Saturday, October 29, 2016

EMAIL... Week 17

Hola All!
The weeks are crazy busy and flying by!  "Changes" were a lot smoother this time and we enjoyed having Hermana M stay with us Sunday night until her new companion arrived Monday! Both in this companionship only speak Spanish, so I will have to stretch. Hna. M is learning though, and we only get to work with them 1 day a week and have them to lunch on Mondays. The more I have to hear and try to speak Spanish, the better! We are missing Hna. Z, as she is now serving as a Sister Leader, which is the female version of an AP. She is awesome and will do well!
With "changes" comes the opportunity to work with new young missionaries. This branch has Elders and they are awesome as well. One is from Dominican Republic and the new one is from Ogden, UT. (English speaker! Heavenly Father knows my limitations!) We have been visiting with them 2 days this week, and they are fabulous! Their approach is different from the Hermanas, but just as effective. We are already loving the people we have met in the branch, and see great opportunities to assist in the growth and progress of individuals and families. My favorite visit of the week was to the mother of Marvin. Marvin and his family are in the first branch we served in, and we started visiting them our very first week here. We have been able to visit with Marvin and his family almost weekly since we arrived and they are great people, who we have developed a very sweet relationship with. We love them and they know it! Marvin's parents were sealed in the temple and have remained active. Marvin's father passed away this year, having served in many leadership callings. We had met his mother at a meeting in the branch, and she was delighted and gracious to greet us when we arrived with the missionaries. We sang, prayed, talked, shared a scripture, sang, and she prayed at the end. Her Spanish is beautiful and I could understand most of what she said. We told her that we want to help Marvin and his family get to the temple, and she emotionally told us that she knew that we could totally contribute to that happening. Last night we went to see Marvin and Blanca with the Hermanas. Lee showed "Because of Him" in Spanish. We were all touched, even Blanca, who has been attending her former church. Lee told them how much we love them and that Heavenly Father loves them. He told them that the Branch needs them and their strength. We challenged them to come back and be totally active and committed. Marvin committed verbally and Blanca nodded her head many times. Lots of tears and hugs. We are having a family home evening with them again next week.
We have District Conference tomorrow, so lots of company and people to feed. We are singing in the choir, which will be very interesting as we have only had 1 practice with the whole choir and 5 of us Thursday. We have practice tomorrow at 8 with the piano. We shall see! Practices have started 40-45 minutes late, and we showed up for 2 others that never happened. That's Nicaragua!
We love it and we love all of you! Thanks for being the wonderful people you are in our lives!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baptism... Birthday... Green Ties

We were privileged to participate in another in another baptism this past week. I seem to be the "go to guy" for the sisters to help with their baptisms. Super Twanies! It was an honor to baptize Cristoval as he began his sojourn in the church. Notice his tennis shoes... he didn't want to take them off for his baptism. It took a bit of coaxing but they finally came off. He'll be a great strength to the branch.

Celebrated Hermana Fackrell's (blond) birthday the other day. We enjoyed fajitas and super nachos. These girls can eat; almost as much as the Elders. We enjoyed tostones (fried plantains) too!
We love to serve the Hermanas and Elders. They are great examples to us.

One of our favorite missionaries left for Managua to work with the President as a sister AP. We will miss her but grateful for all she's taught us. She'll be a great strength to the sister missionaries in the mission as she has been to us.

We had a multi-zone conference last week and the zone leader in Esteli thought it would be fun for us to wear green since it was his last conference. His mom had sent him 15 green ties to pass around. The President was impressed with our showing of unity. These kids are so fun and crazy. They are powerful missionaries!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

EMAIL... Week 16

Hola All!

Great week! Thanks to all of your prayers, our kids' input, and Heavenly Father's tender mercies, our fireside last Sunday on dating and marriage went really well. In spite of my language deficits, the spirit was strong, the young adults were engaged, and we had fun doing it! Thank you all!

Most of our visits went well this week, as we continue to remind the people here that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father and that the Savior has already paid the price for all of the sins and wrongs in our lives. Our responsibilities as children of God are to love others, obey the commandments, and take advantage of the Atonement, so that we can be prepared to dwell in Their presence with our families. The people here have many of the same temptations and trials that we all face, but because of the lack of their basic needs being met and not having a temple near enough for frequent attendance, and for some the temple being a seemingly impossible goal, many feel hopeless. As they feel the spirit, they start to feel hope. As they remember who they really are, many are motivated to take the steps necessary to improve their lives. It is a very slow process with most, and we visit many of them weekly. Their distance from the chapels and walking being the mode of transportation for most, also contribute to their struggle to attend their meetings and receive the blessings and strength that come from partaking of the Sacrament each week. Please recognize all the blessings that we enjoy and take advantage of them! We are so blessed! 

Elder Koelliker had the opportunity to give a few blessings this week and is baptizing Cristoval this afternoon. It's great working with the Hermanas, as he is often the go to guy for the baptisms. It's humbling to see individuals you have worked with feel the spirit, make changes in their lives, and commit to baptism. His Spanish is awesome and he is communicating wonderfully well!

We had a fun Hermanamiento (Branch Activity) this week. Lee showed the video of President Uchtdorf's talk on "The Ugly Duckling" and we had a great discussion. Then we played a game like "Categories" and if you said the word the person who was "it" had written on the paper, they dumped a little cup (about a teaspoonful) on your head. Of course, I was the big winner and was pretty wet by the end. Good thing I have straight hair. It was fun and we are building relationships within the branch. We have changes Monday, and will switch branches to work with the Elders, who are the Zone Leaders. We will continue to spend a day each week with the Hermanas in both of the other branches.

We have been mosquito food this week and haven't quite figured out why the increase! I guess they have to eat too. It may be time to get out the big guns...100% DEET. 

We love you all and are so grateful for the sweet relationships we share! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! We truly feel them!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tender Mercy... and the Party Bus

We were out searching for a family when all of a sudden I heard some screams. I saw one of the sister missionaries jumping around grabbing her ankle. Then I saw Laurie grab her ankle. As we were walking, we stumbled into a wasp hive. They were very aggressive as Laurie had to pull the wasp off of her then pull the stinger out. She had two stings and the sister had three. A young man who lived in a house close to where we were came out and he had welts all over his chest and back. He was stung at least ten times. Fortunately, I didn't get stung which was a tender mercy as I am extremely allergic to bees and we were in the middle of nowhere where there would have been no help. I'm happy to report that both Laurie and the sister had no adverse reactions to the wasp stings. The Lord truly watches over his missionaries.

In honor of homecoming season I thought I'd share this picture os Esteli's version of a party bus. We were traveling home one night this past week when we fell behind this bus. The lights were bright and the music loud. We were surprised to see a grandma and her grandkids riding in the back. They didn't look like they were having much of a party!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

EMAIL... Week 15

Hola All!

Never a dull moment in Nicaragua! Had an awesome testimony meeting last week, no gaps, sincere & succinct testimonies, and a super strong spirit. We were able to share ours, as well as 4 other young missionaries. (The Elders serving in the other branch meeting in our building, dropped in and shared  theirs.) We love all 3 sets serving here in Esteli, and love having them in our home for a meal each week. They are dynamic young people, who work hard and love the Savior! They so remind me of the awesome missionaries we have sent out from our ward! The power for good they possess is amazing, and that they truly give their all to try and make a difference is humbling to witness. We were asked to sing in the choir for district conference and most of the choir members are young adults. (We still haven't figured out how we fit in...) After the practice last Sunday, the Branch President of the EstelĂ­ branch asked us to do a fireside on dating and marriage for the young adults, and announced it then for tomorrow after choir practice. We have been working on it all week, and translating has been the huge challenge. Tomorrow night it will be pronunciation as well for me. Prayers, please! 

We had two wonderful Family Home Evenings this week. One celebrating a 9th birthday of a son, and the other with a couple, their 2 married children and spouses, their grandchildren, and a friend. The second family all live in the same house, which is common here. We love that concept! We were meeting with an investigator yesterday and she asked us what we thought hell will be like. I feel that if I can't be with my family for eternity, that will be it for me. Motivating thought for me!

We had another medical emergency and had to drive to Ocotal to pick up another sick Hermana and her comp, and drive them to our home to meet the mission nurse and her husband to transport them to Managua to the best hospital in the country. The Hermanas here think that their lunch cita (the lunch person they have up there) is the cause, since that's our third trip up there in a little over a month for a seriously sick Hermana. Of course being older, we were tired the next day after getting to bed after 1. Seriously, we're grateful to be able to help expedite the trips by 3 or so hours.

We're off to do our English class, attend a baptism, and then choir practice, which we so need!
We feel so blessed to be here to serve these wonderful people and to try to help them find the eternal joy, hope, and peace we have. We wish we could show you more of what they live in and how they live, but don't want to offend them. Please recognize how blessed we are to live where we do, to have the temporal blessings we enjoy, and to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is all because of Him!

Love you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Waterfalls... Flooding... and Chickens!

We made another visit to "Cascada Estanzuela" with the sisters and did some hiking along the river at the top of the waterfall. It was a beautiful day for a hike.

This was unique... a toilet in the middle of the backyard surrounded by ducks and chickens. We weren't sure if this was operational and didn't want to find out?!?!

We were hit pretty hard with a storm that was part of Hurricane Matthew and caused major flooding in Esteli. With so much rain, this happens often because their flood control system is virtually nonexistent; kind of what Vegas used to be like. With so many of the roads being dirt there is no place for the water to go except in the homes and tiendas. The roof of one of our inactive members collapsed because of the wind and continual pounding of the rain on their metal roof. Their house completely flooded. The people seem to be accustomed to this as there were lots of sand bags and people bailing out their homes. In fact, it's common to see sand bags piled up on the side or in front of homes just in case. Fortunately, we were inside so we didn't get soaked or muddy this time.

As we were teaching a recent convert in his home, a chicken and her chicks wandered in from the backyard and started to peck at our feet. We shooed them away but for some reason they liked our shoes or what was on our shoes (We never know what we're stepping in). We notice the dad wasn't around and was told that he was plucked for dinner. That explained all the feathers on the floor. Poor dad!! It's tough to be a chicken in Esteli!

We were contacting a less active member a long ways out from the city in a very poor area. This is what the homes were like. We count our blessings everyday. 

Muchas gracias por su apoyo y sus oraciones. Los sentimos muy bendecidos de estar aqui como misioneros.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Email... Week 14

Hola All!

Still basking in the spirit of General Conference! We have been sharing President Monson's talk, using Lee's laptop, with the people here so that they can feel the spirit through a living prophet! Powerful! Many of us get so burdened and distracted with our daily lives, that we lose focus on the spiritual and most important part of our beings. We are so grateful for this opportunity to help others find and remember who they really are, children of a loving Heavenly Father with a plan for each of us.  We have a Savior who loved us enough to show us the way to live and be happy in this life and through eternity, and atoned for all of the wrongs in our lives, ones we cause, others cause, and hardships that are just part of our lives. All of us need to internalize the message of hope and purpose the Gospel gives us! As we enter their homes, we see their poverty, spiritual, temporal, emotional, and intellectual. The Gospel helps them to have the hope and guidance they need to reach for eternity and to do all that they can to improve their lives here on earth.

We had a fun p-day with the 4 Hermanas on Monday. We took them to the waterfall here and we hiked down to the "pool" at the bottom and then up to the top where it falls. We were soaked with sweat, but it was awesome and the girls loved it. Lee and I are grateful that we weren't the weak links hiking! We love and appreciate them all so much and love to help them in any ways we can, which mostly means helping them enjoy their p-days, transporting them, and feeding them.

The rain has been crazy this week, but we have been blessed with its timing. We were only delayed once with its fury. One night it was so bad that the side streets were rivers of rushing water, so we couldn't turn where we normally do, and the main road was moving like a snail. Walkers and bicyclists were passing us. We finally made it! It was interesting to see how many of the people just walk or ride with no care of the umbrellas or coverings, like it's not really happening.

We enjoyed having one of the Sister Leaders (female version of an AP) stay with us, and having President Poncio, his wife, and one of the AP's eat meals with us for the 2 days they were doing interviews and checking apartments with the missionaries in the 3 zones here and around us. Our 7:30 dinner ended up being at 9:30, as they had driven to 3 cities, each 30-75 minutes away, and then Esteli. We all got little sleep, as there were late nights and they left here after breakfasts between 6 & 6:30. Needless to say, we slept in this morning. They are all amazing and it was truly a joy to spend time with them. I don't know how they keep up this pace and hope they got to rest today as well.

We are loving the work and just pray that we are making a difference. Lee is doing great with the language and I get a little braver each day. You would all be so amazed that I can be as quiet as I am with my lack of language, but I continue to work and practice daily to get to the point where I am able to truly communicate, both with understanding and speaking. Thank for your love, prayers, and examples!

We love you!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, October 3, 2016

Park... Birthday Celebration... Goats... Matigalpa... 1st Selfie

We were contacting an investigator in downtown Esteli when we came across this little park. Most parks in this part of Nicaragua are small and very colorful. There are murals, mosaics, and other colorful art on the walls with a specific theme. The planters are usually painted in multicolors as well. The parks are usually full of children playing and having fun. On this particular day there were a few small children with their mom, but most were in school.

I had a wonderful birthday celebrating with the sisters. They never leave our home hungry. Laurie found the ingredients to make a delicious chocolate cake. We had a wonderful day bearing testimony and eating cake. It couldn't have ended any better... a beautiful sky with a magnificent rainbow.

We were teaching two young men about the priesthood when we were interrupted by a herd of goats meandering past their house. It's not uncommon to have dogs, cats, rabbits, flies, mosquitos, and yes, even chicken run/fly through the house like they own the place. Since homes don't have air conditioning, doors and windows are always open. We are blessed to have "Off" in those situations and screens in our house. Many of our lessons are filled with noise. If it isn't the animals, it's the rain pounding on the metal roofs.

We recently took a trip to a town about 74 kilometros south of Esteli called Matigalpa. It's such a mountainous region that the city is built up the sides of the mountains. It's quite unique as that the homes look like they are built on top of each other. When you enter the city you first notice the huge cross that is on top of one of the mountains overlooking the city. At night it lights up and it looks like it's floating in the air. (These pictures are taken from the same location.)

Just east of Matigalpa is an old German immigrant coffee plantation turned into a resort called Selva Negro (Black Forest). This is one of the more beautiful places in Nicaragua. People from all over the world come to enjoy the serenity of the area. We started to hike to see if we could see some monkeys but it got dark and we didn't want to get caught in the jungle at night!

not bad for their 1st selfie ;)

There is an old church (1890s) up in the jungle that is used for weddings and church services. It's unique in the fact that it was build out of rock and hard-packed dirt. Plants were growing out of the sides and roof of the church. In fact, all the cabins had thatched roofs where beautiful plants and flowers were growing. Beautiful stained glass windows decorated the walls. The altar looked like an altar made for sacrifices. We had no volunteers.

We hiked around the lake but didn't find any monkeys. It's beautiful at sunset! The building with the green roof is the restaurant overlooking the lake where we ate dinner. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful evening. What a beautiful world Heavenly Father created for us to find joy in this journey of life.

We are grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord as missionaries. Thank you for your continued prayers.

EMAIL... Week 13

Hola All!

Another busy week in Nicaragua! Last Sunday night we got a call at 10 PM from our mission president in Managua. He said there was an emergency and that he needed us to drive to Ocotal to get one of the Hermanas there and her companion. She had been vomiting for 11 straight days and the nurse wanted her to come to Managua and get checked out in the hospital there. We did and got the girls tucked into bed here about 1:30 AM. We have a little maid's quarters with a bathroom off of our back patio with 2 single beds just for situations like this. Next morning we got up and drove them to Managua, where we met the nurse about 30 minutes outside of town.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired the rest of the day. We had a great FHE (Noche de Hogar) Monday night with a family coming back to church. We are so grateful to have Internet in our casita so we can  download relevant videos to show, as very few have Internet in their homes. We showed "Expressions of Love" and "Love Her Mother" and they loved their powerful messages. They want to strengthen their marriage and family, and have all been sealed in the temple. We had a great discussion and their 2 teenagers made thoughtful comments. (We encourage all of you to spend some time on viewing the wonderful videos. We just wish they were all in Spanish.) I took chocolate chip cookies and they surprised us with sandwiches and soda. We were able to then go and share "Remember Him" with another family, which depicts the Last Supper, and had a wonderful discussion there.

Celebrated Lee's birthday with the 2 sets of Hermanas here...I even found a chocolate cake mix and was able to use some of our precious powdered sugar to make frosting...we sang and he blew out the candles after a chicken enchilada dinner. I am so blessed to have him as my eternal companion.

Wednesday the power went off for a few hours, so I had a cold shower. Lee lucked out and got in before it went off. Shortly thereafter, he yelled, "Earthquake!" I didn't feel much, but we found out it was big in Managua. Had a sweet experience at the home of one of the families we have been working with in our old branch. Her friend was there and asked us a lot of questions, and the Hermanas taught her that we are all children of Heavenly Father, and that He loves and knows each of us. The Savior, Jesus Christ, has already atoned for all of our sins, weaknesses, disappointments, sorrow, sicknesses, and misery. He can make our burdens light and help us have joy, even through our trials, if we come unto Him, repent, and keep the commandments. The spirit was powerful and we were able to testify of the truthfulness of the message. We are so blessed to have knowledge, testimonies, and spiritual experiences in our lives!

Had a fun p-day with the other office couple, the Lees, Friday night at Selva Negra (Black Forest), a German resort just outside Matagalpa, which is a beautiful city built up the sides of mountains. Selva Negra was in a jungly mountain top area with a lake. Pictures on the blog. The little old chapel was very quaint and had plants growing out of its thatched roof. We walked around the paths through the jungle area, but it was getting dark, so we went back and walked around the lake. We ate dinner overlooking the lake and it was beautiful! We want to go back and explore during the day, because they told us you can see monkeys and quetzal birds early in the morning.

We loved General Conference! What a huge blessing and opportunity to feel Heavenly Father's and the Savior's love, and to learn more of them! We wish everyone would experience this!

We love and miss you all, but know that this is where we're supposed to be at this time in our lives. Thank you for your love, support, prayers and example!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker