Monday, March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015-- Email #72

March 9, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines


Last Monday, after I had finished emailing you, the week ahead seemed like it would be a normal, nothing out of the ordinary work week. Well, I was mistaken.

Monday night, while we're out at work, I get a text from the senior couples in Cauayan: "Elder Kocherhans, please print 6 2X2 pictures of yourself to bring with you to Manila on Friday." Ha? What? Manila on Friday? It turns out I've been in this country under not entirely legal terms for the past 16 months, and the mission received a mandate from the Area authorities that I, and about 41 other missionaries, needed to complete our non-immigrant visa requirements immediately. And who would have thought... The immigration office is in Pasay City, Manila. The trip alone was not the problem, however. We had to take into account that we would be in Cauayan on Wednesday for Missionary Leadership Council, which is a 4 hour bus ride from our area, and that we should be in Cauayan by Thursday night to be ready for the flight to Manila by Friday morning. So, in coordination with the assistants to the President, the plan for this last week followed as such:

Tuesday - District Meeting in Solano, followed by Baptismal Interview. Work in the evening.
Wednesday - MLC in Cauayan. Work in the evening with Santiago North Zone Leaders in their area.
Thursday - Work with the Santiago North Zone Leaders, and other missionaries coming from Vizcaya and northern Isabela awaiting the Manila trip.
Friday - Fly from Cauayan to Manila in the morning. Fingerprints at noon, afternoon to be spent as a P-day.
Saturday - Fly back from Manila to Tuguegarao at noon, take bus from Tuguegarao to Bambang, meet with Elder Larona there and return to Solano.

How about that, huh? It all went by in a blur, but a blur never to be forgotten! Let me take it a chunk at a time.

On Tuesday we celebrated Sister Jensen's birthday for a little bit after District Meeting. Sister Koncurat faked having fainted in the other room, so we all ran over to help her, Sister Jensen not knowing it was just a ploy so we could surprise her with a cake. We sure did surprise her! That night we had a really fun Family Home Evening with the Cumigad family (Cedrick's family). We shared about having a firm foundation built upon Christ (Helaman 5:12) and used an object lesson relating prayer, scripture study, and church attendance as small and simple things that build our testimonies upon Christ. It involved having a heavy book placed on three inter-locking spoons that each rested on a cup, and how that by implementing those simple things everyday, we are able to carry heavy loads, and choose higher ground, even though it had seemed insignificant at the beginning. Our Branch President, President Bumatay, attended as well. He is such a strong, spiritual man. He has great humility and allows the Lord to work through him in meaningful ways, which I really appreciate.

Wednesday and Thursday kind of blended together. We had a really excellent MLC where we covered the material for the next Zone Meeting, themed on improving teaching skills. I'm excited to teach. The thing I really admired the most about the meeting was that President Rahlf demonstrated a role-play for us. He implemented all of the skills and talents of a master teacher. He is highly experienced and lets the spirit guide him. You could really feel his deep and abiding desire to share the truth to every needful ear. I'm so glad he and Sister Rahlf were called to serve us as missionaries. I've really felt their love, and their connection with Heavenly Father in receiving revelation for this mission. I also had a pretty interesting experience working with the Zone Leaders in Santiago. I'm not going to go into details, but there seemed to be a lack of order and reverence in that place. I'm glad to have been with Elder Larona. Very obedient and sensitive to the Spirit. That's the only way to go!

On Friday, we met in Cauayan with the other 42 missionaries leaving to renew their visa. I pretty much stuck with Elder Peterson the whole time. On the plane ride to Manila, I had a quick glimpse of what it would be like when I go home. It was heart-wrenching. I love this place so much. I will be deeply sad when I have to leave it for the last time. When we got to Manila, we were taken back by the immensely different culture of the big city. Everyone was really good at English. We finished our paperwork early and then went to the largest mall in the Philippines, the Mall of Asia. It was really fun. I got to have a lot of American treats there... Subway, Jamba Juice, Wendy's, Pizza Hut... The best part was we had a big group and we all had a lot of fun together. Responsible fun. We ended up meeting a member family there who gave us a ride back to the hotel. We had slurpee's from 7-11 on the way back.

The next morning I had krispy kreme donuts for breakfast and we left on the next flight to Tuguegarao. It was a long bus ride back to Vizcaya, but I made it back alive and in time for church on Sunday.

This morning we went to Banaue. I was absolutely taken away by the beauty of that city. It is built straight into the mountains, accompanied by rice terraces built over centuries of Ifugao rice farmers hard at work. No description could do it justice. I'll need to get the pictures next week, I'm running short on time. I met some guys from London there who said they knew Mormons in the Leeds area. And I met a couple of Germans. They were all very nice.

Well, I have to close this. Sorry for the rush, we will be busy this transfer week! I know this Church is true, and that God loves us more than we could ever imagine. I've felt His love so abundantly this week as I've traveled this beautiful country and been struck in awe that I serve Jesus Christ, the Savior of us all. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Pictures from MLC in Cauayan

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