Monday, December 29, 2014

December 29, 2014-- Email #62

December 29, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Jello Family,

Nice to see your faces this week! Good thing as well that Bishop offered his iPad for me to use; it was better to have a private setting rather than being in a computer shop, having numberless Filipino students playing Dota whilst screaming a full array of Tagalog/English curse words. My mind kind of blanked at parts of the call as to what I would say. Shock, I guess. I'm glad you're all doing well.

Let's review the week's events in a more detailed manner, shall we? 

Monday night we taught about temple and family history work with the DelaCruz family. The Spirit was very strong, especially when we were prompted to share 2 Nephi 12:2-3: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains [(It is interesting to note that the word "Utah", in the Ute language, means "top of the mountains")], and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Now, the mountain of the Lord is once again established upon the earth -- in over 144 locations around the globe -- where we can learn of the ways of heaven, and feel the unexplained peace within the Lord's own house. Temples are built by faith and sacrifice. They are entered in by individuals with immense faith and who have sacrificed much to be able to come. And the covenants therein are kept by great faith and sacrifice to all partakers thereof. We have a great legacy to build upon! How blessed are we to partake of the ordinances of salvation given to us in the latter days!

On Tuesday we had an awesome Christmas devotional. It was all centered on the music of Christmas. President and Sister Rahlf, along with each of the senior couples in turn, shared their favorite Christmas song and the story of how it came to be. They also performed small renditions of their songs. President Rahlf is an RM from Germany, so it's no wonder he sang "Stille Nacht" as his selection. He's actually really good at guitar, and Sister Rahlf is really good at the banjo! Elder Shorter did an amazing Johnny Cache-esque rendition of "What Child is This" which was my favorite. I talked to him afterwards and we geeked out about classic rock for a good while (when a conversation starts with "BTO" you know it is 100% Me Approved). Anyways, the stories to how the Christmas songs came to be were very educational. It turns out the music to the song "O Holy Night" was actually written by a Jew. How about that? The lyrics were written by a French priest when he was pondering what message he would share with his congregation on Christmas eve, and after penning the words, he got his musician friend, a Jew, to write the music for it. An unusual request, but hey, can anyone complain? 

Later on that day we performed Christmas skits as Zones. Our skit was an abbreviated version of "A Christmas Carol", with many strange twists. I was highly amused with Elder Monilla's impromptu acting skills as Bob Cratchet, especially when he took a selfie with Tiny Tim before he died. I, on the other hand, was the ghost of "Bob Marley", full of spooky references to my "Buffalo Soldiers", not worrying about a thing, and getting together to feel alright. After the Devotional, Sister Rahlf had me and the Poly's do an a-Capella number to record for her nephew whose been diagnosed with Leukemia. We finished it off by doing the Hakka. Hah, nothing like doing the Hakka with a bunch of New Zealand rugby players. Doesn't get better than that. 

On Christmas Eve we went caroling in the STL's area. We made a multitude of people weep, and I was able to see some of my old investigators from Cataggaman! The most touching part was when we sang to the Tong family. Brother Tong had been murdered a few months ago due to his position in the city council, leaving behind his wife and two teenage daughters. When we sang for them, Sister Tong burst into tears, and requested we sang "I Need Thee Every Hour". Later in the day we made a big batch of Filipino-style Spaghetti for Tatay Victor Ramos, at his request. When we came there, we saw that he was alone at the house, with only a small candle lit at his side, reading from the Book of Mormon. I was heart-broken at the sight. Alone at Christmas Eve!? I'm glad we were able to make his Christmas happier with a tupper-ware of home-made missionary spaghetti. After we left his house I said a prayer in my heart that he would not be alone at Christmas Eve. When we came to visit him again yesterday, he said that as soon as we left after dropping the spaghetti off, one of his neighbors came and joined him for the night. Tender mercies!

 On Christmas we went tracting a bit and found a new investigator named Josie. She seems very interested. My favorite part of the lesson was at the end when we invited her to pray. At first, like most everyone, she was very hesitant, but she eventually gave in to our requests. As she prayed, you could tell she felt the Spirit. After the prayer, Elder Rebojo asked her how she was feeling. She exclaimed, "I feel like I've learned! Like I was right there talking with Him!" It can indeed be said, to quote C.S. Lewis, "prayer does not change God, prayer changes [us]". Later that day we had a delicious feast at the Stake Patriarchs home. I don't have those pictures copied over yet, I'll get them next week.

The DelaCruz family was baptized on Saturday! When they came out of the water their countenances were absolutely glowing! They all mentioned in their testimonies afterward many things I loved. Deo said, "Truth be told, that water is freaking cold, but after I got out it didn't really matter anymore." He also mentioned he felt as if the hand of an angel were at his side, helping him out of the water. Sister Nida testified how glad she was she had found the fullness of the gospel, and that she was determined to endure to the end. Julia started bawling when she said how a few months ago she didn't really want to be baptized into the church, but then when she heard her cousin, a member, relate to her the feelings she had when she entered the temple, and how it felt as if she had entered heaven, Julia felt powerfully the Spirit of the Lord that the church was true, and that she wanted to partake of these blessings as well. What a beautiful family, and how blessed I am to have known them; for them to be a part of my life is something I cannot repay to my Father in Heaven. All I can do is to press forward, bringing more souls unto Him, and further His divine work. 

This is all I have time to write this week, so I'll end it now. I know this is the true church, and I've never felt the Spirit of Christmas more strongly than I have this week, in His glorious service. My favorite Christmas, by far. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans


Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22, 2014-- Email #61

December 22, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines 

Konichiwa,

Well, I got your package! Thank you very very much, especially for the iPod with all of the amazing music on it. The Elders in our apartment are grateful for the music as well - we were getting a bit fed up with the cheesy EFY mix that everyone seems to pass around in this mission. And wait... what? Pregnant again? Hah? I was very amused as well with the funny whale fish and the turkey in the fish tank. Anyways, thank you for everything. It's also interesting to note that my stomach was displeased with the supplication of American snacks. I had to appease it afterwards with an offering of dried fish and rice. My stomach is way too used to Filipino food now. There's no telling what will happen to me when I have to alter my diet back to its original state a year from now. I don't like to think about it. 

As for the Hangout call, that sounds good. I'll make sure to be at the computer shop early so we can get things set up to start at 10:00 AM my time 7:00 PM your time. I'll use my personal email for the call again, jordankobalt520. As for the card, I'll try withdrawing with it again today just so I can get a reading of what the ATM says is the problem. I think it was just never opened for international access or something? There just seems to be a connection problem between banks. But yeah, anyways, I'll be seeing ya'll faces on Thursday/Friday

What an eventful week! On Tuesday we saw Elder McCausland out the door and welcomed in Elder Gumayao's new anak (or trainee), Elder Gerardo. He's a very cheerful guy, always smiling and wishing everyone a good morning. I'm very glad that I'm now housing with all Filipinos. It helps my and Elder Rebojo's Tagalog out greatly. And I get to refine my Filipino cooking skills! 

On Wednesday we were beginning a lesson when I got an unexpected call. It was the guy from Lebanon we met last week. He apologized for not being able to come to church the previous Sunday and then asked if we had any plans for later. I informed him we had a family home evening program/birthday celebration later that day that he was welcome to attend. So we set up a place and time to meet. When we met up with him, as he was getting out of the tricee, he paid for everyone else that was in the tricee with him. It is definitely important to note how kind this man is. While we were walking to the appointment, I let him know that we would be entering a very Christian environment, just in case he might feel uncomfortable doing so. He let me know, however, that he was very open and interested in learning and experiencing other beliefs and practices. It's part of the reason he came to the Philippines to obtain his masters degree. A lot of foreigners come here to study due to the civic and religious freedom enjoyed by all its residents. We ended up having an amazing time at the family home evening/birthday party. We played games, ate food, and shared beliefs, finding that most of them were just the same as ours. As we were walking back to the highway after the party, I recall thinking "Here I am, in the Philippines, walking home after a party with a Filipino and a Lebanese I've hardly known for a week, as if we were best friends... How did I get here?" Later that night, I got a text from him. It read: "Thanks to my Allah for you and your friends." Undoubtedly a thank-you I will never forget. 

On Thursday we had a nice Zone Meeting where we discussed Priesthood Keys and the organization of the Church in general. It became of great use, considering we taught the DelaCruz family essentially the very things that were taught in the meeting. The organization of the Church is fascinating; especially considering how uniquely close it is related to the organization of the primitive Church, more so than any other Church I can think of. That fact alone would sell me. Then you add the truths of the gospel restored to their original state, the power and authority of the Priesthood returned to the earth, the countless revelations, and the testimony of a latter-day Prophet sealed with his blood, and it's hard to see how any of it could be, even in the slightest, a fabrication of man. What a great latter-day work we have the opportunity to get caught up in! It is truly rewarding beyond compare!

On Friday we had a District activity where we went caroling to some of the people in our area. We only visited two people but it will go down in my personal history as one of the best Christmas presents I've ever given. We first visited Tatay Victor Ramos (The one I talked about in a former email). There are ten of us in the district and we all sang for him about three songs, which I might add sounded fairly impressive. The most impressive part, however, was the Spirit that was present. Brother Ramos burst into tears. He had placed a curtain over his door so that he would not have to look outside or participate in Christmas celebrations, due to the passing of his wife about ten years ago. He expressed his gratitude for us bringing Christmas back into his life, and we promised him he would see his wife again in the next life, all because of our loving Heavenly Father and the gift He gave for us beyond compare: the Savior Jesus Christ. I gave him some of the chocolates you sent in the package, at his request for American chocolate :) We then visited an older member of the ward, Nanay Augustine, who greeted us with a spunky "Why are there so many of you!?". We sang for her and she became very emotional as well. It was such a good way to spend the Christmas season!

When I call you on Friday, it will be the eve of the Dela Cruz family's baptism!! They passed the baptismal interview and are super excited! Speaking of other DelaCruz's, I had a pleasant Christmas surprise this last Sunday, with the visit of Rusell to Tuguegarao! He's up here with his mother until Christmas Eve. We freaked out when we saw each other. He fellow-shipped with us when we taught the Dela Cruz family last night. Super fun! I have pictures. 

Anyways, this is all I have time for. I hope I can live every day of my life worthy of the immense blessings poured out upon me, as imperfect as I am. I am eternally in debt, which I myself cannot pay, but I can do everything I can to show it. I know this Church is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans



Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15, 2014-- Email #60

Editors note: I wanted to include all of this because it's just so...Jordan. :-) Let's just say, I had a good laugh this morning :-)  The pictures... oh, the pictures..! :-D  
This is how the email came this week...received in the following installments... 

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(First email...)

Testing...

(one failed attempt to send a picture...)
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Mom,

I think I've got the pictures now, lemme try.

Elder Honeycut texted me and says my package has arrived, so now I just wait for an opportunity to get it. He says the charges will end up being 1200 something pesos, so like about 25 dollars or so? Speaking of which, I'm having trouble accessing my personal funds at the ATM. I haven't really used much personal at all until this point so I only realize now that there's a problem. International access maybe? Not sure. 

-Elder Kocherhans
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(Several picture downloads later...)






They're working!
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(Several picture downloads later...)






My email might be a bit shorter but I need to send a lot of pictures.
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(Several picture downloads later...)






More to come... it's been a while eh?
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(Several picture downloads later...)





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December 15, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Family!

I hope you enjoy those pictures. I'll get some more up next week. The time placement is a bit scattered... It ranges between the middle of August and just earlier this morning. However, I have great confidence in your contextual chronology skills; that you'll be able to figure out a rough idea of what happened where. It's not too weighty anyways. And speaking of the Skype call, what time works for you the best? I'm given some good flexibility with that.

Well, a lot of cool stuff happened this week! We had the pleasure of hearing from Elder Bowen of the 70. He came to tour the mission, teaching at Zone Conferences along the way. It was very educational. It had a lot to do with the Abrahamic covenant and how understanding it can help us live up to our full potential. When we were in the Pre-Mortal life, we were called to be among the great ones that would be sent in the last days, to aid the cause of our Savior in a dying world. As members of the Church, we have access to the blessings and powers of the Priesthood, which allows us to make the covenants not only for salvation, but exaltation. Sometimes, however, we sell this "birth-right", as you might call it, for a bowl of pottage. There was the possibility to falter, for the desire of worldly things, and we accepted that. It's one of the essential characteristics of agency. What we need to realize is that in order to be one of the few that are "chosen", we must be obedient. Many are called, but few are chosen. A.K.A., many are called, but few are obedient. We must love God more than Satan and his worldly power and dominions. That is how we gain the power available to us under the authority of the Priesthood.  It is the right we own through the Abrahamic covenant, and if we hold true to it, we will be able to sit at their side, and obtain a Heavenly inheritance, including worlds without end. 

Whenever we set goals and make plans, coupled with prayer, we are following a God-like pattern of Spiritual creation before physical execution. By planning, we set the spiritual blue-print for what we wish to accomplish and how to do it. Then, we execute that plan as closely as possible. Just as God created all things spiritually before He did physically, we should develop the habit of planning meticulously what we wish to accomplish, with respect to the agency of others(which really is the genius of the Plan of Salvation), and then to create it in it's physical form by carrying out what we had planned for. It's how we can become successful in life, and more importantly, how we can develop Christ-like attributes and continually work out our own salvation.

I had splits with Elder McCausland on Thursday. It wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Heh... But really, we had a good time. We met two guys from Lebanon and Lybia studying at CSU. They were really cool! We talked with them for a while about the misconceptions people have about Arabs and Muslims, and the similarities between the Bible and the Quran. One of them told us a funny story about how strict the security at airports gets when he is there. One time, they brought out a dog to come and sniff them for explosives. His wife was afraid of dogs and started running away from it. The security held her down so the dog could sniff, all the while her husband yelling at them. He put it this way: "At that time, I wasn't very good at English, but the things I did know how to say were: 'Stop that!', 'What are you doing?' and 'What the #%&@'. At least, that's what I heard on the movies". Good stuff, haha. We invited them to church, and they would have come if there hadn't been a complication with the tricees in this city... Yay. Another reason that Tuguegarao Tricees are on my blacklist. 

We had a service project on Saturday where we hauled rocks in sacks from a big field to a small construction site. Trudging through muddy jungle, hauling heavy loads... Needless to say, we felt very manly. We ended the service out by having Elder Rebojo climb up a coconut tree and getting us some fresh Buko juice. So that was delicious. Elder Rebojo is really awesome. I'm so glad we have such a strong companionship. 

The DelaCruz home really feels like our home at Christmas. The Spirit is so strong there now! Sister Nida, the mother, was out of town this weekend, so we dropped by to visit Julia and Deo, the two youngest. When we came, we caught them in the middle of scripture study. Ah, what a great feeling! It's so amazing to catch your investigators keeping their commitments and living the way the Savior would have them! Like Elder Holland, I wish I can be caught doing something good when the Savior comes! I'm so excited for their baptism! 

This is all I have time for today. Just keep keeping on, family! The God of Israel leads us! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014-- Email #59

December 8, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Naimbag nga Bigat,

No worries about Typhoon Ruby, guys. What a loser. He thought he was a pretty big deal when he was all "signal 5" and "super typhoon" out in the Pacific, but as soon as he hit the Visayas he realized he wouldn't be impressing anybody with that joke of a performance. Especially up here in the north, all we had was a laughable lack of rain and some occasional breezes. Thus, life goes on in the well-protected Cagayan Valley. 

We experienced a lot of discouragement at work this week, especially in Balzain East. Most of the new investigators we obtained in our first 3 weeks are now deciding the restored gospel is not for them. It's really frustrating when you're walking down the street and you see your first appointment run into the house and lock the door, especially in a country where doing such is a very uncommon occurrence. Most Filipino's don't know how to say "no" to guests, or how to be out-rightly rude. Now, however, I see some have it in them to do so. One of them even had no place to run inside and so decided to blatantly ignore our existence, rubbing her eyes in an attempt to justify that she didn't know we were there. She couldn't even face us and say "Sorry, not interested"! Goodness! I've never really seen behavior like this before this point in my mission. Very bizarre. Ironically, the only person who seems to welcome us still is brother Nards Bundok, the pastor we met from an independent faith. He welcomes us alright, but then once we try to start teaching it turns into a game of "everything I say is right and everything you say is wrong". This coming week, we are going to make a great focus on finding new places in our area to tract in and find more new investigators. Rejection is hard to face, but it's no reason to give up. 

The real light in our area this week has been the DelaCruz family. It is so refreshing to have a lesson with them after a long day of rejection. They are so humble and willing in everything they do. You can truly feel the Spirit in their home. Their desire to be baptized and become members of the Church is inspirational. This last Sunday, their whole family attended church together, including their older sister who hasn't come yet! It was awesome to see them all their together! It was Fast Sunday as well, and the testimonies given were all so perfect for the investigators in attendance. Even Deo (The oldest boy in the DelaCruz family) bore his testimony, testifying that he truly felt that there was someone guiding him at every page when he read the Book of Mormon. Almost like someone crying from the dust, you might say. I'm starting to become really good friends with all of the ward members here. Not that we weren't friends before, but I've felt especially comfortable with them this last week. Attendance is higher than ever and the ward seems ready now more than ever to accept more into the fold. 

On Wednesday we were in Cauayan for a trainers/trainees meeting with the AP's and President and Sister Rahlf. It was a really fun meeting. President related with us the remarkable faith and submissiveness of Mary, mother of Jesus. She knew, as one of the descendants of David, that the promised Messiah would be born to a young maiden such as she, and when it came to the time of Angel Gabriel (or Noah) relating to her the tidings that she was the mother of the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, she did not fear or question the Lord in His decision and marvelous plan, but merely submitted, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." If only we could be just as faithful, just as obedient to the will of the Lord as Mary was. Truly a chosen vessel.

Later in the day I got to use musical skills in a multitude of ways. First of all, we had a bit of downtime in the mission home and we were allowed to use any of the instruments available to us there. Guess what Sister Rahlf has? A banjo. Yes. And guess what the first song I learned on it was? Rainbow Connection. To be honest, I was very proud of myself. I told Elder Peterson that I could die happy now, knowing I knew how to play Rainbow Connection on the banjo. All I need to do now is work on my Kermit voice, which seems to still be lacking in authenticity. Secondly, some of the Polynesian Elders and I did some Christmas a-capella jamming which was really fun. I am told it might be posted on the mission Facebook, but I don't know. Check it out if it's there. In my second area I learned a Tongan hymn called "Folofola mai a Sisu" which has become a great blessing to me, in jamming it out with pitch-perfect flawlessly-harmonizing Polynesians. I love life so much.

The power of the Atonement really is the driving force to true and lasting change (a.k.a. repentance). All of us have less-than-desirable habits that are often the cause of much sorrow, and can defeat us if we let them. However, we know that we all have an inner drive within us to do hard things, and finish them, even if at the beginning we thought it might be unattainable. In my past experience, I've gotten the feeling after having a really good work-out, or after finishing a well-anticipated heavily-practiced performance like a stage play. You keep pushing yourself and giving your best, and then your best gets better. You keep progressing, something driving you within to accomplish what you've set out to do. This illustrates really well the power of the Atonement in our lives. We need to make necessary changes in our lives to qualify for eternal life in the presence of Heavenly Father, and this requires us to give our all, nothing sparing. It means we have to go through a great deal of suffering to truly understand the love of God, and how we can obtain a greater capacity to love Him more. The paramount example of setting out to do something difficult, and then accomplishing it, is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Even Jesus Christ Himself questioned the possibility of another way. We can only imagine what He might have been thinking as He came to the time of the Atonement, knowing fully well what He would have to do. "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." The closest we can ever get to understanding the Atonement is in the moments where we suffer, and ask similar questions to ourselves concerning how capable we are, and then push forward regardless of any rationalizations we might be able to come up with, for the sake of finishing what we have set out to do. Perhaps there are easier ways. But they are not worth treading. We came to this earth that we may obtain eternal life in the kingdom of our Father. There is no other objective but that. Many will take easier paths, but why throw away the very goal you accepted to attain to in the pre-mortal existence? His arms are open still, and regardless of the sins that easily beset us in this life, they are paid for. He gave His all, and we owe it to Him to give it our all as well. Nothing sparing. 

I know that Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of the world, has restored the fullness of His gospel in the latter-days through a prophet, that if we might accept it and live it in our lives, we might gain the capacity to give our all, nothing sparing. Only He can save us. Thus, we must follow Him. He speaks to man today, and wise men still seek Him. In His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. I apologize for my grammar errors. You know how that whole "gift of tongues" thing can get annoying sometimes.



photo: #HeIsTheGift  #ShareTheGift  http://www.mormon.org/christmas

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1, 2014-- Email #58

December 1, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hey Ya'lls,

It just occurred to me that I share my middle name with the bold and eloquent senior Apostle of the primitive church, Paul. Whenever I thought of my middle name before I'd usually just think of the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan and subsequently some form of large ox, and a "painful bony bump on the big toe" to follow it. Lately, I've been targeting Paul the Apostle in my personal study and using a lot of his words in the New Testament during lessons. I don't know why I hadn't noticed it before, but now I'm very proud of my middle name. Paul, in his epistles, sets forth some of the most beautiful and essential doctrines to Christ's church - then, and in this dispensation. We find his name right there in the 13th Article of Faith: "Indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul - We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." And look! Now I find myself as a missionary, just as Paul was, only instead of writing this epistle to the Philippians I'm writing it from the Philippines. Thank you for the name, guys. I dig it.  

It was a pretty eventful week for learning from our investigators. When I go into a lesson I really look for ways that the missionaries and the investigators can enlighten one another, through inspired questions and the guidance of the Spirit. Afterwards, the investigator learns something new, I learn something new, and we both have something worthwhile to take away. The Spirit especially helped us this week in teaching clearly the doctrine we needed to. Several times we were prompted to teach a principle from another lesson to an investigator, finding that it was clearly more effective than anything we might have had in mind. My favorite lessons this week were the ones we didn't expect, and that became centered on a scripture passage we were prompted to open up to spur-of-the-moment. We were blessed to be able to fulfill the promise in D&C 100:6(Or 84:85) several times and it was truly rewarding. 

We've been visiting an older man by the name of Victor Ramos as of late. He suffered from a stroke about 10 years ago which makes his mobility limited, and sometimes he slurs a bit in his speech. Fortunately, however, he maintains his very sharp and often inappropriate sense of humor which leaves us never in absence of entertainment. Haha. On Saturday we had a really special experience with him. We began talking and joking with him as usual when we came to the subject of his two young grand-children. He unexpectedly burst into tears, saying how much he loved them, and how disappointed he was in one of his relatives for not raising them right. He said often they were left without food and there was nothing he could do to help them, given his health condition. We read with him from 3 Nephi when the Savior blesses the Nephite children individually and testified of the Saviors love for all of us, and that He indeed has a plan for our happiness, and we will not be abandoned or forgotten. On a previous lesson we had invited brother Ramos to pray, but he informed us that he wasn't that good at speaking aloud and didn't want to be embarrassed. We still urged him to pray, reminding him that God understands our hearts. This lesson, we asked him to pray again, and he pulled out a little notebook with a page full of writing on it. He told us he felt bad about not praying the last time, so he wrote a prayer down that he could read for us this time. I became very emotional when he began reading that prayer aloud. It was one of the most honest, pure prayers I've ever heard in my life, and we all felt acknowledged and loved by our Heavenly Father. It requires no eloquence to express love for God. 

On Wednesday we were punted from one of our less-active family appointments, and didn't have a back-up plan. We started talking about what we should do, and Elder Rebojo said, "did you see that girl sitting on the bench we passed by? Let's talk to her." I didn't remember a girl on a bench, but regardless, we went to the place he said he had saw her. There she was, on the bench. Immediately when we walked up to her, she got a huge smile on her face and said "Come in! Come in!" Her house was just besides the bench she was on. We entered, rather shocked at how positive her response was. We asked her if she had known missionaries before and she replied we were the first ones. Her aunt and uncle came out, along with one of her cousins, and we began teaching them. Originally their family is from Amulong, and apparently they still spend a great deal of time there. The lesson went pretty well, and she seemed very focused on everything we said.  As we were closing the lesson we asked her(Rovelyn is her name) if she had any questions. She did, actually. "How can I join your church?" My jaw hit the floor. That's an excellent question! We told her to read the material we had given her and to pray about our message. Unfortunately, due to her busy schedule, we can't visit her very often, but we have her number and are keeping in contact. So that was pretty remarkable. 

Overall this week I've had a deep appreciation for being a member of the Church, with an obligation to become like Christ and to spread the light of His Gospel to all those who will receive it. Our lesson with the DelaCruz family went really well, and they seem very set for the 20th of December! Bishop joined us in the lesson and he was really helpful and cheerful in answering their questions and making them feel comfortable. I love these people so much. Every single one of our investigators, less-active members, recent converts, active members, people we meet on the streets... they are so dear to my heart. I have found a deep and abiding love of God by simply interacting with His children, no matter how imperfect they are. Life is beautiful.

I leave these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans 

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014-- Email #57

Greetings! Included at the end of Elder Kocherhans' email this week is an additional message from me related to some thoughts he shares... 

and now, on to this week's epistle from the Philippines...

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November 24, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Pamilya,

Interesting you mention events concerning people being a bit matapang (overkill) at church, 'cause that happened to us yesterday during sacrament meeting. They only let the speakers (including a return missionary and return mission president's wife) speak for 5 minutes each, and then the rest of the time was given to our Stake President who yelled (literally) at everyone for coming to meetings late and not attending all sessions of stake or general conferences. Guess who came to the meeting late and was out of town during conference? Our investigators. Super super awkward and uncalled-for chastisement during a sacrament meeting which was meant to be centered on Christ. That really irked me hard-core. We apologized to our investigators afterwards. Luckily Brother Singh went to the San Gabriel Ward that week and got to miss it. UGH! For real, what the heck?

This week has been another one full of good food. On Thursday we both had a bug to make something truly delicious for lunch, so we walked to the nearest vegetable vendor and got some all-fresh ingredients for ginataang gulay (Vegetables cooked in coconut milk), which Elder Rebojo turned out to be an expert in preparing. To couple the vegetables I made some ground pork Adobo (anything cooked with garlic, onions, soy sauce, and vinegar) with the addition of some potatoes and egg. We had a very satisfying feast of Filipino goodness. Some other days we will get slow-roasted Liempo (A giant slab of fatty pork that makes you cry how delicious it is), some other fire-roasted confection, or even Filipino fried chicken. I can't believe I'm saying it but, currently, at least, I do not miss American food. I much prefer Filipino food. It's also going to be very hard for me to say goodbye to the rice at every meal when I get back. Haha. 

The work went well again this week. We are still getting many new investigators daily and our teaching skills as a companionship are refining very well. We are also strengthening our relationships with the members in the ward, which really lightens the burden of the missionaries, even if it's not in outstanding ways. I'm also starting to pick up small amounts of Ibanag and Itawis, which are the two major dialects in this region. Mainly the things I know how to say are just so I can get lower prices for tricee fair. "Arara ni eh! Ani ma ba..." (trans. "That's so near, though! What is this?") We're getting a lot of investigators referred from less-active members, which gives them more desire to come into fellowship with the Church again. It's overall a good situation in our area. Looking forward to the next 9 weeks.

On Wednesday we had splits with the Zone Leaders in their area. Their area is larger than ours, which is saying something. It's basically all comprised of houses along the national highway leading out of Tuguegarao, Manila-bound. I was with Elder Espino. He's from Aklan, which is on the island of Panay (It's the triangle-shaped one in the middle). He was Elder Peterson's trainer and was my District Leader during the Elder Espanto days. So we're already pretty good friends. We had a fun day at work. He's been a convert of the church for only about 3 years now so I asked him about his conversion story. Apparently when he saw the Elders for the first time, he asked them for a Book of Mormon and began reading it. A few weeks later he surprised the missionaries by showing up at church. It was fast and testimony meeting, and the Spirit was extremely strong. The Bishop got up at the end and asked if anyone else wanted to share their testimonies. Elder Espino raised his hand and got up! The missionaries were scared to death. But when he got up, he told them honestly that he was not a member of their faith but that he had felt closer to Christ than he ever had in his entire life in the short hour he spent among that ward. He continued attending church and was baptized soon after. How amazing is that! Now he's one of the best missionaries in the mission and it's been an honor working along side him.

A few times this week we've tried to return and visit with brother Nards (The one I told you about last email). We had been prompted to come back to him several times due to something disconcerting he had told us our first visit with him: "Many religions have come here to try and tell me what they think is true, but they never come back." We decided we wanted to be different than the others. We are meant to be a peculiar people, now aren't we? And I think it would be best if representatives of Jesus Christ Himself wouldn't give up on someone just because he says no one ever comes back. Well, we haven't been able to reach him yet. But guess who we have been able to reach? His sister, two of his nieces, and three of his next-door neighbors who are now very interested in our message. Kind of funny how that worked out, eh? Whenever opposition seems to block out hope, I like to think of one of my favorite quotes from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done”

Saturday I had the privileged of doing the piano accompaniment for our Ward choir practice. That was fun, especially considering I can't read music very practically, let alone play accompaniment for a choir. But I figured it out my way (listening to the song a few times and then repeating it on the keys) and it turned out fine. My experience in choir really paid off in helping people singing parts and using correct technique, which at times seems to be non-existent here. 

Later that night we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration with the DelaCruz family. It was a very powerful experience of witnessing the fruits of a Prophet of God. Truth has always been viciously and consistently opposed. That's why the primitive Church died out so soon after its conception, and why the earth fell into apostasy. It's why such cruel measures were taken to silencing the Protestant movement, slaughtering citizens of their own nations to keep the Bible out of the hands of the people and to hide the corruption within an abominable church. It's why from the time Joseph saw the Father and the Son in a grove of trees, even until this day, persecution and belittlement of all forms have not ceased. To paraphrase a quote from the movie, perhaps we were meant to swim in deep water. Better deep than shallow. We are Latter-Day Saints, with a protocol to not be shaken by the wiles of the adversary, but to let our light shine before men, and to boldly declare the truths which we know. As Jeffery R. Holland says, "we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known." 

Continue to feast upon the words of Christ. Repent of your sins and work out your own salvation every day, finding new things to improve upon and new ways to express love in a pure, genuine way. Remember Him, and His infinite sacrifice for us. He lives. I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ established on the earth in the last days. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

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Editors Note-- 
A brief explanation, (since the beginning of Jordan's email refers to an unidentified event...), as well as adding my own testimony:

I shared with Elder Kocherhans in my email from home that we had just returned from a sacrament meeting where a returned missionary spoke.  (in fact, there were two returning missionaries reporting in that meeting...so it was a huge crowd) After the meeting, the visitors moved their greetings and visiting to the foyer, as they began a Sunday school adult class in the Chapel, with closed doors.  The temperature was cold outside, so, understandably, the greetings and visiting continued for a few more minutes in the foyer.  At that point, a rather grumpy gentleman came out of the class, with an impatient and unkind demeanor, and chose to shush the visitors in a rather abrupt manner.  I, of course, was not truly offended, but knowing the sensitivity of different individuals, including children that can be present in such situations...it made me sad... and cringe just a bit.  

The irony of that behavior, in these circumstances, because he is being interrupted in some way from a lesson discussing gospel doctrines and principles of righteousness (See D&C 121:36-46), is not lost on me.  I've had some interesting experiences throughout the years that have taught me volumes.  I have shared this thought in my training and leadership opportunities, as well as with my children:  Are meetings important? Yes.  More important than people? No.  Would the Lord like us to have family scripture study? Yes. Is it ok to gather our children for scripture study with angry threats and contention? No. Would He rather have us act in loving kindness at ALL times, and in ALL things, and in ALL places? Yes. And THAT is the gospel.  It is Love. It is kindness. It is Charity.  It is the way the Savior operates.  Period.  Are we perfect? No. Should we be striving to be more loving, kind and patient?  Absolutely.  Regarding our interactions within the Church, or in the community, or at home, our priority should always be Love... not our Sunday School or FHE lesson, or our programs, or our agenda (that may include a check-mark next to "family scripture study"... as important as that may be).  

I don't know what was going on with this gentleman.  He may have a hearing problem and was taking out his frustration on an easy target.  I don't know his heart.  But I do know that he had no idea if the people visiting his ward that day were members of the Church.  He had no idea that one of the people I was talking to in the foyer on that occasion was a dear sister who nearly died a few weeks ago...that I don't often have the chance to be with her in church...and that she had nieces and nephews who were seeing her for the first time since the accident that nearly took her life.  He had no idea of the many, many prayers, much fasting, and miracles that had allowed her to be with our family, at that Sacrament meeting, greeting each other joyfully in that foyer, on that particular day.  It's a good reminder to all of us.  Like you will read in the first part of Elder Kocherhans' email, he had an interesting experience yesterday as well.  I've had other similar experiences, where Priesthood leaders have acted in unkind and unseemly ways...trying to do the "right" thing in the "wrong" way.  Many women in leadership positions make the same mistakes.  I know, based on D&C 121, that the Spirit ceases to attend us when we act in unrighteous and unkind ways.  Making such mistakes is a part of life. The weaknesses we all share.  We all mess up.  It happens. It's unfortunate, and may be more common than we would like, but it does happen.  We all have room for improvement.

This is one of the reasons we need to be anchored in the right place, in the right way. My testimony is not based on people in the Church, as much as I might admire and love many of them.  It is based on my knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the great Plan of Happiness.  Man did not give me my testimony, and therefore, cannot take it from me.  It's between me and my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and the witness and gift of the Holy Ghost which testifies of truth. It is based on my choices as I strive daily to obey commandments, follow living Prophets, keep covenants, and constantly repent. I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, that this is true, and that the atonement is real.  I am grateful for experiences like this that remind me how I want to treat people, and then hearing Jordan's experience as well...to remember that we never know who may be there, affected by our actions and imperfections at any particular time.
  
Yes...a good reminder.
  
For further study and second witness to my testimony on this topic, I would highly recommend re-watching a devotional given by Jeffery R Holland in 2012, "Israel, Israel, God is Calling".  https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ces-devotionals/2012/01/israel-israel-god-is-calling?lang=eng 
It's a bold and classic Holland address that is best heard in his voice to appreciate his passion for the topic. :-)...  "Lesson #1; NEVER check your religion at the door!" :-) 
You go, Elder Holland! :-)

Loves!  Teresa

...just a few years ago, this eloquent and faithful young Missionary was a baby.  Thought I'd throw in this picture for perspective.:-)  Time flies. Today is the day we have to prepare to meet God...and since it is a limited amount of time, AND time does fly by so fast...we need to get to work.  
Thanks for being a good example of that principle, Elder Jordan :-) 

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014-- Email #56

November 17, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hey Joe,

I guess I'm calling it jokes on the pictures this week, the computer shops here seriously can never cooperate with me... Neither can the tricee drivers. You'll tell them to go somewhere and they look at you like you're stupid. "Ay! Ang layo!" (trans. "Wha? That's way too far!") Yes, it is far, that would be the reason I need a tricee to get there! Don't you know what your job is!? The fact that I'm white doesn't help things either. Even if I speak strait Ibanag or Ilocano to them, they still double the price because I look rich. Tricee drivers in Santiago had no problems like this. What is wrong with the public transportation in this city?

In other developments, the work this week was truly rewarding. We've been able to manage quite well even though we haven't had our cell phone since transfer day (because a certain Sister Lamac borrowed our phone at said transfer day and forgot to return it before going to the opposite side of the mission). We took ourselves no thought for raiment, but obeyed the commandments we've been given, and consequently the work was guided by the Spirit, and our Heavenly Father provided for us. We had a lot of appointments fall through, but strangely enough, within that same hour we would find a new investigator who seemed to need the message at that time more than we would have understood or been able to plan for. Consequently, we had an unexpected 17 new investigators in one week. It really makes a difference to have a companion with a similar drive to work hard and do as much as possible every day to share the restored gospel and find those prepared for it. When two missionaries lock in on the missionary purpose, they gain a divine third companion; the Holy Ghost, the very One promised by the Savior to aid us in our truth-seeking and to not depart from this world in preparation for the coming of our Lord. What a privilege to be engaged in God's very work.

We've still been working with the DelaCruz family in their preparation for baptism. It has been extremely helpful how open they are with us in their concerns. It allows us to address them a lot more specifically. It also lets us see what aspects of their preparation are still in need of strength. We shared with them the story of Peter, in Acts 5:28-29 when he is arrested by the Jews for preaching Christ's name in the city. The Jews brought Peter before a council,  "Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." A powerful statement from the senior Apostle of the Lord, who despite past weaknesses, now understands perfectly that God's law is infallible, and that no amount of glory from men could equate to that which God promises His obedient children. I think they understood well that when they receive a spiritual witness that this Church is true, no ridicule or social pressure could dissuade them from their witness of the truth, from the Holy Ghost. We used scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Book of Mormon, to show how cohesive their messages are, and that they aid one another in testifying of Christ and flawlessly outlining His pure doctrine. 

We weren't able to get ahold of Brother Singh this week, unfortunately. But we'll be getting our cell phone back today and we'll be able to text him and follow up with him. We found that a lot of his neighbors were receptive to our message. They noticed us visit the "Bumbay" (What they call Indian people here) before and became very interested to know that we spoke Tagalog and that our message was for all people of all nationalities. We encountered some very strange religious beliefs from a multitude of people this week, that fortunately we were able to resolve without conflict. One of them believed if they prayed, opened the Bible to a random page, closed their eyes, and then felt around the page with their finger for a bit, that once it felt good and they opened their eyes, they could find an answer to any question they had. Kind of like a whacked-up scripture Oui-Ji board. Another one (whom I might add was legitimately named Nards) pulled out a binder of things he had printed out from the internet about other religions, and one by one tried to point out our "false doctrine". He tried several times to compare the Book of Mormon to the Qoran, and Joseph Smith to Muhammad, with which points failed to have his facts right, all the while talking about the Bible as a perfect, unaltered book. We had a lot of fun experience discussing different beliefs and were able to collect a lot of material, in the form of questions, for our own personal study. 

We've also had some rewarding experiences in preparing a member family in our ward for the Temple, the Baletico family. They are Ilocano, which I greatly appreciate 'cause I can kinda understand them :) We had a family home evening at their house last Monday about temples throughout the dispensations which was very educational for me to prepare. Looking at the sacredness and necessity of temples throughout history -- from the tabernacle in the wilderness, to the spoiled temple of Herod in Jerusalem, to the Kirtland temple and the angels who often visited the saints there -- has given me a greater drive to share the knowledge of temples and the holy ordinances within them being restored to the earth as a part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Temples have been a great blessing to those who are able to perform ordinances therein, and to all those who have yet to enter that marvel at its simple, celestial beauty. 

I leave with you my testimony that the Lord will never forget us. He knows us perfectly. Everything we experience in this life is tailor-made for our improvement and eternal progression. If we chose to follow His commandments, we will begin to see things with Heavenly eyes. We will discern the truth that we are all Brothers and Sisters, with the same loving Heavenly Father, looking out for us and doing everything in His infinite knowledge that we may return to Him and inherit His kingdom. We will gain endearing love for one another, that will expose any foul plot of the adversary to make us think otherwise, and will allow us to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, in doing whatsoever He has done. We will all live again, soul and body reunited, eternally in a kingdom prepared for our habitation. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014-- Email #55

November 10, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Maayong Adlaw,

Welp, I couldn't have asked for a better week. Everything fell into place very well and we had a good mix of things to do that covered missionary work in a nutshell. 

First of all, on Tuesday Elder Glassie and I ate out at our favorite Panciteria (Eatery that specializes in noodles) and had a good talk. We had a really fun two cycles together, working in two different areas. We learned a great deal from each other, and best of all we became really good friends, despite being very different from each other. Sometimes it was difficult to comply with him, because he seemed pretty set on selective obedience being good enough. It was especially hard when other missionaries, even other leaders, also took this stance, and I had to face it alone. More than anything I witnessed and learned that selective obedience brings selective blessings, and that when little trust is given, little is returned. Obedience is so essential to the work of salvation. If one cannot submit themselves to the will of the Lord, no manner of persuasion or even belief can convince another soul that what he teaches is true. The Spirit is the teacher, and cannot teach if there is not a worthy vessel ready to be implemented. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ can only be taught by the power of the Spirit if it is to be understood and lived in its intended purpose. That's why I immediately established a culture of exact obedience with my second-born child in the mission, Elder Rebojo.

He is from Surigao, which is in north-eastern Mindanao, the big southern island in the Philippines. The language they speak there is Visaya, or Cebuano, so he's been starting the process of learning Tagalog. He picks it up fast though, considering there's a lot of similarities in Tagalog and Visaya. I've also been learning a bit of Visaya myself, hence the "maayong adlaw" seen above. From what I've heard of it so far, it is a very beautiful language, and in many ways a lot easier to speak than Tagalog. Anyways, Elder Rebojo is awesome. He's been Branch Clerk for the past two years and was active in fellow-shipping with the missionaries and doing home teaching, so his teaching skills are very refined already. He has a very strong testimony of missionary work and frequently shares it with me. We've had a blast this first week here. We've already gotten a lot of new investigators from finding and had some awesome experiences in companionship study. 

Our lessons with Brother Singh are still going well. He's come to church 4 times now and enjoys it greatly, especially our super cute primary program this last Sunday :). Our lessons are still focused on defining gospel terms for him one at a time so he can gain understanding from the scriptures. When he reads out loud with us from the Book of Mormon, he frequently pauses and asks what certain words mean. You can tell he is coming to know more and more each day. He looks lighter and happier. He cooked us some Indian chicken curry on Friday which was extremely delicious. He's been challenging Elder Rebojo and our Sunday school teachers to speak English so he can understand and it's been pretty entertaining. The good thing is that our Ward Mission Leader has become an excellent fellow-shipper for him and has suited his request for a "Filipino friend who doesn't smoke or drink". We'll be focusing on helping him understand the main doctrinal points outlined in the Baptismal Interview Questions, so we can work towards that with him.

On Saturday we had a service project at one of our progressing investigator's house, the DelaCruz family. After completing the project we sat down with them and discussed the third and fourth ordinances of the gospel, baptism and confirmation. Sister DelaCruz still has a few concerns about being baptized but she is very studious and willing in her efforts to know for herself if the restoration is true. We committed them to a goal date on December 20 (They will be out of town for a considerable amount of time during November) and to consecutive church attendance until that date so that they might know for themselves if it is true. They are very receptive and obedient to the commitments, it's just that they still have some fears about their social standing with others if they joined another church. There will be an upcoming emphasis on fearing God more than men. 

I'm sorry but it appears we are out of time, so I'll write some more next week of some of the interesting insights I've had in personal study recently, and in district meeting lessons. Thank you for your prayers, I've seen their power in work here! I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, and that is foundation is sure. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans