Tuesday, August 15, 2017

La Garnacha... Smeagol... Lake Nicaragua... Pizookies... Baptism... Changes!

Elders Mower and Hughes being schooled by President Poncio and Elder Maravilla (Area Authority 70).
Took another batch of missionaries to the rocks of La Garnacha and to see our good friend Alberto.

I found Smeagol! The Nica's like to paint murals of their favorite movie characters on walls.
Our trip to Granada and Lake Nicaragua. Laurie finally confessed her love for me in the cathedral.

Our Monday lunch with some of the sisters in our zone before changes. After making cookie dough with Hermanas Elias y Perez, Laurie used part of it for a pizookie which the Latinas have never experienced. It was gone in seconds!
Pancake breakfast with the Estelí zone before changes.
Another great baptism in the Rosario Branch. Mario was so excited he almost jumped in the font.

Celebrating Elder Mower's birthday early because he was being transferred so he had a good steak before he left. We will miss this wonderful Elder who we absolutely love and been blessed to work with for seven months. The Estelí branch will definitely miss this kid. He left me something to remember him by...a huge bruise on my leg. That boy can hit a baseball hard!

Our last Sunday lunch with this group of awesome missionaries together. Elders Mower and Howland and Sisters Gunn and Perez all were transferred. Changes are always hard. They will be missed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

EMAIL... Week 58

Hola All!

Another week with much gratitude for the power of prayer and fasting, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! The comfort and peace we are given by this member of the Godhead are powerful and so needed, especially in this crazy world with so much negativity. Although Satan has a powerful grasp on many, we know who will win the battle and the war! We are on the side of good! We are on the side of the Savior! Never allow the evil one to even think he has a chance with you. Stay strong by doing the small and simple things that we have been commanded to do, remembering that commandments are to protect us and help us progress in a positive direction! Do all you can to fortify your family and help them to progress! They are the ones we want to be with forever, and they are the ones worth all of the time, effort, thought, and prayer we can give!

Fun time teaching Hermanas Perez and Elías how to make chocolate chip cookies on Monday, and they loved the dough and warm cookies right out of the oven. We know we will lose one of them this change, and will miss the one who goes and be grateful for the one who stays. That's how we feel every change...we don't want to lose any of the missionaries we get to work with because we grow to love them so much. However, the new ones come and we love them too...kind of like having a new baby, your heart expands to love the new one just as much as the ones you already have. Elder K went to hit balls with Elders Mower and Hughes, while we were making cookies. Elder M is quite the hitter and hit Elder K, who was pitching to him, with a line drive in the right thigh and then ricocheted and hit his left thigh. He has two awesome bruises, which a few select people will be allowed to see the pictures of at a later time.  We then had lunch with Hnas. Perez and Elías, and were also joined by Hermanas Nova and Cortez, who are serving in Darío, but came up so Hna. Nova could say goodbye to the people in our Rosario Branch. She was another one we hated to lose, but it has been fun to have her back in our Zone this change and fun to be able to say goodbye to her before she finishes her mission and goes home to Guatemala on Thursday. 

Had the Acevedo Family to dinner and Family Home Evening on Monday. He was the District President who presented Elder K to be the Branch President and said in English to him, "May the force be with you!", when Elder K sat down after speaking. She is the District Relief Society President and has two young sons. They are amazing, despite struggles with him being out of work right now. They are both educated and trying to learn English, so we help each other. They understand the trials the people here are facing and recognize their lack of motivation to progress and change. But we all love the people here and want to help them progress and understand that there is so much more available to them in this life and in the eternities. I think it's hard for most of us to keep that eternal perspective when we are struggling and/or experiencing trials. I have learned to say, "Great blessings require great sacrifices!" in Spanish. (Grandes bendiciones requieren grandes sacrificios!) We are trying to help the people here develop hope and perspective, as having these qualities can change their lives! 

Good visit with President and Hermana Poncio at lunch on Wednesday, as they were here for interviews and house checks. We passed! They are so fun and upbeat with their missionaries, even when they have to machete them a bit about cleanliness. So grateful that we have a nice, clean, safe place to live here. We are relieved that we're not being changed to a different place. Pres. Poncio teases us about moving us sometimes, so we never know how serious he really is. 

Had such a sweet experience visiting with Carlos (104) and his wife, Evangelista. He has prostate cancer and is quite weak, but got dressed and came out to visit with us yesterday. Sometimes we have to go see him in his bed, but even then, he usually smiles and gives us a firm handshake, unless he is really sick. He can only eat soft food, so they need help getting food for him that he can tolerate. We picked up a few things and went back to deliver the food today. Elder K asked him how he was and he told us that he is alive, and that he's grateful that we come to visit him and pray for him. He said he hopes we get blessings for doing it. The blessing for us is seeing this older couple (I can say that because they are older than we are!) persevering well until the end! Great examples of joy, love, devotion, and faith! The Hermanas love him too, and he lights up when the 4 of us walk in the door...mainly because of these precious young missionaries and the light and joy they bring, which fill the room! 

We are so blessed to be here, serving together, serving with amazing young missionaries, and serving the wonderful people of Nicaragua. We know there are people here that we are here for specifically, and that is always such a humbling thought.

Thanks for your love and prayers! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, August 5, 2017

EMAIL... Week 57

Hola All!

Crazy day, crazy week. Sunday we had President Poncio and his family, Elder and Hermana Maravilla (our area 70), the other 2 Senior couples, and the Elders to lunch before the District Priesthood Meeting. Monday we took our 4 Estelí Hermanas to the rock carvings and paintings at La Garnacha, and then to get Pizza Hut pizza. Yum! Tuesday we drove up to Condega for visits and then had Consejo (Branch Council). We left for Managua on Wednesday night to have an adventure with the other 2 Senior couples in our mission and the Senior couple from the south mission. On Thursday, after dropping our car off to get fixed, we all left for Granada, which is a touristy city on Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Nicaragua. We went on a boat tour and saw a plethora of different kinds of birds, 2 kinds of monkeys on 2 different islands, trees, water lilies, plants, and multiple little islands, some even had homes on them. One of the biggest islands is for sale for $450,000, but the house was just some cement pillars, and we don't think our family would want to commute. We did not see any of the fresh water sharks, but our guide told us that they stay in the middle, and this lake is huge! We were all grateful that we didn't go to the middle and that no one fell in. We also visited 2 of the cathedrals there, and were able to climb the flights of skinny stairs, ducking to avoid bumping our heads on the low ceilings, to get to the top and see the city. Fun day with our co-missionaries and great to see another part of this country. We went to pick up the car, but they hadn't figured out what was wrong yet, or in reality they probably hadn't worked on it at all yet. We had planned to return home, but ended up spending another night. So grateful for the Lees and their awesome hospitality. We always have fun with them and will miss them so much when they return home on the 15th. We had lunch with the missionaries at the conference for the leaders, and were able to talk to some we have served with in the past. They are amazing young people! We got home late last night and stayed up to do some of our Friday chores.
Got up early this morning to prepare part of Sunday's meal and then headed over to clean the chapel with the 2 Hermana missionaries serving here with us in the Rosario Branch. One of the baptisms got changed from 3 to 12, so we ran home and showered after cleaning, and then Elder K got the font filled, the room set up for the baptism, picked up the Elders (ZL's), and then me. We got there in time to turn the water off in the font before it overflowed and before the woman arrived to be baptized. She is so happy and is so excited to have taken this step in her life. Dropped off one set of Elders, and took the Condega Elders and a member of their group to Condega, where we did our Marriage class. Had a great discussion about fathers and honoring the Priesthood. Elder K was able to give a beautiful blessing to one of the men there of comfort, encouragement, and direction. I love witnessing the Priesthood in action. Then back to Estelí for another baptism. Picked up a bolt in our tire at some point between baptisms, so after grocery shopping, Elder K dropped me off and he went to get the tire fixed. Whew! We are exhausted and it's not even Sunday.
We love the people here and love working with them. People and cultures are so different, but yet we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father, who wants us to have joy in this life even through our trials and difficulties. The times when I say, "What else?" are the times that draw me to my knees to pour out my heart and soul to Him. Those are the times when I reach that level of frustration or sorrow or helplessness or pain, that I have to turn everything over to Him, and listen and feel what He wants me to do or what He is trying to teach me. Those are some of the sweetest times when I feel His love and His awareness of me as His daughter. I know He has a plan for each one of us, and His plan for each of us is so much better than our own plan. He knows who we really are, our potentials, and the experiences we need to have and sometimes endure to reach our fullest potential. I love the hope of the gospel. I love the hope that our Savior has given to each one of us through His life and Atonement. I love helping others know these things for themselves and watching them develop relationships with Heavenly Father and our Savior. I love the reminder in the movie, "Lion King", "Remember who you are!" As we remember who we are, who others are, our Savior and all that He has done for each one of us, may we remember our loving Heavenly Father, who wants each one of us to return home.
We love you all and so appreciate all you do and are!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, July 29, 2017

EMAIL... Week 56

Hola All!
Another week in Nicaragua! When we started church last Sunday, only the youth speaker was there, so of course Elder K was reviewing the talk he had prepared just in case, and looking at a couple of short messages. Right before the Sacrament, another one of the speakers showed up, so then he knew he would only have to give one message. Right before the second speaker finished, and he spoke for a LONG time, the third speaker came and was ready to speak after the rest song. All three did great, and even went over time, but he just never knows for sure how everything will turn out. Every Sunday is a challenge of faith! I have even prepared a couple of short talks in case he needs me, and that is saying a LOT!
On Tuesday afternoon we drove up to Condega to do visits with the Elders there. When it was time for us to drop them off and for us to come home, the car wouldn't start. Luckily we were right by a member's house and Rosa has a truck. They tried for over an hour to jump it, but it wasn't working. Finally I was able to start it, and Elder K jumped in to turn it around so we could leave. It backed up ok, but when he went to go forward, it wouldn't accelerate, and died. By now some of the neighbors were coming to see if they could help, as the car was stuck in the way of the neighborhood traffic. And yes, these were dirt roads. After another hour of trying to jump it, one of the men took the battery out of his vehicle and put it in ours, so they could start the car and get it into neutral so we could push it out of the way, as it still wouldn't accelerate. We had to leave the car there and Rosa picked up her friend and he drove us home with her in her truck. Tender mercy that it died where it did, rather than on the winding mountain roads in the rain going home. Our prayers and your prayers for protection were answered! We had our first taxi rides here, and oh boy, Disneyland, if you need another thriller, come and hire these taxi drivers! We have a rental mini-car now and are hoping to get ours back soon fixed, but no sure promises.
Our testimony of prayer has been strengthened so much this week! We also have a strong testimony of the power of family fasts, family prayers, and Priesthood blessings. We are truly humbled and grateful for our family miracle this week! Elder K and I are especially grateful to my siblings, their spouses, and all of the members of our families for calling down the blessings of heaven for Grandpa! It's hard not to be right there to help, but our family took care of everything that needed to be done. Oh how we love you all for your goodness and service! I'm so grateful to be part of a forever family, and that Heavenly Father and our Savior have made it possible for us all!
Thank you for you love, examples, and prayers! As you can see, we need them and we feel them! We love you!


Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Marriage... Bananas... Recycled Tires

Santos and Evelin getting married before their baptism with the attorney performing the marriage. 
You wonder why sometimes your bananas have bruises. They deliver bunches like this to the pulperías scattered around town. Many homes in the outline areas and mountains have their own banana trees.
This is an example of a recycled tire"Nica" style. I'm bringing one home for Steve. It would look good hanging from his tree in his front yard.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

EMAIL... Week 55

Hola All!
We're sitting in the church waiting for the attorney to come to marry a pair of investigators so they can get baptized today. Nica Standard Time...I may be able to complete this before we start. With most people having to walk distances, we are often a bit behind schedule. Elder K does start church on time, whether we have 10 or a full house...as people usually trickle in right before the Sacrament. This is a special baptism, not only because it's for our branch and the man is the son of one of our favorite couples that we visit every week, but all 4 sets of missionaries we work with are here. This district is really good to support each other. There are 2 others here who will be baptized next week.
I had a sweet experience during my scripture study this week. As I was reading in Mosiah 24:15, I was reminded of the importance of submitting cheerfully and with patience to the will of the Lord. Since we only have a tiny perspective of the big picture, part of this earth life experience is to trust the Lord in everything! We need to always do the small and simple things, obey the commandments, and have faith in our Heavenly Father and Savior that all will work out for our good, if we are doing our best! These thoughts and reminders have brought me great peace and a greater level of energy and commitment to doing my very best, no matter what is going on around me. I have witnessed earthly angels taking care of things I can't control or help with here and especially at home. Thank you to you precious angels in my life. You'll never fully realize how much I appreciate and love you for your loving and kind deeds!
We love the people we are serving here! They are like a great sleeping giant, slowly learning who they really are and of the amazing potential we each have. They are learning of the great love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior, Jesus Christ. They are learning that Their commandments are to help and bless us, and are exact and refining. They are learning the importance of families and that we can be together forever as families through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, obedience to the commandments, repentance when we sin and make mistakes, service to others and in the church, covenants in the temple, and enduring well to the end. I love feeling the powerful spirit witness of the truthfulness of these concepts we teach. I love the powerful spirit that helps them want to have all of the blessings Heavenly Father has for each one of us, based on our obedience and the grace of our Savior.
The marriage was good, and they are both dressing for baptism. Life is good! We love serving here!
We are sooooo blessed! Have a wonderful week!
We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Friday, July 21, 2017

Celebrations... Branch Conference... La Jolla

Celebrating another birthday...Hermana Lopez who is from Guatemala. We love our missionaries.

23 of our faithful, dedicated members from our group in Condega got up early Sunday morning to take a bus to attend our branch conference in Rosario.  We had 85 in attendance which is a record for us. We are progressing poco a poco.  
Hermana Virginia is cooking up some "chicheron" which is fried pork fat, similar to pork rinds, for her granddaughters quinceañera.
We took the sisters to visit La Jollla. Where's the beach?  A beautiful sunset in Condega. We are truly blessed to be working with missionaries and people we love dearly in an absolutely beautiful part of Nicaragua. Notice the branches growing out of the fence posts.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

EMAIL... Week 54

Hola All!

Last Sunday was awesome! We had 85 at our Branch Conference, including 23 from Condega. The branch chartered a minibus to transport them. The District Primary President spoke, Elder K spoke, the 4 missionaries sang "Our Savior's Love" in Spanish and a cappella. It's Elder K's favorite hymn, and probably President Gates' as well. President Tercero, the 2nd counselor in the District Presidency, was the concluding speaker. His talk dovetailed with Elder K's, as he stressed the importance of reading and studying the Book of Mormon every day to help us grow, progress, and stay strong in the gospel. Elder K had included doing the small and simple things in his talk about four things we can and should do to be happy in this life...the others were service, obedience, Temple covenants and attendance. Great spirit and great meeting! It was wonderful to have our members and investigators from Condega with us! President Rivera, the District President, taught our Sunday School class and it was great! Having attended multiple Ward Conferences representing different organizations through the years, it was interesting to see the differences, but awesome to see the strength of the spirit no matter where you are and how things are done.
We were able to pick up our 104 year old and his wife and bring them to the conference. He only has the energy and strength to attend church about once a year. Precious people!
We had our first Sunday dinner and birthday celebration for Elder Hughes after the conference. He has so much positive energy that it spills out and affects everyone around him. (Last night we took him and his comp, Elder Mower, to Rosti Pollo for part 2 in celebrating. He worked his magic with our waitress, as he sincerely complimented and thanked her for her service. She brought out cheesecake with a candle for him!) They are awesome missionaries and so fun to work with. We left the decorations up that his mom sent to him for Monday's lunch and birthday celebration with our 4 Estelí Hermanas and the 2 from Sébaco, as it was Hermana Lopez' birthday and she and her comp were here in Estelí to celebrate on their P-day. 6 fun, chatty, adorable girls enjoying time together and celebrating! Love them all!
We had some great visits and Family Home Evenings this week. We love teaching the people in their homes and seeing them feel the spirit and recognize what it is and what it means. We are trying to elevate their understanding of the commandments and of their covenants with Heavenly Father and our Savior. Remembering that the Lord always keeps His part of the covenant, makes it easier to have the faith we need to be obedient.  We love meeting and working with the new investigators and seeing them progress and grasp the truths of the gospel, and the differences in the quality of their lives as they make changes for the better.
We had a wonderful Multi-Zone Conference on Thursday. President Poncio told us something with a little different twist. He told us how important it is to learn obedience in our lives. Obedience is not just for children or missionaries, but it's for ALL of us FOREVER! Learning it young will be a blessing throughout our lives. It's a way to show our love and respect for Heavenly Father, and to prove our commitment to Him, our Savior, and the Gospel. Also, that They can trust us and count on us to do harder and more critical things. Obedience prepares us for future responsibilities. So young and so wise! We love him and his sweet wife, and we love the energy of our young missionaries. It is truly a privilege for us to serve with them all!
Thank you for your examples, love, service, and prayers! We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, July 10, 2017

Missionaries Young and Old... 1 Year in Nicaragua

We were privileged to attend the "despedida" (farewell) of some of our favorite missionaries with whom we've worked this past year. We began our adventure with breakfast at Mis Viejo Ranchito which is a quaint restaurant close to the Masaya Volcano.

Pictures with our missionaries, the President and Sister Poncio with their daughter Yoslin. We were at La Catarina which is a small, old, beautiful town overlooking Laguna Apoyo (volcano crater), the city of Granada, and Lake Nicaragua.

We got a little crazy with the president...I don't know how to act my own age which is a good thing.

We had lunch at a nice hotel in Granada where the missionaries were able to bear their final testimony as a missionary and receive their certificate of honorable release. It was a phenomenal experience to spend the day with them and hear their powerful testimonies. We will always cherish the experiences we had with them sharing the gospel. They all hold a special place in our hearts.

On the way home we passed the Masaya Volcano which was really smoking.

We had a special birthday lunch for Elder Hughes who is Elder Mower's new zone leader companion in the Estelí zone. Thanks to Elder Hughs' mom for sending the birthday decorations. We look forward to working with them both.