Saturday, October 14, 2017

EMAIL... Week 67

Hola All!

Another week of enjoying our service here. I feel like we learn more every day, from every person we visit, from every message we share, and from every testimony we bear, and for me...just trying to understand what is being said and to contribute. Poco poco! The rainy season isn’t over yet, so wet, muddy, and mosquito bites are part of our daily experience. Thankfully, it didn’t rain while we had our laundry outside on the line. Tender mercy!

Fun teaching Blanca how to make chocolate chip cookies. Her 19 year old son told her she needed to learn how to make them, and to learn well! She is an amazing cook! Just ask Elder Koelliker about her Nica tacos and arroz con leche. Yummy! We met with them Friday night and sang “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”, and Elder K showed the clip of Hugh B. Brown’s experience with “The Little Currant Bush”, retold in a talk by Elder Christofferson. We talked about how all of us have trials and difficulties in our lives for different reasons. Sometimes due to disobedience or sin by us or someone else. At times to humble us and cause us to turn back to our Heavenly Father. And sometimes, we have these experiences to refine us and prepare us for something in our future. Usually these experiences test our faith, but hopefully as we turn to the Lord for help, strength, and courage, our faith grows and we learn what we are supposed to learn from the experience. We also talked about the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness, and that our Heavenly Father also has a specific plan for each one of us. If we walk by faith and truly trust God and our Savior, we will learn, progress, improve, and accomplish our missions here on this earth. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite scriptures that I have to reread often, to help me keep my perspective and remember Who is really in charge! What a blessing the spirit is in our work with these precious people!

Elder K had the opportunity to teach the baptismal prayer to a recent convert, who cannot read. He will baptize his nephew next week and will practice much to prepare. He is so excited to be able to utilize his Priesthood. We love watching their progress and enthusiasm as the people here embrace the Gospel and let Christ more fully into their lives.

We live in a duplex and as of last Saturday, we now have neighbors. They are an American couple and Jehovah Witness (known as Testigos here) missionaries. They have lived in Central America for 19 years, and here in Estelí for 2 of those years. We were able to help them move stuff in and chat a bit. They are very nice and very devoted to their congregations here. I’m sure we’ll have some good discussions!

Thank you all for your prayers and examples! We love you all!
Love,

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bananas and a Bicycle Built for 4..


With all the rain the jungle is beautiful and green and the flowers are incredible. I just wish Laurie and I could find a way to stay dry and out of the mud.


One of our members climbed a banana tree in his backyard and cut a part of a bunch for us to cook tajadas and tostones. Can't wait!!


A family of four on their Sunday drive. Next to walking, this is the most popular means of transportation.
The stages of building a house in Estelí. Every phase is accomplished by hand. The foundation holes for the pillars are 5-6 feet deep. It was pretty funny to watch as they finished digging the holes. All I could see was dirt flying out of the hole. Once finished, they needed a ladder or get out. Unfortunately, each morning they had to bail the rain water out of the hole before they could begin digging. It's been fun to watch their progress. They work hard!



Saturday, October 7, 2017

EMAIL... WEEK 66

Hola All!

General Conference was a spiritual turbo boost! We were able to watch all of the sessions but 1 in English, which was a huge blessing for me! My mind doesn't translate fast enough to always keep up, and some of the personal experience words are new for me. We especially loved the great talks on service and on the blessings of reading and prayerfully studying The Book of Mormon each day, because these are 2 of the habits we have been trying to teach the people here. Powerful and needed messages for us in our day! We were sad to hear of Elder Hales passing this life and graduating to the next. He will be missed and we are so grateful for the things that he taught us!

We were heartsick to read about the Vegas massacre and the terror experienced by those there and their families. But we were so uplifted to read of the many brave and unselfish heroes, including people helping each other get out of harm's way and even shielding people around them to protect them; the first responders; the hospital staffs, doctors, and nurses; people donating blood, food, money, hygiene kits, clothes, flights, rides, hotel rooms, homes, counseling services, legal services, and on and on; and especially the many reminders that there are sooooo many good people in the world, who are willing to love and help and stick up for and serve others, even people they don't know and/or people with whom they seemingly have nothing in common. We love our country and all of God's children! We are so blessed to have the many freedoms that we enjoy! We are so blessed to have the Gospel and to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior! 

We are experiencing the side effects of Hurricane Nate...lots of pouring rain and mud...bridges closed due to river water running over them, roads washed out and "ponds" in the middle of roads, fast dirty water running everywhere. Schools and many jobs closed early on Thursday and won't reopen until Monday, due to the incredible flooding. We have been drenched and muddy almost every day this week, and we just laugh! Elder K says it's better than the freezing snow he experienced on his first mission. We do worry about the people, as some of their homes lie in flash flood paths. There have been many mud slides on the mountain slopes reported, so we may not be able to go to Condega for Church on Sunday. We shall see! The hurricane is projected to hit the Louisiana area. We hope and pray not! We are so humbled and encouraged with the outpouring of love and service in response to the recent natural disasters and human tragedies. 

We're are grateful for the inspiration we have been able to recognize and act upon this past week. We pray to receive, recognize, and be able to be His hands in answering prayers each day. It is a great blessing for us to be able to have these prayers answered, even in small ways. We are learning that we should never ignore our thoughts to reach out or to help others. It is such an opportunity to be able to serve here and now full time. We had a special visit with a family we love greatly. We felt impressed to visit them and made an appointment. We asked them how they thought we could best serve the people here these last few months. Both are super dynamic people with strong testimonies, but are having some trials right now. They told us to focus on families who are progressing the most, because when we are gone, they will be strong enough to help others. Great counsel! We then felt impressed to offer to fast with them this Fast Sunday for help, patience, strength, and inspiration for the trials they are facing. I asked this wonderful man if he needed a blessing. With tears in his eyes, he nodded his head! He asked Elder K to give him a blessing, and it was such a powerful spiritual experience for us all. They understand what this life is all about! They are all in. They recognize that we are all here to be tested and refined. They appreciate the power of the Priesthood and prayer. They want to serve and do all that they are asked to do. They realize that we can expect help from heaven when we do all that we can do and ASK our Heavenly Father for help. We know that they are being prepared for great things!

Thank you all for being great examples of love, service, and disciples of Christ! We appreciate your thoughts and prayers in our behalf!
Love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, October 2, 2017

Birthday Celebrations!


Saying goodbye to Hermanas Munoz and Pratt. Hermana Muñoz headed back home to Guatemala and Hermana Pratt to Managua. It's so hard to say goodbye but we always love the new ones too.  

Had a special birthday. The sisters sang happy birthday in Spanish and Laurie made my favorite; blueberry cheesecake Nica style.



We were invited to a festive birthday dinner with one of our favorite families. Blanca prepared Nica tacos. I even enjoyed seconds. ¡Fueron muy ricos!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

EMAIL... Week 65

Hola All!

Loved the Women's Conference last Saturday! I am so glad that I cheated and sat in the back of the chapel with one of the English speaking Hermanas sharing a set of ear buds and listening through the iPad in English! We didn't want to miss a word or lose something in the translation. What awesome messages! Our leaders are fabulous! We're excited for this weekend's General Conference and are so thankful for the technology to be able to enjoy all of the sessions! 

We had changes Monday! Hermana Muñoz finished her mission and is home in Guatemala, and Hermana Pratt was transferred to Managua. We will miss them both, but are excited to work with the 2 brand new Hermanas. This change wasn't as crazy as the last one, thank goodness! 

Elder Koelliker had his 4th birthday as a missionary this week. He had a great day with many messages from all over, lunch at Subway (his choice), and blueberry cheesecake NICA style. (I'm getting pretty daring in the kitchen with substitutions.) The 4 Hermanas sang Feliz Cumpleaños to him and gave him a Nica t-shirt. Thanks for helping him have a special day! To continue the celebrating, last night Marvin and Blanca had us over for Nica tacos, which were more like giant chicken and potato tacquitos with shredded cabbage, cream, and some kind of hot sauce on top. They were so good that Elder K had 4! We took chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting to continue our exposing them to American food. Thank goodness for La Colonia with the cake mixes and powdered sugar I can only get there.

We had some great visits and lessons this week, reminding people of the upcoming General Conference and how blessed we are to have a prophet and apostles. Many of the people here have never viewed or listened to the conferences, so don't fully understand the significance of these great brethren and our other General leaders. Elder K has the insert from the Ensign with pictures of the First Presidency, Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and other leaders, which he shows the people here so they can see them and start to make connections with the quotes and stories they have heard. We're sad that President Monson and Elder Hales aren't planning to be there due to health issues. Oh how we love these wonderful leaders and so appreciate their powerful and needed messages. They each have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for us, in their efforts to help us all prepare to return to our Heavenly Father and Savior. Hopefully, we won't have the torrential rain today and Sunday that we've been having, so our people can get to the Estelí chapel to participate. It's sunny right now, so we are hopeful! Definitely a highlight of each year!

Thank you for all you each do for us, especially for your examples, love, and prayers! 
We love you all!

Love,

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cemetery... Pizza Hut... Twins... Fertilizer!


The burial spot of our sweet 104 year old, Carlos.


Last lunch with Hermanas Muñoz and Pratt before changes. Hermana Muñoz finishes with honor! Can't get enough Pizza Hut pizza in Nicaragua. We're lucky to have one here in Estelí.
Fun with the twins. They are always so excited to see us when we come. 
The neighborhood lawn service; cut and fertilize at the same time.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

EMAIL... Week 64

Hola All!

We've had a wet and busy week, oh, but we're in Nicaragua during the rainy season. Last weekend was District Conference, like Stake Conference but with branches instead of wards so much smaller. The Sunday session was held in one of the Universities' auditorium and there were over 400 people in attendance. We were able to host President and Hermana Poncio, his counselor, the 3 Zone Leaders, and the Bells for Sunday lunch after the session. Always fun to serve American food to Latinos.

Our little 104 year old passed away early Monday morning and we went over mid-morning to see how we could help. They already had his body in the casket in their main room, a big sideless tent outside covering 30-40 chairs, people already coming to pay their respects, and it was drizzling. When we went back that night for the official viewing, it was pouring rain. We are so happy for him to be free from his longtime suffering and the effects of his recent stroke. His wife, Evangelista, was at peace, knowing that since they've been sealed in the temple, they can be together forever. Tuesday we drove for about 50 minutes to the cemetery where he was to be buried. We took Jerónimo, the new Branch President, up with us. There were over 100 family members who drove up, most in the backs of open trucks. Jerónimo dedicated the grave, as none of the family members were Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Some of the sons and grandsons put the casket in the hole and shoveled the dirt in. There were no officials there. A daughter asked us to take her and Evangelista back to Estelí, and both were totally calm. We visited Evangelista again Friday, and her son is there staying with her, as she is nervous to be alone. There are usually a lot of people staying there, so this is only temporary. It was interesting to witness the matter of fact attitudes they have about death.

Wednesday our Mission President, his wife, the AP's, and the sister leader were back up here working with the different companionships. President and Hermana Poncio went with both sets of Estelí Hermanas to do visits and lessons, and the girls took them to some of the crazy to walk places we visit regularly, but they walked all the way. We usually drive to the area and then hike or walk into and around the barrios. There were many periods of pouring rain that day. Needless to say they all got wet and muddy, but that's the reality of missionary work here. We fed the Poncios, AP's,  and ZL's in between their sets of visits. It was fun to hear what they thought of the work here, and how different it is than in Managua.

We love the people here! Most of the members are young in the gospel here in Estelí and we have to remind ourselves of that often. Even things that we think are simple and that we take for granted, they have to be taught and trained. We are finding that some can't read, which really slows their progress, as they can't read their scriptures or the Liahona, or sing the hymns until they've heard them many times. The extra sacrifices and efforts they are making truly humble us. They want the blessings of the gospel that are available for them, but they have to work much harder to achieve and receive them. The ones who truly strive to progress are successful and they are amazing examples to us all!

I'm excited for the Women's Broadcast tonight and General Conference next weekend! It is such a spiritual uplift to be able to hear from our prophet, the apostles, and our other general leaders. Have a fabulous week! Thanks for all you do! We love you!

Love,
Elder and Hermana Koelliker