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!

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