for the first time. 

The MTC is great but I'm ready to leave. We get our flight plans this Saturday, which is usually a good indicator of if you got your visa or not. We'll see. It's just a couple more weeks. The last week, after this Sunday, will be spent learning a second language specific to our mission. It's called Suranan Tongo, which according to our teacher that served there, is a language we will use for street contacts and Dutch will be used for lessons. We only get one week because it's really similar to English and will probably come fast. It definitely sounds cool. 

Anyways I got long winded this time, but I hope you guys enjoyed it. Week 6 starts right now. The time to leave is almost here. 
Totsiens! Veel success!
Elder Cooper  

P.S. Funny story about the g's. When I went to the laundromat the wash ruined only two pairs of g's. Just the top and bottoms of two sets... I ordered some new ones from the book store so I'm going to get those today. But that is definitely a tender mercy it didn't get all of my garments. All that happened was just purple spots on them. Don't know where from.

P.S.S. Speaking of the language, one thing I forgot to mention in the big email was that we took a Dutch test! The teacher, Brother Norton had 9 written questions and 1 oral question that we had to translate. The sentences were tough, but I didn't do bad. Just learned what I needed to fix. If I had the same motivation to do better in school that's how I would want tests to be. Not failing you or getting a grade, but just to see where you are at, and let you know where you can improve.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Week #4

Hey guys!! Week 4 is in the books, which is unofficially a month through my mission. I can do 24 of these easy. Haha just kidding. I'll get some of the questions that were asked out of the way first. 
Are you feeling better?
1. I'm feeling a lot better, but it is still kinda lingering. We'll see what happens, but if it's not completely better by Friday that'll be two weeks which isn't good. It's not bad as of right now. Just an occasional cough and then every hour or so I have to blow my nose. We'll see.
What was your favorite part of the week?
2. So my favorite part of the week, or the most interesting part I should say, was Sunday night devotional. I'm pretty sure the guy that gave it had prepared next to nothing. We had a special musical number before he spoke. It was a two person piano accompaniment along with an 8 person choir, 4 brothers, 4 sisters. All of the people in the number are teachers at the MTC. They sang "Joseph's Prayer." So his talk started fine. He had people stand for different things. If they were going to the area he went to you'd stand, if you'd gotten a dear john or dear jane then you would stand, stuff like that. Well after this he asks the special musical number to take their places and sing the song again. He then made comments on the First Vision. He followed this pattern until they had sung the song three times! I've often wanted to hear the special musical number again, but I wouldn't dare ask, nor would I make them do it three times. It wasn't bad by any means he actually gave some good thoughts, but the fact that he made them sing three times screams not prepared.
What was the worst part of the week?
3. It's pretty tough to have a "worst part" of the week when the MTC is as routine as it is. The toughest part really is teaching our "investigator." We cannot simply share a lesson with him unless we make it clear what we want him to get out of it and what actions we want him to take. Otherwise he will just absorb information the same way you and I might do for a test. I feel like we made it clear that this is more than just knowledge but something that when you actually live by the principles it will lead to comfort and a knowledge that  everything will be ok because the Lord is on your side. I'm sure we will figure it out, something that we say will hit him, or when he acts on one of the challenges we issue he will feel it. For right now though it's difficult planning for him. 

Other than that there is not much more to report about. The language is coming and we can almost say anything in a round about way, or with poor grammar but I think our point gets across. I think the rest of our MTC experience will be trying to sound like adults instead of children. Maybe my last week of the MTC will be in Dutch and you guys will have to use google translate. We'll see. 

I will share a "geestelijk gedacht" with you guys though. (See if google gets that one) 
Brother Norton, who we swear will be a general authority one day, gave us an amazing lesson yesterday. He shared with us how to keep a study journal and the importance of one. He showed us a binder that was filled to the brim with things that he had written down, impressions he had had, or notes on a talk he enjoyed. It was well organized and in his words was "one of the best souvenirs I brought home from my mission." The point of it was that he could write something down and then he would be able to access it again should he want to. It made me think of ways that I could organize a study journal in a way that I could do the same, access revelation I had already received. It made me want to take personal study seriously, and how I could make notes in scriptures or in a journal and what ways would be the most effective. I would want to take a picture of him for you guys but they usually have us do that towards the end. So I don't have a picture of him, but you will see him I promise.
General Conference is this Saturday too, so that'll be cool to receive impressions and listen to talks that I can apply to myself, especially in an environment like the MTC. There are also some positives to not having to go to choir practice. The other three guys in our district that have had to go are sacrificing their gym time, which is rough. Gym time is really the only break to an otherwise restless day. 

Well that's all I got for you guys. I'll caption these pictures and hopefully it'll be good for you. I'll try to come up with other creative things. . Have an awesome week you guys!
Elder Cooper