Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cupcakes... Views... Corn... Covenants...

We had a happy surprise birthday celebration for President and Sister Poncio at our zone conference. Laurie made her famous "Nica" chocolate cupcakes. Laurie's tradition is to make a treat for every missionary at our multi zone conferences. She made 60 cupcakes. They were a hit!

 A beautiful day in the Central Plaza of Estelí.
Contacting up in highlands of Estelí with our Rosario sisters, Hermanas Elías y Muñoz, both from Guatemala.  We could see the entire city of Estelí. It's the 3rd largest city in Nicaragua. 

Two of my favorite kids; Leo y Doris.
The soil is so fertile that corn stalks grow to about 12'. This would make an awesome corn maze. They are so tall and the people so short. An interesting note that when tobacco is harvested they plow the tobacco fields and plant corn. 
We are working with Anabel, holding Jacob, and her husband to get them to the temple in December!
We had a wonderful experience in Darío this past weekend with the baptism of Edgar. Like many couples, he had to get married first before the baptism could take place. Hermana K showed the kids pictures of the Lees, while Edgar and Elder K changed into their white clothes for the baptism. Elder Lee, the past branch president, was going to baptize him, but they couldn't finalize the paper work of his wedding before he and his wife returned to the states, so Edgar wanted someone mature in the gospel to do it. (I think that means old.) We were grateful for the opportunity to represent our dear friends, the Lees. It was a wonderful turn out and great support from the Darío Branch, including their fiesta rice, slice of white bread, soda, and wedding cake.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

EMAIL... Week 60

Hola All!

Another week had flown by filled with visits, travel, and learning. We had to make a quick trip to Managua to trade cars. Hopefully, this will be our last vehicle here in Nicaragua. It is the car the Lees drove, so it is much newer than our previous rides. It has already experienced dirt roads, lots of rain, mud, and being packed with missionaries. It survived this week, so I think it will make it!

Great experience this week with a very special family teaching them a Temple Prep lesson. They were struggling as a family about a year ago. The father was having Word of Wisdom issues, and they weren't attending church regularly as a family, and when they were all there, they didn't sit all together. We started with the Marriage and Family Relations class for the 5 of them several months ago, challenging them to do the small and simple things to start with. Then added that they not only GO to church every week, but that they sit together as a family. We had a few classes that were pretty intense and they bore their souls and shared feelings. Little by little they started communicating lovingly and honestly, and working together more to prepare to be an eternal family. Right before the end of the course, they set a date to be sealed as a family in the temple this December. We started their second Temple Prep lesson on Wednesday and Dad was on fire! He had read both of the pamphlets on Temples, and had lots of deep questions. He testified of the blessings of paying tithing and how the gospel is blessings their lives in so many ways, and especially as a family. His light was awesome and he is leading his family as a worthy Priesthood holder! We feel so blessed to be able to witness the blessings of the gospel in people's lives here in Nicaragua, and know that the gospel can bless the lives of all of our Heavenly Father's children. We know that the gospel is a precious gift that we have been blessed with, and that it needs to be shared with all!

It's awesome to be able to serve a full time mission as a couple! We teach and testify together, with Lee doing most of the talking. He's really got this Spanish down. I am happy to be able to contribute as much as I can, but am grateful for his ability to be able to communicate so well for the both of us. It's amazing how often we are asked about our own family, family experiences, and experiences in the Church. They know that we have something special and we encourage them to do what it takes to have the blessings of the gospel and of the temple in their own lives. 

On our way to a baptism...Have a great week!

We love you all! 

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, August 19, 2017

EMAIL... Week 59

Hola All!

We had changes again this week and all but one companionship in our zone had a change. Needless to say, change day was crazy. Elder K was in the car or waiting at a bus station from 5:50 AM until after 8 PM, with a 45 minute lunch break. We are already missing the ones who were transferred big time! Although we hate losing missionaries, we welcome the new ones and look forward to getting to know and love them too! We are especially missing our good friends, the Lees, as they finished their mission and went home on Tuesday. They were greeted by all 9 of their kids and all but 1 spouse, 1 granddaughter, and their oldest grandson who is on his mission. The blessings of the gospel are real!

Our testimonies of visiting teaching and home teaching continue to be strengthened as we meet and visit people, who are offended because no one comes to visit them. It's interesting when we ask them if they visit others, that this concept has never occurred to them. One of the talks I am working on is about Discipleship, and as President Uchtdorf said in his General Conference talk in April 2009, 

"Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, “spectator discipleship” is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping."

We are striving to help the members here, all of whom are first generation in the church, leave the ways of their former churches and engage in the work of the Lord, the work of discipleship. They struggle with the concept that because this is a lay church, ALL of us are needed to build the kingdom of God here on the earth, spread the gospel, and strengthen our branches, wards, districts, and stakes. We all need to be worthy to have callings, be willing to accept callings, and magnify and serve diligently in those callings and responsibilities. We can't just sit, watch, and expect others to do everything that needs to be done. Poco poco.

I love the Book of Mormon! I love the clarity and spirit of this great book! I am enjoying reading it aloud in Spanish again, as it helps my comprehension and pronunciation. We are so blessed to have another testament of Jesus Christ! I know that He lives and loves each one of us! He and our Heavenly Father want for each of us to progress and to be worthy and prepared to return to Their presence to be with Them and our families forever. Living the gospel, being sealed in the temple, serving, and enduring well until the end are the requirements to receive that great blessing! We can never lose sight of that goal, our potential, or our responsibilities as children of God.

We love and appreciate all of you! Have a great week!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

La Garnacha... Smeagol... Lake Nicaragua... Pizookies... Baptism... Changes!

Elders Mower and Hughes being schooled by President Poncio and Elder Maravilla (Area Authority 70).
Took another batch of missionaries to the rocks of La Garnacha and to see our good friend Alberto.

I found Smeagol! The Nica's like to paint murals of their favorite movie characters on walls.
Our trip to Granada and Lake Nicaragua. Laurie finally confessed her love for me in the cathedral.

Our Monday lunch with some of the sisters in our zone before changes. After making cookie dough with Hermanas Elias y Perez, Laurie used part of it for a pizookie which the Latinas have never experienced. It was gone in seconds!
Pancake breakfast with the Estelí zone before changes.
Another great baptism in the Rosario Branch. Mario was so excited he almost jumped in the font.

Celebrating Elder Mower's birthday early because he was being transferred so he had a good steak before he left. We will miss this wonderful Elder who we absolutely love and been blessed to work with for seven months. The Estelí branch will definitely miss this kid. He left me something to remember him by...a huge bruise on my leg. That boy can hit a baseball hard!

Our last Sunday lunch with this group of awesome missionaries together. Elders Mower and Howland and Sisters Gunn and Perez all were transferred. Changes are always hard. They will be missed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

EMAIL... Week 58

Hola All!

Another week with much gratitude for the power of prayer and fasting, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! The comfort and peace we are given by this member of the Godhead are powerful and so needed, especially in this crazy world with so much negativity. Although Satan has a powerful grasp on many, we know who will win the battle and the war! We are on the side of good! We are on the side of the Savior! Never allow the evil one to even think he has a chance with you. Stay strong by doing the small and simple things that we have been commanded to do, remembering that commandments are to protect us and help us progress in a positive direction! Do all you can to fortify your family and help them to progress! They are the ones we want to be with forever, and they are the ones worth all of the time, effort, thought, and prayer we can give!

Fun time teaching Hermanas Perez and Elías how to make chocolate chip cookies on Monday, and they loved the dough and warm cookies right out of the oven. We know we will lose one of them this change, and will miss the one who goes and be grateful for the one who stays. That's how we feel every change...we don't want to lose any of the missionaries we get to work with because we grow to love them so much. However, the new ones come and we love them too...kind of like having a new baby, your heart expands to love the new one just as much as the ones you already have. Elder K went to hit balls with Elders Mower and Hughes, while we were making cookies. Elder M is quite the hitter and hit Elder K, who was pitching to him, with a line drive in the right thigh and then ricocheted and hit his left thigh. He has two awesome bruises, which a few select people will be allowed to see the pictures of at a later time.  We then had lunch with Hnas. Perez and Elías, and were also joined by Hermanas Nova and Cortez, who are serving in Darío, but came up so Hna. Nova could say goodbye to the people in our Rosario Branch. She was another one we hated to lose, but it has been fun to have her back in our Zone this change and fun to be able to say goodbye to her before she finishes her mission and goes home to Guatemala on Thursday. 

Had the Acevedo Family to dinner and Family Home Evening on Monday. He was the District President who presented Elder K to be the Branch President and said in English to him, "May the force be with you!", when Elder K sat down after speaking. She is the District Relief Society President and has two young sons. They are amazing, despite struggles with him being out of work right now. They are both educated and trying to learn English, so we help each other. They understand the trials the people here are facing and recognize their lack of motivation to progress and change. But we all love the people here and want to help them progress and understand that there is so much more available to them in this life and in the eternities. I think it's hard for most of us to keep that eternal perspective when we are struggling and/or experiencing trials. I have learned to say, "Great blessings require great sacrifices!" in Spanish. (Grandes bendiciones requieren grandes sacrificios!) We are trying to help the people here develop hope and perspective, as having these qualities can change their lives! 

Good visit with President and Hermana Poncio at lunch on Wednesday, as they were here for interviews and house checks. We passed! They are so fun and upbeat with their missionaries, even when they have to machete them a bit about cleanliness. So grateful that we have a nice, clean, safe place to live here. We are relieved that we're not being changed to a different place. Pres. Poncio teases us about moving us sometimes, so we never know how serious he really is. 

Had such a sweet experience visiting with Carlos (104) and his wife, Evangelista. He has prostate cancer and is quite weak, but got dressed and came out to visit with us yesterday. Sometimes we have to go see him in his bed, but even then, he usually smiles and gives us a firm handshake, unless he is really sick. He can only eat soft food, so they need help getting food for him that he can tolerate. We picked up a few things and went back to deliver the food today. Elder K asked him how he was and he told us that he is alive, and that he's grateful that we come to visit him and pray for him. He said he hopes we get blessings for doing it. The blessing for us is seeing this older couple (I can say that because they are older than we are!) persevering well until the end! Great examples of joy, love, devotion, and faith! The Hermanas love him too, and he lights up when the 4 of us walk in the door...mainly because of these precious young missionaries and the light and joy they bring, which fill the room! 

We are so blessed to be here, serving together, serving with amazing young missionaries, and serving the wonderful people of Nicaragua. We know there are people here that we are here for specifically, and that is always such a humbling thought.

Thanks for your love and prayers! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, August 5, 2017

EMAIL... Week 57

Hola All!

Crazy day, crazy week. Sunday we had President Poncio and his family, Elder and Hermana Maravilla (our area 70), the other 2 Senior couples, and the Elders to lunch before the District Priesthood Meeting. Monday we took our 4 Estelí Hermanas to the rock carvings and paintings at La Garnacha, and then to get Pizza Hut pizza. Yum! Tuesday we drove up to Condega for visits and then had Consejo (Branch Council). We left for Managua on Wednesday night to have an adventure with the other 2 Senior couples in our mission and the Senior couple from the south mission. On Thursday, after dropping our car off to get fixed, we all left for Granada, which is a touristy city on Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Nicaragua. We went on a boat tour and saw a plethora of different kinds of birds, 2 kinds of monkeys on 2 different islands, trees, water lilies, plants, and multiple little islands, some even had homes on them. One of the biggest islands is for sale for $450,000, but the house was just some cement pillars, and we don't think our family would want to commute. We did not see any of the fresh water sharks, but our guide told us that they stay in the middle, and this lake is huge! We were all grateful that we didn't go to the middle and that no one fell in. We also visited 2 of the cathedrals there, and were able to climb the flights of skinny stairs, ducking to avoid bumping our heads on the low ceilings, to get to the top and see the city. Fun day with our co-missionaries and great to see another part of this country. We went to pick up the car, but they hadn't figured out what was wrong yet, or in reality they probably hadn't worked on it at all yet. We had planned to return home, but ended up spending another night. So grateful for the Lees and their awesome hospitality. We always have fun with them and will miss them so much when they return home on the 15th. We had lunch with the missionaries at the conference for the leaders, and were able to talk to some we have served with in the past. They are amazing young people! We got home late last night and stayed up to do some of our Friday chores.
Got up early this morning to prepare part of Sunday's meal and then headed over to clean the chapel with the 2 Hermana missionaries serving here with us in the Rosario Branch. One of the baptisms got changed from 3 to 12, so we ran home and showered after cleaning, and then Elder K got the font filled, the room set up for the baptism, picked up the Elders (ZL's), and then me. We got there in time to turn the water off in the font before it overflowed and before the woman arrived to be baptized. She is so happy and is so excited to have taken this step in her life. Dropped off one set of Elders, and took the Condega Elders and a member of their group to Condega, where we did our Marriage class. Had a great discussion about fathers and honoring the Priesthood. Elder K was able to give a beautiful blessing to one of the men there of comfort, encouragement, and direction. I love witnessing the Priesthood in action. Then back to Estelí for another baptism. Picked up a bolt in our tire at some point between baptisms, so after grocery shopping, Elder K dropped me off and he went to get the tire fixed. Whew! We are exhausted and it's not even Sunday.
We love the people here and love working with them. People and cultures are so different, but yet we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father, who wants us to have joy in this life even through our trials and difficulties. The times when I say, "What else?" are the times that draw me to my knees to pour out my heart and soul to Him. Those are the times when I reach that level of frustration or sorrow or helplessness or pain, that I have to turn everything over to Him, and listen and feel what He wants me to do or what He is trying to teach me. Those are some of the sweetest times when I feel His love and His awareness of me as His daughter. I know He has a plan for each one of us, and His plan for each of us is so much better than our own plan. He knows who we really are, our potentials, and the experiences we need to have and sometimes endure to reach our fullest potential. I love the hope of the gospel. I love the hope that our Savior has given to each one of us through His life and Atonement. I love helping others know these things for themselves and watching them develop relationships with Heavenly Father and our Savior. I love the reminder in the movie, "Lion King", "Remember who you are!" As we remember who we are, who others are, our Savior and all that He has done for each one of us, may we remember our loving Heavenly Father, who wants each one of us to return home.
We love you all and so appreciate all you do and are!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker