Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26, 2015: Australia Week 7

This week we had our primary program--it's funny since back home we have 100+ kids singing as loud as they can, but here we had 4 kids so we all sang the same songs with them. It was pretty awesome. I had flashbacks to the good old days haha. 

Here in Pirie we don't have many investigators right now--we do a lot of work with the recent converts and less actives. So we do heaps of service for people to help them out and invite them back to church. This one older lady that we pulled weeds for is so funny--we had a storm this week which was sooo nice. It's been blazing hot and it finally rained for a couple days. We rode our bikes through a rainstorm and it was the best day ever. So this lady tells us, "My foot always hurts when it's going to rain. My foot knows when it's going to foot always knows." Her foot was hurting that day and of course it rained hahaha. So we don't need a weather forecast, we just need to ask her if her foot hurts. 

We were visiting this other older lady and asked her if she needed help with anything and she jokingly asked us if we were good at cutting hair because her dog needed a haircut. So of course my companion plops this fat shaggy dog on his lap and starts cutting its hair off with scissors. I jumped in and started cutting as well on the front porch and an hour and a half later this thing is shaved with the most patchy haircut ever. The older lady was so happy though because we saved her $100. 

Everybody calls me Elder "Kosh" here because they don't pronounce my name "Coke" since there's this guy on TV who has the same last name and they call him "Koshy". So I've just decided to be "Elder Kosh" for the rest of my mission haha. 

-Elder Koch

1 and 2: The dog we sheared

October 19, 2015: Australia Week 6

So transfers were this week. Guess where I'm going? Nowhere. And my companion is staying here in Port Pirie too. He says he loves it here but he's been here since March so he's pretty disappointed. We finally got some investigators to church yesterday for the first time in 6 weeks--hallelujah.
The other day we were riding bikes back home, and we see these 3 people walking towards us, so I walk up to them and ask how they're going (sidenote: In Australia people say "How you goin'?" and not so much "How's it going") and they were all excited for some reason. Strangers are never excited to see us so I was confused as (sidenote 2: Aussies say "as" after something to say it wasvery much so. So I could say "I was sick as" or "this ice cream is frozen as" and it would mean the same thing as "I was sick as heck" or whatever you want to throw in the blank--fill in the simile yourself because Aussies don't). The 3 people said "We're going on a prayer walk! Want to join?" Haha it was awesome--they said a prayer with us right there on the side of the road. 
Other than that, this one day we were tracting and we were so thirsty since we never take water with us because the members usually give us drinks. We knocked on this one guy's door and he said "No guys, I'm not interested" and he was about to close the door, but I was just like, "I know you're not interested, but can we have some water?" So he went back in his house and brought us some water. Pure faith right there haha. 
I've only seen one kangaroo since I've gotten here, and they have these lizards the size of my forearm that just chill out in the middle of the road and are too slow to move so sometimes we run over them.
By the way, I have a request: I love using analogies to teach people because it makes so much more sense to them, but since I have limited access to looking things up as a missionary I would love it if you could send me any gospel related analogies that have stuck out to you over the years. It could be anything, as simple as "Faith is like the wind because you cannot see it, but the trees blowing in the wind is evidence that it is there", etc. etc. Investigators and members understand visual analogies like that so much more than a complicated concept.

-Elder Koch

1. Lizard in the road.

2. Sometimes I study Lehi's dream instead of reading it.

3. On P-day we went to this Vietnam War museum and saw the Australian helicopters that fought in the war. It was pretty sweet.

4. Bikes ALL DAY. My thighs are getting massive from all this biking. (You think I'm joking but I'm actually serious.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

October 12, 2015: Australia Week 5

Transfers are next week, so I might be getting a new companion. Most likely I'll stay out here in the middle of nowhere and my companion will go someplace else. He's been here since I opened my mission call in March haha it's crazy. Think about that. 

We finally got to watch conference this week since we get it a week later down under. One thing that stood out to me was asking the question "What is keeping me from progressing?" in our personal prayer. I did that last night and the Spirit really smashed me. I have some pride-related weaknesses I need to fix. What I like about that talk was that we will receive specific answers customized individually for us. The answer I received wasn't just "pride", it was a very specific mindset that has been hindering me. When you ask that question and genuinely want an answer, the Spirit will smash you with something you need to improve. 

I was at Hungry Jacks (basically Burger King) the other day and I asked for a water cup and the girl at the counter was so confused. I might as well have asked her, "Where did you come from, why are you here, and where are you going?" because the look on her face would be the same. Hahaha apparently Aussies are clueless as to what a water cup is so she finally gave me a glass of Hungry Jack's tap water. I'm pretty sure it was yellow. And there is no such thing as a dollar menu at Macca's (McDonalds) here. It's blasphemy. Most of the combo meals are nine or ten bucks--it's wild. 

Oh yeah, we got pulled over last night and my companion got randomly selected ("randomly") to be breathalysed by the cops. He was soo nervous since tickets here are $500 for going 8 K's (5mph) over. Great times. 

Another thing I've learned on my mission is patience: we have 6 hour phone conferences for trainings where we just listen to their meeting going on in Adelaide. Sometimes the days are long too, but I just remember as Wiz always told me, "Long days, hard work forever pays." We're doing our best with the finding whether it's door knocking or street contacting. Sometimes somebody won't be interested but they'll offer us a drink because it's blazing outside. I'm always thankful for those people--because we don't take water with us on our bikes, we just rely on faith haha. 

No photos from Australia this week, so I'll include a couple throwbacks to the MTC.

October 5, 2015: Australia Week 4

We didn't baptize anyone this week, but we did save a life. More about that in a second haha. We've got a couple solid investigators. One of them is our age and he's super pumped about baptism. He just has to get married to his girlfriend before that though since they're having a kid soon. We had a lesson with him the other night about the Plan of Salvation and he was super engaged, asking a bunch of questions--he's even excited to give up his beer so he can be baptized. I'm excited for him. 

There's only one heater in the house and it's winter here, so we're freezing all the time. The next day it was 90 degrees so we're blasting the AC. Summer makes riding the bikes so exciting! Can't wait to do it again tomorrow. The farmer's tan is real--I'm getting some nice color on my forearms, and then you go up 1 inch and it's blazing white. Seriously though--I could have a legitimate competition with Snow White to see who's "fairest in all the land". 
So back to the life we saved. We were riding bikes one day and we see this lady whacking her engine with a broomstick. We rode up and said, "That's an interesting way to fix your car--can we help?" She told us there was a cat stuck in her engine. I didn't believe her until I heard was the weirdest thing. She had gotten it out once before but it ran back into the engine and she couldn't get it out, so she had been driving to the shops and running errands for the past 2 days with a cat stuck in her engine. I don't know how the heck that thing survived. My companion started digging for it, getting black grease all over his arms. We finally pulled out this baby kitten out after half an hour and fed it some tuna, then took it to the vet. My companion rode his bike to the vet with no hands, holding the cat up in the air like Simba while singing the Lion King song hahaha. Great times. 

The friendliest thing in Australia is the flies. You could have 5 flies buzzing around your head and start running a 5k, and the same 5 flies would be with you at the finish line. 
Transfers are coming up in a couple weeks, so we'll see if I stay in Port Pirie. My companion has been here since I got my mission call, so he's never leaving haha. I've got a few pictures for you. 

-Elder Koch

 The beautiful ocean view from Port Pirie. 

They had this thing called the Smelter's Picnic the other day which is like a fair that the whole town goes to. We got this massive thing called Mettwhurst, which is basically salami. We're halfway done with it haha. 

The kitten we saved.

September 28, 2015: Australia Week 3

Ellloooo! This week we got smashed with service (smashed is Aussie slang--use it all the time) and we literally did service projects every day this week except when we were in Adelaide. We did everything from mowing lawns and weeds to shoveling horse manure.

So they have this stuff here called Milo and it's basically Australians' version of chocolate milk except it's made with barley so it has a weird flavour--Australian kids are grown up on it: they almost drink it before they drink milk. So my companion and I make iced Milos about 4 times a day now. Sooo good. 

One of the funny things here about church is that we ALWAYS sing every single verse of the hymns. If we're singing a sacrament hymn and they're done breaking the bread by the end of verse 2, we'll go on to sing the next 5 verses regardless. They never stop haha. 

Oh...I just remembered a good story. My companion and I went to see this one lady who's a little wild to share a spiritual thought and see how she's doing. She says that our spirits visit her and she always fills us in on "what's going on in the world" and tells us these conspiracy theories like how the United Nations is secretly forming terrorist groups and how Jesus went into hiding to teach people in underground tunnels, etc. I love our visits. They're great. She goes to say the closing prayer and prefaces it by saying "Well I guess we'll see what my mouth says" and continues "Unto Elder Koch, I would say, 'Well done' and unto Elder Kendall I would say, 'Thou art the chosen one' ". Somehow we made it through that prayer with many coughs and I told my companion he'd better become the next prophet hahaha. 

We've heard from the assistants that we might be getting iPads within the next few months. I try to never get my hopes up, so cross your fingers for us. I'm crossing mine right now as I tyype. 
Anyway, I hope things are going well at home! Don't forget to read your scriptures.

September 21, 2015: Australia Week 2

This week I got my first taste of real missionary life. We've been knocking doors and talking to people in the streets. My companion let me take the lead at a couple houses and let's just say, if you aren't spontaneous with the conversation, it gets awkward real quick. The thing is, you have to get to know the person before you start talking gospel--you have to build trust before you explain who you are. Around here, the second you say "Jesus," people look like you've dumped a bucket of ice water on their head. They put their hands up and say, "No, I'm not interested in what you have to say." 

One door approach we've heard other missionaries do but my companion and I need to build up the courage to try is the "GET IN THE HOUSE" approach. You start talking to the person at the door and immediately point to something behind them like a painting on the wall and say something like, "Is that Vincent Van Gogh? My grandmother had a painting just like that--can I take a look?" And then you walk in. It's pretty bold but if you can get in the house, you increase your chance of teaching the first lesson exponentially. 

The biggest challenge we face here is the lifestyle. What happens in Australia, and especially in places like Port Pirie where there's nothing to do, is that people graduate high school, take their pension funds, and then do nothing but drink, smoke, watch TV, or play video games all day. Not many people work here. It seems like there's a lot of elderly people who are set in their ways and also a lot of teenagers lacking direction. Not much in between. It's something that is really frustrating, but we're still doing our best to find the diamonds in the rough--there are good people who want the truth here, we just need to find them. 

We ride our bikes a lot here, so I'm getting the straight-up missionary experience. Great times. We're going down to Adelaide again for a couple days for meetings and such, so it'll be nice to see the city again. Hopefully my pictures come through better this time. And I apologize to those of you who have emailed me but I haven't gotten back to--I'll do my best to respond, even if it isn't that week. 

Elder Koch

The Smallest Spider I'll See in Australia

Beautiful View

September 14, 2015: Australia Week 1

We finally arrived in Australia! The plane ride was a rough one, but nyquil came in clutch with the flight from San Fransisco to New Zealand. We met our mission president and companions the first day: my companion is Elder Kendall from Utah. In response to the question, "Do you even lift?" he says, "Yeah. My fork to my mouth." Hahaha he's a funny guy. Cracks me up all the time. 

Elder Kendall

View from the Mission Home Street

We're in Port Pirie, a city 2.5 hours north of Adelaide. It's comparable to Beaver, Utah, and is full of elderly people. So we give a lot of blessings to people in the hospital. The other day one of the elderly members asked me to give her a blessing--I had never met her before and didn't know the particulars of her situation besides the fact that she had had a couple strokes. It was pretty scary at first, but I relied on the Spirit and we pulled through. 

The drive up here from Adelaide was amazing--this place is straight-up beautiful. There are green rolling hills filled with sheep and bright yellow flowers that are so bright they're almost fluorescent. It's awesome--the video/pictures don't do it justice. I've definitely experienced a culture shock even though this place is relatively similar to America. I have no idea how many calories are in anything because it's measured in kilojoules. And I'm still learning temperature. The slang here is pretty interesting: members don't have us over for "dinner", they have us over for "tea". Laundry is called "washing" and nobody "calls" you on the phone, they "ring" you. There's also no such thing as a "bathroom" because the toilet and shower/bath are literally in different rooms. 

Oh yeah, and apparently we're allowed to say certain words here we can't back home haha. The words "hell" and "damn" aren't considered swear words in Australia, even in church. It's the equivalent of saying heck or dang. The other day this missionary was telling us how a stranger on the street asked him if they could teach him more, and the missionary responded, "Damn straight we can!" I was like, uhhhh what? Hahaha So don't blame me if I come home with some new Aussie habits, Mom. Hahaha

I'm just hoping I don't go to Mildura (knock on wood)--that's an area where there are Polynesian families who feed you 6 huge meals a day and you are guaranteed to gain at least 30 pounds. An anorexic missionary who goes there comes back a prime candidate for Biggest Loser. It's wild haha. I need to fit in my clothes still. I'm up here in the middle of nowhere for at least 6 weeks, so it should be interesting. The members are solid, but we don't have many. There are only about 40 or 50 people at church on Sunday. Also, there are ants everywhere--the other day we walk into a house to teach a lesson and there are hundreds of ants on the floor, some crawling up your shoes while you're trying to share a spiritual thought. Can't wait for snakes and spiders next! Crikey. We're going tracting every day this week, so we'll be experts soon. I'll let you know how it goes next Monday. Wish us luck. 

Elder Koch

September 7, 2015: MTC Week 2

This week flew by. We're getting on our first plane in a few hours. Then we'll time travel 24 hours into the future when we cross over the date line in the ocean.

This week we taught "real" investigators who were either real nonmembers or members who were actors. So it's always a guessing game to figure out who's real and who's just a really good actor/actress. Our first one was Ny, a super quiet BYU student from Madagascar (pretty sure she was acting) who had a Catholic background--we taught her four lessons and eventually committed her to baptism. I would be really excited if she were real, but she's probably already been baptized into the LDS church, so it's not like we're not going to double dip her haha. 

The second investigator was Chrissy, a girl in her 20s who looked like a straight-up BYU student but was super stubborn--she was basically agnostic and refused to pray because she wanted to "remain neutral as long as possible" on the idea of whether or not God exists, and she believed that by praying she would be choosing to believe God was real. There was a point in several of the lessons where I felt like I was just reciting phrases and teaching the lesson too straightforwardly, so I just told myself to shut up and let the Spirit talk. I relaxed and said what came to mind instead of going with the plan. The lessons went much better from there. 

Unfortunately Chrissy still refused to pray by the end of our last lesson, because she only wanted to learn about our religion but not take any step of faith to progress. It was sooo frustrating. I was tempted to ask her if she had seen Shia Labeouf's "Just Do It" video, and then say, "That's exactly what we are asking you to do! Just do it! Just pray and ask--that's all you need to do." I guess you get investigators like that in real life though, so it was a good experience.

One of the most important things I realized this week was that we are not teaching investigators anything new. Every one of us chose to come down here in the pre-earth life. Every one of us chose God's plan, fully aware of the decision we were making. As missionaries we are helping people remember why they are here, what their purpose is, what they need to do to make it back. We are helping them remember something they once knew but have since forgotten.

One of the scariest things of going on a mission for me was leaving behind all the control I had over my life in college and at home--I had control over the people I wanted to meet, the places I wanted to go, the things I wanted to do. I've had to really accept that God has a plan much better than mine, and He's got all the variables covered. He's seen the puzzle box with the completed picture on it, and He knows exactly where the pieces go. You and I might throw in a piece here or there, but Heavenly Father is constantly working on it, putting the pieces in the perfect places. I think we overestimate how much control we really have. We really convince ourselves that the outcomes are determined by our decisions, but the way our lives have turned out up to this point is due much more to Heavenly Father's influence than to our own. Something to keep in mind.

One last thing--the other day we were role playing where Elder Van Wagoner and I were investigators and one of the sisters in our district was the missionary. She asked something like, "Do you know who the Holy Ghost is?" and Elder Van Wagoner goes, "Well, I've watched a lot of Ghostbusters but I've never heard of that one." It was soo funny hahaha.

I've got a bunch of pictures I want to send you guys, but the MTC computers are weird and won't let you upload photos unless you have a special SD card reader. I'll send you plenty next p-day. Get excited.

Elder Koch

August 31, 2015: Provo MTC Week 1

Welcome to the MTC, a magical land where your first name becomes nonexistent and you can't tell the difference between a Sunday and a Wednesday. Great times. Anyway, the first few days at the MTC were pretty rough for me--it's hard to adjust to 16 hours of church every day. But I've been adjusting. My companion is Elder Baker. He's from Utah, and we have different teaching styles, which made it hard to work together to start. We've been getting along better the last few days though. We laugh at each other's jokes all the time and we've been practicing our Australian accents all day.

The MTC food is a lot like the Cannon Center at BYU, but I think it's better. The problem is, the MTC has been making me so fat. The other day my diet literally consisted of pizza, cake, and chocolate milk. Who the heck designs the menu around here? Hahaha 

The other day we did this role play thing with "investigators" and some of them actually turned out to be real investigators, which I didn't even know until we were done haha. The MTC feels like EFY on steroids, except for missionaries. It's a tough transition to go from summer term at BYU, which was literally the best time of my life, straight to the MTC. It's definitely a challenge to change your perspective from college, where everything is about you, your classes, and what you want to do that day, to the perspective of a missionary where everything is about selflessness and service. I had to go from zero to 100, real quick. 

I'm already leaving in a week, so I'm super excited. We fly out to San Francisco, then to Auckland, New Zealand, then to Adelaide. Freaking New Zealand. I am so pumped! It takes 2 days of travel from the time we fly out to the time we arrive in Adelaide. And all I have to read is preach my gospel and my scriptures. I'm going to be a gospel genius by the time I get off this plane. Anyway, I feel like I've been learning a lot, and I'm ready to get out there and do the real thing. I can't send many pictures this week, but you'll get plenty soon. Here's my companion and I at the temple.