Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Yesterday, we went to visit the hermano for whom we built a house and found a long line of huge ants carrying leaves from a treen to an area where they are building a nest. They were in two unified lines; one with ants carrying leaves to the nest and another line coming back to the tree to get another load. I didn't follow them to their nest. It was too far in the jungle and I didn't want to get eaten by a snake! The hermano said the ants bite and eat your flesh kind of like Indiana Jones. I think he got a little carried away. I guess the ants got into his house and bed... Yuck! I didn't want to feel their bite, so I stayed clear.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

EMAIL... Week 8

Buenos Dias!

We hope this finds you all happy, well, and progressing! One of the highlights from this past week was taking cinnamon rolls to the guards around our neighborhood. They are so friendly as we walk the neighborhood for our morning excercise (yes, we still have to excercise). We wanted to thank them for their kindness, so we delivered the rolls with pass along cards. One is already a member and was so proud to tell us about his active family. Since most of them are packing heat, as Steve Gibson very well knows, we want to be on the right side of them. 

Last Sunday was also really great. The men had a priesthood training meeting last Saturday, and Lee talked to them about having the Hermanos actually use it. So instead of having one person do both blessings and one person pass the Sacrament, they had two different brethren do the prayers and two pass. It was awesome to see a recently activated priesthood bearer bless the Sacrament for the first time, and having just had a haircut to do it. They are so young in the Gospel that they don't fully understand the power for good they have and how to magnify it. It was wonderful to see how quickly they embrace elements of the gospel as they are presented to them. 

During Sunday School the Branch President pulled us out and asked us to take him to see the little man, who is dying of cancer. The man and his wife had requested that the Sacrament be brought to them, as he was too weak to come. It was so humbling to watch these worthy Priesthood holders kneel on the dirt floor by the man's bed and bless and then pass the Sacrament to these precious people. Lee was able to bless the bread. The Spirit was so strong! The Branch President also gave the man a blessing. I felt so blessed to be able to witness that special spiritual moment. The Sacrament is so real and such a privilege to be able to contemplate all that our Savior has done for us, recommit to do better, and feel His great love for each one of us!

Our visits are going well! We love & so appreciate the Hermanas. We love working with the investigators and less actives. Lee has taught a lot, and I am making brief and clumsy comments, but my prayers are improving and becoming more meaningful as I learn Spanish. We've got 2 young men, who are preparing for baptism. We get lots of bug bites at their houses, so I am resolving to bust out the 100% DEET. We were at Saul's last night and we heard a weird noise. We looked at their side wall that they share with their neighbors, covered with a plastic sheet, not really tarp quality, but more like the black garbage bags we have for yard trimmings quality. We could see a big bump moving under it...a rat. So grateful it didn't pop out! 

We're excited to do 5 Family Home Evenings next week and for our Branch Conference tomorrow. We get to make sack lunches for the group coming from a nearby town (30 minute bus ride), as they are part of our branch. We know that we're here for a purpose, and probably mostly to refine us. We love you all and pray for you daily!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, August 20, 2016

EMAIL... Week 7

Hola from Esteli! 
Lee gave the rundown on last Saturday in the blog, but I just wanted to add that it was sooooo fun to make cookies for them, feel like home, and have something different to share with them. My Spanish was a bit sketchy, but it was so cute as they were writing the recipe down and wanting to see every item as I added it, and asking where I got it. The only things I had from home were my cookie sheets, which also got used on the stove top to cook the tortillas. These people are so innovative, it never ceases to amaze me. The tortillas were amazing, especially warm with the chunk of cheese! The sister who made the cake just used her hands to mix and mix and mix each of the ten eggs into the batter, and then the other ingredients. (Good thing I hadn't cheated with my little mixer with the cookie dough!) Great event, and then the cherry on top was Ashly's baptism. It was beautiful and Lee said the baptismal prayer correctly and in Spanish the first time! Not bad for 40 plus years later. 
Last Sunday we had the opportunity to have the other 2 Senior couples and 3 members of another branch, who were here for district training (their version of Stake Auxiliary Training), for dinner. The Nicas were introduced to spaghetti, but the great success was dessert...brownies and cookies. They loaded up to take some home. We were also able to take dinner to a couple. She had some heart issues last Sunday night, so we told the husband we wanted to bring them dinner. He was so confused, but said we could if we ate with them. I made chicken enchiladas and flan. They giggled when I served them, because they don't make theirs like we do. It was fun, and we love them both! 
We love visiting the members, less actives, and investigators. They are gracious and welcoming. It warms my heart as they come back to church. We also love working with the Hermanas! They are amazing young women and so kind and encouraging not only to those we visit, but to us as well. 
Last night we were having dinner and got a call from the mission nurse, asking us to go to Ocotal to pick up a sister missionary and bring her back to our house, and they would meet us and take her back to Managua. They thought she had appendicitis. It was crazy raining, 2 lane "highway", and a myriad of big trucks. It took us over an hour to get there and another 45 minutes before were on the way back. The Elders met us and took us the the home the Hermanas were visiting. We then had to take them back to their casita to get their pillows, and then got on the road back. We were worried that we wouldn't get her to the hospital on time. Thankfully, the roads were a lot clearer, so we made better time. We met the nurse and her husband at our house, where they unloaded stuff for us to deliver, and loaded the girls up. They called this morning to say that the Hermana was resting comfortably in the hospital in Managua, recovering from surgery. Lots of tender mercies! Heavenly Father loves and watches out for us as His children, especially when we are trying to do what is right! That's Nicaragua for this week! We love you all! 
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, August 15, 2016

Galletas con Chocolate

After teaching an inactive sister, we walked out of her house to this magnificent view of a valley in Esteli. The small tin shack is typical of many of the homes we visit here. The farther removed they live from the city, the poorer the people are so they build their homes out of whatever they find: wood, metal, rocks, and sometimes mud. They use wood for their cooking fires, either the shrubs or an outhouse for their bathroom, and water from a nearby river, stream, or small lake. They are poor, but so humble and willing to give you whatever they have.
 The scent of flowers, trees, and different grasses was incredible. So far our allergies have been in check. 
Many of the schools yards or open soccer fields are surrounded by trees with their trunks painted in different colors. We haven't figured out why that is done, but it is strange and pretty cool to see.

Laurie had a Relief Society activity this week where she taught the sisters how to make her famous galletas con chocolate (chocolate chip cookies). In turn, they taught her how to make corn tortillas from scratch. Someone brought the Guajada (Nicaraguan white cheese) and we all ate guajadas. They cut about an inch thick piece and wrapped it up in a hot tortilla. They were so good that I had to eat 2! Their cheese is quite a bit different than we're accustomed to, but most of it is good. There is one kind of Nica cheese that tastes/smells like stinky feet... we'll try to stay away from that. One of the sisters made a butter cake that was really good, and a brother who attended the baptism afterwards brought "leche con chocolate" or "pinol" which is similar to hot chocolate but has corn pulp in it. The corn is roasted and zested then put into the milk. It was really good once we got used to the grainy texture. 

Part of experiencing the culture is to eat their food. So far we've been lucky and have eaten some good Nica food. So no worries, we're not wasting away!

After the RS activity, we were blessed to attend and participate in a baptism for little Ashly. This precious girl lives with her aunt, cousins, and grandma because her parents live outside the country. They have no male members in their family so I was asked to baptize her. It was a great privilege to be able to do so. The grandma is inactive so the missionaries felt it would be wise to teach the lessons to Ashly so she would have a basic understanding of the covenants she was making. Ashly is a petite little girl so it didn't take much to get her under the water, as it came up above her chest. It's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to baptize someone in Spanish. It was a great honor and the wet hug and huge smile she gave me when she came out of the water is an experience I'll never forget. 

We love these people and are so grateful for the experiences the Lord is blessing us with as we teach and serve them.

We appreciate your love, support, and prayers. We feel them!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

EMAIL... Week 6

Hola Peeps! 
Another week in this amazing place! We had a great week meeting with less actives, investigators, and members needing a lift. It's amazing that they let us in, whether we have an appointment or not, and sometimes it's better that we just show up. The Hermanas think they dog them, but won't hide if we're with them. We're the ancient ones, so they respect us. Ha ha! We've got them fooled! 
A huge milestone for me last Sunday for Fast and Testimony Meeting...I was able to bear my more elaborated testimony in Spanish without a paper. My abilities are progressing slowly, but our sons keep telling me that it takes time. I just started my in the field Spanish tutoring, so that should help a lot too. Thank goodness for the spirit, and for the kindness and patience of these good people. I am being put to the test today at our RS activity. I get to teach them how to make chocolate chip cookies, galletas de chispas de chocolate. Yes, I did bring chocolate chips and 2 of my big cookie sheets. I've made them and taken them to some of the Family Home Evenings we've done, and the biggest adjustment is the temperature in Celsius and a propane oven. Most don't have ovens, and some have cement ovens. Should be interesting! 
We went to the weekly Branch Activity on Thursday and the counselor in the District Presidency was in charge. He asked Lee what he had planned, like that was his responsibility.  Lee, of course, said he had a video on the Restoration, and that worked for the counselor. The church is on a huge, grassy, fenced in lot with a basketball/soccer cement field, so when the gates open, lots of boys come to play, like it's a park and to use the Internet, for which someone must of leaked the password. The counselor made them come in for the video. Some stayed through the whole thing, but most went back out to play.

We're hoping and praying that the baptism for an 8 year old girl goes through today. The Hermanas thought that neither of her parents were members, but the Branch President just found out that her mom is on the records. When we visited her last night, she was so excited to get baptized and hugged us both. She and her family now have to meet with the Branch President, so we'll see what happens.

Great lesson with a less active and his non-member friend. The spirit was strong and they both felt it. They suffer from what is a huge problem here, no job and not going to school. They have too much time to get into trouble. They worked at the church this week, painting and doing yard work, so hopefully that boosted their self-esteems and gave them some hope for a positive future.

We are so blessed to live in the United States and for the freedoms we enjoy. We can never take what we have for granted, as that is how we could lose it. Heavenly Father loves us and sees from the  beginning to the end. He has a plan for each of us, much better than we could plan for ourselves! How blessed we are to know Him and our Savior, and to have the faith in Them and understanding that we do!

Much love,
Elder and Hermana Koelliker 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pig on a Leash... and some mission thoughts!

a new fruit... mamon chino
After you bite the hairy skin off, you discover a sweet white, clear fruit.
different, but good... Laurie wanted no part of it :)
This is quite unique in Esteli... a pig on a leash!
Every once in awhile, you see someone walking their pig like they would walk their dog.
Needless to say, the pig was gone the next day... yum!

I don’t have many pictures to share this week so I decided to share a couple things that have been
reiterated to us thus far on the mission.

#1 The spirit doesn’t care which language people speak, where people live, or the conditions in which they live. He is the “Universal Communicator” and will testify of truth whether we are speaking broken Spanish or in the most impoverished home. We have been in some nice homes with cement floors/walls, curtains on the windows, and a bathroom, and in some very humble dwellings with dirt floors, wood walls, plastic over the window, and an outhouse in the backyard. One thing holds true; the spirit testifies and is powerful no matter the conditions we are in or how broken our Spanish is. We both had an opportunity to bear our testimonies yesterday in Spanish and the spirit we felt was almost palpable and believe it or not, they understood what we we're saying.

#2 The Lord always prepares a way when you are obedient and doing His will. When we go into an active or inactive members home we usually begin our message with a hymn and a prayer. The other night we visited a sweet older couple and I asked the hermana if we could sing her favorite song. She chose “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” This song has special meaning for us especially the end of verse one:

But if, by a still, small voice He calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.

Although we didn’t have a clear understanding of exactly what we’d be doing, we answered the Lord’s call to serve and placed our hands in His and are now in a small town in the northern highlands of Nicaragua working with wonderful people having great experiences. After reading the scripture in 1 Nephi 3:7, her husband recognized and commented on our willingness to serve even though we had no clue what we were getting into but trusted Heavenly Father to come knowing that He would prepare a way for us to accomplish what He wanted us to do.

Loves to all……Hermana and Elder Koelliker

Friday, August 5, 2016

EMAIL... Week 5

This place and her people never cease to amaze and humble us! Last Saturday we were able to attend Naman's baptism, which got moved up an hour, but then started 45 minutes late...that's Nicaragua! An older man in the branch, who has been a member about a year baptized him. It took 3 times to say it correctly and the 4th to get everything under. Both men were so happy and humble. The counselor in the district presidency confirmed him the next day. We have the only car in the branch, and are only supposed to drive missionaries and Church workers, well...We are trying to be obedient. A few members have motorcycles and several have bikes. Families of 4 are often on a motorcycle together, and it scares me for the little kids. The drivers here make NY City look calm. The branch has a much bigger geographic area than our ward, so it really is a challenge and commitment for them to get to church, let alone on time. 
We have been teaching them about the importance of temples, so that they can have eternal families. This to many is an impossible dream. Since there is no temple in Nicaragua, they are in the Honduras Temple District. The trip itself is expensive, and the paperwork fees make it seemingly insurmountable. Another blessing we have, that we may take for granted. They are amazed when they find out we were married in the temple, that all of our children were married in the temple, and that all of our family are members of the Church. Only 8 people have been to the temple in the Branch besides the missionaries. Very few have been members longer than 5 years. We will continue to encourage them, and have shown President Monson's Mormon Message, "Temples are a Beacon", at the Family Home Evenings we have done. They really love the videos, and the Ward Council would be impressed with Lee's tech skills in downloading them in Spanish and showing them.  
We had changes in the mission this week, so we spent a lot of time at the bus stations, taking and picking up missionaries. We had one of the Hermanas with us Monday until her new comp came, and today had the Zone Leader with us until 2 other Elders came to town to pick him up to work with them. I'm glad I don't have to change, because I really like my companion and the casita we live in.
We love the Hermanas we serve with in the Rosario Branch, and feel truly blessed that we have had an English speaker both times to translate when needed, as we try to understand and communicate. We're working hard on our Spanish, but are realistic in knowing that it's going to take time and lots of practice. Lee spoke in Sacrament meeting last week, and comments and prays with relative ease. I have given several prayers and born my testimony in Spanish, but most of my comments are broken or translated. I am grateful for their patience! 
We just found out tonight that the crazy rainstorm we had yesterday was from a tropical storm. It was so loud we couldn't even hear in our house and it was raining sideways, so we had to shut all the windows. We lost power for awhile, so we took the Elders out for dinner, since I couldn't turn on the stove to cook. Darn! Life is good. The Church is true! We are learning much and loving the people! 
Love to you all! 
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Church... Neighborhood... Estevan's Hut... and a Baptism!

The week in pictures... Commentary by Elder Koelliker :)

This is the chapel in Rosario where we meet. There are about 800 members in the branch but only 40-50 attend. That's typical for most branches here. They are large numbers but many inactive members. I guess back in the day they were promised food cards from the Church, so they got baptized. When that stopped they became inactive. Plus, the Revolution had a great impact on the members. The chapels were taken over by the government and members were afraid to go to church. We had 60 members attend on Sunday, the most they've had. Hopefully, our work will help them be truly converted to Christ.

A typical school playground. Lots of weed, lots of color! Several have bars over the windows with guards stationed around the property. Kids wear uniforms and the elementary kids attend half-day. Many of the older kids leave school to help provide for their families.

A small neighborhood in Esteli and a typical road where dogs, chickens and people like to hang out. When the roads are tough to travel, we walk these dirt roads to visit the members.

This is the little hut we tore down to get materials to build the new one. As we were taking the slats off the walls, the hut started to collapse. Laurie stood in the middle to hold up the roof poles so it wouldn't fall. She and I were the only ones tall enough to reach the roof. Because it rains so much, the wood rots quickly and the metal sheeting (walls/roof) rust. The rectangle box is an old freezer used for storage. In the new hut it will be used for a bathroom. It will be several yards away from the new hut.

To build the new hut, I helped clear the area with a machete. Everybody moved far away when I started swinging that thing. It was so sharp that I could cut through a 3-4" tree trunk. The people use machetes for everything... It's a hoe, rake, ax, weed eater, etc. It was even used as a saw to cut the metal sheeting for the hut. 

This is Estevan whose hut we built. He used the machete to cut down a tree and shape it so it could be used as one of the four corner posts. Many of the extremely poor people find a plot of land and use what's there to build their one-room house. They cook outside and have a water spigot for their water. Most have a lightbulb hanging from the middle of their hut. The bathroom is an outhouse in the trees away from their hut. They keep their bed and a few personal items in their hut.

The rock and rope I'm holding was used to align the four corner posts so they stood straight. The ingenuity of the people is amazing! They don't have much in big machinery to build structures or roads. They use crude tools as well as their hands. For example, instead of a wheelbarrow to haul dirt, they used 5-gallon buckets filed with hands. To dig a trench for a utility line, it is dug by hand. For the most part, they work very hard for very little.

To build the hut, we first installed the four corner posts which were placed in two-foot holes. When the post was placed in the hole we used rocks and dirt to hold it in place. The rocks/dirt when damped to solidify the footing acted almost like cement. The posts barely moved and were sturdy to hold the weight of the roof. Once the posts were installed, we placed wood planks to use as a foundation for the roof and to connect the four corners. I was able to use my construction skills to attach the planks. I only bent a few nails! We then placed the aluminum siding on the roof and on the sides. Laurie and I were tall enough to reach the roof and hold the siding in place as it was attached.

We have the roof and three walls completed. 

The hut isn't very big but Estevan, the little guy with me, was so excited to have his own house and not have to live on the streets. Many of these little huts don't have windows because of water from the raid getting in. The front of the hut is seven feet tall and the back is six feet, so rain water can run off.

The finished product! The machete was used to cut the siding to fit the door. The door is a frame with pieces of wood which was from the other hut. This is our little group who worked all day to build this hut for Estevan. The sister missionaries work with us in the branch. We're blessed to have them here working with us. They know where most of the members live. It was fast offerings from the branch which made it possible to get the siding to build this hut. We literally saw fast offerings at work. What a great experience, but more so a great blessing to serve.

We attended a baptism this past Saturday in our branch. We were privileged to be part of the last lesson of Naman, the guy next to me, committed and prepared to be baptized. Another tender mercy and blessing from the Lord. It is so awesome to be here and work with these wonderful people. They are very patient with us as we learn the language and their customs.