Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2, 2015-- Email #71

March 2, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines

Family. Hello.

Really, though, where has the time gone? The end of the cycle is almost here. When did that happen? You know what they say: Time flies when you're having fun. What a blessing to know that the only true fun is accompanied by hard work. Oh, and for your information, we didn't end up going to Banaue today. That will be next week.
So, I guess we'll take a look at some of the major events transpired.

Elder Larona and I have begun to incorporate a new part to our teaching method... Singing! We don't leave the house anymore without bringing a Primary Song Book. Cedrick, one of our fellowshippers, has a guitar as well, which we use when serenading those we teach with the beautiful music and lyrics in what I like to consider the 6th Standard Work of the Church (The 5th being the classic green Hymn book). It has really invited the Spirit strongly into our lessons. It's truly an answer to my prayers that I'd be able to implement my talents in a creative way to be able to serve God more. Here it is! No talents buried in the ground for this missionary!

I had the opportunity to go on splits with Elder Larson on Wednesday. It was an extremely fun day. We started out by visiting a member family with a less-active son, Vergo. He's been kind of our special project as of late; helping him decide to serve a mission has been of particular import. He has a strong testimony, and even enjoys sharing it, but influences from friends have turned his sharing into more of just words rather than action. For instance, he and his friend Mark (A non-member) didn't have school on Wednesday. So what did they stay at home doing all day? Having a Church-movie marathon. Particularly about missionaries. But did they come to church on Sunday? No. Ugh... Seriously. It was a great lesson, though. We shared about the story of Alma the Younger and emphasized that once someone is born again, similar to taking other sacred covenants, there are now places we cannot go, things we can no longer do, and things that we must sacrifice for. We have faith in the Atonement, which works repentance within us, with a brighter hope that no matter how we are today, we can change ourselves for the better. Sometimes it's difficult to teach investigators and help them make and keep commitments when their friends are less-active members. But once they both see and understand the necessity of a closer relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, by taking little steps of faith, they are able to enjoy the Holy Ghost as a companion, which teaches nothing but eternal truths to the hearts of men. It begins the conversion process for both the less-active member and the tentative investigator, and they end up strengthening Zion at both ends of the tent. We know God is working with us.

After feasting on some Mami soup and barbequed chicken intestines, we walked for ages through an enormous rice field and had some other really good lessons with less-active members and recent converts. Our last lesson of the night was at the Bagorio home. Vermond Bagorio is the only member in his family, and is slightly less-active. His wife in the past has been very hostile towards the missionaries but has recently started to cheer up. When we came to the house, Elder Larson noticed a chess board at the front. The Bagorio family is big on chess. One of their children has gone to Nationals for the Philippines in chess, and may be considered for the U.S. considering he lives there currently. They have five chess boards on a long table in the back of their house, complete with timers. Elder Larson is pretty good at chess himself, so had a game with Genver, their oldest son who is hardly ever at the house. It really helped them warm up to one another, and afterward we had a very touching lesson about how the Gospel blesses families, and how each family member should display Christ-like love to one another by simple acts of service. It was a great splits. Elder Larson's an awesome guy.

On Thursday we had a return appointment for a sister Ruth Paragas, someone Elder Baclea-an and I had met while on splits a few weeks ago. She opened up about a lot of family problems she had that had been difficult, and we assured her that although we couldn't help her problems personally, our message would. During the course of the lesson, we asked her what her expectations were for our meetings. She began crying, telling us that she had been drifting from God and her family for many years now, considering she had left the country for work for extended amounts of time, and really wanted to get closer to her Heavenly Father again. Talk about someone prepared to receive the message of the restoration! It was an extremely spiritually uplifting experience.

On Friday I got to know our fellowshipper, Cedrick, a little bit more. We have a lot of similar interests, especially when it comes to music. He's a drummer in a band and is also a fan of Muse, which we connected with right away. His family is from Manila, and his step-father is of German lineage working in Qatar. He told me that while he was in Manila, he was taught to play drums from his friend, Chris. He was only 14 years old but a very adept drummer. They were both members, and Chris had recently been sealed with his family. One day, after a ward talent show, Chris was mugged and murdered on his way home. The whole ward was shocked to know what had happened, but was blessed with the reassurance they had all been sealed for time and eternity in the House of the Lord. Cedrick is now currently in a band with fellow ward members in Manila, the name of their band being after their late friend, Chris.

I thought a lot about that this week in my personal study. The scripture I found related to many other accounts of sacrifice for just causes, and for the truth, was in Alma 56:47: "Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them." The underlined part applies to so many others who were so fearless in the face of death, knowing the cause for which they were engaged was of far more importance then their mortal lives. I think of Abinadi, being swallowed up in flames, condemning the wickedness of self-proclaimed priests and their cowardice King. I think of thousands of Saints crossing the plains in the dead of winter, bloody footprints on the snow-covered prairie floor, knowing that even if they couldn't make it to the West, they could die with their faces toward Zion. I think of four men, in the upper floor of a jail house, listening to someone sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" as they clung to a copy of the Book of Mormon. Above all, I think of the great and last sacrifice. It can truly be said that everything to precede it and everything to come afterwards pointed to that great and last sacrifice, where the God of Israel, rejected by His own, gave His own life as a ransom for our sins, and conquered death itself. So, should we die before our journey's through, happy day! All is well! Christ has won the victory, and I do not fear death.

We do not fear death!

The Manuel family still hasn't been able to attend church, which is very frustrating because their so awesome! They keep saying that they'll come to church once our chapel, currently under construction in Bagabag, is finished. Right now, we meet in Lamut, which is very far away from their home. We keep emphasizing the importance of obedience to the commandments, regardless of the circumstances, but they still haven't made it out! I ask for your prayers in their behalf. 

On Saturday I had the privileged to baptize two of the investigators of the sisters in Bayombong (Which includes Sister Koncurat who is somehow related to me? Wha?). It was an excellent service. And they have a beautiful chapel there! We had a delicious lunch afterwards with blood pudding and graham-mango-cream layered cake (Not at the same time).

On Sunday, a lot of less-active members came to church, which was awesome! We had a very strange investigator come from the other Elders area, who stood up and testified (In a mix of broken English, Tagalog, and Visaya) that we could all become prophets for Yaweh. So that was fun. The testimonies were super good. Later that day we contacted another investigator and his father, Orlando and Junior. It was a great lesson. Both of them expressed a desire to be baptized afterwards. I feel so undeserving of all of these blessings! But I suppose whatever I am able to do, I'm still an unprofitable servant. The best I can do is be at the right place, at the right time, and invite others to come unto Christ. This is such an amazing work!

Thank you all for your support. I've been praying for you and I know God has answered my prayers. I love you all. I know the Church is true, and that the same organization which existed in the primitive church has been restored today, with proper Priesthood authority, that we may learn to make and keep sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven, and follow His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as we await His coming in glory! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. New Language Discovered: Gaddang. Phrase: "Nanay Yu Ngannu?" which means "What's your name?" What a strange, wonderful place I live in.

The Solano Zone- Photo credit Sister Koncurat (4th person from the right) (She is from the same ward in Maryland as Karen Folkman...who is Jordan's aunt Ruth Kocherhans' sister. Follow that? :-) 

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