Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014-- Email #44

August 25, 2015
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Yello Family,

I feel I'll start this letter by paraphrasing Dave Nibley from Latter-Day Night Live: "Well, we was up to Tugue and *HOCK* *HOCK* *SPIT* and it was just gorgeous!" In all honesty, though, it was a gorgeous week. I've come at a good time of the year for Tugue (Pronounced "Too-Ghi"). The days get blistering at times, but heavy rainfall comes at night and keeps things a cool and comfortable temperature to sleep in. It's a nicely circulated apartment, despite the fact it has an identity crisis. I'll have to get pictures next week though, I don't trust the internet at this comp shop...

Last Monday and Tuesday were pretty slow, besides shopping and district meeting. Our district leader, Elder Labetoria, is in the apartment with us, and Elder McCausland is his companion. I don't know if I mentioned that before, but yeah. That's been pretty fun... To an extent. At times they can all give me a bit of a headache. But it's been manageable. We have a lot of awesome sisters in our Zone; a lot from my batch that came from the Manila MTC. Our Zone Leaders are really laid-back at times, but they can have their "reproving with sharpness" moments as well. The work here, in general, has a different feel than it did in Santiago, and I'm not sure I like it. It doesn't really feel like it's "hastening" yet here. That's something we've been able to work on this week in our area, which really has brought some blessings.

We were informed on Tuesday that there would be an open-house for the Tuguegarao South Stake Center in which investigators from all areas within were invited. We were given invitations to the open-house to give out. Consequentially, this last week was full of handing these invitations out to as many people as we could. And it was awesome! We've gotten to know a lot of people in our area because of this, and a lot of potential investigators are surfacing. You would assume with how small our area is, most of these people have already been talked to by the missionaries. Apparently not. We still don't have a lot of progressing investigators, but I feel that problem will most likely be solved by ourselves first, striving to be more obedient. Obviously there's a problem with not obeying mission rules, apparent as its necessity may be, and then trying to commit others to make similar commitments in their lives. Talk about hypocritical. As if the Spirit could promote action in any way on their behalf if we aren't doing our part as the missionaries. 

On the day of the open-house itself, there was an enormous turnout... By the members. The investigator attendance was pretty low, but we had two major city officials address the attendants, expressing gratitude for the nonrestrictive, open-armed, compassionate feel they receive from the members here, and for the tangible good we've done to the community. Those were great words to hear from a die-hard Catholic and a devout Born Again, putting Christ first. There are some awesome leaders in the stakes and wards here, and it's great to know they are doing all they can to oversee the church in this part of the world in a meaningful, responsive way. President and Sister Rahlf visited the open-house and gave some remarks as well. President then chastised a lot of the Elders for being disobedient, and told me personally he placed me here for a reason, that hopefully I can help the situation. Your advice on being an effective leader is just in time. I feel like many Elders don't respect me at all, and it's made me shy away from being more bold with them. I suppose I need to be shown I am weak before I can be made strong. 

I know that we are all children of God. I know that we need never fear in times of trouble, or depression, or loneliness, or pain, or even death itself, if we remember our hero, Jesus Christ, who has descended below it all, and conquered it. It is finished. We know who the victor is. We only need to choose our side. So choose today, that no matter how crappy(for lack of a better term) life seems at times, we will always remember who our Father is, and how much He loves us, and how much power we have in our hands, through small and simple means, to truly change our perception, our paradigm, and our hearts. We have an eternal capacity to love, and to live forever in it. We are being refined by a master craftsman, and we should give our will to Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014-- Email #43

August 18, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Family!

My last days in my beloved Santiago were pretty awesome. First of all, you've never seen a sadder face in your life than Rusell's face when he heard I was being transferred. Every time he looked at me it was like he was going to cry. Same goes for Jethro and Henry. The really frustrating part though was that the city shut off the water for our apartment the last two days I was there... Which means I wasn't able to finish washing my laundry, and both Elder Delaney and I had to shower at one of our less-active sister's home. She was super nice about it, though. She even made us a big breakfast. It was an awesome way to leave out. 

At transfer meeting I met up with Elder Bautista who seems to be doing awesome. He's training these coming cycles, which should be fun in his purely-mountainous area of Benito Sullivan. Elder Delaney is going to Alicia, where they have lunch and dinner appointments with the members daily. I, on the other hand, have gone to a far greater place...

TUGUEGARAO! It is pronounced Too-gig-ah-raw. It is the hottest place in the mission, widely-known as the hottest place in the Philippines, and arguably one of the hottest places in the world. It's smack-dab in the middle of the Cagayan River Valley, which is the valley encompassing most of northern Luzon. Considering it's bowled-in like this, it makes for an extremely hot climate. I haven't seen any rice fields here, either! It's all corn up here. The town has a really unique feel to it; far different from the feel of Santiago. For one, the street layout is completely different. It is a lot more crammed and crowded. There are a lot of really cool, Spanish-era churches all over. Even the tricees are a different style than the Santiago ones. I've started to give them all different names... The Quirino Low-rider, the Santiago Tub, and the Tuguegarao Antique Wagon. Maybe it will catch on. Don't quote me on that.

I'm in the Cataggaman Ward. It is an extremely small area. You can walk the whole thing in 30 minutes, most of the time passing nothing but corn fields. The population here consists mainly of youth attending the state college. A lot of those college students are young ladies. I think it's safe to say... The yellow fever has set in, swift and without warning. Ha! ;) Besides that, it's like Neverland here. Kids run everything. I'm amazed at how young everyone is. It is a great place to preach the restored gospel; thousands of youth, searching for truth, thirsty for a steady direction in life. And here we are to offer it. What a great opportunity!

My new companion is Elder Glassie. He's in the batch with Elder Espanto, so I'm his follow-up trainer. He's from Australia, which makes him my first English-speaking companion! He was surprised I knew so much Australian slang which I had picked up from Elder Delaney. That was pretty fun. He is a really cool guy, though. He played rugby back at school and he loves most other sports. I guess his trainer was a real stickler, in a very bad way. He wouldn't even let him play sports on P-days, which I think is simply uncalled for. He's become pretty disobedient, stemming from the fact he hasn't been able to enjoy the full blessing of obedience yet, considering when they were obedient, there was something wrong about the spirit of it. To be honest, I'm employing a strategy that may lead to me doing some disobedient things at times, but the ultimate goal is for him to want to be obedient out of a desire to be an effective missionary. He's expressed things to me that make it apparent he has a desire to be effective, but it's hidden behind his fear of being strict or unlikable. I know that a happy balance is obtainable, and although it might take time, it is priority, and important for the work here to progress. I'll give you updates!

We had a baptism on Saturday which was amazing. A 13 year old girl named Maryann Balisi. She is awesome! She just gleams with a testimony that is hard to ignore. The youth in this ward are super helpful and really good at English. I've had many complements on my Tagalog but mostly I've been complementing them on their English, which really is heaps better than the English of previous wards I've been in. I'm anticipating helping with the piano accompaniment on Sundays, so I hope I'm able to improve better my piano playing. I'm able to do pretty well with the simplified hymnbook they have, which features guitar chords I'm able to figure out on the piano much easier, but I'm intending to start reading music better by the end of it. I feel I've squandered a lot of opportunities to grow my talents. My Heavenly Father has given me these for a reason, and I ought not to bury my talent. 

This is a great work, and I'm so excited for these coming cycles in beautiful Tuguegarao! A gospel to live, a lot to learn, and many more to love. The God of Israel leads us.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014-- Email #42

August 11, 2014
Santiago, Philippines

Dear Family,

We've got some disturbing news this morning... I'm being transferred! Saying goodbye to Santiago will be difficult. So many amazing things have happened here. It just wouldn't do justice to describe my experiences here in words, but I'll be taking the things I've learned here into the eternities, along with the friends I've made on the way. Needless to say, God knows me and loves me, and I've come to understand His love a little better. I intend, day by day, to learn how to love better, so that I might understand my Father's love for me, and be useful in His hands. I'm still weak. Weak things can become strong.

KariMae and Dwemy were baptized this last Saturday! You can tell in both of them they have a desire to keep their promises to God, and that they have a higher potential. They are both younger, so we had the youth speak at the baptism. I think it helped them realize that the Spirit works through small means -- for example, children -- to bring about big change in our hearts, and that the Holy Ghost makes intersession with our indefinable, yet undeniable, feelings. I like how Paul puts it in Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." I know that is true, and by priceless experience, I've witnessed that the simple testimony of a child, out of their own will to do good, is more powerful than the wisdom of men in whatever glory it is arrayed. 

We performed a simple little arrangement of "When I Am Baptized" for the musical number at the baptism. I was on ukulele and we sung the second verse in a bit of a round. It was pretty cute, haha. I love the lyrics of that song. I know when I am baptized, my wrongs are washed away, and I can be forgiven, and improve myself each day. I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain. I want to be the best I can, and live with God again. What a sweet, simple, true message, that we should never forget. 

I'm not going to lie, I'm really excited to get a new companion. It has been really difficult with Elder Espanto, and I feel it should be classed as a miracle in it of itself that we were able to accomplish what we have these past two cycles. I have witnessed, in part, the fulfillment of the prophecy in D&C 35:13-15 "Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit; And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them. And the poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand—" I know that if the Lord hadn't been with us in this work, we would have been helpless to do nothing. But because it is indeed the God of Israel at the helm, the work goes forward, we are strengthened in our weaknesses, and the Spirit continues to thresh.

Last week, something interesting happened to us that I'd like to share and leave up for interpretation to you. 

We were at our desks one morning when Elder Espanto was joking President Rahlf would come and surprise us at the apartment. President had already made a surprise visit the week before, so I assured him I was confident another happening wouldn't occur for a while. He then suggested that maybe the prophet would come and visit instead. He thought it was pretty funny to speculate on our possible reactions, and finally suggested we would be freaked out if Jesus Christ came Himself to the apartment. I laughed, and we continued on our personal study. A few minutes later, we heard someone calling out from the gate. It was a beggar. We came out, and he asked us for money. We said we would only give him food or water if he needed. He said he didn't want food or water, only money. That lit off a red flag in my mind that he was probably not the real deal. It's a pretty common occurrence here, as in other parts of the world, that if a beggar is only asking for money and denies the necessities of life, there's good possibility that he's either a phony or an addict of some sort. He left, denying the food and water we would have given him. After we had come back inside for a few minutes, another beggar came to the door, this time asking for food and water. We gave him some biscuits and plenty of water. While he was eating and drinking, the money-asking beggar that had came earlier watched us from the distance. He looked distraught. After the man had finished eating and drinking, he thanked us graciously and left. When we came back inside, Elder Espanto looked down and said in a bit of shock, "remember how I said it would be crazy if Jesus came to the apartment? Well, that might have been him."

I think the story brings up a lot of very interesting things to ponder about, and can be interpreted from several angels. Rather than explaining it myself, I thought I'd leave it up to you for interpretation. I'd be very interested to hear your insights on the matter, any of those who are reading. 

Until next week, where I'll be in my next area, and probably have a lot more things to say! Ingat!

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014-- Email #41

August 4, 2014
Santiago, Philippines

Dearest Family,

Remember how a few weeks ago we had super good food all the time? Well this last week was the exact opposite of that. Let's just say, without going into disturbing detail, I can feel somewhat of the pain that Morgan Spurlock felt on SuperSize Me, and that it will be a very long time before I'll be going to MacDo again. *Shivers* It's too much! TOO MUCH!

However, on a very positive note, I feel my paradigm had a great, needful shift this week, and it brought me in closer harmony with our Savior. I'll start with yesterday and then work my way back.

Yesterday we had an incredible fast and testimony meeting. One after another they came up to the pulpit, pouring out their hearts and, without a glance of doubt in their eyes, testifying of this the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration, and the innumerable blessings that have poured out upon them. There were reoccurring moments when everything in the chapel would get quiet and the piercing, undeniable power of the Spirit would strike all of us, leaving us in awe of the power of the true and living God and quietly assuring us that all that was said was indeed true. The words of Owl City's Adam Young in his recently released song come to mind: "No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand, til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I'll stand." On a separate note, Adam is teaming up with Lindsay Sterling(The member violinist girl) for a single, and seeing that he is still without a specific denomination, I hope that leads to some late-night discussions about Christ with each other that can plant some gospel seeds.

One of the particular things that struck me in their testimonies was the unity they all felt with each other as a ward; long time members and recent converts alike. They are all truly knit together as a family. Zion, I suppose, in perfect operation. Last week, when two of the members of the ward had been admitted to the hospital, a group of about 15 or so of us, consisting of members and auxiliary leaders, came to visit them individually. Everyone in the hospital seemed to look at us strangely. Who are these people? Why are they dresses in Sunday's best? Why are they all visiting this person? We visited, laughed together, gave priesthood blessings, and hoped for a quick return of health. There was nothing sad or victimizing in anyone's attitude; there was such an abundance of positive energy and hope. After we had left, one of the nurses asked who we all were, thinking possibly they were family members, in consideration of how close they were one with another. Brother Epistola, one of the hospitalized members, replied they were members of his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The nurse then responded "... How can I join?"

And that's exactly what people should be asking when they see us! Why are they so happy? What's different about their church? How can I be happy like them? I hope we can all live the kind of way that draws people together in unity, under Christ our Master. That's the whole purpose of the Church anyway; so that we can be unified under one Lord, His divine authority and priesthood, and one faith in Him. This whole church is one big happy family. Here I am, some lanky white kid from Utah, leaving comforts of home to a strange country out in the Pacific, and yet when I enter a church building, it's as if all the cultural, religious, and racial differences of the world disappear, and I never left home. All of us, listening to the same voice -- the voice of the living God -- attained from Him Himself, and not from man's aspirations or desires. It gives it all a deeper meaning, and it gives us, of all different backgrounds, a deeper love for God's children.

We've begun teaching Rose DelaCruz, Sister Elvera's daughter-in-law. She has noticed the immense difference her mother-in-law's conversion to this church has made in her life, and consequently has grown in interest to unite herself with us. After teaching the restoration, she seemed to understand well, and was excited to ask God if what we had shared was true. Well, we know her faith is strong, cuz after she prayed, she said she got an answer in the affirmative, about Joseph Smith, the Restoration, and the Church. She's continuing to progress and I hope she can make the necessary changes in her life to bring her closer to her Savior, and His Church.

This coming Saturday, KariMae Alialy (10 years old) and her uncle Dwemy (16 years old) will be baptized!  We first contacted them a few months ago. The Alialy Family has come out of inactivity and it has been amazing to see their testimony rekindle with such power and conviction! Dwemy was close to not being baptized until September, due to him being busy at work under a very strict boss. However, we challenged him to seek the Kingdom of God before riches, and despite the risk of complications with his boss, he came to church with the determination to be baptized this weekend. He's awesome, and it is apparent from his actions that his faith is strong. This is a great work to be apart of, and it only gets better with time!

I felt a very strong spiritual confirmation this week concerning Joseph Smith as a true Prophet of God. It came from earlier that week, spending time singing restoration hymns, reading experiences from the prophets life, and really seeing the immense hardship he was constantly under. No good man, under circumstances such as he was under, could possibly be a schemer or false prophet. There was nothing to gain but edification, pure knowledge from the living God, revelation, priesthood, and a firmer testimony in our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is all true, and I stand as an additional witness to him, and his mission, and the reality of his calling from God. I also heard a really cool song about him: Angels and Friends by Strength of Soul. Super good. Listen up.

A great success I've had this week is getting along well with Elder Espanto. We've been getting along better than we ever had been, and consequently, our teaching has been more unified and we edify each other, including our investigators. I've learned to love more unconditionally, which I feel was my big "change of heart" this week. My heart learned not just to love what pleased me, or who I got along with. I opened up new chambers to love those with seemingly insurmountable differences, and to gain, even just a glance, of what charity really is. I seem to have a lighter, lovelier feeling about others, and a better understanding of my own weaknesses. 

As explained in Ether 12, God shows us our weaknesses if we come to Him. Why does He show us our weaknesses first? Well, sometimes we aren't entirely sure what our weaknesses truly are in the first place, so He needs to show us what we've missed. I'm sure we could all easily make a list of our weaknesses, most likely finding we share a lot of the same handicaps to our progression. But God doesn't just fix the general weaknesses we've come up with. He takes our list, smiles, and then gives us the list He's been keeping, which is a lot longer and a lot more detailed. He then tests us, in every point, making us stronger in places we hadn't even realized there was a need. At that point, the part rolls around where we become very humble. We realized we didn't know ourselves as well as we'd hoped, and that God really is the one to determine the right way. When we become humble, however, weak things are made strong. We can learn from aerodynamics that when people were trying to create a flying machine, they could not change how the air behaved. Nor could they create something that would alter how the air behaved. All they could do was create something that would work with the laws of physics to create a lift. So should we:

Just as the flaps on the wing of a plane need to go down to create lift, we need to submit to the will of the Father in order for Him to lift us. His law cannot change. His ways cannot change. We need to submit to Him, and He will take us higher. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

This is the calender Rusell keeps in his house. Can somebody say "future missionary"? No no no, how 'bout "future Area Presidency"?

Out in the rice again.