We Gather Together

This Thanksgiving I find myself far, far away from my homeland but with sweet memories of friends and neighbors and most especially families gathered together to break bread, laugh, tell stories, play games; eat turkey, dressing and pie; watch football and feel the love and support of one to another. I am thankful for that memory, for family, for the opportunity I have to serve here in Australia; for the beauties around me and for all the things which we take for granted: clean water, electricity, food, clothes, shelter, beds, cars, the ocean, the mountains, the valleys and on and on.

I love to sing the Hymn with music by Johann Cruger and Text by Martin Rinkhart:

“Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom this earth rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms,
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today

Oh may our bounteous God
Through all our lives be near us
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his love,
And guide us day and night,
And free us from all ills,
Protect us by his might.”

We had a Thanksgiving feast in the mission home for all the Senior Missionaries on Friday which was Thursday in the US so we were celebrating in concert with the actual Thanksgiving holiday. It was wonderful to visit with all the seniors and the food was exquisite. The feast that will long last in my memory, though, was in the city branch on Thursday for the Chinese Zone hosted by Elder and Sister Maughan. They had perfectly cooked a big turkey and we had salad, scalloped potatos and, of course, pumpkin pie. The most tender part of the evening was when Elder Maughan asked everyone in the room express what they were thankful for. Each missionary stood and bore sweet testimony of what was in their hearts; some of them in broken english. No matter country or language, there is Thanksgiving in hearts around the globe.

Here is a picture of me working with a sister missionary who decided to take a selfie of us:

We are preparing for Christmas and the Light the World Campaign. It is such a wonderful time of year. Love certainly does abound. I am excited about singing in the Stake Christmas choir and again with a few of the senior missionaries in a stake kickoff of the Light the world campaign.

I love you all. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. You are in my heart and in my prayers.

Hugs,

Sister Cooper

 

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Has Spring Sprung?

Well that’s the word on the street but I have yet to be convinced. The flowers are blooming, the little ducklings are waddling in a line behind mama duck, the birds are singing a bit more than usual, there are joeys in the kangaroo pouches and I actually saw a baby koala in the arms of it’s mother. It is generally thought, though, that with Spring, comes the warmer weather taking some of the chill out of the air that occupies the winter months. We have not yet, however, been able to shed and store away our winter coats. Cold rain comes frequently. We bundle up in weather that hovers around the 40s and upper 50s. It peaks into the 60s sometimes and there is an occasional warm day here and there. The forecast calls for 80 degree weather the week after next but the accuracy of forecasts does not have a very good track record. Stay tuned! 😉

This coming Tuesday is a public holiday here in Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. It is kind of like the Kentucky Derby but, I think, with a lot more fanfare. It goes on for several days. There is a lady’s day and a family day and a show day and I don’t know what else “day”. We took the train into the city on our p-day this last Saturday and saw many couples dressed to the nines going to the races. It is amazing how many take the train to go to these events. We were enthralled with all the hats and were able to get several to let me take their picture.

Mama Koala with her baby: What a great hug!

I love my mission and all the opportunities for service. I can truly testify that service brings joy. My heart is filled with love and with love comes inner peace and understanding, greater faith, hope and patience. We serve the young Elders and Sisters, we help the office missionaries; we serve each other as companions and all the senior missionaries help each other whenever needed. It is such a wonderful thing!

I have joined the stake choir. We sang a beautiful rendition of “Master The Tempest is Raging”. I love that hymn. With all the whirlwinds and tragedies and unrest in the world around us, we know that “peace be still, peace be still” is the call of the Master as we know that he can calm our troubled hearts as we turn to him. I don’t have a trained voice but I love to sing and mine is one of those filler voices that every choir needs. I love the great spirit that I feel as I sing. Sometimes I feel like angels are singing along with us. We are going to start preparing for Christmas. Today we practiced with two missionaries. One of them plays the flute and the other is a concert level pianist. It will be beautiful and I believe that as I keep singing, I will be blessed with an increasingly better singing voice.

Sister King and I were given the assignment recently by the president to come up with an emergency response plan for the Australia Melbourne Mission. I think this is an emphasis in the Church in all the missions worldwide. Australia is not susceptible to earthquakes but can get Bush fires, flooding (there can be cyclones), forest fires in selected forested areas, flat fires and, of course, possible terrorist attacks. Missionaries need to be prepared and have a plan. It is a good project.

I sure love all of you. I am continually grateful for your support and your prayers. I have attached a few pictures.

Hugs,

Sister Cooper

P-day at Brighton Beach. Cute little bathing houses:

Families Eternal

I love families.  I love my family.  I know that we can live eternally with each other and the more I get involved in family history, the more excited I get about the prospect of seeing my ancestors, talking with them and being with them through the eternities.  Oh what a wonderful thing!  There are also my church families, my work families, my friend families and now…my mission family.  I abosolutely love these young missionaries and the not quite so young senior missionaries.  We are a family and will be so eternally.  That is the plan of a Heavenly Father who loves us.  He is the Father of all of our spirits and that is why we call each other brothers and sisters.  My dedicated, valiant, spirit filled elders and sisters are not only bringing the message of the Plan of Salvation of Jesus Christ who is central to that plan to those who are seeking to know, but they are also making plans for their futures.  I feel so blessed to be a part of that process.  I get so excited when one of those missionaries gets a bright light in his or her eyes and becomes passionate about what they would like to do with their life after discussing options.  Then, when they are accepted to a university, it is the best feeling.  I fast and pray for those who struggle with english and need to pass an english proficiency test.  I am such a cheerleader for these young people.  One young missionary from a Pacific rim country lost both parents at a very young age and does not have much money but is determined to get an education.  This missionary failed the proficiency test twice but was not deterred and passed it on the 3rd and last try.  My excitement was beyond what I can put into words.  I cry for those who do not make it but try so very hard and wish I could wave a magic wand.  There is a plan for everyone and sometimes the plan is not what we think it should be or want it to be but all will be well in the end.  These are great young people who are being carefully watched over from above.  They will be a positive influence wherever they end up.  They have become part of my “family” and I hope to keep in touch with them always.
The following grouping of pictures are:
Zone conference
Me eating my favorite dessert of all time….ice cream!
The post man…they are so cute.  This is their uniform and they ride around on their little motor cycles delivering mail.
Me working with a family history consultant on my family tree.
Some of my sweet missionaries:
Elder Osborne is from my San Clemente Stake! YAY!
This last weekend 16 of us senior missionaries went on a trip down the Great Ocean Road.  It is a 243 kilometer scenic road built at the end of WW1.  From 1919 to 1939, picks and shovels were used to move the rock.  The road winds around the southern coast of Victoria and was designed to provide employment for ex-servicemen who had just returned from the war.  It was a huge engineering feat that ended decades of isolation of costal communities. It is a beautiful drive and connects with magnificent scenic overlooks to the Twelve Apostles which is a collection of limestone pillars formed by the eroding cliffs along the rugged shoreline.  The severe wind and harsh surf  against the cliffs formed caves and then arches and then broke down into pillars.  There were 12 but many have crumbled into the sea.  We could see 5.  In time they will probably all be gone..  President Vidmar joked that when that happens, they would have to rename the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road to “the Great Ocean Apostasy” Ha!
It was a fun trip.  We spent the night in a big house we rented with lots of rooms and beds.  We stopped at a chocolate factory and a maritime village and museum that told the stories of shipwrecks along that rugged coast in the early days of Australia.  Here are a few pictures:

I hope you are all well and happy.  May you be continually blessed for your support and love.  You are all, dear families eternal, in my heart and in my prayers.
Hugs,
Sister Cooper

Oh So Grateful

I am known for using the expression, “Oh what a wonderful thing”. It is wonderful to be having this experience here in Australia. I am grateful for opportunities to serve in the Australia Melbourne Mission. I am grateful that our assignments have been so varied and afford us opportunities to be mostly “on the go” meeting new people, working with new missionaries, teaching, learning, growing and seeing the wonders around us when we get the time.

The people we meet on the train, in our neighborhood and elsewhere in our travels are quite friendly. I think I mentioned in the past that Melbourne is a melting pot of a myriad of different cultures. The diversity makes our experience here all that much more interesting. It would appear that people in general are very accepting of each other and their cultural differences.

We are still working with the young missionaries who are preparing to further their education after their mission. We have approximately 200 missionaries at all different stages of their missionary service. Every six weeks there are some arriving and some leaving. For those who are applying to universities, it can be a fairly lengthy process particularly for international students so we try to work with them at least 6 months out. We guide, direct, provide information, and proctor required English proficiency exams but we also try to teach some self reliance principles along the way. Their primary focus and responsibility is their missionary work but they use part of their p-days to work on their own applications, schedule tests and so forth.

We recently had an international student from the city branch text us and said that she is working on her doctorate in ophthalmology at Melbourne University and needed some “elderly” people to be practice patients and asked if we would be willing to help out. Of course we laughed about the “elderly” part but were happy to get a free eye exam. It was quite interesting. I have always had a hard time reading because I would easily lose my place or not be able to see the words clearly even with glasses. I found that if I would cover or close one eye, I could read just fine but it was tedious and so reading has never been a source of relaxation for me as it is for others. They found that I have Binocular Vision Dysfunction which means that each one of my eyes can focus just fine but they are out of alignment when attempting to work in concert with each other. They said that it is typical for people to cover one eye with this condition or otherwise try to compensate. I think it is treatable even for the “elderly”.

The scripture I have pondered this week is found in Ecclesiastes 9:11:
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

President Monson in a talk given in a BYU devotional in 2009:

“Many of you here tonight are close to completing your formal education. (We’ll have a moment of cheer on that one.) Others of you have additional periods of academic preparation ahead. Each is in what could be called the race of life. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes wrote, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” (Ecclesiastes 9:11); it is to him who endures to the end. The race of life is so important, the prize so valued, that great emphasis must necessarily be placed on adequate and thorough preparation. When we contemplate the eternal nature of our choices, preparation is a vital factor in our lives. The day will come when we will look upon our period of preparation and be grateful that we properly applied ourselves.” Preparation is so important when time and chance happens to us. I can testify of that from my experiences in life. Some things I have been prepared for and others I have not. I am oh so grateful for life and the opportunities I have to learn and grow and continually prepare.

Attached are some pictures. Fun with the sister missionaries on their pday and another adventure with my companion to an amazing waterfall.

I love you all. Thank you for your friendship and love.

Hugs,
Sister Cooper



 

“For the Beauty Of The Earth….”

“For the beauty of the skies….Lord of all to thee we raise, joyful hymns of grateful praise.” I never cease to be amazed at the natural wonders and beauty of the world in which we live. I have been privileged to live in and visit different areas of the world that have touched my spirit, strengthened my being, enlivened my demeanor and given me pause to ponder what exists beyond the veil of this earthly life. The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite, the Redwood forests, the Pacific coastline, the Swiss Alps, the Mountains in Slovakia, the countryside in England and on and on. Australia is no exception. It is the sixth largest country in the world with approximately 2.9 million square miles. It is a huge island country and continent. It has a wide range of habitats. There are tropical forests, mountain ranges and coastal wonders. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. The Timur, Tasman and Coral Seas are also close by. We have been able to visit some beautiful areas around Melbourne on our Saturday outings. The sky in Australia is amazing. The clouds hang so low; sometimes I feel like I could just reach up and touch them.

IMG_1928.jpgIMG_1909.JPGIt is still cold. The temperature ranges from upper 30’s to mid 50’s which is not terrible but the wind chill brings it lower and the damp cold goes right through me. I am toughening up, bundling up and looking up through it all.

The work moves forward in the Australia Melbourne Mission. We love working with the young missionaries. They are dedicated, humble and filled with a great spirit as they bring those who are interested to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Those who do not have english as their as their native language continue to struggle to pass the english proficiency exams but are miraculously able to teach their investigators in English…..wow, the gift of tongues and the power of the Holy Ghost! Some of them did not speak a speck of English before leaving for their mission.

At the last zone conference, I was inspired by a young missionary who said that his trainer told him; “There is no comfort in the growth zone and there is no growth in the comfort zone.” That rang so true with me. I know, for me, I have to go outside of my comfort zone to learn and grow and sometimes stumble and make mistakes but I inevitably discover what I can really do, my potential, my purpose, my mission. Sometimes it is painful to be in that growth zone but I can testify that the blessings are great and the experience and lessons learned bring great joy, peace and health to my body and spirit.

I know my body is 68 years old but in my mind I am, maybe, 48. Reality hits when I get on the crowded commuter train and younger folks stand immediately to offer this old lady a seat!😄😜. Ok, I just can’t fake it anymore so I’m just succumbing and enjoying the benefits of old age. All is well. I can, however, still stand on the path railings in the forest:

IMG_5706Well, that’s all for now folks. I love you all and my heart is eternally grateful for your love, your support and your prayers.

Big Hugs,

Sister Cooper

P.S …a bit of Melbourne trivia: Melbourne used to be called “Batmania” after one of the founders, John Batman! Ha!

Little Miracles

There were a few spiritual thoughts that came to me in the latest zone conference…..In the dictionary, there are 3 definitions of the noun “miracle”.

The first definition is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” A good example is Jesus Christ and Peter walking on the water in Matt 14. The disciples saw Jesus walking on the water and when he bid that Peter should come to him, Peter got out of the ship and started walking on the water. When the wind started blowing, Peter became afraid, lost his focus on the Savior and began to doubt that he could continue and began to sink. I believe we can all do “inexplicable” things like this if our focus is on the Savior, the divine, and do not doubt ourselves. We may not be walking on water but we can do hard things, maybe even seemingly impossible things. We see medical miracles, incredible things, physical feats that saves ourselves or others, miracles in nature and so forth.

The second definition is “a highly improbable to extraordinary event, development or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.” A while ago, some missionaries were in an automobile accident and their car caught on fire and the vehicle destroyed and they escaped unscathed. Someone was looking after them. A guardian angel?

The third definition is; “an amazing product or achievement, or outstanding example of something.” This is more common. These are the little miracles I see almost daily in my missionary experience…..young missionaries having had no prior knowledge of english, studying diligently and learning in a relatively short period of time, passing an english proficiency exam that would be a challenge for a native english speaker and getting accepted to universities; My companion and I have been on our mission for 5 1/2 months and have not been sick with even a cold- a litttle miracle for two “young” women in their late 60s. :). We see young people and older people routinely sacrificing their seats on the train for someone standing..amazing! We see hearts softening in families who have been contentious with one another. We see acts of love abounding, small acts of service and lives changed for the better. Little miracles every day. I love it!

We went into the bush last weekend to give a talk to a small branch of about 25 – 30 people in the congregation, 10 of which were missionaries. Our talks were on forgiveness. Since none of us are perfect, it is a good topic for all of us no matter our age, our life circumstance or our religious conviction. It was good to have the opportunity to reflect on the need for forgiveness and for forgiving others. It brought to mind a talk given by Dale G Renlund. He referred to Nelson Mandela who had been imprisoned for 27 years for his role in the anti apartheid struggle. “His forgiveness of those who had imprisoned him was remarkable. He received widespread acclaim and praise. Mandela frequently deflected accolades by saying, “I’m no saint – that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”. For me, I have certainly made mistakes in life but have learned how important it is to keep on trying and to be patient with others who keep on trying in their own way.

While we were in the bush we were shown around the town of Benalla. There were many buildings that were covered with paintings they call “building art”. Well known artists in and around Melbourne come and paint on the buildings (see collage below). They like to paint aboriginal faces. There were also snakes and some weird art that I didn’t really like so I didn’t take pictures of those.

As you can see in one of the pictures below, we encountered a Huntsman spider in one of the church buildings where we were meeting some missionaries. The missionary told me that it was just a baby. I hope I don’t run into the mamma or papa!

Well, we are trying to keep warm but none of the churches seem to have the heat on. When we were in the bush, we went into the Relief Society room and they had blankets for those who wanted. I wanted!! :). I think I need some boots. It probably wouldn’t be missionary appropriate but in my dreams I take socks and my warm slippers to church with me. Ha!

I love you all. Happy 4th of July. Seems strange not celebrating it and seeing all the fireworks… 💥 💥  💥 💥

IMG_1789

New senior couple(relatives of good friends in San Diego); Zone Conference photo; Huntsman spider – eek!; and me,

IMG_1732

“Building art” in Benalla

Hugs to you all,

Sister Cooper

Getting Colder

This morning we woke up to 38 degrees. It is definitely winter here. I know this pales compared to the bitter cold durning the winters in other areas of the globe but for this aging Southern California girl, it is just plain cold. It is a damp cold, similar to what I experienced growing up in San Francisco. We do not let this deter us from bundling up and walking along the trail near our flat to get some exercise. I bought a hat to protect my ears. Bearing the cold is most difficult for the young missionaries from the warm Pacific Islands…Samoa, Fiji, French Polynesia, Tuvalu etc. Sister King and I found some hot springs which is an often visited attraction in these parts. It was oh so lovely to sit and soak for awhile in the warm/hot mineral water and it was worth it even with the mineral stench that lingered for some time afterward.

The last few weeks have been busy with transfers, departing and arriving missionaries, inspecting flats, moving out of flats that are being vacated, cleaning flats, working more than ever with missionaries needing help with their post mission planning and assisting the mission and the missionaries whenever needed. The following is a picture from a simple lunch we prepared for the newly arriving missionaries….meatball subs:
In the last departing missionary seminar, I added a slide with a quote from President Hinckley which is a message that, I think, everyone needs to hear who is moving forward and opening a new chapter in life:

” You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind.  You have a mind and body and spirit.  With these three working together, you can walk the high road that leads to achievement and happiness.  But this will require effort and sacrifice and faith.  ….pray for the strength to walk the high road which, at times, may be lonely but which will lead to peace and happiness and joy supernal.” (Gordon B Hinckley, May 2004)
We love the young missionaries, their dedication to their missionary service, their enthusiasm, their love for life and for the Savior.  We can invision these young men and women being successful in whatever walk of life they chose for themselves.

On our p-day, we visited the Geelong Botanical Gardens which was lovely and had a date with Big Bird (Emu) at an Australian Aboriginal Cultural center and native garden.

I am happy, well and love serving here in Australia.  Thank you all for your love and prayers.
All my love,
Sister Cooper

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