Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29, 2015-- Email #87

June 29, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Dear Family,

Well, that is a lot to process! I feel so humbled to have such a beautiful blessing brought into our family! I don't know if I've ever voiced this, but I've always felt there would be someone arriving in the family with a physical disability, because I felt like there was something we needed to learn from a situation like such. Here we are, and with the perspective the restored gospel gives us, casting out all fears and reassuring us that Celestial glory is the ultimate destiny for this precious gift. Like you've said, I am also very excited to be a student to this wonderful, cute teacher. 

To be honest, yesterday and today I'd been really having a hard time personally accepting myself the way I am. I've felt quite knocked over, for lack of a better term, by the fact that the things I'd been asking for in sincere prayer were not the will of my Heavenly Father, and that I was in severe need of a new perspective and a few more rounds of being "humbled to the dust". I'd been completely ignorant of a multitude of tender mercies because I was looking for something else. The news that I've just read from home felt a lot like as you've been describing it; in a few short words, the whole world changes, and that book of life we've been imagining up suddenly, and absolutely necessarily, is put into the hands of the "author and finisher of our faith", who knows what we need and executes His plan of salvation with unfathomable precision and exactness. I'm so glad my perspective has been changed this morning. I'm so glad all of our perspectives have changed this week. 

I don't have a whole lot of time left to email today, but I just want to share one insight we received from a recent convert this last Saturday. She's a primary teacher in the Ward, and she had been teaching the children the story of Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth. I'm sure you're familiar with the story. Today, however, I think this puts on a whole other meaning for all of us. The disciples passed this man on the street, with a genetic malady, and asked the Savior, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" 

"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

I testify that we will be the witnesses of countless works of God wrought through this beautiful baby girl, from the day she was born 'til the day she leaves us. 

Jesus then uses an unusual method to heal the man from his blindness. "When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." 

After the man received his sight, the Pharisees railed him with questions, trying to debunk the power of the One who had healed him. At first, the man's primary explanation has to do with the way he was cured. He explains the clay, the washing, etc. However, the man seems to realize, during the course of the cross-examination, that the reason he was healed was not because of the mud in his eyes, or the pool he washed in, but because of this mysterious man, who came to him and told him to do as He said.  "He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." After defending this man for quite some time, the Pharisees cast him out, denying miracles because they were looking for another source, far from their God. 

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him."

"And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind."

I think we've all had our eyes opened by the Savior this week. I'm so grateful for the eternal perspective the restored gospel gives us, and helped us immediately realize that it was He who had opened our eyes, and He who has all power to help us with the purest love in existence. I'm so grateful to be here in the Philippines, and I treasure every moment of every day I have this name-tag on, and I'm able to invite others to come unto Christ, and have spiritual eyes be opened, not by mud or man-made remedies, but by the Savior Himself, and His power restored to the earth in the last days. Hosanna, Hosanna, to God and the Lamb! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans


Mercedes Kathleen Vest
Born June 24, 2015
7 lb 9 oz  20.5 inches

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015-- Email #86

June 22, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

The Lord has carried me further than I'd be able to go on my own power. We had a really strong drive to accomplish the Standards of Excellence in the mission this week, and although we didn't reach them, we shot for the moon and landed among the stars. A lot of sincere prayer and a pair of worn-out shoes have helped me gain greater understanding as to why I'm here at this time, and how I can forget myself further and keep my "eye single to the glory of God". I've been able to recognize blessings better and become less selfish in my prayers, relying more on what the Lord wants for me. It's been hard but all is well!

Speaking of "all is well", we had the opportunity to teach Zone Meeting on Tuesday. It was really fun! We conducted another finding activity, where all of us left the chapel for 20 minutes to go street contacting. It really motivated us all that whole week to do better. Our companionship has doubled in numbers of contacts, and so has the whole Zone! That's such a wonderful tender mercy. As part of the lesson, we taught about the Parable of the Sower, or more accurately the Parable of the Soil. We compared several accounts in the scriptures to the different kinds of soil, people, that can be found. We compared the wayside soil to the people at the time of Noah and the Flood, who were so hard-hearted that nothing could be done but to commence imminent destruction. The stony-place people have many examples found in the scriptures, and it has a lot to do with the victim mentality that you've so beautifully described in past emails; the whole civilization of the Lamanites was living in that sort of victim mentality that invoked them to gratify pride and go on in wickedness. The specific example we used was when only shortly after receiving the Ten Commmandments, the children of Israel told Aaron to make them a golden calf, because Moses had been up in the mountain for too long, they were getting bored, they started missing the food in Egypt, and were beginning to forget the signs and wonders that they had seen... It's an all too familiar story, isn't it? 

The thorny places is where we might usually find ourselves in, as members of the Church. Sometimes we get way too tangled up in worldly things, with that "summer-home in Babylon" becoming more and more comfortable, until we reach the point that no matter how strong our testimony is, it can be quenched by our own ambitions and we become fruitless. This is definitely something that missionaries have the best experience with, having left the world behind only to find that it did not want us to leave it, and it keeps on rearing its ugly face over and over again, keeping us distracted from our purpose. I'm so glad to know that we've been weeding out those thorns in this Zone, and in myself, over this last week. God has been refining us in our weakness, and helping us every step of the way.

For the example of the 100-fold fruit of the good soil, I told the story of William Clayton, the composer of "Come Come Ye Saints". If you haven't read the story, do so now. It was a very powerful experience telling the story of thousands of Saints, being kicked out of their homes once again, heading into the frontier earlier than expected because of the threats of numerous mobs, and then to have this man, William, leave his pregnant wife back in Nauvoo, with no assurance as to whether she'd be safe. But as he was camping in the bleak winter, a letter arrived at his tent with the news that his wife had delivered a baby boy, healthy and safe. It was at that moment that the words and music to "Come Come Ye Saints" poured into his mind. I wish I could have sufficient eloquence to explain how proud I am of those early Saints, who did not fear death, and went wherever the Lord would have them go. That's good soil. That's 100 fold. We sang it as our closing Hymn, and I couldn't get through the first line without bawling. Awesome. 

There were 8 baptisms in Alicia this last weekend, with an anticipated 4 more this next weekend! The Lord really is hastening His work. We have 3 investigators in our area now with baptismal dates, one of which attended Church: Sister Flor. She's working on getting married as of the moment, considering she has a live-in and they want to get baptized. Our investigators are continually doing well and receiving answers to prayers, and your prayers as well would be much appreciated!

I've been sick the past 3 days because of a huge rainstorm that came in and affected the water. We almost died from the lightning accompanying said rainstorm, which was an adventure. But even though I've been feeling bad, it hasn't effected our work schedule, because I know that God has been carrying me along, helping me to do all that He needs me to do, and I have faith that "I can do all things, through Christ which strengtheneth me." I love you all, and I love this work. Thank you again. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

In Echague with Elder Bautista, down by the river.

Baptismal service in Alicia.

 The Alicia Zone!

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015-- Email #85

June 15, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Naimbag nga Aldaw!

Our email time is earlier today so I hope I don't miss you! It's been a pretty eventful week, and even as I write this almost everything I was thinking of telling you is disappearing. I suppose that's how it always is. So, let me try my hand at the recap.

We left in the morning several days this week to work in the areas close to our apartment 'til lunch. We met a lot of interested people that we got to share with. On Saturday morning we worked in our farthest area, Pag-asa (which is Tagalog for "hope"). It was a long, bumpy ride to get there, but it was well worth it. Basically everyone we spoke with that day accepted us and seemed interested to learn more. The Spirit was very strong as we went from house to house in this little barangay, sharing about a loving Heavenly Father and families. We have a particular investigator there, named Amy, who has received an answer to her prayers about Joseph Smith and was eager to read the Book of Mormon we left her. The only immediate problem I perceive is that the wonderful people here are very far from the Church, but there are members that live here with vehicles and I think we'll be able to solve things well enough. God will prepare the way, through the Ward Council, missionaries, and faith. 

On Wednesday we had MLC and on Friday we had a Zone Conference, both of which were very informative. I felt so strongly the truthfulness of the Atonement in both instances. I've had a lot of shortcomings personally as of late, and I feel sometimes like I've been drifting, but I know that Christ is always there, as Jeffrey R. Holland so beautifully puts it, "like lighting in a summer storm", arms shooting out to grab us and lift us to safety. Whenever I see pictures of Jesus in Gethsemane, I am reminded how difficult the Atonement was for Him, even the God of Israel. I also remember how the Apostles He had called to watch with Him had fallen asleep. Some days, I feel like I have fallen asleep on the watch, recognizing that the "Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak", but I've learned a lot this week about not letting myself loose sight of my true potential. Just because I'm imperfect is no good reason to stop trying, and fall into complacency. Like Nephi so eloquently pours out his soul in 2 Nephi 4, I see that I'm surrounded by sins that "do so easily beset me", nevertheless, "I know in whom I have trusted". Why should I sell myself short of what God can make me, "because of my flesh?" Whilst on this mortal journey, and especially as one called of God, I've gotten to know the "enemy of my soul", and have gained greater and greater resolve, every day, because of my immense love for God, to "give place no more" for him, because he rewarded no good thing. Every day, I realize my heart changes more and I begin to "shake at the appearance of sin", because I realize how deep the Savior had to plummet into the darkest abyss to save my soul from that awful hell, and give me the opportunity to repent, and live again. It was not easy for Him, but He has accomplished all that He set out to do, conquering sin and death, and giving us the way to eternal life, so I owe it to Him to give my very best every day, and follow His commandments. 

On Saturday we had a really good experience in weekly planning. We were marveling with each other how we haven't had any baptisms, in the mission and in this area, in a very long time. Especially as leaders, it's been very frustrating and a test of patience. We discussed possible solutions, and then we pondered silently for a long time. After which, we had both received the confirmation that we needed to update the Area Book more thoroughly and consistently, and to focus on baptism earlier in the teaching of our new investigators. We put it on paper, prayed over it, and set out in accomplishing what the "Lord had commanded [us]". Consequentially, the next day we had a new investigator with a baptismal date, Miko! It was unexpected, and completely in the hand of God for giving us revelation and supporting us in achieving our goals. I'm excited for this coming cycle!

We had an area broadcast on Sunday where Elder Neil L. Anderson spoke along with some other authorities. They talked about a Filipino phrase in English that has often been spoken when helping others: "I will be the one", meaning "let me do it". They expressed great love for the Philippines and I felt the Spirit confirm to me that it was indeed a living Apostle speaking the will of the Lord to this wonderful country. I also had the opportunity to conduct a few baptismal interviews this week which were immensely spiritually uplifting experiences. I felt prompted on several occasions during those interviews to share specific testimony, advice, and scriptural support. They were some great young men being baptized this next weekend. It's been amazing to be shaped into who I am by my loving Heavenly Father. I'm so proud to be His son and to hold the power of the Priesthood to bless the lives of others. 

That's all I have this week. I love you all! I know this is all true, and leave it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8, 2015-- Email #84

June 8, 2015
Echague, Isabela, Philippines

Makasta nga Fugab! 
(trans. "Good Afternoon!" in Yogud)

You're going to get a kick out of this one! You already know who my new companion is, 'cause we've already been companions before! Elder Bautista: Round 2! Last time we were companions was when I followed-up trained him in Santiago Ward 3, over a year ago. Now, we've been reunited as Zone Leaders in the Alicia Zone, the largest Zone in the mission (large in numbers of missionaries). They just couldn't get enough of the two of us, could they? Elder Petersen has gone down to Bagabag to replace me, this being the second time he's taken one of my old areas. 

Our area is in Echague, otherwise known as the "Yogud City". Yogud, which is a tribe in southern Isabela, is the primary dialect here. It's closely related with Ybanag, Gaddang and Itawes, which means it has a lot of funny-sounding g's, b's and f's (as you can see in the example given above). There is still a dominant presence of Ilocano, however, which means most people here speak four languages minimum: English, Tagalog, Ilocano, and Yogud. We are in the 2nd Ward of Echague. The Alicia Stake was just recently formed this last December and is one of the strongest I've seen in the mission, which is saying something, considering this is a relatively low-populated part of Region II. How to describe the landscape? Rice. Rice fields as far as the eye can see, not exaggerated. And it is excruciatingly hot. I had a bit of a shock from the climate change of cool, mountainous Nueva Vizcaya to the hot, flat rice fields of Isabela. I think I'm finally getting tan! We do our P-day in Santiago, which is only about 15 minutes away by van.

Well, how to describe this week? It's been really fun here, especially since Elder Bautista and I are already used to each other's personalities and teaching methods. He's noted some changes in me as well that gave a boost of confidence. When we were together in Santiago, he was always correcting my Tagalog. Our first day here, he commented after our first street contact: "Wow... Your Tagalog is... Wow..." It's kind of nice to get perspective from a former companion on the improvements you've made in the mission. There are a lot of relatively new investigators in this area, and now I've gotten the opportunity to know all of them and to testify of eternal truths to them, in particular the Atonement, and the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It's been a spiritually rejuvenating week. We had dinner at the Bishop's home on Thursdaynight and I feel close with the Ward here already. They are super awesome.

For the most part, everyone in this Zone is unfamiliar to me. Elder Sefita is here, and Elder Espanto, but everyone else is either new or I've never been assigned in the same Zone with them. It's been a great opportunity to start fresh. We had a really great District Meeting from Elder Capulac, one of the three District Leaders here. We talked about companionship unity and I felt the Spirit really strongly from him. He's Elder Sogari's trainee, and he really looks up to his Tatay as an example of hard work and a willing desire to change. The mission has changed so much; it's almost like I'm in my last area or something. ;)

Well, I anticipate to have a longer email next week, but I'd just like to end this email with my testimony of the latter-day work. I know that the God of Israel leads this mission, and is preparing the hearts of the people at this time to receive the message of the restoration, and make covenants with the true and living God in the days soon to come. Temples are being dedicated throughout the world. The Sapporo temple is getting close, and it's wonderful to think I had a brother in that land, planting gospel seeds which eventually led to a House of the Lord being erected. Hopefully, someday, a temple will rise here as well. I think the rice fields and growth cycles are very symbolic of missionary work, and the end of the world, as with other plants. I feel the harvest is close. To end this, I'll leave my favorite quote by Joseph Smith:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done"

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Elder Bautista and Elder Kocherhans served together in Santiago toward the first part of his mission.
I went through and found this photo of their first round as companions...
Now, together again, assigned to serve as Alicia Zone Leaders in Echague.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1, 2015-- Email #83

June 1, 2015
Bagabag, Philippines


I'm sorry, but this is going to go down in history as the shortest email of the mission! We had to travel to Santiago this morning to fix Elder DelosReyes eye glasses and now we don't have any time! I will say this though: Next email will be in my new area! I'm transferred!

We had a few investigators at church this last Sunday! Jonalyn came with Jupelyn, the young woman recent convert we've been teaching. She had a part in the program so it was really powerful having Jonalyn's fellow-shipper being able to testify at the pulpit about baptism and confirmation! Abish also came with her whole family, and we had an excellent combined class from one of the mission Presidency about the Atonement. It was a great Sunday.

The rest of the week was really good. One thing, that I'd like to go into greater detail on but time forbids, happened on Friday morning. Elder DelosReyes and I were holding a weekly planning session, and began to conduct companionship inventory at the end. Unexpectedly, there arose a great deal of contention between the two of us. Misunderstandings, lack of communication from washing dishes to paying jeepnee fair... etc. After we had spoken our minds to each other, or so we thought, we both looked down at our desks and waited for a considerable amount of time, trying to get a grip on what had just happened. Suddenly, the words stumbled out of my mouth, "are you afraid to get married?" I don't know where they came from, but afterwards, we both looked at each other and realized that we needed to resolve our issues, swallow pride, and show greater love, if we were to expect a healthier relationship when we get married to our spouses respectively. The conversation evolved deeper and deeper, going from effective fatherhood, how many times we'd told our families we love them, gossip in the mission being destructive to our perspectives, preventing future family problems, magnifying our Priesthood, and gaining greater perspective on the Atonement. At the end, Elder DelosReyes was really discouraged in himself for mistakes he had made. I poured out my heart to him, telling him that missionaries like him were hard to come by. Our family is strong in the Gospel, and I thank God every day for it, but his family is broken by adultery and greed, loosing its Gospel ground. Yet, every day, he still goes out and testifies to every ear within reach that families can be together forever, and the Gospel will bless them. That takes real bravery. It's easy for me to say. But for him, it's hard, and much more meaningful. We hugged it out and marveled at the awesome experience we had just had, enlightening one another's understanding and gaining greater perspective. We ended with prayer, asking for forgiveness, and praying for our future families and spouses, that we would be worthy of their trust and be the kind of men we needed to be for them.

I know this work is true. I know that love lasts forever. It is perpetuated beyond the grave. If we give the Lord our hearts, He'll give us all in return. It has been paid, so it is our duty to God to learn to love greater, deeper, more like Christ. I love Him, and I love my fellow brothers and sisters that I've come to know here on Earth, and forge stronger relationships with, to extend into the eternities. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

P.S. I saw Jethro and Henry when we were in Santiago! Awesome catching up with them. Miss those guys.