Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25, 2015-- Email #82

May 25, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines


Once again, just happy to be alive, and happy to have a spiritual witness of God's truth that I can share with others! We had a very interesting week... to be honest, "weird" is the best way to describe it, but I saw in the course of things that God was making some arrangements for me and Elder DelosReyes that we hadn't had in mind, turning out much better and much more meaningful than anything we might have mustered up. When you allow yourself to be an instrument in God's hand, life is just simply beautiful. 

Tuesday was in particular of a very bizarre variety... In the morning we had a service project at an elementary school. We dusted roofs and painted walls in preparation for the upcoming school year. We also, unexpectedly, found that Brigham Young had found his place among some of the famous educators framed and quoted throughout the school yard. How cool is that! And completely random... They must have had an LDS guy on the Board of Directors there some year or something. Anyways, once we got home and left out for work, a very strange string of connections began happening. First off -- Michael, you'll get a kick out of this -- we were coming back from one of our investigator's homes when a woman called us, "Hello, Elders!" We asked her if she had met with missionaries before. "Yes, when I was in Singapore. My son and his wife are members of your Church, and missionaries would come to our house almost every week. Elder... Something, I forgot his name, but the other one was Elder Wadsworth." Hmmm. Wadsworth. I couldn't be the Elder Wadsworth, your brother serving in southeast Asia, could it? Let's narrow it down, I said, "Elder Wadsworth? What color is his hair?" "Red." "That's him!" So you can tell your brother I met their investigator Lilia Isip, along with family members Louie and Erica, here in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. Weird connection. 

But it didn't end there. We walked down the street a little farther and noticed a group of people, who started loudly talking about how an American was approaching (under the impression I couldn't understand). Once we got closer I greeted them in Ilocano to assure them I wasn't new around here. We started talking with one of the couples in the group and there was a man that used to work in the home town of Elder DelosReyes, and his wife originally came from Samar and knew a Rebojo family there upon further investigation. Ok, that's another weird connection... I started talking about how small the world is with Elder DelosReyes, and almost immediately upon his explanation "what else could possibly happen?", a young boy passed by on his bike, wearing a t-shirt that read with big letters, "DelosReyes". Well, there you go. We stopped the boy and started talking to him. Turns out there was no family relation with this one. The following, however, was shocking. Elder DelosReyes asked him "what's your name, bro?", to the reply of "uh, actually, I'm not a bro..." He was a she; A cross-dressing she. Lot's of other weird things happened that day, including children chewing beetle-nut, a few mentally challenged people approaching us, and a little girl scaring Elder DelosReyes, but after it all, we ended up reaching one of our investigator families at the perfect time. They were complete; husband, wife, and children. The lesson was really good, and I was so happy that we were able to reach them, considering they're almost never available together. It made me realize, as I mentioned above, that God was making arrangements for us, and although it made the world seem like it was a little upside down and jolted, we got to declare the gospel to those we needed to, no matter how unsuspecting or different they seemed. 

We've been having really good spiritual experiences with sister Rita as of late. Our last few lessons about the restoration through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon have been very uplifting, and sister has had tear-stained eyes at the end of each one. The Holy Ghost is telling her our words are true for sure, and now she just has to make the steps of asking and reading for herself. We taught Jonalyn about the Pre-Mortal life and she said it makes her feel happy that she chose to do hard things, a.k.a. experience earth life and choose for herself. She feels really good about the Church, but still has reluctance not attending the Catholic Church, which is understandable. Please continue praying for these individuals. Even if some won't be baptized in my time, I know the Lord's time will come for them, and the steps to feel the Spirit, act in doctrine, and follow the Savior, begin now. 

We're teaching a little girl in a part-member family named Abish. She is super adorable and wants to be baptized. Her older brother, Vergo (who I think I've mentioned in past emails) is entering his mission papers, which is an answer to prayers! Anyways, the lessons with Abish are going well. Her closing prayer last time was hilarious. So honest, and so... Really just makes me wonder where she picked this up... She said (translated) "bless the Elders that they'll get home safe. And hopefully no one will *CENSORED* [edit for language, rough translation means 'stupid bad people will do bad things'] to them on their way home..." Oh boy, it was hilarious, and I'm sure Heavenly Father was having a fun time with that one as well. I think all of us must sound like that sometimes to Him. We can't find the perfect words to say, but it doesn't bother Him. To paraphrase Sister Hilary Weeks, "I may struggle and stutter... And sometimes swear... But to you, it's the perfect prayer."

I had my Birthday dinner at the Branch President's house, which was delicious. The members have been feeding us almost every night, so we've gotten so much closer to them. I love the people here so much. I love the food here, and I'm getting better and better at cooking the local dishes. Elder DelosReyes let's me know what he wants for lunches, we buy ingredients on p-Day, and then we feast. It's been good cooking experience for me. 

We had interviews with President Rahlf this last week. It was a great interview, about where I thought I would be in the next ten years. I have been blessed with a vision for a good future, and I have a multitude of promised blessings I can count on. President Rahlf has been a great mentor to me. He has amazing leadership skills within the Church and without, and it's been an inspiring model for me to follow. I'm so grateful for his vision and his example as a Mission President.

Well, I think that's my report for this week! I love you all! I know this Church is true. I didn't come to that knowledge from persuasion of any individual, or a measured display of evidence. but because, as Alma said, "I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me." I love my testimony of the truth and I love to share it to God's children. May we all be filled with that love. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

-Elder Kocherhans

Selfie on the Jeepnee!

 Elementary School Service Project

And one of the items on the menu, ginisa. (Cooked vegetables including eggplant, ladyfinger, string beans, pumpkin, and tomatoes, cooked with garlic and onions)

Also on the menu, bicol express (pork meat with pumpkin, beans, and spicy chilies, cooked in coconut milk, ginger, garlic and onions)

(Editors note: I found this picture on the Cauayan Mission Facebook page this week. I love finding & collecting pictures of our missionary from other sources :-)

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015-- Email #81

May 18, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines

Dear Family,

Well, it was nice to be able to Skype call last week! The internet was out in almost every other computer shop but that one, so I think it's safe to call it a miracle that we were able to pull it off! Next time we'll be seeing each other will be in the flesh... That's a very bizarre prospect to consider. But I'm sure if the Lord was able to help me adjust in the mission field, he'll be able to help me adjust to home life as well, when the time comes.

I just want to start off my email by sharing my testimony of the Atonement. I know I share it almost every week in my emails, but it's because it's one of the dearest parts of who I am; that is, my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement. I know that Jesus Christ was the pre-mortal Jehovah of the Old Testament, and that through Him the heavens and the earth were created. He was chosen to be our Savior and Redeemer and was prepared by our Eternal Father to fulfill this divine mission of conquering death and sin. He was born of a mortal woman, Mary, and an immortal Father, making Him the Only-Begotten Son of God. He walked among men here on earth, showing them the way to eternal life. He organized His Church. He walked among the covenant people that He Himself had given commandments to on the mountain and in the wilderness. His own people could not recognize that the great I AM was indeed in their midst, and because of pride, rejected Him. He was fully aware of His mission to accomplish. His mission was to conquer evil and death, and to give us a chance to return home. His sacrifice was not that of man; man alone could never make an offering to pay for the sins of a fallen world. Only one who was Endless, Eternal, even the Son of God, could accomplish this "infinite and eternal sacrifice" (Alma 34:10). He knelt in a garden of olive trees, and gave every last bit of Himself for us, submitting completely to the will of the Father. It was far beyond any mortal suffering, and far beyond anything we could begin to fathom. "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:18) That very night He was betrayed by friends for money, taken in a false trial, and tortured cruely. "And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men."  (1 Nephi 19:9) It was far beyond a martyr's death, or a testimony of blood against wicked men, but it was an instrument of everlasting healing, prepared from the foundations of the world, for us, God's children, and pre-mortal followers of Christ. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) His almighty hands and feet were pierced by nails, and He was raised on a cross until He gave up the ghost according to His own power. After three days, His soul returned to His body, never to be separated again, and became a glorious resurrected being. He lived again, and still lives! He is risen! He commissioned us to preach His word, and ascended into Heaven, into incomprehensible glory. Because of that victory over death and sin, I am filled with "a perfect brightness of hope" that the day will come when we will all be raised from mortality to immortality, and we can be cleansed from the countless iniquities that have so easily beset us in the flesh, because we have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ, who wants more than anything that we come unto Him, and be partakers of this wonderful gift given to us. No amount of eloquence can really articulate what I feel in my heart and soul concerning Jesus, but I thank God that the Holy Spirit has testified to me of these wonderful truths, and that now they are such a dear part of me, that will never fade away. To my dying breath, and far beyond the grave, I will testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior. I know He lives. 

 Tuesday was super cool. We had an awesome Zone Meeting where we set new goals with the Zone concerning contacting and finding new investigators, and conducted a 20-minute finding activity that very hour, talking to people just outside the chapel, on the city streets. We felt it would be more powerful if we kicked off the new Zone goals by going out and doing them, rather than just talking about it. It sure did get us energized! And so-far it's been super effective; our average contacts and new investigator average for the Zone is steadily going up, so it's pretty fun stuff! Super grateful for that.

That night, we came to the Valdez family for a dinner appointment. Sister Valdez asked us if we wanted to go catch beetles and eat them for dinner, and we readily accepted. How cool is that! We hiked out to this huge corn field with sticks, large empty plastic bottles, and some dead bark strips, wondering what on earth we had gotten ourselves into. We waited, squatting in the corn rows until the sun started sinking. Then, all of a sudden the ground started humming and thousands of beetles started flying around us. They are attracted to the dead bark strips, so you just start waving them around, grabbing as many beetles as you can fit in your hands. We did that for about 15 minutes and got two bottles full before we headed back. Once we got back we ripped off their legs and wings and fried them up in some garlic and vinegar. Talk about a dinner appointment! I love this place! 

On Thursday we chopped some wood for a service project and had some more delicious food. The week went really well in general. The main difficulty we had was some immature fellowshippers joining us that made the work difficult... We still managed. We met with an investigator, Jonalyn, whom we hadn't seen in a long time. When we started following-up her prayers and reading she said she had received and answer to her prayers that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. Awesome! The only problem facing her is a difficult boyfriend situation... I'll keep you updated.

Anyways, out of time! Just glad I was able to testify! I love this place and this work. I know God lives. We have a loving Heavenly Father who is so merciful. I love Him so much, and I'm grateful for the gift of His son. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

(I think I'll call this one Hakuna matata... ;-)  gulp...  

Catching "Abal-abal" (Ilocano for Corn Beetle)

Service project, chopping wood. 

FHE at the Bayatan home

Uh-oh! President Rahlf dressing down! (For an object lesson concerning proper missionary attire, of course...)

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4, 2015-- Email #80

May 4, 2015,
Bagabag, Philippines

Sa Aking Pamilya,

Let's go with 7:00 PM May 10th for you, 9:00 AM May 11th for me. Speaking of time travel, I just remembered again it's the year 2015. No pink hover-boards or self-drying jackets yet, unfortunately. Anyways, I'm excited to take you all to the Philippines Cauayan Mission over Skype this coming Mothers Day. It will be fun. If you could just prepare specific questions and take little time slots like you did last time that'd be great.

Wow, where do I even start this last week? So many cool things happened...

On Monday night we had a Family Home Evening at the home of the second councilor in the branch. It is a very nice home, and they had some delicious food prepared, including some amazing chicken cooked with pineapple, and an Ilocano vegetable dish called pinakbet. Oh boy, good stuff. We've really been enjoying the fresh fruits and vegetables we bought last week at the palengke (wet market), and we got some more today to stock up. Fresh mangoes, bananas, guyabano (I don't think there's an English word for that one)...  I'm very passionate about food, and I hope it continues to stick to my bones. 

Tuesday was very bizarre. We got a text from the District leader in the morning that he wouldn't be able to attend District meeting because his companion was sick. On top of that, the STL's in our Zone attended District meeting in Bambang, which they also have jurisdiction over. At this point, considering there was only 5 companionships in total, we just combined Districts and Elder Olson taught the meeting... That is, once we were able to enter the chapel. Turns out the Branch President who had the keys to the chapel was out of town so we had to contact his son to open the chapel. He didn't have a vehicle so we waited for almost 30 minutes before he got there. It was kind of hectic. It was kind of fun. 

On Wednesday we left the apartment early ready to go work in one of the farthest barangays in our area, Pogonsino. Upon arriving, however, it turned out almost everyone was not at home, so we made a change of plans. I had a feeling I had to go check down by the large river bordering the mountains, which at this point I'd never been down to before. It was only about a 5 minute walk so we checked it out. Once we got there, we found a small boat with some kids swimming nearby a makeshift dock. We asked them if there were houses on the other side of river and they told us there was a good-sized community about 10 minutes away. Why not? We got on board, crossed the river, and then made our way to the foothills. We met a lot of people along the way that we were able to share the message of the restoration with, and I couldn't help feeling I'd made the right decision in coming down to the river. Finally we came to a house nestled in an incline above the river basin and taught a lesson to the people we met there. Who would have believed it -- They were a lesbian couple belonging to the Methodist faith who had recently come back from an extended stay in the United Arab Emirates. Sometimes you run into the strangest things when you cross rivers...

On Thursday we had a service project in Lantap, Bagabag, at the Bayon family property. It's actually in the area of the Lamut Elders, and it's a good thing we didn't get completely lost on our way there... like we did. We got off the jeepnee too late and ended up walking around for a while asking people where we were. Elder DelosReyes said to me, "hopefully we run into someone who knows where they live." A few minutes later of walking, we ran into one of our investigators, Dick, who was coming back from work. He was an angel sent in our path, so to speak. He pointed us the way and we arrived safely and not much later than the others. We cleared weeds for a good while and then ate some delicious tinola (a kind of chicken stew) and halo-halo (shaved ice on steroids). We had a good day of work as well despite having more appointments fall through. Bear with patience thine afflictions...

This last weekend there was a lot of really great spiritual experiences. It's kind of hard to explain all of the details, but perhaps I'll just focus on one of them this last fast and testimony meeting. There is a recent convert in our branch we've been teaching named Daniel Baclor. He's been a member with his brother for the past 6 or so months now. His mother has been an investigator for a very long time, and has received a witness of the truth for herself, but she's been very discouraged lately because of a difficult live-in situation with her partner, Dick (the one I mentioned earlier). There has been a lot of contention in their house as of late, and it hasn't helped that Sister hasn't been keeping reading or praying commitments. On Saturday night we tried to visit them, only to find yelling in the house and then Dick walking out, looking embarrassed. Sister started crying and told us to leave, so we headed out. The next morning, the only one who came to church in their family was Daniel. Elder DelosReyes and I had already got up to bear our testimonies and we felt the Spirit very strongly concerning the Atonement of Jesus Christ and being proud members of the Church. The last one to get up was Daniel. He's super short and only 13 years old, and has a super cute squeaky voice. He told everyone he'd been praying and reading that whole morning that he'd be able to be the last one to bear his testimony. He then started sobbing, telling us how he'd wanted us to teach their family so bad the night before, but because their family situation was so difficult, we had to leave. He then testified how grateful he was to be a member of the church and that he knew that it was all true. I could not hold back my tears the whole time he was speaking, as well as Elder DelosReyes. We were a mess. Haha. 

It is such an honor to be a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to have the privilege of being placed in the path of others whom He would have us help come closer unto Him. He truly did suffer all, body and Spirit, that He might know how to help us in our individual trials. He has overcome the world, although it hated Him and rejected Him, and He is risen. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Little kid yelling at me from the water "Bente!" (What I was to pay him for the boat ride)

And Halo-Halo.

Pogonsino and Elder DelosReyes

The Standard Work of Philippine Barbeque: Chicken intestines, blood cubes, and marinated chicken heads.

Also, someone did not get the memo that this picture was "wacky". Guess who? (Gospel principles class with Angie, Bryan, Brian(The one with the facial hair), Elder Rebojo and Elder Baclea-an.

(Editors Note... "Missing the memo" has happened before... :-D I think it makes it all the funnier...especially when Kara and Jordan are standing next to Sean and Brynn...the contrast...hahahaha!

My Awesome Companion