Monday, March 27, 2017

Birthday Celebrations... Lawn Moooower

Happy birthday to my missionary companion, but more importantly, my eternal companion. We had a wonderful celebration with the other "viejos." In the  first take my head didn't fit which sometimes is a good thing. The banner is compliments of Sister Lee shown with Laurie.

We were visiting a member the other day in Condega and saw several cages full of rabbits. Baby rabbits were recently born to mom who stays very close. Many Nicas raise animals in their homes and/or yards as pets or to either eat or sell. We weren't sure what these rabbits are being raised for and we were afraid to ask.

I found a new way to cut grass. I don't think I'll try this at home as it could get messy. But, I guess cutting and fertilizing at the same time would be productive.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

EMAIL... Week 38

Hola All!
Another week has flown by, and we still have so much we want to accomplish here! Heavenly Father has truly been blessing and stretching us in this service. We had a wonderful District Conference last weekend. It was held in the other chapel in town, and is a distance for many of our people. They had Priesthood and leadership meetings on Saturday, and then we had choir practice that night. Don't faint with us being in the choir! It's all relative! Then Sunday morning we were on our way to pick up Luis, the man whose broken leg is still healing, to take him to the other building. Elder K got a call from the District President that they needed 80 chairs from our building for the conference at 10. It was 9:15 & we were supposed to be in our choir seats by 9:30. So the 3 Senior Elders and one of the young Elders, 4 of the 7 men in the choir, took on the project, after they dropped Luis and me off. Typical Nica style, there was only one man singing with us for our prelude number, and they finished setting up all the chairs after the opening prayer. We did have our full choir for our other number. It is an amazing experience to sing hymns in Spanish! We had a full house, and over 40 of our branch members were in attendance, which is huge since they either walked or took a taxi. The spirit was strong, and the temple was the theme. 6 people who had been on the 3 day temple trip the week before spoke first. 3 were a family who had been sealed. There were very few dry eyes! Another man had sold his motorcycle to get the money to go, so that he and his wife could be together forever and with their future children. A new District President was sustained, so both he and the outgoing President spoke. Our mission President and his wife also spoke, along with his counselor. It was another reminder that the Church is true, no matter where you are! I rushed home, and yes, that was my first experience driving here and we made it safely. We had 19 for lunch and I needed to get it hot and ready, with the help of Hermana Lee. It was a bit crazy, since we had planned for 12, but the mission president and his counselor, and their families were late, so others were done by the time they got here. We had enough left to send to 4 other missionaries who had stayed at the chapel with their busload. There was another meeting at 2 for married couples, so we had a tight window, but it all worked. Heavenly Father is definitely involved in the details of our lives! I have seen His hand over and over throughout my life, and what blessings His hands are! Some of the buses weren't able to stay for the meeting for married couples, but it was also a wonderful meeting. We were so happy for the 2 men who received the Melchizedek Priesthood, and for their families. They are preparing to go to the temple in June.
We had some special visits with some amazing people. One of the women, who is so strong, was at her daughter's home making the cheese she sells, so that her daughter wouldn't lose the cream or the money for their living. Her daughter was flat in bed with severe disequilibrium and nausea, and had appointments for an ultrasound of her head and to see a neurologist later in the week. We've started working with a woman and her daughter, both are members, but the husband left them a few months ago. The mother is devastated and struggling to be a mother to her 12 year old. We had a great lesson with them, and Elder K counseled them to pray and read the Book of Mormon together and alone every day. He blessed them and their home with faith, protection, and the Spirit! We'll go back and see them again this week.
Thank you all for the birthday wishes and messages! We had a wonderful day! We even had salads at Subway, which is in their version of a food court, and sat up on the terraza to enjoy our food and the beautiful day! The other Senior couples took us to lunch last Saturday, since they were in town for the Conference, which was also a treat! We were also able to visit a few people with the Hermanas. Then last night we took cookies to Marvin's for our visit. Blanca surprised us with a yummy rice dish that reminded me of fried rice, only Nica style. We had cookies for dessert! Marvin gave us a message from the Liahona and Blanca said a beautiful prayer. Marvin Jr, who is a 19 year old student and speaks some English, served us. They even said "Happy Birthday" in English! We love that family so much! You can see why I felt spoiled!
We're on our way to the Church for our English class, followed by the Women's Broadcast. Elder K is showing it at our building, so more women can come, and I will watch it in English with ear buds. I prepared a few treats for after. My last calling really prepared me for this gig.
We love and miss you all! Thank you for your goodness and righteous examples! We feel your prayers and are strengthened and protected by them.

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, March 18, 2017

EMAIL... Week 37

Hola All! 
The weeks are flying by! So much to do and lives to touch...we are definitely anxiously engaged in a great cause! Sweet experiences with the Condega group. Elder K interviewed two men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. These humble men have changed their lives to follow the Savior, and it's truly humbling for us to witness. We also had the opportunity to attend their Noche de Hermanamiento. It was in the front "yard" of one of the men who had been interviewed, and he gave a great message. He read from Luke the story of the rich young ruler asking the Savior what else he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He had kept all of the commandments since his youth. When the Savior told him then to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow him, the young man was sad, for he couldn't give up his great riches. We talked about what things of the world or our personal vices are keeping us from fully following Christ, so we too can have eternal life. Great comments and spirit! We topped off the night with a fun game, that we can't wait to play with our family, and Nica enchiladas...the tostada kind. Such special people, striving each day to improve their lives, so they can receive eternal life. Awesome examples for us!
We were also able to visit a family, who we have taught several times, but had been a bit evasive the last couple of months. The Elders went to visit them, and they welcomed them in. The mother is going through a major health issue, and the Elders were truly prompted to go to their home right then. The estranged husband was there, along with the 3 kids, one being a returned missionary. They were all crying and so upset. The Elders gave a message, and the mother asked them to give her a blessing, which they happily did. The father thanked them for coming, and all asked that they come back again soon. They told them they'd bring us the next day. We watched, "Because of Him" on Elder K's laptop. The spirit was strong and we talked about the blessings of The Atonement and what we all need to do to be able to fully access it. If you haven't seen it, please watch it on You won't regret it!
Fun of the week...we made homemade pizzas with the Elders and Hermanas, when we fed them lunch. The Latinos like pizza, too! I used the extra dough to make cinnamon rolls, and they were a hit as well. We love these young missionaries and feel so blessed to be able to work and serve with them. Food and transportation are how we show it! Most of the Latinos are recent converts themselves, and some are the only member in their family. Their level of testimony and commitment to the Gospel amaze us! They are rock stars! 
Thanks to all of you! You each hold a special part in our lives and hearts! Have a great week! We love you! Les amamos ustedes!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EMAIL... Week 36

Hola All!
Our weeks are always busy, but rewarding! Elder Koelliker's first week in charge was great! He welcomed everyone warmly and we sustained the first Mission Leader the branch has ever had. José Antonio has been a member a year this month and has had his ups and downs with activity. He came out of his interview with Elder K BEAMING and bouncing all over the place. During this past year he has baptized, spoken at baptisms, worked with the Hermanas, and even conducted a baptism, but had never had a calling. He is sooo excited to serve and has already met with the Hermanas and been out on appointments with them this week. The testimony meeting was powerful and many bore testimony of the temple, even though only 9 have their endowments, 3 couples of those are sealed, and 4 others have done baptisms. Poco poco.
Elder K called the new Relief Society Presidency this week and they all accepted, but know that there are changes needed to be made to build unity, reverence, love, and greater commitment to each other and to Heavenly Father and the Savior. These 3 can do it! I'm excited to help train and encourage them! All 3 are single and preparing to go to the temple! Elder K turned in the name for an Executive Secretary and the District President agreed that he would be good. Waiting to hear that he's been called. Still in need of an Elders Quorum President, so if one of you Elders want to move down and serve with us, that would be great! Sorry. Patience! 
Scary moment of the week...went to see Alfredo and as we drove up, his sister Tomasa was standing at the door very frantic! She hurried us in and through their house to the back yard where Alfredo was flat on the ground covered in soot. He had fallen on their outdoor cement barbecue-like stove, which by tender mercy was not being used at the time, and then to the ground. He was conscious and said he had little pain, but couldn't move. We called an ambulance and while we were waiting for them to arrive, Elder K gave him a blessing. They came and checked him out, and said that he had a fever and that he was severely dehydrated. He is quite emaciated, but his sister insists that he eats plenty. He refused to go to the hospital and we assured the medics that we would check on him as they have no phone to call for help.  Got him into bed and sang and prayed with him. He asked for 10 pesos to get a cold drink...the Hermanas couldn't get him to drink much water. We ran over to the tienda across the street and got Gatorade and juice to rehydrate him. I made him drink about a fourth cup of the Gatorade then and told him he had to drink the whole thing that day. We went back the next day and he was out walking around. The big juice was also halfway gone. We reminded them of the great need to drink plenty of water every day. Tomasa said it was a miracle that he was up and about so fast. Tender mercies!
We had an awesome Multi-Zone Conference yesterday. The spirit was strong as President and Sister Poncio spoke. They truly love their missionaries and I know it hurts their hearts, when the missionaries are disobedient and/or aren't doing their very best. The emphasis on numbers is being refocused to baptizing converts...making sure they more fully understand the gospel, are truly prepared to make the covenant of baptism, and are focused on making greater covenants in the temple. The worth of souls is great in the eyes of the Lord! At the conference we also enjoyed some fun companionship and zone building activities....and we missionaries enjoyed a Subway in Nicaragua! Of course we brought cookies. These Latinos are getting used to Galletas Americanas. I am repeatedly grateful that I brought 2 of my big cookie sheets from home, and that I have access to chocolate chips.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth! We are blessed to have its fullness in our lives! We are grateful for the opportunity we have right now and right here to help spread the good news of our loving Heavenly Father and His Plan for us, and of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Gospel and the Atonement. We recognize that their temporal needs are a HUGE challenge for them, and detract from their spiritual progress, but that is why we're here. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! We truly feel them and they give us added strength and courage to do what we're here to do. We love and appreciate you all!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

New Address:
Nicaragua Managua Norte Misión 
La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días 
Antigua Shell Waspan
25 vrs al Sur
Managua, Nicaragua 11084

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Happenings Around the Rosario Branch...

Welcome to the Rosario Branch. We have about 850 members in this branch which also Includes a group of members in the small city of Condega, about 1/2 hour north of Estelí. We don't know how accurate these numbers are. In searching for many of these members we have found some who have moved or are dead.  
However, 50-60 members attend each week. They are wonderful people and it's a wonderful opportunity to serve them. Notice the bike rack. There are more spaces for bikes than cars. 
The grass has just been "redone". Hermana K has run around with the kids and discovered deep depressions in the surface, making it hard to run without falling, and no, she didn't fall yet! We were pleasantly surprised to see that the holes had been filled in with dirt and the grass reseeded over those holes. The water has been on constantly, so we'll see how it goes. It will be a great place for outdoor activities, if it works.

We played their version of volleyball with a ball and no net in a circle on the outdoor court at a Noche de Hermanamiento. Lots of laughs and fun with little skill. Sorry Daniel, no prospects here.

We were out visiting the other day and Laurie found a banana tree in a member's front yard. Unfortunately, they were too green to pick. Most every yard has either a banana or papaya tree growing and producing. Easy Pickens! Now Laurie wants me to plant a banana tree in our yard. I think I'll put it next to our lemon trees then she can make lemon bread and banana bread.  Yummy!
We woke up one day last week to find cows in the vacant lot across the street from our home. You never know what you are going to find here. Never a dull moment.
Estelí is the #1 tobacco producing area in Central America. The highway is lined with acres and acres of tobacco fields in different stages of growth. The "drying" shacks are huge where the harvested tobacco is hung to dry in preparation to make cigars. Hundreds of locals are transported by truck (people stand up in the back) every day to work in these fields. There are 15+ tobacco factories in Estelí where many of the locals work. The tobacco industry is the top employer in the area.
We found an innovative way to water the lawn. You save lots of money on sprinkler heads. I'm going to have to try this.

Monday, March 6, 2017

EMAIL... Week 35

Hola All!

Another busy week in the land of the Nicas! We laugh, because when we got our cédulas, we became Nicas for a Yo soy una Nica! Every day is a new adventure or experience that is unique! We love the people and wish we could help them progress with every facet of their lives, so we keep plugging away with one by one. As we help them understand that they truly are children of a loving Heavenly Father, and that our Savior has already paid for their sins, trials, and difficulties, they catch a glimpse of their true identities and potentials. It reminds me of teaching Math, and the light would turn on as my students grasped a new concept...but the concepts we are teaching now are much more meaningful!

Last Sunday Elder Koelliker was sustained as the Branch President of the Rosario Branch. We were worried that the people wouldn't want to sustain a gringo, but they smiled and did! He gave a great talk and invited them all to be totally committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to attend with their families every week, and to be willing to serve others through having callings and serving those around them. This is the weakest branch in Estelí, so he has his hands full, especially when there were only 4 people with callings in the branch. He's definitely in need of divine help and inspiration, and is grateful for your prayers in his behalf. Many came up to him and told him that they would help however he needs them. You can see why we love these people. Now we just need to teach them how to serve in the various callings. The former first counselor, who has become a dear friend, agreed to stay in and serve with him. He's awesome and has been here quite awhile, so he knows the members of the branch well. Elder K has already had to do a food order (no Relief Society President since October, but one coming soon!) and go to the bank to get the money for a family's bills. The procedures are sooooo different here, but Elder K is taking it all in stride. Thank goodness for long legs! 

The father of the Estelí Branch President died a little after midnight Tuesday morning. He's the sweet man who had his leg amputated right before Christmas, due to complications with his diabetes. Such a great man, who we will miss visiting regularly, but we know that he is in a better place and out of pain. We went to the viewing at their home that night, and the funeral the next morning. So different from how things are done at home, but just as meaningful.

 We had a baptismal service today for a woman from a little town about 30 minutes south. They don't have a chapel for their branch and the main chapel had no water. We rushed over to make sure we did and filled the font. Only 7 of us attending and it took 4 times before the Elder got her all under. She was a good sport about it and so happy! Yes, things are different here, but these people are doing the best they can with the lives they have. We love and appreciate them so much for their honest efforts to live good and worthy lives.

Have a great week and enjoy the many blessings in your lives.

We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker