Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014-- Email #49

Editors note:  For those who have not heard the sad news...our cute little pup, Bailey, passed away Saturday.  We've cried buckets this weekend, but it happened in a sweet and peaceful way, so that made it a little easier.  I had the feeling when Jordan said goodbye to Bailey last October, that she wouldn't be around when he returned.  Apparently he had that same feeling, though we never talked about it.  Instead of saying anything, I just took a few extra pictures as he was packed up and leaving for the MTC that morning.  I've included these photos in the blog this week.  Peace and Puppy Love, Teresa

September 29, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

'Musta Mga Kapamilya,

WHAT A WEEK! Before I go on to tell you what's happened to me, let me share my condolences for Bailey. I had a feeling that my goodbye to her before I left would be my last. Like you said, she and Madison have been great blessings in our family. Those dogs were just so full of love, it was impossible to let any other emotion get in the way of that. I'm gonna miss that bug-eyed weirdo. I think Kaylee has a firm understanding of the role of animals in God's plan, considering past conversations I've had with her that went way over my head. I'm hoping I can eventually own a Cavalier of my own one day. Preferably a Ruby.

The craziness starts on Tuesday, with Elder Labertoria being transferred. I went on splits with him so he could say goodbye to the members and investigators in his area. Elder Labetoria is an awesome, hard-working missionary that fell under some unfortunate circumstances his last few weeks. He and Elder McCausland didn't get along well, and it drove the spirit from their companionship. It was a pretty sad thing to witness. It effected not only them, but us as house-mates, and more especially, the area they were called to serve in. They saw some amazing tender mercies, however, with part-member families becoming complete and the smallest of areas seeing progression. It was a sad parting, but we knew he was off to some bigger, better things in his next area. 

Tuesday night at about 10 o clock, we were trying to figure out who Elder McCausland's next companion would be, and who would fill the slot as our district leader. That's when we got an unexpected call from President Rahlf. They gave me the phone, and President told me the Lord had informed him I was to be the next district leader. I was pretty shocked, considering the short notice, but I felt really excited to have more opportunities to serve fellow missionaries in this role. When the Lord tells us if we are prepared, we shall not fear, He means it. That's been a real help to me, in recognizing whether I'm ready or worthy to do something. If I'm filled with excitement and a drive to go tackle a challenge, I know that the Lord is on my side, and knows I'm ready. I feel that part of having the gift of the Holy Ghost is receiving that kind of attitude about new things, when it's the Lord's timing and you're continuing along the right path.

On Wednesday, during transfers, we got an even bigger shock. According to the request of some of the bishoprics and Stake presidency, Elder Glassie and I would be pulled out of Cataggaman Ward and begin serving in the Tuguegarao 4th ward. We would be replacing the Sister Training Leaders there, and they would be replacing us in Cataggaman. That way, there would be 2 Sisters and 2 Elders serving in each ward, allowing more opportunities for fellowshipping from both young men, young women, relief society, and the elders and high priests. It's a great idea, but it means we have to take over each others' areas, which is not a very simple process. That's been the main focus this last week for us: trying to figure out each others' schedules, investigators, boundaries of the area, etc... It's been an adventure, that's for sure. We've switched from the smallest area in the mission to one of the largest. The portions of the area we have seen now have been awesome. We've had some amazing finding and serving opportunities and I'm looking forward to this next cycle.

Thursday I got to conduct my first district meeting! I think the lesson went well. We had a lot of participation and I got some good comments. It really helps that we have the STL's and the Zone Leaders in our district to help me out. The focus of the lesson was how to set effective goals. Preach my Gospel defines goals as a reflection of the desires of our hearts, so it is important that we know what we desire, and then apply it to our goals, so that we see greater improvement not only as missionaries, but as individual sons and daughters of God for the rest of our lives on earth, and into the eternities. Identifying our desires is an important step in repentance. It's impossible to fully repent if we still have the desire to sin. The purpose of repentance is to implement the power of the Atonement so that we can change our wicked desires into righteous desires. Our natures change into one that is unshakable by the powers of Hell, and we can leave behind anything that would let us sell ourselves for less, which is the way we become eternal beings, and heirs to the kingdom of God. Do we want it? Then we can have it. Ask, and ye shall receive. 

Saturday was an absolute blast. We had a "Family Week" celebration at the Tugue North stake center. Everyone from the south stake was there for food, games, and cultural presentations. Here are the highlights from it:

  • One of the relief society sisters got a not-so-serious head injury during one of the games that everyone started freaking out about. A few of the sisters in our Zone had taken nurse courses and knew she was fine, but the others insisted she had to be rushed to the hospital. Filipino medical care, gotta love it. Moral of the story: When you are wrestling over a greased coconut, someone is bound to get hurt.
  • We had some delicious variations of the vegetable "empalaya". It's a very bitter vegetable but the ways they prepared it were amazing. We had some done up with stuffed meat, some kind of like sushi, some were deep fried... it was good eating. It was also coupled with some sweet rice porridge and something called "ice candy", which is frozen juice with cream and various fillings. 
  • Two of the high priests from Ward 4 performed an amazing rendition of "If I Fell" by The Beatles! Afterwards, we starting geeking out with each other about the band and then jammed for an hour or so. They were shocked I knew so many Beatles songs, considering how young I was. We had an absolute blast. It was so amazing!
  • Some of the wards performed hip-hop numbers, and the songs they danced to did not have any censorship. They were completely oblivious to the inappropriate themes and language in the songs. Heh. Awkward. 
  • The High Priests from each ward performed a traditional Filipino serenade called "harana". The purpose is that a young man and his friends sing outside of their lover's home, in the hopes they will open the window and sing back. Afterwards, they get the father's approval for matrimony. They had some hilarious skits. One of the High Priests pretended to be an angry father and attacked the singers with a machete, and the other one tried to serenade a branch president's wife. All and all it was old men pretending to be young lovers and it was hilarious. 
Thank you for all of your prayers and support. I know if we are obedient to what the Lord has commanded, we will see miracles, lives will change for the better, and we can change the world. It is our obligation, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to prepare the way of the Lord for His Second Coming. He will come, and this will be His Kingdom. It is our charge to take care of it, to gather Israel, and to spread the good news to every living creature, that we might all enter into the rest of our loving Father in Heaven. I get such a burning in my bosom whenever I tell an investigator that the very same Church organized in the past has returned, that God has not changed, and that we may partake of the fullness of the gospel, and never have to settle for less again. My prayer is that we may all understand our duty, so that our desire may grow, our hearts expand in capacity, and our nature be revealed. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22, 2014-- Email #48

September 22, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Ya'lls,

Sorry for the short time last week, Typhoon season makes schedules a little crazy. This also unfortunately was a factor in our work; it got a little bit groggy. However, we have a new ward mission leader who's an RM fresh from the field, and he's got a lot of spunk in him to get things rolling with the incorporation of members in missionary efforts. I feel like we've got a good cycle coming up. 

On Tuesday we had a pretty fun district meeting involving balloons and knives. Michael and Sean, we just had a Filipina Sister missionary transfer in from the Leeds, England mission. Her Visa expired after 16 months in the field so she's finishing out her mission here in Tuguegarao. She says her first area was in Bradford. She says she could never understand what anyone was saying because the English they used was so different from the English she learned in school. Anyways, I thought that was pretty funny. Her name is Sister Pacis. I know neither of you would have been around when she was there but it's cool nonetheless. 

After district meeting, we went to this really good American food place called Fat Kid Inside. They have the closest you can get to legit American burgers and such. They even have a giant burger challenge. The challenge is to eat the burger within 13 minutes. Do it, and it's free. Don't do it, and pay 500 pesos. Elder Cabaltica took the challenge on and, despite taking interesting strategic methods throughout the eating, failed miserably. But the employees were greatly entertained and we all had a blast. I've definitely reached the point that I choose Filipino food over American food if I'm given the choice. I find myself feeling that my meal is empty without rice, even if I'm just cooking eggs in the morning or something. I'm sure you're not very surprised my diet has shifted as such, taking into account all of the weird things I've eaten already. 

Last Sunday, the Stake President called on us to bear our testimonies during testimony meeting, and yesterday he called on Elder Labetoria and I to give talks during sacrament meeting. I don't know why he keeps picking on us, but it's always fun to bear testimony to the ward where we're called to serve. It's just a bit confusing, considering we have plenty of others members who would be more than willing and able to speak during sacrament. Anyways, I was assigned to speak on missionary work. Go figure. I focused the talk on how God chooses the weak to do His work so that He can show forth His power. I feel like sometimes, the members have little confidence in the missionaries. Of course, we're not perfect. We're young. We're not experienced. We're not the best in the language. But those have never been requirements of an effective missionary. I wouldn't say anyone God has chosen to be His servant would be "qualified" in the sense we might be inclined to define. Moses, the one called to declare boldly to Pharaoh (arguably the most powerful man in the world at his time) to let his population of Israelite servants free, had a speech impediment. Abraham and Sarah, well past their prime, were commanded to have a son, and that through their seed all families of the earth would be blessed. Their reactions seem typical with something we all would say. "What? Me? Why me?" It even says it there in Genesis 17:17 after God tells Abraham that Sarah would bear a child that "he fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" Moses had a similar reaction, in Exodus4:10. "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant". 

The answer is very simple. The Lord calls on the weak so that He can make them strong, and that all may know that God's power does not come from the wisdom of men, but comes from something much deeper, and truly infallible: faith. All they needed to do was believe that the Lord's words were true, and that the promises He had given them would be fulfilled. After that, anything was possible. A 90-year-old woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy, whose posterity gave us the words of all the holy prophets, Bible and Book of Mormon alike. A man with no eloquence left even the Pharaoh of Egypt with no other option but to "[call] for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up,and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said." Paul understood the concept of faith as a principle of performing mighty works, as he lists many examples in Hebrews 11. He also makes particular mention that this faith was a faith in Christ, which we all know is the first principle of the gospel, and the way to return to our Father in Heaven. 

With 18+ years behind us as missionaries, we took a step of faith when we submitted our mission papers, accepted our callings, and left to a foreign land wondering what on earth we were getting ourselves into. But because of that faith, and because of our calling, we have been made strong. Simple testimony from a couple of young boys becomes life-changing shifts in perspective, warm feelings in the heart, shared warmth and unity with a family, and a growing testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the earth. This work is remarkable, not just because of the remarkable change occurring in wonderful people's hearts around the world, but because of the remarkably simple way it is wrought. By small and simple means, great things are brought to pass. Aint that true. 

Let's use faith in every aspect of our lives. The gospel is a fully applicable plan for success in any endeavor. Even those who do not believe in Christ know that these things would lead to an improved life. Believe you can achieve something, and you'll achieve it. It's like faith. Don't let your mistakes drag you down, learn from them, and eventually you'll stop making those mistakes. It's like repentance. Make promises and hold true to them. It's like baptism. Surround yourself with good people whom you love, and who love you and support you in your efforts to be successful. It's like having the gift of the Holy Ghost. Keep going, keep improving, never give in, never believe you've done all there is to do. Endure to the end. Add the Savior into it all, and it is the way we can achieve our ultimate goal: eternal life. Until we meet our Father in Heaven once more, and rest in His presence, with no more regrets. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014-- Email #47

We received this message last night:

Dear Families of our Missionaries,

The Typhoon Luis has passed over the northern end of our mission bringing wind, rain and some flooding, as expected.  It did hit as a Category 2 and thankfully all our missionaries are accounted for.  Thank you so much for your prayers.

Sister Honeycutt
Philippines Cauayan Mission Office

Then we received Jordan's email just a few hours ago...much later than normal.

September 15, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Dear Family,

This is an unusual time for us to be emailing today, but the power was out in the city earlier due to Typhoon Loui, so here I am. Two other Elders hunkered in with us. We are all fine; the typhoon was actually really lame. I was expecting more. But as you've pointed out, we're pretty well protected here in the inland. The worst we got were some leaks in the roof, and the power outage. The next morning featured an intensely red sunrise which was absolutely stunning. I also did not get pictures of it, because during the course of the night one of the Elders in our apartment had implemented the use of my bag as a pillow, which contained my camera. Sorry, sunset. Next time nalang. 

Tuesday morning during planning, we were deciding on a spiritual thought to share with an on-and-off less-active family, the DelaCruz family. I asked Elder Glassie if he had a scripture in mind, and out of the blue he opens to Alma 38:5, which reads: "And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day." Elder Glassie kind of looks at it with a confused face, and then adds "Yeah, I don't know why but I think we need to share this one." We recognized it as a spiritual prompting and jotted it down in our planners. When we arrived at the appointment, we found sister DelaCruz and her single-mother daughter in great distress. They've had a reoccurring feud with their neighbors that escalated to a very dangerous point. It took a bit for them to calm down, and we assured them that although we might not be able to solve all of their problems, we could share the words we were inspired to share with them, and then let the Lord strengthen and protect them in ways no one else could be capable of. 

When we told them to open up to the scripture, sister DelaCruz happened to find she had her bookmark on the exact page we had chosen. The lesson was full of reassurance from the spirit that we were not the first ones to go through hardship, and that we simply needed to trust in the Lord, and the provisions He has promised will arrive just in time. During the course of the lesson, we testified of the Atonement of Jesus Christ; how a man, perfectly innocent, was put under false charges, passed through a completely unlawful trial, and executed in a most gruesome way. He, who had been prophesied of from the beginning, was rejected by His own. The very ones who had known of and awaited His coming were the ones to hastily convict and crucify Him. It's sobering to think of the great blindness that can come over us in this mortal test. But I think it is no coincidence that Jesus, our Shepherd, was a man known to cause the blind to see, if they had faith sufficient enough for Him to do so. 

I've got like zero time left so I'd just like to express gratitude for the many moments I've had this week, whether in personal study or companion study or in a lesson, where the spirit teaches me a knew truth that penetrates so powerfully into my heart as to, as Nephi, consume my flesh. I hope we can all have miraculous moments like this, frequently.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, September 8, 2014

September 8, 2014-- Email #46

September 8, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines
Hello Family!

We just got back from the Callao Caves just out of town. It was super cool! I'll send pictures in a different email. This one has some old ones from Santiago that never got sent. Anyways, the caves were really big and deep, and they have a Catholic church and shrine built into the cave itself. We were really tempted to swim in the clear, warm Callao river right next to us, and despite the presence of Islanders anxious to give in, we successfully resisted. 

This week was super awesome. We've been doing better every week now, and it's awesome to see that the gradual progress I had hoped would happen is indeed happening. This last Saturday, there was a big grand-opening at the Tuguegarao North stake center for their new Self-Reliance center, which is being taught by volunteer members and a few of the senior couples serving here. We were invited to help out and the event was really awesome! Tons of different wards met up for eating, dancing, and learning about the new Self-Reliance program. I still don't really know too much about it, but I know it will be a huge help to the community here, and will help the church create a more trusting relationship with them. 

We had some pretty funny things happen this week. One day we were sharing a message with a member family, sitting at a pavilion-like table in front of their house, when a mentally-challenged neighbor of theirs decided to have a bath right in front of us, taking off her clothes and making very uncomfortable noises all the while. The sister got up and started yelling at her to leave, saying something to the effect of "Hey! What do you think you're doing letting it all hang out like that!? We got guests!" We were averting our gaze and holding in our laughter, when their daughter Shakira decided to yell "Hey why don't you come over and meet them?" We shot glances to Shakira horrified. "NO!" But after a good talking to, we put a curtain down at the pavilion and continued on as normal. It was pretty hilarious, though. 

We had an awesome follow-up lesson with Victor the other day. We had previously invited him to live the Word of Wisdom, and when we asked him if he had noticed significant blessings from his obedience to it, he responded with a resounding "Yes!" It really strengthened my testimony in one of the church's most criticized doctrines. Obviously our physical health is interdependent on our spiritual receptiveness, and it was obvious in Victor's demeanor that he had come closer to Christ simply by abstaining from things that have negative effects on his body. If we can master our bodies, our Heavenly Father will expand our dominion far above that which we can comprehend. It all starts by mastering the little things first. 

It's interesting you mention the word "prosper" this week, because I've made similar realizations as well. Prospering is not about having the most, but having what matters most. Awww! But in all seriousness, it's true. And it is something God promises to His children more times than can be counted. I think it is no coincidence that prospering in the land seems to be a frequently occurring promise from the Lord, and if we take a quick look at it, it would only make sense that one of the most fundamental, essential blessings our Father can give us is that of security, happiness, and peace. In other words, we will "prosper in the land". We are given the opportunity and the ability to succeed, as long as we don't squander it for foolish, fleeting pleasures, or vices that we are all-too-quick to justify as acceptable weaknesses due to our human condition. We're better than that. We all deserve better from each other. We can change the world if we put our mind to it, tackle our spiritual/temporal/emotional/spiritual work, and put our "shoulder to the wheel" so to speak. We can multiply our talents. We can repent, shake off the chains that bind us, hit the ground running, and let our hearts change for the better. We can prosper.

No wonder "live long and prosper" is a traditional Vulcan salutation. [NERD ALERT]

I focused a lot this week on asking more sincerely in my prayers and paying close attention to what I received. I learned more than anything that each individual decision I made to do right, from the moment my eyes opened in the morning until they closed at night, made the difference in determining whether I would recognize answers to my prayers, be enlightened by the presence of the spirit, and how happy I was in general. My goal was that I could be a grateful, friendly, genuine person, which I felt would personify me in this sacred calling and all that it entails. This goal has also helped me understand how vastly deep the pure love of Christ, charity, really is, and has helped me break it up into easier portions for me to attain to; line upon line, precept upon precept. I know God listens to and answers our prayers. 

When a prayer is not only honest, but given in a quiet, contemplative place, there is no limit to the knowledge we can receive. Just think of Joseph Smith. It says right there in Joseph Smith History that he retired to a place he had "previously designed to go". He had not only thought about what he should say, but what kind of place and setting would be appropriate to do so. I can imagine him having gone to the sacred grove many times before to sort things out after a difficult day, to listen to the birds and feel the breeze, and to play as a boy his age would. He knew it was a place that he was safe from external pressures; a place where he could be himself, and be safe from temptation. No noisy villagers. No shouting preachers. Just himself, and the quiet sounds of God's creations. There was good reason it was the place he chose to ask God, the Eternal Father, "what is to be done?"

I believe that perhaps one of the reasons the words of Christ have a "familiar ring" to us, and cause our hearts to burn within us, is because many of the things he has said Himself and to His prophets here on earth, had already been related to us when we were yet pre-mortal spirits. It's not hard for me to imagine Jesus relating the Beatitudes to us before the earth had even been created. Our spirits cannot help but long to follow Him whom we have followed from the beginning. I know that this is His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I know that we can obtain eternal life if we follow the principles and ordinances of His gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It is in no-wise a check-list. It is a life-long commitment to change our hearts and desires, that we may no longer desire to commit sin, but to do good continually. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014-- Email #45

September 1, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Dear Family,

Looks like I'll never get to see the new house, eh? I'll definitely continue praying and fasting for you. Sometimes we get thrown into pretty interesting situations. I suppose if that wasn't the case, we wouldn't be interesting people. 

We had a really good time this week. After district meeting on Tuesday we had some fun with Elder Cabaltica showing us magic tricks. He is super good at card tricks, and that kept us entertained for a bit. At one point he showed us that he has a little electrifier to keep dogs away, and we decided it would be a good idea to hold hands and see if we would all get shocked in a circle if one of us was electrified. So we tried it. It didn't work. But I got my thigh electrocuted which was pretty fun.

In developments concerning exotic foods, on Sunday morning we were talking with some on-their-way-to-getting-drunk people who were pretty confident we were their best friends, and I was offered some fried grasshopper. It was delicious. I nearly gave Elder Glassie a heart-attack when I actually put it in my mouth. The flavor was great, though. Fun stuff. 

Wednesday we had some awesome experiences out at work. We had a lesson with a long-time investigator here named Victor. He is a really eccentric guy. He is extremely passionate about his line of work... at a junk shop. The way he describes his job, however, would make you believe he's on his way to curing cancer or something. "I love it when I can take a piece of junk, that others might think is worthless, and turn it into something of use." It might help to visualize him saying this as he squints his eyes and gives ambiguous hand motions. He has had some awesome personal progress recently. In lessons, he has begun to really appreciate the things he's been learning and has gained desire to try them out for himself. I think it's finally clicked for him that he can't gain this kind of experience anywhere other than from this, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Later that day we went down to the church to see if we could catch one of our investigators, Reymart, attending seminary, and share with him afterward. Unfortunately, he wasn't there, and so we kind of awkwardly ended up joining the seminary lesson. Bishop's wife is the seminary teacher, and she seemed kind of half-enthusiastic-half-confused with our attendance. As we were sitting there, however, one of the young woman, Camille, walked in with her non-member friend, Sophia, to attend seminary. Swiftly after the class, we asked if we could teach her along with Camille. The lesson went well, and Sophia prayed at the end, during which she mentioned "hopefully, this is a new start for me, and my participation in this church." There's no such thing as coincidence. It was awesome timing, and an amazing tender mercy from the Lord. 

Filemina is one of the recent-convert young women in this ward. After being baptized, she stopped attending church. Her family members are not members and aren't very supportive of her decision to join. Elder Glassie described her before I met her as being a "sad little girl". When I met her, I could understand what he meant, and it broke my heart a bit. The other young women in the ward I guess have not been nice to her, and she'd shy away from coming to church in an effort to avoid confrontation with them. Girls. So frustrating! We had continued inviting her to church, but she still wouldn't show. 

On Thursday, we went back to the church to teach Sophia after seminary, and we unexpectedly found Filemina there attending as well! She had a smile on her face that I hadn't seen before. Camille seemed to be really friendly with her, which really made me want to give her a high-five for not being a brat like the others. When we started the lesson with Sophia, we had Camille present with us, as well as another recent-convert young men named Jun Vincent. But before we prayed, Filemina stepped in and asked if she could join in with us! She contributed really well during the lesson, as well as the others, and the spirit was very strong. She attended church as well! I'll never forget the genuine joy on Elder Glassie's face when he said to me, "That's so awesome about Filemina, man. It makes me so happy to see her happy."

That's something important I've learned on my mission; what it means to be really happy, and how to have it last. Here's hoping for many more happy days to come, in the name of Him who has made it possible, even Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans