Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 23, 2017--3 Weeks Until Home

I wish I could respond to everything with the limited time we have but I know I'll have a lot more to share face to face. I'll have to sit down and do a slideshow presentation of my mission with everyone so you can have it all. I like how you said, "The more we can learn by doing, the more we receive understanding, strength, and growth." I've learned so many lessons (probably mostly about fatherhood recently--training new missionaries) on my mission and this is one of them. My companions and I have learned so much from our own experience that we share with the zone and then they latch onto that and make huge improvements in their own areas. This month together as a zone we'll baptize at least 12 (our goal was 10). It's fantastic to see that not only are my companions and I baptizing, but the entire zone is catching onto the fire as well. 

 Us with Chris (the recent convert who taught Elders Quorum) at church.  

Four baptisms this weekend. We taught Bob who was baptized by Scott (Scott was baptized just two weeks ago and received the priesthood last week).

Bob: in white on the left. Scott: in white on the right.

 ​Bob and Elder Lam having a good conversation. 
Bob is a great man and he's hilarious: He always starts his prayers off by saying: "Dear Heavenly Father, this is Bob. I will be your most faithful follower and help my friends to know you are real."

July 20, 2017

Us with Lanhao at the temple. He did baptisms and confirmations for the second time the other night. Most solid recent convert of my mission, he's the man.  

 Eating a good ol' 1/2 roast chicken from Coles (grocery store here).

Elder Pickett, Elder Maddock (from England), Elder Miller (my son--I trained him 1 year ago), and Me. Working on the bikes. Good times. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

July 9, 2017: Last Transfer: Week 1

Hi everyone, 
This past week was pretty incredible. We had 6 baptisms in one weekend for the City Branch. Definitely a new record.
We found out at 10.45pm the night before the baptism that the Prospect chapel (where we always do baptisms) was booked for a wedding the entire Saturday. Then we found out that the Firle chapel, the next closest one, was booked at the exact same time we had scheduled our baptism. We decided to hold the baptism at Firle chapel earlier in the day. We had to let everyone know the change in location and time the day of, and then my companions and I raced over to the chapel to fill the font but couldn't get a key to unlock it until an hour before the baptism started. We started filling up buckets and dumping them in the font while the main pipe was pumping water in at the same time. Meanwhile we had to call all our investigators to coordinate rides for them to the new chapel since none of them have cars. And we had to ransack our own closets and the Prospect chapel for baptism clothes for 10 people. Needless to say it was one of the more stressful days of my mission. Coordinating logistics is so fun. 
The baptism ended up going perfectly. Some of the newer recent converts in the branch had the opportunity to baptize for the first time, and the whole program was fantastic. 
We (my companions and I) taught Scott and James, who were part of the 6 baptized that day. It's been amazing to see the growth and progression in these young men and women. They are all such incredible examples to me. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2, 2017

This last week was fantastic. We received transfer information last night: I will be with Elder Pickett and Elder Lam again for another transfer in the City Zone, my last one. By the end of my mission my longest area will be here, North Adelaide. I will have been here for 6 transfers: 9 months. This is my favorite area by far: I feel I've experienced the most growth in myself and seen the most growth in people here. And I feel like I've contributed more here than anywhere else. 
Last Sunday Chris, my friend (recent convert) from Malaysia who we baptized on my birthday, taught for the first time in Elders Quorum. He was recently called as an Elders Quorum teacher, a responsibility he felt was intimidating at first, but he gladly accepted the opportunity. Chris taught about baptism: what we promise when we get baptized, the role of witnesses at a baptism, and how to perform the ordinance properly. He smashed it (Aussie slang for "He did fantastic"). I sat back and reflected for a moment, just looking at Chris and thinking how far he's come. Chris was standing up front wearing the blue tie I gave him when he was baptized, energetically pacing back and forth as he taught, writing on the board, answering questions from the class. It felt so fulfilling to see him in the right place with the right people, enthusiastically teaching what he first learned himself not long ago. I look up to Chris--he's a great man.
I know not every person I've baptized is a rock-solid member; they have some development to undergo, just like we all do. But to see those I've taught who excel and rise up to become someone so much more amazing, confident, and brilliant than they were at the start--that's when I feel at peace; that's when I feel I've fulfilled my mission; that's when I know the time and sacrifices I've given have been worth it. That's a positive influence that will last long after I'm gone. 
We have 2 baptisms in our area this weekend (Chinese investigators my companions and I have been teaching) and the City Zone (the zone is made up of 20 missionaries) will baptize 5 in total this weekend. Our City Zone goal for the year is 60 baptisms, and we'll be at 25 after this weekend. That's how many the city zone had the entire year of 2016, but now we've done that in only 6 months. Light the fire! 🔥
As far as what I've learned the past few months: I feel I've taken on the role of a parent so many times. Ministering one-on-one to missionaries who are struggling, often to the point of tears--I've learned to understand, to love, to feel, even to shed tears with them. Those are experiences I never would have had without a mission. Without those experiences I never would have found my true self. I've been given opportunities to encourage people when they're at their lowest, to congratulate when they're at their highest, and to motivate when they're in-between. I need a lot more development myself as far as Christlike attributes go. I've changed even though I don't see all of it--it's difficult to see it in ourselves because change is so gradual, almost imperceptible. But I know I have grown. It's been such a privilege to serve a mission. 
I'll be bearing my leaver's testimony in MLC tomorrow. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere. It feels like you start off on this grand adventure: you discover new lands, new people, learn to conquer new challenges. And then suddenly, you find yourself in the last chapter, wondering what happened to the future, and then the storybook shuts all too suddenly. But I know it's time to move on. I have 6 weeks left and I'm prepared to smash it 😉 I'm not done baptizing yet. I'm not done teaching yet. I'm not done training yet. I'll be alive and awake here until the day I die, the day I step on that plane and cross over into a new life. I'm so excited to see you and the family when I get back. I love you so much. Don't ever forget that :) Have a fantastic week.

Elder Koch

1. Hot Pot. A traditional Chinese favorite. Complete with pork blood, duck intestines, and cow stomach.
2. Me with Elder Kuru, a missionary I trained. He's now a zone leader and will be going up to serve in Alice Springs this week.
3. Zone temple day
4. Recent Convert temple night

June 25, 2017

I don't have time to think about home during the day since we're so busy, always on the go, baptizing people, teaching people, giving trainings, talking with President about missionaries and plans for the City, and on and on. But recently, every night when I lay down to go to sleep I start to feel the imminently approaching future of my family, of BYU, of working, of dating for marriage, etc. I feel excited but nervous at the same time--like butterflies in my stomach. I've become so familiar and comfortable with missionary life--it's a world of its own--that imagining the future of being a normal person in a normal lifestyle is just so strange. I had an interview with President Parker a few days ago and it felt strange after I walked out and realized that the majority of our conversation wasn't missionary work, it wasn't the City Zone, it wasn't anything really mission-related--it was about college and dating girls. We also talked about who could replace me when I die and how important the Atonement of Jesus Christ is as a focus for the remainder of the foundation I've been laying for my life here. Next week I'll attend my last MLC (Missionary Leadership Council) where I'll bear my Leaver's Testimony. Far out, that's crazy. I don't like the feeling of of all these "lasts" but I look forward to the future. I know it'll be great. 
Anyway, here are some updates for the week:
We baptized Pisith ("Pee-sith") from Cambodia. He's here studying agribusiness. His story is really cool: Pisith first met missionaries in Cambodia and attended English Classes the missionaries provided there. He had a few Mormon friends and had gone to church with them a couple times. When he came to Australia, he first met the Elders on Rundle Mall (where we stand holding iPads and contact the people walking past us). I was on Rundle Mall when he was found, but I don't know who originally contacted him. 
Later Elder Pickett and I called a man named "Pisith" from the potential investigators we found on Rundle Mall. We set up an appointment with him over the phone. Later that week we met a man named Pisith on North Terrace (a main street in the city) and invited him to come see the visiting center. He said his name was Pisith and he already had an appointment there next week. Elder Pickett and I looked at each other and nodded with the facial expression of, "Truuue...". Pisith came to his appointment and we taught him the "Godhead and Prayer" lesson we've taught 5 billion times, and it went well. Nothing spectacular or incredible, but it was good. We found out he lived pretty far north of the city and I thought we were going to have to refer him to the missionaries up in his area since the City Branch was only available for Chinese-speaking people if they live outside the City. But Pisith started coming to nearly every activity at the City Branch--family home evening, English Class, Book of Mormon Class, and Church on Sunday. We talked with President Scott and President Parker, and eventually the decision was made that the City Branch would be open to all international students. We taught Pisith the remaining lessons, and due to some circumstances we weren't able to do his baptism interview until the day of his baptism, 30 minutes before it was scheduled to start. He passed with flying colors and was baptized by Shawn (a convert of 3 years) then confirmed the next day by Chris, a recent convert Elder Ruppe and I baptized in January. 
The week leading up to Pisith's baptism was one of the most stressful weeks of my mission: We had done our best to prepare him, but he got lost on the way to the chapel for his baptism interview but thankfully some Elders were on the same bus he was and they escorted him to the chapel. Then his interview was done the day of as we were filling the font. On top of that, our area (North Adelaide) has baptized every single month for the past 6 months, and Pisith was our last hope for the month of June since all our other friends on date had to be postponed. We needed to help bring someone to baptism this month. But he came through. I know Heavenly Father heard my prayers as I was feeling stressed out, asking for Him to help everything work out. And it did. Perfectly.