Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014-- Email #14

January 26, 2014
Cabarroguis, Philippines

Kumusta Aking Pamilya! (Switching up the grammar for a change)

So, this morning was really fun. We went to the Aglipay Caves. Aglipay was one of the Spanish conquistadors that came to this part of the Philippines however long ago. I think. Either that, or he was one of the Filipinos who kicked the Spanish out. So really I know nothing about history is what I'm getting at.

The caves were so cool! Like, real, hardcore caves. Bats, giant spiders with freaky crab arms, giant drops, stalactites and stalagmites... There were parts of the cave that were absolutely gigantic, with all sorts of sounds of life coming from the immense ceiling above, and then there were parts of the cave that even I wasn't sure I could fit through. But our whole district made it through (even the slightly larger Samoan sisters) with our old Ilocano tour-guide. It was a really awesome experience. Besides some of the Elders taking pictures every five seconds. That was kind of annoying. But oh well. 

Our investigators with baptismal dates have been having a bit of a difficult time keeping commitments, and we've had to move quite a few dates further away. It is pretty down-putting. I really hope that they are able to secure a firm foundation for their testimonies, and that we will be worthy to invoke such with the power of the Spirit. 

Let me tell you about some of our investigators/less-actives:

Brother Bidonio is a really kind-hearted man that works out in the bukid(rice fields) every day. He was baptized over a decade ago. He has an extremely humble house on a heavily vegetated hill, and when the Superstorm came however long ago, a lot of his belongings received heavy water damage. He doesn't have a whole lot anymore. But the things he has kept through it all are his termite-tarnished water-logged Aklat ni Mormon and all of the missionary lesson pamphlets. It really doesn't bother me that much that he can't make it to church often if at all. I know what he holds dear to himself. And I'm sure a way can be found if he is to fellowship himself with the excellent members of this ward again.

Pitong Basco is a 9 year old boy. His mother and sister are members. His father is a classic rock fanatic, concert ticket collector, guitarist, and vocalist. Pitong takes after his rock-and-roll father and kicks serious butt at the drums. He has won several awards for "best young drummer" in local and non-local competitions. We are close on a baptismal date for him, and one of his friends, Joseph. His father supports Pitong joining the church, but has no desire of his own to join. He doesn't wish to leave his current life-style. It's sad that their family can't have that patriarchal support of a priesthood-holding father. Me and Elder Manabo have related in several lessons with their family how an effective family based around the gospel is like an amazing rock band. Even if the lead guitarist is extremely talented, it's no use if he isn't playing the same tune as the rest of the band. I know he desires in his heart to be better.... He just isn't ready yet. We will try our best.

Every day walking around here in the Philippines is a great adventure. It is such a pleasure to witness such simple natural beauty in this place; geographically and demographically. I once explained the Philippines parabolicly in my journal: "An orphan of Asia, raised by a God-fearing Spaniard and apprenticed by an American business tycoon." It makes for, really, the most diverse and fun culture you could ask for.

Every time I watch Finding Faith in Christ, I am extremely moved by the message it holds. The people responsible for acting, arranging music, directing, and producing that film, should be applauded. It is so amazing. I watched that movie every night when I was in fifth grade. It always gave me peace as I went to sleep. I cry every time it comes to the end of that movie, and they show a montage of the miracles performed by Christ. Watching that, accompanying my constant reading in Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage, has especially struck me recently. I take great comfort in the fact that I was one of the primeval spirits who chose to follow Him. We all were. I like to think, when we were there in that grand meeting; before the presence of the Father, and His Beloved Son, and in the other who seeked his own glory; that as we were all gathered there, disputing which plan we preferred, all of us -- You, me, and all of us who have ever come to this earth -- decided we wouldn't take the easy way out, and decided to come here. I'm sure other spirits mocked us. "You can't expect one man to save you from all of your sorrows, and pains, and sins, and that you could really make it in a world where you'd have to chose between good and evil." And guess how we responded? "Well, I believe Christ can do it. I think he can save us. It's going to be hard, but it will be worth it."

So here we are! Strengthen your Light of Christ; that part of you who remembers the primeval decision you made to come here, and grow, and learn, and return to the presence of the Father. Strengthen your testimonies. Always move forward. Don't look back. Don't look sideways at other people around you. Don't judge others according to their "righteousness" or their "wickedness". We have a judge, and thank goodness it isn't one of us. Always move forward. Always.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 19, 2014-- Email #13

January 19, 2014
Cabarroguis, Philippines

Kumusta pamilya ko!

Well, it was transfer week this last week, and Elder Larson has been moved to the Alicia zone. Elder Merza has a new Jr. Companion now, Elder Costales, from Quezon City, near Manila. I have been able to access the gift of tongues readily this week! It is so fun! Elder Costales thought I had been out in the field for a matter of years. He freaked out when I told him Elder Manabo was my trainer. "Freak man!" It still is just all dependent on my worthiness how easily the language comes. And this week, I've entered a new level of Tagalog, I feel. Many people who had once been saying "Elder, just speak in English, it's ok." are now saying "Ay! Magaling sa Tagalog na! Maganda!" It has been really motivating. 

Not only has the language entered new strides, but the work as well. We have been settling for nothing less of full effort every day this week. We've found many new investigators and have received better guidance for the ones we have. Do you know what has been a large part of our success? MEMBERS!

Let me tell you about a member of this ward. His name is Brother Riguinding. He is an old Ilocano man with glasses. He served for twenty years in the Filipino Military, involved in a war on the southern island of Mindanao. He tells war stories like they happened yesterday, and does so very animatedly. He is so awesome! He's telling us about how he's had to adjust the angles on mortar canons, and enacted to us how to use a bazooka the right way, all the while doing vocal impressions of his fellow soldiers. He is now deemed by us the Member-Present Ninja. Let me tell you why.

One day, we realized we needed more member-present lessons, and decided that while we were teaching in Balagbag, we should ask Brother Riguinding if he could help us out for a lesson with the Mercados. Well, we asked, and confirmed he was available to help. When the time came for the lesson, we waited at the Mercados, and Brother Ringuinding came down on his little scooter. He immediately began to fellowship Brother and Sister Mercado as if he had known them forever. We were teaching about the Ten Commandments, and associated doctrines for the lesson. During the lesson, we took turns reading each of the commandments and then discussing them. When it came time for Brother R. to share, he paused for a bit, and then looked up. He then proceeded to expound one of the most beautifully specific and powerful testimonies I had ever heard. It was perfect. It fit all of the needs and concerns we had had about the Mercados. It was incredible, and could only have been wrot by the power of the Spirit. After the lesson, Brother R. stood up, shook hands, and then looked toward us with the inquiry, "next target, sir!" He then walked with us to all of our appointments, and helped us the rest of the night.

Um, HELLO! CAN WE ALL BE LIKE HIM, PLEASE?! Talk about "every member a missionary"! Let's go out of the way to find ways to help our missionaries out, like Brother R.! Always be willing and ready to expound your testimonies! 

The work is hastening, and so shall we! I really don't have anything else to say. Be like Brother Ringuinding!


-Elder Kocherhans

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014-- Email #12

January 12, 2014
Cabarroguis, Philippines


This week, I've had the privilege of learning a lot of the language of Ilocano. What an awesome language! In some aspects, it is very similar to Tagalog, but in most, it is completely different. For example, "magandang umaga" is "good morning" in Tagalog, but in Ilocano, it's "naimbag nga bigat". Delicious in Tagalog is "masarap", but in Ilocano it's "naimas". It is the most amazing feeling to see peoples faces when you begin talking to them in Ilocano when they expect you to only know English. They see me, thinking to themselves "Oh, it's a white kid, I better speak English or he won't understand me". I then come up to them and proceed to talk in Ilocano. "Naimbag nga malem! Siak ni Elder Kocherhans, anya ti nagan mo?" Their face lights up like nothing I've ever seen. Let me make abundantly clear, though, that such experiences become truly cherishable due to the fact that I am there to share the message of the restored gospel with them. If I had come here as a mere tourist, looking for a little taste of the world, my joy would be hollow. There is nothing like being in another country, speaking a language that most of the world doesn't even acknowledge as existent, with the name of Jesus Christ on my chest, with the sole purpose of inviting those at the ends of the earth to join the ranks of Jesus Christ, and let them know a true and living prophet is leading his Church once again!

Speaking of Jesus Christ, some of the beliefs about God here cause me to wince. Most people see no distinguishable difference between God the Father and Jesus Christ. Catholic prayers are addressed to Jesus, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whilst crossing the chest. Or they recite memorized prayers. It is so hard for me to grasp how they just forgot everything that even in the BIBLE is clearly stated! It's not like "Mormon prayers" are anything new or special! It says right there in the Bible, clear as day! Just like the song goes! "We begin by saying Dear Heavenly Father, we thank him for blessings he sends, then humbly I ask him for things that I need, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen". Anyways. I'll stop freaking out now. But sometimes it's just so... Blllarggggg!!

We've been having great fun preparing everyone for baptism! Brother Lowie(Who's recovered!), Brother Mercado, Sister Mercado, and possibly Hannah Nabatilan, will all be baptized on February 1st. We still haven't been able to teach Kevin this week. He's been at school and various other things. But definitely next time we teach him, he will have a baptismal date in February. 

Here's some more of our investigators:

Brother Jove is married to a Sister in the church. They are a young couple, and he has always been eager about attending church and letting us teach him, despite his busy work schedule as a security guard. They are both going through a bit of a hard time right now, though. We hope it will all work out. 

Sister Mylene is a recent convert, so we've been reteaching her the lessons. Her husband is a member, and they have the cutest little daughter on earth. We taught them recently about Temple marriage, and I showed them pictures of all of the siblings I have that have made that decision to be sealed in the temple. I'm so proud of my siblings for being great examples. Your examples reach all the way to the Philippines, how cool is that!

Brother and Sister Valera live in Cajel, which is about five minutes from Cabarroguis, where we live. They are always very involved in lessons, but they've never come to church, and have expressed they have received no answer about Joseph Smith. So, our focus with them as of late has been reading the Book of Mormon. We read with them aloud and continue inviting. They have a little girl who is super adorable, and an older son. I know the restored gospel would be an excellent foundation for their family, so I'm hoping the Spirit can be a mediator for change.

The words of Alma have very much resonated with me as of late. "Oh, that I were an angel!" Sometimes I get overwhelmed in wanting everyone to be progressing perfectly towards baptism, or reactivation, or whatever it may be. But I know that their agency is essential to this whole process. All I can do is make sure I am worthy, and that when God needs me to be an effective instrument in His hands, I am ready for whatever He asks of me. That doesn't mean everyone I talk to will cry "Oh my goodness, you're right! This is the restored church! Baptize me today!" Everything will come in its time, in its season. All I can do is press on.

If you feel that God has not been answering your prayers, I can relate to you. Everyone feels like that sometimes. Prophets have been anguished by such feelings at times. This does not mean your prayer wasn't good enough. It doesn't mean your prayer is useless. It doesn't mean that there isn't a God. Christ Himself prayed "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me". God knows what we need. We are here, on this earth, walking in faith. It is necessary for us to progress. Sometimes, we need to go through some things that weren't really part of our plan, but His ways are higher than our ways, and His plan leads to something we can't even begin to imagine now in our mortal state. Please, I urge us all, as well as myself, to carry on. Make your prayers personal, and grow in that all-important relationship you have with God! For through the furnace of affliction, we will grow. And as we grow, we will be able to fall in line with what the Father wants for us, and our prayers will become mighty. MIGHTY! Like, shake a prison to the ground mighty, or heal the sick mighty, or whatever it may be!  But before we get to that stage, we need to have faith, and keep praying, and keep trying! So let's do it! Press forward, saints! Sa ti nagan ni Jesucristo, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, January 6, 2014

January 5, 2014 Email #11

January 5, 2014
Cabarroguis, Diffun, Cagayan Valley, Philippines

Into my first whole year away from America. That's a splendid thing to be able to say! Here in the beautiful, friendly, sunny Philippines. Sounds alright to me.

Bishop Baker. Hah! So awesome! That sounds like a star line-up.

So, we always shop at this place called Pure Gold, and I think it's noteworthy to mention that they have their own theme song, with an accompanying choreographed dance that all of the employees take place in at random times of the day. They also find it amusing when me and Elder Manabo join into the dance singing the lyrics "Always bago(new)! Always find promo!" Everything is fun here. Even grocery shopping. They have a few items of particular interest to us. One of these is called Ulalam. Ulam is anything that is put as a topping to rice. Rice is the staple here, so ulam comes in many different varieties. It usually includes some sort of meat. Ulalam, a brand name, is an instant ulam meal pack that is really cheap and super delicious. So every shopping trip, we load up on Ulalam, which has been deemed (by me) "the best food in the world". But I would be lying. We all know what the best food in the world is. No, not balut, although it holds a firm place in the top ten. New Zealand Corn Beef. Ohohohohohhhooo. So good. It is how Samoans get so big. They sell it in mass quantities here, too. It's the best. 

New Years was pretty fun. Lockdown began at about 6. The mission has us lock down on New Years because the streets basically become a war zone. Alcohol, fireworks, explosives, and guns equate to a pretty hostile environment. But super fun to watch from the apartment. We stayed up to midnight (yes, we were allowed) and got to eat a midnight feast at our neighbors house. The fireworks went off as far as the eye could see. It was so awesome! 

So, there have been some pretty interesting happenings as of the 3rd of January when I read a certain scripture in the Book of Mormon. 

I'm sure you know this one, Mom. Alma 15:3? Yeah. This is discussing Zeezrom's feelings, shortly after fleeing Ammonihah, being driven out by the many wicked people there, who mercilessly killed women and children because they believed on the words of Alma and Amulek. Zeezrom, if you are familiar with the story, was a lawyer who debated with Alma and Amulek, trying to get them to deny their beliefs(in some cases, even by bribery). Eventually though, the power of God causes Zeezrom to tremble, and he gains a testimony of the truth. At this time of great change in Zeezrom's beliefs, this occurs:

"And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, [...] and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat." It was no new news to me that mental exhaustion and stress can lead to physical ailment, and I had remembered reading this scripture before. However, it was no coincidence that later that day, only one lesson in, my stomach began feeling very off. It got to the point I had to return to the apartment, and the rest of that night I endured some pretty rough seas. It was bad. After a lot of prayer, I came out of it feeling very humbled. I analyzed things that might need changing in my work, and I narrowed out a few things that I have been making efforts to improve on. So, guess who else has been sick lately, in varying degrees? Our investigators! 

Kevin Toledo is 17 years old and lives across the street from the church. Unbeknownst to me and Elder Manabo, he had boldly approached the other missionaries in our zone a month earlier with the statement "I want to be baptized in your church!" However, the other missionaries didn't seem him after this event. We met him at the shop where his grandpa makes "dirty ice cream", which is a street vendor ice cream here that is super delicious and sanitary despite its name. We taught Kevin and gave him a Book of Mormon, and he seemed very enthusiastic about it all. He came to church that week, where the other Elders in the ward informed us of their past experience with him. We were like "he told you what?!" and they were like "you taught him?!" So we've been teaching him for a while now, but recently he has had a very bad fever. He feels really bad about us not being able to teach. I'm hoping he can come out of this with a bright new perspective so we can continue helping him along his road to baptism. He is an awesome kid, and his desire has really come full bloom. 

Then there is Lowie. He is about 20 years old, and his mother is a less-active member. Much to our great surprise and worry, he just entered the hospital with a kidney infection. Prior to this, we had just finished teaching the Word of Wisdom, and he had already accepted the invitation to be baptized two lessons before that. We really hope he is okay. He was the first person I ever taught here in the Philippines. I taught him the story of Joseph Smith the Prophet, on Kara's wedding day. He has always been very busy, but we have still been able to teach him and see his testimony grow. I wish so badly for the Spirit to pierce him. There is no amount of convincing I could do that would equate to even the smallest portion of truth the Spirit could testify of. Potential resides in him, waiting to be unlocked. I hope it is soon.

We have also invited 9-year-old Hannah Nabatilan to be baptized. Her parents are members. It is so much more intimidating to invite a child to be baptized than an adult. She is very shy, and it doesn't help that I'm white and she is especially shy of me. Haha. I will really need to prepare myself so that the Spirit can help her with her decision to be baptized, and help her feel the love Heavenly Father has for her. I want her to become very excited about this, and that her shyness doesn't become any sort of fear about it all. I am confident that 8 is indeed the age of accountability. We've attended a few baptisms already, and the testimonies shared by those little kids are REMARKABLE! And super powerful. Not mindless recitation. Their conviction and faith is amazing. It is awesome!

Many many others, but it will have to wait til next week! Continue reading the scriptures! Oh, and if you get the time, take another read of Jesus the Christ. Such an amazing witness from a modern-day apostle. Thank you for all of your support! Good luck with the move, family! Ingat!

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. I apologize for my grammar mistakes and scattered ideas. I know they can get abundant in mission letters sometimes. Sorry!