Friday, July 29, 2016

EMAIL... Week 4

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 of Tuesday night 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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

P-Day Adventures... Cascada de Estanzuela

For P-day yesterday, we went to a water fall high up in the mountains of Esteli. It was beautiful day for hiking. You can see how lush and green the jungle is. There are farms/small houses scattered about each growing their own crop of corn, beans, melons, or several varieties of bananas. Along the road there are chickens everywhere. I guess they let their dinner wander until ready for preparation. 

The national bird here is the fly. They are everywhere! Some even bite. Houses we visit don't have screens on windows and if they don't have windows, they just have holes in the wall. Plus, there are always big gap both under and above their doors.

Yesterday we saw a big spider on the wall of a family we visited. I kept my eye on it during the message just in case it wandered up my pant leg. We're loving life!

-Elder Koelliker

This is a field with some sort of vegetable growing. Couldn't tell.
The thing hanging from the tree are litter bottles strung together to make a Nicaraguan scarecrow.
It blows in the wind and makes little noises. I need to try this in my garden!

The little parking lot made available for cars to park at the entrance to the waterfall.
Notice the grass was burned and painted, white rocks were used for parking lines.
Simple and it works as long as you don't hit a rock.
Cascada de Estanzuela...
a beautiful waterfall with a pool that many tourists come to swim. 

missionary selfie :)

We hiked through the jungle to get to the top of the waterfall. That was a fun climb trying not to fall. We held onto branches and weeds for dear life. We made it and found it worth the hike. We were at least 100 feet above the pool.

We couldn't get over the beauty of this area.
Heavenly Father sure created a beautiful world for us to enjoy.
There is beauty all around, we just have to look for it or in this case, hike to it! 
More pictures of flowers. There are all kinds of butterflies around.
The farmer we spoke with said they put these yoke things around the necks of cows
 so they won't wander in fields or other places they aren't supposed to go.

the dirt roads
Esteli in the background.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

EMAIL... Week 3

Hola from Nicaragua!

     Crazy week! Well we finally got all of our stuff delivered yesterday, only a week late. That's Nicaragua! We had 7 loads of wash to do, with the smaller version of a washing machine, so we did it Thursday and Friday mornings, while we were having our study time. We lucked out both days and only had to pull the last batch yesterday off the line due to rain. Our water shuts off about 6, and then switches to a tank, so we have to do it in the mornings. We're getting the hang of hanging clothes, boiling water to rinse our washed dishes, and using bottled water to brush our teeth.

     We spent the last 2 afternoons/evenings visiting less actives and investigators of the Rosario Branch (1 of the barrios in Esteli) with the sister missionaries. The hermanas are awesome, one from Highland, Utah and the other from El Salvador. They all speak very rapidly, so it is hard to understand what they're saying, but the spirit is there and we love them! Most are so poor, they have dirt floors, gaps under their doors, and tiny areas with many people living together. We are so blessed to have the many comforts and opportunities we enjoy in the US. We're hoping that the ones who committed to coming tomorrow, will show.

     We had P day today and went to the waterfall here with the Bells. It was a crazy, steep, very rocky road, but we made it to the place of entry. We had to hike down a fairly rugged path to the bottom of the falls. There was a big natural pool at the bottom. It was beautiful! We saw two girls at the top, so we decided we wanted to climb up there. They came down and showed us where the hidden path up about rough...super steep, slippery rocks and dirt, grasping trees and bushes to help ourselves up, under and over 3 sets of barbed wire, through a green bean garden, over the big rocks and stream leading to the falls, rock climbing to get to the edge, and we finally made it! Not bad for Senior Missionaries. The best part, besides the amazing view from the top and the feeling of accomplishment, was that we found a way back to the car much easier than the crazy way down and up we had just experienced.

We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Esteli... Ocatol... Groceries Nicaraguan Style!

We travelled to Ocatol which is about 30 km from the border of Honduras.
Beautiful city snuggled in a lush green valley.
The city is behind us :) 
A picture of Esteli out of our hotel window.
Small shacks with aluminum roofs are close to the hotel
and the nicer homes (which aren't many) are farther out. 
It's beautiful here with lots of jungle flora and greenery.
Reminds me lots of Hawaii. 
Our new long casita...
2 bedrooms, bathroom, office, and kitchen.
No furniture yet, besides the small kitchen table. 
First grocery shop in Nicaragua!!
They are figuring out the "Nicaraguan" way of life!

Friday, July 15, 2016

EMAIL... Week 2


What a week! Last Saturday we flew into Managua and were greeted by the President and Sister Poncio, Elder & Sister Lee (the office couple), and Elder & Sister Bell (the mission nurse and her do it all husband). They came in their 3 vehicles to get us and all our stuff, and we rode with the Poncios to dinner with the 8 of us at a Mexican Restaurant. Muy delicioso! We checked into our hotel for our Managua stay. 

Sunday, we traveled to Dario with the office couple, where Elder Lee serves as the Branch President. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there. There were about 30 in attendance. Sister Lee is teaching 2 girls in the branch to play the keyboard, but they just started so we sang acapella. The members all sing out! There were 3 speakers after the sacrament and 2 confirmations. Then the Branch President had us bear our testimonies in Spanish. Elder K did great and I used my paper. Talk about humbling. The RS President taught the Sunday School AND Relief Society lessons, and she talks way fast. I understood some of it.  We are getting more and more of the language, but I have a LONG way to go. 

We met with President Poncio Monday for our entry interview. What an amazing, humble, and sweet man! He gave us both a blessing and asked us to meet him in Sebaco this coming Sunday to have a meeting with him and the District President to discuss their plan for us. 

We spent the week traveling to Esteli ( 2 1/2 hours from Managua) to choose our home from the 3 they had approved, back to Managua, getting approved furnishings selected and ordered, getting our vehicle (hand-me-down Rav 4, which is needed for the dirt, bumpy, crazy roads glad I won't be driving!), loading up at Price Mart (Nicaragua's version of Costco) and Walmart (which they don't have in Esteli), and traveling back to Esteli Thursday to check into the hotel until our home is ready. (Hopefully Saturday they will deliver the furnishings, including the stove, fridge, and washing machine...all small versions, so we can move in.) We feel so blessed to be moving into a nice, safe duplex, next door to our landlord's home. They live by a different time concept here, so things happen when they happen. 

The office couples have been so helpful and have truly taken us under their wings. The Bells helped us bring our stuff up and spent the night here. We drove up to Ocotal (1 1/2 hours away) to deliver mail to the missionaries there. The countryside is beautiful and lush! We drove back and had lunch today before they went back to Managua. Our young waitress, who had served us the last time we were up, came right up to us and hugged me and Hermana Bell. We asked her about her family and she has a 1 year old daughter and her husband is a chauffeur. We gave her a pass along card and invited her to church. She wanted to know the times of the services. So sweet! We went to a baptism tonight in one of the Esteli branches, and have met several missionaries in the district. It has been an exhausting week, but we are happy to be here and feel so blessed to be in this beautiful country with these amazing children of Heavenly Father. We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, July 11, 2016

First 24 Hours in Nicaragua...

The first views of Nicaragua...
Volcano Momotombo
Managua Lake

Greeted by the Mission President and two senior missionary couples...
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Up early to walk to the mission office, and off to church.
July 10, 2016
Met with a small branch of 30 people in Dario.
They each bore their testimonies in Spanish,
could only understand bits and pieces of the other talks and lessons
(the people talk very fast), and loved talking with the kids and sharing their licorice...
the kids begged them to come back next week :)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

EMAIL... Week 1


What an amazing week in the MTC! The training was awesome and the spirit so strong! We were blessed with fabulous teachers, both young returned missionaries. They were polar opposites in their gender, teaching style, and personality, but both taught with the spirit and love, and were true blessings to our district. We had many meetings with our whole group of 130 senior missionaries, with my favorite being watching the Christmas MTC fireside with Elder Bednar. He told of many experiences and testified that while on the Lord's errand we have the protection and blessings of the Lord. We will be qualified! That is a comforting promise for us as we have been studying the language and praying to be able to effectively communicate. Our devotional speaker was Marlin K. Jensen, emeritus 70. It included all of the missionaries, senior and young, and what a spirit! As we looked around we knew we were amongst 2000 plus stripling warriors! The energy and spirit of the young missionaries is contagious! They smile, hold doors open, sing with gusto, and truly radiant their love of the Savior! We were thrilled to hug Sister Stoker! We got to see her twice. What a wonderful young woman and missionary! What a tender mercy to connect with her. She will be fabulous! We're sitting in the SLC airport ready to board to LA, and then on to Managua. The Church is true! The Savior lives and loves us. Now it is our turn to show our love for Him and serve our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua. We love you all! Adios!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

MTC to Nicaragua...

After 5 days in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, the Koelliker Missionaries are on their way to Nicaragua!
Getting good at selfies!
Field trip to the temple, one last time!
Provo City Center Temple
and to get some shaved ice!
On their way to Nicaragua!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 1...

Welcome to the MTC!
THE map...
Nicaragua they are coming for you!
A close up of the beloved badges!
Let the 18 month countdown begin! Good luck Brother and Sister Koelliker!

Friday, July 1, 2016

See Ya Later Vegas...

After packing up their home and saying goodbye to friends and family, Lee and Laurie said so long Las Vegas! They are headed to Salt Lake City, Utah to spend the weekend with family and to finish making final preparations before they check in at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Monday.