Monday, March 31, 2014

March 30, 2014 -- Email #23

March 30, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Hello Ya'll,

A lot of prayers were answered in unexpected ways this week. I believe the overall highlight of this week was just appreciating being alive and having so much fun. I'm confident when I look back on this time of my life and just remember the little things, I will miss them dearly, and be forever grateful that they are permanently a part of who I am. 

First of all, since Elder Dulaca is the district leader, we got to have splits this week with the Elders in Maddela. Maddela is a "small" town in the center of Quirino Province. The reason I put "small" in quotations is because although the city center is small in itself, the town of Maddela and its appendages spread out all over central Quirino. The main crop of Maddela is corn, considering it is a pretty mountainous region, and there isn't a whole lot of good space for growing rice. It is the farthest area to get to, by far, in our district. Elder Sogari, from Fiji, went up to our area in Cabarroguis with Elder Dulaca, and I went down to Maddela with Elder Arorong, who is part of the missionaries in my batch that came from the Manila MTC.

Splits are suppose to be one day only. However, due to some complications involving district leader responsibilities in Cabarroguis and distance of travel, our splits were extended to four days. Ha. I wish I knew that before I packed only one pair of clothes. Luckily, the members in Maddela are way nice and wash your clothes for you. And they cook food for you every day, including Biko, a sticky rice cake native to this area. They fed us a lot, and if you don't eat everything they give you, they don't let you leave. So, in other words, I gained back my weight. Hooray! Since I was there for so long, I consider Maddela my unofficial second area. We had a ton of fun there. 

One of the sisters there in Maddela is a returned missionary. She shared an experience with me I'd like to reiterate. On her first week in the Olongapo mission, her trainer was a really flat person. She was exactly obedient, and hard-working every day. However, she had no sense of humor, and condemned anything that would "waste time" in the slightest. Consequently, this sister felt serious contempt for her trainer. Eventually, these feelings led her to request to go home. Her mission president told her that he would give her one week to decide. The entirety of the week was as usual; boring, stressful, contentious. So many lessons, so little progression. The last day before her anticipated farewell, however, she met an unsuspecting man on the side of the street. They began to talk about life, laughing and enjoying each others company. Immediately after, the sister received an immediate urge to share the gospel with this man. After teaching their family, and many of their friends, that initial desire to go home shrunk and blew away, when put up against the light of sharing the gospel. 

I think it is important to note that the reason she became immediately consumed with the desire to share the gospel is because she learned to share the gospel as herself. I remember Sean talking about this to me before I left, but I guess it just dawned on me in a way more applicable way this week. Those unexpected four days in Maddela were a true blessing for me. Not only because I got to meet new people and experience further beauty in the Philippines, but because when I returned to Cabarroguis, I was finally ready to change; not myself, but my paradigm, which had somehow become skewed along the way. For some reason, I had been inclined to reinvent myself here; because I was speaking a new language, because I was in a new country, and because I was a missionary. But now I see that this was a dangerous path to take, which led to vague self-confidence and a loss of personal security. 

Whatever situations we may be in, don't forget who you are. Don't forget all that makes you yourself. I feel that this is one of the great challenges placed for us in this great test of life. It's what masks we endeavored to put on, and how we discovered to take them off. It adds new meaning to the scripture "those your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow." We came into this world white, and spotless. We've gotten ourselves pretty dirtied up now, and sometimes this renders us unrecognizable. But we have a surefire way to get rid of all this dirt, and it is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which if implemented in a genuine, personal way, not in a superficial show of righteousness, will indeed call upon the powers of the Infinite Atonement, and we'll be able to find ourselves again. Once we find our true selves, we will certainly be ready to return to our Father, and He will certainly be happy we didn't forget who we were.

Well, obviously, I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope these insights have been helpful to you. I know all of your guidance and prayers in my behalf have been helpful to me, and have definitely been felt and heard. Off I go, on to the next challenge! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014-- Email #22

March 24, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Kumusta aking Pamilya!

Well, I guess I'll start with the less-than-good news, and then move on to the good stuff. Last Tuesday after our district meeting, I started getting a really bad headache. This progressed the whole way home, and turned into a fever. Elder Dulaca started feeling it too. We decided to rest, seeing that we weren't very fit for work in our state. Lo and behold, we were bedridden until Friday. I feel like I've lost weight too. But never fear, all is well now. These sort of things just happen in the Philippines. I have a strong immune system, and it functions properly, so I'll let it do its thing, along with some help from oils. What's that one scripture, about how the herbs of the land helped them? Well, it's true.

Here's the good stuff. This morning, we visited the Grand Governor's Rapids down in Maddela(about an hour southeast from us). It was a truly awesome place! Hopefully next time I'll have enough internet speed to give you some photos. It was way fun, though. Boat rides, climbing through caves, finding hidden waterfalls, hiking through water in shoes and jeans... Plus, this morning was really foggy, enhancing the exotic Asian mystique of it all. Needless to say, I'm glad to be here.

This week, I've taken upon myself to solve something that seems to be difficult for me at times, when I feel a bit friendless in difficult circumstances.

This mission has a very unique combination of cultures. Although it is hard and unnecessary to expound upon all the details, the basic deal is that many of the missionaries in this mission are disobedient. I was fortunate enough to have a very obedient trainer, Elder Manabo, as well as an obedient Zone leader, still present, Elder Odom. They really helped me see how obedience blessed the work here, and allowed everyone to have more freedom. Obedience just hasn't really been a problem for me here on the mission. Yes, I miss rock n roll. Yes, I miss movies. But never the thought entered my mind that I should compromise my promised blessings for a few seconds of reminiscence. Just wasn't an option.

For many Elders here, though, it is a different story. I feel like they follow a different set of rules. Filipino culture is very care-free, and it is hard for many of these native Elders to alter that mind-set here on the mission. I found myself many times having critical thoughts about them, and the behavior they had chosen. But as soon as those critical thoughts entered my mind, and I dwelt upon them, that prayer for charity I had had that morning became void. Let me tell you something: without charity, we are nothing.

Sometimes I feel like a real stiff in comparison to these Elders. Sometimes I feel like I've lost my personality. Consequentially, it becomes difficult for me to befriend them, and I feel alone at times. I've had some pretty severe internal battles lately, trying to find out how to be obedient and still be charismatic and friendly with these Elders. What I have found is that we ought to have charity, and that charity counts most when it's hard to muster up. Although at this time I feel I have few friends, I know that I am observing a change in my heart and learning immensely from experience. I maintain that our Heavenly Father does not want us to become lifeless observers of the law. The Jews at the time of Christ were just such, and they had very little love in their hearts. They first refereed to Christ as a wine-bibber when he dined with the sinners. They thought he worked by the power of the Devil when he healed the sick, caused the blind to see and the lame to walk, and even raised souls from the dead. They finally sealed their hatred with their condemning him to the cross. Here we see an example of obedient law-followers, void of faith, hope, and charity.

Faith, hope, and charity will invoke a pure desire to obey within the heart. That's where the change needs to occur. We need to obey because it is what Christ would do in his pure love. 

What I would like to say is that I don't think I have any sort of higher standing over my fellow Elders because of my obedience. Just because I have learned to obey does not mean my heart is fully converted yet. I know that we all have a love of God, whether we acknowledge every single detail in the missionary handbook or not. A love of God is our true commonality. I know they know who they serve, even if they show it differently sometimes. Satan would like us to believe we all have different standings, and that we're in some sort of backbiting race for righteousness. Not so. We are the Saints of Zion, which means we ought to be of one mind, and one heart. Judge not, that ye be not judged. If you've had an issue with someone relating to such, I urge you to solve it as soon as possible. It will lift a weight off your shoulders you might not even be aware of.

Sometimes I'm not very good at expressing myself in writing in an organized fashion. But I know that the Spirit can utter things that can't quite be articulated, that are nonetheless true. I hope and pray that you are feasting on the words of Christ, and finding things to do to become more like Him everyday. That's what I've been trying to do every day here on the mission, and I have witnessed some remarkable things, not only in myself, but in those I've been lead to teach. What a great discipleship we are called to! Let's all do our part! I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 16, 2014-- Email #21

March 16, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Kumusta Kayo!

I've already been planning my Disneyland trip upon my return for quite some time now. That place is just the happiest place on earth. Just kidding. It's just the happiest place in America. The real happiest place on earth is in the Philippines.

Well, it's about time I write about some of our investigators again!

The Yap Family lives across from the closest high school here: CNSAT. If you're wondering how to say that, just say "See-En-Sat". Their family consists of Sister Yap, one younger daughter named Valentine(Valen for short) and another older brother who is studying Computer Tech. Their father died a few years ago. When we began teaching them, we immediately could see that Sister Yap had an understanding of the nature of God, and was well acquainted with Him already. Coincidentally, when we asked her to pray about the truthfulness of our message, she received what she described as a very good feeling in her heart. They still haven't been able to come to church, and truthfully, that is when things will start to change. They are a little weary about joining "another church" after they've attended several different churches in the past. They have everything in place; they feel good about the message, they feel the Book of Mormon is true, they believe in the Plan of Salvation; now they just need to come and meet everyone else who believes those things too! It really is such a blessing to attend church and associate ourselves with fellow saints, besides having the sacred privilege of partaking of the sacrament. We once had it explained to us in the MTC in this way: 

When someone is deciding to join the church, they first enter in a spiritual sphere of conversion, where they believe in the doctrines of God that we've been able to teach through the Spirit. Next, after attending church and getting themselves involved with the various activities and callings that come forth, they enter in a social sphere of conversion, where they feel a deep fellowship with the other members of the ward, and the church as a whole. To be truly converted, we need to experience both of these kinds of conversions! For us who have been born in the church, we started our conversions on the other end, at the social sphere, and then worked our way to the spiritual sphere. If someone left the church after "belonging" to it their whole lives, the typical reason is that they were offended. Obviously, this is evident of a conversion to only the social sphere, with a lack of true spiritual conversion, in which we place our foundations on the Rock of our Redeemer. If someone becomes inactive after being recently baptized, it is evident of a lack of fellowship with the fellow saints; in other words, an absence of conversion at the social sphere. This is difficult for many people, and it takes concerted effort on BOTH of our parts to step out of our comfort zones. It is a necessity, however, and I'd like to refer you to Moroni 6 for further scriptural enlightenment.

We've also recently begun teaching the Malaque family. Their family consists of Sister Malaque, and her husband, and their two children, Glyka(girl) and Rohan(boy). Their family is already very strong in their faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, so it's been an enlightening experience helping them grow stronger faith in Him through the message of the Restoration. Sister still feels hesitant, due to her ties to the Catholic church, but I think she is willing. They are tremendously blessed to have such a close family, and to be living so well in trying times. I really wish for the fullness of the gospel to glue everything together!

Jackie Garcia remembers early memories in his childhood of his grandmother reading the Bible aloud to him. His knowledge of the Old and New Testaments is pretty extensive for his relatively younger age. He's in his twenties. He has been reading the Book of Mormon, and has been asking very sound and specific questions. He's been happier to see us every time we've come to visit. All he needs is to come to church.

In short, please pray for these people to come to church. God is planning things for this area of Cabarroguis. It is on the verge of becoming a Stake in Zion. Please, pray for these dear people. We just can't do it on our own. We are the hands of God.

Let me repeat that last part, for it has been spoken by the mouth of our beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson:

We are the hands of God. 

He can't accomplish His divine purposes without our help. We are His servants here on the earth. It is through our deeds, small and simple as they may be, that the great designs of our Father in Heaven come to pass. For musical inspiration regarding this topic, I'd refer you to the Hymns God of our Fathers, Have I Done Any Good, The Morning Breaks, and How Firm a Foundation.Sing them at the top of your lungs! Get an organist who lives near-by! Crank yourself some Mo-Tab on the big speakers! Music and lyrics always help me regain my direction. I don't know if it will help you, but please, help in any way you can!

I'm so grateful for you all, press forward saints!

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. Still no surprise? Dang. I'll give it another week and then I'll have to reveal the secret.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014-- Email #20

March 9, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Naimbag nga Malem!
In the words of Bubs, "Hey! Somebody's suckin' up all my bandwidth!"
In other words, the internet in this place is extremely slow. So, unfortunately, pictures and stuff like that will have to wait til next week. Which is too bad, we've got some good ones.
I've learned many things this week, the first of which being that when you feel rather nauseous, don't eat a giant pizza at Greenwich(The biggest pizza chain here in the Philippines). The methods of transportation here in the Philippines consist of Jeepnees and vans. Vans are more common, and probably most likened to the taxi system. We were in one of these said vans on our way back from Santiago, having had a big lunch at Greenwich. I started feeling really woozy during the ride. I thought I would be alright until we made it back to the apartment. Haha. Just kidding. I blew chunks all over the side of the van. Poor van driver. He wasn't too happy. Neither was my face, or the faces of anyone on board. But it was all good. I felt a lot better the next day.
The Mercados continue to astound me with their faith and growth. We had an excellent lesson about the repentance process, and read some passages from Enos that really brought home the message. Usually, what comes to mind when you think of the Savior healing the sick and casting out devils? The physical changes. The leprosy being cured. The issue of blood being healed. The outward results. But, as we learn from Enos, our faith making us whole deals with decisions we make within ourselves before the inquiry; our spiritual healing is a recipient as well. If the inward vessel is not willing to be cleansed, the outward vessel can only receive as much as it has strength. But faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ is what removes our guilt, our inner stirrings of the soul, and our doubt in the darkness. It transcends strength alone. We must make the change within ourselves first, if we are to view a miraculous outward change. 
Speaking of which, I had an interesting experience with doubt the other day. After playing basketball with the ward one night, I felt very low self-esteem. This became added upon when some of the leaders started talking about music and I didn't know or hadn't even heard of many of their favorite songs(They were not Tagalog songs). Of course, in retrospect, all of my inward negative thinking was completely irrational, but it had a dark effect on me. That night, I opened up the Book of Mormon, and had some very severe doubts of its truthfulness. I decided that if I was thinking negatively about myself beforehand, the rest of my thoughts were being easily manipulated by the adversary. So I prayed, and slept, and waited.
In-coincidentally, the next day we were going to Diffun to baptize some of the Sister missionaries' investigators. The baptism went really well, and it was invigorating to use the Priesthood. Afterwards, we noticed that President Rahlf had come to visit. I thought it could be of no coincidence that he had come there that day, and decided to seek his counsel about my experience the night before. He told me something that was told to him by his mission president, and even if you've heard it before, I wish to share it with you now:
Never doubt in the darkness what you knew in the light.
Simply, if you begin doubting things which have brought you true joy in the past, you might want to take an inspection of your thoughts and words and deeds. Study the fruits of the Spirit. If those feelings are not present when you are making a decision, you probably shouldn't make that decision. This gift is available to us all, who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. If you feel you haven't received a spiritual prompting in a long time, take inventory of yourself, and try to align yourself with the name which this church is given: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We need to be the representatives of the Savior at all times, whether we have a name-tag or not. If not us, who? This is His Church! He is why we are here. He is why we know we were with Him before. He is why we can become better. He is why we can go back. We are His disciples. We need to love one another, and be particularly peculiar in our frank happiness and service, as we follow the example of the Redeemer of mankind!
I would also like to express my love for journal writing. I never wrote in a journal before my mission, and now it is my most prized source of revelation. Through my journal writing, I can tell you now by the power of the Spirit within me that the God of Israel leads us today, and speaks to man, insomuch that he is not puffed up, and submissive enough to receive His counsel. Before, I decided I would write a spiritual record in my smaller journal and a history of the day's events in my larger journal(Get it? Get it?). That turned out to be ineffective, and now both are kind of intertwined. That sounds rather familiar as well. Haha.
Well, I certainly feel all of your prayers and love. Thank you so much! Let us all press on!
I'll probably make myself some pancakes.
-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 2, 2014-- Email #19

March 2, 2014
Cabarroquis, Philippines

Talofa! (How 'bout some Samoan?)

Well, Elder Manabo's last day was on Tuesday. You could tell he really didn't want to leave, after being there for so long. Especially when we visited the Mercados. The previous lesson, we had given Brother Mercado a highlighter as a present, so that if he came upon a scripture he enjoyed, he could highlight it. When we returned, he has his Aklat ni Mormon marked up on 1 Nephi 7:12. He told us about how he had been studying the chapter with Sister Mercado the night before and they thought it was interesting how Laman and Lemuel had forgotten the blessings and miracles the Lord had wrought for them. They then speculated how Nephi was his fathers favorite child, but that it is no reason for Laman and Lemuel's attitudes toward their father and all the tender mercies they had received during their miraculous ordeals. As Brother Mercado was expounding, Elder Manabo started tearing up. All of those memories of how far the Mercados have come hit him all at once. Their faith makes me realize how far I need to go along my road to conversion. Elder Manabo is now off to Tuguegarao, the hottest city in the mission. God be with him 'til we meet again.

My new companion is Elder Dulaca. He is from General Santos city, which is the southern-most city in the Philippines, on the large southern island of Mindanao. He goes home in September. The first day, we had a bit of adjusting to do. I'm sure, with the combination of me having my first companion other than my trainer, and him having many established friends already within the mission that he wasn't serving with, we were both singing a variation of the opening tune of The Swan Princess: "I can't believe I'm stuck with him all [cycle]..." But it has all worked out. We've been adjusting our teaching methods, and I have already learned a lot about how I can improve my teaching. My social skills in Tagalog have coincidentally sky-rocketed, which has been an amazing blessing. The work has been going smoothly. Except for the fact that Elder Dulaca is the District Leader, which means when the sister missionaries in Diffun need baptismal interviews for their investigators, like they did on Saturday, we end up with very few lessons. And by very few, I mean 1. Haha. Oh well, we got to hear some remarkable testimonies from little children in the Diffun area during their interviews. 

Except we be converted, and become as little children, we shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We realize how little we really know, and how little faith we have, when we talk with children. They are all alive in Christ. 

We got to play Scum at a dinner appointment the other night. Oh how I've missed that game. It was a well-needed opportunity to let off some steam and get to know the new Elders in Cabarroguis a little better. 

This past Sunday, I witnessed the truth that a city placed on a hill cannot be hid. Brother Bidonio(see a past email) had a conversation with Sister Mercado the other day, in which they talked about their baptism and how they've been attending church every Sunday. So, Brother Bidonio inquired as to whether he could accompany them on Brother Mercado's tricee to church. They made arrangements. So, for the first time in a very long time, Brother Bidonio was able to attend church! Not only was he there, but Brother Salatamos as well, and another brother who has just recently returned to activity. It was amazing to see them all there. When someone begins reading the Book of Mormon, and begins living a righteous lifestyle in the true and restored church of Jesus Christ, it does not go by unnoticed by those in need. It becomes a further beacon of hope and truth, for those who might feel they've been passed by. This missionary work is useless if we, the members, are not signaling in others to the aid of the God of Israel. It's like on the Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf and Pippin light the beacon of Minus Tirith, and through the aid of all the other beacons through vast mountain ranges and canyons, Rohan is alerted to the urgent state of Gondor. Guys, we need the Rohirim, or we can't win the battle! Continue signaling the beacons! Your own homes, your associations at work, school, and online. Light the beacons! Until the whole earth has been filled and knows that God is living, and calls His children to Zion!

This email is going to be a little shorter than usual, so let me just leave some things with you that the Spirit has testified to me of this week:

1. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.

2. Our children deserve the best parents possible, to raise them in righteousness and pure love. This applies to those who already have families, as well as to those, like me, who are only preparing. While I am in my early years, I'll prepare most carefully. Families can be together forever. For reasons beyond me, this week I have felt a very close connection with my future posterity. It gave me a whole new level of determination to be the best I could every day. They deserve someone who has prepared to be their father, diligently seeking to please the Lord. My prayer is that I can make it up to specs. I also know that my mission here in the Philippines is essential to that preparation, and for the future joy of posterity in this land, lasting beyond comprehension.

3. We cannot even begin to imagine our own potentials.

4. We cannot even begin to imagine the love we are capable of feeling.

5. This life is the time for us to prepare to view the Glory of God, which exceeds our own understanding, and our physical capabilities. 

6. We will be blessed for being persecuted for the namesake of Christ. Always stand in Holy Places, and do not let your countenances fall for some fleeting desire, even if you feel it will bring social acceptance or even self acceptance. 

Fear not, I am with thee
Oh be not dismayed
For I am thy God
And will still give thee aid!
I'll strengthen thee,
Help thee,
And cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous
Omnipotent hand!

This promise is true, and rings with majestic glory! Sing it aloud and clear!

I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. I deeply appreciate all of your prayers on my behalf and for those I have been led to teach. I truly feel all of your love and the power of your prayers is immeasurable.