Elder Jonathon Cameron Cooper was called to serve a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is serving in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission speaking Dutch.
This blog was set up after a year of him already in the field. Current letters will be posted, and some past experiences shared in the tabs below along with current ones.
Elder Cooper wants to share his experiences, and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his love for the people he is serving!
I can hardly keep track of what's
going on here! haha It's like we're flying around inside a whirlwind and I'm
trying to grab as much stuff as I can in the middle of it. Don't worry I catch
a lot, it's just from time to time a refrigerator slams into you... Not always
in a death kind of way but it sure does feel like that when I wake up in the
So worth it though. I'm learning SO
much! Unfortunately this week had to be a painful one, but hey I'm still
breathing and smiling :). It's kind of been an Alkmaar week too. I don't know
if you know Sis.VR but she is down here in the zone on a mini-mission
right now! I was able to have a really
good talk with her. She helped me see a few things I hadn't before, like why I
had to leave Alkmaar so soon. She helped me see that it was probably another
way the Lord was protecting me, and my heart. I was very grateful to see her
again and boy is she an example to us all.
Upon reading one of my blogs she said
she determined to go on a mini-mission but there were SO many uncertainties if
she left. She put them all aside, trusting that if it was the Lord's will He'd
provide. And He has, like He always does. Sometimes I wish I had more faith
like that, to let those things that matter most to me go into His hands so that
I can go and serve Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I have worked on this, and I'm getting better, but there's always room for improvement.
Maybe not brothers by birth, but brothers forever.
Then the very next day I got to see
R and Br.D B which was SO GREAT! Can I just say how stinkin' proud of R I am! From
all the stories he was telling me about his life he is on a roll and is setting
a righteous example for those around him.
A true blessing.
Mark my words, that young man is
going to have a huge impact on the world around him :) and I get bragging
rights cause he's my brother! :) Mama and Papa D B definitely did things right when they raised their family. Every single one of them shines
with the light of Christ. True examples of goodness.
Which brings me to another happy
realization: I love Rotterdam :). It's a VERY different kind of love than I've
experienced before, but it is still love and respect. Heavenly Father helped me
see the other day how amazing they are.
I've made a lot of mistakes here, none on purpose, of course, but it is tough for me because I want them to have my best self. There has been some struggles here and the people could be upset with the missionaries, but they keep going. They continue to reach out to us in love as if we
were their own children. No matter what we do, their love is
unconditional and unwavering, and they don't deserve anything less than that.
I'll always love them for that.
As for the Zone things are going
AMAZING! Progress is being made here and steps are being taken that have needed
to be taken for two years. The Lord is blessing us in His tender mercy and
giving us opportunities to finally work with Stake and Ward Leaders to bring
the members and the missionaries in harmony one with the other. Both sides are
ready to work and are willing to get to understand each other. It's literally
the perfect situation for miracles.
To help this unity along we're asking
all the missionaries to base their spiritual thoughts with members in Preach My
Gospel. By sharing this amazing book with members they can better understand us
and why we are the way we are, why we do the things we do. It's the perfect
foundation for us to be able to move forward in unity one with the other. The
perfect foundation that missionaries will be able to build off of for years to
I have had some hard things this week and a person questioning me. It been tough, but thank heavens that we have the opportunity to serve others. Best balm for a broken heart? Forget yourself and go to work. Don't have a work to do, go find one or better yet someone to help. That's what healed my soul and got me on my knees. The pain ebbed away and my heart opened enough to forgive and move forward. I still feel a little fragile but I'm better than I was :)
Saying good-bye at the MTC
Well I love you all! And SKY! HAPPY
BIRTHDAY!!! Gosh you're just going to be so grown up when I get back it's
crazy. I keep thinking when I meet 15 year old that I've got a brother that
age, but NOPE you're 17 (on the 3rd)! Weird thing is, I've never seen you as a
young kid/a 15 year old, it's just kind of the number that's been frozen in my
You're too solid to just be 17,
seriously. Things may be twirling around it a million miles per hour and you
may not be able to make heads or tails of things but your head is on straight.
That's why your our Peter, our rock. That's why you're Tim Drake, the fundament
of hope in the Bat-family. Thanks for being you Sky-guy and for always taking
an interest in the things I was interested in :) we make a pretty good team
that way. There's no one else I'd rather have as a brother and no one better
Sam could have for an older brother with him right now. LOVE YOU AND HAPPY
LOVE YOU ALL!!!
Love, Elder Cooper
Culture Note: Everyone in the Netherlands has an agenda!
Seriously, you pull out your planner to make an appointment and they pull out
theirs to do the same. Say all you want about the Dutch but they know how to
use their time efficiently. One of the greatest blessings for me out here was
learning from them the importance of time and how to schedule it properly.
Being on a mission helps with that but it helps when everyone else around you
is doing it too! :D
Sorry for the lack of email last week. Thank you all for your continued love and support. I can feel your prayers and I am so grateful for all of you. - Elder Cooper
So here goes the updates!
What an amazing week!
I don't know if I mentioned this to all of you yet but I had a brain blast the other day- I realized/received inspiration that Rotterdam is going to be the place where I learn the most on my mission, and this week definitely proved that point!
We have been moving non-stop for the past 7 days. It's something I've come to really love about Elder C, there's never a moment where you sit still. Ever. We get SO much done during the days and he teaches me so much. With all this moving there's not much time for anything else. You learn, you teach, you love and you restart every day. I think that eventually that's the goal with any missionary- keep yourself busy enough to distract you from yourself. Well distract is a bad way to put it because most of the time it is in the process of helping others that we receive the inspiration we need to help ourselves. So I'm very grateful for that.
Best part of the week was probably Saturday. We had another Zone Conference and Elder Boom of the third quorum of the seventy came. It was literally the most inspired conference of my entire mission. Each speaker spoke directly to my soul and answered very specific personal questions that I had. It was also SO nice to receive instruction from a Dutchman on how to teach and work with the Dutch. He gave us the keys to success out here and so we're all re-motivated and ready to work.
He talked a lot about testimony, prayer and returning home interestingly enough. Also covered in the conference was self-confidence, communication and the Book of Mormon. President Robinson started off the conference and warmed us all up with a reminder on how important the Book of Mormon is in our missionary work and showed us how in the first few chapters of Nephi nearly every single important doctrine is touched on or at least alluded to.
Elder Boom then gave us a bit of the history of Nederland and taught us how to best reach these wonderful people. He compared us to Alma the Younger when he decided to go preach and taught us that we needed to "bear down in pure testimony" to reach their hearts.
Later the Assistants covered how important communication is with your companion and with investigators. There I received a conformation in how the Lord has taught me to communicate with people. I no longer had to worry that I was doing it wrong. What they taught, was a big part, is listening. Not just hearing the words, but truly listening. Taking what they say, thinking about it and responding to that. Many times that's all people need is to know that their idea was heard and that it made some kind of difference even if it didn't change the outcome. In other words validation, I believe very strongly in that.
Then with self-confidence one of the Assistants compared us to David and Goliath (which is why I LOVED your e-mail this week dad :) thank you!) and how a lot of the time in the work there are Goliaths to overcome. No energy to work, waking up at 6:30, contacting, you name it. He said though that we needed to put our trust in the Lord because when we put our trust there we cannot fail and we will stand boldly for truth and right. He then described how our past spiritual experiences will determine many times our confidence spiritually and overall. All this he did using 1 Samuel 17.
And then Elder Boom talked about prayer and home. Those talks were life changers for me! The way he described prayer was fantastic and I truly realized the importance of it. He basically said the root of all problems whether they be members going inactive, investigators being dropped, being depressed or sad can all be traced back prayer. He explained that when done right it is the thing that saves our souls.
And that's how far I got before my time was up. Don't know if that accurately expresses everything but hey it's what was there.
Transfers did in fact arrive and me and Elder C will be staying another. Not really surprised, but we are doing good work so it will be good to go another round with him.
The investigator was in our ward. He's a really cool guy we've been teaching. One day he'll be baptized but he wants to take it slower and make sure he can answer every interview question positively before he's baptized. Super respectable guy and I like him a lot.
The Zone itself is doing great and things are really picking up down here. We just had this amazing meeting with the leaders in this zone and it's going to make all the difference this next transfer. See we meet every other week with the district leaders and sister training leader but we never quite knew what to talk about there. That changed after Sister Robinson showed us a video at mission leader council. It was an interview with the women presidents of the church and it was amazing. By listening to and studying that video we learned SO MUCH about working with women in the church but also about working with other leaders in general.
This we showed the leaders here and then we counciled on what to do for next transfer. What were the problems? What did our transfer numbers mean? We discussed these in depth and it was SO guided by the Spirit. In time he showed us exactly what we need to do this next transfer: Read and teach Preach My Gospel with and to the members. Every problem we face down here is solved through this simple Zone Vision. Missionaries learn PMG better and thus become better missionaries, members gain understanding on why we as missionaries do things and how the entire process works, hopefully they gain trust in us as they see that we actually do know what we're doing (most of the time) and the list goes on and on. We're stoked for this.
On a personal level, the learning hasn't stopped. The lessons are coming nearly too fast for me to internalize haha!
We're staying so busy here. We're both on the brink of dying, but we keep moving forward cause there are people who need us. We'll be making a plan to be a little smarter and not run ourselves dry this next transfer but for now we're just dead tired, yet we've got a lot more work ahead of us. There's a lot to be done this next transfer but I know that we're here together for a reason and that we're going to do everything in our power to work as hard, effectively and long as we can.
LOVE YOU ALL!!! Hope you are all having great weeks and don't worry if you're not, you're just getting prepped for your next great week :).
Culture Note: The World Cup. This is HUUUUUGGGEEE over here. Seriously, when the games start, everything stops. We don't even need to watch the games because when Nederland scores the entire city of Rotterdam explodes with cheers! Horns start honking, people are screaming, whistles are blowing, I seriously have never experienced anything like it. Can't wait to show you the videos :). Everything is decked in orange here (Nederland's color) almost more so than King's Day. Then it was in consentrated doses, here it's just over all. Everything is tinted orange.
With this you can imagine how the city was in Nederland's first game. Last year they went all the way to the finals but were beaten by Spain. Guess who the first game was against? Spain, the former world champion. Nederland came in with a vengeance. Just try to imagine the noise when we scored the first goal. Then the second. Then the third. We beat Spain 4-1 that game! The people in Rotterdam were driving around in groups of cars honking their horns in celebration way pastmidnight. It was so cool :).
Culture Note: Nederland is probably
one of the only places in the world that struggles accepting Visa. It's lacking
something everyone keeps calling a chip...don't know what it means, but it's
this gold thing they place on the front of the card. So basically the only
thing you can do with a Visa over here is pull out money from an ATM. One time
we actually got trapped in a parking lot at the hospital because of this! None
of us have chips on our American cards and the automaat would only let us pay
with cards, which only worked with chips. So we had to ask some nice lady to
pay it for us...but we paid her back after!
Anyway, we just finished one crazy
week! As I was telling James we go on four exchanges every week. Sundays we go
to church, Monday is P-day and we set aside Thursday to do planning, office
work things, etc. It's really good though and I truly feel like a really know
the zone now :).
I love learning things on exchanges,
it's probably the most effective way I personally can be a leader. Although my
favorite lesson of the week was on Tuesday during district meeting. Elder G gave an AMAZING one that really got me thinking.
He talked about one of the
highest goals as a missionary, namely to develop a "love of God and all
mankind". What he brought up though was very interesting. He asked us all,
"But how often do we say- love of God and all mankind...self
included?" He shared with us Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,...Meekness,
temperance..." and asked, "How often are these emotions present when
we think about and criticize ourselves? If they are not present then they are
not of the Spirit...period."
It was SUCH a powerful meeting! He
went further to say that we all need to accept two principles together (never
to be separated):
1. Accept that we all have weaknesses
2. Accept that it is impossible to
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (which we have all been given as members)
without receiving at least one gift of the Spirit.
So the question then becomes, where
are we putting our emphasis? Are we defining ourselves by our weaknesses our
strengths? I think we all know which one will make us happier. Not to say
ignore your weaknesses, simply acknowledge them, work to improve them, and like
you always taught me mom, NEVER define yourself by them. It truly is such a
small part of who you are. Compare your biggest weakness to the amount of good
things you do every day and it will quickly be overwhelmed I can guarantee
Please send my love and appreciation
(if you know them) to the Zrs for their letters of
support. I truly appreciated them and I love them a lot. Also to all of
Alkmaar. I just love that place SO much! I just keep hearing from you about
their support and well wishes for me and want them all to know that they're in
my prayers and I love them VERY much!
Sorry this letter is a shorter one,
time just seemed to slip away today.
LOVE YOU ALL!!! Thank you for your
prayers and your support! Couldn't ask for better.
It's funny how you mentioned how the things in my letter come to people in the moments they need them, because those responses were exactly what I needed to hear today. That means the WORLD to me, that others benefit from what it written, especially when it is those I love and care about SO much. Made my entire life to know that they're ok, or at least that they could feel my love for them.
As I was saying though, that's exactly what I needed to hear to. The things you were sharing in your e-mail, the Facebook thing and Elder E whispering "Thanks for your example" to me the other day are truly tender mercies from Heavenly Father.
See cause I'm having this identity crisis, or was. I've just been looking around at other missionaries and doing the worst thing possible- comparing. Not super hard core but the best example is Elder C, my incredible companion. This elder is AMAZING! He is loving and on top of things. He is focused, ready, driven and ingenuitive. Obviously I wanted to internalize some of that, because those are some awesome qualities. But I was letting it get to a point where it was making me feel worse about what I do and how the Lord needs me to work.
See with the high expectations of President sending me here I felt pressured to change who I was and work in a different way to fit what it seemed was needed. But these things and a few other experiences have reminded me- the Lord sent me here. Yes I will need to change and grow a little more here, but He didn't send me here to change the missionary I was, He sent me because the missionary I am is exactly what is needed. I will still continue to progress though and work at getting better and better, but I don't need to do a 180 and that makes me feel a lot better. So thank you for always letting me know those kinds of things :) means a lot.
Also helps that I love this place now :), at very least the members (and it's fun to drive here except the parallel parking ;) ). As I've gotten to know them better they've truly grown on me. I had this really cool moment in church yesterday, well two. 1- I looked around and realized there were so many people there that I already loved. Sure they don't work like what I've known, but they work in there own awesome and inspiring way. For instance- I have never seen a ward so stoked about Family History work. Seriously they all do it here and have books and books filled with names of ancestors (one can even trace his line back to ADAM!) It's really inspiring and makes me stoked to get started! And this would be the perfect place to begin.
Sometimes Elders get to paint fingernails when waiting to be fed by the wonderful members.
Just goes to show, if you're struggling to like something you're looking in the wrong places.
The second thing was this adorable 3 year old girl in the ward. We ate at her family's house and after went outside and played with her. So at church she comes directly up to me and Elder E and tells us that she wants to make another appointment with us and she's giving us another invitation to come over :). I just about died (in a good way) :). So we set up a last minute appointment and this amazing family let us come over for an unexpected lunch appointment. It was a good Sunday, and after we got to go over to familie P.
I love this couple. They are older and remind me SO much of Grandma and Grandpa Cooper. Me and him talk forever about church things, how it runs, how things should be done, how principles of the gospel work.
Both Grandma and Grandpa passed away while Elder Cooper has been on his mission.
It makes me miss Grandma and Grandpa Cooper :(. Especially when I'm over there, all I want to do is go over and sit at Grandpa's feet and learn from his experiences. I just want to have him tell me stories of his life, his church experience, lessons he learned, everything! I just want to be with Grandma and feel of the pure love of Christ that she possessed. I take joy and hope in the fact that I will have this chance again in the resurrection, and that I have memories.
Elder Cooper's Brothers on the day his youngest brother received the Aaronic Priesthood
If nothing else it has taught me to appreciate what I do still have. Never take ANYTHING for granted, because it's not always going to be there thanks to either your own actions or simply life. I sure do love them though, and am very excited to see them again one day. For now though I plan to love an appreciate everything and everyone that I have left :).
I CAN'T BELIEVE SAM IS TWELVE!!! Happy Birthday Sam! Love you a ton bud and I hope it was a really special day for you. You have the Aaronic Priesthood now! I'm SO proud! It's the start of an amazing journey for you :) so keep getting ready, keep learning, keep being happy, work with mom on the stress thing and never forget to pray and read your scriptures every day. That's where the power come from! Love you Sammo!
So information for those coming out here: Yes we teach all the time out here! There are Dutch people being baptized every week here and the work goes just as it always will, in His time, in His way, according to the faith and action that we as missionaries take. So let those missionaries coming in know it'll be as good as their faith and as good as their willingness and ability to work hard and get things done :). Especially seeing as you can go to bed then at the end of the night and know that you did everything you could, the rest was simply the will of God and the agency of others.
Oh and also tell them to bring as little as humanly possible on their missions! Biggest regret of my life! I don't know what to do with it all and my bags are SO heavy! But I refuse to throw it all away because that's a LOT of money down the drain if I do so...so just travel light so you can return heavy.
LOVE YOU ALL! Keep on moving forward and never lose faith :). There is hope ahead and Christ can and will make it better. You just need to go to him.
I love my Savior so much. I love this church. I love my Father in Heaven and the blessings He gives me every day. I couldn't be more blessed to have you all in my life It truly is a privilege and an honor. Couldn't do it without you.
Culture Note: Rush Hour here STINKS! From 5-6 is when it is and the call it Spits. When you get trapped it can take you 30 minutes to travel the distance it normally takes 10 seconds for...yeah we've been late quite a few times here...it stinks..."but I'm learning" (smak, smak)!
Many times you meet Elders you will be friends with long after the mission is over. Good-bye Elder Praag. See you soon.
Amazing missionaries that Elder Cooper has the opportunity to work with.