|Elder Bishop and Cooper|
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Ok I'm here now :)
Yeah, we basically had no P-day yesterday haha so I'm exhausted (but what else is new) but I very least I get to write you guys :). It's basically been like that all week.
First we had transfers on Wednesday (nobody is training here, but usually you just leave it to the trainer to train them except for exchanges) which was crazy, but less crazy than I expected. Imagine trying to get between 50-80 missionaries all in one station with all their luggage and bikes and then getting them all on the right trains at the right times and on time, it's fun. This time around we only lost one companionship :) they showed up eventually but we literally had no idea where they were for a time and neither of them had the phone. Super funny :).
Oh yeah, and with transfers Elder Lundberg is now in the zone so that will be really cool to work with one of my "sons" again. He'll do great and will be really good for the Den Helder Elders so everything will go good.
Then with transfers behind us we started into crazy week where we plan the zone vision, the district leader council and visit the entire zone. That went really well :) This transfer we're going to be doing "Teach as Christ Taught" and we will be focusing on improving our teaching skills so that no one will be able to disbelieve the things we say (3 Nephi 7: 17-18). They can deny it and reject it sure, but we want to make sure that they at least know it's true before they turn it down.
We're hoping this one goes as good as last transfers. To finish up the whole idea of "Do What You Do With Jesus Christ" we made them all buttons. They are SO COOL! We had them all come up with a title and we put their title on the button so they could always remember who they are, why they are here and that the Lord truly needs them here. Don't know how we'll trump that...but we'll play it by ear :).
Oh yeah! On Thursday we had an awesome lesson with an investigator. Usually we just read out of the Book of Revelations with him (horrible idea, trust me. But hey I didn't start it) but this time we came by and he had his triple combination open! So obviously we jumped on that and the conversation lead us to D&C. We shared a few of our favorite passages from there (mainly in Section 8) and the Spirit was able to come in very strongly. At the end he asked us a question that every missionary longs to hear: "Could you give me a chapter in the Book of Mormon that talks about how I can become a better person and also what God expects of me." ...... YES!
We were so in awe of that question it humbled us SO much. We gave him 3 Nephi 27 and Mosiah 18 and then had to leave. We went up to the top of the "death garage" where our car was parked and just offered a prayer of gratitude that we were able to be part of such a miraculous moment. To top it all off we were looking out over the night time city lights of Alkmaar while listening to "I Know That My Redeemer Lives". It was a really special moment I hope I don't easily forget. This Thursday we're planning on challenging him to baptism. :)
Kinda like you said in this last letter mom, never under-appreciate what we have. It's SO true! We have all been given SO much! The priesthood is again on the earth! We have the chance to partake of the Sacrament EVERY WEEK! Heavenly Father's Plan is perfect and everything happens as it needs to! We can be with our families FOREVER! What else is there? Course all those things can only come if we first gain a testimony and then become converted to the gospel. For once we are truly converted we don't just hope for these things, but we know they are real and can find strength in them.
So this week let's all try and find something we take for granted and pray to have a greater appreciation for it :). That will definitely make life a little brighter yeah? :)
I love you all a TON! Thank you so much for your love, support and for raising me right. Out here it just seems I get to see all the time how difficult parenting is and I'm extremely grateful you brought me up the way you did. Thank you :).
Hope you have a less busy but still awesome week!
Culture Note: There are basically NO stop signs here. I have literally seen two this entire time. Sure they have street lights but for the actual signs there are none. Everything is yield signs or nothing. And did I mention the streets are tiny? I have a feeling I'm going to be a really good driver when I get back because seriously, if you can figure out how to drive here, you'll be just fine in Utah :). Plus the drivers here are A LOT nicer and actually let people in. They don't speed up when you put your blinker on, ride people's tails so others can't get in, etc. It's fantastic :)
Monday, February 24, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
FEBRUARY 3, 2014
Tired....but still moving. I swear it gets harder and harder to wake up every morning haha :)! So we have a really good reason for it this week too- we went on exchanges Wednesday-Friday. Doesn't sound like a lot, but I was only in Alkmaar/Heiloo for one of those days. The other two were in Zaandam and Amsterdam. All three days were focused on helping and uplifting. LOTS of walking, lots of spiritual moments and energy and definitely worth it. But when me and Elder Bishop got back together on Saturday we were just spent. We are giving everything for this zone and the Lord is sustaining us in this process. How do I know? I'd be dead without Him. I still feel like I'm dying with Him :) but He ALWAYS gives me energy and strength right when I need it. Hard to explain but it happens, kind of just how it works.
Got the best compliment EVER on Friday from Elder L. He told me that he admired how I was able to choose to be positive. He recognized that I understood and saw how much evil and sadness there is in the world but instead of letting it drag me down I chose/choose to be happy. I appreciated that SO much! Many have thought of it as ignorance or called it other unflattering things, but I truly feel I have been blessed from Heavenly Father with this perspective. It's one of my most prized gifts from him :).
I personally drive every other day. We switch off between carrying the Phone and driving Corsa (our beautiful Opal Corsa that can go from 0 to 15 in 3 seconds!) so I drive a lot actually.
Early Culture Note: Although we don't drive on the other side of the road here in Nederland, driving is a whole nother game. Humans have the right away...bikers have the right away...but auto wins in collision (physically not legally) so it's super scary sometimes. You have to constantly on the look out for fietsers and pedestrians because they'll just go into the crosswalk without looking cause they have right away. Hey, at least they use the cross walk :) I hear it's worse other places. But seriously the fietsers (bikers) are everywhere! Everyone rides a bike here. Usually a bike and train combo but there are still plenty of autos on the road.
Alkmaar is a small branch of 45 or 50 active members, over half above 40. Makes it really difficult to do this whole Digital Age thing since a lot of them don't know how to use computers but ah well, we'll work with the four JoVos (YSAs) for now. However there is this sweet amazing 82 year old man that should be an example to us all. 82 and 100% against Facebook and any other like things. Enter the Priesthood Meeting. They talk about the digital hastening of the work and ask every member to have a profile. This man goes home, finds a computer and makes a profile before even telling his wife! We're pretty sure he has no idea what he's doing on there but the faith, obedience and faithfulness of this man is inspiring!
His son is also super great. They have us over to eat on Sundays a lot and we have a really good relationship with their family. Usually it is just with R, the son, but last night the daughter was there as well. She's inactive, only one in the entire family. She finally ate dinner with us last night and we were able to really get her to open up. Thanks to the bumbling nature of me and Elder S (Elder P elder in training) we were able to endear ourselves and find a common link. Right
before I left she asked which one of us liked Batman (she had seen it on my shoulder bag). I was in the closet at the time but as soon as I heard that I stumbled out, mouth opened wide and asked "Do you like Batman?" She said she loved the movies and she even knew who Harley Quinn was! (See even half of you don't know who that is!!!). Turns out she's super into films and stuff so I'm stoked to talk with her next Sunday when we have Gourmet :).
Oh tell Grandma I'm receiving her letters :) they are still just as wonderful, I love my new PJs and wear them every night and am SO sorry I can't write them more :/. They are however in my prayers and I think about them a lot. Tell them how much I love them. I can't even express it with words. I have just been blessed with SO many good examples who have loved me SO much and I loved THEM so much in return! Grandparents Cooper, Green, Cousins, mom and dad, brothers, friends, I am so blessed. I don't know why the Lord saw fit to bless me so much, but you all better make certain that I live out my days attempting to repay Him for all His tender mercies upon me and us all actually.
I love you all! Sorry there wasn't too much spiritual stuff in this one...lots has happened. I'll say this though, God lives. I know it more surely than anything else in this world. I see it in you guys, I feel it in my soul and everything keeps coming back to it. He is real. He loves us, cares for us and watches over us; you just need to learn where to look. Christ lives. He suffered and died for us so we can be clean and have the chance to enter the Celestial Kingdom. Thanks to his resurrection we all have the chance to do that together, as a family. The Holy Ghost is real. I feel him every day. He comforts me when faint, strengthens me when weak and always leads me back to Christ and my Father in Heaven.
I am so grateful for the temple and the covenants I have made. They are such a source of strength to me in my life. Because of them I don't have to be afraid, if we do what we need to we will be taken care of for Heavenly Father cannot lie. I am SO grateful for this gospel and for the hands of those who restored it, namely Joseph Smith. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon and it's divine nature. Without it I would be blown to and fro across the plains of religion, being easily persuaded by the crafty words of men. But thanks to that book my heart and soul are anchored in Christ, the real Christ. They are anchored in the truth and in the love of God and they can provide the same to anyone who is willing to try and willing to accept it as the word of God. Don't get me wrong I love the Bible, but the Bible isn't a testament of the Restoration, the Book of Mormon is. That's one of the reasons we need it so badly :).
Thank you for all your support and love! :) I truly feel it every day along with your thoughts and prayers. I love you all SO MUCH!!! Thank you for everything!
Elder Cooper "Batman" (don't you just love how my love for Batman keeps helping me make relationships here? Cause I sure do!)
P.S. On exchanges out here I met two famous people you will not know! One was an artist for the really popular Donald Duck comics here and the other was a violist for the London Symphony who played in things like Stars Wars and Shrek!!! Was pretty cool :)
JANUARY 20, 2014
You never know what you have until it's gone eh? Time and Missionary Work, those things are SO valuable, I just never got it before, but now I do. The Leadership Conference thing (AKA Jedi Council :D they seriously call it that!) was like you said every emotion rolled into one. Exciting, uplifting, nerve racking, funny, never boring though, everything. It really made the click for me too. These are elders I've seen as leaders for a LONG time. So to be amongst them talking and counseling with President switched something inside. First: We are SO YOUNG! We're super glad the Lord has everything already planned cause we're just a couple of Zone Leader Greenies here trying to make things work, and it's SO FUN! But more on that later.
Second: This is a whole new ball game. We miss the old missionary work a lot! We had a moment yesterday where we were just SO down because we couldn't go out and contact people. We had to be inside planning and arranging things . We miss the good old days where we'd go out and find, get a potential investigator, teach them and try to help them. You just can't do that as much on this level. Our zone members are now our investigators, our exchanges are our missionary work. It just takes a little getting used to is all. Looking back it's what I’ve been prepared for, but I switched gears in Sint-Niklaas and now I got to switch back. The Lord will help though and it'll all turn out great.
Boy do I wish you could all see me now! I don't even remember how I used to be :) I just read the paragraph about laughing through hard things and thought "Of course :) doing it any other way is dumb" (No offense PLEASE!) Let me explain. Me and Elder Bishop laugh at EVERYTHING now. Running on 10 Kilometers of gas, in the middle of nowhere, with other elders in the car and an appointment we were late to- we couldn't stop laughing. Thought it was the funniest thing ever and we just kept making fun of it all. I feel really different :)
Remember the Color Code Test? Red, Blue, White and Yellow? Well if you remember correctly I was and have always been a solid Blue-White with one or two in Red and Yellow with Blue being dominant. Because we are giving this test in our Zone Training tomorrow (AH! :P) I had the chance to take it again. The result? Dominant White with lots of Yellow and Red and Blue on the same level. Weird huh? Don't worry, I'm still me. I've just been really refined out here I guess. I love it :) if it's who the Lord wants me to be than so be it; I approve (not that He needs my approval but still).
Then there's time. This week has been the fastest week of my mission. We are so busy all the time and we still can't get everything we wanted to done. Journal has been taking a big hit, but I figured out a solution so no biggie. This will be the rest of our missions. Excluding an unexpected change we will be Zone Leaders probably the rest of our mission. This busyness and exhaustion is probably what is in store for me this year. And there's not much of it left. Two Years seems like so much but One Year is never enough. There's only 8 transfers left, how did that happen and how did I miss the memo? Time just flies by in the blink of an eye and there's nothing we can do to stop it. How grateful I am that we have an eternity to work at it! One life time is not nearly enough.
Guess I'm at that annoying stage that I hated as a younger missionary- "Two years go by SO fast, I can't believe I'm here" phase. Sorry James :/ and every missionary who reads this, but try not to be mad- use it as something to strive for, something to aim at, at light at the end of your tunnel. Just make it one year trying your very best to be the best missionary you can be and always trying to improve and receive correction and you'll see. You'll be saying this too.
Glad you liked the package :) I've got another one coming eventually. Gotta get rid of some things. I've got a year left and no more room in my suitcases! Awful, so awful. And I feel guilty throwing anything away cause I know there are people who could and want to use it, I just don't know how to get it to them or who they are! Hate being a pack rat haha :)
Life continues to be great over here and the Lord's blessings abound. I'm so grateful for all of you and for your support and your love. Thanks for being the best family ever and for raising me how you did (brothers- for being my best friends!) it really has made such a difference in all of our lives and I never realized it until I came out here. And now I'll never forget it. Love you all and hope that life continues to move forward. Never waste a second! Never hesitate! Just do those things that you want/need and stay close to the Lord. Then if those two go together life becomes amazing and you can never fail.
Elder Jonathon Cooper
Cultural Note: Mondays. They day of P-Day, the Day of Rest. And the day everything is closed! It's so frustrating to do things like get a haircut and shop because here in Europe shops either are closed on Monday or don't open till around 1 in the afternoon! So sometimes you have to do things on other days, but you make it work. No idea why it's like this, just is.
Just in case I already did that cultural note- here in Europe they don't often buy cigarettes like the Camel brand and pre-made cigarettes; they make their own. They have tabacco in a little pouch and some sticky paper. They take some Tobacco, roll it up in this paper, lick it like an envelope and it sticks together. Lasts aproximately 5 or 6 smokes and is apparently healthier, just kind of interesting fact is all.
P.S. Remember how I speak Dutch? What?!?! Still trips me out, even though I have terrible Dutch haha it's more like Neder-Engels (Dutch-English).
JANUARY 13, 2014
I am SO tired...! haha :) in a good way.
Ok I've only been Zone Leader for a week, but it's crazy! I'm super grateful for the last three transfers though because they taught me how to be a good inside worker. Thus far that's basically all we've done! :)
Zone Leader is a different type of beast, namely LOTS of planning. We have to come up with things like exchanges with the whole zone, zone visions, zone numbers, it's everything about a district leader, but on a bigger scale and more difficult. But we're getting through :).
I'm glad Elder Bishop at least has 6 weeks of experience as Zone Leader before we came together, otherwise we'd be completely hopeless! :) We are the youngest Zone Leader Companionship out there, we are SO inexperienced it's awesome! What I love about Elder Bishop is how he laughs like me when we're stressed. Sure does make things a lot better when every time something goes wrong you can laugh at it instead of stress out. Quite honestly stress doesn't help anything, it just hurts. Super pointless if it's not motivating if you ask me.
I will say this though- never laughed so much in my entire mission :D! On the flip side remember what our laughing means :)? Let me just tell you about something that have already happened. First day- we get to Alkmaar and we're taking our suitcases through a gate you have to scan to get through. Well once you scan you have a few seconds before it closes again...I forgot this...but then I remember. SO I tried to run through super fast, thus naturally head first. Yeah...the gate shut...got me right in the head in front of the whole station :) we laughed for like a straight minute.
Oh yeah and did I mention we have to give a four hour zone training on Tuesday? And that neither of us have ever given one before? Oh and that our apartment is being fixed so we have to drive 40 minutes to Hoorn every night to sleep? Oh and today we had District Leader Counsel and on Firday Jedi Council? Oh yeah and exchanges start Wednesday? And yes we do still have investigators.
I reiterate: I am SO tired...! :)
But all is well. The Zone Vision for the next six weeks is "Do What You Do With Jesus Christ". It's all about figuring out who you are and what type of missionary the Lord has called you to be. Also applies to what kind of person you are and who you were before and who the Lord needs and wants you to be after. The second part is all about finding out the will of the Lord, doing what He wants you to do first, above all other things. The goal is then to bring the two together into one unstoppable force for good. We can both testify that it is the missionaries and the people who understand these three points are the ones who are the most happiest and excel the most :) because quite honestly if you're doing the will of the Lord then literally everything you do succeeds and you CAN NOT fail. Best lesson I ever learned out here.
To do this we have everyone try and apply the Christlike attribute of the week that they've been learning about as the whole mission tries to read the Book of Mormon in 90 days. First week is Hope and we're asking everyone to focus on a specific area of success in their work or life that they can record, focus on and succeed in. We hope that this success that they see will give them hope to work even harder and continue on.
But I digress, Sint-Niklaas was hard to leave but this place is amazing and it was time to go. By the end I had received the conformation that I had done everything I had come there to do. I even feel it now as I type. I can't tell you how amazing that feels, to be able to walk away from a place knowing you did everything Heavenly Father had sent you there to do. I feel fulfilled and at peace there. I did my part and it's time to move on to the Lord's next assignment.
SO excited everyone is doing ok :) Dad got the job! WAHOO! Was praying for that. I hope he's still loving it and that it continues to be a great thing for him.
There's the other bummer part, I now officially have to pay for internet, thus my e-mail time is going to be trimmed down a bit...probably to the appropriate time, but still :(. Know that I still love you all and that I live breath and die for you and your support :). Thank you for being my family and for raising me how you did.
I learned recently how much different my life would be with merely two different changes- location and parents. I could be the same kid, but I would be SO much more messed up without you two, without my brothers, and without Utah (ah that blessed state! I miss it SO much!). Thank you SO much for providing everything I needed to grow the way I did. I am eternally grateful :).
LOVE YOU!! Keep fighting the good fight! Even though we lose in almost every other sense at times, we win in the points that matter and in the end good will triumph :).
Elder the Jonathon Batman Cooper
JANUARY 6, 2014
Gelukkig Nieuwe Jaar iedereen!!!
And what a crazy new year it's going to be! I just keep seeing all the crazy things that are going to happen this year and it blows my mind. But I am SO STOKED for it! I'm glad that our relationships won't change, but I've really come to hope that we all as people change. I mean that only means we're learning, growing and becoming better so why not?
It's like when Trav got back from his mission. I was so worried he was going to be different, that he had changed. Turns out he had, but it was a great one! The Travis that came back from his mission was two times as good as the one that left! And I hope it's the same when we all get back together. I hope that we've all changed enough for the better, that way our reunion can be twice as good as we always imagined it :).
Change. Now there's a tricky topic. It's kinda the theme of this letter. Yes indeed mother you are correct it is that time of year again, transfers! And indeed we have been split up and thus yes, I am leaving Sint-Niklaas. Hence, you will be receiving a package shortly containing more movies and books that I can watch and read in Dutch :)
Now this is a pretty heavy transfer. It's been harder than a lot of them, mainly because the people I got close to I got REALLY close to. I'll miss it all. It is the perfect timing for it though. I feel like my task here has been fulfilled, that I have done everything I was sent here to do. That's an amazing feeling let me tell you :) sure there are things I would have loved to see happen here but Elder Denny's got it.
As for me, I'm headed back up to Netherlands! I city called Alkmaar and you'll never guess who my new companion is. Go on guess! Guuueeessss! It's TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAWR! Ok sorry had to quote it haha :). My new companion is Elder Bishop! Wahoo! Reunited at last! :) We're both super excited to serve together but I'm a wreck with nerves.
(Elder Cooper and Elder Bishop in the MTC together)
See what you don't know is that Elder Bishop was the youngest District Leader out there for a little while, got called on his 6th transfer to be District Leader. I followed with Elder Kemp on our 7th. Last transfer Elder Bishop was called to be a Zone Leader over the Zone Amsterdam and where does he live for that? Alkmaar. He's still there, still a Zone Leader, which means as you probably have now guessed, I got called as a Zone Leader...
I'm terrified! Granted, it's going to be epic, we're going to have so much fun just winging it together and I'm stoked to be with him again but there's SO much that comes with this call! Ok most of it I can handle with the Lord's help, I am just terrified to drive!!! I hate driving!!! And I have to have a car now!!! It's the worst :/. Used to think it'd be nice to have one but now I have to worry about gas, tiny lanes, crazy drivers (at least I'm not in Belgium...) and my worst enemy...parallel parking! Oh boy, I'm gonna need some prayers for that one...
Basically for Zone Leaders here this call is a big change. A lot of the Zone Leaders tell you "Yeah, MY mission is now over. My mission is now all about you missionaries." and they have a point. Yes there are people in Alkmaar who need me and I can't wait to be lead to them, but on the other side of things I'll be on exchanges three times a week, planning whole transfers, reporting on all the missionaries, planning Zone Trainings, getting trained myself, etc. It's a whole other kind of missionary work and looking back, the Lord has been preparing me for it.
That's really the type of work I've had to do in Sint-Niklaas on very small and different scale, so the adjustment will be a bit easier and I'll be able to, with Heavenly Father's help, step into it quicker. I am so nervous, but excited =) so I'll probably sing a song called nervous but excited (just dropped another quote :) ). A whole new adventure is about to begin, for the both of us.
We're walking right up there to the edge of the light now. No idea what's ahead of us, all I know is the Lord will put solid ground underneath my feet and everything will be ok.
This week we had this weird experience with a man who believed very strongly in the Bible. We had a lesson with him and he Bible Bashed us a bit...we tried to testify and teach but it just wasn't really working. For some reason I just felt like we should keep pushing to see what he believed in and why. So I learned a lot about the Protestant churches.
It seemed like a random isolated incident until Sunday. A member of the church (Young Adult) said that she had set us up an appointment with her friend who she had given a Book of Mormon too! Obviously we're stoked at this point. Never had that happen to me. So we go to the appointment and what do we find out? He's Protestant. Every concern we found out the day before we were able to address it the correct way on Sunday. Best first lesson I've ever been a part of! Spirit was strong, me and Elder D had unity, he had questions and he legitimately wants to know the truth. It was so amazing and I am SO grateful for the preparation the Lord gives us for the tasks we are meant to fulfill.
Life moves forward :) Life is looking up. The Lord is preparing each and every one of us for what He needs us to do, all we need to do is be open for the instruction :).
Thank you all for your love and support. Couldn't ask for a better family or support system :) LOVE YOU ALL!!!
Elder Jonathon Cooper