Monday, April 25, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
(Michelle) The training consisted of computer training on how to use the medical website, eyes and what can go wrong and how to fix them, ortho problems, teeth and case studies of various kinds and what to do for various sick missionaries.  It was concluded that stress was the cause of most of the missionaries’ medical problems.  We went to the temple tonight with all of the medical missionaries that have been in our training.  We all went to the prayer circle together.  It is amazing how close you can get to people in such a short time.  We have truly become brothers and sisters.  We did an endowment session and then did one sealing.  That completes all the cards that we have, so we are caught up with the temple work.  We will not go to the temple for the next 23 months.  We have only one day of training left and then we go to Nicaragua.  Wow it is getting close!!!!  We had dinner at the Lion House Pantry again and walked to Rite Aide and bought a pulse oximeter, a thermometer and a wrist blood pressure cuff.  The instructors suggested we might these tools for assessing our missionaries.

(Scott) We have had a week of training. Tuesday, I went back to the Provo MTC for a day of office training. I took frontrunner, leaving the motel about 6am. I got a sense of how to get into the financial programs and I got a chance to look and read about some of the missionaries in our mission. There are a lot of Latino missionaries. The best part of the day was seeing our District friends during lunch and talking with our two mission missionaries. They were all exciting about seeing me, which made me feel good.

I have gotten a greater appreciation of what Michelle has been asked to do. Taking care of 200 missionaries is going to be a full time job. I will need to help her, especially until she is fluent in Spanish and even then, I will need to support her by taking her around and helping her keep up with the paper work. I have been impressed with the resources that the Church is providing the field missionaries. The medical website has so much information. I found out that there are over 500 volunteers that work in the Missionary Medical Department of the Church with only 4 paid employees…. Amazing.

We went to the Salt Lake City Temple tonight with the medical missionaries. We have become very good friends with each of them in such a short period of time. We will be serving in Chili, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, Africa, Germany, Philippines and Argentina. All of us are going to International Missions. Two more days and we are in the mission field….

Friday, April 22, 2016

     When we arrived in Nicaragua, we made it through customs almost without incident.  They pulled our two smaller suitcases and Scott had to open them and the officials inspected them.  As I held my breath, they raked through our things.  They pronounced us ok and we sighed a breath of relief.  We proceeded to the gate and were met by a smiling couple jumping up and down and calling our names.  Bienvenidos a Nicaragua from the Hermano and Hermana Lee.  They are from Brigham City, Utah and are the senior missionaries who are full-time in the office.  They are the parents of nine children and grandparents of 35 grandchildren.  Hermano Lee is a retired Spanish teacher.  Sister Lee is a retire teacher’s aide.  They are really fun.  I know we are going to enjoy being their amigos.  They dropped us off at the Casa San Juan.  The room was much less than expected.  No hot water, a double-sized bed, and a large section of moldy ceiling.  I was really tired and I shed a few tears.  I then realized that the bed was comfortable, the sheets were clean and other than the mold, the room was clean.  We went to bed and I slept like a log.

Saturday, April 23. 2016
Our first official day in the mission field.  My attitude was greatly improved after a good night’s sleep.  We walked around the neighborhood before breakfast.  It seemed to be very safe and we Buen Dia (as they say here – they drop their s’s) everyone we saw.  After a cold shower which actually felt good after our walk in ninety-degree temperature, we had breakfast outside on the patio area in front of the hotel.  Breakfast served was fruit (fresh pineapple and watermelon), scrambled eggs with peppers and other things, and gallo pinto (rice and beans).  Our server is a member of the church and she greeted us warmly when she saw our tags.  We had a nice visit with a family from Canada who were going to see the volcano.  They had visited Salt Lake City and wondered why everyone was so beautiful and handsome in Salt Lake City.  I told them that perhaps it is because of our health law and explained the Word of Wisdom.  The mother laughed and said that could be.  The Lees picked us up and brought us to the Mission Office where we had an interview with the mission president.  He outlined what our responsibilities would be.  1) the nurse 2) seminaries and institutes in the two branch areas 3) prospective missionaries 4) piano and 5) checking missionaries’ apartments.  It sounds very busy, but that is good.  We were then invited for Bienvenidos lunch with President and Sister Collado and the Lees at a very delicious Peruvian restaurant.  I had a stuffed chicken avocado which was very yummy and a drink which had purple corn and fresh pineapple juice in it.  It was so good.  In the afternoon, we looked for an apartment with the same crew.  We saw about five places and settled on a little house with two bedrooms in a gated community of 3 other little houses.  We hope to be settled soon.  It is unfurnished,
so we will be gathering furniture.  The church will buy the basics and if we want something else, we will have to buy it.  It will be nice to get out of the hotel.  We then had dinner with the Lees at McDonalds.  Elder Lee was stopped by the police for going down the wrong way on a one-way street.  He told them he was an elder in the LDS church and was here to help his people and the policeman knew about the Mormons and he let us go.  Never a dull moment in the life of a missionary.  We went home and tried to watch a movie which wouldn’t download.  I fell asleep and the next thing I knew it was morning.

Sunday, April 24, 2016
     Today we went to the Cuidad Darío, a small town 2 hours north of Managua.  The is a branch with over 400 members with about 30 active members. 
Elder Lee is the branch president.  When we walked in, they were having a baptism meeting.  Luis was the man being baptized.  He was an older man and looked like he was half blind with cataracts.  He was confirmed in Sacrament Meeting.  They had three speakers, a young seventeen-year-old girl, a woman who we found was a judge and the second counselor, Elder Morales.  It was wonderful to take the sacrament.  Elder Lee asked us to bear our testimonies, which we did. Everyone seemed to enjoy our messages and language skill. They do not have a keyboard, so the song leader would stand in the front and sing the first line of the song to find the pitch and then start over with the congregation joining.  They sang beautifully.  It was my favorite part of the meeting.  We sang an opening and closing in Sunday school and Relief Society.  The lady judge taught in Sunday School and Relief Society.  She was a wonderful teacher.  She would diagram everything on the board in Spanish as she was talking and using scriptures, so I knew what the lesson was about even though I could not understand everything she was saying.  The people were so warm and loving and welcomed us and seemed genuinely sad when we parted.  I love the Nicaraguan members.  We shared a lunch on the way home of sandwiches and yogurt and then went to the Lees apartment for a little relaxation and some left over potato salad.  They have a lovely home up on the hill.  We then returned to the office and met the two office missionaries and the two assistants to the president.  They were calling their zone leaders and doing stats for their meeting      with the president tomorrow morning.  They are Elders Nielson and Morales in the office and Elders Boyce and Moser who were assistants to the president.  Good young men!  We tried to call the kids, but they were not on line.  Steven called us when we got back to the hotel, but we did not have a good connection with him, but it was good just to see their faces.  I am home sick for them.  When we met the elders, we showed them our family and seeing their sweet faces pulled at my heart strings.  After talking with Steve, we watched a movie called the Fifth Quarter about a young man who was killed in a car accident and how his family handled it.  The family could have used the gospel and the comfort of the Holy Ghost.  I am so thankful for his presence in my life.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

First Week per Michelle

Monday, April 11, 2016
First day at the MTC in Provo, Utah
     After dropping off our suitcases, we paid for our food, and had an orientation meeting with all of the other senior missionaries.  There were a little over 80 of us, mostly couples with several sets of single sisters.  One set of sisters were actually blood sisters who were going as companions to the same mission.  Another set of sisters had been companions at the MTC years ago and were serving as companions again although in a different mission.  Such a variety of missions – CES, MLS, Military support, several medical missionaries, a mental health missionary.  Wow, what a power group.  Scott and I had put our books down on two seats to save them and then went to lunch.  When we returned for the instruction meeting, a single sister was sitting by my seat.  I sat down and noticed that her tag said Hermana Byington.  I started introducing myself and getting to know her a little and realized that she could hardly speak English.  I asked her “¿habla inglés?”  She said, “No, hablo inglés.”  I knew that we had a problem, Houston, and drew Scott into the conversation.  He was able to find out that she really could speak very little English and that she would not be able to understand anything during the meeting.  Scott went to one of the MTC leaders.  He seemed to be unaware of the situation, but quickly called an interpreter to come to the meeting to translate for Hermana Byington.  She had been so anxious, but you could see the relief on her face when the interpreter walked in.  We were probably one of only a few in the group who had been studying Spanish enough to help her and we just “happened” to be sitting by her” - a tender mercy moment!
     Today seemed to be full of tender mercies.  Scott and I got lost trying to find our way back to our room.  All the residence buildings look alike and there are many of them.  In our lost state we just happened to ask one of only two young missionaries going to Nicaragua currently at the MTC for directions.  He had been unable to go to Guatemala because of passport problems and another sister who he knew were the only missionaries of hundreds here at the MTC going to Nicaragua North Mission.  We got acquainted and told him we would be there to greet him in Nicaragua when he got there in May.  We plan to meet the sister tomorrow.  We were able to get her contact information.  Just coincidence – I think not!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
     Another tender mercy – Yesterday we divided into districts.  Elder and Sister Lems who are going to Australia on a CES mission are our Districts presidents.  The Brinkerhoffs from Utah, the Woods from Saratoga Springs and ourselves make up the rest of the district.  In a conversation with the Woods, we found out that they have two children with cystic fibrosis.  We felt like kindred spirits instantly.  Both have the gene that is the less severe type, but they have had problems with fertility just like John and Isa.  Right now their daughter is finalizing an adoption of a baby boy and hoping that the mother does not back out.  Where have we heard that before?  Just coincidence – I think not! 
Wednesday April 13, 2016
     I can’t believe it has only been three days at the MTC.  We have packed every day full and have been fed to overflowing with all good things pertaining to our purpose which is to invite others to come to Christ.  This morning on the way to breakfast, we ran into Sister Golding, our cute Nicaraguan missionary.  She was heading to breakfast also with her companion from Brazil who is serving in the Salt Lake City Mission and is learning English.  We went to lunch and sat with our Nicaraguan missionaries, Sister Golding and Elder Alofepo.  It was fun to get to know them better.  Sister Golding is from Kaysville.  Elder Alofepo is from Salt Lake.  His ancestry is Somoan hence his name.  They are darling and we love them.  

Friday, April 16, 2016
     We went to a training session where we were missionaries teaching a less active member of the church.  Everyone was paired up and the Bells names were not on the board, so we wondered what was up.  Our teacher then dropped the bombshell that the Bells would be teaching in Spanish with another Spanish speaking companionship.  My heart started pounding so fast, I thought it would leap out of my chest.  I know my language abilities and the thought of teaching a whole 30 minute lesson in Spanish terrified me.   Scott could see my panic and he said don’t worry, I will be there and then I remembered that he wasn’t the only one who would be by my side.  I went into the  bathroom and although I felt like throwing up, I said a short, fervent and sincere prayer and asked for help.  We were paired with the same lady that we had helped on the first day and her companion.  Sister Byington is a native Spanish speaker and her companion had served a mission in Argentina 40 years ago.  We were the missionaries and Elder Bell asked me to pray.  I prayed as I have never prayed before and used the words that I have been learning for the past month and a half.  When I was done, the former Argentinian missionary had tears in her eyes and I asked her what she was feeling.  She said that she was moved to tears by very strong warm feelings.  I testified to her that the Spirit had blessed us during the prayer with His presence and that we now could freely learn.  Things went very well.  Elder Bell did most of the teaching, but I was able to share experiences and testify.  It was a wonderful experience.

Saturday, April 16, 2016
     Today two things happened in this tender mercy category.  We had to get a new big suitcase for our mission.  It has been in the closet for a month and a half and has never been used until we packed for the MTC.  This morning when we were packing for our trip to SLC for the medical training, the zipper broke on the suitcase.  We don't have a car and were riding in the MTC shuttle to SLC so we couldn't run to Park City to the outlet mall where we purchased the suitcase.  Scott called the Samsonite store and they said that there was a store at the Traverse Mountain outlet and that they would replace it if we could get the old suitcase to the mall.  Again we knelt and talked to the Lord about a suitcase.  Carpets and suitcases, who would think they would be a prayer item.  We then went down to the travel office to see if they could help us.  The office is closed on Saturday, but our driver was in the office.  We knocked on the window and he came out and we asked if we could stop at the Lehi mall and he said that he could do that.  We were able to stop, trade the broken suitcase for a brand new one and be on our way in about one-half hour extra time.  If it had broken any day after today, we would have had to buy a new suitcase and trash the other one.  They aren't cheap!
     The second amazing grace we had today concerned our shuttle driver.  He served a mission in Paraguay and has been home for three years.  That is where Scott served forty years ago.  Scott and our driver talked my ears off about their common beloved area of service.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Heavenly Father really does love us each individually.  He knows us by name and wants us to be happy.

Missionaries in the MTC

This is about 1/4th of the missionaries that entered the MTC with us

This is our District (L to R) Brinkerhoffs, Bells, Lems, Woods in front of the Provo Center temple when we went to a session on Thursday Evening. 

First Week in the MTC - Scott's Version

Monday April 11, 2016

Becky and her kids picked us up at 8:30am and dropped us off at the MTC. We had orientation, got our room, eat lunch and dinner, and meet wonderful people. There were over 80 senior missionaries who entered the MTC today, going all over the world and doing a variety of assignments. We are the only ones going to Central America.

One of the highlights was listening to a talk given by Elder Bednar at the MTC acouple of years ago. It was a powerful talk about testimony, conversion and the character of Christ. Here are a few highlights:
·         He quoted Elder Neil Maxwell, “There would be no atonement without the Character of Christ”.
·         He taught us that the character of Christ is turning outward when we would normally turn inward, being selfless. He used Matt 4:2-12 as an example of this. At the beginning of His ministry, the Savior fasted for 40 days and then was tempted by Satin. After have gone through this experience, verse 12 states that angels administered to Him. However, the JST states that Angels were sent by the Lord to John the Baptist because he was in prison. After suffering, tempted and weak, we would normally want to be ministered to, but instead the Savior was thinking of others.
·         He taught that there is a difference between having a testimony and being converted. He taught that conversion is consistently being true to what we know. As we do so, testimony will deepen into conversion. See Alma 23:5-6. Alma taught that the Lamanites that had testimonies “and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away”
·         He illustrated the “natural man” as the cookie monster, who only is thinking about himself and getting cookies. He taught from Mosiah 3:19 that we need to put off the natural man through the atonement of Christ and as we do we become more like the Savior.
·         He illustrated another principle outlined in Ether 3:4. This is the story of the brother of Jared who needed light for the barges they had built to travel across the great waters. The Lord asked him what he would have him do. The Brother of Jared make 16 small stones and asked the Lord to touch them and they would produce light. Verse 6 states that the Lord “touched the stone one by one with his finger.” The next sentence talks about the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord. Elder Bednar taught that the Brother of Jared did not see the finger with the first stone, but sometime as the 16 stones were touched the Brother of Jared’s faith had grown sufficiently faith that he then saw the finger of the Lord.
·         The take home message is that the Character of the Lord is unselfishness, thinking of others when the natural man would think of himself.  As we lose ourselves in service to others we will find ourselves. Michelle and I both have committed to be more selfless in all we do.

There were several tender mercies today, but Michelle will describe those in her journal.

April 15, 2016

Our Preach my Gospel training is over. It has been a wonderful and growing experience. We made wonderful friends, have learned to rely on the Spirit and have developed confidence in each other. I have also realized that maybe I do have the gift of tongues. Let me explain.

We have been role playing several times this week. Michelle and I have taught well together and we have been blessed with teaching with the spirit. But today, just before we were leaving our study room to have another teaching experience, we were told that would be teaching in Spanish. We were assigned our friend, Sister Byington, who speaks very little English and her companion, Sister Stuart, an American who is going to Peru. Sister Stuart was a missionary in Argentina about the same time I was in Uruguay. Her Spanish, however, is better than mine. They were to act as inactive members and we are supposed to find our why so we could teach them a lesson. This was to be all done in Spanish. When we heard that, we were frantic. Struggling through asking questions in Spanish we found out their story: Sister Stuart had been inactive for a long time and didn’t care about coming back to Church. She was only there to support her friend, Sister Byington. Sister Byington had been a member for only 3 years but was inactive because her husband and daughter did not like her going to Church. She wanted to go to church and realized that she was losing the wonderful feeling she had when she was baptized.

We had 25 minutes to prepare a lesson specifically for them. We came up with a lesson plan in English, but were really concerned about trying to teach it in Spanish. After our preparation time, we went back to our room with faith that our Heavenly Father would help us. I welcomed them and Michelle gave the opening prayer. Once Michelle gave the prayer, this spirit settled in. We discussed Mosiah 2: 41, Almas plea for his sons and the change that came to them and then we discussed ways that they could feel the spirit without offending Sister Byington’s husband such as praying and reading the scriptures. We then promised her that if she would read and pray, love and serve her husband and family that the spirit would soften her family’s hearts. The spirit was strong and some of us were in tears. The words came to my mind freely and I was able to get across what I was trying to say. We both spoke beyond our capabilities. And even though our Spanish was lacking, they understood all we said.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Setting Apart

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 (by Michelle)

Five days before we had to report at the MTC, we had our carpets cleaned. We wanted the carpets cleaned before the Chalks moved in on Monday. The carpet cleaners came at 10:30 am and did a beautiful job of cleaning our carpets, rugs and furniture. I had a skype tutoring Spanish session with Whitney at 4pm and when I came upstairs at 5pm, Scott said, “Look at the carpet!”  He had a sick look on his face.  I looked at the carpet and at first could not see anything.  Then I realized that large sections of the carpet had separated from the pad and it looked like the wavy ocean.  I then understood the look on Scott’s face.  This had happened once before after shampooing the carpets when we lived in Spring Creek, Nevada.  We had to restretch the entire carpet and it never did look completely flat.  We were heading to Idaho Falls to help with Dad after the passing our sister-in-law’s mother and would not return until Thursday evening.  That left Friday and Saturday to deal with this potential catastrophe.  Scott called the man who cleaned the carpets and he said not to worry, that this sometimes happens and that the carpet would be fine after it had dried.  This information did not reassure us as our previous experience had taught us otherwise.  We knelt down and asked our Heavenly Father to bless our carpets.  This may sound like a silly thing to do, but with our given situation, we needed a carpet blessing in order to be ready to go to the MTC as planned.  We then got in the car and headed to Idaho.  Upon our return we approached the back door with apprehension.  Upon opening the door, we peeked in and beheld the miracle of the carpet.  It was lying perfectly flat and looked beautiful.  We immediately knelt and thanked our Heavenly Father for his blessing.  He hears our every prayer even when to some, the matter might seem less important.  Because it was a weight upon us, it was a priority for Him.  We are thankful for His blessings.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

This afternoon Michelle and I were set apart as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by our Stake President, Jason Langeveld. Those who were there included Brad and Cheryl Allen, Kevin Jensen, the men with whom I served in the Stake Presidency. Bishop Mangum, and John Ottesen, the first counselor in the Bishopric were also there along with our home teacher, Patrick Munson.  President Jason Brown, the second counselor in the Stake Presidency was also there. President Langeveld reviewed with us D&C 4, stressing that we are called to gather Israel and that we need to do our best in order to stand blameless before the Lord.

Then he gave Michelle a wonderful blessing; his words were powerful and straightforward. It was as Heavenly Father or the Savior were giving the blessing directly. This is how Michelle described it, “Immediately following the opening words of being set apart as a missionary, I felt a surge of power through my whole body almost like a bolt of electricity.  This has happened one other time when I touched your dad for the first time after he came home from his mission.” President Langeveld blessed Michelle to be able to understand the needs of the missionaries and to help them “perfectly”. That she will have total and immediate recall of the medical knowledge that she has gleaned throughout her life and beable to “heal” the missionaries by using this knowledge so that they could continue to teach. She was blessed to be able to speak in both English and Spanish with other medical professionals so that they would understand “perfectly” what she was trying to convey and that she would understand “perfectly” what they were saying. She was also blessed that she would be able to teach and preach the gospel in both English and Spanish and be able to be understood and share the gospel with members and non-members. He blessed her with health and strength in order to accomplish the Lord’s work. This is how Michelle described the last two blessings, “A most precious blessing - that miracles would happen within our immediate family with both our children and grandchildren as a direct blessing of our missionary service. That my love for Scott and our closeness would greatly increase even beyond the magnificence that already exists between us.”

It was truly a powerful blessing with the spirit present in abundance. Michelle was greatly uplifted by the blessing and all her concerns with what we are leaving behind vanished from her heart and mind. It truly was an inspired blessing.

Afterward, he gave me a wonderful blessing. He blessed me that I would see the Lord’s hand in our service and encouraged me to document and share those experiences. He told me that I would be directed in ways to keep us safe but that we would need to follow the promptings of the spirit with exactness. He blessed me with the ability to teach, lead, and love members and non-members alike. He also blessed me that I would develop a closeness with the Mission President and that I would be able to support him and his counselors as they exercise Priesthood keys and recognize his strengths and that my strengths would complement his. He blessed me that I would learn from these experiences that would benefit us during this mission and other future assignments. He also blessed me with health at least to the level that I have now, that would be sufficient to fulfill our assignment. He blessed me that I would be able to find the reason I was called to this particular mission and those particular people that I will touch and have influence with. The one thing he did not bless me with, for which I was waiting for and wanting, was the gift of tongues. I asked him about it after and he assured me I would do just fine with the language.