Saturday, April 29, 2017

EMAIL... Week 43

Hola All!
Another week has flown by with some wonderful experiences. We had Multi-Zone Conference this week, which is always inspiring! Sister Poncio reminded us about President Hinckley's parents teaching him that every day is a good day! If we wake up in the morning and say to ourselves, "Today is a great day!", and then spend the day doing all that we can to make it one, it will be one! Attitude is so important in our lives! We meet with people who think that the commandments are too restrictive, rather than viewing them as instructions and protections for how to have happy lives, both here on earth and for eternity. They think Church is too long, rather than appreciating the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament, learn more of the doctrine, feel the spirit, and have our testimonies strengthened. They feel like they are too busy to serve, rather than seeing service as an opportunity to help others, to grow personally, to learn how to see outside of ourselves, and to follow the example of our Savior. We were also warned by President Poncio that Satan is working hard on members, less actives, investigators, and the people of the world, feeding us all lies to distract us from the truths we have access to and the potentials we all have. Satan knows the truth, but he has no chance for the blessings of eternal life, and he doesn't want any of us to have them either. President Poncio also showed us a video of President Holland reminding us of what Jesus has said, "I need disciples and I need them forever. I need someone to teach my sheep and my lambs. I need people to follow me. I need people to love me, and if they do, to feed my sheep and to do it forever!" So powerful! What a wonderful mission each of us has, to have faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, to repent, to be baptized as He was, to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, to serve and teach others the things we are so blessed to know and have, and to endure well until the end. Great rewards require great sacrifices! What are we willing to sacrifice for Jesus Christ, for His mission and purpose on the earth, and to have eternal life with Him, our Heavenly Father, and our families forever? I strive each day to improve, to learn to hear and respond to the spirit, and to not fall short of the blessings which await the faithful and obedient. This is the challenge for all of us! We are so blessed at this time in our lives to be able to share this message of hope and joy with others! It is amazing and humbling to watch people change their lives, little by little, and to see the joy they receive and the change in their countenances. The Gospel is true and is such a blessing! Make sure you are taking advantage of it and of every opportunity you have to share it!
We love you all! Thank you for your goodness, your examples, your prayers, and for your love!

Elder and Sister Koelliker

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tobacco Field and the Tree of Life...

A tobacco field next door to one of our members. We watched the growers plant this field three months ago. It's now ready to harvested, dried, and rolled into cigars. The plants were taller than the sisters. 
Two of our favorite boys; Leo (12), Jacob (1) playing on a hill across from their house. I ordained Leo a Deacon a month ago. They use their trees in their backyard to hang their clothes to dry. It's not uncommon to find trees or fences decorated with all types of clothing. These people use what they have. 

This is how the hymn numbers are displayed for church meetings.
Many of the walls throughout the city of Estelí are painted with murals depicting many different scenes or stories. This is one of the Tree of Life painted by missionaries who served here a few years ago. We are with two of our wonderful sister missionaries with whom we serve. We all chose to partake of the fruit.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

EMAIL... Week 42

Hola All!
The rainy season gave us a preview last week...Tuesday, coming home from Condega, it started pouring and we could hardly see out the windshield. This is not a good situation on winding mountain roads. Then yesterday we were on our way to visit some investigators and it started pouring. We couldn't drive right up to their house, so we waited for a few minutes to see if it would let up...nope! So we got out the umbrellas and ran for it. They weren't home yet, as they were stuck somewhere trying to wait out the rain. We ran back to the car, pretty wet and with muddy shoes. Croc time! It did cool things down, after a week of intense heat and humidity. We really can't complain, since our area is one of the coolest in the mission. We just need to make sure all of our windows are closed, when we leave the house for the day.
We have gained an enhanced vision and testimony of visiting and home teaching here. There are several individuals and couples who are virtually home bound and struggle to get out, or who are alone. They literally wait for our visits each week. It's hard to lose your independence and ability to get around easily, and when your family grows up and moves on. We can all be more sensitive to these precious people who easily disappear, and brighten their lives, as well as learn how amazing they truly are and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience they have. Families are eternal, so we also want to make sure that all of the members of our families know and feel of their value to us and others, and the love we have for them. It isn't much of a sacrifice to call, email, Skype, and/or visit our loved ones and others who will become our loved ones!
Sweet experience last week for Easter. Elder K and I both had to speak, so I had to receive a lot of help with translation and pronunciation. I was able to talk about my visit to Israel during my Semester Abroad experience, and walking the places Jesus walked. I testified that this experience strengthened my testimony of the Savior and of His Gospel, but that this experience is not necessary to develop a strong testimony of Jesus Christ, His Mission, and of His Gospel! It's the little things...reading the Book of Mormon every day; praying multiple times a day and regularly for a strong testimony; fasting each month for greater faith, strength and courage to do what is right and to endure well, and to have our testimonies strengthened; serving others; and keeping the commandments. I was able to relate the story of the push-ups for donuts, which was actually taught by a Seminary teacher to his class to help them better understand the Atonement, and to help them realize that Jesus suffered for every one of us, whether we use the Atonement in our lives or not. I love the analogy! The spirit was the teacher, and we both felt so blessed to have that powerful witness born to our small congregation. We gave them a cinnamon roll, since I don't make donuts, for a tangible reminder to eat on their way home. Elder K is trying to provide greater spiritual experiences for our branch, especially in Sacrament meeting. Poco poco.
We feel so blessed to be having this opportunity to serve our Heavenly Father and our Savior here in Nicaragua. We love the people and so enjoy our times with them. Thank you for your prayers and love! We feel them! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, April 15, 2017

EMAIL... Week 41 with PICTURES!

Hola All!
So this week is Semana Santa, Holy Week, and like the kids where we live...Spring Break! Most stores and businesses closed at the end of the day on Wednesday, and some closed early on Thursday. As we drove around doing visits yesterday, Friday, the streets were dead! No buses and few taxis, which was nice for the driver! Many people were away at the beaches for the holiday. As we went to visit a family we regularly visit on Fridays, who lives on a kind of divided dirt road, we were exposed to one of their traditions for "Good Friday". The side of the street in front of their home had street murals for the whole block. These were not the chalk kind that we might see in the US, but were made of sawdust colored with paint, and then sprinkled to form the pictures and words. They used templates for some of them, but much of the work was done free hand, and then carefully sprayed with water, so the sawdust wouldn't blow away or smear. They were truly remarkable. (pictures below) We went to visit the family and only the wife was home. I had to ask her why they were all of Mary and not of Christ. She said that they have a theme every year, and this year it is Mary. Last year was Jesus. They were "judged" last night and then the congregation walks around the block together and then over all of the murals. That is the "sacrifice" of the artists. They work all day to have them destroyed. We saw a few small, single ones around town later in the evening.
Our experience last week with the group in Condega was sweet. It was held on the back, covered patio of a family, and there were 17 of us. Since it was Fast Sunday, we had the opportunity to bear our testimonies with the members there. The spirit was strong and we were truly impressed by how well they adapt to make things work. Elder K showed a video of Elder Clayton's talk from this past General Conference during second hour, since none of them had been able to travel to Estelí to watch the broadcast. They quickly grabbed a lightweight blanket, knotted the two bottom corners, and hung it from the patio cover behind the table holding the laptop, making it so much easier to see. They love the leaders of the Church, and even though they have to listen through translators, they value their talks, guidance, and love! Tonight we are going up for their Noche de Hermanamiento, which is like a fireside with a treat and a game at the end. Elder K is doing the message with an Easter video, and I get to contribute with banana-chocolate chip muffins. 
We have both been preparing our messages for tomorrow's Easter Sacrament Meeting. Two of our precious and talented grandchildren recorded "Gethsemane" for us to play for the special musical number, which they have never experienced. Our visits this week have really helped us prepare spiritually, as we have testified of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His life and mission, all part of our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness. None of us could make it without Him. We are so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, Who sent His Son to show us how to live, how to love, how to serve, and the pathway back to Them with our families. May we all celebrate the blessings of the Atonement and Resurrection, as we worship Him, Who made immortality and eternal life possible for us all.
We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

*Scenes from Semana Santa. The street murals are called "Alfombras."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

La Granacha Natural Reserve

Welcome to La Granacha Natural Reserve in the mountain highlands of San Nicolas which is about 20 km south of Estelí. The mountains in the distance separate the town of San Nicolas from the cities of León and Chinandega. From this vantage point on a clear day you can see several volcanoes. Unfortunately, the clouds in the distance didn't help. We're in the middle of the dry season which still provides a beautiful and spectacular view. We found a huge rock that I had to climb. I can still keep up with the Elders...kind of. 

This is how bananas are sold in the small pulperías. You can chop off the bananas in bunches or, like most people, buy them one at at time. Many people have banana trees in their back yard but there are also banana plantations where large bunches are brought in by truck.
Nestled in the mountain highlands of La Garnancha there is a place called El Jalacate where there are many paintings and rock carvings in the side of the cliffs. An old hermit-like man, Alberto Gutierrez, has lived there for many years and has carved these rocks based on his dreams. We saw carvings of animals, landscape, people, stars, and other designs. The best was of the Nativity which was tucked away on the back wall of a small cave. As we visited with Alberto, you could tell he is very proud of his work and the many accolades he's received from various people across the world. When we signed the ledger we saw people's names from all over the world. Now there is someone from Las Vegas. Though the hike was tough on some parts of the trail, the artistic talent of this man was incredible. The carvings were awesome and the views spectacular. We had a group of missionaries with us which is always a blast. Enjoy the pictures....

We love working with these awesome zone leaders; Elder Cook and Elder Mower. They're great examples for their zone.

We all had to place our placards under the Christ child to show we are here in support of Him.
Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

EMAIL... Week 40

Hola All!
Are we all so pumped after General Conference, or what? Elder K showed the Priesthood Session at our chapel and 7 attended there, and a few others at the main chapel. For the Sunday morning session we had 15 at our building and 26 at the main chapel. That's really good for here, as they emphasize District Conference more than General Conference. Elder K talked to the Mission and District Presidents about maybe spreading them out a little, to increase the attendance for both. We shall see in the Fall. We sat in the back and listened on the iPad in English with ear buds. I need to go over and over my notes until I glean all that was offered, and then study the Conference edition of the Ensign (we get the Liahona here) when it comes. What amazing leaders we have and what awesome messages they delivered! We love the spirit of General Conference and the apostolic and prophetic witnesses and blessings we receive!
Fun p-day adventure on Monday with our Elders and one of the other Districts in our Zone. We drove south and met the other group and then ventured up into the mountains to a natural reserve called El Jalacate. There is an older man, Alberto Gutierrez, who has painted and carved rocks and into the mountainside for many years. It was fun to meet him and visit with him in his little home at the start of the trail. It was amazing! The views were also fabulous! (Pictures on the blog.) We did some serious hiking up and down, but we did great, especially being viejo missionaries.
This week we had some more wonderful visits with members who have been struggling with difficulties in their lives, and are trying to overcome them and have their joy and peace restored. It is humbling to see them work and try so hard to be obedient, and to seek heaven's help with their attempts to progress. They love for us to come and to feel the spirit we bring as representatives of Jesus Christ. He is the answer. He is the way. He is peace and love. When we follow Him, we too can have the love, joy, and peace that we all seek! What a blessing to know these truths and to know that we can pray to our Heavenly Father anytime and anyplace, and He is there listening and ready to help and bless us. We have felt His love, help, peace, and encouragement so much during this experience. We are truly blessed!
We had interviews with the President this week. He is awesome and is so in tune to the spirit! He and Elder K discussed the needs of the branch and a few issues. Then he gave us counsel and prayed for us! So sweet! 
The Church is true and has been restored to the earth through the prophet, Joseph Smith. We have a living prophet today, who talks to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus. Christ. They live and love us, and want us to live our lives so that we can return to them someday. The Gospel is here to help us accomplish Their goal and ours. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ and has the fullness of His Gospel. It was written for us in our day, and reading it daily, solo and with our families, will not only strengthen our testimonies of the Savior and of His Gospel, but we have also been promised personal and family blessings for doing so. We are loving our service and hope that many of you in our season of life are also preparing to serve. The need for Senior couples is great! Every branch in Nicaragua would be blessed to have a Senior couple serving with them. You will not regret it and the blessings your family will receive are greater than if you were at home.
We love you!
Thanks for all you do!
Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, April 1, 2017

EMAIL... Week 39

Hola All!
Wow! I love General Conference! For any of you who truly want an amazing spiritual experience, get on and watch Conference tomorrow, or whenever, since it will be accessible online. You will not be disappointed! We had 15 sisters at the Women's Broadcast last week, so we are having the Priesthood session tonight on Elder K's laptop in our building. They only get banana chocolate chip muffins, but they don't know it yet. We had all of the English speaking missionaries in our district at our home for today's sessions, because they only had it in Spanish at the main building, and they couldn't get English to work in the office. What a spirit they bring!
We're also having tomorrow morning's session in our building, and if there's enough interest, we'll show the afternoon session there as well. Elder K is truly committed to bringing them as much light as we can, and if it's easier for them to get to our building, and they don't mind the laptop versus the big screen, he's all in! I just watch on the iPad in English with ear buds. It works!
Probably the sweetest experience we had this week was yesterday. The Hermanas called and told us that one of our investigators had called. We have been working with the Hermanas teaching her and her family. Her 8 year old daughter and 11 year old niece were in the hospital. They had been throwing up so much that they had become severely dehydrated and were on IV's. She asked if Elder K could come and give them blessings. We grabbed the Elders and went. Before Elder K gave them blessings, he asked them if they had faith that they could be healed. Both said yes. They have been so cute at the lessons, very attentive and quickly looking up the scriptures being discussed. Elder Mower anointed and Elder K gave each one a blessing. The Hermanas called last night to say that both were released and been allowed to go home. Tender mercies, amazing faith of two young girls, and Priesthood power. 
I loved the call for all of us to do a little better, to be less critical and judgmental, to see others through the eyes of our Heavenly Father and Savior, to be willing to sacrifice for the gospel and for others, and to "Stand Up Inside". We are so blessed to have the fullness of the gospel, and all of us have opportunities to share it through word and example. Thank you for the examples you are to us! Your examples and love make us want to do our best and be better every day!
We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker