Sunday, August 13, 2017

Monday, August 7 to Sunday, August 13, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

We had a lot of things to do today and we were not sure if we could get them all done… but we did. We first had our staff meeting at the Presidents House. He was preparing to host the Leon Zone for lunch at this house. He invites various zone to come to his house monthly to celebrate those who meet their goals. They play and eat. The missionaries love it and it gives them a reward for meeting their goals.
Sister Ingram (2nd from L) will be going home this week. She is a wonderful missionary, works hard and loves being here. Sister Menendez, her companion is of the same caliber of missionary. We love our missionaries.

Sister Galbraith (2nd from R) from Jackson Hole, WY is going home next week after serving faithfully for 18 months. She has served as the Lead Sister Trainer for the past several months. We have loved serving with her. She is always happy and smiling. Sister Fersola (r) will be the new Sister Trainer. 

We then went to the bank, Pricesmart, found a place to fix our tire, helped three sets of missionaries with doctor appointments, bought items at Distribution, went to dinner with the Lees and Helbergs at Pricesmart and ended up at the Mayasa Volacano at night. What a day…. The volcano is more impressive at night, than it is during the day.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Today is was a day of highs and lows. We woke up to the news that Grandpa Thomas passed away at 12:40am. Jamie and Roxanne were with him as he took his last breath. They said he slipped away peacefully. He is now with Grandma, LaVoy and many other love ones and friends. When Michelle woke up this morning about 5am, her first thought was “Dad is with Mom”. She had a warm, peaceful feeling come over her as the Holy Ghost comforted her. Roxanne called about 6am with the news. Grandpa was a wonderful example of someone without guile. He loved everyone and had tremendous patience. I don’t ever remember seeing him mad, even when Grandma got after him for something. We will miss him, but know that we are an eternal family and will be together again.

We drove 4 hours to Somoto today to be at the baptism of Hermana Sadia Alaniz (President Alaniz’s wife) and Yanelis Lira, daughters of Hermana Zaida. We bought Hermana Alaniz a white dress because the Elders did not have baptismal clothes that fit her. The dress we bought her can also be used as a temple dress. The family has a goal of going to the temple in a year to be sealed. She looked beautiful and it fit perfectly.

Elder Diaz, one of the assistants, performed the baptism for Hermana Alaniz and Yanelis, the daughter of Hermana Zaida. She has been attending Church with her mother for almost 2 years and finally received a testimony. Elder Diaz served in Somoto at the beginning of his mission, taught and baptized President Alaniz, Cristin, Hermana Zaida and Catalina. He was able to come back and spend the day working with Elder Alfaro and then perform the baptism. President and Sister Poncio also participated. There were at least 25 people in attendance. The service was beautiful and the spirit was strong. Hermana Sadia and Yanelis radiated with the spirit. It was wonderful to see how happy they were. President Alaniz was very happy that his wife is now a member of the Church. We brought a cake and served refreshments afterward. It was definitely worth the trip. We drove home (back to Managua) after the service, getting back home about 11:30pm.

L to r: President Alaniz, Elder Asplund, Elder Alfaro, Sadia Alaniz, Elder Diaz, Yanelis,
Elder Gharring, Elder Garcia

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We didn’t get much sleep as we got up at 4:00 am, in order to get a missionary to the hospital. We spent the morning there. 

We spent the afternoon in the house, preparing for zone conferences. Sister Fersola, the new sister trainer, will need to give the presentation (on back pain) in Puerto Cabeza. She will also need to give the 10 commandments of good health to the new missionaries on Tuesday, of next week (assuming we will be in Idaho for Dad’s funeral).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We brought the recuperating missionary to our house to rest for a few days. We spent a few hours at the office and then took our Nicaragua ID, Passport and itinerary to Betty Castro. She will get our exit visa tomorrow (we got approval to go to grandpas funeral).

We got a call from a missionary in Tipitapa. We met him at the hospital and spent a few hours with him there. 

We cooked spaghetti for the boys tonight and played a round of 5 Crowns.

Friday, August 11, 2017

We had our change planning meeting this morning. Sister Bell and I actually had a change in our area. Every companionship is assigned an area. We were Maximo Jerez 3 and are now Maximo Jerez 2. We moved up because the Lees are leaving, they were Maximo Jerez 2. This is only a name change; we are still doing what we have always done.

Sister Bell instructed Sister Fersola and Hermana Poncio on how to teach the new missionaries, zone conference in Puerto Cabeza and what to do when a sick missionary calls.

We took crutches to Tipitapa and then came home.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I taught Elder Soares how to cook pancakes. They turned out pretty good. We then picked up the Lees and took them to Huembas. 

We cooked Beef Western for dinner. I bought a fresh pineapple and coconut. Salvador opened the coconut for me with his machete. The Lees came over for dinner and we played Golf (card game) with Elder Baxter and Soares.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

We went to Church at the Ruben Dario Ward that meets in the Waspan building. Elder Baxter served in this area for several months. The members were excited to see him. After Sacrament Meeting, we attended a baptism in the La Primavera Ward. Elder Simpson and Najera baptized a man (Victor). His girlfriend is a member (we think a returned missionary). It was a sweet baptism. Elder Simpson was excited to hear all the news from Somoto, where he served for several months at the beginning of his mission. He was especially excited to hear about Sadia Alaniz and Yanelis Lira getting baptized this week.

There are scorpions here, but this is the first time we saw a metal scorpion in the Church.

We went to the Helbergs for brunch with the Lees. We will miss the Lees. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday, July 31 to August 6, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017
This morning we had our office meeting at the President’s house. This is one of the last meetings with the Lee’s and Sister Galbraith.

L to r: Bells, Sister Galbraith, Sister Fersola, Sister Poncio, President Poncio, Sister Lee, Elder Lee, Elder Campbell, Elder Chinchilla, Elder Ruiz, Elder Adams and Elder Diaz.

Our day was spent in trying to get the mirrors replaced on the three mission cars. After the meeting, Elder Adams, Elder Lee and I took vehicles to Casa Pellas. Our insurance person had told Elder Adams that all we needed to do was to take them to Casa Pellas and it would take a few minutes to replace the mirrors. So we were disappointed when they told us it would take most of the day. Elder Lee decided to stay and wait (which he did for about 4 hours). I took a taxi home. I got a call from Elder Adams telling me that Casa Pellas did not have the mirrors for the Presidents Car, which I was driving. We also found out that the insurance doesn’t cover this damage, so the mission will have to pay. Elder Adams came and got me at home so I could take the Presidents car (unfixed) back to the mission home. I had left my truck there. I then took the Elders back to Casa Pellas so they would pick up their truck. We didn’t get much more done today…

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Today is another celebration in Nicaragua. It is the first day of the observance of Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo) de Guzman. There were festivals, parades and horse and car shows. The streets are supposed to be closed, at least parts of the city with thousands of people participating. We stayed home. We worked a little from home in the morning, and then relaxed in the afternoon. It was the first day we have had in several weeks to relax and it felt good.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I got a haircut this morning and then we went to the office. We worked there until about 1pm. We left to buy and deliver medicine for a missionary and then came home for a late lunch. I put together our next medical flier about exercises for back pain. We have many missionaries, especially Sister missionaries who develop back pain. Mostly from carrying too much in their backpacks or fanny packs and wearing them incorrectly.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Today was a well-deserved preparation day for all the senior missionaries in Nicaragua; Lees, Koellikers, Helbergs and us. We went to Granada.

We went with the Helbergs. When we arrived at the Helbergs house, we found that Sister Helberg was wearing the matching blouse that Michelle was wearing.

Our first stop was at the boat docks where we took an hour boat ride through the Islands in Lake Nicaragua. We enjoyed seeing the homes, birds and monkeys. It rained a little while on the lake. We had a guide that spoke English. He knew a lot about the ecology, birds, fish and people who lived on the islands.

We then went to downtown Granada. We eat at a local restaurant, then walked about the plaza and walked up to top of the bell tower of the Cathedral. Afterward, we got ice cream and then the Helbergs and us took a horse drawn carriage ride around the city. Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua.

The last picture is of the oldest house in Nicaragua. It belonged to William Walker, an American who became President of Nicaragua for a year. Neighboring countries opposed him and eventually defeated him, but not before he burned 85% of the city. This was in the 1850s.

Friday, August 4, 2017

This morning I prayed that I would see Heavenly Fathers hand in our service. This afternoon, I saw it. We were leaving the office about 2:30 pm to pay a bill. We had several routes we could have taken. But for some reason, I drove through Villa Flor. As we were passing through Villa Flor, Sister Bell got a call from a sister close to Villa Flor. Her companion, had just passed out on the street. Sister Bell talked her through what she should do. We were only a mile from them, so we quickly turned around and headed for their direction. When we got there, the sister was sitting up, feeling better, but still had some pain that was troubling. So Sister Bell decided we needed to take her to the hospital to get checked. She saw Doctora Abdala, our LDS doctor (who is 38, John’s age). She checked her over, gave her some medicine and referred her to a cardiologist. She was back to her normal self by the time we left. We took them to Pricesmart for hamburgers and fries, then back to their house.

We found out a little about these wonderful sister missionaries. One of them has been a member for only 2 years. Her parents (she is adopted) are not members but are supportive and are paying for her mission. Her companion was converted when she was 12 years old. Her mother was an inactive member but her father was against her being baptized. He drank a lot and was very mean. He finally relented and she was baptized, along with 2 siblings. A few years after she got baptized, her father had an experience that caused him to evaluate this behavior. He began to listen to the missionaries and He was baptized. Three years later, he was called as the bishop. He is now working hard to bring the gospel to his family members, most of which have now been baptized. Their family is a wonderful example of the change that can take place once they joined the Church.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sister Bell taught a piano lesson to Maria Clara. Since we had a little time before we needed to go to Somoto, we decided to eat lunch at a nice steak house in Esteli, Pullaso Ole. We shared a 16 oz T-bone that was imported from the US. It was excellent, which it should have been because it cost a little over $30.

We spent an hour with President Alaniz, developing an agenda for next weeks branch council training. Then we helped and participated in the first ever Relief Society activity in Somoto. There were 20 sisters, 5 men (4 Elders and me) and several babies and little kids. It was a huge success. Sister Natalia conducted, talked about the importance of the RS and the Church. Then she and Cristian Alaniza bore their testimonies. Sister Bell taught a lesson about Visiting Teaching. She taught, showed a video and then did a role play with three of the sisters. She taught with very little help from me. I was very proud of her. 

We then played games. The Elders took charge of that. We then ate sandwiches and drank pop. Everyone left happy and energized.

Sunday, August 6, 2017
Happy Birthday to me…

Michelle wrote this poem for my birthday

On August 6, 1953
Scott Woodruff Bell came to be
Born the last of four
With a boy and two girls,
He evened the score

In California, he grew straight and tall
Baseball, gospel, friends and family
He had it all.

He grew close to the Lord
In Uruguay and Paraguay
He taught with the spirit
He learned what to say.

When he returned
School and career were his focus
He chose a beautiful wife
And started a family with the most-us. 

Five children he’s raised.
Grandchildren fourteen he’s seen born.
They are the best in the world
And from them we’ve been torn.
He is serving again
Nicaragua, this time.
Michelle is here too.
Their talents combine.

He turns 64 on this very day.
Years of service still to render.
I pay tribute to him
My feelings are tender.

He is my companion
For time and all eternity.
The best is yet to come
Happy Birthday from me.

Written by Michelle Thomas Bell

We went to Church in Somoto. We picked up Sister Alaniz and took her to Church with us. She is feeling well and isn’t supposed to walk much so our ride was greatly appreciated. 

It was fast Sunday. Freddy and Catalino passed the sacrament and then were the first to bear their testimonies. Sister Bell and I also bore our testimonies. Sister Bell announced that it was my birthday so everyone one wished me a happy birthday during her testimony.

We then headed for Trinidad to teach another temple prep class. As I pulled up, the neighbors pointed to my tire. It was almost flat. We were fortunate that we didn’t get it on the open highway (a tender mercy). We didn’t change the tire until after the lesson. Only Karen and Maria Clara’s boyfriend were there. Hermana Dania and Wendy did not come. While we were teaching, a thunderstorm passed by. It quit just before we were done so we didn’t have to change the tire in a downpour (another tender mercy). Maria Clara’s boyfriend and President Cruz changed the tire. I held the umbrella (another tender mercy).

We arrived home about 7:30pm in time to talk with Roxanne, Jamie and Grandpa. Grandpa is pretty much out of it, although there were a few signs that he knew Michelle was talking and singing to him. We don’t anticipate that he will be with us much longer. We also talked with Paul and his family. We love our family.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday, July 24 to Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Pioneer day. We celebrated by cooking breakfast for the Assistants (Diaz, Campbell), and the secretaries (Adams, Chinchilla and Ruiz). We ate blueberry pancakes, eggs, ham, watermelon and juice. They enjoyed the food and we enjoyed their company. We all went to the office for our weekly planning meeting. The Poncios went to Puerto Cabeza last week and came home with a list of things they need. Elder Lee and I will be sending 4 mattresses, 4 fans, 2 whiteboards and 6 telephones. Sister Poncio brought in a wonderful lunch of chicken, pork, salad, rice, watermelon and desert. It was delicious. Having eaten lunch and after having eaten such a big breakfast, we won’t have to eat much for dinner.

We spent the afternoon in the Hospital with missionaries that had doctors appointments. We got home about 6:45pm. I cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Tuesday, July 26, 2017

We were back at the hospital for another doctor appointment. After leaving the hospital, we went home for lunch and to take clothes off the line. We worked from home for a few hours. Sister Bell had a lot of charting and follow-up to do and I worked on putting together an agenda for the Somoto RS activity and their VT routes which we helped them develop last Saturday.

We then went back to the hospital to get test results for a missionary and take them to the Doctors office. As modern as this hospital is, they don’t have an electronic system for test results. All the test results are hard copy and the patient is responsible to take care of them and bring them to the doctors’ offices. Not a very modern system of record keeping.

Sister Bell ironed after a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We spent a few hours with Hermana Silva from Brazil and Hermana Pozo from El Salvador. We took them to Huembas and then to Rosti Pollo for lunch. We love the missionaries. 

After dropping the sisters off at their apartment, we drove back to the hospital. Two other sisters came in, got fixed and returned to their area and another Elder had a doctors appointment. We have been at the hospital a lot this week. Fortunately, most weeks are not like this. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We spent a few hours in Tipitapa paying for some lab tests for another missionary. The downtown streets in Tipitapa become an outdoor market. The cars can barely pass and some streets are totally blocked off, except for the bike taxis.

We stopped at Multicentral Mall to buy another white shirt and tie for a young man in Trinidad. Then home for lunch and out again after lunch. After lunch, we went to the distribution center, Pricesmart and Colonia. We were hoping to spend more of today at home working on a newsletter, but it wasn’t to be.

Tonight, we went to Helbergs for dinner.  It was a delicious meal with lots of vegetables.  It was nice to visit the Helbergs and the Lees with just relaxing conversation.

Friday, July 28, 2017
We picked up 4 mattresses and 4 fans from the sister’s house and took them to the office. It was nice to have the truck. The mattresses and fans all fit into the back of the truck. We spent the morning and early afternoon in the office. 

We left about 3pm for Trinidad. We taught a temple class to 3 sisters (Karen, Wendy and Nubia) and two young man who are preparing to go to the temple. The boys are going to be baptized for the dead. Most are preparing to go in December. One young man is going in September to do baptisms for the dead. The lesson, the Plan of Salvation, went well and was very spiritual. We love teaching the gospel.

After we left the office this afternoon, someone got into the Church lot and stole the side mirrors from 3 mission cars; the Presidents, Lees and the secretaries cars. The Church property is fenced and gated, but we might have to hire a guard.

We stayed with Koellikers.

Saturday, July 29, 2017
Happy Birthday Nora…. 1-year old today….

We slept all night waking up at 6:30am. I didn’t get up once. We love the big, soft bed we sleep in at the Koellikers. It is wonderful. We walked, showered and ate breakfast before leaving at 9:30 for Trinidad. Hermana Bell gave lessons to Maria Clara and Darisa. We took Elders Soares and Baxter to Esteli to get baptismal clothing from the Zone Leaders. We stopped at Burger King for breakfast and headed for Somoto.

We met with Natalia and Celia to finish planning their RS activity. We also reviewed the Visiting Teacher assignments we helped them develop last week. Celia was feeling better (she was sick last week). She smiled, laughed and talked more this week. Natalia is always happy and loves to talk. She visited inactive sisters this week with the missionaries. She is learning to be a RS President.

We then went to President Alaniz's house. His wife has a baptismal date for August 8. Elder Diaz, one of the assistants and the missionary who baptized President Alaniz will be in Somoto on divisions that day, which is why she agreed to be baptized. Even though it is a Tuesday, we will make the trek to Somoto. We wouldn’t miss this. She told us why she decided to get baptized. She had been very reluctant to get baptized because her family, especially her mother, were very Catholic and she didn’t want to disappoint them. However, the other day as she was pondering whether to get baptized or not, she heard a voice, which sounded like her mother, saying “you need to get baptized”. She decided then and there to get baptized and has been very happy since making that decision. This was tender mercy for her, letting her know that her mother, who has passed on, was supportive of her getting baptized. We suspect her mother has also accepted the Gospel and wants her to do the work for her in the temple.

We then went to the Church and taught another leadership class. We talked about reactivation and retention activities and how a branch counsel can help in these efforts. We discussed how visiting teaching and home teaching can help bring people back to church. We also talked about the need for every member to have a calling, a friend and be nourished by the good word of God. Elder Alfaro told about how when he was inactive, he was fellowshipped by a wonderful older couple and by a friend. That friend is Elder Martinez in our mission.

We then drove to Pueblo Nuevo and taught another teacher improvement class. We had given assignments to read about how to show our love for students in their classes especially those who don’t come, incorporate those principles into action and then share the experience they had. Sister Nubia told how she is talked with her young niece who is inactive and encouraged her to come back to Church. Hilario told how he went to visit Francisco, an inactive older man, and invited him back to Church. He also took the missionaries to Francisco’s house. The missionaries are now visiting with him regularly.

Hermana Nubia also told us of two faith promoting experiences she had since we saw her last. She has had some health problems, especially dealing with high blood pressure. One night, she was laying down and could hardly breath. She thought that she might die. As she sat at the side of the bed, she prayed and told Heavenly Father that if it was time for her to leave this life, she was ready to go, but if she had a choice she wanted to stay. She said that she then saw an angel in her room. As the angel passed, the sickness left her and she felt well again. Apparently, she has more to do in this life.

She then told us of a dream that she had. She dreamed that she was walking toward a building, being followed by a large crowd of people. She didn’t know the people. As she was walking, a storm passed by, with lightning very close to her. She was becoming very scared. She then heard a voice telling her, “you need not fear, you are endowed”. Instantly, she felt very calm and knew all would be well.

These Nicaraguan friends of ours are very spiritual and have great faith.  They are great examples to us and we are strengthened by being with them.

We stayed at the La Frontera Hotel in Ocotal. The Hex Hotel where we usually stay in Esteli was full. They had a concert in Esteli and all the rooms were filled. The Frontera had a pretty courtyard outside the back door of the room, below the balcony. The clouds were hanging low in the mountains surrounding Ocotal on Sunday morning. It was peaceful and beautiful.

Sunday, July 30. 2017

We attended Church in Pueblo Nuevo and then had dinner at the Koellikers house in Esteli. President Poncio and his family, the Lee’s, Elder Maravilla (Area Seventy) and his wife and the Zone Leaders were invited. Sister Koelliker cooked a wonderful chicken dinner with vegetables, salad, watermelon and Texas Sheet Cake with ice cream.

The men then went to a General District Priesthood Meeting at the Church in Esteli. There were close to 150 Priesthood Holders, Aaronic and Melchezedik. It was wonderful. There were maybe 30 Priesthood Holders at the last District Priesthood Meeting that was held as part of District Conference. Most in attendance had white shirts and ties, several that were given to them by our family. There were at least 8 from Somoto, 2 from Pueblo Nuevo, 6 from Trinidad and about 6 from Condega. Then we had all the missionaries there as well. I walked around shaking hands and giving hugs. It felt like a family reunion. I love these brethren and feel their love for me. I love being with friends and they are truly friends. Freddy and Catalino from Somoto were presented to be ordained Elders. This was a surprise to me as I thought they were waiting until the September District conference. Apparently, President Alaniz and President Rivera had other ideas. I support them in this decision and will work hard to help these two brethren understand the Priesthood and magnify it. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Monday, July 17 to Sunday, July 23, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

After the office meeting, we ran home to take the wash off the line before it began to rain, had lunch then drove to Lees and picked them up. We made a little road trip to Leon and El Viejo. Leon is 1.5 hours from Managua and El Viejo is another hour from there. Our purpose was to deliver packages, mail, phones and supplies to various missionaries in the West.  It was a quick trip but having the Lees with us made it more enjoyable. They have been to the West only twice before, once early on in their mission and the other several months ago when they went with us on another mercy trip. The Lees go home in a few weeks. They have been training Elder Ruiz and felt they could leave him for half a day. We got home about 8:30pm.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today we had the 3-zone conference in Managua. Our presentation about colds and how to treat them, went well.

Zone Villa Flor

Zone Bello Horizante

Zone Las Americas
The missionaries that are leaving bore their testimonies. This will be a big group leaving. We love these missionaries and will miss them. They have been a wonderful influence in the mission, worked hard and made a difference in the mission. The leavers from these three zones were Hermanas Barrios, Rojas and Galbraith, Elder Cook and the Lees.

Hermanita Barrios from Guatemala. One of our favorites.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Today was a celebration of the revolution. People from all over the country came to Managua. We were told to stay home today, so we did… all day. We had plenty to do. I made lists for YW, AP, RS and MP for Pueblo Nuevo and Somoto. I also made a schedule for a 2.5-hour block of meeting in Somoto. It was really nice to have a day where we just sat in front of our computers getting caught up on our paperwork.

Thursday, July 20, 2017
It was a good day. We started by going by the apartment of Rene Polanco. The missionaries have moved out and I wanted to see if we had signs of bedbugs. We replaced the mattresses a few weeks ago because the old ones were infested with bedbugs. We are moving the furniture out tomorrow and I wanted to make sure we were not moving bedbugs that would infest other apartments. Fortunately, we didn’t find any. We then took the key to the zone leaders and headed to our next stop, which was the hospital. We needed to cancel a few appointments from missionaries, stopped at the bank and then the store.

This afternoon we spent the afternoon with Sister King and Sister Hernandez. Sister King is from the Dominican Republic and Sister Hernandez is from El Salvador. They are wonderful missionaries and we enjoyed spending the afternoon with them. 

Friday, July 21, 2017
Hermana Bell started the day doing laundry. While it was hanging on the line drying, we went to the Church offices so I could get instructed how to do financial reports in MLS. I have made arrangements with Elder Asplund to meet me in Somoto and we will try to do these reports. Sister Bell and I then went to Pricesmart and Portas (neighborhood store) before going home for lunch and take the clothes off the line. After lunch we went to the Office, back to the store and then home. I also put photos of the Temple in Honduras in frames as we will begin teaching some members in Trinidad the Temple Prep Classes. We want to give them each a picture so they can see the temple every day as a way to strengthen their resolve to go.

The Orange Jessamine is flowering again. It has the sweetest smell. We love walking past it and it is everywhere in our neighborhood. I wish I could put the smell in the journal.

We walk past this marvelous tree in our neighborhood every day.  A t one time it was a tiny little seed.  The seed fell on just the right kind of soil and as the soil was warmed by the sun and moistened by the rain, the miracle of this beautiful creation of our Heavenly Father came to be - one twig, one leaf, one branch at a time.  The missionaries here in Nicaragua are planting seeds of the hope of Christ in the hearts of the people.  As each convert, nourished by the good word of God, comes to the waters of baptism, the little nucleos or groups grow to become branches and then wards and the church grows.  As sacred ordinances are performed, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will fill this nation someday one convert at a time.  We are so blessed to be part of this great work.

Saturday, July 22, 2017
We left the house at 7am, stopping at the office on our way out of town. We needed to make copies for a temple prep class we are teaching tomorrow in Trinidad and pick up some scriptures that they also needed in Trinidad. Sister Bell only had one piano student today, the new girl (we don’t remember her name). But she had a 1-hour lesson, which Sister Bell said was greatly needed.

We went to Somoto and helped the RS President and her daughter/counselor plan a RS activity and begin to organize VT. They have two companionship with 4 sisters in each route. This covers about ½ of the branch. We then went to the Church and visited with the Branch President and Elders Alfaro and Asplund. We needed to do some financial reporting in MLS. We think we did it right, but we will see if we did when our work is checked. We had a lot to cover with President Alaniz. One thing was to show him a 2.5 hr block schedule. They have been doing a 2-hour block, which doesn’t leave much time for all the classes. After a few months at 2.5 hr. we will implement the 3-hour block schedule. Poco a poco.

We stopped at the Noche de Hermanimiento in Condega, arriving about 45 minutes late. There were only three members with the missionaries, but one was Erica, a young 15-year-old member who we had not seen at church for a few weeks. It was wonderful to see her back at church. She was so faithful and was full of the spirit. We hated to lose her.

We got to Koellikers early, about 9pm.

Sunday, July 23, 2017
We attended church in Trinidad. The Branch President's car was not working this morning so he came on his motorcycle with his wife, but left other family members at home. I took my new truck to get them. We squeezed 5 adults and 2 kids in the front and back seats (I left Sister Bell at the church). As I walked into the Church, President Cruz asked if I could talk, since one of the speakers ended up working and couldn’t be there. Of course, I agreed and then began praying to determine what I should talk about. One of the reasons we came was to begin teaching Temple Preparation classes. So, I decided to talk about the temple. I talked about 10 minutes. It seemed to go well and hopefully everyone understood me.  Sister Bell played the keyboard for all three meetings and after it was over, one of the Elders commented that it was the first time that he had heard the members sing on key since he came to this area - about three weeks.

After the meetings, Sister Bell and I met with Hermanas Dania, Wendy, Karen and Karen’s two sons. We gave introduction to the temple and then talked about whether each will be ready to go in September or December. Dania and Wendy (mother and daughter) want to go in September, but Karen wants to go in December. We handed out framed pictures of the temple, the pamphlet, “How to prepare to enter the temple”, a handout with scriptures talking about the various parts of the plan of salvation with instructions to read the scriptures and then we set next Friday night at 6pm to have the first lesson.

Here is a picture of Karen and her two boys. She taught the SS class today and teaches seminary every Monday through Friday. She says she is learning a lot. She is a single mother and has been a member for a little over a year. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Monday, July 10 to Sunday July 16, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

We are starting another week. Time is flying by. We started with our weekly office planning meeting. This is the first time we have attended for several weeks. Sister Bell took a bag of clean bed sheets to give to Sister Galbraith. Sister Bell also did another load of sheets this morning that she will give to her tomorrow. She has two more loads to do.

Sister Bell gave Joselyn Poncio a piano lesson, then after doing a few other tasks, we headed for home. Sister Bell needed to get the sheets off the line before it rained. We started working from home but took a break to talk to Steve, Heidi, Avery, Ginger and Nora. It is always good to talk to the family.
We went to the distribution center about 3:30. We have a long list of items the missionaries needed and wanted. We also expected to pick up our new truck, but it wasn’t ready. Tomorrow…. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Happy 15-month anniversary and Henry’s Birthday. It is also Grandma Bell’s birthday.

We had our new missionary training meeting. This is when the new missionaries (up to 12 weeks in the mission) and their companions come for more training. Sister Bell taught her “Umbrella of Comfort” presentation, showing items that can make their stay in Nicaragua more comfortable… basically the missionaries go through her purse. Then Elder Adams and Chinchilla took us to the Church O&M office to pick up our new truck. Pretty fancy… huh. It has 266km on the odometer.

Lees and Helbergs came over for dinner. We asked Lee’s about their mission, what they enjoyed and what they didn’t. They said that the thing they didn’t like was the traffic, especially the Motos, Taxis and buses. The thing that gave them the most satisfaction was working with the branch in Ciudad Dario. They had 14 members, 2 families go to the temple this month and one of the men was just called as the Branch President. They have worked miracles there.

Tuesday, July 12, 2017

We drove our new truck to Chinandega for a multizone conference. It was a pleasure to drive. It accelerates wonderfully so it was easy to pass slower vehicles. Sister Bell taught about respiratory illness and I talked about taking care of Baptismal clothing. I told the missionaries about my memories of my mother ironing her temple clothes before going to the temple. She did it with such love, respect and care. It made a major impression on me. I then told them that baptismal clothing is just as sacred as temple clothing and we should treat them with love, respect and care.

Sister Bell and I made a run to a pharmacy to buy medicine for a missionary. Then I set up tables and chairs for lunch. We looked all over the building for tables. We found 5, but 2 were broken and couldn’t be used. We had 60 mouths to feed and 3 tables was not enough. There was a young man at the church who made a few calls and got keys to an outside closet. He pulled out 5 brand new tables. We put them in the back of my new truck and drove them across the lot to the church. So every missionary had a place to sit at a table.

Sister Bell had several medical consults throughout the day and was the last one out of the Church because she was still helping a missionary. We loaded up and headed for Esteli. We decided to drive to Esteli tonight so we didn’t have to get up early tomorrow to get to the multizone conference in Esteli. However, on the way, we got a call from a missionary whose companion needed to go to the hospital. I was tempted to change our plans and head for home, but we didn’t. We got permission from Sister Poncio, gave instructions to the Elder of what to do, and got a payment guarantee. Now we are just waiting and hope all goes well. (It did)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It was nice to sleep in, or at least not get up at 4:30am to leave by 6am. Since we stayed in Esteli last night, we were able to have a normal morning. The multizone conference went well. Sister Bell was able to get through her material in record time so that I had 3 full minutes to talk about how and why we need to take care of baptismal clothing. President Poncio gave all of us a challenge to read the Book of Mormon in 2 months and write down the impressions we get. Sister Bell and I have been reading every night, but we will need to increase the amount we read to finish in 2 months. This reminds me when President Hinckley gave the members the challenge to read the book of Mormon in 60 days. It was fun to see people reading everywhere;on the train or on a plane. There was a wonderful spirit everywhere we went. We then took Sister Poncio to Subway to order lunch, back to the conference and then back to Subway to pick up the sandwiches. Sister Bell visited with several missionaries that were sick. We left Esteli about 3pm and got home about 6pm.

This is the Ocotal Zone; Somoto and Pueblo Nuevo are part of this zone.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sister Bell finished washing the sheets for the Sister Leaders. She washed, dried and folded 28 sheets over the week. It took 4 loads and most of one week to do it. That is a labor of love.

We then made a trip to Pricesmart. Then home for lunch and to take sheets off the line. We then went to Multicentral Mall to buy 4 white shirts with ties, then to the office. The Lees invited us to go to Carl’s Jr. for dinner so we went to Metrocentral Mall, where the only Carl’s Jr. in the country is located. It was packed. Apparently a lot of people like Carl’s Jr. Hamburgers… just like home.

At home, Sister Bell ironed and we watched a movie.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I slept pretty good until about 2am. I kept thinking about how I was going to pack boxes of materials, a table, 2 whiteboards and our personal things in the truck so that they don’t get wet or stolen. I didn’t sleep very well the rest of the night.

We left at 7am (David helped me pack, using tarps that I had purchased about a month ago). We stopped at the office so Sister Bell could make a few copies of music sheets. We got to Trinidad early, about 9:30am. Maria Clara was still in bed, but her mother got her up. Karol Linneth came over, plus another young girl who wants to learn to play the piano. Michelle now has 3 students in Trinidad.

We then grabbed a bite at Subway in Esteli, before heading to Somoto. Our first stop was at the home of Natalia and Celia. Natalia is the RS President and Celia is the 1st Counselor and daughter of Natalia. The kids in the neighborhood love Sister Bell because she always has candy.

We took Natalia and Celia to the Church where we had a RS training. They have been the Presidency for several months, but are still needing to learn more about what a RS Presidency does. Sister Bell found a wonderful short video that explains the three primary purposes of RS. We showed that and then had a wonderful discussion about how to organize to accomplish the purposes. We talked a lot about visiting teachers. At the end of the meeting we had three action items. 1- Identify 2-3 sisters to visit and then to visit them. They came up with several in our meetings. 2- Plan an RS activity, identifying what they want to do and how much it will cost and 3- Elder Bell will develop a RS roster so we can help them begin to organize VT routes.

We then took Natalia to her cousins house and Celia to her house, but returned a little later to pick up Celia for a branch council training. Only President Alaniz, Celia and Elders Garcia and Gharring were there for the training. We had a great discussion about how to support the missionary effort in the branch.

We then drove to Pueblo Nuevo for another teacher improvement lesson. Everyone was there, including Hilario’s granddaughter. We continued the discussion about how to develop love for and prepare a lesson for the students. Again, there was a lively discussion, which went very well. By assignment from the week before, Dania, Nubia, Arelys and Hilario all taught a part of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, we discussed extending the 2-hour block to 2.5 hours to allow more teaching time for SS, Priesthood and YW. Everyone was in agreement. Therefore, starting in two weeks, they will begin their meetings at 9:30am. Elder Medeiro was appointed the time keeper to make sure everyone knows when to begin and end their classes.

We got to Koellikers about 9:15pm…. A long but satisfying day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

We had a wonderful day in the service of the Lord. We started a 7:30am driving to Ocotal to deliver supplies. We got there just a few minutes before Church was starting. When we walked in, we noticed President Poncio and his family was visiting. We quickly dropped off the materials and left for Somoto.

Attending Church in Somoto was a delight. President Alaniz with the help of the missionaries have made some wonderful progress. Hermana Zaidas 12-year-old son came with his white shirt and tie so that he could pass the sacrament. Many of the other men came in white shirts and ties. They looked good. After Sacrament meeting, the members and investigators separated into several different rooms. There was primary, which was taught by Leslin, a recent convert.

The young women went into another class room. This class was taught by Cristin Alaniz. There was another SS class for young men. Elder Alfaro taught this class. There was a gospel doctrine class taught by Elder Gharring and Principles of the Gospel which was taught by Elder Asplund and Garcia. I was really impressed. At noon, these classes ended. Some of the members began to leave. However, the RS stayed and held their meeting. Somoto is growing. It is wonderful to be part of this growth.

We picked up Elders Soares and Baxter in Trinidad and took them to Managua with us.