Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Things You Don't See Everyday...

There is a huge hill in the northern part of Esteli that overlooks the central part of the city which is our new area for six weeks. We think the hill behind the city and the cathedral would be a perfect place for a temple!

The area behind us is called "La Jolla" but I looked all over the beach and couldn't find it! The sunsets, however, are just a beautiful. We are now working with these wonderful sisters; Hermana Fackrell from Albuquerque, NM and Hermana Largaespada (long sword) from Honduras. They will be with us for the next six weeks. We are already experiencing success. We've had a nonmember family (investigator) attend church as well as two inactive families. The Lord continues to bless us as well as these wonderful people who are trying to improve their lives.

We found the biggest papaya in the world. Marvin is one of our inactive members that we've been working with and the sisters (Hermana Zafra, Hermana Melendrez) can't wait to pick and eat this massive fruit. He promised to call them when he cuts it down.

A Nica washing machine which is in our laundry room. Most missionaries us this to wash their clothes. A few missionaries have mamacitas who wash for them, and others, such as our new sisters, have a rock and a bucket of water. Many of the elders' collars of their white shirts are frayed because of the pila.

We are blessed to have an American washing machine with Spanish labels/directions. Unfortunately, there's no dryer or hot water but feel fortunate to have modern lavadora.

Because we don't have a dryer we hang our clothes on a clothesline that I've strung on our back patio. Most missionaries have a clothesline in their apartment because they don't have a back patio. We have to use our indoor clothes hanging contraption a lot because of rain.

Here are a few things you don't see everyday...

A watch dog watching the house from the roof...
his and her plants...
a motorcycle in the living room...
Most Nicas keep them in their house to prevent theft.
Those fortunate to have a car usually park it in the living room as well.
220 pounds of beans got wet, so they are in the living room drying.
This is one of the nicer homes we've been in... notice the floor is cement and not dirt.
Our Nica garbage can.
You don't have to worry about animals getting into it or the can blowing away.
That's Nicaragua for you... until next time :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

EMAIL... Week 12

Hola from Esteli!
Started attending our new branch (El Centro) last Sunday. They have a much stronger branch with many more priesthood holders, people, members serving in callings, and members who have been through the temple. It has been so interesting to start meeting and getting to know them. The youth have seminary 4 nights a week and are having their version of EFY today. They are the future leaders here, and it is amazing to see how seriously they take the gospel and the blessings they can receive from it. Reminds us of our valiant youth at home!

Crazy Monday with taking both sets of Hermanas (1 set at a time) grocery shopping and then having them do their laundry here. They only have pilas, which are cement sinks with a ribbed scrubbing area, Nicaraguan washing machines. We have a nice one in our laundry room here,  but we also have an American version. It saves them a lot of time to use ours. They also like to use our laptop to email home, as they can do that while their clothes are washing. Unfortunately, we don't have a dryer, so everything goes on the line outside or on our little contraption for hanging stuff inside. We have had a few times when it poured rain with our stuff on the line, and it gets soaked. That's Nicaragua.

We feel blessed to be able to visit people with both sets of Hermanas. We love a little 80 year old woman, who lives a few doors down from a man we visit often. She is always sitting outside on her gated in front porch. She calls to us and we go sing, pray, and visit with her. She calls us "mi Chiquitas". She loves company and to be prayed for. It takes so little to cheer, encourage, and lift others. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity at this time in our lives. Lee have been able to give several blessings in Spanish, and is doing fabulously with the language. We have scheduled some Family Home Evenings for this week, and are excited to work with families and take cookies. (That's my greatest contribution, but I'm getting braver in commenting. It helps when I understand what is being said!) We have grown to love the people here. Most are humble and truly trying to do their best. Their lives are hard, but the gospel and a relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior give them hope and peace.

We're having both sets of Hermanas over for the Women's Broadcast tonight. Another couple will be here with their laptop, so we'll have English in one room and Spanish in another. I am having flashbacks of my Stake RS calling as I have been preparing veggies, fruit, and treats for after.

As we try to follow the Savior and submit to Heavenly Father's will and timing, we are seeing the fruits of our labor and experiencing many tender mercies. We know there are many blessings available for these people, as well as for each one of us. Thank you for your love, prayers, support, and examples!

We love you!
Elder and Hermana Koellike

Monday, September 19, 2016

Live Volcano... Lava... Bats... and a Monkey!

We had a wonderful P-day this past Saturday visiting the Volcan Masay which is one of several active volcanoes in Nicaragua. We were able to walk to the edge of the crater and see the lava bubbling and churching below. The sulfuric smell wasn't as bad as I thought but you could hear the lava roaring as it churned. One interesting note is that we had to back the car into the parking space as a precaution in case of an eruption. Thank goodness it didn't erupt... the car was so far away I never would have made it!!

In the visitor's center they had a small dark area where bats would hang out. There are bats all over the place and they like the dark damp places to "hang out".

We were hoping to see a monkey or two while in Nicaragua. We got our wish at the visitor's center of the volcan Masaya.

These are the couples serving with us with the mission president and his wife on the far left. They are from Guatemala. He looked great in his Nike shoes. The other couples are office missionaries.

The Masaya overlooks Lake Managua... Gorgeous!

Couldn't resist a picture with my beautiful companion and the mission president at the rim of the crater. That goofy hat has to go! :)

One last look at the volcan Masaya. It was spectacular! Certainly something you don't see everyday.

Next stop was Laguna de Apoyo for lunch which is a volcano that imploded thousands of years ago to create this crater. Over time rain and subterranean water filled the crater creating this lake. Now it's a very popular resort for Nicas as well as others from across South/Central America and the US. It was beautiful but hot and very humid.

Couldn't resist another picture with my beautiful companion. It's a wonderful thing not having to worry who my next companion will be!!

After a wonderful day we left Managua with a double rainbow guiding our way!

We feel your prayers. Loves to all!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

EMAIL... Week 11

Hola All!

Another week in Nicaragua! Just got back from Managua, where we went to see one of the live volcanos in Nicaragua, called Volcan Masaya. We went with the other 2 Senior Missionary couples and the Mission President and his wife. We all went to lunch at Laguna de Apoyo, where we sat outside with a lake view. It was beautiful and fun. Then we got to hit Walmart and Price Mart for stuff we can't get up here in Esteli. Great p-day!

Last Sunday was our last time in the Rosario branch for 3 months or so, so we made cinnamon rolls and took them for everybody for their walks home. We will miss these precious people, and are so glad we get to do visits with many of them one day a week. We were able to take treats to two of our favorite families, who were unable to come that day, and let them know we would still be coming to see them, just not as often.

Started the week with about an organizational nightmare! One of our Hermanas finished her mission and went to Managua last Sunday to fly home Wednesday, so her comp stayed with us Sunday night and until her new companion got there Monday. We all got up Monday and were at one of the bus stations at 5:30AM waiting for an Hermana needing to be picked up and taken to another bus stop. She didn't get there until 7:15 and at a different station, when we were supposed to be at another bus station picking up 2 others. Good thing the bus stations and bus stops are all on the same street. We got news that the new comps were going to be late, then one got off the bus before she got here. It was pouring, so Lee got especially soaked helping the girls with their luggage, but by the afternoon we had everybody where they needed to be. Whew! It was like the first day of school all over again!

We were able to start visiting our new branch members and investigators Wednesday. It's the other side of town and includes the town center, so there are lots of one way streets. The first night was nuts as it was their big parade for their Independence Day, so streets were blocked off for the event. So between the one ways and the blocked off streets, it took FOREVER to get anywhere. Lee's getting the hang of it and a sense of which streets to avoid and which directions to go, as many of the signs telling you the street is one way are down, and the cab drivers are not very patient.

A sweet experience this week was taking food to the Rosario branch president's family, since his daughter had her tonsils and adenoids out. Lee suggested that I make a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and stuff to take. So we took them half and had a great visit. Later that evening, the Elders texted us to see if we were busy. We were at an appointment, but told them we could help them in an hour. They texted back for us not to worry about it and that it was no big deal. We texted back and told them we really wanted to help them. They talked to us after we were done. One of them had been sick all day, but was still working, and wondered if we had any soup, because they didn't. We were able to take them soup and the rest of a meal because Lee had been inspired to have me make soup. Heavenly Father really is involved in the details of our lives! We need to notice and share all of our needs, thoughts, and feelings with Him. He is there and He loves us!
That's Nicaragua for the week.

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Stuck in the Mud

A funny thing happened to us as we visited an inactive member in Villa Cuba... we got stuck big time in the mud. It was a thick, black, stinky, clay-like, mud that was disguised by the thick grass. Fortunately, with the great strength of the sisters, my beautiful companion, and the help of three men, one being the inactive member, we were able to get unstuck. Of course, I had to stay in the car and maneuver it out but that didn't last long. I ended up getting out to find and place wood, rocks, or anything else we could find under the tires to get some solid footing. I'm grateful for waterproof shoes. We all had a good laugh and got filthy, muddy at the same time. All part of missionary life :) There's got to be a gospel principle in this experience somewhere!

We had dinner this week at the PS President's house. She taught us how to make Nica enchiladas with homemade tortillas. Laurie is getting great at making tortillas. The only problem was that they were fried in oil. They were so good but we only ate one because we didn't want to take a chance eating too much fried food. The Nicaraguans deep fry almost everything they eat which isn't good for us since we don't eat fried foods. The house had a front room with a tile floor but the rest of the house had dirt floors with a bathroom outside (blue green shack) in the backyard. They had a wood house built on the back for their married daughter, her husband, and grandson. Most Nica's hang their clothes either outside or indoors. Since all the adults work, they are fortunate to have a fridge and washing machine. It's rare to see those appliances in a house.

 "Winner winner chicken dinner!" It isn't uncommon to see a chicken hanging from a handlebar of a bike or being carried home on the back of a moto.

Everywhere we go we see stray animals wandering the streets. The chickens are the worst. Haven't hit one yet!

EMAIL... Week 10


Another very wet week! I guess that's why they call it the "rainy season"! In the craziness of last week, I forgot to send shout outs to Henry & Robin Johnson from their nephew, Elder Hobbs, who is a ZL of one of the zones attending the Multi-zone Conference. Also, we found out that the district leader for the Esteli district is Elder Spence, the nephew of Mike and Deanna Messina. Great young men and leaders! 

I had another mini-milestone last Sunday, as I was able to bear my testimony in Spanish, especially of sustaining and praying for our church leaders. Too many people choose to be offended by others, especially leaders, and use that as an excuse NOT to do what they know is right. We forget that they were called by God, but like all of us, they are human and not perfect either. I'm sure I messed up some parts, but I'm keeping at it! (She was awesome! I'm very proud of how far she has come with the language.) Lee bore a very powerful testimony and I understood most of it. 

Lee had a great experience with the 2 guys who came to fix our shower. They started asking him questions about where are we from and why are we here, and then noticed his name badge. Then they started asking about the church. He gave them pass along cards about the Book of Mormon and told them when the Sunday meetings are. They asked if they could have a Book of Mormon. Lee gave them each one, and then they asked him to read something from it. He read Moroni's promise, that if they read and ponder the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart and pray about it with faith, that by the power of the Holy Ghost, they could know the truth of all things! They gave him their names and phone numbers, so he could give them to the missionaries in their area. It was definitely worth the cold showers we experienced! 

Another "memorable" experience was when we went out to visit people in Villa Cuba...we were driving on a meadow and the tires started to not catch, and Lee got us out a bit and right into another bog. We were stuck in stinky, boggy mud! The Hermanas and I got out to try to push it onto a drier spot, and couldn't get it out. The man we were headed to see came out to help, then his neighbor, then another man from the neighborhood. We got it out and then got stuck AGAIN! I was really praying then! It was stuck worse! We all started pushing again, and this time our feet were almost ankle deep in the stuff. Finally it moved out and as it released, the Hermanas and I and one of the men were splattered with the stuff! Yuk! Prayers were answered, but sometimes with an additional price. We went home to shower and change and wash our clothes! The next day, quite a bit drier, we went back out to visit and took cookies to our good Samaritans. We feel blessed to be here and truly love the people! 

Tomorrow is the last day with this branch for a few months, and one of our Hermanas is going home after a truly successful mission! I just finished making 60 cinnamon rolls to share for their long walks home after church. We want them to know how much we love and appreciate their kindness and friendship, and that's sometimes my way, especially with my lack of language skills. We start with another branch here on Tuesday, as we will be helping with changes on Monday. We will work with the Hermanas here one day a week to follow up with the families we have been serving, and then the rest of the week with the new Hermanas in the El Centro Branch. It will be fun to serve in a different part of town, but we will miss this one. Glad we get to keep a foot in the door. We have the good news of the Gospel, and it is wonderful to be able to share it with Heavenly Father's children and help them obtain the blessings we enjoy!

Love to all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taller de Ceramica.... and a Baptism!

We took an excursion on Saturday to the little town of Ducuali Grande which is a very small pueblo outside of Condega located in the middle of the jungle. There is a "Taller de Ceramica" (ceramic workshop) in this small town where women potters make and sell their hand-made pottery throughout Nicaragua. The manager in the workshop lives on the property so she was kind enough to give us the grand tour. She showed us the huge vats they use to make the clay. There are two kinds of dirt used to make the clay; red from Condega and white from Jinotega.

Mixed with water, the properties of the dirt make a thick clay. There are four pottery wheels the women use to form bowls, serving dishes, glasses, vases, jewelry, etc.

The woman sitting at the wheel demonstrated how to make a bowl. She was so expert that it took her 5 minutes to make a salad bowl. (If I was still the principal at Coronado, I'd hire her in a minute!) Once the pottery is formed into a dish/jewelry, it's taken to one of the several kilns used to fire the pottery.

Each piece is unique because the firing process brings out the different colors of the clay and creates different designs. It was so beautiful that we had to purchase a couple serving dishes. Plus it's authentic... not make in China!

We have been working with many of the inactive families in our branch encouraging them to come back to church. This is the Valasquez family. We've been working with them for a time and they are starting to come back to church. A wonderful, loving family.

Laurie is doing her thing, teaching the sisters how to make tortillas. Kind of funny... a gringa teaching Latinas how to cook!

 This is a small Catholic Church located next to Taller de Ceramica. They have a church in every little town and they are very ornate and colorful.

We had a wonderful baptism this past Saturday. I was asked to perform the ordinance which is always a treat. Saul and Fernando are great young men and will be a strength to this branch. The baptisms here are small, intimate, and very simple where the spirit is strong.

The sisters we work with are awesome! They teach with power, love, and the spirit. Hermana Caballero (red blouse) is from El Salvador. She leaves for home next week. Hermana Zaphra is from Virginia and has about 7 months in the mission.

We love you all and we feel your prayers!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

EMAIL... Week 9

Hola from crazy Nicaragua!

What a week! Just got back from going to a ceramic co-op about 30 minutes away for p-day. Lee will put pics and comments on the blog soon. She was amazing! Plus we are suckers for native ceramics...thanks to my sweet, creative grandpa who had his own pottery "shop" and helped me gain an appreciation for the craft! So fun. 

Last Saturday we had another full on Nica meal...deep fat fried platano chips (type of banana), something like chicken nuggets (no telling what kind of meat it was), rice with yummy seasoning, refried beans, cuajada cheese, a slice of avocado and a fruit drink. My stomach revolted with all the grease afterward, but it was good! They were offended by a former branch president, so struggle with inactivity. The adult son did a "lesson" on judging others. It was powerful! I wish he would make a Mormon Message of it. We talked about how we don't go to church for others, we go to partake of the sacrament and express our love and learn of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Also, that no one is perfect, including our leaders, but we are all trying! 

That evening we went to visit one of our investigators, Saul, with the Hermanas and the Elders Quorum President. Saul was pretty sick and had a rash, one of the mosquito-born sicknesses. After he was taught about the Priesthood and we were leaving, we were impressed to offer him a blessing. He eagerly accepted. Lee anointed and the EQP gave him the blessing. Saul was much better and was able to attend the Branch Conference, which by the way was awesome! What a sweet feeling to sustain the Prophet and Quorum of the 12 in Spanish with these good people. They love the Church leaders! 

Pouring rain off and on all week. We had a Family Home Evening in Villa Cuba, which is way out with ridiculous roads. Great family that is preparing to go to the temple. Coming home we crossed the bridge over the creek, but the bridge was flooded.  It was a little sketchy crossing, but we lived to tell about it. Lee wishes he had his truck. We love doing Family Home Evenings and taking the refreshments...cookies! Many are preparing to go to the temple, so they have lots of questions about the blessings of the temple. We can easily testify of the blessings, as we have felt that we have truly been showered. 

This past week we had an awesome Noche de Hogar with one of the active families in our branch. The wife has had lots of questions about the temple and wasn't really willing to make the sacrifices to go. We had an incredible experience sharing our testimony of the temple and how it has blessed our lives. We challenged them to set a date, prepare, pray together, and ask Heavenly Father for help. So, today before the baptism, the member came up to is to tell us that he and his wife took the challenge and have set a date in December to take out their endowments and get sealed. Truly a miracle!! "Super Twanies!" Please enjoy the temple! We are so blessed to have easy access. 

One of the less actives we have been working with has come 4 of the last 5 weeks (he was sick the one he missed) and went with us to do visits Wednesday. He bore powerful testimonies at each home. It was awesome! We had our first Multi-Zone Conference yesterday and that was great! I loved  singing "Called to Serve" in Spanish with the group of missionaries, as a missionary. What a spirit! We just finished the baptism for Saul and Fernando! Wow! Lee was able to perform the baptisms for both, and it was especially choice since we have been a part of most of their lessons. They live about 2 blocks apart, but didn't know each other before today. We are just about to start our first English class. We'll see how it goes and if we will continue. The Church is true. Heavenly Father lives and loves us. Jesus Christ is our Savior and He lives and loves us. They want us to live worthily so we can return and live as families forever in their presence. It is up to us.

Con mucho amor,

Elder y Hermana Koelliker