Saturday, February 25, 2017

EMAIL... Week 34

Hola All!

Another interesting and meaningful week here in Nicaragua. We were able to take the ZL's up to Condega, a small town about 30 minutes North, where there is a group attached to the Rosario Branch here. They were doing divisions with the Elders there, so we took one set and went to visit some of the less actives. We drove to an outlying area and we were then able to walk to visit 5 homes in less than 3 hours. Great spirit as we reminded them of the blessings we all enjoy from our Heavenly Father, and through Jesus Christ and His Atonement for us all. It is a long walk, 4-5 miles, for them to get to church each week, so for many of them too far to go regularly. It made me grateful for the luxury of having cars, that we all enjoy. I have said many times that everything is harder in Nicaragua compared to home. Cooking, cleaning, washing dishes and clothes, transportation,  being on time, visiting and home teaching, temple attendance, fulfilling callings, attending church, working, earning a living, having a shower or bath, staying healthy, getting healthcare procedures, getting an education (most schools charge for the students to attend, and there are double sessions and weekend school), feeling safe and secure...even in their homes, and feeling the spirit in all of the noise and chaos (with windows and doors open most of the time, and most of their homes are not solid or sealed hear everything and the homes with gaps and the screenless homes have lots of mosquitoes, flies, lizards, etc. visiting and annoying the families within). Count your them one by one! It is so humbling as I recognize the many things I have taken for granted for most of my life. Both of our sons served their missions in Guatemala, so they experienced many of these things and told us about them. It is hard to understand until you live it.

We have started some families and a single sister with temple preparation lessons. Their goals for getting there are very long range, as their expenses with passports, papers, and travel are an added challenge. We would love to just pay for them all, but know that they need to sacrifice and work toward their goal for it to be most meaningful. We are working on a plan to help them without taking away their initiative and/or sacrifice for this most important goal. Please attend the temple for us as often as you can! You will be blessed, your families will be blessed, the people you do the work for will be blessed, and the spirit will be stronger with us all as a people. As you know, we are unable to leave the country, or we jeopardize returning. We ordered pictures of the Honduras Temple and the Temple magazine for these precious people. Their lives will be so empowered as they are able to be endowed by our Heavenly Father and sealed as families. 

Funny, not so funny for the week. The Hermanas had to go to Managua for 2 days for one to have a series of tests for stomach pain...not funny. When we picked them up at the bus station and took them to their house, the lock had been changed. Their landlady came out and was mad at them and gave them a paper saying they were kicked out, and kept demonstrating by kicking her foot. She is a little loca. Anyway, Elder K calmed her down, and they get to stay until the end of the month, since their rent is paid. No contracts, crazy renter situations. We found out that the real bottom line is that her son is moving into the casita the girls have been renting. I wish I had a video to show you her performance. It really was funny! Good news, the Hermana's tests all came back normal, her ovarian cyst is gone, and the pain is subsiding. Mini miracle!

Great interviews with the Mission President this week, and we always enjoy having him and the entourage for a meal or two in our home. We got to meet his mother-in-law, and they have jokes about that here too. He is truly a man of God and has great vision for Nicaragua.

Life is good! We love the opportunity we have to serve here with these special people. We're on our way to work with the Elders to help move some of the Hermanas things for their big move Tuesday. Please pray that they will be able to find an appropriate home, as they will be staying with us until they do. We love having missionaries, but it is inconvenient for them to be so far from their area. 

Thanks for all you do and are!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

EMAIL... Week 33

Hola All! 
Crazy, but wonderful week! We drove down to Managua Monday night for our Tuesday devotional with Elder Rasband and Elder Craig Christensen for both missions here in Nicaragua. As much as I detest driving to Managua, as it is a stressful drive on a two lane highway with way too many buses and big trucks, it was sooooo worth it! We had to be there 2 hours early to be in our seats and prepared for the messages we were to receive. WOW! We were not disappointed! We stood as they all walked in, and Elder Rasband quickly had us sit down. He is so humble and they were all so real! We were able to go up to the front row by row, and shake hands with Elder and Sister Rasband, Elder and Sister Christensen, Elder and Sister Duncan (our Area President), and Elder and Sister Ochoa (Elder Duncan's first counselor). It was smooth and amazingly fast with over 400 of us, and kind of reminded me of a graduation ceremony. All 8 of them spoke, the Duncans and Ochoas only for a few minutes each and all in Spanish. Sister Christensen gave a little longer message about how we all need the Savior, repentance, and to feel the spirit in our lives. Her Spanish was wonderful! Elder Christensen also had amazing Spanish and I especially loved that he reminded us to record our feelings, not just what we hear with our ears. A few other things that hit me quite powerfully:  He thanked us for bringing the spirit into the homes in Nicaragua; encouraged us to work together with the local units to get them more engaged in this work and prepare Nicaragua for a temple, which is one of our roles already; and reminded us that we are here to invite all the people here to come unto Christ and receive the blessings of the Gospel and the temple! The Rasbands had interpreters, so I enjoyed hearing their messages in English! Sister Rasband told us that she didn't marry an apostle, she married a straight arrow, returned missionary. Great insight for these young missionaries, who will be in the "looking for a spouse" phase in the not so distant future. She read her testimony in Spanish, which brought back memories of my first two weeks here, reading my testimony and hoping that the locals could at least kind of understand what I was trying to say. Elder Rasband brought us love and thanks from President Monson! We could truly feel it as he spoke. What comfort to know that we are all loved, thought of, prayed for, and appreciated as members of the Church, trying to prepare the world for the Second Coming of our Savior! 10 of the 11 Stake Presidents in Nicaragua were there, most with their wives. He had the Presidents, Area Authorities, Mission Presidents, along with Elder Christensen link arms and spread across the stand. He told us that these men hold all the keys in Nicaragua. It was truly an awesome sight. He also stressed that baptism is not the end goal, but that everyone should be focused on getting to the temple. It was a humbling experience and for most of the Latinos here, this may be the only time they get to shake the hand of an apostle. He gave us an apostolic blessing that included guidance from the spirit and success as we strive to build up the kingdom of God in this country. What a wonderful experience and blessing in all of our lives. Later that day they met with the President and Vice President of Nicaragua to build relationships. Their meeting got a lot of positive press here.
Elder K has continued assisting men and young men prepare to receive and advance in the Priesthood. His testimony and appreciation for the Priesthood touches my heart every time. He has given many Priesthood blessings without notice and in Spanish, and it has been so sweet for me to be able to witness the spirit working through him. I hope all of you Priesthood holders truly recognize the power for good you have! So many people are counting on your worthiness and spirituality to bless their lives.
We are happy and busy, even though we miss all of you! We know that this is where we are supposed to be at this time, and that there are specific people we are here to help.
Thanks for all you do, for who you are, for the examples you set, and for your love and prayers! We love you!

Elder and Sister Koelliker

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Somoto Canyon...

Somoto Canyon Adventure with a los viejos ("old" folks). It was cold but so worth it.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

EMAIL... Week 32

Hola All!
Elder K is doing a fabulous job working with the new male converts to help them prepare to receive the Priesthood and to be able to function well in their responsibilities. It's awesome to see the spirit work with these men as they take on the armor of God and learn how they can bless the lives of those around them. He is also working with a father of 2 sons, who is working to prepare to ordain both of them and to attend the temple to be sealed as a family. It has been a mini-miracle to watch the changes he has made in his life, and how committed he has become to his family and to their eternal goals! His 16 year old daughter asked Elder K to give her a Priesthood blessing last night and the spirit was strong as her father, mother, and brothers witnessed the power of the Priesthood first hand. This father is on his way! 
Just got home from Somoto Canyon...a micro-mini Grand Canyon. We viejos (the 3 Senior couples) had a great time! We hiked in, then rode in a very sketchy boat being poled and paddled by a young Nica. Next we each got into an inner tube with our feet hooked under the person ahead of us and our now 2 young guides swam beside us pulling us along. We had to get out a few times and walk over the rocks, where it was too narrow to tube. It was awesome and beautiful, and well worth our freezing bottoms, feet, and lower legs that were in the river. We even got used to the cold, but our swimming guides were shivering quite violently and their teeth were chattering by the end. They worked hard for their money! The only downside to the trip was that Elder K's phone got dropped into the river in the 20 meter deep part, so our pictures went down with it. Hopefully we can get some from the other couples to post. 
Our miracle for the week...Luis Armando's bag with his scriptures, church manuals, work papers and phone had been missing since his accident. He told us and the Hermanas that one of the men in the branch had taken it for him, but when we went to get it for him, the man said he didn't have it. Luis Armando was mostly worried about his work papers, and was concerned enough to ask us about it each time we visited. I had a feeling about a week ago to check the church since his accident had been in front of the chapel. We don't have keys to go check, but the impression just kept coming back. We were finally able to check  yesterday, right after we visited him, and one of the Hermanas found it in the office. We took it over to him and he was so happy and relieved. My lesson was that when I pray for help, I need to listen more carefully and then respond quickly to the answer. Our loving Heavenly Father is there wanting to help us, and sometimes we don't recognize the help or answers He is sending. We are soooo blessed to be able to pray and have the spirit help us! 
That's Nicaragua for the week! Thank you for your love, examples, and prayers!
We love you!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dinner on a Leash... Another Baptism!

Dinner on a leash. It's not uncommon to walk in a yard to find a chicken or two on a leash. This prevents them from wandering off to someone else's dinner table.
In many homes the trees often do double duty; they not only bear fruit but also serve as a clothes line.
We were surprised to see many of the homes in Condega made out of mud with metal roofs. Condega is known for its red/white clay. Many of the clay pots/serving dishes sold in Nicaragua are made in this small town. Notice the horizontal sticks between the posts. This is done on both sides and filled with rocks, pieces of brick or cement to provide a more solid, sturdy wall for the home. Once everything is in place, the walls then are covered in mud/clay.
Had a wonderful baptism this past Saturday. I had the privilege of baptizing Mereyda. Her son, Jolver (pink shirt), was supposed to do it but he chickened out. We had him well prepared but he was a little fearful. Francisco, the one on my right, baptized his brother, Joel. He just received the priesthood three weeks ago and was excited to perform the ordinance. He worked really hard to memorize the prayer. It's been a wonderful blessing to be a part in his preparation to receive the priesthood and then watch him flourish. Their look of excitement and joy as they came out of the baptismal font will never be forgotten.

EMAIL... Week 31

Hola All!
Interesting week! Last Sunday Luis Armando, the man building the Nica "apartment complex", was in a motorcycle accident as he turned into the church. His leg was broken and he can't work for 2 months. We were devastated for him, as he was to receive the Priesthood that day and work is critical here. We went with the Hermanas to see him that evening at his daughter's house, where 4 other groups of his extended family also live in kind of a compound type structure. They took us right back to the room that he shares with his daughter and her people. There were 8 members of the branch there already with food donations for the family. After singing a hymn together, Elder K and another Melchizedek priesthood holder were able to give him a blessing of comfort, peace, and speedy healing. It's humbling to see the Priesthood at work anywhere in the world with worthy Priesthood holders. He was comfortable and smiling when we left. We have visited him several times this week. His boss for his apartment project told him not to worry and that he can finish it after he heals! His pain has been minimal. When we saw him yesterday, he was sitting outside of the dwelling visiting with family members. We were able to sing, show a video about the Sacrament, and pray with him. The branch will take the Sacrament to his house tomorrow. He is happy and recognizes the tender mercies from our loving Heavenly Father.
We have started working with the Elders in Condega, which is a little town 30-40 minutes north of Estelí. We took them and the Zone Leaders from here up to Condega Tuesday after their district meeting. They ate lunch at their cita, and then we went with one from each pair. They were glad to be in the car, as we went all over and that would have taken them a long time to walk. We met up with the other pair accidentally and went to meet with a family. We found out that he was a pastor of a 28 person congregation there in Condega. We visited with him and he asked if we were Christians, and if so, why are we called Mormons. Lee showed the video, "Because of Him" or "Gracias a Él" here. I love that video that shows various experiences of our Savior as He fulfilled His mission here on earth, and that because of Him, we can repent and be forgiven, we too can be resurrected, and we all can return to our Heavenly Father and Savior with our families to be together forever. The Elders then explained that we are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that in the early days of the Church, non-members started calling us "Mormons" because of our additional scriptures, the Book of Mormon. He and his wife were touched, and even though I don't think they're interested in changing religions, they know that we are all working together to try to help others come unto Christ. We ended up going to Condega twice more on Thursday to deliver chairs for their meetings, as they don't have a chapel yet, and that night to take them home from Estelí, since it was too late to catch the last bus. It's a beautiful drive, just crazy on the Panamerican Carretera, their version of a highway. It's a good thing Elder K is a good driver and that Heavenly Father watches over His missionaries. Thank you for your prayers, as we know those prayers are helping us be protected and successful.
Did a Family Home Evening for one of our favorite families, and after she served us another version of Nica enchiladas...a special corn tortilla folded over with rice, meat, and seasoning in the middle and deep fried and drained, with shredded cabbage soaked in a vinegar based dressing (not like coleslaw) on top. It was yummy! She sells food out of her home and is a really good cook. I like to limit my oil intake, so I only ate one. Then she sent Lee home with more. She was happy that I brought cookies!
Sweet experience with Alfredo. He is 90+ and lives with his sister, who is not a member of our church but almost always comes out to visit with us. Anyway, we were visiting with them and she told us that he waits for us to come every day. Awww! I wish we could visit him more than once a week. So precious! It's good that the Elders Quorum President and Branch President have started visiting him a couple of times a month as well. We always sing a hymn, share either a scripture or video and then discuss it, and leave them with a prayer. He seriously has a lot of the Bible memorized, and always quotes a passage or two to us each visit. We wish he could still see well enough to read, so he could memorize Book of Mormon scriptures too. He knows many of the Book of Mormon stories and talks about those too.
We love these amazing children of our Heavenly Father! They have so much working against them, yet many keep striving to be obedient to the commandments, love and care for their families, and serve those around them. Thank you for you examples and support! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

P.S.  Our mission office just moved to a chapel in Managua. We'll post the new address as soon as we get it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bricks and Birthday Cookies

Believe it or not this 10-unit apartment complex is being built by one man; Luis Armando. He's been a member three months and is amazing! I thought I'd get into the action so I held the bricks and climbed the ladder.

The Koelliker birthday cookie tradition continues in Nicaragua. Happy Birthday, Marvin.  These are two of our favorite Nica's.