Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24, 2015-- Email #95

August 24, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Hello Family!

The transfer list came today and now it is for sure that I'll be staying in Echague 'til I go home! What a happy place to die! I'm also really excited because there are a lot of baptisms lined up for the first weeks of September! Our investigators have been attending Church like crazy! I'm so excited for my last cycle. The main weakness we've been dealing with as of late is finding -- we've been letting discouragement get to us and consequentially we haven't been as faithful in talking to as many people as we can. We've been doing good, don't get me wrong,  but that's no excuse to not do better.

This week has also been a busy one with a lot of splits. I was in Dagupan on Tuesday with Elder Torio, also known as the Alicia 4th Ward. It is very far from the main city. You know what that means? Well, I guess it doesn't come as a surprise... We walked a lot, and saw a lot of rice. What's new? The members in that area are very nice and very active in supplying the investigators for the missionaries. Nice! It's also one of the many area's I've been to that has an enormous population of less-actives very near the Church, while the active members are the farthest ones from the Church. It just goes to show that distance never matters, and faith is very important. Elder Torio is a great missionary. We had fun.

On Wednesday we had splits with the Angadanan Elders. I stayed in Echague with Brother Dulnuan, a part-time missionary that was called to fill in the absence of an early-returning missionary. He's the son of the District President in Solano so I already know him and his family. They are the kindest people! The day was absolutely fantastic. We contacted a referral named Christina. Her family met the missionaries in the Angeles mission and recently moved up here to Region II. They've attended Church twice in Ward 1 so they were referred over to us in Ward 2, which is the area she lives in. She's been studying the Book of Mormon and is falling in love with the stories. Her whole family is interested in being baptized. Wow! Now that's what I call a referral! We had other really great lessons with part-member families the remainder of the day, and as we were walking home, Brother Dulnuan said to himself, "wow, this is the first time I've really felt like a missionary!" It was humbling to know we'd been a part of this wonderful work. Sometimes it's so hard, but it's so rewarding. I wouldn't be so happy without tasting bitterness every now and then. But now I know true happiness, and will continue discovering it throughout my life.

We went to Cauayan on Thursday for splits with the Assistants to the President. This time I was with Elder Monilla, the biggest nerd I know! Haha because he's awesome. Last time we were on splits was over a year ago in Santiago, when I was still companions with Elder Bautista and Elder Monilla had just entered the field, still a trainee! These kids just grow up so fast... We had a really busy day, as do most days go for the Assistants. Interviews, getting supplies, etc. But it was still a very spiritual work day. We had some great conversations, as we always do. We have discussed several times that we intend to accidentally meet each other in random places for the rest of our lives. It's fulfilled itself thus far in the mission, and I hope it continues!

On Friday I went to work with Elder Espanto, again. This time I went to Jones, their area about an hour away. They've been having a lot of troubles with various issues... The work day there was really awesome, however. There are some great people there that we got to meet, teach, and testify to. I feel very comfortable with my ability to go into a lesson and really focus on the investigator/less-active and their needs, and follow the Spirit in finding what I should say to them and what I should invite them to do. I ended up quoting Yoda to some of them, because when responding to commitments they said they would "try" to attend Church, or "try" to read. Do or do not; there is no try! I also had a really special connection with a returned member there who we discussed Priesthood with. He remembered the initial reason he had become less-active back in the day was because he was offended by the members, but after he learned to let it go, everything fell back into place. The members of the Church aren't perfect. The Church is like a big hospital: We're all sick, and we shouldn't expect to see cured people there. We're all going through the process of healing, and relying on the Savior's Atonement. I related the story of W.W. Phelps, who left the Church after loosing a great sum of money in the Church's first bank. He slandered the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church for years, until he arrived at the point that he found his life was empty because it was full of hard feelings, grudges, and negativity. He wrote the Prophet a letter asking to forgive him and let him come back into the Church. The Prophet's response was essentially one of "we'd thought you'd never ask!" After Joseph Smith's martyrdom, W.W. Phelps went on to write a bold, powerful song, expressing praise and admiration for "the man who communed with Jehovah," to the tune of "Scotland the Brave". He would have never come back to the Church unless it truly was Jesus Christ's, and not one of man, and he'd come to that realization. He figured out he'd been imagining God in a different way than the actual, and accepted the mistakes of mortals without denouncing the power of God in His Restored Church. That's something to ponder.

Saturday and Sunday were quite difficult for me personally, but the work went on. God is so merciful. He just keeps stretching me and stretching me when I think I can't go any further, and there is more to come. We had some cool experiences. We taught a family of Jehovah's Witnesses and avoided a debate. Nice one! They were really nice and we were able to answer their questions. The Spirit was present, and it was just a contention-free experience. I was grateful for that, because some other religions here have been really annoying me lately... But contention will solve nothing. It's part of the Articles of Faith to "allow all men the same privilege" we have of "worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience". Debate will just circle you around the Bible over and over again, causing frustration and anger. That was one of the important parts of the Restoration, something about... "the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible." Yep. That's the one. Bible-bashing is bad, and pulls you away from Christ! Just testify, invite the Spirit, and be respectful! Everything will be worked out in the Millennium anyways...

Sometimes I've been asked how many days I have left. I don't count the days. I make them count. The mission doesn't end when I'm released. It's lifelong. It's so difficult, but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be worth it. I'll fall down, and pick myself up, and when I can't muster up the strength to pick myself up, an angel will pick me up and carry me a little further 'til I can get on my feet again. Cultivating talents, helping people along the way, accepting truth and living it, and following the Savior are all pathways with challenges and hurdles. The Son of Man has descended below all things, and He knows how to help us. Don't shy away from Him. Strip yourself of pride. Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

 Panorama of some rice fields in Barangay Maligaya 

 Zone Leaders of the December 2013 Batch (Including my companion and two past companions, Elder Peterson and Elder Larona)

Elder Cantero, the victim of an object lesson for Zone Meeting. (with Elder Torio, Sister Glick, and Sister Morente)

Baptism in Echague Ward 1 (The Sister's area).

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