Monday, January 30, 2017

EMAIL... Week 30

Hola All!
We hope this finds you all happy, well, having wonderful experiences every day, and turning the "lemon" events in our lives into lemonade. Last Saturday afternoon we led one of the office couples, the Lee's, and her parents (93 & 89) up to the waterfall. We parked and were going to hike down, while they drove down as far as possible, so her parents wouldn't have to hike that far. The lady said it would be best to take our car instead of theirs. I jumped in the way back and waited for the rest to get into our car. Lee tried to restart the car...a few times...and it was dead. So we hiked and they drove as far as they dared in their car. We helped her parents get down to a vista to view the falls, which have slimmed down quite a bit as it is the dry season.  After they took pictures, we helped them back up to their car, and then hiked up to the main parking area. We waited for about 15 minutes and they still weren't up. They should have passed us, so I was getting worried. We started our hike back down, and shortly met her 89 year old mother, who was hiking back up. The car couldn't make it, and neither she nor her husband could help push it. We hurried down, only to find that Elder Lee had the car moving, after a sincere and urgent prayer, so we jumped in and all drove up. A month ago Elder Koelliker felt a strong need to get jumper cables to keep in the car, so he got permission to get them and purchased them. The men were able to jump the car and we headed back down the mountain to try to find a new battery. The Toyota place was closed, the hardware store that had batteries had just closed, but Elder K remembered seeing a little battery shop on the Main Street. We hurried over there, anxious to get a battery before Sunday and the complications of a dead car. The door was closed, but he left the car running and went up to knock. Shortly, a man eating opened the door. He had just returned from getting food and heard Lee knock. Many people live in the back of their shops. He asked Elder K what the problem was, had the battery, and had it installed within 20 minutes. Tender mercies! Elder K  being inspired to get jumper cables and acting. The Lees being with us when it died. Us not driving down to the waterfall, as there were no vehicles where we would have driven and parked, and the Lee's wouldn't have been able to get down that far. Elder Lee being able to get his car moving back up the hill. Elder K remembering the other battery store. The timing of the owner coming back and hearing the knock, and having the right battery. Heavenly Father is definitely involved in the details of our lives...even the seemingly minute ones that can burden and or discourage us. He is always only a prayer away! I can't believe in coincidences considering these kinds of experiences.
We are super excited for two baptisms next Saturday. Elder K has been working with 2 young men, a 16 year old (Jolver) to be advanced to the office of a Priest so he can baptize his mother, and a 28 year old recent convert (Francisco) to receive the Priesthood and be able to baptize his brother. Last Sunday Francisco received the Priesthood before church and was able to pass the Sacrament for the first time. He was so happy! It was awesome! Both are practicing the Sacrament and Baptismal prayers, so they can do a great job with these meaningful ordinances. Elder K loves to help the young men progress with their Priesthood responsibilities and opportunities.
Had a wonderful Family Home Evening with a less active family. The 16 year old daughter was able to go to SOY, Central America's version of EFY, for a week. The mom and daughter have been coming off and on, but the dad has been struggling with the Word of Wisdom and coming to Church, and the 2 younger brothers rarely come. Lee showed the "ASK" youth video, which the daughter had seen at SOY, and we talked about the blessings of prayer. What an awesome theme for our youth this year! If you haven't seen it, even if you aren't a youth, (and aren't we all at heart?), go on and watch it. The dad said he's seen a huge change in his daughter since SOY. She has been going out with the Sister missionaries serving in their branch and now wants to serve a mission herself. She radiates and that joy is contagious! He promised to come to church on Sunday. We had done a temple FHE with them a few months ago, and he really wants to have an eternal family. We reminded him that we have to attend Church regularly and keep the commandments to qualify for the temple. Hopefully he's on his way to leading his sweet family there.
Thank you for you love, examples, and friendship!
We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pick Up for #29...

We were in a Noche de Hogar (FHE) the other night and I looked up and saw a parrot checking things out directly over my head. I gave him a cracker as a reward for not pooping on me. Every time we enter a house it's a new adventure. You never know what animal or insect will be attending the lesson.

Apparently, helping elders clean their house is now in our job description. This particular job I would have liked to hire out. Yuck!!

Pick up for order #29...
Many intersections don't have traffic signs for either direction. It's like playing chicken to get across. This neighborhood took things into their own hands. 
That's Nicaragua!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

EMAIL... Week 29

Hola All!

We hope this finds you all well and at peace with all of the changes in our nation and in the Ward and Stake. It's comforting to know that ultimately, the Lord is in charge, and we have learned that His way always turns out for our good. We are grateful for agency and our understanding that we cannot always choose what will happen in our lives, but we can always choose how we will react and respond.

Speaking of change, it was changes for the missionaries last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday...and we put 100 kilometers on the car just on Monday, taking missionaries and luggage to and from the different bus stations and houses between 5 AM and 2 PM, and then another run that night. It was fun to meet and greet the different missionaries, and then to be able to feed our six missionaries serving in Estelí their late lunch and help us all get acquainted. Wednesday we took the new missionaries, including a brand new one from the MTC, up to Condega, which is part of our district. The Estelí Elders went along, as they are the Zone Leaders and one knows that area well. We took cleaning supplies to help them get settled and were totally unprepared for the disaster we found. We worked for about two hours until they had an appointment, and I only got about half of the kitchen done. I have learned that guys have a different standard of clean than their mothers, but this was the worst I have seen. Now I understand why our mission president's wife lectures the missionaries every Multi-zone Conference about keeping their houses clean.

We got up Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 2:45 AM and 3:15 AM respectively to take our different sets of missionaries to the bus station to go to Managua for their cédulas and training for new leaders. We don't like them wandering the streets that time of night and it's hard to get cabs from their locations without walking quite a bit. We were able to catch a couple of hours of more sleep when we got home, before it was wake up time. It's amazing how the Lord keeps us alert and functioning in these situations. We feel so blessed to be able to serve in these unique ways. Never a dull moment!

We had a fun Family Night with a family who was recently baptized, but aren't quite solid yet. The Elders Quorum President gave a great lesson on obedience and the need to do the little things. We missionaries added our testimonies and experiences. The spirit was great, and their mother, who is not a member, came in and enjoyed the evening with us. We played a fun game at the end, and when it was our turn, we really hammed it up. We all laughed and laughed! The people here are so happy with the littlest of things, and very childlike in many ways. Lee will post pictures of their parrot, which came out to sit on the beam above us and learn.

Great day yesterday with our visits. We have been visiting many of these people almost every week for the last 6 months and have grown to love them so much! They are progressing slowly and we so enjoy helping them understand the gospel more fully. I love watching them as they feel the spirit and discover and/or understand a truth. We met with a new family. His first wife left him and moved to Costa Rica. He has been with his second woman for 17 years and they have a 16 year old son and a nine year old daughter. He has tried to get a divorce from his first wife, so he can marry his current companion. Legal things are so complicated and expensive here, relative to their incomes. Lee's backpack strap broke as we entered their home, and she ran and got a needle and thread and sewed it back together for him. Sweet woman! This family has great potential for eternal happiness. They need a tender mercy! We'll keep working with them and hopefully we'll be able to help them figure it out.

Life is good! We have the eternal truths we need to return to our Heavenly Father with our families.
We love you and are grateful for the sweet relationships we share with you at home!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Drip System... Alfredo... Bring on New Missionaries

Great innovation for recycling water bottles...using them for a drip system to water the garden. I think I'll try it when I get home.

Meet Alfredo, our 93-year old Nica friend. His physical limitations prevent him from walking to church so the sacrament is now brought to him. We visit him weekly to sing and share a message. He knows the Bible very well and it's always a treat to hear him quote scriptures each visit. He's always happy to see us, and has a tendency to quote specific scriptures when he's praying. It's sad that he can't read the Book of Mormon any more due to his failing eyesight, so we share BOM scriptures with him. We love him dearly and his nonmember sister, Tomasa, who lives with him.
With changes happening on Monday we are losing five of our wonderful missionaries in our district. Two of the elders completed their missions and are returning home with honor. Three are heading to new areas to continue their labors. It's always hard to send them off. We had a "send off" dinner with each set. We love our missionaries and enjoy serving them!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

EMAIL... Week 28

Hola All!
Another crazy week in Nicaragua! Maybe it's just us! Last Sunday the 8 of us missionaries serving in Estelí met with the District President and discussed how to increase the baptism and retention success rate in the District. Two helps that we identified and discussed at length were regular Branch Councils and having Branch Mission leaders and Mission Plans. Sound familiar? We talked about President Hinckley's directions for what new converts and less active members need...friends, to be nourished by the word of God, and a calling or responsibility. Lee testified that the Mission Leader is one of the most important and necessary positions in the Ward or branch. We told him that the Branch leaders and other members need to be involved with teaching, friendshipping, and helping the new members and less actives serve, as discussed and prayed about in Branch Council. Our Zone Leaders were asked to come to his next meeting with the Branch Presidents to train them on these two needs. We take these things for granted because they are in place and functioning well, but the Church is not very established here yet, and most don't have the vision. Poco a poco.  
Monday we drove around trying to find a clinic for two of the Hermanas here. They had tests run, and got some answers to their struggles. I'm sure their parents were relieved to find out the results the next day. Most of Central America had no power starting at about 9 AM here. There was a problem with a major substation in Guatemala...and we had the trickle down effect, which here also means the water shuts off. We are blessed to have a water tank in a tower on our back patio, so we were able to just flip that switch and have water. Others are not so blessed. They usually switch our water off 2 evenings/nights a week. We got our power and regular water back at 7:30 PM. It was interesting that the major stores, clinics, and gas stations had power throughout the day...they must have generators. Also, Guatemala had power after about a an half hour. Nicaragua is low on the pecking order. They just deal with it. We had a candlelight dinner of sandwiches, chips, veggies, fruit, and the ice cream that was melting. It was fun!

We were teaching a lesson Tuesday night and got a call that we needed to be in Managua the next day at 7:30 AM to get our cédulas, which are our visas. We got up at 4 to get there at 7:30, waited an hour for the others to get there, and then went in, and finally finished a little before 2. Their immigration department reminded us of the DMV, except there weren't numbers, just lines. The Church has people who work on this constantly and they had been taking our passports there every month to clear us for the next month. The machine was broken and they sent all the other 30 plus missionaries back to work, including the mission president from the South Mission and his young family. Our mission president, his wife, and son stayed with us and our immigration workers, and we finally got taken care of. We enjoyed the opportunity to talk with our mission president and his wife, just the 4 of us. He is learning English, and she...not so much, but they speak slower and we communicated pretty well. We're good for a year now, which should be enough to finish our mission. Our mission processed 89 missionaries this past week getting their cédulas. Most had been here longer than we have by months. We think because the election is over and things have been evaluated, the government finally decided to let us all stay. Tender mercies!

Wonderful Multi-Zone Conference on Friday. We love hearing from our mission president and his wife. They are both in their 40's and very dynamic! They don't candy coat things, which is especially helpful for young adults. We were also blessed to hear from our District President. He told us in our meeting with him last Sunday, that he wanted to talk to all the missionaries. He talked about how his aunt had saved him from drowning when he was a young boy, and that missionaries had saved him spiritually from a worldly life when he was 26. He was called to be District President after being a member of the Church for only 3-4 years. His wife is a returned missionary and served in El Salvador. She is amazing herself! They were married in the temple and have 2 active young boys. He pled with us missionaries to love HIS people, to teach them, and to help them have the blessings that we enjoy. Awesome! We had 3 of the Hermanas from Matagalpa spend the night with us last night, as the buses had stopped going there by the time their interviews were done. We do love having the missionaries in our home. They are so fun and such a blessing to be around. We love learning about them and their "stories". Grateful for microwaves and quick meal ideas, as it was very last minute.

The Church is true! It is such a great blessing in our lives. It is truly a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to serve the people here with the other missionaries and our mission president and his wife! We love to serve, especially when we realize that we are actually serving our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ! We have been so blessed throughout our lives, this is just a drop in the bucket compared to what we owe Them.

We love and miss you all, and so appreciate all you do for us!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls...

Back to the waterfall. We try to take the new missionaries who serve in Estelí to the waterfall to hike and experience the scenic vistas of the mountain highlands. It's the dry season so there isn't much water spilling over the falls but as we hike along the river and into the jungle the things you see are spectacular.  We passed a herd of cows and they were as interested in watching us as we were of them. We watched the Brahma Bulls most carefully as we didn't want to feel their horns. We saw some painted fence posts that reminded us of "Bomb Pops" (popsicles), we love to eat with our grandkids. Yummy!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

EMAIL... Week 27

Hola All!
Great week! Another trip to the waterfall to take the 4 Hermanas, 3 of them had not been yet. So fun and so beautiful! The hike up to the top, after the hike down to the bottom, always gets my heart beating and my thighs burning. So worth it! Fun birthday lunch for Hermana Nova at Rosti Pollos and a productive lunch/meeting with our branch president and the Hermanas to discuss ways to strengthen the branch at Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut here is a sit down restaurant with a host and waiters or waitresses. What a yummy change! Most of the members and leaders are so new to the gospel, that they really don't have a full vision of how things are supposed to and can work. They have never seen a strong church unit function and how that kind of branch or ward can bless all of its members. We encouraged him to utilize more people in callings, both to help him and to help them be more vested in the branch and in the gospel. I have been helping in Primary, which is fun, but a challenge with my lack of fluency and the behavior gap of what we are used to. Lee is teaching the new male members about the priesthood to help them prepare to receive that great gift and enable them to be a strength to their families and to the branch. Oh how we love these people and can see the awesome potential they have. We have to help them overcome some of their cultural and familial issues, and help them truly and fully embrace the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Poco poco.
Sweet experience last night with Marvin, Blanca, and the Hermanas. We had them over for an "American" dinner...Ritz chicken, stuffed potatoes, veggies, green salad, fruit, rolls, and chocolate cake. Thankfully, they liked it and went back for seconds! Whew! After dinner Lee showed the video of part of President Uchtdorf's talk, "Your Potential, Your Privilege". We talked about how many of us are like the man on the cruise and don't take full advantage of everything available to us as members of the Church, as children of God, of our divine potential, and/or of the promises of eternity through the blessings of the temple, because we aren't focused on the most important things in this life. We neglect the small and simple things and don't develop strong relationships with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our spouses, or our families. The best part was that they expressed that they have felt different since we started visiting them almost 6 months ago. They told us they were amazed at how close our family is, that we are all active members with callings in the church, that we are all sealed in the temple, that our parents were also sealed in the temple and active in the church, and that our number one goal is to live so we can return and be with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and our family forever. Marvin said he has been talking with his wife, his mother, and his brother about things. Marvin's goal for 2017 is to become completely active in the church, become worthy to use his priesthood, and prepare to go to the temple. His parents were sealed to each other, but the adult children have to take care of that themselves. Blanca had a horrible accident yesterday before they came over. She was cooking and hot oil exploded and went all over her kitchen, including the roof, but none got on her. She knew Heavenly Father had protected her. We told her that we call that "a Heavenly Father hugger", times when He gives you a little miracle to let you know that He is always there and that He loves you. Her heart was soft! That was our tender mercy for the week!
We are so blessed as missionaries, as families, as a people, and as children of God! May we take advantage of our many blessings and opportunities to grow and progress toward returning to our Heavenly Father, through the Atonement of His Son, and live with Them and our families FOREVER!
Thank you for your positive thoughts and prayers! We need them and we feel them!
Love you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Sunday, January 1, 2017

EMAIL... Week 26

Feliz Año Nuevo!
We can't believe it's the end of another year. It seems the older we get, the faster the time flies. We will not be having our normal big breakfast at midnight celebration this year, but we know that we will be awakened by the fireworks, so we don't need to try to stay up. Lee was working on his talk for Christmas Day last Saturday night, and at midnight the fireworks went off for about 30 minutes to celebrate Christmas! We'll see if tonight is even bigger, like we have been warned. We're grateful for the chance to reflect on our progress and experiences, and set new goals and plan for new experiences for 2017. We took some pictures of one of their other traditions that we'll post and explain on our blog.
We are really enjoying the work and our experiences here. While we are saddened by the choices many make and the lack of commitment to the important things in this life, we love the people and truly celebrate their progress and the changes they are making in their lives for the better. Each of us has been blessed with the light of Christ, and we are the ones who can cause that light to dim or grow brighter through the choices we make. At this time in the history of the world we all need to be striving to fuel the light in our lives, and that comes from doing the small and simple things...reading our scriptures, praying, meditating, attending our church meetings every week so we can partake of the Sacrament and reflect upon the great gift of the Atonement in our lives, having weekly Family Home Evenings, attending the temple often, serving in the church, and serving others. It's doing the little things that strengthen us and bring us joy. It's doing the little things that bring us closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ! We have found that there is a vast chasm in the levels of joy and peace being enjoyed in life, between those who do the small and simple things, and those who do not! This has strengthened our commitment of striving continually to do those small and simple things that we have been counseled to do.
Our favorite thing to do is STILL doing Family Home Evenings and Noche de Hermanomientos, which are like activity nights, with either families or branch groups. We share a video or message and discuss it together, and then do something fun. We have learned some fun and interesting games, that we are excited to share with our family, especially with our grandkids, when we get home. We have learned that things don't need to be a big production or expensive to have a lot of fun. We love to watch their joy and laughter with the simplest of things, and they love the church videos. Videos from, Mormon  channel, and gospel library provide many easy Family Home Evenings, especially the ones for the youth. These are powerful messages and great springboards for discussion and testimony. Also, these events give me lots of opportunities to bake cookies! I told you guys that my role would be cookies and hugs, and I love serving in this small way.
Three visits we want to share with you were to three older men and their wives. I say "older" because I'm close to that category and not ready to be considered "old". All 3 have serious health issues. One is 103 and suffering with late stage prostate cancer. One is 77 and has debilitating arthritis, and is usually writhing in pain. The last is in his 80's and had his left leg amputated above the knee this past December 22nd, due to gangrenous complications of diabetes. All 3 were in great spirits and looked better than they have in weeks past. They were cheerful and happy. They testified of the great blessings in their lives, of family, of having the gospel, and of their loving Padre Celestial and of His Son, Jesucristo. It was powerful and touching, to say the least. I have nothing to whine about, as I have all of those blessings as well, and none of the burdens they are suffering. What rock star examples of true disciples of the Savior!
We love you all and so appreciate your love, support, and prayers! We feel them here in Nicaragua!
May we all have a blessed 2017 and strive each day to be a little better!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker