Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014-- Email #53

October 27, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Everyone,

So, yesterday I was thinking about the year mark, and I decided to look through all of my old planners and total up some of the Key Indicators I've gotten up to this point in the mission. So, in total since entering the field in December, I have had:

16 Investigators Baptized and Confirmed

215 Member-Present Lessons

330 Other Lessons Taught

334 Recent-Convert and/or Less-Active Lessons

1332 Finding Efforts (Street Contacting, Inviting Investigators to Church, Handing out Pamphlets, etc...)

To be honest, I don't know whether those figures are large or small, but the numbers can't really tell anyone a story of all that I've done since arriving in this beautiful country, as a full-time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I've faced the largest struggles I've ever known and experienced the purest joy I've ever felt. Time and time again the adversary tries to make me think being a missionary isn't something for me, or something I can't find my real self in. But missionary work is for everyone. It is a part of us. When something bigger than what you are seems to fill you unexpectedly, and you meet people in the most serendipitous of circumstances, and you all come to know the Savior in a way that keeps Him close to your heart, you just can't help but sigh and think about how beautiful life is, how warm love can be, and how truth can be so liberating. That is missionary work. It is the work of salvation. It is a work guided by perfect, eternal love. It is a miraculous change in our lives, designed to help us remember who Jesus Christ really is, and why His Church has been restored upon the earth for us. 

This week was super fun! Especially Wednesday and Thursday. First, let me explain a little bit about Philippine city government structure. The country is comprised of 12 different regions, each with a number of States or Provinces. Our mission encompasses just about all of Region II, which contains the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya, and Quirino, in North-Eastern Luzon. Tuguegarao is the capital city of Cagayan. Within the major cities and municipalities in the Philippines are divisions known as Barangays. In our area we have about 5 Barangays, some being larger than others. The most effective way to work in an area encompassing several Barangays is to split up which Barangays you will work in each day, so that you don't waste too much time on travel. 

On Wednesday we stayed in Balzain East, one of the most populated Barangays in our area. Our teaching pool hasn't been the fullest since the area switch so we've focused on finding as many new investigators as possible each day to fill our teaching pool to capacity. It has come slow but steadily. While we were there, there were some workers putting dried corn into sacks, preparing it to be shipped later that week. There was a lot of dried corn spread over the tarmac they were using, and we decided to help them out. We ended up helping for a good half hour or so, getting a lot of strange looks from passersby. It was a blast. And it gave everyone involved a better perception of what missionaries do, and what our church is all about. Afterwards the crew invited us to eat with them and we went our separate ways with very good feelings inside. A similar thing also happened on Friday when we helped some women we had just met prepare vegetables for a big batch of Bicol Express they were making for a party. We've been saved spots as test-tasters, which is awesome. It's great being peculiar. 

On Thursday we had an awesome Zone Conference with both of the zones in Tuguegarao and the Ilagan Zone. I got to meet up with Elder Bautista, who is doing great. I didn't realize how much I missed that guy until I saw him on Thursday. We really had an awesome time working together. Some of my best memories are with him in Santiago with Rusell, Jethro, and Henry. Our cook for lunch was the infamous Brother Pete, who is an American that has lived in the Philippines for quite some time. His cooking is exceptionally delicious. He converted to the Church while he was living here, I believe. I don't have enough solid information about his story to be able to reiterate it, but he is one of the most interesting people I've ever met. Extremely unique. 

The theme of Zone Conference was identifying a successful missionary. It all essentially boiled down to being obedient out of a love for the Lord. And that's really all there is to it. No need of explanation. An obedient missionary who loves the Lord will be successful. End of story. That's the formula. And that's the best advice you can give. There is a lot of very disobedient behavior in this mission that would make many ashamed. But many of us have chosen the higher ground, and to put faith in a God of miracles, not some other God. The musical number we prepared went really well! I was happy about that. The bad part is that my calluses finally came back only after I had to give the guitar back to the mission home. Ugh. I'll find something else to use the guitar for, I'm sure of it. Using music as a powerful way of testifying comes pretty naturally to me. A lot more naturally than speaking, I'd say. I think it's that way for a lot of us. I'm grateful for music.

Well, now I'm on the downhill. Here's hoping for an amazing year full of miracles. Why settle for less?

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014-- Email #52!

October 20, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Family,

Happy Birthday to Mom, Dad, Kaylee, Sean, and the late Bailey! There is no word for "Happy Birthday" in Tagalog. They just use the English. Unless you wanna say "Maligayang Kaarawan" and sound helplessly illiterate. Speaking of which, Elder Glassie just wrote that to his little brother despite many efforts to dissuade him. Haha. I've noticed that a characteristic trait of being on the mission for about a year is that I get no emails other than those from the family. The words of the Beach Boys come to mind: "I've been in this town so long that back in the city, I've been taken for lost and gone, left alone for a long long time." That being said, feeling like a local in another country is thoroughly fun, and will only get better. The best part is that I have the funnest job there is; on the Lord's errand in one of the four corners of the earth He saw fit to send me to.

Earlier this week Sister Rahlf told me to arrange a musical group for this coming Zone conference, so this morning we got together with some of the other Elders in our Zone and sang a spur of the moment arrangement of Abide with Me; 'Tis Eventide. We all locked in really well the first go, so that was awesome. Elder Paea, a Tongan, is singing with us, giving it that nice "The Other Side of Heaven" feel. The great part is I get to use a guitar, and I can have it until Thursday so I can practice. My fingers will enjoy that greatly.

This last week had ups and downs. Tuesday and Wednesday we got to work with some young men in the ward preparing for their missions, and a few RM's that have just got back. We learned a lot from both of them alike. Friday was extremely cloudy and rainy, and it made the day feel kind of depressing. But we had some cool experiences. We met a student from India attending Cagayan State University. A lot of foreigners from India and Africa come here to attend college to save money. Kind of weird, but that's how it goes for a lot of them. We found it very hard to speak to them, because they didn't know Tagalog and they had rusty English. The hardest thing was trying to give directions to the church. In Tagalog, I could say two words and they would know exactly the place I'm talking about, even if they weren't from that area. In English, we had a bit of a dilemma on our hands. I hope we meet more foreigner students and help them become more familiar with the church, and with Christ in general.

Thursday we had splits with the Zone Leaders. I got to know Elder Cousin a bit more. He's from South Jordan and is going home on November 5th. Consequentially, you could tell he's a bit anxious to go home, but we still had a good day of work. He's an excellent example of a missionary to me. He is strict to obey, but is extremely fun to be with as well. He is genuine in his service as a representative of Jesus Christ. That is something I strive to be daily; to be genuine and pure in my love of missionary work, and all of the wonderful people I meet every day. If the heart isn't in the right place, nothing else falls as easily as it should. It's like finding the corner pieces of a puzzle before connecting everything in the middle. Don't make things more difficult than they need to be, and allow your heart to be changed by the power of the Atonement. After that, you have the framework needed to fill in your life story.

Sunday morning, it was actually very sunny and beautiful. I had prayed for a beautiful Sabbath morning and it set the mood for the rest of the day. I'm very grateful for that. I had to play piano for sacrament meeting and I didn't feel very prepared. It didn't help that they had switched up some of the hymns on the program; I played the intro for "Jesus Once of Humble Birth" and the congregation started singing "Where Can I Turn For Peace?" Anyways, it was good practice and it all worked out well. Unfortunately, no investigators were able to attend sacrament. I guess we know what we'll focus on committing this week.

Sunday afternoon we met a new beautiful family. Frustratingly enough, I've forgotten their last name. Anyways, it's Nanay Marivic, and her two kids Mark and Michelle. They're super nice. They are Ilocano and have a strong Catholic background, but they are very open and eager to hearing our message, especially Mark. We actually met him the week before, but at that time he was in the early stages of Dengue Fever and it wiped him out the whole rest of that week. Luckily they found it early in stage 1 (There are 4 stages of Dengue, 4 being the worst) so the recovery was quick. It's been fun practicing my Ilocano again. There are just so many Itawis-speakers here that I haven't been able to use it. And then by the time I learn a few things in Itawis, they switch to Ibanag on me. So many languages here. For real.

I hope you all have an excellent week, especially with the house situation and Loriann's recovery. The more we understand the gospel, the more we will want to implement it into our lives. It is the all-encompassing and eternal plan God has given us for our happiness and success as His children and heirs to His kingdom. We cannot fathom the glory that awaits the humble and obedient seekers of righteousness here on this earth, but heavenly things can only be discerned by the Spirit, living a higher law, in anticipation of a glorious reunion at the end of our mortal trials. Because Christ lives, we too shall live. I know this to be true, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Editors Note:
All this happened one year ago this week!  (October 23, 2013)  

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13, 2014-- Email #51

October 13, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hello Family,

Well, I was about to start my email to you when someone grabbed me from behind and I met the face of President Rahlf! That was a bit of a shock, but not nearly as bad of a shock for some of the other less-than-obedient missionaries that were in the computer shop with us. Hehe. Go figure that all of the really bad obedience problems come out in our Zone as soon as I'm appointed as district leader. There's nothing I can't handle, but seriously... Obedience is an essential aspect of being an effective missionary, and if someone isn't laying down the line, no one will. I find myself wishing I wasn't the one that would have to do it, but it is my responsibility, and I must sustain my leaders. The past few weeks I found myself being quaint to rationalize any disobedient behavior for my own pride's sake, but as we've learned this past general conference, lowering the Lord's standards to the inappropriate behaviors of men is called APOSTASY. It's how it has started every time. I find it best articulated by one of our family sayings we got from Brian: "Justification is the grease on the fire-pole to Hell."

Speaking of Conference, wasn't it great? Conference always answers such specific problems I face. It's one of the witnesses to me that those we are listening to are prophets, seers, and revelators of the Most High God. The language aspect of it was also very interesting, and it was hilarious to see Elder's Holland and Christopherson pull out some of their Spanish. 

I loved President Monson's statement about Cain, the first murderer: "Power in potential, weak in will-power, Cain fell." Such a simple statement, illustrating the importance of our choices in defining who we are. It couples well with D Todd Christopherson's talk on agency. The commandments are manifestations of God's love for us. He gave us an earth to live on, and the ability to chose between right and wrong. God has established what is right and what is wrong, and gives us His power in accordance with our righteousness. Our obedience shows God if we love Him more than our own selfish desires, and how deep our understanding has grown. This way, He knows where our faith lies, and if we are worthy to inherit His kingdom. If God let us do whatever we willed, and had no demands for us, then it would not really matter if there was a God or not in the first place. This is why we must act, with determination, whatever our choice is, so that we might know for ourselves that there is a God, and that He is our loving Heavenly Father, who sent His Beloved Son to pay for our imperfections and faults, to refine us into something heavenly. 

If I keep on writing about the subject of conference I'll take all day. Those were just some of the notes I made at a glance. As of this week, it was an adventure. Literally. We've been exploring our new area; seeing how far it goes, mapping it out, and finding new and old investigators. We haven't had the most positive reception in our finding as I've had in past areas, but we've had a lot of fun exploring more of the city and getting to know the members better. We met three young men on the top of a large hill the other day who seem to have potential. I'll keep you updated on them and their progress. 

Even though this week was fun, I felt a lot of discouragement. I've been lucky enough to have amazing friends in this mission that help me get through, so the adversary has had no power over me nor over any aspect of our work. I don't know if I mentioned Elder Monilla has been transferred up here, but he's been a real help to me. My prayer is that I can endure all that I need to face, and that I can shape myself into a worthy son of our Heavenly Father. Sometimes the temptation to lower expectations or standards can be so appealing at this critical time, but the God of Israel is with us, and my heart is in gratitude forever that He has never let me fall. I can do hard things. Christ has descended below it all. It is finished. All I need to do is implement that great power in righteousness. Service to fellow children of God, in all parts of the earth. 

I know this church is true and that it is the only true Church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth. It has been restored, along with all the authority, keys, and powers necessary for the salvation of men. Press forward, saints. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014-- Email #50

From Teresa: 
Most of you reading this blog are aware that my sister, (Jordan's aunt)  Loriann Gabrielsen, and her son Moke (9 yrs old) were in a serious boating accident at Lake Powell this past weekend.  They were sitting on a wave runner when they took a direct hit by a ski boat going 25 mph.  Loriann is currently in critical but stable condition after brain surgery and an operation this morning to repair a severed femur. She also has a broken shoulder blade, ribs and head lacerations with skull fractures.  Moke had a deep laceration in his hip/leg, but is doing well and should be released today.  It's a miracle they both survived.  It's a miracle Loriann is doing as well as she is today.  We are grateful for the blessings and miracles, and especially for the outpouring of love and support for her, David, their 10 children & spouses, our parents, and her siblings. Thank you, thank you to all the angels watching over this family...both on earth and in Heaven.   
Loriann and I are very close.  I know her.  I know how incredibly strong she is.  While I am horrified to think of the devastating injuries and pain she has suffered, and will continue to suffer... I know the Lord is in charge here, and sometimes His greatest work, miracles, and blessings look a lot like tragedy at first glance.  I have complete faith in His ability to bless and heal Loriann. His fingerprints are all over there have been countless miracles already that have preserved her life, let alone Moke getting out of this with stitches, staples, and no internal injuries.  It doesn't make logical sense that they weren't both killed instantly.  Miracles!  I also know that Heavenly Father's ultimate goal is our eternal happiness, and he allows us to grow in ways we learn best.  That's been true for my life, and I know it's true for my sister as well.  I love her.  I know she is in good hands...and I will exercise my faith in her behalf for a full recovery, and leave the rest to God.  The healing power of the atonement is infinite...and available to all of us.  The Savior is very aware of his sheep...with love and kindness...and there are more miracles in store.
Continuing prayers appreciated!

Updates will be posted on my facebook page regarding Loriann's condition and recovery for any who are interested.

Much Love,

October 6, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Dear Family,

I'm always so impressed with our family's steadfastness in the midst of trial after trial. I'm so glad we're solid. I'll be praying for both Loriann and Moke. I'm not sure what I'd like you to pass along to them. One of the things that comes to mind is that I believe we're saved from things far worse than speed boats more often than we think, more often than we would notice. 

Monday night we had dinner at President Cuntapay's house and had the opportunity to have a bit of a scripture study with him. I shared one of my favorites from Alma 5, verse 14, when Alma is talking about the remarkable change wrought in the countenance of Abinadi: "And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" We have the opportunity, as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Latter-Days, to receive his image in our countenances. Although we cannot attain perfection quite yet, we can be lights to the world, as our Shepherd is, in our own unique ways. We ought to ask ourselves if people feel blessed by knowing us. Are we surrounded by good company that isn't interested in selfish desires but in blessing others through their talents? Those kind of friendships are ones that will last. Those were the bonds of fellowship that have kept members of the true Church of Jesus Christ, in all dispensations, together. We are brothers and sisters. Do we shed light on one another? Or do we only look for light to be shed on us? 

Another experience occurred where I found a specific scripture in my personal study that happened to be the exact scripture an investigator wanted and needed to hear. It was a scripture that, at first, I thought I needed more than anyone else. It's also in Alma, in the 36th chapter, verse 24, after he has talked about his remarkable conversion: "Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors; 26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God." This is an excellent example of a hard-working missionary whose only desire is to share the good news he has received to everyone he meets. It is also another example of how the gospel, when implemented into an individual's life, allows them to understand each other better, or "see eye to eye" as Alma puts it. The gospel allows those from different backgrounds and interests to focus in on one ultimate goal, and thereby align perspectives together. I've felt this in effect especially with companions or investigators that I otherwise wouldn't have gotten along with very well. Because we both came to understand that we were both making steps to come unto Christ, any differences that had existed before dissipated, and the seemingly deep divisions of culture, religion, or personality, were revealed as the schemes of the adversary they are. There is no need to contend. We have all been saved by the same Savior, we all chose pre-mortally to follow the same Jehovah, and Satan knows the best way to break our ranks is to make us think the contrary. Give no heed to him.

On Wednesday we had a meeting in Cauayan for all of the new district and zone leaders. I learned a lot about my new responsibilities. We also had pizza which was amazing. By the way, during the pizza break, Sister Rahlf turns to me and says "Elder, I think you should go play piano now." I don't know why she keeps requesting me to; I don't read music very well yet and I only know a few songs, but it's nice to have someone encouraging me to practice at every opportunity I can. Sometimes I feel Sister Rahlf has more faith in my skills as a leader than President Rahlf. I hope I can be a good example to others. I know we always feel unqualified to take these rolls on, but I know I'm not doing it for my own sake, but for the sake of all the missionaries I need to serve. I need to be something solid for others to lean on. I'll do all that I can, and then rely on the grace of the Lord. I can't pay Him back, but I can pay Him forward.

Elder Glassie and I have learned a lot from working with the Sister Training Leaders lately during this area switch. The sisters just have such a kind and loving countenance I don't think I could ever achieve, and their drive for the work is beyond anything I've noticed in an Elder. It has been really fun to learn from them and feel the deep concern they have for each of their individual investigators. We definitely feel a pressing responsibility to keep watchful care of their old area for them. I always find it remarkable when I take a step back and realize I'm doing this; I've been called of a prophet of God, and by inspiration from the Lord, been assigned in the city of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Philippines, to preach the restored gospel. It is all so surreal. I wish I could relish every moment of it more fully. To all of those preparing to serve: this work is the best you'll ever do in your life. It's priceless joy, and it doesn't fade. 

Press forward, saints!

-Elder Kocherhans

Loriann, Moke and I in our natural habitat of Newport Beach a few years ago...  Moke's a little bigger now, and both Loriann and I are smaller after our fitness challenge this summer. :-)  I want to recreate this picture in the future... :-)