Greetings! Included at the end of Elder Kocherhans' email this week is an additional message from me related to some thoughts he shares...
and now, on to this week's epistle from the Philippines...
November 24, 2014
Interesting you mention events concerning people being a bit matapang (overkill) at church, 'cause that happened to us yesterday during sacrament meeting. They only let the speakers (including a return missionary and return mission president's wife) speak for 5 minutes each, and then the rest of the time was given to our Stake President who yelled (literally) at everyone for coming to meetings late and not attending all sessions of stake or general conferences. Guess who came to the meeting late and was out of town during conference? Our investigators. Super super awkward and uncalled-for chastisement during a sacrament meeting which was meant to be centered on Christ. That really irked me hard-core. We apologized to our investigators afterwards. Luckily Brother Singh went to the San Gabriel Ward that week and got to miss it. UGH! For real, what the heck?
This week has been another one full of good food. On Thursday we both had a bug to make something truly delicious for lunch, so we walked to the nearest vegetable vendor and got some all-fresh ingredients for ginataang gulay (Vegetables cooked in coconut milk), which Elder Rebojo turned out to be an expert in preparing. To couple the vegetables I made some ground pork Adobo (anything cooked with garlic, onions, soy sauce, and vinegar) with the addition of some potatoes and egg. We had a very satisfying feast of Filipino goodness. Some other days we will get slow-roasted Liempo (A giant slab of fatty pork that makes you cry how delicious it is), some other fire-roasted confection, or even Filipino fried chicken. I can't believe I'm saying it but, currently, at least, I do not miss American food. I much prefer Filipino food. It's also going to be very hard for me to say goodbye to the rice at every meal when I get back. Haha.
The work went well again this week. We are still getting many new investigators daily and our teaching skills as a companionship are refining very well. We are also strengthening our relationships with the members in the ward, which really lightens the burden of the missionaries, even if it's not in outstanding ways. I'm also starting to pick up small amounts of Ibanag and Itawis, which are the two major dialects in this region. Mainly the things I know how to say are just so I can get lower prices for tricee fair. "Arara ni eh! Ani ma ba..." (trans. "That's so near, though! What is this?") We're getting a lot of investigators referred from less-active members, which gives them more desire to come into fellowship with the Church again. It's overall a good situation in our area. Looking forward to the next 9 weeks.
On Wednesday we had splits with the Zone Leaders in their area. Their area is larger than ours, which is saying something. It's basically all comprised of houses along the national highway leading out of Tuguegarao, Manila-bound. I was with Elder Espino. He's from Aklan, which is on the island of Panay (It's the triangle-shaped one in the middle). He was Elder Peterson's trainer and was my District Leader during the Elder Espanto days. So we're already pretty good friends. We had a fun day at work. He's been a convert of the church for only about 3 years now so I asked him about his conversion story. Apparently when he saw the Elders for the first time, he asked them for a Book of Mormon and began reading it. A few weeks later he surprised the missionaries by showing up at church. It was fast and testimony meeting, and the Spirit was extremely strong. The Bishop got up at the end and asked if anyone else wanted to share their testimonies. Elder Espino raised his hand and got up! The missionaries were scared to death. But when he got up, he told them honestly that he was not a member of their faith but that he had felt closer to Christ than he ever had in his entire life in the short hour he spent among that ward. He continued attending church and was baptized soon after. How amazing is that! Now he's one of the best missionaries in the mission and it's been an honor working along side him.
A few times this week we've tried to return and visit with brother Nards (The one I told you about last email). We had been prompted to come back to him several times due to something disconcerting he had told us our first visit with him: "Many religions have come here to try and tell me what they think is true, but they never come back." We decided we wanted to be different than the others. We are meant to be a peculiar people, now aren't we? And I think it would be best if representatives of Jesus Christ Himself wouldn't give up on someone just because he says no one ever comes back. Well, we haven't been able to reach him yet. But guess who we have been able to reach? His sister, two of his nieces, and three of his next-door neighbors who are now very interested in our message. Kind of funny how that worked out, eh? Whenever opposition seems to block out hope, I like to think of one of my favorite quotes from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done”
Saturday I had the privileged of doing the piano accompaniment for our Ward choir practice. That was fun, especially considering I can't read music very practically, let alone play accompaniment for a choir. But I figured it out my way (listening to the song a few times and then repeating it on the keys) and it turned out fine. My experience in choir really paid off in helping people singing parts and using correct technique, which at times seems to be non-existent here.
Later that night we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration with the DelaCruz family. It was a very powerful experience of witnessing the fruits of a Prophet of God. Truth has always been viciously and consistently opposed. That's why the primitive Church died out so soon after its conception, and why the earth fell into apostasy. It's why such cruel measures were taken to silencing the Protestant movement, slaughtering citizens of their own nations to keep the Bible out of the hands of the people and to hide the corruption within an abominable church. It's why from the time Joseph saw the Father and the Son in a grove of trees, even until this day, persecution and belittlement of all forms have not ceased. To paraphrase a quote from the movie, perhaps we were meant to swim in deep water. Better deep than shallow. We are Latter-Day Saints, with a protocol to not be shaken by the wiles of the adversary, but to let our light shine before men, and to boldly declare the truths which we know. As Jeffery R. Holland says, "we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known."
Continue to feast upon the words of Christ. Repent of your sins and work out your own salvation every day, finding new things to improve upon and new ways to express love in a pure, genuine way. Remember Him, and His infinite sacrifice for us. He lives. I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ established on the earth in the last days. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
A brief explanation, (since the beginning of Jordan's email refers to an unidentified event...), as well as adding my own testimony:
I shared with Elder Kocherhans in my email from home that we had just returned from a sacrament meeting where a returned missionary spoke. (in fact, there were two returning missionaries reporting in that meeting...so it was a huge crowd) After the meeting, the visitors moved their greetings and visiting to the foyer, as they began a Sunday school adult class in the Chapel, with closed doors. The temperature was cold outside, so, understandably, the greetings and visiting continued for a few more minutes in the foyer. At that point, a rather grumpy gentleman came out of the class, with an impatient and unkind demeanor, and chose to shush the visitors in a rather abrupt manner. I, of course, was not truly offended, but knowing the sensitivity of different individuals, including children that can be present in such situations...it made me sad... and cringe just a bit.
The irony of that behavior, in these circumstances, because he is being interrupted in some way from a lesson discussing gospel doctrines and principles of righteousness (See D&C 121:36-46), is not lost on me. I've had some interesting experiences throughout the years that have taught me volumes. I have shared this thought in my training and leadership opportunities, as well as with my children: Are meetings important? Yes. More important than people? No. Would the Lord like us to have family scripture study? Yes. Is it ok to gather our children for scripture study with angry threats and contention? No. Would He rather have us act in loving kindness at ALL times, and in ALL things, and in ALL places? Yes. And THAT is the gospel. It is Love. It is kindness. It is Charity. It is the way the Savior operates. Period. Are we perfect? No. Should we be striving to be more loving, kind and patient? Absolutely. Regarding our interactions within the Church, or in the community, or at home, our priority should always be Love... not our Sunday School or FHE lesson, or our programs, or our agenda (that may include a check-mark next to "family scripture study"... as important as that may be).
I don't know what was going on with this gentleman. He may have a hearing problem and was taking out his frustration on an easy target. I don't know his heart. But I do know that he had no idea if the people visiting his ward that day were members of the Church. He had no idea that one of the people I was talking to in the foyer on that occasion was a dear sister who nearly died a few weeks ago...that I don't often have the chance to be with her in church...and that she had nieces and nephews who were seeing her for the first time since the accident that nearly took her life. He had no idea of the many, many prayers, much fasting, and miracles that had allowed her to be with our family, at that Sacrament meeting, greeting each other joyfully in that foyer, on that particular day. It's a good reminder to all of us. Like you will read in the first part of Elder Kocherhans' email, he had an interesting experience yesterday as well. I've had other similar experiences, where Priesthood leaders have acted in unkind and unseemly ways...trying to do the "right" thing in the "wrong" way. Many women in leadership positions make the same mistakes. I know, based on D&C 121, that the Spirit ceases to attend us when we act in unrighteous and unkind ways. Making such mistakes is a part of life. The weaknesses we all share. We all mess up. It happens. It's unfortunate, and may be more common than we would like, but it does happen. We all have room for improvement.
This is one of the reasons we need to be anchored in the right place, in the right way. My testimony is not based on people in the Church, as much as I might admire and love many of them. It is based on my knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the great Plan of Happiness. Man did not give me my testimony, and therefore, cannot take it from me. It's between me and my Heavenly Father, my Savior, and the witness and gift of the Holy Ghost which testifies of truth. It is based on my choices as I strive daily to obey commandments, follow living Prophets, keep covenants, and constantly repent. I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, that this is true, and that the atonement is real. I am grateful for experiences like this that remind me how I want to treat people, and then hearing Jordan's experience as well...to remember that we never know who may be there, affected by our actions and imperfections at any particular time.
Yes...a good reminder.
For further study and second witness to my testimony on this topic, I would highly recommend re-watching a devotional given by Jeffery R Holland in 2012, "Israel, Israel, God is Calling". https://www.lds.org/
broadcasts/article/ces- devotionals/2012/01/israel- israel-god-is-calling?lang=eng
It's a bold and classic Holland address that is best heard in his voice to appreciate his passion for the topic. :-)... "Lesson #1; NEVER check your religion at the door!" :-)
You go, Elder Holland! :-)
...just a few years ago, this eloquent and faithful young Missionary was a baby. Thought I'd throw in this picture for perspective.:-) Time flies. Today is the day we have to prepare to meet God...and since it is a limited amount of time, AND time does fly by so fast...we need to get to work.
Thanks for being a good example of that principle, Elder Jordan :-)