Monday, February 24, 2014

February 23, 2014-- Email #18

February 23, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Kumusta Kayo!

Well, we just got the news this morning... Elder Manabo is being transferred on Wednesday. My training is all done, and now I await news on who my new companion will be. We all saw this coming; Elder Manabo has been in this area for about 7 months. Yeah. His time has come. I'm sending a picture of him with sunglasses which is super studly. Elder Merza from the other Cabarroguis district is being transferred too, so we will have two new missionaries coming into Cabarroguis. 

Well, Jonny and Dolores Mercado were baptized on Saturday! As well as Pitong Basco! I felt it didn't go as well as it could have, but nonetheless, I was there, they were there, the authority was there, and the font was full. I kind of had trouble with their full names. Full names in the Philippines are very similar to full names found in Central and South America... They're very long, fast, and hard to pronounce. And very Spanish. It stressed me out a bit, but hey, all's well that ends well. Brother Mercado has been reading the Book of Mormon more and more, and always reiterates the stories to us in explicit detail. They are just so awesome! They are an amazing addition to this amazing ward, and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It feels so good to type out the full name of the Church. It just all testifies of truth. How great it is, that we are lead by Jesus Christ Himself, through a living prophet of God! Speaking of which, I am so excited for conference coming in April. Not entirely for myself, but for our new converts. It brings such peace to my heart that we are continually led by the True and Living God, and not by the doctrines or precepts of men. 

As for Lowie Reyno, we haven't seen him in quite some time. He doesn't come to church, and we don't know exactly where he is. It is really disappointing. I guess it just isn't his time yet.

Kevin hasn't been able to attend church either, due to work with his father, but he is still eager to be baptized. We taught him yesterday in a kubo-hut (It's hard to explain... It's like a little bamboo hut for hanging out. It's pretty sweet). We had a ton of fun answering his questions and helping him. I showed him that photo-album you guys gave me, and he asked if he could keep the picture of Kelsea. Haha, he has a huge crush on her now. He's holding her photo in the pictures I'm sending you. Along with his nephew and brother. Haha, so good.

I read something very interesting about baptism this week, in the book of Moses, chapter 6, verses 59 and 60. It describes that baptism is literally being born again in God, just as we are physically born of the elements. The verses precede the baptism of Adam, who is led to the water and baptized, making it clear to us all that baptism has been an ordinance of the gospel from the beginning, even from the time of Adam. I've always felt something renewing and cleansing about water; whether it was when I was standing on the beach in Newport, or swimming in a pool, or taking a shower in the morning, I've always felt that very rejuvenating spirit associated with that element. It's no wonder, then, that when coupled with the priesthood authority of God, complete submersion in water becomes not only physically refreshing, but a saving ordinance of salvation. And it is available for all, whether in the flesh, or vicariously for those who have passed on to the other side.

Since Elder Manabo is being transferred, I guess I should tell you about his background. Here is an abbreviated history of Elder Manabo. Condensed, but hopefully powerful:

Elder Manabo's father was a member of a very popular church here known as the Iglesia ni Cristo. I won't go too much into the doctrine of their church, but here are a few things: they are forbidden to celebrate Christmas, they cannot eat blood(which in the Philippines is a bit more difficult than it sounds), they are highly enthusiastic debaters, and they are not allowed to marry outside of their church. Elder Manabo's father and mother met and fell in love, but his mother did not want to join the Iglesia ni Cristo. When they were married, his father was excommunicated from the church. However, he still was very devoted to their teachings, and encouraged his children to attend their meetings. Elder Manabo, his two older brothers, and his two sisters, attended the Iglesia ni Cristo up until about the time Elder Manabo was age 9. His father became an alcoholic, and died in a vehicular accident. Soon after his death, their family encountered missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They quickly accepted the restored gospel, except for the two older brothers, who had become too heavily tied to their beliefs in the Iglesia ni Cristo. Now, Elder Manabo is here, called by a prophet of God, to bring the restored gospel to all of the earth. His faith, cheer, and loving, serving attitude, should be an inspiration to us all. He is truly an Elder in Israel. He has expressed to me that he feels that his father hasn't accepted the gospel yet on the other side, but that he feels he will know when he has, and will be ready to perform his work in the Holy Temple of God.

This gospel requires no degree of eloquence, or of prestige. It requires a broken heart, and a contrite spirit. 
My wish this week is that we can all pray for charity. Without love for others, we are nothing. Sometimes, it is difficult for us to look at others with a pure eye. All the more, we need the help of our God, to fill us with the pure love of His Son. If we ask, we shall receive. 

-Elder Kocherhans

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 16, 2014-- Email #17

February 16, 2014

Aking Pinagmamahal na Pamilya at Mga Kaibigan,

(My Beloved Family and Friends)

Well, sounds like everyone is moved now. Conflagrations! I was going to type "congratulations" but then I forgot how to spell it because Tagalog is completely phonetic and it messes with my English a great deal. And then I searched the definition of "conflagrations" and thought it was pretty funny. So that's the story. Haha.

So, we have 3 for sure baptisms this Saturday: Brother and Sister Mercado, and Pitong Basco. Brother Mercado looks like an absolutely changed man. When Elder Manabo first met him before I came here, he was wearing a sweaty wife-beater, smoking heavily, sitting back on a chair at his old house, his mouth red from betlenut chewing. Now, he comes to church every Sunday, with a tucked-in shirt and white pants, smiling and serving and learning more every day. The power of the Atonement is remarkable. It gives me hope to change as well. It gives us all hope, to progress ever greater into the unknown. I'm so excited for them to take these first steps: baptism and conformation. After which, they will be able to make covenants in the Temple one day. The Temple is so awesome! Salvation is made available for all in those sacred walls! We have those exact restored keys promised in the last chapter of Malachi! What a marvelous work and wonder!

So, here's a weight update. Before I left on the mish, I weighed around 117 lb. (Yes, that is very light). In the MTC, I hovered around 124 lb. And now, I'm about 137 lb. My lifelong dreams of becoming fat are being fulfilled! Way to go, Filipino food!

This week, we had an awesome activity with the Elders Quorum in our ward. We all got together on Saturday morning and went on a marathon of visiting less-active members in the ward and teaching them lessons. All of them have motorcycles, and we made ourselves a pretty sweet caravan of priesthood-holders looking to strengthen the stakes of Zion. We taught and visited many less-actives that a lot of us didn't even know about, and many of them visited church the following morning. Our ward is so sweet. Everyone is so strong in the faith and displays it with fervent action. I would consider inviting your own home wards to take on a similar activity. Those who are sick are in need of a physician. Even if they don't know they're sick, or even if you don't think you're a physician, go and do. A way will be provided.

Oh, also, we had a bit of a lunch break during that quorum activity, and we got to watch this really funny Korean T.V. series called "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho". It is strait-up hilarious, I need to get a hold of it when I get back in a few years. The great thing about the Philippines is that you get a chance to embrace pretty much all Asian cultures. For instance, at the grocery store here in Santiago, they have Mochi balls (A Japanese rice-marshmallow desert) in lots of favorite Filipino flavors, such as Ube(A kind of purple sweet potato), and sweet mango(which often-times is completely naturally flavored, the ingredients including "mango puree"). It is so delicious! They also have tons of Chinese-style foods and a lot of other Korean television series, which seem to be their favorites.

In our apartment, we have a large collection of "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church". It has been extremely interesting to read the words of the prophets in this dispensation; or, in other words, the words of God for us at this time, the last days. I've been able to see the true necessity for a prophet. Many people in the Philippines who have become fed-up with the religious turmoil here in its abundance have made themselves neutral, and explained that salvation could not come through any one church. That is true, if you term religion in its apostatized state. President John Taylor demoted religion, without the guidance of a prophet of God, as a completely meaningless institution. It is obvious, in the words of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon, that the true Church of Jesus Christ could not stand if it was not receiving direct instruction and leadership from God Himself, through a prophet who had been called by Him. How great it is that Jesus Christ and the Eternal Father appeared to Joseph Smith in the grove so many years ago, and called a young 14-year-old boy to become a prophet of God! He was not a scholar of religion, or even fully a man yet! But he was chosen by God to usher in this dispensation! Just incredible. I wish we could all appreciate that a little more every day.

Also, about Temples again... I cherish the fact that eternal progression is, indeed, a progression. When a couple is sealed in the Temple, it doesn't mean they are ready, then and there, to become Gods. Haha, that's ridiculous! It's the covenant and the promise; that is the important part. Of course none of us are ready to even comprehend what lies ahead in the Eternal Realms, even the lowest of which is incomprehensible. The only important part for us now is to make sure we are walking in the right direction. Then, one day, we will found we have made it, and have become something we couldn't have even imagined in our earthly state. So let's keep walking in the right direction, and have fun while we're here! 

Except, of course, I'll be having more fun, because I'm in the Philippines, and everything is more fun in the Philippines.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. That's weird that the surprise isn't there yet. Oh well. It should be coming soon. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 9, 2014-- Email #16

February 9, 2014
Cabarroguis, Philippines

Kumusta aking pamilya! Maligayang mga Panahon na Kasal! (Happy Wedding Times!)

First of all... So many Maeser Missionaries now! How awesome is that! And tons who will be speaking Tagalog! Elder English, Elder Anderson... Speaking of Sam, tell him that he is going to absolutely love Bagiuo. So many Filipinos are obsessed with basketball. A lot of them exclaim, after I tell them I'm from Utah, "Ay! Ootah Jass(Utah Jazz)!" He will have a hoot and a half, I'm confident of it. 

No baptisms this week to report. They will be occurring closer to the end of this month. It is better that they occur later, if it be that they be more fulfilling. These people are preparing to enter in at the gate to the Tree of Life, and it would be better that they do it with conviction, knowing according to their past experiences, that obedience has brought them happiness, and no other means could bring them that true joy. It must needs be that there are fruits brought forth worthy of baptism, and if that means waiting a little longer, so be it! Your prayers are being heard, thank you all for your support to the Mercados, Hannah, Pitong, and Kevin.

Brother Mike is awesome. He joined the Church with his family about three years ago, and he is a karaoke rock-star. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but here in the Philippines, karaoke is a BIG DEAL. Like, everyone does it. In all places. Everyday. Day and night. Brother Mike was a bit of a rebel before he joined the church, as evident in his older, long-haired rock-n-roll pictures. Now, however, he is a great example as to how we can have good, clean fun whilst still being a model father and husband, and in keeping the statutes of God. That's what makes him awesome. That, and he has a guitar. Which I played Hotel California on. And we both sang it. At the top of our lungs. So that was beast. Haha.

This week was awesome, in all meanings of the word, for various reasons. 

This week in Balagbag, we were walking down a small street when about five kids came out of a small house. "Hey, can you teach us?" Me and Elder Manabo looked at each other. "Um, yeah." We came in. The oldest of the bunch was a girl about my age, and the rest were elementary students. We saw that they had a DVD player, and I realized I had Finding Faith in Christ in my bag. So we decided to play it. As we all watched, kids from all over the street started crowding into the small house to watch with us. There must have been about 12 of us inside and 8 jammed outside. After the movie, we got to discuss the life of Christ with all of the children. It was awesome to have been able to bring to light the specific things that Jesus did in His life, and what He did for all of us, with these little kids, who sometimes are taught very superficial notions of who Jesucristo really is. 

After the lesson, we walked to the Mercados, accompanied by their 6-year-old granddaughter Abril and her friend(who is also a boy) JonMarc. We then played a game of baseball with a rolled up piece of paper, a few sticks, and four rocks for bases. Super fun. There is no way to express the absolute fun it is to play with Filipino kids on the street and make their day a little better with the smallest of means. True joy. Just absolutely delightful. 

During the Mercado's lesson, I got a prompting to compare daily scripture reading to putting on bug repellent. I did this as I was putting on my Terra-Sheild and the mga lamok(Mosquitoes) were thick. There are a lot of temptations around them right now(especially as they get closer to baptism). It's like how there are tons of mosquitoes around us all the time, trying to suck our blood. So, we need the defense that comes from scripture reading to help us deter such temptations, just as mosquito repellent deters mosquitoes. Kind of sounds like it came from a kids section in the Ensign, but an effective parable none-the-less.

My testimony of the restoration grew tremendously this week, as I met challenges I had not been faced with before. I won't go into depth on exactly what challenges I faced, but let it be known that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and is in fact a record of the peoples of ancient America, written for our benefit at this time, and it answers questions that even the Bible, in its vastness, could not answer alone. When reading the scriptures, you are reading the words of actual people. Just think about that for a second. Nephi was a real person. So was Mosiah, and Alma, Moroni, etc. They actually lived. They are not just made-up stories. They wrote down their actual experiences, just as I write down my experiences in the Philippines. The Spirit that comes from reading the words of prophets is priceless. Even if you didn't find anything particularly interesting that day, just the action of opening the book and reading their words brings down a testimony to the heart, which in turn effects your decisions, and in turn effects your countenance. The Book of Mormon is a Testament of Jesus Christ in its entirety, not just the chapters in 3 Nephi or even just the prophecies of His coming. All of the words within it, if read frequently, have the effect of altering your own countenance to one closer to the Saviors. We need that, if we are to survive this world. All of us need to have a name-tag inscribed on our hearts. I'm lucky enough to get to wear one every day over my skin, but we should all have one on at all times, physically visible or not.

Yesterday, Elder Manabo was sick, so I had to stay at the apartment as he rested. During that time, I thought it would be of benefit if I studied the words in the Hymns a little more. So there, in the other room of our apartment, I sang aloud about 50 or more hymns as passionately as I could. What a spirit. There are some truly remarkable hymns in that green book of ours, which testify of truths that could not be uttered with words alone. It gives you a glimpse as to how the Spirit works. The Comforter testifies truths to us in ways we cannot always express, or even put a specific emotion to. He does it, though, as long as we have that sincere desire. 

Can I ask you all to do something? Pray to know if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. Also, pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true. Before you ask, ponder and meditate. Then ask, with real intent, and listen. See what your Heavenly Father has to say.

Press forward saints, with steadfast faith in Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 2014-- Email #15

February 2, 2014
Cabarroguis, Philippines

Kumusta Pamilya ko!

Of course it's been fun this week; I don't think it's possible for a week to be not-fun in a place like this. Several occasions this week, I got to help people pick coconuts(or "buko" in Tagalog) from nearby coconut trees. So fun! You get yourself an enormously long stick of bamboo(sometimes with a crude hook attached to the end), hoist it up in the air, and just start whacking away at the branches high above the ground, until a coconut falls down. Then, you cut it open, drink the buko-juice, and peel out the flesh. Fresh coconut. Ah. Super delicious. And it gives a great opportunity to share with people the message of the restoration.

Speaking of which, a lot of our initial lessons and teachings have a great deal to do with to putting to rest misconceptions and trying to explain clearly what our message actually entails. 

For example, a lot of people forget entirely that there is an Eternal Father, and only acknowledge Jesus as God. Just that basic principle sometimes takes a lot of explaining before it is understood. 

Then, there is the misconception about our name. Everyone knows us as "mormons". Every time we introduce ourselves, we make it clear to them that it is just a nickname, and that the actual name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Then, they think that we are just another religion. "Oh, we don't need your religion, we're Catholic." "Oh, we aren't interested, we're Born Again." "Oh, religion doesn't really matter. Only God can save." We then have to explain that our "religion" wasn't "founded". It isn't just another congregation of Bible scholars, regular attenders, and vain listeners. Our Church is the very same Church that Jesus Christ established Himself. And, of course, it was established through a prophet who was called to usher in this dispensation; just as Moses was called at his time, or Abraham, or Noah, or any other prophet, to preach the fullness of the gospel to the people through revelation from God. Joseph Smith is not the "founder of Mormonism", he was a Prophet of God, and without him, we would be just as lost as any other religion, who is earnestly seeking the word of God but is unable to find it in its entirety. 

And yes, this Church, and this Church alone, has the fullness. In case you've forgotten, take a look at what we have. We are not some random stem of Protestantism that claims divine authority. Joseph Smith saw God the Father, and Jesus Christ, and They called him to be a Prophet. He then, through the power of that God who had called him, translated an ancient record of the Americas known as the Book of Mormon, which serves as additional scripture and guidance for our lives, that perhaps the Bible alone couldn't have provided us at this troubling time. During the translation of the said Book, the authority and keys of the priesthood were restored to the earth by the very men whom they had been entrusted to in the first place: John the Baptist, whose baptismal authority is of God, and not of man's origin or attempts; Peter, James and John, whose divine power was promised to be the foundation of Christ's Church, in its fullness. This is the kingdom of God on earth. Yes, it is small, and many have been called and few have been chosen, but we have the covenants and ordinances of Salvation! It is our work! There are no other faiths like ours, because we were not appointed by men, but by God Himself. Our duty is to heed that calling. 

Who cares if you saw Whatshisface Werbermanjensen drinking coffee and passed the sacrament the next day. Who cares if Peter Priesthood said something mean to you at church, or if his Dad did something mean to your Dad. Who cares if your seminary teacher was a weirdo and said something untrue or just bizarre. Your job is not to judge, but to heed the calling that weall have, as this time: the Eleventh Hour, the latter days. The fact is that people are not perfect, and if you focus on that fact you will only become less and less perfect yourself. Remember that you have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ right now in your hands, and He wants to see what you can do with it. 

Many a man in apostasy came with an earnest desire to find the truth of God, but the grasp of the adversary became so sly and quick, even as to turn the worship of our God into a superficial mythology. Precious truths were lost. Sacred commandments that had been established from the beginning, such as tithing, were perverted and used to get gain. There was little hope.

Now, there is hope. 

We cannot imagine all that will be wrought, or even that has been wrought already, in our current state. But what we can do, is follow the commandments, and press forward. We do this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father. Amen.

Remind me to tell you about Brother Mike next week. Oh, and there will be a surprise awaiting many of you in the near future from me. 

-Elder Kocherhans