Sunday, January 14, 2018

Monday, January 8 to Sunday, January 14, 2018

This week we ended up at the hospital every day except for Sunday. We had two missionaries that were admitted and several others with doctor appointments or emergency visits. We are grateful that both missionaries that were admitted were released on Friday and the others were able to get diagnosed and treatment completed. 

We also had two zone conferences; one was the Puerto Cabeza zone conference which was on Wednesday. The whole zone (18 missionaries) came to Managua on Monday (17 hours) to celebrate breaking the mission record with 82 baptisms in one month. They had a celebration with the President on Tuesday and then a zone conference on Wednesday. 

We never get to teach Puerto Cabeza because their zone conferences are usually in Puerto, so it was a pleasure to do so. When we start a zone conference, the missionaries stand up and say the Mission objective and mission culture. The missionaries know these sayings by heart and always say them with a lot of enthusiasm. However, when Puerto began to say these in Spanish, it was sloppy and without enthusiasm. Several were reading the words, as if they didn't know it. I began to be a little concerned that they have gotten lax, being so far from the President. However, after they said them in Spanish, they repeated them in Miskito, the native language spoken in Puerto Cabeza. This time they said it with enthusiasm and with great energy and feeling. It was great to hear them in Miskito. It was powerful. 

We got to work with Doctor Abdahla, who is our LDS doctor. She is a wonderful doctor and treats our missionaries well. When we have a question about a missionary or need to identify the right doctor to send a missionary to, we call Dra. Abdahla. We love her and appreciate all she does for us. 

We had the Managua three zone conference today. We gave the feet presentation again. 

They did some roll playing. Our three office Elders (E. Russell, Howell and Bennion) teamed up for this exercise.

Brotherly Love

We were back in the hospital most of Saturday, thus we had to cancel our scheduled activities up  north. One of our missionaries, serving in Jalapa (7 hours from Managua) came in with problems. Fortunately, once diagnosed it was something fixable with medicine. We fed them and took them to the Elders house. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018
Because the sick missionary was doing well, we decided to head north. We left at 6am and arrived home at 7:30pm. We attended Sacrament Meeting in Condega. Now that the Koellikers have left, we will begin to service Condega again. We spent a lot of time in Condega and have seen the numbers go up and down. Today, the group was very small. There were only 7 members, 1 investigator, and 4 missionaries (including Sister Bell and I) in attendance. We felt a sadness in those who attended. We are not sure why, but we didn’t feel the joy of the Gospel today. We stayed only for Sacrament Meeting, but on our way out of town, we stopped and visited with Freddy, the assistance group leader. He was sick at home. Virginia was not in the house.  Her mother passed away recently and she was visiting with her family.  They are preparing to go to the temple in April. The Koellikers have taught them the Temple Prep classes, but we want to stay close to help them be ready. 

We then made our way to Somoto. We arrived about 12:15 pm. The meetings were over and almost everyone had left. But we were able to visit with President Alaniz. We discussed the need to find a Secretary for the branch (He and I are the only authorized signatories for checks. Once I leave he won’t be able to cash a check), make arrangements to get their Patriarchal Blessings, and prepare for the April temple trip. We took him home and showed his wife and daughter the used clothes we brought from the Sister missionaries who had gone home. They had fun trying on clothes and picked several that looked good on them. President Alaniz and I just sat watching and laughing. They were so cute trying on the clothes and Sister Bell was enjoying helping them and giving them her comments.

We then went by Celia’s house. We wanted to see her new glasses and give her some RS lesson material. Her glasses look wonderful and the best part is that she hasn’t had headaches since she got them. She loves to read and these glasses will help to read without problems.

We then ended up at Azaria’s house. We discussed the temple trip, which she didn’t go on. We told her we loved her and that it was alright that she didn’t go and encouraged her to prepare to go in April. She told us about the new job interview that she had and is anxiously waiting to hear if she got the job. I also asked her for her conversion story that she is writing and told her I wanted to share it with President Poncio and the public affairs people in Guatemala. I think it was be a wonderful Liahona story. They asked me to give Cythnia, a young woman, a blessing as she prepares to go back to school, so I did.

We stopped on our way through Esteli to deliver a microwave to Sister Pacheco and Pozo. We then stopped at the Church to give Somoto financial reports to President Rivera. We also dropped off a few bibles to Elders Espinosa and Najera in Sebaco. Then we drove directly home. It was a long day. The best parts were the visits in members in their homes. Ministering to the one is always to best way to show our discipleship. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Monday, January 1 to Sunday, January 7, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018 – Happy New Year
President Poncio invited us to lunch as a farewell to Elder and Sister Koelliker and Elder Hamson, all who will be going home tomorrow. We love these missionaries. Elder and Sister Koelliker have become very good friends. We appreciate their hospitality almost every Saturday night, when we stayed in their home in Esteli. They have worked hard to activate members and support new members in Esteli and Condega. Elder Koelliker served as branch president of the Rosario Branch for many months. We love them and will miss them.

We met Elder Hamson in Somoto, when we began working there. He was a brand-new missionary there. He then served as financial secretary for 8 months, so we worked closely with him then. He has been a zone leader since he left the office. He is a wonderful missionary. He is going home early to begin school at BYU.

After lunch, we were invited to join the President, his family and those missionaries leaving for an afternoon excursion. He first headed for Catarina, but the traffic was so bad, we turned around and headed for Granada. The traffic was bad there also, but we finally found places to park and walked around the main park. There were a lot of people, celebrating the new year, with music and dancing. The Catholic Church was holding a mass or concert in the main Cathedral, so the plaza was packed with people. The Koelliker and Elder Hamson bought a few gifts at the markets, then we headed home. With the Koellikers, we ate at Rosti Pollo before arriving home. We enjoyed our little outing, but most of all, we enjoyed being with the Koellikers and Elder Hamson, one last time.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Today we said goodbye to our good friends, the Koellikers. We took them to the airport arriving at 6am, helped them get checked in, took a picture and said our goodbyes. We love the senior missionaries we serve with. They have become good friends. We will miss them.

After going to the airport, we went back home. David and I went to INE to file a complaint about our light bill, but we were told we needed to file 2 complaints with Disurru, the power company. We had only filed 1 complaint for Novembers bill. So we drove to the Disurru office and filed a complaint for Decembers bill. Now we wait for more inspections.

We made it to the morning office meeting. We were greeted by several missionaries who were part of an emergency change. We learned who was transferred during our office meeting. We worked in the office for a couple of hours, waiting for lunch. The President took us to a Mexican Restaurant – Ajua. It is a lot like Café Rio.

We ran home to take laundry off the line, then we went to Sinsa to pay our rent. I talked with Yareny’s, our housing contact. I informed her that we would be moving out March 13. We talked about the light bill and how to cancel light, water and internet. Then we went to the office. We are working on how to get a package sent by the Church that contains 2 Epipens out of customs. Roger Perez from the Church’s administrative office has been given the assignment to get the package out of customs. I was afraid I would have to do it again. We started gathering some of the information he will need.

We had dinner at the Helbergs tonight. That is always enjoyable… but we are really tired tonight.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - Happy Birthday Kanika

We were really tired this morning, so we slept in until 6:30am. Michelle did wash before we left. We walked around a new park being built just a couple of blocks from our home. 

We were about to leave when the man from the power company and 3 men from Sinsa came to check the power. The power company man did a quick inspection, like he did before. He said more people will come by within 5 days to do a more thorough inspection. The Sinsa men (3 of them) did a much more thorough inspection. Apparently, the fix they did last week was still working, which is good. They couldn’t find any other obvious problem. But they plan to return several times to determine the usage.

We went to the office. The leaders were having their council meeting. I had distribution items for several of them and Sister Bell wanted to be available in case any wanted to talk about health issues. We got a free pizza for lunch, since they had extra and we were there.

We loaded up packages, so I can deliver them at the upcoming zone conferences and then headed for the Distrubition Center. We have more orders for garments, etc.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We started early, leaving the house at 5:30. We stopped at the office to pick up more packages and then headed for Esteli. Sister Bell gave a presentation about feet. I did the color commentary and then we gave them a test about the material presented, with chocolate being the reward if they knew the answer. We ended singing Ocho Vasas de Agua. President Poncio showed a short tribute to President Monson. We will miss him, especially his example of service and his stories. We look forward to the Presidency of President Nelson.

We stayed until after lunch so I could give out materials and Sister Bell could give council to sick missionaries. We left about 2:30 and drove to Chinandega. We stayed at Las Portales, a nice hotel next to Rosti Pollo. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

We had out multizone in Chinandega today. It was nice to sleep in and not have to drive 3 hours to the conference. Our presentation went well. Chocolate always improves a presentation. The fotos of bad ingrown toenails got everyone’s attention. Hopefully, it will help.

We stayed to the end as we had to give out packages, letters and materials. We also brought Hermana Fersola home because President Poncio was staying in Chinandega for the week-end to attend a stake conference.

After dropping off Sister Fersola, we went to the hospital. We had an Elder come from Puerto Cabeza on the noon flight. Elder Howell, stayed with him for most of this afternoon. When we stopped by, he was resting comfortably in his room. We taught Elder Howell how to order dinner, left them some money for food for his companion and went home.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

We were at the hospital a good part of the afternoon and went back again in the evening. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

We went to Church at the closest ward which is in the south mission. It is the same ward that the Helbergs go to. It started at 8am. There were very few people at 8am, but they started anyway. People began to come in before the sacrament and a bunch came in after the Sacrament was over. I was impressed that they closed the door during the Sacrament, so people had to wait in the lobby while the Sacrament was passed.

We left early so we could visit with our missionary in the hospital. We then left for Trinidad. We got there just after noon. President Cruz was still at the Church. So was Karen. So we went to the chapel first. We showed Karen the used clothes we got from the sister missionaries. She picked out several, which will help her upgrade her wardrobe. She is really excited and ready to go.

President Cruz told me that only three or four will be going; himself, his wife, Karen and possibly Dania. I also worked with the missionaries and President Alaniz in Somoto to help Azaria and possibly one other go to the temple. Azaria is all ready and excited. We thoroughly enjoy helping members get to the temple. That is one of the true joys of our mission. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Monday, December 25 to Sunday, December 31, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017 – Merry Christmas

The Nicaraguans celebrate Christmas on the 24th at night. They started lighting fireworks about midnight. Then they eat and eventually go to bed in the early morning hours. When we walked this morning, there were very few people on the streets.

Michelle cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, yams, happy Jello and gravy. The Helbergs came over and brought green beans and brownies/ice cream. It was wonderful. We then went to see the new Star Wars. We hope that the good guys finally win out in the final movie.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

We had our weekly office planning meeting, then we went to the store and home. Pretty uneventful day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

We had our new missionary training. Sister Bell and I taught a balanced diet. We had Tip Top for lunch (not our favorite). Sister Bell talked with several missionaries that were ailing in various ways. We took Elder Arias and Elder Bashore back to their apartment, so we could change out one of the mattresses. It was old and dirty. We made a quick stop at Pricesmart and then home.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

I took David, our guard to file another complaint about our light bill. There is an organization that receives second level complaints. Our light bill, increased dramatically in October, November and December. An electrician came out last week and found that even when all the power is turned off in the house, there is still current going to the meter. He hopefully fixed it. But now we want an independent person to come and figure out how much was excessive and how much we really used. So we went this morning to make that request, but we found out that everyone is on vacation this week. We will need to come back on the 2nd of January.

After dropping David back at the house, I went to the bank (I needed more money…. Christmas was expensive this year), store and got a haircut. We then went to Huembas to buy Michelle a new purse (Nicaraguan). Then home for lunch. After lunch we went to the distribution center. We had a long list of items the missionaries needed such as garments and scriptures.

We then sorted through 5 bags of clothes that the sister missionaries left when they went home. We will take these up north and share with the sisters who are going to the temple, or in leadership positions.

We had dinner and watched a movie.

Friday, December 30, 2017

We had another adventure today. We went to Ometepe, the Island in Lake Nicaragua. The Helbergs wanted to go. We left at 5am so we could catch the 7:45 ferry.

The ride was much smoother than the last trip which we took last April with the Lee’s. The boat was full so we ended up on the top deck. It had been raining on our drive down to Rivas, but by the time we got on the ferry, it was sunny and warm.

There was a full rainbow over Lake Nicaragua as we got off the ferry.

We hired a guide, Arcelia to take us to various places on the island. Daniel, was our driver in a 4X4 Rav4. We wanted to see the San Ramon Waterfall. Daniel was going to drive us to within ½ km of the falls, but it was so slick and steep, he had to drop us off about 2km from the falls. No problem… we thought. But it was very steep and slick, so we had to take our time. By the time we got to the falls, we were getting cramps and very tired. Sister Helbergs homemade Chocolate Cookies gave us a much needed sugar boost.

There were howler monkeys and parrots in the tree canopy, but we couldn’t see them. The waterfall is about 262 feet. There was a nice pool at the bottom that some brave souls waded in. It wasn’t very deep.

It took us 3 hours to go and down, twice as long as we expected. Coming down was hard on our knees. Then it started raining so by the time we got back to the car, we were soaked and muddy. But we still had smiles on our faces.

We eat lunch at a little cocinera at the bottom of the trail.

We didn’t have time to see anything else, so Daniel took us back to the ferry. It left at 5:30pm. We arrived home about 9pm.

The sunset was a fitting end to our trip.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We stayed home most of the day (except for two quick trips to the store). It was nice to have a day to recover. Our legs, knees and feet are very sore from yesterdays hike. We worked from home, taking care of some administrative type work that needed to be done.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

We went to Church in Trinidad. We left at 6am. We both talked. Sister Bell talked about repentance. I talked about President Poncios plan for family success; scripture study, family prayer, Family Home Evening, pay tithing and attend the temple. We paid the bus fare for 8 members that are planning on going to the temple in two weeks. President Cruz will interview those needing interviews and two will need an interview from President Perez, 1st Counselor in the Mission Presidency. We arrived home early, about 4pm. The Koellikers will be staying with us for two nights before they go home on Tuesday. We will miss them dearly, but we are glad we can host them for a couple of days, since they have hosted us for 1 ½ years in their home in Esteli.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Monday, December 18 to Sunday, December 24, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

This was a week of service. Monday was changes. One of our sisters was recovering from foot surgery. She needed to go to Leon and we didn't want her to have to take a bus, so we offered to take her and her companion to her apartment in Leon. So we made the 2 hour drive to Leon, returning early afternoon. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We had 8 new missionaries come today. Two from the States, 1 from Panama, and the rest from Honduras and Guatemala. Three were sisters and the rest were Elders. We taught them the 10 Commandments of Good Health. One of the missionaries came with a hurt finger. He got it jammed playing Volleyball in the MTC. They didn’t do an x-ray to see if it was broken. It was still stiff, swollen and hurt badly. Sister Bell was concerned that it was broken, so we got permission to take him (and his companion) to the hospital to have it checked. Fortunately, it wasn’t broken. We took them to the Secretaries house because it was too late to get a bus to their area when they were done.

The new Elders with their trainers.

The three new sister missionaries with their trainers

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Salvador was late coming this morning, so David needed to stay until noon. He usually goes home at 6:30am so wasn’t prepared to cook breakfast. So I cooked him eggs, ham and tortillas.

We went to Pricesmart this morning and bought groceries for a needy family in Pueblo Nuevo. We will deliver it on Saturday. We came home for lunch. We were about to leave to find toys for this family, when we got a call from President Poncio telling us that two missionaries had accidents at a service project and needed to go to the hospital. Sister Bell ordered payment guarantees from our insurance and then we went to the hospital. We stayed with them until they were fixed up. President Poncio came back and took them home. We came home, ate dinner and watched a Christmas Movie.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Having the Christmas spirit, we took donuts to the Sister leaders house and to the office missionaries. We went to a doctor's appointment at the hospital and then took the Elders to Carl’s Jr. for lunch, then home to take the laundry off the line. Then to the distribution center (which was closed for inventory) and then to Walmart. We bought presents for our secret Santa family. We stopped at another La Colonia for a few final items, then home. A pretty uneventful day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

This afternoon we went downtown with the Helbergs to see the manger exhibits. Many of the exhibitors used the same backdrops from the Mary Alter displays and replaced the alter scenes with manager scenes.

We then went to the Paseo Xolotlan.

We finished the day at La Peruvian Terrace Restaurant.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Today we were Santa. We gave donuts to the gas attendants in Sebaco. We stop there going north and south, so we know them really well. Usually it is to use the restrooms (they are clean) but sometimes we get gas. We gave a tin of cookies to the Cruzes (Michelle gave a piano lesson to Maria Clara) and to the Trinidad Elders, Elder Guerra and Mejia. We then went to Somoto to take Celia to get her glasses. But when we got there, the office was closed. So we gave her the remaining money so she can pick them up next week. We then passed by the Alaniz’s home and gave cookies to them. Then off to Pueblo Nuevo. It was their Christmas party. We picked up the food from Hermana Nubia’s house and took it to the Elder’s house. There were about 30 people there. We watched a video of the Savior’s birth, I gave a short talk, then we read and sang songs with Sister Bell at the keyboard about the birth of the Savior, something that is a tradition in Elder Davidson’s home. We ate and had a birthday cake for Elder Ponce. He turned 19 today.

We then took Hermana Jenny home with her 5 kids and 2 grandkids. They live in San Antonio, about 7 kms out of town. They usually have to walk to Church, which takes about 1.5 hours. We crammed them into the truck. They live in a remote area. The road was so bad we had to put the truck in 4 wheel drive. When we got there, we gave them the food, candy, cookies and presents for the kids. Her husband helped me carry it up to their house. They live in an adobe house. The doors are really narrow. The container almost didn’t fit through the door. The kids were really excited when they saw the presents and candy. It was a lot of fun. They are so poor, they don't have much to eat and probably have never gotten a wrapped present for Christmas. We drove away with a light heart and a big smile on our faces. 

This is the family of Hermana Jenny

Sunday, December 24, 2017

After making a quick trip to Ocotal to give a few letters and medicine to the missionaries, we went to Sacrament Meeting in Somoto. We have two new missionaries in Somoto, Elder Smith and Elder Herrera. Both talked in the Sacrament Meeting. Hermana Azaria also talked. The primary, all 4 of them, sang I am a Child of God. Sister Bell accompanied them. 

We only had Sacrament meeting so we headed for home early, arriving early.  

On the way home we dropped off the bench at the Helbergs that was made with its twin from two wooden bunk beds from the mission before it was split.  We have the twin on our front porch.  Now there is one in the South mission and one in the North Mission.  

It was nice to be home before it got dark.  We are looking forward to talking with the children and grandchildren on this Christmas eve and tomorrow Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Monday, December 11 to Sunday, December 17, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Oh what a day. We attended our weekly planning meeting at the office this morning. Then we headed to the hospital. We had 5 missionaries come for various doctors appointments. We arrived about 11am and finally left at 5pm. We fed 4 missionaries. Two missionaries used our computers to write their families, while we eat in the restaurant. Sister Bell attended 3 doctors visits and I went to one. We were glad we didn’t have to cook tonight because the Helbergs invited us over for dinner. But after dinner I had to take crutches to Ducuali because a sister needs to see the doctor for an ingrown toe nail. We are bushed tonight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We had our Christmas Party for the three zones on the west side. We drove early to Chinandega. We did the 12 days of Christmas for our health message, but instead of using the regular words, we changed them to various breakfast options. We divided the group into twelve smaller groups and assigned a day to each. When it was their turn, they stood up and sang their part. The missionaries really got into it and had a lot of fun. Here is some of the photos from today.

Hermanas Inestroza, Castejon y Gunn

With the Poncios

With Hermanas Mendez y Villeda. 

We held a soccer tournament. Leon won. We went to Maxi Poli and bought 72 bottles of water. After playing soccer and volleyball, everyone needed a drink.

We also had a wonderful Turkey dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy, lettuce salad and tres leche cake. After the party, we drove to Esteli and checked into the Hex. We have another party tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

We held our Christmas Activity in Esteli today for the Esteli, Matagalpa and Ocotal zones. It was at the El Rosario Branch Chapel. Hotel Hex catered the lunch. We did the 12 days of Christmas – Health. Everyone had a good time with it.

We had another soccer tournament and played some volleyball

We had a turkey dinner, catered by the Hex Hotel. Sister Bell and I visited with the servers about the mission and our missionaries. We know several of them from our stays at the hotel. They were impressed with our missionaries.

We had a talent show. The highlight was Elder Bassetts magic show.

The highlight for us was when the Ocotal Zone invited Sister Bell and I to stand in for the zone picture. We were happy that they appreciate our work in Somoto and Pueblo Nuevo.

Thursday, December 14, 2017
We had the 3-zone conference in Managua for Bello Horizante, Villa Flor and Las Americas. We gave our 12 day of Christmas presentation. The Hilton catered the lunch. We had games and a talent show. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

We started at the office for the Change meeting. Changes are next week. We then took Sister Fersola home for lunch then we took her back to her area. The traffic was terrible and it took us forever to get across town. After dropping off Sister Fersola, we went to Pricesmart and then home.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

We had to go north through Jinotega so we could give Elder Price a new credit card and a new phone. Then we went to Somoto (it took 6 hours from Managua). We visited a few homes and then ended up at the Church, counting donations. Afterward we visited the Santos family with Elder Martinez and Davidson. We had dinner in Condega with smoothies. Elders Simpson and Bassett came in to get smoothies. So, we got to visit with them. We will begin to return to Condega next month, after the Koellikers go home.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

We went to Church in Pueblo Nuevo today. It was fun talking to Sister Nubia, Dania and Jose about their experience at the temple. They thoroughly loved the experience and want to go back in April with Maybelline. During the meeting, Elder Johnson got a call from the zone leader telling him of his change. He is coming to Managua. Elder Davidson, who is currently in Somoto, is coming to Pueblo Nuevo. The members are going the miss Elder Johnson. President Poncio has been thinking about taking the missionaries out of PN. They have had people come into their home and steal things. The missionaries have been looking for a new house, but can’t find anything suitable. It would be a sad day if the missionaries left.

I talked in Sacrament meeting, reminding the members of what President Poncio taught in the last District Conference; pray, study, FHE, temple and tithing. Sister Bell helped teach a Christmas song to the primary…. All two boys.

We then went to Trinidad and taught Karen the last temple preparation class. She is ready for interviews and plans to go in January. She has been getting some negative pressure from family and friends about her membership in the Church. We talked about some of the things she can do to overcome this pressure.

They held the annual horse regala in Esteli. Fortunately, the Koellikers warned us, so stayed away from the main highway as much as possible. We saw hundreds of beautiful horses, many white and grey. They say that many horses come from other countries. These are not the usual horse that we see every day pulling carts in the city. These are well breed horses that are well taken care of.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday, December 4 to Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017
Happy Birthday Dutch

We had our office meeting at the President’s House. They had invited Hermana Hernandez and Hermana Orellana for lunch to celebrate the fact that they baptized every week in November. That is a wonderful accomplishment.

We went by the bank, grabbed a bit to eat at home, paid our rent and then took Sister Fersola and her companions (Perez and Lopez) to the hospital for Sister Fersolas appointment. This time we dropped them off at the front door and went home.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I took the truck in for service and took a taxi home. It was a wild ride. The driver did everything I have complained about taxis. He cut in front of people, honked, honked and honked, he went around waiting cars (even driving in the other lane), and cut traffic off in the on coming lane. It was as good as Mr Toad’s wild ride at Disneyland. Fortunately, I got home with my life still intact. The ride back in the afternoon was much better. While I was waiting for my truck to be ready, a man sat next to me and asked if anyone was welcome to come to our Church. I assured him, it was and asked if he was interested in learning more. He was so I got his information. He lives in the south mission, so I gave the reference to Elder and Sister Helberg.

We went downtown with the Helbergs to see the Mary Alter displays. They were large, bright and the music was loud. It reminded us of Mainstreet at Disneyland. We walked several blocks, turned around and walked back. You would think that with a religious theme, we could feel a little spirit, but we felt none. It was obvious that many people love Mary, we think more than they love the Savior. I suspect Mary is very sad to see so many people worshipping her and not her son. Mickey and Minnie were there as well as several Santa Clauses.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Today was errand day. We started at Villa Flor. I needed to visit with President Poncio about a young man in Ocotal that had submitted his missionary application. I had some questions about his dental work. Before I visited with the President, Sister Bell reviewed the forms and answered my questions. She truly is a helpmeet. We then spent several hours at the office, then to the hospital to check on a missionary who had a dental visit. Then home for the evening.

Thursday, December 7, 2017
Today we went to Leon and Las Piñatas with the Helbergs. Our primary reason for going was to see baby turtles released to the sea. We first went to an Art Museum in Leon. It is one of the largest art museums in Central America. It was housed in an old Spanish home that was built in the 1600s. It was beautiful and large. It went on and on. There were 5 or 6 patios with rooms around each patio. They had paintings from the 1600s and even had a few Picazzos. Ray and I walked through pretty fast, but Michelle and Ana took their time and loved every minute of it.

We had lunch at a local restaurant, after walking around the Cathedral. We wanted to go inside and up into the bell tower, but today was Las Purisma (Celebration of Mary) so it was closed in preparation of the evening festivities. We did get to look into one of the small side chapels.

 We then went to Las Pinetas where we took a tour up a river and then helped release baby turtles. It was beautiful. The river vegetation was mangrove trees, 3 different species. We saw many birds. It was a pleasant trip. Wilbert was one of the guides. We don’t remember the name of the second guide but both were very knowledgeable of the environment.

At 5pm, we went to the beach where they have a turtle nursery. About 40 Olive Ridley turtles had hatched that morning. We helped release them into the sea. We had carried one turtle with us that Wilbert had. We named him Teddy. We released him as well. We waited until dusk so that the babies were not as visible to predators, such as birds. We loved watching and encouraging the babies into the sea. We stayed until the very last made it into the water.

Teddy in Michelle’s hands

The Purisma was in full swing when we drove through Leon on our way home. Families create an alter to Mary in their front parlor. People will come in and apparently the family will give the guests candy or food. There were all sorts of people in the streets. It was difficult to drive past them at times, we had to drive very slow and carefully, especially because the teenagers tended to run from house to house, not caring about cars in the street. But we got by without killing or injuring anyone.

Friday, December 8, 2017

I picked up 2 fans and a metal closet at the sister leaders house early this morning. After breakfast, we took the fans to Villa Flor. I fixed one of their fans and left a new one. We then spent several hours at the office before going home for lunch. Then we made a quick trip to Walmart to get two memory foam contour pillows for missionaries with neck pain. 

We talked to President Rivera, Esteli District President, today. Only 22 people went to the temple this week. We had hoped they would fill the bus with 40 people. Our kids paid for the bus, so it was an inexpensive trip. There were 40 signed up to go when it was scheduled to leave on Monday. But because of the political unrest in Honduras, the temple closed a few days and our trip was postponed. They finally left on Thursday, but several were not able to change their schedules to go. None from Trinidad went. We had worked hard to get Hermana Dania and Wendy ready to go. Maybelline from Pueblo Nuevo didn’t go either, but Nubia, Dania, Jose and President Alaniz went. We are anxious to hear about their trip.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

We started early. We passed by Las Americas to give a missionary a pillow. We then headed to Trinidad, but when we got there, Maria Clara was sick and Yasser was working so we didn’t stay very long in Trinidad. In Esteli, we dropped off a closet to the sisters in El Rosario, ate lunch, went to a pharmacy to buy anti-bacterial soap and made a reservation at the Hex for this next week. We then went to Somoto and visited with Hermana Celia about her glasses and reviewed with her the teaching schedule for Relief Society.

We stopped briefly at the Church to talk with the missionaries, then back to Esteli. We ate dinner at Pizza Hut (the deep dish supreme Pizza was wonderful) and were at the Koellikers house at 8pm.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

We made a quick trip to Ocotal to get some information from a prospective missionary and drop packages off to some of the missionaries. Then we went to Somoto. President Alaniz gave us an update of the temple trip. He was really happy and excited about the trip. We were happy listening to him, not because we could understand all he said, but because he was so animated as he told the story of the trip. All went well. They did have a little problem at the border getting into Honduras. For some reason, three people on the bus needed to pay $100 each to enter the Country. Something about not having their names in the system. They gathered what they could from the members on the bus, which totaled $200. President Alaniz had donated $20 of the money we had given him for the trip. This was still $100 short of what they needed. As they were trying to figure out what to do, another customs agent came along. He wanted to know what was going on. When it was explained to him that this was a temple trip, he identified himself as a member, took $100 out of his pocket and paid the rest of the bill. A tiny tender mercy. Jose did fine. President Alaniz took good care of him.

I talked in Church. Elder Davidson had asked me on Thursday night to talk. Friday morning early (about 2AM) I awoke and the spirit told me what to talk about. I got up, wrote the ideas down and went back to bed. The following morning, I added a few scriptures to the ideas. I first explained why we don’t worship Mary (the country just celebrated “La Purisma”, which is a celebration of Mary), then transitioned to Charity (the pure love of Christ). Then I discussed ways that we can show our love to the Savior, such as Keep the commandments, serve others, magnify callings, serve as HT and VT and be forgiving. I had Elder Martinez read the scriptures for me. I felt good about the talk.  Michelle practiced with the primary children for their program on Christmas Eve and for fun, they learned once there was a snowman.  They had a hard time understanding snow and cold because it just doesn't happen here.

I helped Hermana Natalia finalize the VT routes and then we left for Trinidad. We went to Karen’s house to teach her the 5th temple preparation class. When we arrived, she was setting a table. She had cooked lunch for us and her family. We met her 19-year-old son (the other two sons we already knew). He doesn’t come to church and wasn’t baptized with the rest of the family. We talked about basketball and baseball. He loves the Dodgers and the Cavs. He stayed for the lesson and participated. Karen is planning on going to the temple in January.

We then went to Yasser and Marilyn’s house and taught another family relations lesson. 

We got home about 8pm.  We are especially thankful for the opportunities we had to teach this weekend and for the safety we had in our travels.  Missionary life is good here in Nicaragua.