Monday, June 26, 2017

Leon Excursion... lots of PICS!

Had a great birthday celebration for Hermana Pratt at are usual diner in Estelí, since there are only two we've found that we can trust, Rosti Pollo.  Happy #20! We love you.
Had a wonderful excursion to Leon including meeting up with a herd of cattle stopping us on the highway.  Our next stop was a beach called Poneloya, where we met Hermana Zafra and her companion in the pouring rain, and they gave us the grand tour of the 2nd largest city in Nicaragua. We headed to their most loved cathedral, and even went up on the roof. Beautiful view of the city, the mountains, and volcanoes, which were blanketed in clouds.

Pancake breakfast for our favorite district. 34 giant (8") pancakes were devoured in record time. These kids can eat!
In the jungle of Condega contacting one of their investigators. Victor was one of the ones baptized this past Saturday.

This is Victor after his baptism.
We were invited to participate in the dedication of Marvin's dad's grave. The view of Estelí from the vista was beautiful. We found out that they stack two caskets on top of each other when buried. When his mom dies, her casket will be buried on top of his dad's. It was a very spiritual experience for a wonderful, faithful man. This is how graves are decorated in Nicaragua.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

EMAIL... Week 51

Hola All!

Great week with the missionaries...pancake breakfast for their District Meeting, 2 birthday dinners at Rosti Pollo, fun day in León for P-day seeing the beach (it was pouring rain that day so I looked at the ocean with crashing waves on the beach from the truck...Elder K of course got out to see it and got soaked) and then their cathedral. Luckily the rain let up while we went up the barely one person wide staircase to the roof where we could view the whole city. It was beautiful! It started to sprinkle on the way down. We were able to treat our guides, one of our former sister missionaries who served with us here and we adore, and her companion to Pizza Hut and then McFlurries at Mc Donald's for lunch. Great day! We were able to go on some great visits and appointments with all 4 sets of the young missionaries this week, and each set has a baptism scheduled today. Today will be busy and AWESOME! We love these amazing young people and so admire their diligence, obedience, testimonies, and spirits! They are truly great blessings in our lives!

We had a couple of crazy experiences, which we could totally see the tender mercies of our loving Heavenly Father. On the way to Leon we had to pull over on the highway for a herd of cows coming down the middle of the road. Elder K got out to take a picture and then back in the truck. (Picture on the blog) As we were waving to the cowboy herding the cows from behind, he motioned to the ground beside the car and urgently said something to Elder K. Elder K opened the door and his wallet was there on the ground. He hadn't realized that he hadn't put it back in his pocket after paying for gas, and it had dropped out when he got out to take the picture. Whew! That could have been a nightmare! A few days later, we came out to the truck from going to the bank, and the car next to us looked like it was stuck to the side of our car. When we could actually see, the back end of the woman's car was seriously less than an inch from the back of our truck. She couldn't even get out on her side and hurried to get out the other side to tell us that she hadn't hit our truck. The security guard was out there by then, and there was no way to back either vehicle out safely. We were inspired to pull our truck forward as far as we could...about 18 inches. This gave her more room and the guard yelled at her as he guided her to her way out. She took off immediately. No harm, no foul. Experiences like these constantly remind me that Heavenly Father is in charge and so involved in the details of our lives. That doesn't mean we escape all trials and problems, but we have the assurance that He will help us get through anything that comes! This is a concept we are trying to help the people here really understand and see in their lives. The scriptures teach us that the Lord is bound when we do what He says, but when we do not, we have no promise. He always keeps His part of the promise! What a great comfort and blessing to know and understand!

We had a special experience yesterday morning, Father's Day in Nicaragua. Marvin and his family invited us to the dedication of his father's grave. His father died in November 2015, but they just got the headstone recently. They bury their dead within 2 days of death, because it is too expensive to embalm the bodies. They had hymns playing and the women in the family decorated his grave, while Marvin hiked us up to a vista where you could see all of Estelí. Breathtaking! (See blog) He did an awesome job dedicating the grave, and he, his mother, his sister, and Elder K all talked about the great example he was for all of them and how much he wants them to prepare for and attend the temple, so that they can be sealed as a family forever. Marvin's parents were sealed 8 years ago in the Guatemala Temple, but the children were all adults, so they each have to be endowed and sealed to their parents. Marvin's goal is this December. Hopefully the other 3 will follow. Poco poco...

Enjoy the temple and the blessings therein! Keep your covenants and do the small and simple things every day to strengthen your testimony and to help you stay strong! Thank you for you examples, love, and prayers! We love you!


Elder and Sister Koelliker

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls and Obedient Horses...

Another trip to the waterfall, this time with the Elders. They enjoyed more throwing rocks than taking pictures. Of course, there's always a competition when the Elders get together.

 Under all these white tents are tomatoes. Another Nica way of growing produce. They do it well.

We were in Condega and a horse got in our way. Laurie didn't hesitate to get out of the car to show it who was boss. Just like her husband...he was very obedient.

One of the many beautiful trees we see each week as we drive to and from Condega.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

EMAIL... Week 50

Hola All!

What a week! Last Saturday was an amazing experience to be in the presence of an apostle, to meet him and his wife personally, to hear him speak in English, followed by the translator repeating his words in Spanish, and to receive an apostolic blessing! We haven't come down yet! Elder Renlund and his wife had served in Africa with Lee's cousin, Paul Koelliker, while Paul was serving as the Area President in Africa. We had a nice little visit about them. We love Paul and his wife, Ann, and were able to have dinner with them and Lee's other wonderful cousins, Jerry and Renee Pay, the Saturday night before we entered the MTC. Such a small world! Elder Renlund emphasized the importance of attitude and work ethic! We are all striving to have a great attitude, come what may, and to be hard workers. There are times in our lives when it is more difficult to truly be our best. Those are the times we need Heavenly help the most! Those are the times we need to spend more time on our knees in prayer, more time and focus on the scriptures, more time counting our many blessings, and more time and energy serving others. Of course we know this, but what a powerful reminder for missionaries serving far away from home in a developing country! Sister Renlund did an awesome job as well as we discussed developing perfect faith and helping others develop it in their own lives. Faith is not just a gift, but it is a choice. I loved the reminder that Heavenly Father loves each of us and trusts us to do our best and to help those around us by sharing the knowledge and testimonies we have with them. We are the leaven! We are the salt! Because we have been given so much, much is expected! We are so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the ability and privilege to call down the blessings and powers of Heaven, and for our Savior and His great Atonement! All things that are right are possible! FAITH!

We also had a wonderful Multi-Zone Conference on Wednesday! It is so humbling and energizing to be with these young missionaries! They love the Lord! They love being missionaries! They love each other and being together! The meetings are always electric with their energy and spirits! President and Sister Poncio are truly a power couple! They are united and demonstrate not only Christlike qualities, but a solid marriage, which is a blessing to many of the missionaries here. My two favorite messages that they shared were to be humble and beware of pride, and to contemplate our spiritual maturity and the things we can and should do to help it progress. They are not just training their missionaries, but they are training future leaders, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers! We loved listening to the "final" testimonies of the 3 missionaries who complete their missions and return to their homes on July 4th. They all happened to be in our Zone, so we know them well and love them so much! What wonderful and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, and what powerful testimonies they shared!

As we visited many people this week, I noticed the stark reality in the differences in levels of happiness and joy, in those who are keeping the commandments of God, and those who are not. Commandment and covenant keepers still have many trials, but they have peace, knowing that they are being obedient and have the right to pray, ask for help, and know that they will receive it! Help may not come immediately or in the way they might like, but they have the faith that everything will work together for their good. Those struggling, try to justify their behavior and blame others. They are angry, sad, frustrated, and hopeless. Heavenly Father loves each of us and has given us commandments to bless and protect us. He blesses us for being obedient, and we receive the blessings that come with each commandment as well. Win win! 

May we each try a little harder every day to be a little better, so we can progress to the person we have the potential to become! We love all of you, and so appreciate your prayers and examples!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Waterfalls... Pizookies... Superheroes!

Another great trip to the waterfall high in the mountains of Estelí. The missionaries love going to that beautiful place, as do we, despite the long hike. 

To end our adventure, we celebrated Hermana Cruz's (left) birthday with a pizookie for dessert...a new experience for our Latina missionaries.

Fun with the twins while installing the doors. They love the super heroes. 

Marvin (purple shirt) is our hero! He built the doors in his garage/wood shop and headed up the installation project. There wasn't any power to the house, so we used our brute strength and his Nica ingenuity.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

EMAIL... Week 49

Hola All!
Another great week starting with testimony meeting last Sunday. We were both able to bear our testimonies, and for me that is a mini-miracle in and of itself. I testified of the blessings of the temple, of the need for a temple here in Nicaragua, and of the things we need to do to qualify to have a temple here. Temple attendance heightens the level of spirituality of individuals, and having a temple brings the great spirit of the temple to a city or country. Elder K also encouraged temple preparation, commitment, and attending the temple to make those sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father and Savior. We have started a Temple Prep class in our branch, and hope that all of the people in it will fully prepare and be able to go to the temple in Honduras before we come home. What a great blessing in this life and for eternity, to be sealed to our spouses and families forever. We so want for these precious people to understand, desire, work for, and achieve this great blessing for themselves and their families.
Fun time taking this batch of Hermanas serving in Estelí to the waterfall. I only got a little nervous with Hermana Pratt being so close to the edge at the top looking down. We all had sore legs the next day, as the hike out of the bottom looking up is quite steep...but soooo worth it! They were happy with our Ritz chicken, stuffed potatoes, and pizookie dessert for our lunch after our adventure. We love the missionaries who we get to work with here. Elders to the waterfall next Monday!
Elder K, Marvin, and one of Marvin's young neighbors installed doors on the home of Flor de Maria. Marvin built the doors and frames. It was amazing to watch the ingenuity of the installation project, without many of the tools Steve Gibson has in his shop. Their home is now much more secure from the weather and intruders. Oh the blessings of Fast Offerings and Priesthood service. It was so humbling to witness this blessing for this family.
We had a wonderful Family Home Evening with Mauricio, Claudia, and her aunt, Grisel, on personal revelation and inspiration. The 3 teenagers weren't home, so we thought that was a little weird, but Elder K remembered that Grisel was struggling with recognizing and identifying the answers or lack of answers she was receiving to her prayers. He showed Elder Bednar's video from his talk on the Spirit of Revelation, where he compared it to turning on a light versus the light of the rising sun. She had some great questions after the video and we had a wonderful discussion with a powerful spirit. The kids all came home in time for treats, but it was important for Grisel to have the opportunity to learn and question without distraction or inhibition. Tender mercy!
We love these people! We love teaching them, testifying to them, helping them understand Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness and what they can do to be happier and have the spirit in their lives continually. Even though their lives are different from ours in many ways, they are children of God with the great potential that we each have. Most of the differences are due to the oppression they deal with, their lack of education and what to us are basic needs, and lack of spiritual light. We know that we are here to help them to become happier and to find greater light and success, not just for this life, but for the eternities.
We're on our way down to Managua this morning to hear Elder Renlund. He is here for a Stake Conference and is doing a session just for the missionaries in Nicaragua. Can't wait! I love to witness the communication with the differences in language, and how the spirit is the universal translator.
We are blessed! Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and examples! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EMAIL... Week 48

Hola All!
Great week celebrating Día de Las Madres and Día de Los Niños. In Sacrament Meeting last Sunday, Elder K paid a tribute to all of the mothers, and then had them stand up, and he personally went to each mother in the congregation and gave them a Milky Way bar with a quote on mothers. Chocolate is definitely a universal favorite of mothers around the world! We delivered suckers to most of the kids in the branch for their special day, and took the Mother's Day treats to mothers who weren't there on Sunday. My favorite was to a woman in Condega, whose husband is a member and wants to take his family to the temple. We intentionally went when he wasn't home and Elder K showed the video of Elder Holland's tribute to mothers. She was really touched by the video, and that we went to see HER. I testify that there is more to visiting others than just a check mark that we did it! Many people here have quit coming, because no one visits them. I have felt at times that I was bothering people by visiting them, but I have truly been reassured that it is rarely the case, if at all. Most people appreciate being cared about and thought of.
We had a great Noche de Hermanamiento on Thursday. Elder K showed the video, "For God So Loved the World" and then we discussed Christ's mission here on earth. A dad brought his young daughter, who has been coming to church the last few weeks. He was singing the hymns and listened intently to the video and discussion. Then we had a competitive game of kickball, and they stayed, were on opposite teams, and he liked it all so much that he said he would come to church on Sunday, if he didn't have to work, and for sure they will come next Thursday for our Hermanamiento. 
We have enjoyed a wonderful day of service today...making meals for a family whose mom had surgery, visiting sisters who are struggling, making cupcakes for the Hermanamiento in Condega tonight to celebrate a young man's 12th birthday and receiving the Priesthood, and preparing the chapel for church tomorrow. These are things we all do regularly to build up the kingdom of God on the earth and to help those around us. Never neglect the good ideas, thoughts, or promptings to serve and lift others. Our desires to do good to and for others are heaven sent, and we have covenanted to be the Lord's hands in answering prayers. It is our goal to become more adept at recognizing promptings, and acting quickly upon those messages from heaven. As we do, we feel the love of our Heavenly Father and Savior more abundantly, and a greater love for those around us.
Thanks for all you do! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker