Friday, March 23, 2018

Monday, March 12 to Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Monday, March 12, 2018
We had our farewell excursion today with the missionaries that are leaving… like us.

l to r: Elder Mendez, Elder Zeron, Elder Alofipo, Elder Perry, Hermana Gunn, Hermana Aleman, Hermana Palma, Hermana Largaespada, Hermana Poncio, President Poncio, Hermana Bell, Elder Bell. This foto was at the Catarina overlook of the Laguna de Apoyo.

We started the day, eating breakfast at the El Ranchito Viejo in Catarina. 

Then we went to the over look, after which we went to the Mayasa Market (we bought matching t-shirts), then to Granada for a luncheon, testimony meeting and certificate ceremony. Sister Bell and I were asked to give a short message about the importance of marriage and secrets to finding an eternal companion. We discussed D&C 131:1-4, the quote by President Nelson which said, “Salvation is a individual quest, while exaltation is a family quest” (or something like that). Sister Bell taught various principles of finding a spouse such as living the gospel, ponder your Patriarchal Blessing, get a father’s blessings (grandfather gave her a father’s blessing before the 1974-75 school season and specifically blessed her that she would find her eternal companion. I came home off my mission and went back to BYU that school year.)

We had a wonderful lunch, shared our testimonies then received our certificates. It was a very nice and enjoyable day.

We got home late afternoon and packed. We finally got all done packing at 10pm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
We loaded up the truck and went to the office. We said goodbye to several missionaries there, welcomed the new missionaries that arrived last night and today and headed to the airport.

With Sister Joyce from Australia, who will be doing the nursing until the new nurse comes next month. She is a nursing student with some practical nursing experience. Sister Bell has been training her.

Here we are with sister Fersola from the Dominican Republic. She is the lead sister Trainer. She is several years older than most of the sister missionaries and was a practicing family counselor before her mission.

At the airport with our 4 suitcases, two briefcases, pillow and picture tube and hammock chair.

At the airport with Elder Howell from Idaho Falls. He is the financial secretary…. A good man to be friends with.

We are back in the States. We left Managua at 1:30 and arrived in Houston at 5:30 pm. It took a little time to get through immigration and customs. As we walked out into the waiting area, we saw a big sign welcoming us home with John, Isa, Gustavo, Natalie, Rene and Eli all waiting for us. We felt like the most important people in the world. It was wonderful so see them, give them hugs and feel of their love. We eat at Olive Garden, stuffing ourselves with breadsticks, salad and Lasagna. We sat us visiting for several hours before sleepiness finally won out.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Monday, March 5 to Sunday, March 11, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018
We had our last office meeting at the Presidents house. Then we headed to the hospital for 4 doctors appointments for various missionaries. Hermana Joyce was at the hospital with her companion, so she was able to help get the missionaries checked in and to their appointments. Hermana Joyce will be helping sister Poncio with the health issues until the new nurse comes in April. Sister Joyce is from Australia and is a nursing student. It was good for her to do that. All got done about the same time. We took the Elders with us while the 5 sister missionaries found taxis. I felt bad driving pass them on the highway, giving the Elders a ride but not the sisters. We needed to take the Elders to our house so Sister Bell could check one of their knees. But first we stopped at Carl’s Jr and bought lunch. After the knee inspection, we took them to the bus stop and then came home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Today, Fatima came to clean the house. We talked with her about deep cleaning our house after we leave and agreed on a price. We felt her suggested price was low and we offered to pay her more. She was pleased with that. We then went to the office. Sister Bell needed to review reimbursement requests with the financial secretary.

Our landlady came by at 4pm this afternoon to inspect the house. Everything was in order, so we should get our deposit back. She has been very kind with us. When we needed something fixed, it got done in a timely manner. We are very pleased with our experience here in our little home.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Began packing… 1 suitcase down… 3 to go. I also took the paintings off the wall, took them off their frames, rolled up the big one and put it in a tube to bring home. We took several bags to the garbage.

Thursday, March 8, 2018
We had our final interview this morning with President Poncio. He asked us how we felt about our mission and how our mission strengthen our testimony of the Savior. We told him that we loved our mission. We saw the hand of the Lord in everything we did. We felt guided and directed. We loved serving and helping lighten his load and that of Sister Poncio. We loved helping the missionaries, even taking them to the hospital, out to eat and giving them rides. We expressed our love for the people in the little groups and branches we served. We will miss them. Even though the numbers may not have increased a lot, we have helped several people go to the temple, helped organize RS, SS, Priesthood, YW, YM and Primary. We have taught temple preparation classes, teacher improvement, priesthood preparation and leadership classes. One of our greatest fears in serving a mission was being together all the time. Although we still have our moments, we have served well together. We are closer together, understand each other better, accepted each other’s faults and weaknesses, recognized each others strengths and love each other more. We have both increased in patience and tolerance.

President Poncio expressed his love and appreciation to us, for all we have done. He said we will be missed and taking care of the health of the missionaries will be much more difficult. We love President and Sister Poncio. They are truly dedicated servants. The spirit strengthens them as it has strengthened us. We read Matthew 11: 28-30 together. He told us that rest in this passage means comfort, that when we are doing the Lord’s work (his yoke…not ours), that we will have peace and comfort in the work. We found that to be true. Although we were dead tired at the end of the day, we felt good about the service we gave and had health and strength to carry on the next day (or in the middle of the night, which occurred time to time).

We went to the Peruvian Restaurant with the Helbergs and afterward, went to their house for malts. We love the Helbergs. They have been wonderful friends.

Friday, March 9, 2018
We went to the Change meeting today. There are 8 missionaries leaving (10 with us) and 10 coming, so we are opening a second area in Somotillo. They expect to make this group a branch within the next few weeks. Having 4 missionaries will help strengthen the fledgling branch. We then picked up an Elder, who is here from Puerto, and took him to the dentist. He got his filling and we took him back to his area. We then went back to the hospital to help an Elder. We eventually took them home. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018
One of the blessing of serving a full-time mission is that we receive visits from General Authorities. Today, we had a joint mission meeting with Elder Quentin Cook, Elder Wong and Elder Zebellas and their wives. We were able to say good-bye to most of our missionaries. When the missionaries lined up to shake their hands, I felt a great love for our missionaries. It has been a wonderful experience to work with them. They have a lot of enthusiasm. They are a lot of fun, and yet they are dedicated and hard-working missionaries. At times they can be very frustrating, but we have to remember that they are still “kids”. It has been rewarding to see them grow and mature. We feel good that we have had a little to do with their growth. They were gracious and said they would miss us and appreciate our service.

Elder Zebellas had us turn to D&C 50:13 & 14. He stressed that our mission is to teach HIS gospel, not ours and to bring the spirit into the learning process. Obedience is essential to bring the spirit into the teaching.

Sister Gong talked about a Navajo Indian who came to live with their family for two years. She said that she had a hard life and didn’t always live the gospel like she knew she could. However, recently, her “sister” repented and went to the temple. She got to go through the SLC temple with her and felt the love she had for the Savior. She said that repentance is an act of love for it changes people’s lives and bring joy into their lives.

Elder Gong taught the importance of being good friends with your companions. When you have unity you can teach with authority. He encouraged the missionaries to continue to do the good things they have been doing during their missions. He used the example of the Sons of Mosiah (Alma 17:2-3) and how they became powerful men by searching the scriptures, fasting and praying so that they had the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation and taught with power and authority of God. He said that sometimes we have to “change things up”, using Alma example (see Alma 8: 14, 18, 4)

Sister Cook got us to stand up and sing “La luz de la Verdad”, with part of us singing another melody as back-up. It was fun. She was very enthusiastic and fun. She referred to the missionaries like the fans in the church buildings. She said that some of the fan run very fast and occasionally some as mostly dead. She encouraged us to be like the fast fans and not like the mostly dead. She read Alma 7:23, which talks about the characteristics of fast fans. She knew no one is perfect but we ought to keep working on perfection and that we can be perfect in somethings.

Elder Cook told us that the people in Central America as more open to spiritual things than in other areas of the world. He assured us that our calls come from God. He said that on a rare occasion when he makes a missionary assignment that is not in keeping with the Lord’s will, the spirit will not let him move to the next name until they change the call. He related an experience with a Tongan family, whose son was assigned to the Washington DC North Mission. His mother had a dream about a week before he got his call that showed her son in DC teaching. His father had another dream where he saw his son’s mission president and knew he was Japanese and therefore thought he was going to Japan. When the son opened his letter, he read that he was assigned to Washington DC and his Mission President was Japanese.

He told not to underestimate the spiritual side of our callings. This is spiritual work. He also encouraged us not to skip commitments. He said that if we skip steps, the converts won’t have sufficient strength of testimony to continue in the church. They need to sincerely repent, develop habit of prayer and daily scripture study, commit to live the word of wisdom and pay tithing. He referred us to page 221 in Preach my Gospel that talks about this concept. “It is not enough for people to simply come into the Church. They must come to stay. All your teaching and invitations must be directed toward this end. In order to receive all the blessings that our Heavenly father has in store for them, members must continue to live the gospel and be active in the Church.” This is a major problem in Nicaragua. We baptize almost 2000 people a year, but the average Sacrament Meeting attendance is almost static. This means that people are leaving almost as fast as they are coming into the church.

He gave us an Apostolic Blessing that our mission will bless us and our families. We will have an understanding that what we are doing here is so important to the Lord that this mission will bless everyone we love. We are loved and appreciated by the Lord. He testified that he knows the voice and the face of the Savior.

After the meeting, we went to Ole Verde with the Helbergs for lunch. We love them and will miss them. They have been a blessing to us here in Nicaragua. They have been fun to travel with and have become dear friends.

We then went home, packed and headed for Esteli… our last night at the Hex.

Sunday, March 11, 2018
We had a wonderful day. It was our last trip up north. We attended Church in Somoto. I gave President Alaniz my Spanish Scriptures and Sister Bell Hermana Alaniz her cactus. There was a good turnout, about 30. Hermana Zaida came as well as Hermana Alaniz. Sister Bell and I both talked. I talked about the 10 virgins and how we can fill our lamps. Sister Bell talked about the things she learned from the Saints in Somoto. It was basically the same talks we gave last week in Pueblo Nuevo. We gave them the picture of the temple. President Alaniz ended with giving us a wonderful thank-you for all we have done for him, his family and the branch. It was very kind of him.

Sister Bell went into Primary and helped with the music. We had a wonderful time. Azaria taught a lesson before the music. She is a wonderful young women with great capacity.

Hermana Celia gave us acouple of presents, a water gourd and a painted plate. After we left Somoto with great heaviness of heart knowing that we would probably never see them again, we drove to Esteli. We picked up Sister Aleman (she is going home too) and made a quick stop at the Acevedos. We then made our way to Trinidad. We stopped at the Cruz’s house and met Nicolas, the baby of Marcos and Carlyes. Sister Bell got a grandbaby fix.

We had cake and they gave us some gifts, mostly wall hangings. We love the people of Nicaragua (not because they have us gifts, but because they are so loving and kind).

President Alaniz and President Cruz spent 4 hours with Elder Cook yesterday afternoon. They were both very uplifted, learned a lot and were inspired to keep moving forward.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Monday, February 26 to Sunday, March 4, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018
After the Office meeting, we celebrated Elder Howell’s 20th birthday.

For lunch we ate baliades, a Honduran dish. They were pretty good. We spent the afternoon at the hospital for a doctor's appointment and then in the emergency room with another missionary with stomach pain. Fortunately, it was nothing too serious. We got home at 1:30am

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
We slept in a little this morning, until 7 am. We worked from home in the morning, trying to get all our files (electronic and paper) in order. While Sister Bell stayed home to take care of the wash, I went to distribution to gather prices of items. In the past, when the missionaries needed something at distribution, they would contact me. I would buy it and then they would pay me when I gave it to them. However, now that we will be gone, they will need to work with Elder Russell and he doesn’t have the money to buy items up front. So we have developed a plan where the missionaries will need to order through Elder Russell, pay the money up front and then Elder Russell would buy it for them. However, to do this, we need to know how much things cost. The prices at distribution just went up at the first of the year and their price list has not yet come out. So I put together a spreadsheet with the items that have been ordered, and then went to the distribution today to gather the prices. Elder Russell will work with the missionaries to get their money, buy the item and get it to them.

I also took Elders Howell and Russell to pay our rent so I could introduce them to our landlady and make arrangements for paying final bills. We paid for ½ month, until March 15. This will give us time to have furniture moved out and clean the house.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
After working the morning on completing the updates on our files, we relaxed a good part of the afternoon. We then went with the Helbergs for a “gator” at the Asado al Patio. We really like a steak sauce here names “chimichurry”. It has parsley, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Afterwards, we went to the Helbergs home for chocolate malts.

Thursday, March 1, 2018
We made a trip up north. We took a frig to Ciudad Dario. We gave them one last week, but it only lasted 2 days. So we took them another, after having tested it at our house for 3 days. We also went to Matagalpa and brought back 3 old fridges (1 worked), 4 chairs, a table and a microwave, that are not being used. Carlos, our new guard is cleaning them.

Friday, March 2, 2018
We took a frig to Villa Venezuela, then we went to the office. Sister Bell spent several hours with Hermana Joyce, training her to diagnose health issues. Sister Bell had all of the office secretaries test Sister Joyce with sickness scenarios. I spent several hours with Elder Vaides, training him in my responsibilities. Late afternoon, we ran a missionary to the dentist next to the Hospital. He had broken a tooth the night before. Fortunately, one of the dentists was there and looked at him. He needs a filling, but they couldn’t do it today, so they made an appointment in a week. We took him back to the office (across town) and then home.

Saturday, March 3, 2018
Carlyes, the daughter of President Cruz in Trinidad had her baby yesterday, but they were still in the hospital today when we stopped at the house to give Maria Clara a piano lesson. So we didn’t get to meet Nicholas. Maria Clara had her last lesson, which went well. We ate lunch at Burger King in Esteli before going to Condega. We met Elders Ponce and Carico at their new house.  It is a much nicer house and has a bigger room for Sacrament Meeting. We delivered 2 tables, 2 chairs and a smoke alarm. We then visited with Freddy and Virginia. We gave them suggestions on how to find family names to take to the temple and answered several questions about the temple. 

We then went to Somoto. We passed by President and Sister Alaniz's home. We gave our poinsettia plant and Sister Bells purple suit to Sister Alaniz. We gave our matching blankets to Cristian and Juanito. We visited a few minutes and then went to the church. While Sister Bell did her weekly report to Elder Curtis, I attended the English Class. We then waited for the temple class, but no one came, so we went to Esteli and checked into the Hex.

Sunday, March 4, 2018
We made a quick trip to Ocotal to deliver 4 boxes of Book of Mormons. We then went to Pueblo Nuevo for Church. This is our last Sunday there. Sister Bell and I bore our testimonies. Her testimony expresses our feelings for these good people. We gave them a framed picture of the Temple in Honduras. 

Here is Sister Bell’s talk (in English)
Things you have taught me.
You don’t need a lot of things to be happy.  You are all of humble means, but you are not filled with pride or greed or plotting on how to get more.  You are thankful for the things you have and share freely with others whether it be food, time, or money.  You have consecrated what you have, no matter how meager that may be to build the kingdom of God.  I marvel at the distances that you travel to be here at church.  I hope I can remember your example when I return to the worldly life I left behind.
The basic gospel principles are the same no matter where you go.  Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  These principles are being taught in this group.  You also have tried to follow the curriculum of the church.  We now have primary, young women, relief society, priesthood meeting, Sunday school and sacrament meeting just as you would have in any ward in the church.  You have come so far as a unit of the church since we came nearly two years ago.  The restored gospel is being taught abundantly in this group.
The church is a family.  We are brothers and sisters and what keeps people coming back to church is a feeling of being loved and welcome.  I have watched how you treat each other.  The joy of being together as friends and family is apparent.  The children show respect for their parents and grandparents.  I see the pure love that parents have for their children.  You like to visit, you like to play and laugh and sing together.  You like to eat together.  I watched twenty-nine of you crush yourselves into a sixteen-passenger bus without a complaint, but lots of laughter.  If that isn’t togetherness, I don’t what is.  You like to learn about the gospel and worship together.  When one of you has strayed and makes amends and returns to activity, there is no judgement, only joy at the prodigal son returning.  The scripture – As I have loved you, love one another.  Comes to my mind when I think of the members in Pueblo Nuevo. 
Continued progress in the gospel is important if we want to return to Heavenly Father.  There has been a great deal of progress in the last twenty-two months.  I have seen some of you go to the temple for your endowments, some have received their patriarchal blessings.  Many of the men have received the priesthood.  All have learned more about the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ and have tried to use them in their lives.  You are not perfect, but you are trying hard to become that way.
Your love and example will stay in my heart and mind for the rest of my life.  Wherever we go or do, this group of people will be a shining star in the vast experience of our lives.  I love you and share your love for our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that he is our beloved brother.  I pay tribute to Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the latter-days.  I love the Book of Mormon and cherish it as God’s word.  I know that Russell M Nelson is the prophet for this day.  I love my Heavenly Father.  I am his daughter and you are my brothers and sisters.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

We attended the baptism for Roger, Hermana Karen’s oldest soon from Trinidad. We met him several months ago when we gave Karen her last temple prep class. It was at her house. We stopped by on a Sunday afternoon on our way back home. She had fixed dinner for us and her family. All three of her boys eat and then Roger stayed for the lesson. The younger boys wondered off. He seemed very interested, asked several questions. We were impressed with his sincerity and love for his mother. The missionaries have been teaching him and he decided to be baptized today. Karen called us this morning, told us he was going to be baptized and asked if I would give a talk. I was glad to do so. I talked about the importance of baptism but spent most of my time talking about the Holy Ghost. I related three stories in which the Holy Ghost helped me. I related the experience when I was a teenager. Me and several of my LDS friends heard about a party, so we stopped by. As we were walking in, the Holy Ghost, very strongly told me we shouldn’t go in. We didn’t. I heard later that the party was full of beer and sex. I also related the experience in my mission when the Holy Ghost testified that the Book of Mormon was true and then how the HG softened our hearts to accept a Spanish Speaking mission. We took Elders Guerra and Gonzalez back to Trinidad on our way to Managua.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Monday, February 19 to Sunday, February 25, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018
We divided and conquered today. We both attended the office meeting. Then while Sister Bell stayed at the office to train Sister Poncio and Sister Joyce, I went to the hospital to be with a couple of Elders. I took them to Pricesmart for lunch, then I took them to the bus station. I went back to the office, picked up Sister Bell, stopped at the store and we went home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
We spent some time at the office, picked up 2 refrigerators from Jonathan (old ones that had been repaired) and then home. Sister Bell finished getting an updated list of the doctors we have used. I updated our housing spreadsheet and information about every missionary house to hand off to Elder Vaides.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018
We left the house at 7:30 and returned at 5pm. We dropped off a refrigerator, mop, smoke alarm and checked for bed bugs at La Paz Central which is about 1 hour from Managua.  We didn’t find any. We determined that one of our sister missionaries was getting chigger bites, not bed bug bites. Then we delivered a chair and letter to the Elders in Sebaco (1.5 hours from La Paz Central). They were at an investigators house doing service by helping to dig a hole for the outhouse. The ZL’s and the whole district were there (Elder McCord, Elder Menezes. Elder Guerra, Elder Gonzalez, Elder Espinosa, Elder Nunley, Sister Curtis and Sister Flores). We took the sisters with us as we were going to their house in Dario. We ate lunch in Sebaco, then we delivered a debit card and a new phone to Elders Morrison and Smith in Matagalpa (1.5 hr. round trip). We then went to Dario to deliver a frig, a mirror, a phone and a package and letter for Sister Curtis (45 minutes from Sebaco). They enjoyed riding in an air-conditioned car that has shocks. Apparently, the taxis don’t have shocks and are very rough riding. We dropped the sisters off and came home (2 hr. drive from Ciudad Dario). We drove almost 500 kms today. While we were driving, Sister Bell had 8 consultations. Busy day.

Thursday, February 22, 2018
We started by going to a pharmacy to get medicine for a couple of missionaries. While Sister Bell was buying medicine, I got a haircut. I will miss the haircuts here, especially the washing and massaging of my hair and scalp. It is like having therapy for only $9. We went to the office. Sister Bell needed nursey money and I needed to update Elder Vaides with the deliveries I made yesterday. We went to lunch at Ajua Mexican Grill, made a quick stop at the store and then took the medicine to the Elders in Reparto Shick. We then picked up Sisters Joyce and Puac and went to the President's house. We received a new missionary today, Sister Sanchez from the Republic Dominican. She had visa problems and couldn’t come in with the last bunch of missionaries that arrived about 3 weeks ago.  Under Sister Bell's tutelage, Sister Joyce gave her the 10 commandments of good health. I took Sisters Fersola and Puac to their area. I returned to the Presidents house and after Sister Bell was done with the training, we took Sisters Joyce and Sanchez back to Ducuali. We got home about 7:30pm. We dined on homemade grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, February 23, 2018
We went to the sister leaders house to pick up a bed frame, a table, a chair, and a fan for Sister Sanchez. She has been assigned to Las Mercedes with Hermanas Arauz and Hawkins. They will be in a three-some. We took the three sisters back to their house and helped set up the bunk beds. We then stopped at the store and then home for lunch. We hosted the Helbergs tonight for dinner. We had spinach lasagna, salad, garlic bread and cake for desert. We played golf afterwards. Sister Bell came up with a different golf game. Instead of getting matches, we played for runs. The first person who got a full run of six (we were playing with 6 cards) won. It was fun to have a little variety.

Saturday, February 24, 2018
Maria Clara’s lesson went well. We then had lunch at Rosti Pollo in Esteli then we drove to Somoto. We gave a package and deposit slip to Elder Charette and Elder Rodriquez. Then we met up with Elder Coxaj and Garcia to pay a fridge repair bill. Then we went to Pueblo Nuevo to teach a temple prep class. Javier, Arelys and Jose Alexander attended with the missionaries. That went well. We taught about the plan of Salvation and how the temple ordinances allow progression within the Celestial Kingdom. We stayed at the Hex.

Freddy and Virginia
Sunday, February 25, 2018
We went to Church in Condega. This will be our last visit to their Sunday meetings. We hope to teach one more temple preparation lesson to Freddy and Virginia next week. They are still planning on going to the temple in April. 

There were 17 people at Church today. Two were investigators. We took our keyboard, so Sister Bell played the piano for the meetings. Sister Bell and I talked. Sister Bell related a story told by Elder Alonso in the October General Conference. He told the story of how his friend's 4-year-old son was killed when he was hit by a car and how he and his wife forgave the young man who hit him. Sister Bell talked about the importance of forgiving. I had Christopher Ramirez, read the story of the 10 virgins. I then explained how we need to keep acquiring oil for our lamps and how to do it. I explained that we acquire more oil when we pray, attend church, pay tithing, serve, study the gospel, etc. This is a topic that I have talked about for the past several months, the importance of person spiritual preparation.
Elder Carico taught the Sunday School lesson about repentance, which related very well with Sister Bell’s talk. We gave the group the photo of Christ and a picture of the Honduran temple. Elder Ponce taught Primary. They only have two meetings, Sacrament meeting and SS/Primary.

We challenged the Ramirez family to prepare to go to the temple in October. We told them we are planning on being in Honduras October 9-11 if all goes well to attend the sealing of President and Sister Alaniz from Somoto. We told them it would be wonderful if they went at that same time, so we could witness their sealing as well. They accepted this goal. They have been members for about 5 years but have had a difficult time paying tithing.

We love the people in Condega and will miss them terribly. Our week-ends are a most enjoyable part of our mission.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monday, February 12 to Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018
We went to the hospital with Sister Joyce and her companion. Her companion had a doctor’s appointment and Sister Joyce was learning how to instruct missionaries who have doctor’s appointments. She learned how to order a payment guarantee, how to check in for a doctors appointment, where to go for doctors’ appointments, and how to get medicine at the pharmacy. It was a morning well spent.

I went to the bank and shopped. I bought sister Bell red roses for Valentines day. She got me dark chocolate kisses.

Joycelyn Poncio left for the MTC in Mexico today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
We had our office meeting today. I worked with Elder Vaides on the house inventories. He has been calling all the areas to update our inventory. He found needs that had not been reported earlier, such as broken chairs, mirrors and closets. Sister Bell instructed Sister Joyce and Sister Poncio how to order a payment guarantee. They ordered one for a follow-up visit for one of our missionaries. We then took Sister Joyce, Puac and Fersola to their house. I had to get 4 chairs, a table and the last fan. I will give those out tomorrow at the multizone conference.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
We had our last multizone conference in Managua for the Bello Horizante, Villa Flor and Las America zones. We played our reverse Jeopardy game. We did it in the cultural hall because we were too rowdy. We shared our testimonies as we did in the other zone conferences.

Thursday, February 15, 2018
We installed smoke alarms at Rene Polanco, La Fuente, La Catorce and Ciudad Jardin. We then picked up the Helbergs at 2pm and we headed for Selva Negra, north of Matagalpa, for our last excursion. The Helbergs had not been there before. We arrived about 5:30, just as it was getting dark. Sister Bell and I  stayed in a little Bungalow. We ate dinner and then played 5 crowns. Michelle won, and I lost. The Helbergs were in the middle.  I had a hand of 272. That hurt…

Waiting for dinner

Home sweet home
Friday, February 16, 2018
We started with a short walk around the lake. It was very peaceful, but Sister Bell’s knee was giving her fits. We had breakfast with the Helbergs, then while Michelle rested her knee in the bungalow, the Helbergs and I went for a walk in the forest. We were hoping to see, or at least hear monkeys. But we didn’t hear any or see any. We did see a family of Coatimundi Racoons. The best compliment we heard today was when Elder Helbergs said, “I feel like I am really on a vacation”.

We left Selva Negra about 11:30am. We drove over the mountain (my favorite road in Nicaragua) to Jinotega. We met Elder Hodges and Garcia at the Church. We had a package for Elder Hodges. Then we went to lunch at El Tico in Jinotega. We then drove home, getting home about 5pm. It was an enjoyable little excursion. This will be our last little excursion here in Nicaragua. We are happy and sad about that. We have enjoyed seeing and experiencing the various beautiful locations in Nicaragua. It has helped us love this country even more.

Saturday, February 17, 2018
We had a good day. We started in Trinidad. Michelle said that Maria Clara had a good lesson. While she was teaching, I was across the street installing a smoke alarm in the missionary’s house. After lunch, we met Elders Ponce and Carico in Condega. We picked up Edgar and went to a small neighborhood outside of Condega to visit Edgars mother and sister. Edgar was baptized over a year ago. He has not been very active since his baptism. Today however, he was back to his old self, friendly, engaging and interested in the Church. We gave a lesson about the Plan of Salvation. Edger and his mother had a lot of questions. We enjoyed the lesson. 

Sister Bell and I talked with Freddy and Virginia about family history. We helped them begin to collect information about their ancestors in anticipation of their upcoming trip to the temple. We then attended the noche de hermanimiento. After which we drove to Esteli and checked into the Hex.

Sunday, February 18, 2018
We attended Church in Somoto. Pueblo Nuevo came because it was an area conference broadcast for all Central America. We had 64 attending; 29 from Pueblo Nuevo, 2 from the District (Pres. Herrera y Pedro Castillo, the District Secretary), Sister Bell and I and 31 from Somoto. We barely had enough chairs. We heard talks from Elder Achoa, Sister Eubank, Elder Christiansen and Elder Cook. Elder Achoa and Elder Christiansen talked in Spanish, but Sister Eubanks and Elder Cook talked in English. For some reason, the translations didn’t begin until half way through Elder Cooks talk. So Elder Charette got up and translated. His Spanish is excellent and he did a wonderful job. It was especially hard to translate for Sister Eubanks because she talked fast.

Elder Cook talked about the importance of helping the missionaries in the missionary work. He also talked about the importance of family history and temple work. Afterwards we counted tithing money and Sister Bell and I drove to the homes of Azaria and Sadia. We first went to the house of Azaria Perez. She had been sick. We had a nice visit with her and her mother. I was concerned about her because she had been called to teach Institute several weeks ago, but so far hasn’t taught a lesson. The Elders have been teaching Institute, to the few 2-3 that come. Azaria is also the Primary President and has started a new job. So I was concerned that she was overwhelmed. We found that she was sick and the doctor has told her to stay home and rest. She told us she received an email from President Poncio, telling her that he read her conversion story (I had sent her story to him to read) and was hopeful he could visit with her next time he is in Somoto. She also received an email from Sister Linda Reeves, from the General RS Presidency, asking out how she is doing. They met when she was in the US. We found her spirit and desire to serve strong. I was relieved. 

We then went by the President’s house. We had not seen Hermana Alaniz for several weeks. She was not at church today because she didn’t want to leave the house unprotected. We had a wonderful visit. Sister Alaniz and Sister Bell love each other and were so glad to see each other. After our visit we picked up President Herrera and Pedro and dropped them off in Esteli on our way to Managua. It was a long, full but very satisfying day. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monday, February 5 to Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018
Today was an errand day. We went to the distribution center to buy items for missionaries and our little groups. We paid for a hearing test that one of our missionaries will take on Wednesday. It is a good thing we went, because we found that the time of the appointment had been changed.  We also went grocery shopping at the store and found stuffed animals for future babies (one in Trinidad and the other in Wyoming).  Pretty light day.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - Happy Birthday Grandpa Thomas
We had our office meeting at 11am this morning. We went to the office a little early, but when we got out of the truck, we realized that we had forgotten Sister Bell’s bag. All of her things, such as computer, notebooks, etc. were in the bag. There was not much she could do without her bag. After the meeting, we found out that a suitcase for Elder Packard, was brought to Managua from a friend of his parents. They were going to be in Managua for just a short period of time. So we left the office and drove across town to pick it up. They were very nice people. They own a hotel in San Juan Del Sur, which brings them to Nicaragua regularly. They invited us to stay at their hotel, but I doubt we will go back there before we leave.

We went to the Helbergs for dinner; meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad and ice cream. It was a wonderful meal. We watched a few youtube video of some of our favorite songs. We went home about 8pm.  It was nice to relax with friends.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018
We had our last new missionary training today, with those still in training (last two changes). There was a wonderful spirit as they sang the opening song and recited the mission purpose, the mission culture and D&C 4. Some missionaries have been here for 7 weeks others for 1 week. The trainers also came. It is amazing the difference after 6 weeks. Elder Basure, who has been here for 7 weeks said that the first new missionary meeting he went to, he understood about 20% of what was said. Today, he said he understood about 80%. 

Sister Bell did something alittle different this time. She talked briefly about items of comfort she keeps in her purse. I, as always, provide the color comments. She then had the old new missionaries (7 weeks in the country) to come up and tell the group one health thing they learned during their time here. Everyone knew something different. Then we had the trainers come up and do the same. Then the new missionaries. All remembered something. It was very encouraging to us that they are learning how to stay healthy on the mission. We gave everyone a chocolate, which is always appreciated. We had a lot of fun with this activity.

I gave out DVDs and chargers to those who needed them. I still have two functioning DVDs and several extra chargers. I believe all the trainers now have functioning DVDs.

Thursday, February 8, 2018
We had the multizone conference in Esteli today. We left early and arrived in Esteli about 8:45am. Our presentation was “Jeopardy”. We had three missionaries come up front and sit in three chairs, one from each zone. The first person who stood up could give the question. It got pretty wild. We gave chocolate at the end to all.

We were asked to bear our testimonies. Sister Bell did wonderfully, speaking Spanish. She only needed help with a few words and phrases. I too bore my testimony. I talked about how we were inspired to keep Michelle’s nursing license active. We thought for many years, keeping her license active was because it helped Michelle help John with his health issues, but we now know that it was also to serve our mission in Nicaragua. We began looking at what we have done, while here in Nicaragua. Sister Bell has dealt with over 1000 cases of missionary illnesses, we have helped 10 people go to the temple and the kids have helped 22 members go to the temple. We are helping another 6 or 7 members prepare to go to the temple in April. Two of the 4 units we have been helping, are now branches. We now have SS, YW, YM, Primary, RS, Seminary, Institute, in some of these units. There has been progress.

We felt alittle like celebrities after the meeting. Many of the missionaries told us thanks for our efforts and many wanted pictures.

Part of the conference was to agree on a banner, moto and scripture for the “north region”.

Friday, February 9, 2018
We held our Multizone conference in Chinandega. Since we stayed at the Los Portables motel, we didn’t need to get up so early and travel 3 hours. We only had to drive 5 minutes. The Los Portables is very nice.

We handled our game a little different. It worked a lot better. Sister Bell was at the podium with Elder Mendez, asking the questions and being the judges. Sister Fersola kept score and I keep it all going and added a little color. We had the three contestants on the stand so that they could not be influenced as easily by the zonemates. The only thing, is that it is still very loud that we will move it into the cultural hall when we have the multizone in Managua next week.

We bore our testimonies again at the end of the meeting. Sister Bell talked about how Elder Perry answered a minister’s questions at the dentist’s office. She explained that he did very well, and we were very proud of him. She also related how the Leon Stake President (who was at the conference today), helped the AMOSCA hospital accept our insurance again, after denying it for several months. This happened about a year ago and was very important in improving medical services to our missionaries in the West.

Sister Bell had several medical consults. We were treated like celebrities again, with many of the missionaries wanting pictures. Sister Harding told us something that really made us feel good. She told us that it was very comforting to have Gringos in the mission to greet them and to help train them that first day. It gave her confidence that she would be OK. We left about 5 and got home about 7:30pm. It was a good day.

Saturday, February 10, 2018
We had David and his family over for lunch today, his wife (XiOmara Morales) and two daughters (16-Obed Francella and Dariana Graciela-12). Sister Bell cooked a turkey breast, mashed potatoes, corn, happy jello and I bought a cheese cake. We played UNO afterward and then we gave them the game. They had not played it before. It was a delightful time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018
We left at 6am to attend Church in Trinidad. This will be our last Sunday visit there. We love the members and have seen a lot of growth in individual members. Three families have been sealed and 7 people have received their endowments. More are preparing to go in April. I was asked to talk. I talked about the parable of the 10 virgins and the need to keep the oil in our lamps full. We also gave them a picture of the Honduras Temple that they can display in their chapel.

We also presented Steve and Gingers gift to the primary, toys, color books and crayons.

We also gave Carlyes a stuffed monkey for her baby. We explained our tradition of giving a stuffed animal to each of our children and grandchildren to put in their crib.

We attended the setting apart of Jocelyn Poncio as a missionary to Mexico. We were honored to be invited to participate. Afterward, we were invited to have a light meal at the Presidents house.