Saturday, September 30, 2017

EMAIL... Week 65

Hola All!

Loved the Women's Conference last Saturday! I am so glad that I cheated and sat in the back of the chapel with one of the English speaking Hermanas sharing a set of ear buds and listening through the iPad in English! We didn't want to miss a word or lose something in the translation. What awesome messages! Our leaders are fabulous! We're excited for this weekend's General Conference and are so thankful for the technology to be able to enjoy all of the sessions! 

We had changes Monday! Hermana Muñoz finished her mission and is home in Guatemala, and Hermana Pratt was transferred to Managua. We will miss them both, but are excited to work with the 2 brand new Hermanas. This change wasn't as crazy as the last one, thank goodness! 

Elder Koelliker had his 4th birthday as a missionary this week. He had a great day with many messages from all over, lunch at Subway (his choice), and blueberry cheesecake NICA style. (I'm getting pretty daring in the kitchen with substitutions.) The 4 Hermanas sang Feliz Cumpleaños to him and gave him a Nica t-shirt. Thanks for helping him have a special day! To continue the celebrating, last night Marvin and Blanca had us over for Nica tacos, which were more like giant chicken and potato tacquitos with shredded cabbage, cream, and some kind of hot sauce on top. They were so good that Elder K had 4! We took chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting to continue our exposing them to American food. Thank goodness for La Colonia with the cake mixes and powdered sugar I can only get there.

We had some great visits and lessons this week, reminding people of the upcoming General Conference and how blessed we are to have a prophet and apostles. Many of the people here have never viewed or listened to the conferences, so don't fully understand the significance of these great brethren and our other General leaders. Elder K has the insert from the Ensign with pictures of the First Presidency, Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and other leaders, which he shows the people here so they can see them and start to make connections with the quotes and stories they have heard. We're sad that President Monson and Elder Hales aren't planning to be there due to health issues. Oh how we love these wonderful leaders and so appreciate their powerful and needed messages. They each have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for us, in their efforts to help us all prepare to return to our Heavenly Father and Savior. Hopefully, we won't have the torrential rain today and Sunday that we've been having, so our people can get to the Estelí chapel to participate. It's sunny right now, so we are hopeful! Definitely a highlight of each year!

Thank you for all you each do for us, especially for your examples, love, and prayers! 
We love you all!


Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cemetery... Pizza Hut... Twins... Fertilizer!

The burial spot of our sweet 104 year old, Carlos.

Last lunch with Hermanas Muñoz and Pratt before changes. Hermana Muñoz finishes with honor! Can't get enough Pizza Hut pizza in Nicaragua. We're lucky to have one here in Estelí.
Fun with the twins. They are always so excited to see us when we come. 
The neighborhood lawn service; cut and fertilize at the same time.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

EMAIL... Week 64

Hola All!

We've had a wet and busy week, oh, but we're in Nicaragua during the rainy season. Last weekend was District Conference, like Stake Conference but with branches instead of wards so much smaller. The Sunday session was held in one of the Universities' auditorium and there were over 400 people in attendance. We were able to host President and Hermana Poncio, his counselor, the 3 Zone Leaders, and the Bells for Sunday lunch after the session. Always fun to serve American food to Latinos.

Our little 104 year old passed away early Monday morning and we went over mid-morning to see how we could help. They already had his body in the casket in their main room, a big sideless tent outside covering 30-40 chairs, people already coming to pay their respects, and it was drizzling. When we went back that night for the official viewing, it was pouring rain. We are so happy for him to be free from his longtime suffering and the effects of his recent stroke. His wife, Evangelista, was at peace, knowing that since they've been sealed in the temple, they can be together forever. Tuesday we drove for about 50 minutes to the cemetery where he was to be buried. We took Jerónimo, the new Branch President, up with us. There were over 100 family members who drove up, most in the backs of open trucks. Jerónimo dedicated the grave, as none of the family members were Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Some of the sons and grandsons put the casket in the hole and shoveled the dirt in. There were no officials there. A daughter asked us to take her and Evangelista back to Estelí, and both were totally calm. We visited Evangelista again Friday, and her son is there staying with her, as she is nervous to be alone. There are usually a lot of people staying there, so this is only temporary. It was interesting to witness the matter of fact attitudes they have about death.

Wednesday our Mission President, his wife, the AP's, and the sister leader were back up here working with the different companionships. President and Hermana Poncio went with both sets of Estelí Hermanas to do visits and lessons, and the girls took them to some of the crazy to walk places we visit regularly, but they walked all the way. We usually drive to the area and then hike or walk into and around the barrios. There were many periods of pouring rain that day. Needless to say they all got wet and muddy, but that's the reality of missionary work here. We fed the Poncios, AP's,  and ZL's in between their sets of visits. It was fun to hear what they thought of the work here, and how different it is than in Managua.

We love the people here! Most of the members are young in the gospel here in Estelí and we have to remind ourselves of that often. Even things that we think are simple and that we take for granted, they have to be taught and trained. We are finding that some can't read, which really slows their progress, as they can't read their scriptures or the Liahona, or sing the hymns until they've heard them many times. The extra sacrifices and efforts they are making truly humble us. They want the blessings of the gospel that are available for them, but they have to work much harder to achieve and receive them. The ones who truly strive to progress are successful and they are amazing examples to us all!

I'm excited for the Women's Broadcast tonight and General Conference next weekend! It is such a spiritual uplift to be able to hear from our prophet, the apostles, and our other general leaders. Have a fabulous week! Thanks for all you do! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sunsets... Baptisms... Trucks...

We are blessed to have beautiful sunsets in Estelí. There are always clouds and smoke from the volcanoes which make the sunsets more spectacular. ¡Que bellísima!

Two wonderful baptisms this past week; Cristian and a sweet family and in Condega. We had a nice celebration afterwards. The river provided a beautiful setting.

A house is being built across the street from us and a truck drove up delivering gravel. When I looked closer I noticed the area code was familiar and the name wasn't Latino. If you wonder where your old trucks, school buses, and appliances go...Nicaragua. The people are great at fixing up old/used things and making them work. On a side note, this house is being built entirely with bricks and cement, with no power and heavy machinery. It's been amazing to watch the workers dig footings, mix cement, and build steel pillars by hand.

EMAIL... Week 63

Hola All!

Another week has just sailed by with some unique experiences for us. Last Saturday, after our baptism here, we drove up to Condega for a baptism. We missed the wedding of the couple, but got there in time to drive to the river and then walk through the mud and grasses to get to the edge with an area where they could be baptized. Elder Espinoza baptized the 9 year old daughter, Noemi, first. Then Elder Pérez baptized the parents, Pedro and Fatima. Beautiful setting, and lots of ants. We then went to the Elders' house, where they now meet for church and where the wedding was held, and served cake and soda to celebrate the wedding. Unfortunately the Elders have a swarm of wasp like creatures living in front of their house, but gratefully, only two got me and none got Elder K, since he is allergic. It was a wonderful experience and worth the ant, mosquito, and wasp bites to be there. We then headed to teach the first Temple Prep lesson to a darling young couple there. Great day!

Monday we felt impressed to go and visit the father of one of the families we are working with to prepare to go to the temple. No one else was home, and he told us he is still having a problem with smoking. Elder K asked him if he had any cigarettes in the house. He did, so Elder K told him to give them to him and even offered to pay him for them. He smiled and happily gave them to him, but wouldn't accept money. (Elder K hadn't taken cigarettes away from anyone since he retired.) We talked about how Satan was trying to tempt him so they couldn't go to the temple, and read some scriptures with him. We asked him if he needed the extra help of a Priesthood blessing and he asked Elder K to give him one right then. He gave him a beautiful blessing of strength, help, and encouragement. We talked about different strategies to defeat this vice in his life. His family came home as we were leaving and we checked on him a few days later, and he's happy and clean! We'll keep praying for him! We love their family and so want for them to have the blessings of the temple in their lives.

We got a call Tuesday night that the little 104 year old man in our Branch was really sick. We went and picked up the new Branch President and drove over to see him. He had had a stoke and was breathing very erratically. They said he had not eaten much for three days. He also has prostate cancer and a catheter, which he has been dealing with for years. They gave him a Priesthood blessing and talked to his wife, who thinks he will die soon. He refuses to go to the hospital because the last time he went, they about killed him, according to him. We love Carlos and Evangelista, and have had the privilege of visiting them weekly since we got here. We checked on him today and he is slowly deteriorating. It is so sad to see him suffer through his Gethsemane.

Today is Central America's Independence Day...we waited in line at the grocery store yesterday for over 45 minutes as most people had yesterday and today off of work. The schools are out too, and many students are in their school bands and traveled to Managua to march in parades. Lots of cannons and fireworks...not the pretty ones, the noisy ones. They like to celebrate!

That's Nicaragua! Thank you for your prayers and support! We love you all!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Saturday, September 9, 2017

EMAIL... Week 62

Hola All!

We are so grateful to be able to serve here in Nicaragua. We didn't know what to expect when we received our call, but immediately knew that this is where we're supposed to be. We love the people and hurt for them in their frustrations and trials, but know that having the gospel in their lives will lift, encourage, and bless them immeasurably. They just need to have faith, be obedient to God's commandments, and strive to love and serve others. I'm so grateful for the Book of Mormon and the fullness of the Gospel it teaches. I love to read about Christ's visits here in the Americas after His resurrection, and how He loved and served the people here, and how He established His Church here as He had in Israel. I am enjoying reading it aloud in Spanish much more this second time, as I know what many more of the words mean and can pronounce them correctly. Poco poco. You returned missionaries, don't lose your language! It has been a huge blessing for us that Lee already had a good base when we arrived. He is doing awesome!

We had a sweet experience with the Elders this week. We went to visit a family who had been offended about a month ago and had told the Elders that they were going to go to another church because no one had come to help them. Nobody knew they needed help. That strengthened our testimonies of home and visiting teaching. We asked the wife if we could come and visit them and bring a message. She told us we could come Sunday afternoon. They were very stoic when we got there, but we talked to them, sang "I Stand All Amazed", and they sang with us. We had an opening prayer and then showed them the video, "For God So Loved the World". The spirit was strong and there was a great peace. The father said the closing prayer himself. They weren't totally over their being offended, but their hearts were definitely softened. People everywhere need to be loved, cared about, watched over, prayed for, and visited...yes visited! So many people here have complained that no one visits them. We try to get around to as many as we can each week, but they especially want the members from their branches and wards to visit them too! We have encouraged them to visit others! We get some strange looks when we suggest this, but we know that we feel joy and are blessed when we reach out to others.

As most of you know, our missionary work is different than the young missionaries, yet we are blessed to be able to work with them in teaching the gospel and preparing people for baptism. We also have the opportunity to work with people who are struggling physically, mentally, and/or spiritually. We love working with couples to strengthen their marriages and families, and helping prepare people to make sacred covenants in the temple and be sealed as forever families. The gospel is amazing and is for all of Heavenly Father's children here on earth. He loves each one of us! He has given us His Plan of Happiness, because He wants all of us to be happy, not only in this life, but throughout all eternity. He wants us to live worthy lives so that we will feel comfortable in His presence and the presence of our Savior. He loved us enough to send His Only Begotten Son to earth to show us how to live, teach us by example, atone for our sins, and rise the third day so that we can all live forever. Each of us has already been blessed with immortality, but eternal life, life like and with our Heavenly Father, depends on our choices, thoughts, desires, and actions. Life isn't easy for any of us, but we can all have heavenly help if we do our best, and humbly and sincerely pray for it. Everything is in place because of God's Plan for us, but the rest is up to us! We testify that it is definitely worth the efforts, changes in our lives, sacrifices, endurance, and humility to prepare to meet and become worthy to be with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and our families forever. This is the goal most glorious and important for us and for our family! Together forever!

We love you all! Thank you for sharing your light and lives with us!


Elder and Hermana Koelliker

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Orchids... Camel... Baptism!

Juan showed us his prize orchids on his patio. He spends lots of time out there in his hammock.  
The circus is in town so I got up close and personal with the camel. There are a lot less stray dogs around when the circus is in town.
This is Holly who was baptized last weekend despite the flooding. We love Hermanas Muñoz and Elías who taught her. She will be a great addition to our Branch.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

EMAIL... Week 61

Hola All!
I'm sitting here waiting for one of the baptisms of the day to start, and thinking about how amazing many people are! They truly want to have Heavenly Father and our Savior in their lives, not just to give them lip service, but to truly understand who They really are, their relationship with each Member of the Godhead, their potential, and what they need to do to achieve their full potential while on this earth. It's wonderful and humbling to see their lights turn on as they learn poco poco what this life is really all about. The young missionaries are such fabulous teachers of the Gospel, and we are blessed to observe them in action and share our testimonies and experiences as well.
Yesterday we were taking the Hermanas, who we had worked with that afternoon, to meet the brother and sister who are being baptized today. It was the third day of incredible downpour and the path down the hill to their home was literally a river. The sister and her mother came up behind us while we were discussing (in the car) how to get down there, as the path is hard to climb down on a good day. The mother had the young girl stay with us and she went down a back way and sent her daughter dry clothes up with a neighbor young man. We took them all to the church to wait for their interviews. We often take our vehicles, our modes of transportation, so for granted. Most of the people here walk and take taxis or buses, when they can afford it. We were reminded again how blessed we are in so many ways. We really feel for the people in Houston, as our flooding here is minimal compared to what they are experiencing. It's so inspiring to see people of all races, religions, and cultures come together to help the people in Houston! There is goodness in most people and it's awesome to see it in action in the service of others. We are grateful to be able to participate in the worldwide fast for them. I love that we can unite in faith, prayer, and fasting to call down the blessings of heaven on people everywhere, as well as on individuals. What an untapped opportunity to petition for help from heaven!
We love the opportunities to serve individuals and families, from teaching them life skills, to sharing the gospel, to helping them with food orders or transportation. All are blessed with service! All receive joy from giving of ourselves, and receiving love and service from others when we are in need. We are so grateful for our Savior and for His perfect example of loving and serving others. The best way to thank and honor Him is by loving and serving those around us.
Thank you all for your love and service to us and our family, and to those around you! We love you!

Elder and Hermana Koelliker