Monday, November 28, 2016

First Nicaragua Thanksgiving!

We enjoyed our Nica Thanksgiving on Sunday. We love our missionaries and are very grateful for their example and love. Despite the lack of certain ingredients the food was Super Twanies! Everybody left stuffed!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

EMAIL... Week 21

Hola All!
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, and remembering the blessings we all enjoy! Ours was very low key, as we didn't go to Managua due to the hurricane warning, which Lee called a dud. We only got a little rain, and most of the places it was supposed to hit, only had mild rain. The dudiness (I might have just made up that word) of the storm was a blessing for the people of Nicaragua. Many are farmers and their crops would have been destroyed with the hurricane winds and rain, so it was truly a tender mercy for them. Plus, very few even prepared. We were directed by the Area President to get food and water to last a week, and took the Hermanas to get what they needed, as that much water is hard to carry very far. Six missionaries were evacuated on the west coast due to the tsunami warnings resulting from the 7.0 earthquake off the coast of El Salvador on Thanksgiving Day. Managua felt it and some people here...we were oblivious until later that day. Signs of the times? We are having the 3 sets of missionaries to a Nica version of Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Giant chicken drumsticks with the thighs attached, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing (found Stove top, so without sage available, that will have to work), homemade rolls and cinnamon rolls, zucchini (no peas or green beans), butternut squash (no sweet potatoes), and banana cream pie, brownies, and a kind of flan on graham cracker crust pie (no pumpkin). To quote my friend, Scott Rhodes, "It is what it is!" We'll let you know how it went next week.
The best reason for us not going to Managua was that we ended up having a wonderful Family Home Evening that night with a less active family, whose daughter-in-law is not a member. She wants to be married in the temple, but doesn't understand why she has to be baptized again and why Angel Moroni is on the top of most temples. AWESOME spirit and softened hearts. It was great to hear her returned missionary husband tell about 2 of his special temple experiences and testify of the necessity of being baptized by one with the restored Priesthood authority and then to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the baptism of "fire". His mother also shared her feelings about the temple, and of course I had to share mine. Oh how I love and miss attending the temple often! I really feel the lack of that turbo boost each week! Thank you to all who are going faithfully for us! We know you are receiving blessings that you may not even recognize! Please take advantage of that amazing blessing you have!
We are grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Nicaragua and that we are blessed to live in a comfortable, clean, safe home with tile floors, screens on the windows, and usually warm showers. We can eat relatively normally and have stayed healthy! We are learning Spanish, slowly but surely for me, but Elder K is rocking it! I love listening to him as he teaches and communicates with the wonderful people here. The people overall are kind and loving toward us, even those not of our faith. I still say that the taxi drivers and bus drivers would all be in jail and have their licenses revoked if they were in the United States. They are locos! They make the drivers in New York and LA look careful and courteous. I am thankful that Lee is the one driving, as I'm sure I would have killed somebody or something by now. The pedestrians and dogs and cows and horses and cats just walk out into the street and expect everyone to stop or miss them.
We are so thankful for each of you, our family, friends, colleagues, and ward family! We are especially grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and for His Gospel in our lives. I love the feelings of love, peace, and comfort as we pray, share what we have, and serve! We love seeing people's lives change as they embrace what the Savior offers them and to each one of us.
Love to you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Baptism... Mobile Beds... Waterfalls... "Cow Wash"

I was asked to perform another baptism in the Rosario Branch. Luis is a humble man with a tremendous love of the Savior and a strong desire to follow Him. He builds homes for a living. He is quite expert at his trade. He is in the process of building a 4-plex by himself out of bricks and cement. I might have to go help him with the roof because it's a two story building.

Moving beds for the Hermanas to get them out of their mold infested house. It was gross!! Apparently, many of the missionaries have had to deal with mold but not to this extreme. The Hermanas loved the ride!

We're back at the waterfall. Everybody wants the grand tour. It was the elders turn this time. The water level was down so we could hike up to the top of the falls. It's a beautiful place to go. Elder Reinoso didn't have p-day clothes. Looks like Laurie and I need to take him shopping. As soon as the elders got to the lake they found the rocks and started competing to see who could throw them the farthest. Of course, I won... haha! boys+water+rocks=fun times!!

On the way back from Villa Cuba we got stopped by a donkey who felt he owned the road. This is part of learning patience. We were teaching a family and looked out the door of their shack and saw a cow licking our car. The car needs a car wash but not a "cow" wash!

This is a typical Nica house but much larger than we're accustomed to. The kitchen, pila, shower, and bathroom are outside and they have dirt floors. This particular dwelling housed multiple families. We taught a lady struggling with cancer about our Savior's love. 
No matter the dwelling the spirit can be present.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

EMAIL... Week 20

Hola All!
Interesting week! Saturday's FHE with Marvin's extended family was awesome! It was actually held next door to his mother's home in the front room, which is her neighbor's hair salon. That was the only place close, large enough to hold all 22 of us. His mother, Sofia, is the matriarch and she had everything well planned and ready to go. After a hymn and prayer, she was starting her message on service, and Lee interrupted her...discúlpame, por favor, and asked that everyone be introduced. Her 3 sons were there with parts of their families, a nephew, 2 friends and her neighbor, and of course the elders. It really warmed the room as funny comments were made and she had the opportunity to present people who mean so much to her. She had a short message on service and then asked for comments. We were able to contribute and testify of the blessings of serving and being served, and many others added. She had her grandson bear his testimony, and then we closed with another hymn and prayer. She had pinolio (hot chocolate with roasted corn zest) and it was the best we've had yet, and we brought chocolate chip cookies. After that we played a game from The Dominican Republic called "Bartolo", which we'll teach you when we get home as it was a blast. Great spirit the whole evening and we think she wants us to meet with them every month for FHE. We were assigned the lesson for next month. It was great to see Marvin at church the next day, not knowing that we would be there. We went to the Rosario Branch last Sunday because Lee had baptized a man into their branch that morning, the baptism was late (surprise, surprise), so we missed our meeting.
The Hermanas in Estelí Central had black mold all over their house...walls, ceilings, clothes, bedding, etc., which the Sister AP's (leaders) noticed when they worked with them the week before. Last Saturday we did 8 loads of their wash, while they cloroxed everything else at their home that they could to get rid of the mold. We went over last Saturday morning to get them and their wash, and I went in and was blown away! The stench was horrific! I don't know how they didn't recognize that there was a serious problem just from the smell, let alone the black all over the house. Apparently the owner just painted over it and the heavy rains and moisture the last couple of months made the paint fall off to expose it.The mission president's wife told them to get out of the house and find another place. One of the Hermanas has been suffering with horrible rash all over her body, that we are sure is a reaction to the mold.  We had one of the mission couples staying at our home last Friday and Saturday, so we took our single mattresses to the home of the other set of Hermanas for Saturday night, then brought them back for them to sleep here Sunday and Monday nights. We got them moved into a new apartment Tuesday, so all is well for them. Wednesday and Thursday night we had one of the Sister AP's stay with us, as she comes with the Mission President for interviews, along with his wife and the Elder AP's. We had them over for dinner Thursday night. Tonight, the Bells (she is the mission nurse and he works with some of the remote branches and groups) will stay with us. They come up almost every weekend. Our home has been dubbed, "Koelliker BB & D"...Bed, Breakfast and Dinner. So we were full every night last week except for Tuesday. Great reminder that opportunities to serve come in many varieties and at many different times. Rarely is it convenient and sometimes not in ways that we enjoy, but service is service. We are striving to serve and love however, whenever, and wherever we can, as we have been so blessed by the love and service from so many others! Especially those who are reading this! Thank you for your service to us and for your examples of kind and meaningful service to others!
Great experience for each of us in our interviews with our Mission President. He truly loves and cares about his missionaries! He is a humble, yet powerful man of God! He spoke to me exclusively in Spanish, and I only asked him to clarify once. I don't understand every word, but I usually can get the idea if they speak slowly and cleanly, which he did. It was fun to get to know him and his wife, and the AP's at dinner here that night. They are fun, amazing people, who love the Lord and are giving their all to help others have the spiritual blessings we enjoy. That's Nicaragua for this week.
We love you!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pet Pigs

These are some of the missionaries we work with in Esteli. We are on our way to Sunday lunch at the Koellikers. Elder Reinsoso, from the Dominican Republic, found Laurie's hat and decided to model it for us. He is fun and keeps us laughing. Elder Carter, from Ogden, Utah, is his companion and of course we have one set of girls. If we had the other set, we'd have to tie two on top. Our car only holds five so when we are all together, one has to sit in the way back. They fight for that premium spot. We're very fortunate to be able to work with hard-working, dedicated, fun missionaries.

Leo and Jacob (baby), two sons of one of the families we visit weekly. Their mom is our tortilla supplier and has taught Laurie how to make them. Her tortillas are the best; especially hot with a chunk of cuajada cheese. It will be fun to have the grandkids make their own tortillas when we get home.

This is what dinner looks like before it's cooked. Pigs are considered pets and are in the house until they are big enough to eat. You can see why we don't eat pork while we're here. One house we visit has a room full of Nica chickens that they sell for eggs or dinner. This is one way many of the people make their living. On one block you can usually find on average four "pulperias" which is a small store in the front part of their house. Others use the front area of their house to park their motos or bikes at night to keep them from being stolen. Since most people walk, they need stores close to get what they need. They're like mini 7/11s selling everything from wood, tortillas, soda, candy, chips, beans, eggs, rice, live animals, shampoo, clothes, etc.

This cow was so excited to be in the store meat department that he's already grazing in the parking lot.

In Puerto Cabezas, which is on the east coast of Nicaragua, they eat sea turtle which when filleted is green. Some missionaries like it but it doesn't taste like chicken. No desire to try that!

That's Nicaragua this week. Stay tuned...

EMAIL... Week 19

Hola All!
Another adventurous week here in Nicaragua. Last Sunday's elections here went off without a hitch...meaning no violence in Esteli. We heard a few gunshots, but it was a very quiet day. The curfew for missionaries was lifted Wednesday and things are back to normal. Most people didn't bother to vote here, as they felt that it was fixed as the same guy has been it for years! We are so blessed to have the personal freedoms we often take for granted, and many others on this planet do not enjoy.
We met with Marvin's mom again, who is in our new branch, and scheduled a Family Home Evening for her extended family tonight. She told us about her recently deceased husband and how valiant and committed he was to the gospel and service. She desperately wants her children to receive their temple blessings, for themselves and so they can all be sealed together as an eternal family. She still runs a Pulpería, a (mini 7-11) out of the front room of the first floor of her home at 70 plus years old. She is a beautiful, articulate, together woman! I love her already and love to be around her. She is the essence of a woman of God. We are preparing to discuss the blessings of the temple tonight, and my main job is the chocolate chip cookies. Who knew that it was inspiration to bring my big cookie sheets? I may not speak Spanish very well yet, but I can still communicate with cookies, smiles, and hugs!
We are enjoying working with all 3 sets of missionaries in Esteli. We grow to love the people in each branch, and are sad to move on, so this lets us keep building relationships and help them continue to progress. It is awesome to see them take steps, baby and big, toward Heavenly Father and the Savior.
We loved the broadcast last Saturday for teachers with Elder Holland, many General Auxiliary leaders, local leaders, and questions and comments from around the world. It was AWESOME! Elder K just happened to notice it while he was studying on We spoke to the District President and all 3 Branch Presidents, and none of them knew about it. We recommended it and suggested that they use it in their next training. Very few people here have the internet in their homes, so communication is very limited. Hopefully, they will use this broadcast to strengthen their teachers and leaders.
Love and strengthen your family! We have seen so many shattered families, because they quit doing the little things. They quit obeying the commandments. They quit attending church. They quit reading the scriptures. They quit praying. Satan doesn't want any of us to return to live with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, or our families. His best method to accomplish his goal, is to destroy families. We have been taught the way to be happy in this life and in the life to come. May we all do better each day to make sure we are especially doing the little things, that really are the big things in helping us attain our eternal goal.
Love you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Beauty All Around... Rain, Flowers, Ducks!

We were out contacting an inactive member when the rains came and the road turned into a river with the car a mile away. We had to straddle rocks and hang onto houses, barb wire, fence posts, and trees to keep from falling into the water. Hermana Fackrell is in front of me hanging on for dear life trying to stay clear of the water. Of course, I wasn't so luck. I lost my balance and when I grabbed for a fence, it gave way. It wasn't stuck in the ground!! Falling in the water was bad but what was in the water was worse... raw sewage and other toxic stuff. Let's just say I didn't smell too good afterwards. However, the spiritual experience we had with the inactive member made it all worth it. It was incredible!!

The flowers are blooming in Esteli. With all the rain the flowers are popping which makes the forests and jungle beautiful. The colors are amazing!!

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, we were invaded by ducklings during a lesson. That's Nicaragua! I don't have a picture of the little dog that bit me last night. He was jumping up trying to bite my tie, when he missed and caught the inside of my leg... Ouch!! I wonder if all of our missionaries are having experiences like these?!

EMAIL... Week 18

Hola All!
We have almost recovered from last weekend with District Conference, feeding the masses, having house guests, and speaking. It was a great weekend, and Elder Koelliker nailed his full on talk! I could understand everything he said, which was huge for me, and his message was great. We emphasized the blessings of the temple and the great need for one here in Nicaragua. Elder K reminded them how critical the little things are to bringing that about and for fortifying our testimonies and conversion. It was sweet to sing in the choir, even with the few practices we had had. Another Senior Sister Missionary accompanied on the keyboard, and that made a huge difference. They almost always sing acapella, so have never heard how songs are really supposed to sound, and it gets pretty sketchy sometimes. (We sometimes don't even recognize what song we are singing.) You pianists will be a true blessing for congregations in the mission field with your talent!
We had 3 meaningful Family Home Evenings (Noche de Hogares) this week. We shared the videos: "Because of Him" with 1, a video on the Sacrament with 1, and President Uchtdorf's "Our True Identity" with Marvin and his family. All felt the spirit powerfully, and hopefully the spirit motivated them to start to change. Poco poco.
One of the most powerful experiences we had this week was visiting a former district president, who had left the church after his wife, who he was sealed to in the temple, committed adultery. He was devastated! He and his live in girlfriend watched "Because of Him" with us. Elder K had him read Mosiah 24:14 to us all, and he barely made it through as tears were streaming down his face. Sometimes when we stray from Heavenly Father, we need a reminder that we are His children, He does love us unconditionally, and that the Savior has already suffered and paid for all of the wrong in our lives. He invited us back, so hopefully we can help him get his life in order so he can have the spirit with him again always and enjoy the blessings of the gospel. The ironic thing was that we walked almost a mile through pouring rain and mud to get there. Lee even fell into a puddle on the way back and soaked his shoes and pant legs. Somebody did not want that visit to happen.
We are so blessed to know what we know, have the gift of the Holy Ghost to help us, a temple close enough for frequent attendance, and the many temporal blessings that we enjoy. We cannot take these things for granted, but always need to be grateful and guardar los mandamientos. I love that the Spanish form of Keep the Commandments uses the verb "guardar", which to me is a much stronger version of keep, as it means to guard them as well. Foreshadowing of the day in which we live?
There are many lost and lonely people among us. May we share our light and the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly with others! He is counting on each one of us!
Love you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker