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

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