Monday, October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015-- Email #101-- Homeward Bound!

October 5, 2015
Echague, Philippines

My Dear Family,

This is the last email I'll be writing as a full-time missionary. What a sobering thought. I couldn't put the right words to how grateful I am no matter how hard I try. What an honor to have the name of the Lord Jesus Christ on my chest, inside and out, for two years. I have come to know Him well in this time, as I've gotten to know my brothers and sisters in the Philippines. I fell in love with this place since I first laid eyes on it. I can still remember vividly, two years ago, when we descended in our air plane through the cloud layer, and the wide vista of Region II opened before our eyes. I've never felt stronger in my life like I was where I'm suppose to be. That feeling continued as I got off the plane and arrived in my first area of Cabbarroguis. It was like there was a voice constantly repeating in my head, "I'm home! I'm home!" I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and I haven't been able to since, til this very day. I am eternally grateful. My heart is full of so much love for God's children that I've met in Cabbarroguis, Santiago, Tuguegarao, Bagabag, and Echague. It couldn't have been better. The Lord has been so merciful to me throughout these two years. 

I'm so grateful for the Priesthood power and authority I've been able to exercise. I have witnessed fulfillment of the prophecy in Mormon 9:24, "And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover..." I'm so grateful I've been able to help others along the way and to perform saving ordinances using that same authority and power that Christ established in all dispensations.

My knowledge of the gospel has expanded. Not in a way that my knowledge of deep doctrines increased or I memorized volumes of scriptures and facts, but in a way that I gained a firm determination to continue doing the simple things, like prayer, reading scriptures, and attending Church. The individuals I've had the honor of witnessing becoming members of the Church all followed a similar road: they read, they prayed, they acted, and the Spirit bore witness. That's where conversion comes from. And the road hasn't ended for me. It's just begun. I'm looking forward to continue doing the simple things to establish a firm foundation. 

I'm glad I've been able to bear powerful testimony of truth as guided by the Spirit. Those are moments I will never forget.

I cried like a baby when I said goodbye to the Ward. They sang "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" at the end of the short program they had prepared for me. I tried singing along with them but I only got as far as "Goh-", then I cradled my head in my hands and sobbed. I'm going to miss this place so much. 

I don't have much time left, and I'll be seeing you all on Thursday anyways so I'll end here. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the very same Church that Christ organized in ancient days, and that it was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know he was a true prophet, seer, and revelator, and that the Church continues to be run by living prophets, seers, and revelators in our day. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I've come to know, undeniably, of the divinity of Christ through that book. It has changed my life and the lives of many others. I know we have a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to return to Him someday. We are children of God! He knows we can't make it alone, so He provided a Savior, even Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten of the Father. I know that He suffered for our pains, and sins, and all other things that death and sin have to offer. He broke the bands of death. He shattered the chains of sin. He died, was buried, and rose on the third day. He lives! He lives to this very day, on the right hand of God, and has shown us the evidence of His love in His latter-day work, that we all have the honor and privilege to participate in, as guided by the Holy Spirit, which will show us the truth of all things. I leave this my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

After the Family Week parade, outside of the chapel.

Shirts we made for the housemates

The Ward fed me VERY well :)

I'm going to miss Echague 2nd Ward.

Finally, before I get home, I got a picture on a karabaw!

The corn harvest is over, but the soul harvest has just begun!

This is Neneng (Yogad word for "woman") She was very dirty so we had to give her a bath before we rode her. 

Elder Paea, my favorite Tongan.

Another shot on the karabaw.


Monday, September 28, 2015

September 28, 2015-- Email #100

September 28, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Dear Family,

Last week was so fun! However, as the song goes, "the time is far spent; there is little remaining"! So I'll have to abbreviate everything to the best of my ability. I'm going to see you soon anyways, so it's no big deal.

On Tuesday I had splits with Elder Valdez. It was so fun! We found a lot of new investigators. We approached a couple we saw outside their house and as soon as we started coming towards them, the husband got a bench from inside for us to sit on and invited us to teach them. It was a great lesson and it turns out they knew some members from Santiago. The Spirit was very strong the whole day and it was a successful splits! Elder Valdez is the one who had read about me on the blog before and he told me how much he appreciated the splits and that he got to "see me in action" before I went home. Yes, I'm still in action!

The next big event was on Thursday with Zone Conference. Sister Rahlf had called me a few weeks earlier to think about a musical number to do. I didn't feel keen on doing a solo so I tried to arrange a group with some of the other vocally-inclined Elders in the nearest zones. The group ended up not getting together to practice until five minutes before the meeting itself. But it went really well! I was proud of our little a-capela rendition of Hope of Israel, with a key change included. We stepped up right on the money and it was awesome! I love Polynesians. They are so musically inclined. The rest of the meeting was very inspiring. I needed it. 

On Saturday we had our Family Week Celebration, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Family Proclamation and the 100th anniversary of Family Home Evening. The entire Alicia Stake was there, hosted in Echague. We had a parade around the main plaza in the morning and then a presentation by President and Sister Rahlf after that. If there is one thing I've learned from President Rahlf, it is to love my wife every day and tell her frequently, as well as to raise a righteous family. He is a great example of that. In the afternoon there was a cultural show by each of the Wards. During one of the Ward's performances, the sound shorted out and there was some considerable waiting time. During which, I came up to the MC and asked him if the Elders could present something. He agreed. All of the Elders came up to the stage holding Hymn books, acting like we were going to sing. Then, we all dropped the Hymn books simultaneously and Elder Paea, from Tonga, led us in the Hakka. YES! It was epic. The whole stake was going crazy. I was up in the front leading with the Polynesians. Sore thumb much?

I overheard the Relief Society here planning to feed me a ton of delicious Filipino food for my last meal so that's going to be awesome! This Ward is so great. They've been so supportive and cooperative. I hope I've been able to make an impact on Yogad City. I was really hoping this last week would be clear of other activities so that I could just focus on the area, but after looking at the calendar with a meeting almost every day and splits... It's going to be hectic. I'll give it everything I got! I love you all, and I hope you're doing well. I'll be coming back to the States soon, warm it up for me! I have a feeling I'll need some adjustment to leave my current home and return to my former. 

I know that this is the Restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord revealed in the last days to dispel confusion and show unto us that God does still speak to His children, and His work isn't over yet! I've felt that Spirit so strongly and I'm so glad I've been able to testify of it at every waking moment to the wonderful people I've met here. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Pictures from the recent baptism of Irene, Joshua, and Monica

Birthday presents at Zone Conference!

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015-- Email #99

September 21, 2015
Echague, Philippines


Alright, to take care of business first... I haven't got a hold of my flight plans yet, but if I was to make a request for dinner it would be Japanese chicken curry. I'm hesitant to go straight back into American food; compounded with the shock of being back in the states, I have a feeling my stomach will be a little sensitive. I'll adjust my diet little by little. Rice and curry sounds like a delicious way to start. Also, I don't know if Brian is busy, but I would love for him to make some home-made tapioca pudding if it's not too much to request. Breakfast isn't much of a question. German pancakes, duh. 

It was a really fun week! One of the best parts is I've felt a very strong drive to stay obedient. Sometimes missionaries that are close to going home will let some rules slide, but I've been feeling the opposite, which is a blessing! Especially in the light of this week... Our investigators, recent converts, and even members have been going through some challenges. You know what that means? Satan is at work because he knows good things are ahead. We cannot falter just when we enter the fight! Less-active members have been progressing well as of late. A lot more are making the effort to attend Church meetings and activities. We have a big Family Week celebration in Echague this Saturday which is being stressed over by the leaders as they plan for it, so pray for its success! It will be a great opportunity for non-members to be introduced to the Church and hopefully there will be a lot of harvesting afterwards!

Speaking of harvesting, we have two new investigators with baptismal dates this last week! One of them, Princess, is in a part-member family with two recently activated less-actives. She's a 13-year-old girl and they say she's been rebellious in the past, but now she's been attending Church with her cousins and is definitely interested. She has some friends in the Youth program as well, which is a great start. For her first lesson we focused on explaining the Atonement and how she could come closer to Christ through the message of the restoration. I'm excited for her! The other one is another part-member youth who they had thought was baptized before but turns out he wasn't. Wups! Don't know how they missed that one... So we've begun teaching him and he's coming close to his baptism as well. I don't know if I'll still be seeing the next one go through on the 3rd due to some Church attendance problems.. But as long as the work goes forward, whether I'm still there or not, God's will be done.

On Wednesday Elder Arorong had an English speaking test in Cauayan. It's kind of like his final test for all of the language study he's been doing his whole mission. He was really nervous leading up to it, but we did all we could to practice English in the apartment so he could feel more comfortable. We uttered some fervent prayer on his behalf, and when the test results came he got an Intermediate High score! Super happy for him. Afterwards Elder and Sister Shorter gave us banana splits, and we got to chose our own toppings. I decorated mine very nicely :) It's been a long time since I've had one of those! Those are the blessings of language study, my friends!

I had splits with Elder Baclea-an on Thursday. This is the second time I've been his Zone Leader and it was so fun to work with him again! We had a blast finding new people to teach and following the Spirit. We talked to a lot of new people and the lessons went really well overall. When we were walking home we almost died from a flash rainstorm. The sky was blue and sunny, then suddenly a huge dark cloud came in from the northwest, and we saw a giant, visible wall of rain coming towards us fast. We outran it and got under cover in time, then I bought some very delicious juice that was bignay-calamansi flavored. You can't find anything like that in the U.S. Ah, I love this place. And I love being a missionary. 

On Sunday I ended up having to give a surprise lesson for the YSA class. They didn't have a teacher or a manual, so I had to muster something up quick. I ended up sharing a combo from my personal study and from a random D&C manual I found. I came across a few scriptures in 2 Nephi 9 that reminded me of some individuals I've met that drifted away from the gospel because of settling spiritual questions with the knowledge of men rather than the wisdom of God. When people take this approach of "well, I'll follow this commandment once I know for sure that it is true and I find tangible evidence for it", they find themselves unhappy, unsatisfied, still full of doubt, and frustration leads to further sin. Paul explains in Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is further clarified in 2 Nephi 9:28-29, how Satan fills us with pride to try and find our own answers rather than finding them through obedience to God's law and revelation: "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken notunto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."

I know that is true, and if we humble ourselves like a little child, and "consider [ourselves] fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility" (2 Nephi 9:42), despite any worldly knowledge or expertise we have, we will not restrict ourselves from eternal truths that can only be discerned from a spiritual standpoint. Man cannot understand the mysteries of God if he is full of pride, and craves the tangible, and will certainly be prevented from returning to God's presence without stripping themselves of pride and other worldly passions first. It will unlock greater understanding and a stronger testimony. A camel can fit through the eye of a needle with God's help, but unless we ask sincerely, it's just as impossible as it seems to be. 

Thank you for all of your support, I will be seeing you soon! I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Banana splits

Walking in the bukid (rice feilds), white and ready to harvest.

My new bed sheets. Ha! Just kidding. But I do have a new Philippines Flag.

Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14, 2015-- Email #98

September 14, 2015
Echague, Philippines 

Hello Family!

The baptism on Saturday couldn't have gone better! There was a lot of Ward support and I can feel that the transition from investigator to new member started off on the right foot. Bishop wasn't able to attend due to sickness that has left him bed-ridden for quite some time, but the counselors came to preside and two members of the Elders Quorum performed the ordinance itself (which is a very good way for the new members to have an immediate support base from the Ward). You would not believe the changes that have happened in these wonderful people. 

When we first met Joshua, we could hardly get a word out of him; he seemed so sad and isolated all of the time. A lot of it stemmed from an unstable relationship with his parents. Now, he didn't hesitate to share his testimony in front of the Ward after his baptism and you can see a noticeable change in his countenance. He's lighter and happier now. He desires to do good. At first he was painfully shy to join with the Deacons Quorum, now he's actively communicating with Bishop about activities and what time he needs to be there. He's singing Hymns and starting to learn piano, too! He has such a golden-hearted grandfather as well (Brother Dumaliang, the Elders Quorum President with the crippled legs) to help him along. 

Irene had been an investigator for about a year now. She was first taught by the Sister Missionaries and then was picked up by the Elders when the Sisters were pulled out. The first time I taught her with Elder Bautista I was struck with her knowledge of the gospel and her faith in accepting the things that were being taught. She just lacked action on her part. Her husband is a good-hearted man who is struggling heavily with alcohol and other vices. Although he hasn't been willing as of yet to be taught by us, he knows that he needs to change and graciously accepted his wife being baptized. When Irene was first being taught, she had a struggle attending Church and keeping other commitments. Now, she understands the importance of obedience and has shown "fruits meet for repentance". She texted that night after her baptism and said she really feels like her sins have been washed away. She's actively attending Relief Society now and continuing to nourish her flourishing testimony. 

I'm without words for Monica. Like I've said in a past email, when I first saw her I was shocked by her appearance. I asked Irene what her story was and my heart broke even more. Her mother tried to abort her in the late stages of development, and failed to do so. Somehow this caused her to have a severe deformation in her facial structure, and she nearly escaped death when she was born. Her biological mother abandoned her, and her own husband, soon after. That's when Monica and her father met Irene, and they were married soon after. So Irene became Monica's step-mother, and took care of her as her own. Because of Monica's deformation, many teachers thought that her brain was affected as well, and unnecessarily held her back in school. Even though she's ten years old, she still can't read because of the false assumptions of these teachers. Students make fun of her as school, calling her an aswang (monster). Sometimes she comes home crying because of the cruel things the other students will say. Then, one day, she met Elder Arorong and I, and we invited her along with Irene to come to Church. And they came! She looked so happy, and was carrying a big copy of Book of Mormon Stories in her arms. Week after week we taught her and Irene, and as we taught new things to Monica about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, Irene started to remember the early lessons she had with Sister missionaries a year earlier, and something deeper began to stir within her. They started actively attending Church, Primary, Gospel Principles, and other classes. They started living the Word of Wisdom, giving up their favorite morning tradition of drinking coffee. They looked brighter. And, it turns out, they needed each other to help each other as they winded the path to baptism. I've never seen a happier little girl in the world than Monica Ibarra as a newly baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

I also got to interview a really awesome woman for baptism named Alena on Sunday, in the area of Dagupan Ward. She's been a Catholic for 63 years. Her son is the only member of the Church, and recently returned from the Cagayan de Oro Mission. Her son has been instrumental in helping his mother's heart open to the message of the Restoration and accepting the fullness of the gospel. Here in the sunset of her life, she leaves behind the fear of man and joins the restored Church of Jesus Christ, despite the odds. What a remarkable woman! 

The theme for this week comes from Philippians (Because it sounds like the Philippines) 4:11-13, one of my favorite scriptures in the entire New Testament. It has to do with choosing a good attitude about the circumstances you're in despite what others may be telling you. In other words, be an agent, not a victim! We are not objects to be acted upon, we are agents that are free to choose! Just because trials happen in our lives doesn't mean we should choose to be sad about them. We can be happy with whatever life brings us, because the Atonement is real, and affords us the opportunity to choose happiness in any state we find ourselves; rich, poor, sick, healthy, whatever. Christ has descended below all things so that we could be happy. This is my testimony to you this week:

"11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

I'm going to send some of the pictures this week and some more next week, because the better ones in front of the Church logo are on Elder Teikauea's camera.

Monica Ibarra and I, after the baptism. You'll never see a more beautiful smile.

Feeding the tilapia. Yes, it's a tilapia pond!

Relief Society power! Preparing for Family Week Celebration on the 26th by painting plastic flowers.

Our fellowshipper Cezar also feeds the tilapia.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7, 2015-- Email #97

September 7, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Magandang Tanghali!

It was a great week! Although I can't really remember what happened much; it all went by so fast... I can tell it was a great week for you as well! That's what I call football! I just remembered that I'll be coming home during football season... Great timing, I'm glad God worked that one out for me.

On Tuesday I had splits with Elder Murdock. We had a really great day talking with various people. He's a great missionary. We had a certain goal for new individuals to talk to that day, and when we got to a point when we couldn't see anyone else, we went back to the center of town and bought some balut. We talked to the people around us and invited them to learn more about the Church, and they were astounded that there was two white guys scarfing down boiled duck fetuses like it was nothing. All in a days work for the missionary in Philippines Cauayan Mission.

Wednesday was my last Missionary Leadership Council! I've had so many great experiences in those meetings and I'm going to miss the wonderful, personal instruction from President Rahlf. He's such a great teacher and there's so much I've learned from him. I've learned to be a more confident teacher and to live what I teach, as well as many other powerful lessons. I'm excited to teach Zone Meeting tomorrow.

My health was dwindling this last weekend and it made it difficult to concentrate part of the time. But I've been good about eating healthy and building my immune system so it's been fine. It's not just me; there's been a bug going around lately. Something in the weather is strange, and I think the water has been effected by the nightly down-pours as well. There's also a compounded anxiousness from being close to coming home that I think has triggered some of that ailment. The good thing is that the work is going really well so it's easy to get lost in it. Joshua, Irene, and Monica are getting baptized this Saturday! I'm so excited for them. They have really made some significant changes in their lives and come closer to the Savior and I'm so excited for them to take their first step in following His example, and becoming members of the restored Church! They are some really special people and I'm so blessed to know them. They've been fitting in really well with the Ward too, which is an answer to prayers!

This email doesn't have a whole lot of detail, does it? The pictures can provide some of that... I'll write more next week. Time goes so fast, it's crazy! I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the Lord's Church and it becomes clearer and clearer every day. This is such a wonderful work. I love the Savior. He's help me change beyond my own capabilities. He's help me to be the man of God I need to be; the one that this world deserves, the one my future wife deserves, the one my future family deserves. I'm excited to continue a life-time of service to Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Birthday FHE shindig for Elder Arorong.

Nametag/Book of Mormon combo in 3 different languages.

This is my "I'm gonna miss rambutans" face.

A Tuvaluan being silly.

Selfie in the Tricee w/ Elder Teikauea

Elder Who: The Day of the Elder (Featuring Elder Monilla and his 10th and 11th Doctor Sonic Screwdrivers)

Smallest banana in the world! It's real!

The Cagayan River

Panorama of Cagayan River, from Gucab (Yogad word for "descent") to Dammang (Yogad word for "River crossing")

Monday, August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015-- Email #96

August 31, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

Nothing particularly exciting to report about this week. We just... worked in our area. How out-of-the-ordinary, right? It seems like I've been on splits this whole last month. Finally the time has come settle back down in good ol' Echague with my actual companion. 

We have three baptisms on September 12th: Joshua Dumaliang, and Irene and Monica Ibarra! We're finishing up their lessons this week and preparing them for their interview this Saturday. They've been attending Church and are continuing to keep their commitments. I just hope and pray for the Ward support to continue... That's probably the single greatest challenge in this country. Many of the recent converts in my past areas have not been attending Church due to a lack of association with the Ward members. Satan has a tendency to really pile on the temptation and hardship once a new member enters the Church, including keeping Ward members from fulfilling their duties to fellowship and strengthen new converts. Satan knows if he can keep the Ward from their responsibilities, and keep the recent convert feeling alone, they'll be far more prone to falling away and giving into temptation. I'm just helping them to build upon the "rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ", which is a sure foundation, and will never fall.

An Elder transferred into our Zone on Wednesday and came up to me with the unexpected statement "Elder Kocherhans, I know you!" I'd never met Elder Valdez before, and he was a pretty new missionary, so that was strange. He then went on to explain that while he was preparing for his mission, he and his mother had been searching online and came upon my blog. They started reading from it and he told me it really inspired him and helped him feel excited for the mission. It's so wonderful to have God on my side, helping me help others in ways I could hardly imagine. 

We had a really powerful lesson with one of our less-than-progressing investigators, Diana. She had been baptized in another religion and was asking us whether God thought it to be a sin to be baptized into another religion. We briefly reviewed the Restoration again, with emphasis on the Priesthood, and ended by showing our ecclesiastical licenses, signed by the Prophet. I felt the Spirit really powerfully as I explained to her that there was no way I would even consider going on a mission unless I knew I had been called of God and given the very same authority He gave to Prophets and Apostles of old in preaching the Gospel and administering in the ordinances thereof. She accepted to be baptized, saying she believed Joseph Smith was a true Prophet, but for one reason or another she wasn't able to attend Church on Sunday. We'll continue working with her. 

I never get tired of telling the story of Joseph Smith. The Philippines is probably one of the noisiest countries in the world, what with the loose animals, the 100-cc tricycles, random people yelling in Ilokano, etc... Yet every time I've recited that wonderfully sacred account the Prophet gives in his own words about the vision he saw in a grove of trees, you could hear a pin drop. The Spirit is so tangible in those simple words that, whatever language you read them in, captivate the listener. It's something no other religion founded by man could offer. It's not a sermon; it's a song full of truth and evidence that God is still that same God of the Bible, and is a God of miracles, and is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. It teaches us the nature of the Godhead in such simple terms that a child could understand. It creates an ultimatum for the listener; either this grand vision and the marvelous work and wonder that followed it is true, or it is not. Ask God, and decide for yourself. It's given me the unique opportunity to observe people, longing to believe, fall short on faith because of fear. It is so tragic. But I know that what we've testified is true, and that the truth is hard to accept. 

I've been feeling pretty sick this last weekend due to a surprise change in the weather. It's been colder than usual... I'm not looking forward to that when I get home. Ugh! I love the heat and the humidity so much more than the dry and the cold! I find it miraculous with as many times as I've been sick, God has always strengthened me to continue working throughout the sickness, and to recover quickly. That's a fulfillment of promises. 

If I can request, please pray for the members in the Philippines, everywhere. I can't do much once I've come home to help the individuals I've helped to come unto Christ, but the members here will always be nearby, and I hope they are willing and determined to help those individuals feel comfortable in their various Wards and continue in full activity in the Church. I know this is the Church of Jesus Christ Himself, and He will help us in our various responsibilities if we seek, ask, and knock. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24, 2015-- Email #95

August 24, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

The transfer list came today and now it is for sure that I'll be staying in Echague 'til I go home! What a happy place to die! I'm also really excited because there are a lot of baptisms lined up for the first weeks of September! Our investigators have been attending Church like crazy! I'm so excited for my last cycle. The main weakness we've been dealing with as of late is finding -- we've been letting discouragement get to us and consequentially we haven't been as faithful in talking to as many people as we can. We've been doing good, don't get me wrong,  but that's no excuse to not do better.

This week has also been a busy one with a lot of splits. I was in Dagupan on Tuesday with Elder Torio, also known as the Alicia 4th Ward. It is very far from the main city. You know what that means? Well, I guess it doesn't come as a surprise... We walked a lot, and saw a lot of rice. What's new? The members in that area are very nice and very active in supplying the investigators for the missionaries. Nice! It's also one of the many area's I've been to that has an enormous population of less-actives very near the Church, while the active members are the farthest ones from the Church. It just goes to show that distance never matters, and faith is very important. Elder Torio is a great missionary. We had fun.

On Wednesday we had splits with the Angadanan Elders. I stayed in Echague with Brother Dulnuan, a part-time missionary that was called to fill in the absence of an early-returning missionary. He's the son of the District President in Solano so I already know him and his family. They are the kindest people! The day was absolutely fantastic. We contacted a referral named Christina. Her family met the missionaries in the Angeles mission and recently moved up here to Region II. They've attended Church twice in Ward 1 so they were referred over to us in Ward 2, which is the area she lives in. She's been studying the Book of Mormon and is falling in love with the stories. Her whole family is interested in being baptized. Wow! Now that's what I call a referral! We had other really great lessons with part-member families the remainder of the day, and as we were walking home, Brother Dulnuan said to himself, "wow, this is the first time I've really felt like a missionary!" It was humbling to know we'd been a part of this wonderful work. Sometimes it's so hard, but it's so rewarding. I wouldn't be so happy without tasting bitterness every now and then. But now I know true happiness, and will continue discovering it throughout my life.

We went to Cauayan on Thursday for splits with the Assistants to the President. This time I was with Elder Monilla, the biggest nerd I know! Haha because he's awesome. Last time we were on splits was over a year ago in Santiago, when I was still companions with Elder Bautista and Elder Monilla had just entered the field, still a trainee! These kids just grow up so fast... We had a really busy day, as do most days go for the Assistants. Interviews, getting supplies, etc. But it was still a very spiritual work day. We had some great conversations, as we always do. We have discussed several times that we intend to accidentally meet each other in random places for the rest of our lives. It's fulfilled itself thus far in the mission, and I hope it continues!

On Friday I went to work with Elder Espanto, again. This time I went to Jones, their area about an hour away. They've been having a lot of troubles with various issues... The work day there was really awesome, however. There are some great people there that we got to meet, teach, and testify to. I feel very comfortable with my ability to go into a lesson and really focus on the investigator/less-active and their needs, and follow the Spirit in finding what I should say to them and what I should invite them to do. I ended up quoting Yoda to some of them, because when responding to commitments they said they would "try" to attend Church, or "try" to read. Do or do not; there is no try! I also had a really special connection with a returned member there who we discussed Priesthood with. He remembered the initial reason he had become less-active back in the day was because he was offended by the members, but after he learned to let it go, everything fell back into place. The members of the Church aren't perfect. The Church is like a big hospital: We're all sick, and we shouldn't expect to see cured people there. We're all going through the process of healing, and relying on the Savior's Atonement. I related the story of W.W. Phelps, who left the Church after loosing a great sum of money in the Church's first bank. He slandered the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church for years, until he arrived at the point that he found his life was empty because it was full of hard feelings, grudges, and negativity. He wrote the Prophet a letter asking to forgive him and let him come back into the Church. The Prophet's response was essentially one of "we'd thought you'd never ask!" After Joseph Smith's martyrdom, W.W. Phelps went on to write a bold, powerful song, expressing praise and admiration for "the man who communed with Jehovah," to the tune of "Scotland the Brave". He would have never come back to the Church unless it truly was Jesus Christ's, and not one of man, and he'd come to that realization. He figured out he'd been imagining God in a different way than the actual, and accepted the mistakes of mortals without denouncing the power of God in His Restored Church. That's something to ponder.

Saturday and Sunday were quite difficult for me personally, but the work went on. God is so merciful. He just keeps stretching me and stretching me when I think I can't go any further, and there is more to come. We had some cool experiences. We taught a family of Jehovah's Witnesses and avoided a debate. Nice one! They were really nice and we were able to answer their questions. The Spirit was present, and it was just a contention-free experience. I was grateful for that, because some other religions here have been really annoying me lately... But contention will solve nothing. It's part of the Articles of Faith to "allow all men the same privilege" we have of "worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience". Debate will just circle you around the Bible over and over again, causing frustration and anger. That was one of the important parts of the Restoration, something about... "the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible." Yep. That's the one. Bible-bashing is bad, and pulls you away from Christ! Just testify, invite the Spirit, and be respectful! Everything will be worked out in the Millennium anyways...

Sometimes I've been asked how many days I have left. I don't count the days. I make them count. The mission doesn't end when I'm released. It's lifelong. It's so difficult, but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be worth it. I'll fall down, and pick myself up, and when I can't muster up the strength to pick myself up, an angel will pick me up and carry me a little further 'til I can get on my feet again. Cultivating talents, helping people along the way, accepting truth and living it, and following the Savior are all pathways with challenges and hurdles. The Son of Man has descended below all things, and He knows how to help us. Don't shy away from Him. Strip yourself of pride. Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

 Panorama of some rice fields in Barangay Maligaya 

 Zone Leaders of the December 2013 Batch (Including my companion and two past companions, Elder Peterson and Elder Larona)

Elder Cantero, the victim of an object lesson for Zone Meeting. (with Elder Torio, Sister Glick, and Sister Morente)

Baptism in Echague Ward 1 (The Sister's area).

Monday, August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015-- Email #94

August 17, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Makasta Ya Fugab!
(trans. "Good Afternoon!" in Yogad)

Welcome, welcome, Sabbath morning! We saw ten brightly smiling investigator faces attend Church yesterday which was an incredible tender mercy! Some of them came with members, others came alone but soon found friends among the congregation; some were singing in the senior primary, others were in the Gospel Principles class; and everyone left with those same smiles on their faces, with some new things learned! We'll have to move Monica, Joshua, and Irene's baptisms to a few weeks later just because of some unfinished lessons and some Church attendance, but happy day, all is well!

It was a really weird week. I didn't teach a single lesson with my companion, because we were on splits every day! Here's how it started.

On Tuesday we had Zone Meeting. President and Sister Rahlf attended for the first 30 minutes, which made Elder Arorong super nervous, considering it's his first time teaching Zone Meeting. But it went great. We shared a lot from personal experiences about how we can rely on the Holy Ghost throughout our lives. After the meeting we had accounting with a companionship that was having a lot of problems. They were trash-talking each other throughout the process and we told them they needed to stop, that neither of them were really listening to the other, and their problems were being blown out of porportion. We had splits with them that day. At the beginning they were both saying that there was no hope for their companionship and that they wanted to call it quits for the rest of the cycle, but we consulted them that such a descision would lead to more problems, not only in the mission, but further into life. I related my experience about viewing the companionship as a marriage, and not giving up on each other just when things get a little bumpy. By the next day they had resolved their issues together and it was such a great thing to witness them listening to one another, openly, really communicating how they felt and both willing to change. Success! Success in so many ways.

On Wednesday we scheduled splits with another troublesome companionship, and I was reunited with my "son" in the mission, Elder Espanto. He's doing a lot better. I noticed that I had grown so much more patient with him than I had been in the past. It was a nice window in to see how much I've changed. Elder Arorong called on Thursday morning and said that he'd been hit with some severe toothaches and bowel problems, so he wasn't able to return back to Echague (they were working in Jones, about an hour away). That went on until Saturday... Talk about bowel movements... So I was with Elder Espanto in our area working until that day. We got along really well and we were laughing and recalling fun times we'd had back in the day. He got along well with our investigators as well and it was a successful week. On Saturday we went to Alicia to conduct a few baptismal interviews and then headed down to Jones to pick up Elder Arorong (who had now healed) and to attend their baptism; the first baptism in that area for over a year. It was a super awesome experience. He's an awesome guy.

That brings us back to the glorious Sabbath day I mused about earlier, and a successful work day in the farther Barangays of Dammang and Salay. We also got fed about three times that day, considering it was Fiesta season in Barangay Gucab, where a lot of members live and prepare lots of delicious food. Good times! 

I've been reviewing 1 Nephi recently and I'm always so astounded by Nephi's stalwart attitude. I've read that book over and over again and I still find something new every time. I love how Nephi knows what he wants and asks for it. Because of his obedience, often the answer the Lord gives him is in the affirmative and comes in large volume. That shows you really the blessings of consistent obedience to the commandments, and establishing trust with God that He will give you what you desire because He knows you'll use it well. I also love the vision he sees of the Restoration, and how it starts far before the boy Joseph prays in a grove of trees; it starts way back from the time of the Apostasy, and the Spirit works in the lives of so many individuals so that the circumstances were right for the restoration. If there had been no falling away, no protestant reformation, no pilgrimage to a new world, and no formation of a democratic republic that granted freedom of religion, there would be no Restoration of all things. This work is so much grander than we could ever imagine, and that's just talking about this world! Think about the Spirit world, and all of the things that must be going on there! 

Thank you all for your support. I love you all! I'm coming on my last 7 weeks! How weird is that! I can assure you I'm using every minute the best that I can. I fall short so often, but there always seems to be an angel picking me up, brushing me off and keeping me on the right track. A mighty change of heart does not come easily, but it's the only change of heart that will do. Press on! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

-Elder Kocherhans 


Special Bonus Material included in this week's email... 

Elder Jacob Packer, Elder Kocherhans' cousin, serving in England (and returning home this week!!), sent an email asking about whether Jordan knew a certain Elder who is also serving in the Philippines. I was fortunate enough to be forwarding and receiving the messages so I could enjoy this entertaining conversation between the missionary cousins. His inquiry came after receiving the "scriptural epistle" email... And "thus we see" the following exchange... :-)

From Elder Packer;  England Birmingham Mission, August 10, 2015

1) Now behold, I Elder Packer received an epistle from my beloved cousin, Elder Kocherhans. 

2) And it came to pass that I sent an epistle unto this Kocherhans, who is called Elder, asking whether or not he is acquainted with one Boshard, being called after the name of his father, who was thought to be preaching in the same part of the land. Nevertheless, it was not known concerning the location of this Elder Boshard. It being my desire, or rather the desire of my companion to know concerning these things.

3) And I send this epistle with full faith that it will reach Kocherhans, who is called Elder, who is my cousin. For behold, I am Elder Packer, the son of Lawrence who is the son of Boyd, 

Elder Jordan Kocherhans' reply; Philippines Cauayan Mission,  August 17, 2015

And it came to pass that they searched the land, and questioned the Elders of the land, concerning the location of this Elder Boshard

2 And it came to pass that their search did avail nothing, and he could not be found, neither was he known of among the inhabitants of the land.

3 And we must needs suppose that he was taken up by the Spirit, as was Moses. 

4 If not, we must needs suppose that he has been called of the Lord to preach to another people, not known by mine own people.

5 And thus I end my epistle to Jacob, who is called Elder Packer, the son of Lawrence, who was the son of Boyd, the Apostle of the Lord.

Thought I would throw in a few "throw back" pics to mark the occasion...

These two go wayyyy back!  Cousin-friends for life :-)

Kara's photo bomb is possibly my favorite part of the picture...:-D  

Serving on opposite ends of the the earth... finishing their missions within weeks of each other :-) 
Arriving in Salt Lake on Wednesday...Welcome Home Elder Packer!
Elder Kocherhans is a short 7 weeks away! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015-- Email #93

August 10, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

Well, we've been staying busier and busier and there's no better feeling than that! The weeks are going by so fast and I feel like in the next blink of an eye I'll be home. Although there are so many wonderful things here and I'm enjoying every second of it, I've come to accept the reality that I will be coming back soon and implementing the multitude of things I've learned for a lifetime of useful service to others. But man, do I love this place, and I probably don't realize yet fully how much I'll miss it. There have been so many tender mercies pouring in here and they just keep coming!

Monica has come to Church three times now, the darling! But Irene, her stepmother, has only come the one time thus far... She has a lot of really young children so it's been difficult for her to manage. It broke my heart that she couldn't join, because I know she wants to. We had some surprise investigators come as well, and the Spirit during sacrament and the classes was super strong. I hope they felt it as well! Joshua Dumaliang has come twice, but he had an activity for school on Sunday so he wasn't able to come this last time. He's still doing great, though. There were a lot of less-actives that came to Church, and the attendance in general is steadily increasing... and coming on time more often. Yes!

This computer shop is having random brown-outs and we had a hectic preparation day in general, hence the later hours, so I'll have to wrap this up. I've especially enjoyed the gift of music this week, and I got to sing a duet with Elder Teikauea at their baptism this last Saturday, singing "The Spirit of God". One of my favorite Hymns of the restoration. So powerful, and always makes me think of the Kirtland Temple Dedication, where there were said to be angels on the roof, helping along in the chorus. I believe it, and I think they still sing with us every time that Hymn is sung in our congregations. My other favorites this week were "Jesu, The Very Thought is Sweet" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory". My testimony of the Savior has so many layers now in ways I couldn't have imagined before but it's all become a part of my character. I highly appreciate the fast for help in leadership positions... There are a lot of Elders in this Zone right now that are struggling, and I've been feeling helpless at times trying to run back and forth helping them. But I know everything will turn out well, and that God will help me be a Christlike minister.

Thank you all for the support. My English is super bad, please forgive me. I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on earth and it's so great to be able to declare that nobly, boldly and independent! I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 3, 2015-- Email #92

August 3, 2015 

Introduction-- by Teresa
On one of our family vacations to Jackson Hole Wyoming, September 2012...we stayed at a Condo for several days.  At the end of the stay, we noticed Jordan writing in the "visitors log" they had on the table for people to record their vacation experience.  Knowing his gift, we knew it was going to be good... When we read what he had written, we found a recap of our family vacation written in scriptural language that was both incredible & hysterical.  I mentioned to him this week that if he ever wanted to write one of his mission emails in his scriptural language style, it would be kind of fun to see if he's still got it...  I'm glad he took the request... 
He's still got it. :-)

Written by the hand of Kocherhans
Tapped upon tiles of plastic
And transmitted through the gift of God 
to the Great Inter of Net

Now it came to pass in the commencement of the ninety and second week of the ministry of Kocherhans, who was called Elder, having been ordained unto the office of his ministry, and having received power and authority to administer thereby; therefore in the ninety and second week of his ministry to the people of Luzon, in the northern parts of the Island nation, which was well noted for the many tongues which were spoken by the people thereof;
2 Yea, it was heard in one place, We speak the language of the Iloko, according to the traditions of our fathers. And in another place, it was heard, Yea, we speak the language of Ybanag, for there was much corn and rice in abundance in the land. And in another place, Gaddang; and again, in another, Itawis;
3 And it was the cause of much confusion among those who attempted to commune one with another, because of the great diversity of their tongues;
4 Nevertheless, after much tribulation and diligence, and according to the gifts of God, namely the speaking in various tongues and the interpretation thereof, this Elder Kocherhans was able to preach the gospel to the inhabitants of this land, in a tongue which was known as Tagalog.
5 And he was found in the land of Echague, by the borders of that great city of Santiago, which was the southernmost part of the land of Isabela. And he found that the people were called Yogad, according to the language and the records in their possession. 
6 And it came to pass that in the latter end of the seventh month, in the ninety and second week of his ministry, many of the hearts of the children of men in that land had grown hard, and their necks had been stiffened against the latter-day work of the Lord
7 For behold, they had been taught by their fathers many things, and that they should die in the faith they had been brought up in. Now this was the cause of much good in the land, according to their faith in Christ, but also the cause of much wickedness, according to the false traditions of their fathers
8 But the Spirit of the Lord was with this Elder, who is called Kocherhans, and also with his brethren of the Church in that land, and they labored diligently in bringing souls unto the true and living God, even in the heat of the day, yea, the sun did scorch with such fervent heat in that part of the land that it was heard by the inhabitants to say, Gani ra pa balada, mappato sawe, which is, being interpreted, Oh what indeed can this be, the heat today?. 
9 Nevertheless they did press forward, in the Hellish heat, and even in the tempest and the strong rains, both near and far, declaring the words of Christ unto the inhabitants of this land. And they did see many fruits from their labors, insomuch as they did continue with steadfastness in Christ.
10 And now behold, I must close this record soon, for the time comes that I must soon fly far above the earth, and over the oceans, to return to the lands of our fathers, but I exhort you to read these things, and ponder them in your hearts. And if there be mistakes they be the mistakes of men. Brethren, adeiu. 

Anyways, it was an exceptionally great week and was one worthy of scriptural language. I hope you get a kick out of this email. Maybe next time I'll do it in Tagalog, although you wouldn't understand a lick of it. My scriptural Tagalog is pretty good though, voice and everything :) Thank you for all of your support. This work is just the best. I know this is the true Church, and I feel it deep within my heart more and more every day. It's such a nice feeling to know you're having a deeply spiritual experience every day that you can draw from for the rest of your life. What a great time! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

A few Pics of our Jackson/Yellowstone trip...September 2012
 Condo that contains the records of our people made in the days of our journeying in the wilderness...

 At least Jordan was consistently ruining every picture... on purpose.
We've missed that...:-/ 

Here's a good one :-)