Monday, September 28, 2015

September 28, 2015-- Email #100

September 28, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Dear Family,

Last week was so fun! However, as the song goes, "the time is far spent; there is little remaining"! So I'll have to abbreviate everything to the best of my ability. I'm going to see you soon anyways, so it's no big deal.

On Tuesday I had splits with Elder Valdez. It was so fun! We found a lot of new investigators. We approached a couple we saw outside their house and as soon as we started coming towards them, the husband got a bench from inside for us to sit on and invited us to teach them. It was a great lesson and it turns out they knew some members from Santiago. The Spirit was very strong the whole day and it was a successful splits! Elder Valdez is the one who had read about me on the blog before and he told me how much he appreciated the splits and that he got to "see me in action" before I went home. Yes, I'm still in action!

The next big event was on Thursday with Zone Conference. Sister Rahlf had called me a few weeks earlier to think about a musical number to do. I didn't feel keen on doing a solo so I tried to arrange a group with some of the other vocally-inclined Elders in the nearest zones. The group ended up not getting together to practice until five minutes before the meeting itself. But it went really well! I was proud of our little a-capela rendition of Hope of Israel, with a key change included. We stepped up right on the money and it was awesome! I love Polynesians. They are so musically inclined. The rest of the meeting was very inspiring. I needed it. 

On Saturday we had our Family Week Celebration, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Family Proclamation and the 100th anniversary of Family Home Evening. The entire Alicia Stake was there, hosted in Echague. We had a parade around the main plaza in the morning and then a presentation by President and Sister Rahlf after that. If there is one thing I've learned from President Rahlf, it is to love my wife every day and tell her frequently, as well as to raise a righteous family. He is a great example of that. In the afternoon there was a cultural show by each of the Wards. During one of the Ward's performances, the sound shorted out and there was some considerable waiting time. During which, I came up to the MC and asked him if the Elders could present something. He agreed. All of the Elders came up to the stage holding Hymn books, acting like we were going to sing. Then, we all dropped the Hymn books simultaneously and Elder Paea, from Tonga, led us in the Hakka. YES! It was epic. The whole stake was going crazy. I was up in the front leading with the Polynesians. Sore thumb much?

I overheard the Relief Society here planning to feed me a ton of delicious Filipino food for my last meal so that's going to be awesome! This Ward is so great. They've been so supportive and cooperative. I hope I've been able to make an impact on Yogad City. I was really hoping this last week would be clear of other activities so that I could just focus on the area, but after looking at the calendar with a meeting almost every day and splits... It's going to be hectic. I'll give it everything I got! I love you all, and I hope you're doing well. I'll be coming back to the States soon, warm it up for me! I have a feeling I'll need some adjustment to leave my current home and return to my former. 

I know that this is the Restored Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord revealed in the last days to dispel confusion and show unto us that God does still speak to His children, and His work isn't over yet! I've felt that Spirit so strongly and I'm so glad I've been able to testify of it at every waking moment to the wonderful people I've met here. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Pictures from the recent baptism of Irene, Joshua, and Monica

Birthday presents at Zone Conference!

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015-- Email #99

September 21, 2015
Echague, Philippines


Alright, to take care of business first... I haven't got a hold of my flight plans yet, but if I was to make a request for dinner it would be Japanese chicken curry. I'm hesitant to go straight back into American food; compounded with the shock of being back in the states, I have a feeling my stomach will be a little sensitive. I'll adjust my diet little by little. Rice and curry sounds like a delicious way to start. Also, I don't know if Brian is busy, but I would love for him to make some home-made tapioca pudding if it's not too much to request. Breakfast isn't much of a question. German pancakes, duh. 

It was a really fun week! One of the best parts is I've felt a very strong drive to stay obedient. Sometimes missionaries that are close to going home will let some rules slide, but I've been feeling the opposite, which is a blessing! Especially in the light of this week... Our investigators, recent converts, and even members have been going through some challenges. You know what that means? Satan is at work because he knows good things are ahead. We cannot falter just when we enter the fight! Less-active members have been progressing well as of late. A lot more are making the effort to attend Church meetings and activities. We have a big Family Week celebration in Echague this Saturday which is being stressed over by the leaders as they plan for it, so pray for its success! It will be a great opportunity for non-members to be introduced to the Church and hopefully there will be a lot of harvesting afterwards!

Speaking of harvesting, we have two new investigators with baptismal dates this last week! One of them, Princess, is in a part-member family with two recently activated less-actives. She's a 13-year-old girl and they say she's been rebellious in the past, but now she's been attending Church with her cousins and is definitely interested. She has some friends in the Youth program as well, which is a great start. For her first lesson we focused on explaining the Atonement and how she could come closer to Christ through the message of the restoration. I'm excited for her! The other one is another part-member youth who they had thought was baptized before but turns out he wasn't. Wups! Don't know how they missed that one... So we've begun teaching him and he's coming close to his baptism as well. I don't know if I'll still be seeing the next one go through on the 3rd due to some Church attendance problems.. But as long as the work goes forward, whether I'm still there or not, God's will be done.

On Wednesday Elder Arorong had an English speaking test in Cauayan. It's kind of like his final test for all of the language study he's been doing his whole mission. He was really nervous leading up to it, but we did all we could to practice English in the apartment so he could feel more comfortable. We uttered some fervent prayer on his behalf, and when the test results came he got an Intermediate High score! Super happy for him. Afterwards Elder and Sister Shorter gave us banana splits, and we got to chose our own toppings. I decorated mine very nicely :) It's been a long time since I've had one of those! Those are the blessings of language study, my friends!

I had splits with Elder Baclea-an on Thursday. This is the second time I've been his Zone Leader and it was so fun to work with him again! We had a blast finding new people to teach and following the Spirit. We talked to a lot of new people and the lessons went really well overall. When we were walking home we almost died from a flash rainstorm. The sky was blue and sunny, then suddenly a huge dark cloud came in from the northwest, and we saw a giant, visible wall of rain coming towards us fast. We outran it and got under cover in time, then I bought some very delicious juice that was bignay-calamansi flavored. You can't find anything like that in the U.S. Ah, I love this place. And I love being a missionary. 

On Sunday I ended up having to give a surprise lesson for the YSA class. They didn't have a teacher or a manual, so I had to muster something up quick. I ended up sharing a combo from my personal study and from a random D&C manual I found. I came across a few scriptures in 2 Nephi 9 that reminded me of some individuals I've met that drifted away from the gospel because of settling spiritual questions with the knowledge of men rather than the wisdom of God. When people take this approach of "well, I'll follow this commandment once I know for sure that it is true and I find tangible evidence for it", they find themselves unhappy, unsatisfied, still full of doubt, and frustration leads to further sin. Paul explains in Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is further clarified in 2 Nephi 9:28-29, how Satan fills us with pride to try and find our own answers rather than finding them through obedience to God's law and revelation: "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken notunto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."

I know that is true, and if we humble ourselves like a little child, and "consider [ourselves] fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility" (2 Nephi 9:42), despite any worldly knowledge or expertise we have, we will not restrict ourselves from eternal truths that can only be discerned from a spiritual standpoint. Man cannot understand the mysteries of God if he is full of pride, and craves the tangible, and will certainly be prevented from returning to God's presence without stripping themselves of pride and other worldly passions first. It will unlock greater understanding and a stronger testimony. A camel can fit through the eye of a needle with God's help, but unless we ask sincerely, it's just as impossible as it seems to be. 

Thank you for all of your support, I will be seeing you soon! I leave this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Banana splits

Walking in the bukid (rice feilds), white and ready to harvest.

My new bed sheets. Ha! Just kidding. But I do have a new Philippines Flag.

Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14, 2015-- Email #98

September 14, 2015
Echague, Philippines 

Hello Family!

The baptism on Saturday couldn't have gone better! There was a lot of Ward support and I can feel that the transition from investigator to new member started off on the right foot. Bishop wasn't able to attend due to sickness that has left him bed-ridden for quite some time, but the counselors came to preside and two members of the Elders Quorum performed the ordinance itself (which is a very good way for the new members to have an immediate support base from the Ward). You would not believe the changes that have happened in these wonderful people. 

When we first met Joshua, we could hardly get a word out of him; he seemed so sad and isolated all of the time. A lot of it stemmed from an unstable relationship with his parents. Now, he didn't hesitate to share his testimony in front of the Ward after his baptism and you can see a noticeable change in his countenance. He's lighter and happier now. He desires to do good. At first he was painfully shy to join with the Deacons Quorum, now he's actively communicating with Bishop about activities and what time he needs to be there. He's singing Hymns and starting to learn piano, too! He has such a golden-hearted grandfather as well (Brother Dumaliang, the Elders Quorum President with the crippled legs) to help him along. 

Irene had been an investigator for about a year now. She was first taught by the Sister Missionaries and then was picked up by the Elders when the Sisters were pulled out. The first time I taught her with Elder Bautista I was struck with her knowledge of the gospel and her faith in accepting the things that were being taught. She just lacked action on her part. Her husband is a good-hearted man who is struggling heavily with alcohol and other vices. Although he hasn't been willing as of yet to be taught by us, he knows that he needs to change and graciously accepted his wife being baptized. When Irene was first being taught, she had a struggle attending Church and keeping other commitments. Now, she understands the importance of obedience and has shown "fruits meet for repentance". She texted that night after her baptism and said she really feels like her sins have been washed away. She's actively attending Relief Society now and continuing to nourish her flourishing testimony. 

I'm without words for Monica. Like I've said in a past email, when I first saw her I was shocked by her appearance. I asked Irene what her story was and my heart broke even more. Her mother tried to abort her in the late stages of development, and failed to do so. Somehow this caused her to have a severe deformation in her facial structure, and she nearly escaped death when she was born. Her biological mother abandoned her, and her own husband, soon after. That's when Monica and her father met Irene, and they were married soon after. So Irene became Monica's step-mother, and took care of her as her own. Because of Monica's deformation, many teachers thought that her brain was affected as well, and unnecessarily held her back in school. Even though she's ten years old, she still can't read because of the false assumptions of these teachers. Students make fun of her as school, calling her an aswang (monster). Sometimes she comes home crying because of the cruel things the other students will say. Then, one day, she met Elder Arorong and I, and we invited her along with Irene to come to Church. And they came! She looked so happy, and was carrying a big copy of Book of Mormon Stories in her arms. Week after week we taught her and Irene, and as we taught new things to Monica about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, Irene started to remember the early lessons she had with Sister missionaries a year earlier, and something deeper began to stir within her. They started actively attending Church, Primary, Gospel Principles, and other classes. They started living the Word of Wisdom, giving up their favorite morning tradition of drinking coffee. They looked brighter. And, it turns out, they needed each other to help each other as they winded the path to baptism. I've never seen a happier little girl in the world than Monica Ibarra as a newly baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

I also got to interview a really awesome woman for baptism named Alena on Sunday, in the area of Dagupan Ward. She's been a Catholic for 63 years. Her son is the only member of the Church, and recently returned from the Cagayan de Oro Mission. Her son has been instrumental in helping his mother's heart open to the message of the Restoration and accepting the fullness of the gospel. Here in the sunset of her life, she leaves behind the fear of man and joins the restored Church of Jesus Christ, despite the odds. What a remarkable woman! 

The theme for this week comes from Philippians (Because it sounds like the Philippines) 4:11-13, one of my favorite scriptures in the entire New Testament. It has to do with choosing a good attitude about the circumstances you're in despite what others may be telling you. In other words, be an agent, not a victim! We are not objects to be acted upon, we are agents that are free to choose! Just because trials happen in our lives doesn't mean we should choose to be sad about them. We can be happy with whatever life brings us, because the Atonement is real, and affords us the opportunity to choose happiness in any state we find ourselves; rich, poor, sick, healthy, whatever. Christ has descended below all things so that we could be happy. This is my testimony to you this week:

"11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

I'm going to send some of the pictures this week and some more next week, because the better ones in front of the Church logo are on Elder Teikauea's camera.

Monica Ibarra and I, after the baptism. You'll never see a more beautiful smile.

Feeding the tilapia. Yes, it's a tilapia pond!

Relief Society power! Preparing for Family Week Celebration on the 26th by painting plastic flowers.

Our fellowshipper Cezar also feeds the tilapia.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7, 2015-- Email #97

September 7, 2015
Echague, Philippines

Magandang Tanghali!

It was a great week! Although I can't really remember what happened much; it all went by so fast... I can tell it was a great week for you as well! That's what I call football! I just remembered that I'll be coming home during football season... Great timing, I'm glad God worked that one out for me.

On Tuesday I had splits with Elder Murdock. We had a really great day talking with various people. He's a great missionary. We had a certain goal for new individuals to talk to that day, and when we got to a point when we couldn't see anyone else, we went back to the center of town and bought some balut. We talked to the people around us and invited them to learn more about the Church, and they were astounded that there was two white guys scarfing down boiled duck fetuses like it was nothing. All in a days work for the missionary in Philippines Cauayan Mission.

Wednesday was my last Missionary Leadership Council! I've had so many great experiences in those meetings and I'm going to miss the wonderful, personal instruction from President Rahlf. He's such a great teacher and there's so much I've learned from him. I've learned to be a more confident teacher and to live what I teach, as well as many other powerful lessons. I'm excited to teach Zone Meeting tomorrow.

My health was dwindling this last weekend and it made it difficult to concentrate part of the time. But I've been good about eating healthy and building my immune system so it's been fine. It's not just me; there's been a bug going around lately. Something in the weather is strange, and I think the water has been effected by the nightly down-pours as well. There's also a compounded anxiousness from being close to coming home that I think has triggered some of that ailment. The good thing is that the work is going really well so it's easy to get lost in it. Joshua, Irene, and Monica are getting baptized this Saturday! I'm so excited for them. They have really made some significant changes in their lives and come closer to the Savior and I'm so excited for them to take their first step in following His example, and becoming members of the restored Church! They are some really special people and I'm so blessed to know them. They've been fitting in really well with the Ward too, which is an answer to prayers!

This email doesn't have a whole lot of detail, does it? The pictures can provide some of that... I'll write more next week. Time goes so fast, it's crazy! I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the Lord's Church and it becomes clearer and clearer every day. This is such a wonderful work. I love the Savior. He's help me change beyond my own capabilities. He's help me to be the man of God I need to be; the one that this world deserves, the one my future wife deserves, the one my future family deserves. I'm excited to continue a life-time of service to Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Elder Kocherhans

Birthday FHE shindig for Elder Arorong.

Nametag/Book of Mormon combo in 3 different languages.

This is my "I'm gonna miss rambutans" face.

A Tuvaluan being silly.

Selfie in the Tricee w/ Elder Teikauea

Elder Who: The Day of the Elder (Featuring Elder Monilla and his 10th and 11th Doctor Sonic Screwdrivers)

Smallest banana in the world! It's real!

The Cagayan River

Panorama of Cagayan River, from Gucab (Yogad word for "descent") to Dammang (Yogad word for "River crossing")