Young Disciples….Strong and True

It is such a wonderful thing to be working with these strong, faithful young men and women who have found joy in sharing their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the plan of salvation here in the Australia Melbourne Mission.  They are happy souls.  They are learning unconditional love for those they meet and for each other.  As you look closely at the following picture, you will notice an Elder from Utah with his hand on the shoulder of an Elder from China.  They are companions.  I have watched them and have been touched by the patience and love the Utah Elder has shown to the Chinese Elder as he has worked tirelessly and diligently to help his companion as he struggles, to become proficient with the english language.  The Chinese Elder also helps his companion to stay focused on the work.  They are amazing missionaries.
We have been doing some family history in our down time and have been asked by one of the sister missionaries from Germany for help with hers.  She has not been a member for very long and has very little done.  It is fun to help her  and her companion.  Her companion pictured here, has quite a bit done already.
We were asked to go up into the bush to give sacrament meeting talks to a small branch in Echuca, Victoria.  We drove up Saturday and when we got to the town, we took a ride on a steam powered paddle boat down the Murray River.  I took a picture of an old paddle boat from 1891 called the Etona.  Notice the cross.  It was used by missionaries from the Church of England at that time traveling up and down the river doing missionary work and holding services on the paddle boat.  The Echuca branch is about 3.5 hours from Melbourne.  We were housed and fed by a wonderful family, the Ludbeys.  He is in the Branch Presidency.  The Branch only has about 20 people attending the meetings.  I think they called it a twig :). It was amazing, I felt such a strong beautiful spirit there.  This family routinely hosts a scripture study night and they have people from all different faiths attending…Catholics, protestants, etc…..truly an ecumenical group.

I think the rainy season is upon us.  We have seen quite a bit of rain in the last couple of weeks but it does not deter us from our exercise.  I have not been as brave as my companion.  I sometimes retreat to the stationary bike in the garage but have been known to venture out on occasion with my $2 poncho which does not keep me very dry.  :). When we go into the city or elsewhere to meet with missionaries, I wear my trench coat which is quite adequate.
Hope you are all well.  I love you bunches…..
Sister Cooper
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Easter in the Fall

Easter is a time of year that all of Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the savior of the world, the light to which we can turn in times of darkness.  He paid the ultimate price for us that we might all live again.  He overcame physical and spiritual death.  He lives! I have a testimony of this.  He has blessed my life and it is because of Him that I am here in Australia.

Normally, in the northern hemisphere, Easter is associated with Spring, flower gardens, bulbs shooting forth bursts of color through the warming soil and “popcorn popping on the apricot tree” as the primary song goes but here in the the Southern Hemisphere it is Autumn.  Interestingly, there are very few deciduous trees here that are indigenous to the Melbourne Australia area.  In preparation for the dry season, a few native trees lose some or all of their leaves for a part of the year, mostly in the tropical or subtropical areas of Australia…the red cedar, white cedar and boab trees.  The deciduous trees are outnumbered by the evergreens.  The ancient Australian soil is very poor in nutrients and the ground water is well below the surface.  The one true temperate native deciduous tree is the deciduous beech or Fagus which is found in Tasmania and the leaves turn displaying beautiful colors before they all fall off in preparation for the winter cold.  We haven’t gotten over to Tasmania yet but hope to do so sometime in the next 15 months that we have left on our mission.

The temple here has been closed for cleaning.  I have included a picture of the missionaries who helped to clean the temple including scaling the temple walls to clean angel Moroni:We have met with several missionaries this last week who needed some help with post mission planning.  We help with college applications, career discussions, resume writing, administering english tests etc.  We had one request this week from a missionary who wanted some help with genealogy.  I have gotten very excited about my own genealogy and have finally completed my 5 generations on both my mother’s and father’s ancestral lines.

Last Saturday Sister King and I climbed the 1000 steps in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.  It was really only about 750 steps but that was enough for me!  The trail and steps are very steep and were formed by the Australian soldiers who followed the Kokoda trail in Paupa New Guinea in World War II.  Many soldiers lost their lives as they fought on the trail during the Kokoda campaign of 1942.  I can’t imagine how exhausted they must have been going up that steep hill in all their gear.  They were in much better shape than me but I made it and I am proud of that.

  The coming down was harder than the going up for me.

Happy Easter to all of you.  I love you so much and appreciate your love, your prayers and your support while I am over here on the other side of the world!

Hugs,

Sister Cooper

All Things Are Possible

In 1954 Roger Bannister was the first person to break the 4 min mile by running it in 3:59.4 in Oxford England.  Since then, many others have run the mile in less than 4 minutes.  In fact, in the last 50 years, the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 sec.  In this week’s zone conference, President Vidmar, showed the video of Roger winning that race and asked, “what changed? Why were people now breaking the 4 minute mile?”  One missionary stood up and said, “Roger did it. It could be done”. Yes, other runners may have said to themselves, if Roger could do it, why can’t I?  They worked harder, they perhaps trained differently than they had, they were motivated, they had a vision that all things are possible.  President Vidmar inspires his band of missionaries to work harder, have the spirit with them and love those they teach.  He wants them to have that same vision that nothing is impossible.

In another meeting a few weeks back, there was a discussion about goals and a young missionary shared that his mother said that a goal without a plan is just a dream. President Vidmar said that when he was training to be an Olympian, he made a plan and he followed that plan with exactness.  He never left the gym until all the exercises he had written in his plan for the day were completed.  After a competition, he and his coach would evaluate his performance and reevaluate the plan and tweak it as necessary.  This went on and on until he became an Olympic Gold Medalist.  We can all do hard things.  We can all do seemly impossible things.  Inspiring advice for us all!

In another zone conference this week, a missionary challenged President Vidmar to a handstand challenge.  He is a brand new missionary and was a gymnast before his mission.  He is a brave, strong young man.  I will try to upload a video I took of the challenge in a future blog post, but for now here’s a picture:

We met a university student a few weeks back and she offered to show us some of the sights around Melbourne so we joined her today, had a lovely visit and saw some areas we had not yet seen.  The state library was quite impressive.  It is massive and used to be partly a museum.  The museum has moved but it still has some interesting paintings and works of art.  It is widely used by the many universities scattered around Melbourne. The missionaries are free to proselyte in front of the library along with other groups that are sharing messages with those who are interested.

I love my mission and I love you all!
Sister Cooper

The Goings and Comings

This last week we had about 10 missionaries complete their missions here and return home. It was a bit sad to see them leave.  We have grown close to these young men and women in the 2 months that we have been here. They have served here in the Australia Melbourne Mission for 18 to 24 months.  They are amazing.  They have grown into men and women who know how to discipline themselves, speak with complete strangers, motivate and inspire each other and those around them.  They are strong in their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are young men and women of integrity.  They are filled with love and compassion for their fellow man.  Their standards are high; they are seekers of knowledge with visions of doing something great with their lives back in their respective countries.  I can see them as leaders in whatever fields they decide to pursue.  They have learned the basic principles of self reliance. My prayers and good wishes go with them.  On the day of their departure, Sister King and I sat in on the departing missionary seminar which will be something that we will be facilitating in the future.  The focus of the seminar is twofold; 1) What you want to think about when you go home and 2) Self Reliance.  It was emphasized; “You will choose your future….choose wisely”. Some questions that were asked and discussed were: What did you learn from your mission?; What are your concerns?; What is your Liahona?  (That is, what guides you in your life).

On the other side of the coin were the 17 new missionaries who arrived in Melbourne this last Wednesday.  The new missionaries are called “Goldens”.  They were picked up from the airport by President and Sister Vidmar and brought to the city branch where we fed them lunch and then they were paired up with seasoned missionaries and sent out on the streets of Melbourne to share the message of the gospel with those that might be interested in hearing.  I can’t imagine how they did that for some of them had just been on a 22 hour plane flight and had to be extremely jet lagged but miracles happen and the shell shock period does pass.  These are strong young people with a desire to serve however hard it is.  Their learning begins!  It is a wonderful thing.

Sister King and I wear many hats in our assignment(s).  We are english teachers, mentors, consolers, flat inspectors, food preparers, academic and life guidance counselors, test proctors and mothers.  We got a call from one of our missionaries who broke the zipper on his pants and we had to fix it as he indicated that he needed these pants to wear this Sunday.  Sister King and I can handle almost anything but we each have our special talents which is a blessing because it makes us a good team.  I generally do a good job with fixing things and have had some opportunities to use that gift here on my mission.  Yep, the pants got fixed! 🙂

The stationary bike that I inherited from another senior couple has gotten quite a bit of use.  I ride every morning early for about 40 minutes. It is much easier on my knees and I can hook up my earphones to my iPad and listen to conference talks and/or MTC music while I am riding.  It gives me a great start on the day.

The following is a picture of the departing missionaries:The following is a picture of the arriving missionaries: The following is a picture of the giant ferns we see in the forested hills outside of Melbourne.  They are in abundance and are beautiful and lush.  I have included some of our walk through the forest.  It was amazing!

The International City Branch Rejoices!

I am happy to report that the young mother I was working with in the International Branch in the city passed her English exam this week!!!  Yay!  She will now be able to get permanent residency in Australia and will not have to come up with $5,000 or be sent back to Mexico.  She studied very hard and many prayers were offered for her and her young family.  She was indeed blessed.

My companion and I continue to learn what we need to be doing in our new post-Missionary planning assignment and most of our time was spent with that this week. We do continue to teach the intermediate english class  and enjoy that immensely.

We also continue to meet very interesting people as we travel on the train to and from the city.  This last Sunday, a man sat down and started asking us all kinds of questions about the church and actually gave us quite a hard time only to discover that he was already a member of the church but was pretending to be someone of another faith.  It was all a little odd but good in a way because I began thinking how I could be better prepared to answer questions if this was, in reality, someone who was really interested.  Be prepared; it’s part of the Boy Scout motto, it is so important in all aspects of our lives.  We academically prepare to share our talents, contribute to the world and provide for our families; we physically prepare to maintain health, strength and longevity so we can continue to contribute for as long as possible; we emotionally and spiritually prepare so that we can be ready for anything unexpected that may happen to us, that we can be a light,  a comfort and a strength to others.

I am still a little uncomfortable with driving on the left hand side of the road and dealing with the speed limit changing every couple of miles EVERYWHERE!  Going down one stretch of road the speed limit can be 80K/hr then change to 60K/hr, then jump to 100K/hr then back to 60KK/hr.  If you go over the speed limit by as little as 5K/hr, the infringement fine can be somewhere around $290.  The driver pays 2/3 of the infringement and the passenger pays 1/3.  The good news about this is that it forces me to really concentrate on what I am doing with my driving and my companion watches very closely as well.  By the end of the 18 months down under, I should be pro.  The whole driving experience comes much easier to my companion.

I have inherited a stationary bike from one of the senior couples.  They are not using it and it will be much better for my knees than walking in the mornings.  I thought about buying a real bike to use on my mission but decided that I really do not need to spend the money.  This will work for my cardiovascular workouts.

We have seen 2 areas around Melbourne where we were able to capture some fun pictures.  We drove down the great ocean road and saw the 12 apostles Rock outcroppings in the ocean…..actually we only captured a picture of one.  I think there are only 5 or six left.   The others have disintegrated into the sea.  We also saw Pyramid Rock and little baby penguins and we finally saw some Koala bears and Kangaroos.  It was fun.  I have posted a few here.

I love you all,
Sister Cooper

A New Assignment

Leadville Colorado is a former silver mining town in the Rocky Mountains with an elevation of a little over 10,000 feet.  It is the city with the highest elevation in the United States according to President Vidmar.  I don’t think I need to fact check him.  The point is, it is VERY high up!  He told us about participating in the Leadville 100, a 100 mile bike race over rugged terrain and climbs with a total elevation gain of 11,000 feet.   He spoke of the old rugged guy who created the race and who gave them a pep talk just before the start.  The old guy said, paraphrased…if you are running out of steam and think you can’t go one more mile and you are ready to drop, tell yourself that you are better than you think you are, YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!  President Vidmar is amazing; he is inspiring and he is an Olympian.  He knows what it takes to do what you have to do, what you need to do or what you have been called to do.  We are all better than we think we are.  You can fact check that one by looking at your lives, your blessings, your accomplishments and I know all of you on this distribution list have many of those.  Missions can be challenging but they can be oh so wonderful.  I feel armed with a certain strength over here on the other side of the world that I never  thought I had.  I love serving.  There is a scripture that says “man is that he might have joy”.  I don’t think joy is automatic, you have to seek for it, even in bad situations and make it your own.  I am learning to do that.

President Vidmar has given my companion and I a new assignment on top of what we are currently doing.  He wants us to work with post mission planning.  This means working with young missionaries who are 6 months out from completing their missions.  We will be helping them with College applications, english tutoring, administering a required english exam to all non english speaking missionaries headed to Universities, career planning, college applications, help with preparation for taking ACT and other required exams etc. A lot of these missionaries out here and from the Pacific islands want to go to BYU Hawaii.   President Vidmar has 200 missionaries under his stewardship.  He loves each one of those young men and women and cares about their lives beyond the mission.  This assignment has been part of what the Self Reliance missionaries have been called to do.  The senior couple who are Self reliance missionaries in our region will be leaving in April.  We think this will be enjoyable and a good fit for us.

On our p-day this last Saturday, we took an old steam engine train ride called the “Puffing Billy” up into the hills outside of Melbourne….the Dandenong Ranges.  I have included some pictures of the adventure.  We saw a kookaburra bird sitting in a tree and, of course, I started singing “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry, merry king of the bush is he……..”. Ha!  Love it.
These are pretty but the Lily of the Nile is the flowering plant that seems to be in greater abundance than any other here in Australia.This old guy loves his job! We tried hanging our feet out the windows of the train…..very uncomfortable!
That’s all for now.  I love you all!

The Blessings of Service

Life is so glorious when there are opportunities for service.  It is a win-win for all.  This last week was one of those weeks that was filled with service opportunities.  A mother of a young family from Mexico is trying to get permanent residency in Australia and she needs to take an English proficiency exam.  If she passes, all will be well.  If she fails, she will have to come up with $5,000 which they don’t have, for English classes or be sent back to Mexico.  Her husband, who is in our Branch Presidency, went to Canada on his mission so he does not have to take the exam.  I have been tutoring her in English and helping her with practice exams.  She has been doing well and we hope and pray that she passes.

There is a new member of our branch who has had a hard life and comes from an abusive home.  His one brother took his life and his other brother was burned to death.  We went with him to the temple this last Friday as he was baptized for his two brothers.  He was so emotional and we all felt a great spirit there.  He seemed like a completely different person.  He is normally very loud and joking around and sometimes a little inappropriate but I think it is because he needs a lot of attention and love.  I’m sure he felt that love in the temple.

We visited some sisters in our Branch who live in very very small apartments.  There is hardly enough room to move around and only a hot plate to warm up food.  In spite of the living conditions, the sister I visited was so happy that I came and is generally happy.  She seemed so grateful for the little bit that she had but more so for her faith and her family.  It made me grateful for all that I have and actually this mission has taught me that the material things in life are really not important.  We can survive on very little.  The love of family, friends and the faith and hope that I have in a loving Heavenly Father is what brings real joy to my life.

We had another service opportunity with our neighbor.  A mother with two beautiful young children is moving out of her home.  She had a big truck parked in our driveway as we came home on Saturday and when we asked if we could help, she said she was distraught and trying to figure out who she could call to help her and then we showed up.  It was a little miracle.  We loaded up the truck with many boxes and helped her unload on the other end.  She is having some difficult family problems.  We asked if she would mind kneeling with us to pray for her and her situation and the other miracle was that she felt strengthened, a wonderful calming spirit and was grateful that we had said that little prayer.

As a missionary, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.  In John 13:34 it reads: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”.  Service is love and love changes hearts and lives.  I know that it has changed mine and helped me over the years as I have been the recipient of service from others.  I want to give wherever I see a need.

I captured a nice picture of the Melbourne temple yesterday:img_2433-2We visited the city of Ballarat yesterday on our p-day.  It is about an hour and a half from Melbourne and is famous for a little gold mining town that was quite active in the 19th century.  The workers were all in period dress.  We were with a couple of the other senior missionary couples. It is fun to see some of the outlying areas around Melbourne.  We are anxious to see kangaroos and koala bears.  I guess we have 17 more months to run into some of those.  The best we could do was this big guy: img_0535We went on a tour of the gold mine.  They took us deep into the mine and explained the mining process.  They had big wood furnaces up top to make steam to power the water pumps to bring the water up from the mine;
img_2445

img_0532It was a cold day here so we were all bundled up.  You would never know that it is summer here. 🙂 img_2447 img_3889

All is well.  It’s great to be learning and growing and serving!

Love to you all,