Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining!

Whatever our circumstances and challenges in life, young or old, there are always “silver linings”, blessings, guardian angels, hope, and much more.  Don’t get “caught between two stools”…always choose the better way. The “ball is in your court”. Don’t worry about the “devil’s advocates”.  Listen to the counter argument  but don’t let them steer you in the wrong direction from what you know to be true. Don’t ever “throw in the towel”.  Your circumstance may be a “blessing in disguise”.  Don’t ever “cry over spilt milk”.  Keep progressing forward even though it may not be “a piece of cake”.  “Let’s not beat around the bush”, if you want to understand something like what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches, you should hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth….the missionaries.  It beats “barking up the wrong tree” or hearing it “through the grapevine”……….IDIOMS!  They are a challenge for those missionaries who are trying to learn the English language  and more particularly those who need to take an english proficiency exam to get into a BYU school.  In reviewing some practice tests with some of these missionaries, I have noticed that these english idiomatic expressions are the most difficult for them to grasp and to remember.  The tests use them throughout the grammar and vocabulary sections.  I am making a list of about 100 of the most frequently used idioms for these missionaries to study during their daily allotted time for language study.  Many of these missionaries come from small islands in the Pacific and are very smart and have dreams of what they want to do in their lives.  They want to educate themselves, be successful and provide well for their families.  They know as they learn the english language, opportunities will open up for them in the Church educational system and elsewhere.  I counsel them to study hard, pray hard, work hard and they will be blessed with the gift of tongues.  My companion and I pray for our young missionaries every day.  Miracles are on the horizon!

I hope everyone had a happy Mother’s Day.  I had the wonderful opportunity to help many of the young missionaries by providing them with devices to call their mothers.  I felt like a mission mom.  As I got some set up, more streamed into the city branch throughout the day.  It was such a happy time.  There was so much love in the air.  It was an amazing feeling.  I have included a picture below.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain but the weather forecasts here are so unreliable.  It could be raining and cold one minute and sunny and warm the next. Some here in Australia say that it is not uncommon to have 4 seasons in one day.  I would like to say that it is going to “rain cats and dogs” but only because I want to interject another idiom! 🙂

All is well.  We continue to be among the “go to” senior missionaries for whatever is needed in the mission.  We will be traveling into the bush at the end of June for a Sunday speaking assignment in a small branch.  We are happy to be serving.  It is, as I always like to say….a wonderful thing!

Here are some pictures:
A farewell potluck for elder and sister Myers at the mission home.  They served for 18 months.
Sister Cooper helping a young sister missionary get set up to call her family on Mother’s Day
Another picture with a young sister calling home

The Olympian never quits; always an inspiration!

Sister Cooper, Sister Myers (departing) 😦  and Sister King
Another hike today in the You Yangs.  There were steps to climb and boulders to maneuver but made it to a breathtaking view.
Time to “hit the hay”!
Love you all and I am grateful for your love, your support and your prayers.
Sister Cooper

 

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Left is “Right”

Driving on the left is ALMOST second nature to me now.  The turn signal on the right of the steering wheel though, tricks my brain and the windshield wipers come on.  Left, left, left.  Choose the left and then you will be choosing the right here in Australia (CTR).  On a very chilly but beautiful fall morning walk, after a near smash (smash is Aussie speak for “crash”), I pictured in my mind’s eye a newspaper headline reading; “Mormon Mission President Collides with Senior Sister Missionary Walking on the Dandenong Creek Bike Trail.”  I was walking on my right and he was on his bike coming around a blind corner towards me on his left.  Yikes.  If it were not for his superior, Olympic athletic abilities I might not be sitting here telling this tale. I guess from now on I better remember to always walk on my left!  Repentance in progress.  Walk on the left, drive on the left, bike on the left, think left at all times.  It’s a steep hill to climb but I can do it!
We had another amazing Zone conference and President Vidmar, as usual, gave some inspirational counsel to his nearly 200 missionaries over 3 regions.  As I ponder on his messages, I realize that they are applicable not only to our lives in the Australia Melbourne Mission but throughout our lives wherever we may be and at whatever stage we may be in.  He talked about always setting the bar high.  If we set it high, we will accomplish more along the way.  If we set it low, we will not accomplish as much. He said his gymnastics coach could only think of one thing…getting to the Olympics.  That’s where he set the bar for all his trainees.  If the bar was set to just win a regional competition, then, president said, we would probably never have made it to the Olympics.  So, what I gleaned from that is if you aren’t reaching for a higher bar, your accomplishments in life will be less than what they could be.  I set a goal to stay healthy and lose 40 pounds while on my mission.  That’s kind of a high bar for me but I am keeping it there and working hard towards it.  I think I’m going to make it!  I have lost nearly half thus far.  I am setting Spiritual and other kinds of bars as well.  It is a great journey.  President Vidmar inspires these young missionaries and all of us to reach higher and higher in our work.
The City Branch where we spend a lot of our time helping the missionaries has a couple of rooms that are enclosed by glass from floor to ceiling.  The glass is very clean and sometimes invisible to my aging eyes.  Walking into the room I missed the actual doorway and bounced off of the glass.  According to the laughing onlookers, it was akin to a bird flying into a closed window or sliding door.  I should have been embarrassed but I couldn’t stop laughing about it.  The “DarnCat” is quickly using up her nine lives.  I was glad the investigator we were teaching had just left before seeing my silly move.
Last week Sister King and I gave a presentation as a part of the departing missionary seminar and I asked the missionaries what talents were they blessed with as missionaries that they developed on their missions and they responded….the gift of tongues for those who had to learn Mandarin or Vietnamese or English for those whose English is not their native tongue; the gift of teaching, of listening, of loving, of understanding the scriptures and so forth.  These missionaries will use these talents going forward in their lives.  They will be leaders and great examples to others. In Matthew chapter 25, it relates the parable of the talents ; “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Last weekend we visited the national Rhododendron garden.  Nothing was in bloom but it was beautiful nonetheless and we were able to get in a good bit of hiking.  We will go back in the spring to capture all the flowers in bloom so stay tuned for colorful photos.  For now, I have attached a few photos from the last couple of weeks:
Departing Missionary Seminar:
P-Day hike in the Dandenongs:
Senior Missionary group outing:
I love you all!  Thank you for your love and support and happy Mother’s Day to all you amazing mothers out there!!
Hugs,
Sister Cooper

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

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