Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20, 2015-- Email #78

April 20, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines

Maphod an Algo!
(trans. "Good Day!" in Ifugao)

We're emailing in Solano today so hopefully I won't have any malfunctions again! Gee wiz it has been a busy week! And to top it all off, this is the last p-Day before transfers on Wednesday! Elder Larona is being transferred, along with Elder Mago, and many other Sister missionaries from my batch that are now going home... Yes, their 18 months are now up, and I've got 6 months left. I wish it was longer. I love this place so much. I'll have a hard time saying goodbye, but when the Lord calls me home, I'll go home willingly. 

Tuesday, at District meeting, Elder Olson was absent, being called to a meeting in Cauayan for the new trainers. Elder Larona taught the lesson for their district, and later that night both Elders Olson and Elder Enuake stayed at our apartment before heading back to their areas the next morning. It's been a while since I've seen Elder Enuake! That was fun. He's training for the second time now, and is one of the district leaders in Bambang Zone. We had a lot going on that day but I was able to have splits with Elder Baclea-an again. I've made a greater effort to talk to people on the jeepney during travel. It's always a much more refreshing trip when you're able to share the restored gospel along the way. One of those times was super embarrassing. When I was getting off the jeep (which obviously I've done countless times) I hit my head on the Filipino-sized roof when ducking under and almost lost my footing. With no amount of grace I plopped myself out of the back, skidded a bit, and caught myself with my hands on the lip of the jeep. The people inside gasped "Ay! Naku! (Oh my goodness!)." So that was fun, eh? The important part was I shared my testimony, even if I experienced a severe lack of coordination on my exit. 

On Wednesday we had a delicious lunch at the Senica home. Most of their family are members, including brother Fernando who is our most frequent fellowshipper. He's had a difficult relationship with his parents concerning the Church, but they were kind enough to invite us to eat at their extended family reunion. We're working with two of his recent-convert/less-active brothers to come back to Church. They are really solid guys, especially Ferdinand. I think progress is underway. Right after the lunch we packed our things and headed up to Lagawe to have splits with the Elders there again. It was an excellent day of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth! If I would define a place as being the "ends of the earth", Lagawe would definitely fit in there. The Elders there have been discouraged lately with the lack of Branch support and the difficult cultural differences there, so on Wednesday our goal was to motivate them, and tackle the beast head-on, so to speak. We focused on contacting new people. Despite all odds, in such an unexpected place as that, we found people that were looking for the truth even if they hadn't known it. I was with Elder Olson. One man we met at his house immediately invited us in. We learned he had recently come from Mindanao but had married an Ifugao, so he spoke a mix of English, Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilocano, and Ifugao. Talk about weird. Haha. Good thing is though that I've had some experience with all of those languages now so there wasn't much of a barrier. Another woman we met immediately told us to not give her our message because she was a Catholic. She then openly admitted that she wasn't active in her own religion anyways, but was just lazy when it came to spiritual matters. Elder Olson and I changed the conversation to her family and the Ifugao language, and by the end of it she happily accepted to read about the restoration and to visit. When walking home, we crossed the street to talk to a man walking home too. He ended up being interested by the end of the conversation as well. There were a lot of tender mercies that beautiful day in Lagawe. It's so fun to be a servant of the Lord, no matter how hard it gets. 

On Thursday morning I found some delicious, cheap pancake sandwiches to fuel me for our next trip: to Cauayan. We had planned splits with the Assistants to the President so made the long journey from Lagawe to Cauayan in about 5 hours. Whew! Once we got there I learned I'd be with Elder Espino! We have a bit of a funny history together. When I was training in Santiago, he was my district leader. When I was district leader in Tuguegarao, he was my zone leader. Now I'm zone leader in Solano, and he's the Assistant to the President! Pretty funny how that works. We had a great day, riding in a car for the first time in forever, blasting the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, teaching as many people as we could find, refining skills... It was a really great splits. We had a fellowshipper with us to tried to convince me he was preparing for his mission, when I knew right off the bat that he was an RM. His ploy finally broke when we met a man cooking chicken who turned out to be from the Visayas. They started speaking the language together without flaw. He's an RM from the Cagayan de Oro mission, which speaks that language. Hah. I've got you now. 

On Friday we traveled back to Bagabag and made it just in time to attend Priesthood Executive Committee meeting, which once again had incomplete attendance. That's one of the weaknesses in the Branch: meetings starting on time and with complete attendance. But the strengths will always outweigh the weaknesses when the Lord is on our side. President Bumatay attended the meeting with his councilor Brother Francis Bayatan. President Bumatay is one of the most Christ-like, humble people I've ever met. He's just a simple rice farmer with a heart and Spirit bigger than life. It's become a tradition in our meetings that a giant, life-threatening beetle will fly in through the window and attack my face during reporting, resulting in a lot of frantic hand-waving and reaching for large objects efficient for crushing. After the commotion is over, the meeting goes on as normal. Fun stuff like that happens all the time. Yay. 

This week I compared the life of Christ with the life of Moses, being inspired by the song "Deliver Us" from Prince of Egypt. There are so many parallels to be drawn to the plan of salvation from the time-old story of Moses and the children of Israel. First of all, we notice that both of them were born at a time when infants of their lineage were being hunted and killed in an effort to quench an uprising. Second of all, we notice that the covenant people, in both of their times, were in bondage or occupation of an alien nation. In the case of Jesus, it was the Romans. In the case of Moses, it was the Egyptians. Alien powers show strong symbolism to Babylon, the original alien power, which is always related to worldly powers, practices, etc. Just as Moses was risen up to save the covenant children from the powerful influence of Egypt, and bring them to a promised land, Jesus Christ was sent by our loving Heavenly Father to save His children from the grasp of the Devil, and bring us home to His presence. Now, the Atonement saves us from the bondage of sin and death, but it is still dependent upon our agency whether we are willing to travel in the wilderness to reach the promised land, or whether we want to wander, and even long to return for the departed Egypt, or Babylon, or Sodom and Gomorrah. Are we going to murmur like they did? Like Laman and Lemuel? Are we going to put down the hand-cart and pack up for England? Or are we going to die with our face toward Zion, rather than turning out by the wayside? Traverse that wilderness! Pick up the handcart! Press forward saints! I like to exemplify this as a moto of life with the lyrics found in a popular hymn: "Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end." God wants to know if we truly love Him. We know that we do, deep inside of us, for He is our Father. He's given us this chance here on earth to learn to love Him again, and find Him within ourselves. It all begins with our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Just as the children of Israel had no hope of being saved if they didn't follow Moses through the Red Sea on dry ground, we can't hope for a better future -- an eternal future -- if we don't follow Jesus Christ, our Savior. 

This is the Spirit of revelation. It's the same Spirit that allowed the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea on dry ground. If we put our trust in God, without relying in our own flesh or in hollow promises of the Devil, then the knowledge flows into our mind and our heart, we begin to remember our pre-mortal decisions and our eternal destiny, we get to know ourselves as we know our Father better, and what seemed impossible before becomes possible, without the shadow of a doubt. That's the Spirit that Moses exemplified in his life as a prophet, and a special witness of the Savior. It's the Spirit we have the opportunity of obtaining by the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I love this work and I know this Church is true. God has shown me my weaknesses and has continually made me strong. I will follow Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Splits in Lagawe: Part 2 

Tracting in Lagawe...

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