Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27, 2015-- Email #91

July 27, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

It's quite interesting... When I first got on the mission, I had a ton of emails every week. Then they decreased more and more, the longer I'd been out, until a good portion over the halfway-mark when it seemed to be only immediate family would write me. Now, as I get closer to going home, the emails are steadily increasing. How fascinating. I haven't heard about "The Plan" yet, but we have interviews with President Rahlf this Thursday so I'll expect to hear something about that from him. 

I also find it interesting to note that the younger brother of one of the members here in the Ward also committed suicide this past weekend. It stemmed from a break-up with his girlfriend. He was a really handsome kid, and had a lot going for him. How tragic. His brother, one of our Ward missionaries, seems to be taking it well although he's been really busy running his boarding house lately and hasn't made it to Church. I feel especially grieved when I hear stories like that, having also allowed myself to be a victim of negative thinking in past years. I've learned from experience to expel those kinds of thoughts as soon as they come. They do not originate from anything Godly. They originate from the source of pride and misery himself, Satan. I've learned to accept and welcome Godly sorrow, which worketh repentance, and to cast out "the sorrow of the world [which] worketh death." (2 Corinth.7:10) The Atonement can heal any inadequacy I might encounter on my mortal journey, and it makes me happier and live a more positive life.

This week in Echague has been very rewarding. On Tuesday we had a large "Elder's Conference" in Cauayan where we were trained on honoring our Priesthood during and after the mission. There was some great training from the Senior couples and others. Elder Honeycutt, the financial secretary, is also an electrical engineer and made an amazing presentation comparing electric power to the power of the Priesthood. When electric power is distributed from the main power plant (or God giving Priesthood power to man on earth), it first goes through several stations as the voltage is lessened and lessened to make it into a maintainable amount of volts to power our homes (like God distributing Priesthood power through delegated leaders holding Keys til we can use it comfortably and worthily in our homes). It was a really cool connection. President Rahlf gave a great lesson about the difference between worldly men and men of God. My favorite quote by far came from D. Todd Christofferson:

"In a large measure, true manhood is defined in our relationship to women."

Speaking of which, I have to tell you about one of our new investigators. Her name is Monica. She's ten years old and has an extremely deformed face. In all honesty, when I first saw her I was frightened, but now I've become use to her appearance and learned how beautiful her heart is. I've been informed (though I don't know how much is factual) that she was horrifically abused by her mother while still in the womb and as a small infant, wherein lies the cause of her deformation. Just as one example, her mother would place super small rubber bands on her arms to the point of cutting of her circulation (who knows why she did it), and the marks on her arms from said bands are still visible. Children make fun of her at school and sometimes she comes home crying, asking her step-mother why she looks the way she does and why the other kids look normal. Her step-mother, Irene, is a golden woman and has been an investigator for a long time now. They both came to Church this last Sunday. Monica had a huge smile on her face and walked in with a Book of Mormon Stories picture-book in her arms. I read it through with her, as well as a New Testament picture-book, explaining the stories and seeing her face light up. It was a priceless experience. 

We've had a hard time contacting a lot of our investigators, especially those who are students (which is a lot). They've been pretty jammed with exams this last week but we still had a really great, effective work-week. There were three other investigators who came to Church; two of them haven't been in a very long time but both had excellent experiences (they just need to be married before they get baptized), and the other was a 12-year-old boy named Joshua. He's the grandchild of the Elders Quorum President in our Ward. At first, when Elder Bautista and I tried to teach him, he was super quiet and wouldn't even answer simple "yes or no" questions. Elder Arorong has some amazing people skills, however, and our first lesson with him went fantastic. We got close right away and he opened up to us about difficulties he's been having with his parents, who are separated. He participated in the lesson and it was a great experience. I'm so glad I'm here with Elder Arorong. 

I've got to tell you about this Elders Quorum President, too! His name is Brother Dumalleang. He has a condition where he's basically crippled at the ankles, and limps around with a cane wherever he goes, but boy, does he go! He is an active carpenter, completes his home teaching, attends all the meetings, drives his tricee, and even works with us sometimes, despite his condition. He is such a man of faith. When he worked with us and Bishop on Saturday, he was extremely bold with investigators, telling them that this was the only Church with Priesthood authority from God and telling them they needed to stop praying in vain repetitions. Wow! Super bold, and the investigators felt the Spirit of his words, especially after considering his condition, and all that he does without pay. The investigators were very excited for return appointments. 

That's all I have time for! I love this work so much and I'm so grateful for the many tender mercies I've been able to witness here in Echague! I know that this is the restored Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. I know that we have a living prophet who receives modern-day revelation to help save a dying world. I've lived these things, I've seen others experience great changes and live them, and I know the difference. It is incredible. I know that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of Mankind. I love Him and I'm so grateful to be His servant. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015-- Email #90

July 20, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Maayong Aga! 
(Ilonggo, trans. "Good Morning!")

Well it's about time! I've got a new companion, straight from his second time in Tuguegarao. The one and only Elder Arorong! He's my batch, and like me, was "born" (as a missionary) in the beautiful Quirino Province. We were also unofficial companions for four days in Maddela, as you might find in a past email. He's from Iloilo, hence the Ilonggo heading. It feels so good to finally have a permanent companion! He's new as a Zone Leader, so it's likely he'll become my last companion in the mission. Weird, right? It's that close. 

There's not a whole lot that stands out this week, but I'll give you a low-down the best I can. 

On Monday night we had a Family Home Evening at the Acosta home. I don't know if I've mentioned their son Joshua before, but he's been called to the Philippines Butuan Mission and he's worked with us the past couple of weeks to get his feet in the water. The FHE was a combined farewell for him. They asked me to teach the lesson so I shared a scripture that I had forgotten how significant it was for me. It really helps us gain a greater perspective on our personal relationship with God, the Eternal Father, and His Son Jesus Christ.  we went straight out to work in the area. It's in D&C 15. The section is a personal revelation for John Whitmer given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I like how it adds in the chapter heading, that "the message is intimately and impressively personal in that the Lord tells of what was known only to John Whitmer and Himself." I love how the Restoration gives us that intimate and familiar perspective with God, rather than a harsh or vague view of what He really is. He just loves to give us advice through scripture; that's how he is! In verse 3 on it reads:

"And I will tell you that which no man knoweth save me and thee alone— For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you. Behold, blessed are you for this thing, and for speaking my words which I have given you according to my commandments.

"And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen." (Emphasis added)

We've probably all asked that question to God at one point or another, haven't we? There's a lot of worth-while things we can do in life, but what's the most important thing I can be doing right now? What should I do with my career? What talents should I be developing, etc. The questions of the soul go on and on. Here, God gives us a direct answer that adds more clarity to what it really means to "love one another." If we love our brothers and sisters, we need to share the knowledge we have. We need to declare repentance, find a new resolve to change, and help each other along the way. Essentially, God tells us here that the most important thing we can be doing is missionary work; to share the gospel, help people repent, and form eternal friendships that we can be with each other in the next life, along with our Father. God wants us to stick together and help each other out on our journey home. 

On Wednesday I had to wait in Cauayan for some time while the missionaries that were transferred from Tuguegarao came down. As soon as I met up with Elder Arorong we went straight out to work and had a good day. We had dinner with a few different member families the remainder of the week and the YSA helped a lot with reactivation of many less-actives. We had a ton of baptismal interviews in Alicia on Thursday and Saturday which are always awesome experiences. 

On Sunday we didn't have any of our regular investigators come to Church but two new ones did, referred by a member in the ward! They are really cool, Jeremy and Princess. They attended gospel principle class and by the end had a pretty firm grip on Priesthood Organization. What a cool lesson! It's so fun to explain how Jesus Christ still leads His Church in the same manner he did anciently. It's so shockingly simple how that's what it should be like, and it makes a quick impact on the investigators. 

I just want to share one scripture in closing and relate it to the Restoration and the Prophet Joseph Smith. It's found in Acts 5, as the Pharisees respond to the quickly growing Church of Christ formed among them. A doctor in law among them, Gamaliel, reminds them that if the men they were arresting were liars and blasphemous, they would have been put to an end long ago. But because they were of God, no prison could hold them and no power on earth, even death, could restrain them from shedding the light of the Gospel of Christ. He says: "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."

I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, the very one that He Himself established in old days. I know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, because he was willing to die, along with a countless aray of others, for this latter-day cause, because it is from God, and it certainly cannot be overthrown. I've felt that so deeply as of late, and it brings me sorrow to see people not give the time to investigate such a remarkable work of the Lord, but I'll continue on, knowing that God has things in control. I can't articulate my thoughts adequately, ah! Oh well. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13, 2015-- Email #89

July 13, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

A Federation has been formed between the Roxas and Alicia Zones in the time elapsed this week. Unfortunately, it will be dissolved as soon as transfer day hits on Wednesday. Elder Larson's companion, Elder Monilla, was called to be the new Assistant to the President this last Tuesday, so with Elder Larson now without companion, and me still without as well, we were put together for the time being. It's been a hoot! We've been the Zone leaders of both Zones this last week and I got to work in Roxas for a few days. Here are some highlights:

On Tuesday, when I was still without companion, I got to teach the Zone Meeting all by myself! That was exciting. It was like a giant District Meeting. The lesson had a lot of elements, including extending and re-extending commitments, obedience in times of persecution, and the differences between doing and being. As usual, I got very emotional through it all. Perhaps I got that from you, Dad :) That seems to be my trademark as a teacher; I choke up super easily and then my voice starts fluctuating and I have to try very hard to get it to stabilize. I just love learning and teaching eternal truths so much, it's so hard to keep things together! My testimony always strengthens a ton when I'm able to love and serve the missionaries in this Zone. That evening we had a good work day with Elders Teikauea and Posadas, and Sister Glysa Mae accepted to be baptized! Wooh! However, just her luck, she got sick this weekend and missed some schooling and Church. She's close, though, and hopefully this week the area will become more stable with a permanent companion and no more commotion! 

On Wednesday I traveled to Cauayan to meet with Elder Larson. President Rahlf approved me to travel alone from Echague to Alicia and then to meet up with Elder Cantero there who was going to the new trainers meeting. Traveling alone was the weirdest feeling in the world! Even the tricee drivers were asking me "where's your companion?" After meeting in Cauayan, we decided we would work in Roxas for the next three days and then go down to Echague to work for the weekend.

Roxas was quite the adventure! It's a town along one of the sub-highways here in Region II. It's on the border by Mountain Province and Kalinga Province, and isn't too much different from Echague. There are a lot of Indians working there, for some reason. Mainly they work with loans and such, and they're really good at Tagalog. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to taste any of the delicious-smelling curry they were cooking up everywhere we went. Too bad. We visited an older woman for lunch one day named Nanay Trinidad. She has a bit of a wandering mind, but is one of the nicest people I've ever met. When she gave us plates to eat on, they had obviously not been washed. Upon seeing the multitude of food particles on our plates, Elder Monilla (who was with us at that time) offered to wash the dishes for her. She refused, telling him that if guests wash the dishes, her pet cats would leave the house. Interesting. So Elder Monilla stood up anyways, ready to wash the dishes. Lo and behold, the pet cats sitting nearby simultaneously got up and walked out the door. He went back and sat down after that. 

There weren't a whole lot of investigators in their area but the ones we met with were really cool. One of them had an extensive knowledge about the Bible and, unlike others of that particular kind, was very receptive and willing to listen and input what we had said. Another really cool thing happened when we started teaching a less-active woman. Her neighbor came by before we started and we invited her in. The less-active woman suddenly felt greater urgency to be a better example for her neighbor of what a Latter-day Saint should be, and they both committed to come to Church. That was pretty neat. It was also really funny during the lesson... We thought that her neighbor spoke Ilocano, considering it sounded like she had an accent and was having a hard time with Tagalog. We spoke Ilocano to her for parts of the lesson, and our fellowshipper went into a very deep Ilocano exhortation for her. At the end of the lesson, however, we found out that she was pure Tagalog, and didn't know a lick of Ilocano. The fellowshipper we were with face-palmed himself pretty hard at that point and we had a good laugh. The best language we spoke during that lesson, however, was the language of the Spirit. 

We came back to Echague on Saturday and had some great success in Pag-Asa and a few other Barangays. We met with an investigator we'd not had the chance to visit in some time, Rose Ann. She was super receptive during our lesson about the Book of Mormon. Near the close of the lesson I asked her if she believed Joseph Smith was a true Prophet. She said that she did, and continued to explain "if Joseph Smith wasn't a true Prophet and this book wasn't true, it's as if there would be no God." Wow. That was a really powerful testimony coming from the Spirit working in this wonderful girl. She's still a bit attached to Catholicism, which is understandable, but she has great potential. We'll be following her up this week.

On Sunday we had a mega-splits with the Ward members and also got to enjoy some delicious Lechon Baboy (slow-cooked pork). It was excellent. No investigators were able to make it but there were a lot of less-active members that were able to come again which was awesome. I'm so glad I'll be dying (having my last area) here. The members are so great and I anticipate getting closer to them and seeing the Lord hasten His work through our combined efforts. 

This is where I leave you this week! I love you all. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary. I choose to live every moment here to the fullest, and not take these precious minutes, days, and weeks for granted. I love to serve the Lord. I know this is the true Church, and that witness of the Spirit cannot be taken away. I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Roxas-Alicia Federation
E. Kocherhans & E. Larson

Me eating at a Zone Conference (Courtesy of Sister Honeycutt & the mission blog)

Getting some photo-bombing in a said Zone Conference.

Alicia Zone

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 6, 2015-- Email #88

July 6, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Top of the Mornin' to Ya!
(Irish Colloquialism, trans. "Good Morning")

There are few words in existence that can adequately describe this last week! It involves kidneys, thyroids, low-population islands in the pacific, old people hiding, Tongans throwing buckets of water, termites, and even a man named Robin. How could all of these things possibly be related to another? I can only attempt to expound. During the week, it felt exceptionally long and hard, but now that I look back, I think "Wow, that was fun!"

First of all, Elder Bautista is one of the calmest people I've ever known. Last week, President Rahlf called our phone and I answered. President explained that Elder Bautista's twin brother (yes, he has a twin brother) had been sent home early from his missionary service in the Philippines Cagayan de Oro Mission due to a sudden medical concern. After testing him in a hospital in Manila, they had found that both of his kidneys were failing, and that he needed a transplant soon. So, President informed me that they needed to send Elder Bautista home for up to 3 months in order to save his brother's life, he being the one most-likely to match his twin brother's needed kidney. When I heard that, I was thinking: "Wow, that's some serious news. How is Elder Bautista going to react to this?" I handed the phone to him after I had been informed, and when Elder Bautista heard the news, he simply looked up, gave a small sigh, and continued updating the area book. Wow! That's it? This is before I learned, the next week, that during the phone call, Elder Bautista was unaware that he would be able to live after the transplant, but still readily accepted to be his brother's donor. President later told us that he had burst into tears while on the phone when Elder Bautista asked him if he'd still be able to live. My companion has amazing faith, and doesn't have to flaunt it or let his emotions overflow. He just has a calm reassurance that whatever happens in his life is suppose to happen. What a great guy.

That brings us to Wednesday. Elder Bautista packed his bags that morning, and we went to Cauayan for his last day, and last MLC (Missionary Leadership Council). President and Sister Rahlf came about an hour late to the meeting, because they had just come from a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, to have Sister Rahlf's thyroid surgically removed. I forgot to tell you about that last week, so here it is! President's been out of the mission for the past week, but they came back just in the nick of time! They missed the mission so much while they were gone. The surgery went great, and it's as if they never left. Once they arrived, we continued the meeting, featuring a lot of really great spiritual experiences and some very funny jokes from Elder Espino. At the close, President related Elder Bautista's story and he gave his farewell testimony to us all. It was great. 

After that, we had to figure out who my new companion was going to be. Since the transfer isn't 'til July 15, it makes things difficult. President informed me, however, that he had a companion for me in mind and I'd probably just have to work something out as a tri-some with the other Elders in our apartment, Elder Teikauea and Elder Posadas, just for about 3 days. It has now been five days and I'm still with them. Heh. But they are the best! Elder Teikauea (pronounced "take-ah-way-ah) is batch with Elder Rebojo, and he's from a really small island in the pacific called Tuvalu. You've probably never heard of it. They say it's close to Fiji. Anyways, it has a total population of 12,000 and one small branch. Elder Teikauea is a rock solid guy, and he is outrageously funny. It's impossible to be down when he's around, which I've appreciated greatly, considering the amount of things that have been coming my way. Elder Posadas, his trainee, is from Cebu, and he is an equally chill guy. Wonderful missionaries. 

We've been working between the two of our areas the past week, which has been a bit of a juggle, but we've managed. We had a lot of rejection, including an old woman that would run back into her house from the front porch every time we walked by. I love it when people are frank and tell us honestly whether they are interested or not, rather than running and hiding like a lot of people do in this country. We also tried to talk with some people that were mainly Yogad speakers and knew little Tagalog. It became quite the barrier, especially when their hearts were closed as well. We had a really cool experience on Friday, however. We met a woman who had been a former investigator a few years back. We taught her with her neighbor at the front of their house and it was a super good lesson. We invited them to come to Church at the end. Usually, when someone wants to avoid being impolite when saying they can't come, they tell us "mahirap naman mangako, pero susubukan ko" or in other words "It's hard to promise, but I'll try". The woman, in response to our direct commitment for her to attend church, told us that this Sunday she'd be out of town, but that next Sunday she'd be back. It seemed like another indirect declination, so I made the mistake of making the invitation more indirect the second time, and told her she could try to come to church next Sunday. She shocked me with her response: "hindi ko susubukan, Elder. Gagawin ko talaga." or in other words, "I won't try, Elder. I will actually do it." It made my day. I wanted to give her a high five. Tender mercies!

We have a really awesome investigator named Glysa Mae. She is reading the Book of Mormon actively and texts us questions if she doesn't understand. She'd been promising to attend Church for quite some time, and she wasn't able to make it this Sunday as well. She had a reason, though. She was stuck in Cauayan city because of heavy rain and traffic. She'd been there for a few days collecting termites for her vet course in college. So that's pretty cool. You will hear more of this girl, she is awesome! I hope her family becomes open as well. 

Yesterday I got to work in our area with a few very helpful Priesthood brethren in our Ward who became my temporary companions for a few hours. Brother Robin and Brother Anton worked with me and we walked around in the rain for quite some time, facing a lot of fallen-through appointments and rejections. It was shocking, to be honest. I'm so grateful for Brother Robin's positive attitude, though. We talked for some time. He's an older man, but still isn't married, but he hasn't given up hope. I needed to gain greater hope this week, and I feel it's been coming little by little. We met up with Elders Teikauea and Posadas that night at a Family Home Evening at a members home, and ate some delicious food. I also sang the Philippines National Anthem for them, which luckily I memorized in my last area. 

This morning we had a really fun District activity with Elder Paea and others from the Zone. We played a series of games and the losers had to have a bucket of water thrown on them. So that was exciting. I'm still awaiting a new companion, but enjoying my time with the Elders I'm with right now. 

That's all I have to say. I love you all. I know the Church is true. I know Heavenly Father has a great story for us to tell others, if we let Him in and let Him shape us into what we can become, and what He intends us to become. I know that I'm becoming a new creature; painfully, slowly, and "joyfully marching to our home". I hope in that day when I can be permanently changed, through the power of Christ's Atonement, and until then, I'll continue repenting and working out my own salvation. I can't wait when all worldly ambition, fear, and pride will melt away, and I become someone new. I so dearly anticipate that day, with a heart full of feelings I can't describe, when I enter that Heavenly home, and I will be "no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home." In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans