Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014-- Email #57

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
Tuguegarao, Philippines


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.

-Elder Kocherhans


Editors Note-- 
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 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 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 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". 
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! :-)

Loves!  Teresa

...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 :-) 

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014-- Email #56

November 17, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Hey Joe,

I guess I'm calling it jokes on the pictures this week, the computer shops here seriously can never cooperate with me... Neither can the tricee drivers. You'll tell them to go somewhere and they look at you like you're stupid. "Ay! Ang layo!" (trans. "Wha? That's way too far!") Yes, it is far, that would be the reason I need a tricee to get there! Don't you know what your job is!? The fact that I'm white doesn't help things either. Even if I speak strait Ibanag or Ilocano to them, they still double the price because I look rich. Tricee drivers in Santiago had no problems like this. What is wrong with the public transportation in this city?

In other developments, the work this week was truly rewarding. We've been able to manage quite well even though we haven't had our cell phone since transfer day (because a certain Sister Lamac borrowed our phone at said transfer day and forgot to return it before going to the opposite side of the mission). We took ourselves no thought for raiment, but obeyed the commandments we've been given, and consequently the work was guided by the Spirit, and our Heavenly Father provided for us. We had a lot of appointments fall through, but strangely enough, within that same hour we would find a new investigator who seemed to need the message at that time more than we would have understood or been able to plan for. Consequently, we had an unexpected 17 new investigators in one week. It really makes a difference to have a companion with a similar drive to work hard and do as much as possible every day to share the restored gospel and find those prepared for it. When two missionaries lock in on the missionary purpose, they gain a divine third companion; the Holy Ghost, the very One promised by the Savior to aid us in our truth-seeking and to not depart from this world in preparation for the coming of our Lord. What a privilege to be engaged in God's very work.

We've still been working with the DelaCruz family in their preparation for baptism. It has been extremely helpful how open they are with us in their concerns. It allows us to address them a lot more specifically. It also lets us see what aspects of their preparation are still in need of strength. We shared with them the story of Peter, in Acts 5:28-29 when he is arrested by the Jews for preaching Christ's name in the city. The Jews brought Peter before a council,  "Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." A powerful statement from the senior Apostle of the Lord, who despite past weaknesses, now understands perfectly that God's law is infallible, and that no amount of glory from men could equate to that which God promises His obedient children. I think they understood well that when they receive a spiritual witness that this Church is true, no ridicule or social pressure could dissuade them from their witness of the truth, from the Holy Ghost. We used scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Book of Mormon, to show how cohesive their messages are, and that they aid one another in testifying of Christ and flawlessly outlining His pure doctrine. 

We weren't able to get ahold of Brother Singh this week, unfortunately. But we'll be getting our cell phone back today and we'll be able to text him and follow up with him. We found that a lot of his neighbors were receptive to our message. They noticed us visit the "Bumbay" (What they call Indian people here) before and became very interested to know that we spoke Tagalog and that our message was for all people of all nationalities. We encountered some very strange religious beliefs from a multitude of people this week, that fortunately we were able to resolve without conflict. One of them believed if they prayed, opened the Bible to a random page, closed their eyes, and then felt around the page with their finger for a bit, that once it felt good and they opened their eyes, they could find an answer to any question they had. Kind of like a whacked-up scripture Oui-Ji board. Another one (whom I might add was legitimately named Nards) pulled out a binder of things he had printed out from the internet about other religions, and one by one tried to point out our "false doctrine". He tried several times to compare the Book of Mormon to the Qoran, and Joseph Smith to Muhammad, with which points failed to have his facts right, all the while talking about the Bible as a perfect, unaltered book. We had a lot of fun experience discussing different beliefs and were able to collect a lot of material, in the form of questions, for our own personal study. 

We've also had some rewarding experiences in preparing a member family in our ward for the Temple, the Baletico family. They are Ilocano, which I greatly appreciate 'cause I can kinda understand them :) We had a family home evening at their house last Monday about temples throughout the dispensations which was very educational for me to prepare. Looking at the sacredness and necessity of temples throughout history -- from the tabernacle in the wilderness, to the spoiled temple of Herod in Jerusalem, to the Kirtland temple and the angels who often visited the saints there -- has given me a greater drive to share the knowledge of temples and the holy ordinances within them being restored to the earth as a part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Temples have been a great blessing to those who are able to perform ordinances therein, and to all those who have yet to enter that marvel at its simple, celestial beauty. 

I leave with you my testimony that the Lord will never forget us. He knows us perfectly. Everything we experience in this life is tailor-made for our improvement and eternal progression. If we chose to follow His commandments, we will begin to see things with Heavenly eyes. We will discern the truth that we are all Brothers and Sisters, with the same loving Heavenly Father, looking out for us and doing everything in His infinite knowledge that we may return to Him and inherit His kingdom. We will gain endearing love for one another, that will expose any foul plot of the adversary to make us think otherwise, and will allow us to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, in doing whatsoever He has done. We will all live again, soul and body reunited, eternally in a kingdom prepared for our habitation. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014-- Email #55

November 10, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Maayong Adlaw,

Welp, I couldn't have asked for a better week. Everything fell into place very well and we had a good mix of things to do that covered missionary work in a nutshell. 

First of all, on Tuesday Elder Glassie and I ate out at our favorite Panciteria (Eatery that specializes in noodles) and had a good talk. We had a really fun two cycles together, working in two different areas. We learned a great deal from each other, and best of all we became really good friends, despite being very different from each other. Sometimes it was difficult to comply with him, because he seemed pretty set on selective obedience being good enough. It was especially hard when other missionaries, even other leaders, also took this stance, and I had to face it alone. More than anything I witnessed and learned that selective obedience brings selective blessings, and that when little trust is given, little is returned. Obedience is so essential to the work of salvation. If one cannot submit themselves to the will of the Lord, no manner of persuasion or even belief can convince another soul that what he teaches is true. The Spirit is the teacher, and cannot teach if there is not a worthy vessel ready to be implemented. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ can only be taught by the power of the Spirit if it is to be understood and lived in its intended purpose. That's why I immediately established a culture of exact obedience with my second-born child in the mission, Elder Rebojo.

He is from Surigao, which is in north-eastern Mindanao, the big southern island in the Philippines. The language they speak there is Visaya, or Cebuano, so he's been starting the process of learning Tagalog. He picks it up fast though, considering there's a lot of similarities in Tagalog and Visaya. I've also been learning a bit of Visaya myself, hence the "maayong adlaw" seen above. From what I've heard of it so far, it is a very beautiful language, and in many ways a lot easier to speak than Tagalog. Anyways, Elder Rebojo is awesome. He's been Branch Clerk for the past two years and was active in fellow-shipping with the missionaries and doing home teaching, so his teaching skills are very refined already. He has a very strong testimony of missionary work and frequently shares it with me. We've had a blast this first week here. We've already gotten a lot of new investigators from finding and had some awesome experiences in companionship study. 

Our lessons with Brother Singh are still going well. He's come to church 4 times now and enjoys it greatly, especially our super cute primary program this last Sunday :). Our lessons are still focused on defining gospel terms for him one at a time so he can gain understanding from the scriptures. When he reads out loud with us from the Book of Mormon, he frequently pauses and asks what certain words mean. You can tell he is coming to know more and more each day. He looks lighter and happier. He cooked us some Indian chicken curry on Friday which was extremely delicious. He's been challenging Elder Rebojo and our Sunday school teachers to speak English so he can understand and it's been pretty entertaining. The good thing is that our Ward Mission Leader has become an excellent fellow-shipper for him and has suited his request for a "Filipino friend who doesn't smoke or drink". We'll be focusing on helping him understand the main doctrinal points outlined in the Baptismal Interview Questions, so we can work towards that with him.

On Saturday we had a service project at one of our progressing investigator's house, the DelaCruz family. After completing the project we sat down with them and discussed the third and fourth ordinances of the gospel, baptism and confirmation. Sister DelaCruz still has a few concerns about being baptized but she is very studious and willing in her efforts to know for herself if the restoration is true. We committed them to a goal date on December 20 (They will be out of town for a considerable amount of time during November) and to consecutive church attendance until that date so that they might know for themselves if it is true. They are very receptive and obedient to the commitments, it's just that they still have some fears about their social standing with others if they joined another church. There will be an upcoming emphasis on fearing God more than men. 

I'm sorry but it appears we are out of time, so I'll write some more next week of some of the interesting insights I've had in personal study recently, and in district meeting lessons. Thank you for your prayers, I've seen their power in work here! I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, and that is foundation is sure. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014-- Email #54

November 3, 2014
Tuguegarao, Philippines

Naimbag nga Malem ken Kayo,

The sun came out in a multitude of different ways this week. Our narrowed finding efforts paid off with a lot of new investigators, more effective management of time, and tender mercies of the Lord. I feel the area developing strongly, with the Lords hand touching the hearts of many people who were ready to hear the restored gospel coming out of the woodwork. It's been awesome to be there for them!

So let me get some big news out of the way... I'm pregnant again! I've been called to be a trainer once more. I feel that part of the reason so many blessings have come in the work recently is because the Lord is preparing this area for my new-coming "anak". Not that I regret the many things I learned from my often-troubling first anak Elder Espanto, but I'm really hoping for someone a little bit more matured in life and sound in mind. From what I hear now, though, Elder Espanto is doing awesome with his companion Elder Peterson(My companion from the MTC!). He still gets a bit difficult sometimes but he is growing up immensely and is learning a lot of things he needs to hold and cherish as a Priesthood man and Elder of the Church. I'll let you know next week who my second child is!

So it was quite the adventure going down to Cauayan for the Trainers Meeting. I got the call at about 4 PM on Tuesday that I would be training, just as we were about to get into a lesson. The Assistants to the President informed me that I would be going down to Cauayan that night with Elders Paea and Monilla (who will also be training, super excited about that) to sleep at their apartment and then attend the training meeting the following morning. So, right after we finished the lesson, we rushed to meet up with Elder Paea (who is in the area right next to ours) and caught the last van out of Tuguegarao to meet Elder Monilla in Cabagan, which is about 40 minutes south of Tuguegarao along the main highway. Once we met there, we caught a bus to Cauayan and were picked up by the Assistants. It was a tiring day of travel, but along the way I had some extremely good conversations with both Elders Paea and Monilla about the motivations and difficulties of going on a mission. Both of Elder Paea's parents are not members and didn't support him leaving, but now that he's been out for about a year, his parent's hearts have softened and they have been listening to the missionaries. As each family member searches for light and truth, the others are influenced by the Spirit, so that they help each other qualify for the blessings of a gospel-centered home, and to be together with each other forever. Families don't begin perfect, or reach perfection on earth. They are made perfect, just as we are during the resurrection, after we have done all that was in our power, through the grace of Jesus Christ. What a priceless gift. After the meeting I got to catch up with Elder Peterson and sing a little acapella. It was an eventful two days.

Thursday was fun. We tried to teach an old woman living with an investigator family who says she only understands Ilocano. She legitimately did not speak a lick of Tagalog, which is completely beyond me how she's lived in this country for like 80 years and doesn't know even simple phrases in their national language. We tried to teach her in the broken Ilocano we knew but she didn't seem to understand that either. So we relied on the Spirit as we testified and pointed at pictures. We then taught a whole housing complex in part of our area called Consuelo. They were cooking up some barbeque and we got the opportunity to share with everyone there: about 15 people. Afterwards we set up a lot of return appointments and have some promising success with some of them. I've felt the Spirit help me greatly recently in helping me testify of a living prophet, and especially of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

Saturday was amazing. Remember that Indian college student I talked about a few emails ago? Well, we were pretty disappointed that we never saw him at church after inviting him that one time we met him. On Saturday morning, however, we got a text from the sister missionaries in the North stake: "Elders, we have a golden contact for you. He's attended church here at San Gabriel twice now. He's from India, his name is Singh. He's available pretty much everyday at 5 PM." Best text I've ever seen in my life! I testify of the power of prayer! We found his house and taught him that night. He told us that he had been reading the Gospel Principles manual, "every night for 15 minutes." He had already converted to Christianity in India, except for his father, but he still has a very minimal knowledge of who Christ is and what a lot of the vocabulary in the gospel means. It has been an amazing experience to teach everything from scratch in broken English. Who would have thought! He cooked us up some Indian food on Sunday night as well. It was so amazing! He also says that he wants to find Filipino friends who "don't smoke and drink, like me." I think we can find a whole ward full :) We really do have a loving Heavenly Father who answers prayers, and blesses us! Please pray for him as well!

I would like to testify to you that the Lord is merciful. He is always aware of our infirmities, and also know that we have the capacity to fight against the adversary using our own will and agency, and by doing, destroy his power to hold us captive. When we do it on our own, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ become healed of the scars of sin and woe, we gain light and truth that is added upon us, and we progress toward our ultimate goal of eternal life, inhabiting a celestial body. We all have demons, some greater than others, that slowly try to eat away at our souls, and keep us from reaching our full potential. We need to fight those demons, by standing up and choosing this day to serve God, our Eternal Father, who is the God of Glory, and loves us beyond comprehension. He is the God of Love, and it is He whom we should love, and not the other. We will be tempted to love the other and his selfish ways, but we must recognize the destruction it will ultimately lead to. Do what is right! Stand boldly against Satan and his temptations! We serve the God of Israel, and none other! We shall have no other Gods before Him! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. If you ever sent a package, it never got to me. Perhaps you forgot to paste pictures of Virgin Mary on it. If it didn't have that, there's a chance it got snacked on by pirates in Manila. So yeah.