Hola from Nicaragua!
Great week! Last Sunday 3 of the families and one of the individuals we visited came to church! One of our assignments is to work with the less actives and get them coming to church and preparing to go to the temple. Going to the temple is a huge deal here. Many aren't married to their partners, so they can't be baptized. It is very expensive to get married here, and then traveling to Honduras to go to the nearest temple is also expensive and an ordeal. Lee showed a video on temples and taught a great lesson how going to the temple is worth the sacrifice. The stories we've heard and read about are true. We are so blessed to have a temple 30 minutes away, where we can attend frequently!
We have visited many families and individuals this week (reminding Lee ofnight visits) some with members and some with the Hermanas. Addresses are like "Del portion de la Universidad 3 cuadras sur B." Without the locals or missionaries, we would have no clue where to even start. Lee plots the homes on his phone so we can return another time, and it has worked. :) We attended Branch Council and discussed ways to strengthen the members. There are 400 on the records and between 50-60 attend.
A member, who we visited last week was there. He doesn't make enough money to live, so the church has helped him with rent, and is trying to wean him from it. When he pays part of the rent, he doesn't have money for food, so he gets sick and can't work. Another man in the branch has an old run down house that he offered to let this guy live in, if the branch could help fix it up. They used fast offerings to buy the materials ($100ish), and asked us to help. 8 of us spent yesterday from 10 until a little after 6 on the project. First we had to completely tear down the existing structure. (Lee took pictures that will get posted on the blog.) The guys hauled down sheets of metal, that I know our sons can relate to having served in Guatemala. We found posts and pieces of wood to use from the previous structure, to build the frame. We marveled at their ingenuity in figuring it out without sophisticated tools. The man we were building the house for was amazing. He is so small, but dug most of the post holes, and was all over the place. Lee was especially helpful with the high nailing and accuracy in pounding them in. Then we nailed the metal sheets to the frame with special nails, overlapping to keep out the rain. I got to help Lee put the roof pieces on, since we were the only ones who could reach that high. It has a dirt floor, and they are finishing mounting the door from the previous home. Talk about humbling, and he was so grateful for our help. He and the guy who owns the land slept there last night so no one would steal the other materials. They don't even have power or water yet.
A great experience today...the hermanas asked us to go to a visit with them to a young man who was baptized as a young boy, got his family into the church, went to seminary, bore his testimony regularly, and hasn't come for the last 4-5 years. Others have visited him and he admits that even though he has been busy and went away to college to become the pharmacist he just got hired to be, he doesn't know why he isn't motivated to come. He keeps the word of wisdom and other commandments, reads his scriptures, and prays, he just doesn't attend. My command of the language is so minimal still, so the Hermana translated for me. I reminded him that Heavenly Father loves him and that he is a wonderful person with much power for good. Because of that Satan is working hard to distract him from obtaining all of the blessings he can have. We talked about our family and being married for 38 years, and in the temple; that all of our children are members and married in the temple. I told him that Heavenly Father wants that for him. We offered to fast with him next week for Fast Sunday for the spirit to touch his heart and rekindle the fire he used to have for the gospel. He prayed at the end. The spirit was strong and I gave him a hug and told him that he can do this! (I can get away with that as a Senior Missionary!)
We are so blessed to have the gospel in it's fullness, to know our Heavenly Father loves us and has a plan for each of us, and that our Savior lives and has the paid the price for each of us to return home. It's up to us! It's so hard to see the poverty, as we just want to help them financially, but it's most important to help them in their relationships with our Father and Savior, and to do all that they can, so they can receive the blessings of heaven. Love to all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker