Saturday, July 29, 2017

EMAIL... Week 56

Hola All!
Another week in Nicaragua! When we started church last Sunday, only the youth speaker was there, so of course Elder K was reviewing the talk he had prepared just in case, and looking at a couple of short messages. Right before the Sacrament, another one of the speakers showed up, so then he knew he would only have to give one message. Right before the second speaker finished, and he spoke for a LONG time, the third speaker came and was ready to speak after the rest song. All three did great, and even went over time, but he just never knows for sure how everything will turn out. Every Sunday is a challenge of faith! I have even prepared a couple of short talks in case he needs me, and that is saying a LOT!
On Tuesday afternoon we drove up to Condega to do visits with the Elders there. When it was time for us to drop them off and for us to come home, the car wouldn't start. Luckily we were right by a member's house and Rosa has a truck. They tried for over an hour to jump it, but it wasn't working. Finally I was able to start it, and Elder K jumped in to turn it around so we could leave. It backed up ok, but when he went to go forward, it wouldn't accelerate, and died. By now some of the neighbors were coming to see if they could help, as the car was stuck in the way of the neighborhood traffic. And yes, these were dirt roads. After another hour of trying to jump it, one of the men took the battery out of his vehicle and put it in ours, so they could start the car and get it into neutral so we could push it out of the way, as it still wouldn't accelerate. We had to leave the car there and Rosa picked up her friend and he drove us home with her in her truck. Tender mercy that it died where it did, rather than on the winding mountain roads in the rain going home. Our prayers and your prayers for protection were answered! We had our first taxi rides here, and oh boy, Disneyland, if you need another thriller, come and hire these taxi drivers! We have a rental mini-car now and are hoping to get ours back soon fixed, but no sure promises.
Our testimony of prayer has been strengthened so much this week! We also have a strong testimony of the power of family fasts, family prayers, and Priesthood blessings. We are truly humbled and grateful for our family miracle this week! Elder K and I are especially grateful to my siblings, their spouses, and all of the members of our families for calling down the blessings of heaven for Grandpa! It's hard not to be right there to help, but our family took care of everything that needed to be done. Oh how we love you all for your goodness and service! I'm so grateful to be part of a forever family, and that Heavenly Father and our Savior have made it possible for us all!
Thank you for you love, examples, and prayers! As you can see, we need them and we feel them! We love you!


Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Marriage... Bananas... Recycled Tires

Santos and Evelin getting married before their baptism with the attorney performing the marriage. 
You wonder why sometimes your bananas have bruises. They deliver bunches like this to the pulperías scattered around town. Many homes in the outline areas and mountains have their own banana trees.
This is an example of a recycled tire"Nica" style. I'm bringing one home for Steve. It would look good hanging from his tree in his front yard.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

EMAIL... Week 55

Hola All!
We're sitting in the church waiting for the attorney to come to marry a pair of investigators so they can get baptized today. Nica Standard Time...I may be able to complete this before we start. With most people having to walk distances, we are often a bit behind schedule. Elder K does start church on time, whether we have 10 or a full people usually trickle in right before the Sacrament. This is a special baptism, not only because it's for our branch and the man is the son of one of our favorite couples that we visit every week, but all 4 sets of missionaries we work with are here. This district is really good to support each other. There are 2 others here who will be baptized next week.
I had a sweet experience during my scripture study this week. As I was reading in Mosiah 24:15, I was reminded of the importance of submitting cheerfully and with patience to the will of the Lord. Since we only have a tiny perspective of the big picture, part of this earth life experience is to trust the Lord in everything! We need to always do the small and simple things, obey the commandments, and have faith in our Heavenly Father and Savior that all will work out for our good, if we are doing our best! These thoughts and reminders have brought me great peace and a greater level of energy and commitment to doing my very best, no matter what is going on around me. I have witnessed earthly angels taking care of things I can't control or help with here and especially at home. Thank you to you precious angels in my life. You'll never fully realize how much I appreciate and love you for your loving and kind deeds!
We love the people we are serving here! They are like a great sleeping giant, slowly learning who they really are and of the amazing potential we each have. They are learning of the great love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior, Jesus Christ. They are learning that Their commandments are to help and bless us, and are exact and refining. They are learning the importance of families and that we can be together forever as families through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, obedience to the commandments, repentance when we sin and make mistakes, service to others and in the church, covenants in the temple, and enduring well to the end. I love feeling the powerful spirit witness of the truthfulness of these concepts we teach. I love the powerful spirit that helps them want to have all of the blessings Heavenly Father has for each one of us, based on our obedience and the grace of our Savior.
The marriage was good, and they are both dressing for baptism. Life is good! We love serving here!
We are sooooo blessed! Have a wonderful week!
We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Friday, July 21, 2017

Celebrations... Branch Conference... La Jolla

Celebrating another birthday...Hermana Lopez who is from Guatemala. We love our missionaries.

23 of our faithful, dedicated members from our group in Condega got up early Sunday morning to take a bus to attend our branch conference in Rosario.  We had 85 in attendance which is a record for us. We are progressing poco a poco.  
Hermana Virginia is cooking up some "chicheron" which is fried pork fat, similar to pork rinds, for her granddaughters quinceañera.
We took the sisters to visit La Jollla. Where's the beach?  A beautiful sunset in Condega. We are truly blessed to be working with missionaries and people we love dearly in an absolutely beautiful part of Nicaragua. Notice the branches growing out of the fence posts.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

EMAIL... Week 54

Hola All!

Last Sunday was awesome! We had 85 at our Branch Conference, including 23 from Condega. The branch chartered a minibus to transport them. The District Primary President spoke, Elder K spoke, the 4 missionaries sang "Our Savior's Love" in Spanish and a cappella. It's Elder K's favorite hymn, and probably President Gates' as well. President Tercero, the 2nd counselor in the District Presidency, was the concluding speaker. His talk dovetailed with Elder K's, as he stressed the importance of reading and studying the Book of Mormon every day to help us grow, progress, and stay strong in the gospel. Elder K had included doing the small and simple things in his talk about four things we can and should do to be happy in this life...the others were service, obedience, Temple covenants and attendance. Great spirit and great meeting! It was wonderful to have our members and investigators from Condega with us! President Rivera, the District President, taught our Sunday School class and it was great! Having attended multiple Ward Conferences representing different organizations through the years, it was interesting to see the differences, but awesome to see the strength of the spirit no matter where you are and how things are done.
We were able to pick up our 104 year old and his wife and bring them to the conference. He only has the energy and strength to attend church about once a year. Precious people!
We had our first Sunday dinner and birthday celebration for Elder Hughes after the conference. He has so much positive energy that it spills out and affects everyone around him. (Last night we took him and his comp, Elder Mower, to Rosti Pollo for part 2 in celebrating. He worked his magic with our waitress, as he sincerely complimented and thanked her for her service. She brought out cheesecake with a candle for him!) They are awesome missionaries and so fun to work with. We left the decorations up that his mom sent to him for Monday's lunch and birthday celebration with our 4 Estelí Hermanas and the 2 from Sébaco, as it was Hermana Lopez' birthday and she and her comp were here in Estelí to celebrate on their P-day. 6 fun, chatty, adorable girls enjoying time together and celebrating! Love them all!
We had some great visits and Family Home Evenings this week. We love teaching the people in their homes and seeing them feel the spirit and recognize what it is and what it means. We are trying to elevate their understanding of the commandments and of their covenants with Heavenly Father and our Savior. Remembering that the Lord always keeps His part of the covenant, makes it easier to have the faith we need to be obedient.  We love meeting and working with the new investigators and seeing them progress and grasp the truths of the gospel, and the differences in the quality of their lives as they make changes for the better.
We had a wonderful Multi-Zone Conference on Thursday. President Poncio told us something with a little different twist. He told us how important it is to learn obedience in our lives. Obedience is not just for children or missionaries, but it's for ALL of us FOREVER! Learning it young will be a blessing throughout our lives. It's a way to show our love and respect for Heavenly Father, and to prove our commitment to Him, our Savior, and the Gospel. Also, that They can trust us and count on us to do harder and more critical things. Obedience prepares us for future responsibilities. So young and so wise! We love him and his sweet wife, and we love the energy of our young missionaries. It is truly a privilege for us to serve with them all!
Thank you for your examples, love, service, and prayers! We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Monday, July 10, 2017

Missionaries Young and Old... 1 Year in Nicaragua

We were privileged to attend the "despedida" (farewell) of some of our favorite missionaries with whom we've worked this past year. We began our adventure with breakfast at Mis Viejo Ranchito which is a quaint restaurant close to the Masaya Volcano.

Pictures with our missionaries, the President and Sister Poncio with their daughter Yoslin. We were at La Catarina which is a small, old, beautiful town overlooking Laguna Apoyo (volcano crater), the city of Granada, and Lake Nicaragua.

We got a little crazy with the president...I don't know how to act my own age which is a good thing.

We had lunch at a nice hotel in Granada where the missionaries were able to bear their final testimony as a missionary and receive their certificate of honorable release. It was a phenomenal experience to spend the day with them and hear their powerful testimonies. We will always cherish the experiences we had with them sharing the gospel. They all hold a special place in our hearts.

On the way home we passed the Masaya Volcano which was really smoking.

We had a special birthday lunch for Elder Hughes who is Elder Mower's new zone leader companion in the Estelí zone. Thanks to Elder Hughs' mom for sending the birthday decorations. We look forward to working with them both.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

EMAIL... Week 53

Hola All!

We had a wonderful day on Monday with the missionaries completing their missions and the Poncios! We had a nice breakfast and then took pictures at La Catarina, which overlooks Laguna Apoya, and Lake Nicaragua just behind the Laguna. Elders Carter, Neilson, and K, plus President Poncio, took some fun shots...posting on the blog. Then we went to the Masaya Market and did some souvenir shopping, as many of them hadn't had the opportunity while doing their missionary work. The boys bought much more than the girls. ??? Last, we went to a restaurant/hotel in Granada, where we had a lovely meal. Elder K and I gave a presentation/activity on dating and marriage, which we enjoyed doing and the missionaries got a kick out of it...and hopefully some food for thought! We were followed by the Poncios, who shared their thoughts and testimonies, and then each of the 12 bore their final testimonies in the mission field. We found out the extra 3 in the group were the AP's and the Poncio's daughter, who is putting her papers in to serve. Many tears were shed, and the spirit was amazing! They are so prepared to go forth and serve their families, their wards and branches, their districts and stakes, their employers, and the world. The growth, maturity, and Christlike qualities they have gained are immeasurable and will truly bless their lives, their families' lives, and the lives of those around them. I wish we could have bottled the energy and spirit in that room for a time when we feel lacking, but all we need to do to have it, is to serve, count our blessings, obey the commandments, pray, and study the scriptures. We don't ever have to be without the Holy Ghost, once we have received that gift. It's up to us!
Since we were in Managua for changes, we didn't get to "greet" the two new missionaries we get to work with now. We had actually met both of them when we went to Managua for our meeting with Elder Renlund, but working with them is going to be great! Both Hermana Gunn and Elder Hughes are happy, bubbly, hard working missionaries and leaders, so they are easy to love already! Elder Hughes celebrated his 19th birthday yesterday with 7 fechas, and of course a Koelliker b-day cookie! Love doing little things for these amazing young people, who truly bless our lives daily!
We met with an adorable 11 year old, who nailed her baptismal interview. Her mom gave her permission to be baptized and has attended the lessons and church with her. She wants to join as well, but needs to get the "not married to her compañero thing" taken care of. This young girl asked some pretty deep questions and learns like a sponge! What a delight! "My sheep here My voice!" Had a great visit with Marvin and Blanca! She's coming along poco a poco. She truly wants to have a strong testimony and is doing some of the things she needs to do, but she really needs to come to church every week to feel that spirit and partake of the Sacrament. 
Got up early this morning to go pick up 2 young sisters (13 & 15), who were recently baptized, to take them to our District Mini a Youth Conference or mini EFY. They were so excited! We'll pick them up when it's over at 4, along with the young man from Condega and take them all home. There aren't many opportunities for the youth here to have fun and spiritual times together, so it's really a big deal to most of them. They don't have weekly activities like we do, nor many of the other programs our youth in the United States enjoy. There aren't the numbers either, so there are very few in their peer groups at church. It reminds me of the great blessing of the amazing and strong positive peer groups each of our children had growing up, along with the parents of their friends, great leaders and teachers! We are sooo blessed to have the support and help in raising our children in this world today!
Life is good in spite of our challenges and sometimes because of our challenges! The Church is true and living by the precepts and commandments given to us by our Heavenly Father and Savior, is the only way to return to them. We miss the temple so much, especially the peace and answers we receive there. Please take advantage of the opportunities you have to attend the temple.
We love you all and so appreciate all you do and all you are to us!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, July 1, 2017

EMAIL... Week 52

Hola All!
We can't believe we left home for the MTC one year ago today and that our one year mark is Tuesday! It seems like a long time since we were home, but the time has gone fast! We know that we have a LOT to do during the next six months! Tomorrow after our meetings, we are taking the 3 missionaries from our zone, who have completed their missions and are gong home on Tuesday, to Managua. We get to spend Monday with them for their final activity, dinner, fireside, and testimonies. We have worked with 7 of the 15 going home and consider them ours! It's awesome to see their progress and growth, and how prepared they are now for their futures. They will definitely make a difference in the world, their communities, and in the church!
We love working with the people here and with the young missionaries. Yesterday we visited 13 families, and Elder K was able to slip in 2 more, while I was talking to his counselor. People here love to be visited. They feel important and loved when we go to their homes. We sing hymns, have lessons, pray, and they tell us all about themselves and their families. We have gained much insight into their lives, trials, joys, and how we can best help them through these experiences. They are amazing in so many ways, and it's still so humbling to be in their homes and witness their living conditions. There is not even a resemblance of "codes" for their houses. Most are satisfied with how they live and have no desire to change their lifestyles and situations, or they are not willing or able to make the changes in their lives to better themselves.  It's hard not to challenge them to try to have something better or help them understand that there is so much more out there. Just knowing how to read well would help so many of them, and give them the power to really learn, understand what is going on in the world (if that's really possible), and progress. Poco a poco.
We had an awesome visit with Marvin and Blanca. They know why we are here in Estelí and that they are one of the reasons. Since Marvin is preparing to go to the temple in December, we are all hoping, including Blanca, that she will be ready then as well. If not, he will still go and receive his endowments and be sealed to his parents. We wish we could go with them, but understand the rules here. She is reading the Book of Mormon every day and they are praying together. We're including her in our fast tomorrow. They will truly be a power couple and add so much strength to this branch! They are both educated and people persons. 
Last Saturday night we were driving to see a family on a dark and very muddy road. They weren't home, so we turned around to leave and Elder K drove forward and one wheel of the truck went into a hole of water and mud up to the bumper. Even in 4 wheel drive, it wouldn't budge. The brother of the family we had come to see came out with his cousin to try to help. They put rocks in the hole to try and get some traction. I had already tried to push it out myself...ha ha...and I couldn't even budge it. They started looking for wood and another neighbor came out, and the three men pushed it right out. Prayer answered fast! Tender mercy! We didn't think there was a tow truck in town, and wouldn't have had a clue how to get ahold of it, if there was. We took plates of cookies (galletas Americanas) to them a couple of days later, and they were surprised and happy. Yesterday we had the opportunity to give back, as we were in another section of town with muddy, dirt roads, and came upon a family from Costa Rica stuck in a big hole with both of their front tires. Their young son (about 12) waved us down as we drove past the road they were stuck in. First we tried to push from the front and then the back. Then Elder K suggested pulling them out with our truck. The man tied a rope he had to his car, a small SUV, and then to ours. The rope popped the minute there was stress. Elder K "happened" to have a towing strap. They strapped it to both vehicles, while I had the rest of the family get in the back part of their SUV to put some weight in back and give a little lift to the front end. The young son and I pushed down and out from the back, while Elder K pulled from the front...another tender mercy and they were free. They tried to pay us, but we told them we were happy to help. Elder K talked to them about the church and we were all on our way.
We didn't even get too muddy! 
Thank you for your prayers! We know that we have been protected and blessed, because of your diligence in praying for the missionaries, and putting our names on the temple roles. There is so much power in prayer! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker