Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 23-May 29

Monday, May 23, 2016

Today was a day of peaks and valleys, dealing with missionary health, vehicle maintenance, cell phones and chocolate cake.

Missionary Health: Sister Bell began getting calls early, not necessary from missionaries who were newly sick, but missionaries going to doctor appointments. Last week at Zone Conferences, Michelle found a lot of missionaries that needed to go to the doctor. Several went immediately, but several were scheduled to go today; their preparation day. When missionaries go to a facility that will accept the Church’s insurance, Michelle will call AENTA and request that they send a letter of guarantee payment to the hospital, doctor or clinic. They get sent but in veritably, when the missionaries show up for their appointment, the facility can’t find the paperwork. This happens more than 50% of the time. So the missionaries call Sister Bell for help. Most of the time, Sister Bell will need to call AETNA and request they send another copy. This helps, but sometimes they still don’t get it. In one facility today, their internet was down so they couldn’t even receive an internet email. She had to reschedule the appointment for next week.

Vehicle Maintenance: We are responsible to pay for gas and general maintenance of our RAV4. This past couple of weeks we have been filling up once or twice a week. Each fill up is about $40. We also have to maintain the vehicle regularly, every 5,000 km. We have to take it to the major Toyota Dealer in town, Casa Pellas. Today was our day to take it in. We needed general servicing and then check the headlights and replace the battery in the keybob. They also cleaned it very well. It cost about C$6300, which is about $220. I thought this was pretty expensive for what they did, although they assured me they did a lot more than was is usually done in the US. I finally resolved myself to pay this amount and felt pretty good about it, especially since they did such a nice job washing the car….. until we left and pushed on the brakes. They squealed terribly, something that didn’t happen before we took it in. So now, I need to call them tomorrow and have they check the brakes out.

Cell Phone: We complained about the cell phone situation in last week’s entry. But at the end of the day, one of our office missionaries, worked on our phones and got everything to work. Michelle can now do everything on one phone and my phone works with internet, texting, calling and all the apps work….. I believe Elder Rameriz (from Guatemala) saved our marriage.

Cake: Monday mornings is our office staff meeting. We go over the calendar and plans various meetings and other activities. Sister Collado, the wife of the mission president brought in pizza and chocolate cake to celebrate Elder Rameriz and Sister Bells birthdays.
 We both broke our sugar boycott. The cake was good, but not as good as chocolate cake in the US.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Today was a “quasi” P-Day since Saturday we will be coming home from Puerto Cabeza. So we took a little time today to get a haircut, buy some cotton pants for Michelle and I (We learned that the Church as approved pants for sister missionaries in countries where mosquitos are a problem). We then went to the hospital where wsende  so many missionaries. We met Doctora Cuevas and Doctora Abula. Doctora Cuevas is a dermatologist and Doctora Abula is an LDS emergency room doctor. The hospital was very nice ad modern. However, their book keeping has not always been good. The hospital has been having problems finding letters of guarantee of payment that have been sent to them from AETNA, our insurance company. About half of the letters get lost, so the missionaries have had to call Sister Bell, who in turns calls AETNA and asks them to send another copy. We found out today that part of the problem is because the missionaries don’t check in with the hospital before going to the doctor’s office. We will give them better instructions.

We got home early today, about 5:30pm after stopping at the panaderia. We never get home this early. Sister Bell charted all her calls while I cooked dinner… Mojo Chicken, corn, salad and garlic bread.

Wednesday, May 25, 2015

We trained in the new missionary workshop. Sister Bell gave a presentation about how to take care of feet. We are finding that this is a major problem, mostly because the missionaries don’t have adequate shoes. They walk a lot and it hurts the feet particularly is they are walking in shoes that don’t provide good support.

We had another early night, but even when we got home, Sister Bell took calls, charted, ironed while I cooked. We then talked with Elder and Sister Koelliker and President Collado on a conference call. They are coming to the mission in July. President Collado will send them to Esteli to work as a member and leader support missionaries in the Esteli District. He asked Sister Bell and I to look for potential apartments. We were able to answer a lot of questions and give them some suggestions on how to prepare and what to expect once they are in the mission field.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

We are in Puerto Cabeza. Puerto is on the Caribbean coast. We flew this morning with President and Sister Collado, Sister Leon and Elder Boice.
We will be here for 3 days. There are a lot of bugs here and the missionaries tend to have more health problems than in other areas, but they love it here. It reminds me of Paraguay, not only the country side, but also because there are few missionaries here, they are far from the mission President and they seem to love it here. The missionaries that are here are the best missionaries in the mission. They are usually here for 8-12 months and don’t want to leave. They always talk that this is their favorite place to work.

We stayed at the church most of the day. After the zone conference, we stayed to meet Branch Presidents and talk with potential missionaries. I talked with two BP and 2 missionaries. We left about 6:30, caught a cab to our motel expecting to eat at the hotel. When we got there we found out that the restaurant was closed. They suggested another restaurant that delivers food to the motel. So we had them call for us and found out that they were also closed. So we thought we were out of luck for dinner. Then a lady said that a store below the hotel was still open, so we rushed down there, bought ham slices, cheese and crackers. That is what we had for our first night in Puerto Cabeza.

Friday, May 27, 2016

This morning, we woke up at 5:30 with the sound of a million trillion rain drops on our roof.  It was a torrential downpour and we were just about ready to go out for a walk when it started, so we stayed in bed.  It lasted about an hour and the sun came out or should I say up, and it was as if it had never happened, except now it was hot and muggy.  We had breakfast at the hotel and then a member of the church came and picked us up in his car for the day.  Oscar is the secretary of the district, is employed by the church and oversees the church maintenance.  He is a mechanic by trade.  We went to the ZL’s home and checked it out.  It was pretty messy.  We gave a lesson from D&C 109:8 about having a house of order; hopefully the elders got the message.  We then went to five other missionary homes and did the same thing.  The apartments were deplorable. They were dirty, messy, had old clothes, fans and other stuff just laying around. No wander they are getting sick.

After that we visited the local hospital, and two clinics to see if we would send missionaries there.  The hospital was deplorable. It is a government facility and it was dirty and not a place we would send our sick dog to.  The clinics were privately owned and clean.  One was a single general practice doctor and the other was a multi-specialty clinic with about 6 doctors.  They were both places we felt good about sending our missionaries to.  We went to lunch with Elder Monson and our driver and then headed to the church for a baptism.  A young woman was baptized and it was truly a beautiful experience.  We came back to the hotel for dinner and then went back to the other church building where we spent some time with the branch president and young prospective missionaries.  The branch president had been a member for 10 months when he was called.  He, his wife and 3 children were sealed in the Honduras temple in April.  Just a really choice family.  It was the hottest day of our mission, and when we got home to the motel we both took showers.  It felt so good.  Kim and family skyped with us.  It is always good to have a chat with the family.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sister Bell and I woke up this morning with the same inspirations. We both were thinking about our missionaries and their apartments; how dirty they were and how it was affecting the work. A good number of the missionaries in Puerto have various ailments, many with cold or flu type symptoms. We both feel that the unhealthy condition of their apartments are contributing to this “epidemic” We feel that they need to get their apartments clean and keep them that way. We visited two more homes. At the Elders home, we found dirty dishes in the sink. We asked them how long has it been since they did the dishes. They said those were not their dishes, that they have been in the sink for over 9 weeks, and that they didn’t dare touch them. We were flabbergasted. How could they leave dirty dishes in the sink for that long. We could not believe it. We instructed them to get gloves, take them out of the sink, put them in a bag and throw them away.

We feel impressed to implement a weekly training program. We will provide weekly short messages to be given at the weekly district meetings, discussing topics like the fire alarm, cleaning a kitchen, washing dishes, taking safe showers, cleaning a bathroom, etc. Simple things that missionaries can understand and hopefully, implement. We also encouraged the zone leader to consider having a “clean my home” morning periodically, where the missionaries would clean their homes. We discussed this with Elder Monson, the zone leader and he liked the idea, but we need to discuss this with President and Sister Collado.  

We caught the noon flight back to Managua, it was a bigger plane (seating about 45, yesterday’s plane could seat only 11). We got home about 3:30pm. It is good to be home.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Lee’s picked us up at 6:30pm so we could go to Church with them in Dario. Elder Lee is the branch President. It was nice to have a chauffeur. Sister Bell has been teaching piano to two sisters, one is about 19 and the other is about 10. They have the lesson at 8am, an hour before Church. This is their third lesson. They are catching on very well and making progress.

We stayed for all three meetings. Sister Bell played for Sacrament Meeting again. We will be very happy when we can understand all that is said. It is still frustrating not to understand or communicate as freely as we would like.

The newly sustained and set apart Elder’s Quorum President, Rene Belly, invited us over to have house for dinner. Actually they had invited the Lee’s about two weeks ago, we just got to go along. However, they were very happy to have us there. He was baptized about 4 months ago. His wife was baptized a couple of years ago, but apparently wasn’t confirmed or they lost her record, so she was rebaptized with her husband. They have plans to go to the temple next spring.

They have a very humble home (dirt floor, mud walls and tin roof). Sister Belly cooked rice, fried bananas, French fries, tomatoes and Pepsi. It was really good. They fed the Elders, us, the Lees and another family. They were very generous and gracious. As we were eating, a herd of brahma cows walked by. They didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother them. Other than a few flies, it was very peaceful as we eat and talked. They were very happy we came and we excited to show us their humble home. It really makes me realize that material things don’t make us happy, as they have very little things and are still very happy.

We got home about 3:30 and crashed….. It has been a long couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fourth Week.... it has been a month already

Monday, May 16, 2016
We were up and out the door early this morning. We left Esteli about 6:30am and drove to Ocotal. Ocotal is only about 30-40 km from the Honduras Border. It is a beautiful drive through the mountains. The town is nestled in a small mountain valley. It is very beautiful, peaceful and cool. I could live there and be very happy. A week ago, many of the trees had yellow flowers, while this week the flowers were brilliant red. In several spots, the trees created a tunnel over the road. It was spectacular and a pleasant drive.
We left early so we could be in Ocotal by 8am. Sister Bell needed to go to a doctor’s appointment with one of the Sister missionaries. We left Ocotal about 10am and headed home. We needed to stop in Sebaco to deliver a package to the sister missionaries, otherwise we came straight back the office. We needed to be back by 2:30 because Sister Bell was expecting a delivery of medicine that she needed for the upcoming zone conferences. When we got to the office, the person that was putting the packages together called and said he would be an hour late. He finally arrived about 6pm. We were tired, hungry and not very happy.
Fortunately, Elder and Sister Lee invited us to dinner at their house. We enjoyed sitting on their patio looking at the lights of the city. It was very relaxing.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Happy Birthday Michelle. We celebrated her birthday by getting up at 4:15 and leaving the house at 6am. We picked up Sister Ramos, one of the sister leaders and Elder Knight, one of the assistance. We then drove to Estela, which is about 3hr up the western side of the country. We found that there is a lot of agriculture in this area. The terrain is flat and it is warm. We participated in a 3 zone conference. Sister Bell gave a short presentation about medications and passed out a back of medications so that each companion had things like bandaids, Advil, Tylenol, etc. These are the packages she was waiting for yesterday. The missionaries sang Happy Birthday to Sister Bell and all the other May, June and July birthdays.  They each received a birthday muffin.  Sister Bell visited with about 10 missionaries during the day. It was like she had a little clinic in the back of the Chapel while the conference was going on. I got to take pictures, which was really fun. The mission has a Nikon 7100, which is the camera I would like to get. I had fun taking pictures. The conference got over about 5:30 and we got home about 9pm. Sister Bell is inputting information about all her visits into the Church’s medical site, while I am writing in my journal. It has been another long day.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
We had another multi-zone conference today. This one was for the 3 zones in Managua. It was held at the Villa Flor building. We had been there 2 or 3 times before, but we still had to rely on Google Maps to find it. We expected to get done early enough to go back to the office before quitting time, but we are finding that zone conferences are really busy for Mission Nurses and her assistant. Sister Bell saw at least 10 missionaries for various things, 5 of which she is sending to the doctors. I had to interpret a lot and Sister Collado stayed close by to answer questions, give back-ground information and explain things in more detail to the Latino missionaries. We also helped prepare and clean-up lunch. Even though it was close and we started at 9am, we still got done after 5pm and back to the office by 6:30pm… although that is another story all together.
As we were leaving the church, it started to rain. It thundered, lightening and rain heavy. I was surprised how quickly the streets flooded. I was glad we have an SUV to get through the flooded streets. It got dark really fast, but we had confidence in Google maps. Google seems to always want to take us on the back roads, which were full of running water, rocks, potholes and people. It seemed just as if we were making progress we would get to a dead end road. What should have taken 30 minutes took over an hour. Our nerves were pretty shot when we got back to the office. It is 9 pm and Sister Bell is still charting.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Well, we hit the road early again today, leaving at 6am. We picked up Sister Leon and Elder Boice at their apartments and headed to Esteli for another Multizone conference. We have one more next week in Puerto Cabeza. We are finding that multizone conferences are very long days. We got home about 10:30pm. Sister Bell gave her medical presentation and we did get to tell alittle about ourselves and bear our testimonies. Then we spent the rest of the day helping Sister Collado fix lunch, clean up, help the missionaries with medical issues (about 8-9 today) and take pictures. These are all things that are important to keep the work going and I am glad we are here to help, but I miss teaching the gospel.
We did see Elder Alophipo today. He is one of our missionaries from the MTC. He is doing great. We are also getting to know more and more missionaries. We don’t feel quite like “newbies” anymore.   
Friday, May 20, 2016
We used today as our Pday because we will be in Condega over the week-end. One of our primary needs was to get more money. We had set up an account through Wells Fargo and a local bank so that we can transfer money from Wells Fargo to the local bank. We do that once a month. I had made the request last week, so when we went to the bank, I was surprised that they did not have a record of the request. So we came back home empty handed. I then got on the WF website and looked for the request. It was not there (I must have not completed the request process). So I made another request and then went back to the bank. We went back to the same teller, a cute girl who was very helpful. But they still couldn’t find the request, we even waited for a while thinking that it just needed time to get through the system, but still no success. The manager even called WF in the States. They said that our request was not in the system. I tried calling WF but kept getting a busy signal. However, at least this time, I could see our request on the website, so I was thinking it just needed time to go through the system. After another hour or so, we got a message telling us the transfer had been made and we could pick up our money, which we did. I think the bank was just as happy about us getting our money as we were. Our little teller had a big smile when we finally walked out of the bank with our Cordobas.
Going to the bank three times during the day, we got to know the guards outside the bank. So we had a conversation with one of them, an older man with very little teeth. He knew alittle about the Church, even some of the names of the prophets in the book of Mormon. I asked him if he would like a book of Mormon and he said yes. We had put two BofM in the car so I told him we would give him one when we got out of the bank. When we got out he was by the car waiting for his book. I gave him a book and began getting his address so the missionaries could visit him when Elder Robles, the missionary who came with me this trip to the bank, asked if he knew English. I looked down at the book and realized I had given him an English copy of the BofM. I apologized and got the other copy, but it was in English too. Apparently we had gotten two English BofM from the office storeroom. So later in the day we purchased a Spanish BoM from the Distribution store and will go back to the bank to give it to him.
We got our new phones today, but new is not always better. Instead of using a new cheap phone, I put the sim card in my Samsung. I can now call on the phone I brought from the States and should have internet today. Sister Bell also got a new phone. We had to go see Hermano Roger Perez who is over purchasing for the Church in Nicaragua. Their office is by the distribution center on the West side of the City. They had to cut the Sim Card down to fit into the new phone. But for some reason, the phone went loco. We could not get it to work. We were getting really frustrated. It was late in the day and it was hot in the office which didn’t help. Finally, Brother Perez got an used Iphone, put the sim card in it and gave it to Sister Bell. However, the contacts did not carry over to the new phone. She could call and text but has to use the old phone to look up phone numbers and email. So now she has to use two phones, not a good solution. We were told this is a temporary fix, until they can get the new phone to work properly. We are finding that things don’t work very smoothly in Nicaragua.
We went out to dinner with the Lee’s to a gourmet hamburger restaurant. Then we went back to their house, sat on the porch overlooking the city and played 5 crowns. I won….. At least the day ended well.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
We gave a Book of Mormon today to Salvador, one of our guards. We have him a Liahona about a week ago, which he read. This morning he asked for more to read, so we gave him a BoM. When we left, he was reading it.
Today was another teaching day. We drove to Condega, about 4 hours north of Managua. It is a little mountain town. The missionaries have been working this little town for about 5 months. There are about 35 members, 21 of which are active. The two Elders who are serving here are Elder Scaggs and Elder Alfaro. Both are wonderful missionaries. We met them at the Central Park at about 2:30pm. Our first visit was to a sister who was baptized a few months ago. Her daughter was also baptized but the rest of her family was not. Her husband came in and listened to part of our message. We invited him to church tomorrow and he said he would come. We talked about how the gospel blesses our life and how the Holy Ghost can help us become better people. There was a sweet spirit while we were there. We then visited another sister who was baptized a week ago. We also meet several young men, a couple being her sons and other friends and family. The sons are getting the Priesthood tomorrow so we talked about the Priesthood, quoting from President Monson’s general conference talk last April. Again the spirit was strong and we felt a real connection with this family. We then visited with her mother. President Collado had given me a special assignment to meet this woman and determine if she was ready to be baptized. She lives with her ex-husband, but has not had sexual relations with him for years. She has been trying to get him to move out but he does not have any money or anywhere to go. The missionaries had been told to not baptize her until the ex-husband moves out, but Elder Scaggs and Elder Alfaro approached the President about allowing her to be baptized before he moves out. So President Collado asked that I visit with her, which we did. Sister Bell and I fasted today before our visit. We found her very prepared and worthy to be baptized. The spirit witnessed to us that she was ready and should not delay baptism because of her ex-husband. So I authorized them to move forward. We talked about how the Savior blessed and healed the sick and the children while he visited the Americas. Again the spirit was very strong…. It is great to teach.
The members meet every Saturday Evening for a group social, like a Family Home Evening. It was supposed to start at 5:30, but it didn’t start until after 6pm….. Nicaragua time. The Elders reviewed the Plan of Salvation, making it a game. It was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed themselves. The Elders have a lot of energy, work well together, love the people and the people love them, especially the youth. There was about 18 of us there, with about half 10 being youth.
We drove back to Esteli and are staying at the Hotel Hex. It is becoming our home away from home.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Tonight we are extremely tired. It has been a long day. We left Esteli about 7am, drove 1-hour south to Dario so Michelle could give a piano lesson to two sisters. She is using the Church’s program for learning the keyboard. It seems to work well.

We left Dario about 9am and drove 1.5 hrs north to Condega. We met up with the missionaries, helped them move chairs to their meeting room, which is a clothes factory Monday-Friday. We had to rent white plastic chairs from a little store about 4 blocks from the church. The Elders normally carry them on their heads the four blocks but today we loaded them into our car and drove them to church. We took the Elders around to several investigators homes so they could invite them to Church. We then dropped them off at their lunch appointment and we found a shady spot to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which we brought with us.
Sister Bell needed to deal with acouple of missionary health issues while we were eating.
There were about 24 people at church, 17 members and 7 investigators. Sister Bell bore her testimony and I talked for about 15 minutes, without notes or a prepared message. I quoted President Monson from General Conference about the importance of making good decisions. Then I related the experience I had on my mission when prayed about Michelle. See my story “You focus on your mission now and I will take care of your love life later”. We are amazed how we can give talks in Spanish after only a month in the mission field.
After the meeting we meet with a member family. They have been a member for about 4 years, but when they moved to Condega about 8 months ago, there were not any missionaries or a group meeting. So they were very excited when the missionaries came to town about 5 months ago and the group was organized. He is one of two Melchezidek Priesthood holders in the group. Unfortunately, he lost his job on Friday. We talked with them about a goal to be sealed in the temple. We reviewed the requirements for getting a temple recommend and then talked about the blessings from paying tithing. The Elders and I gave him a blessing and promised him that he would find better employment than he had, be able to take care of his family and find the means to go to the temple.
We left Condega about 5pm and arrived about 8:30, dead tired, a little irritated because of the Nicaragua drivers, but safe and sound. This has been a long week. Both of us are falling to sleep while we are reading the scriptures. I have fallen asleep in the middle of reading a verse. I would stop talking and my phone would drop out of my hands. That would normally wake me up, but at times, Michelle would have to wake me up to finish. This has happened to her as well, but she mostly falls asleep while I am reading.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Third Week in Nicaragua

Monday, May 9, 2016
Tonight we went to the airport with Elder and Sister Lee to pick up Sister Golding and Elder Alophepo. They were our two missionaries at the MTC. We promised them that we would be at the airport when they arrived. They seemed very glad to see us, in additional to the Lees and President Collado and his family. WE took their luggage back to where they would be staying the night (the Aps home and the Sister Leaders home), while President Collado took them out to eat.
On our way out of the airport, Brother Lee who was driving, was stopped by the police because he left the parking lot without turning on his lights. It was 8:30pm and dark. However, after a few tense minutes and discussions with the police officer and his police leader, they let us go without a ticket. I have now been stopped three times in two weeks, once while I was driving and twice with Elder Lee. Fortunately we did not get a ticket for any of them nor did we have to bribe the officers, although I tried.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Today we participated in our first new missionary training meeting. Five additional missionaries came in from the Guatemala MTC this morning. All of them are Latinos, mostly from Guatemala. We met at the mission home, which is where the Collados live. It is a beautiful home up above the city. They have a beautiful view from their large porch. While President Collado gave interviews to the new Elders and Sister Golding (she was the only sister), Michelle gave a health presentation…. The 10 commandments for staying healthy. She had the presentation in Spanish and talked in English. A few times she wanted help explaining things in Spanish. Elder Lee or Elder Neilson, the Financial Secretary did the translations. Her presentation took about 45 minutes.

In the evening, we went shopping with Wilbur Naravious, who is the P&M Manager for Nicaragua, for a couch. We found a dark Brown love seat that fits well in our home. The Church purchased it for about $350. We still want to buy acouple of chairs for the living room; chairs that we can put on the front porch when it is nice (I am writing this from the front porch, where there is a nice breeze and cool temperatures).

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
This morning we went to our zone meeting. Apparently, we are in the Bello Horizonte zone (well technically we are not in any zone, but the office Elders are in this zone). I think they invited us so we would bring them treats, which we did. Next to our casita is a donut factory. It smells good at our house. We bought 4 boxes of 6 donuts from them. The Lees brought chips and dip, so the missionaries loved us. They also asked Sister Bell and I to give a short lesson on miracles. Sister Bell talked about her blessing that she got when she was set apart and how that blessing has helped us in the mission so far. I related my experience that I had as a missionary in Melo. This is what I said, except I said it in Spanish.

Focus on me now and I will care of your love life tomorrow

I met Sister Bell at BYU. We were in the same ward as freshman, both living at Helaman Halls. Michelle was part of that group of ward kids. We became very good friends. We tended to run into each other a lot on campus. I always thought it was just coincidence, but later found out she looked up my class schedule and purposely waited for me to come out of class. I realized that I loved her the last week of school, during finals week. I didn't tell her that I loved her because we were going our separate ways. I was going on a mission, so it was going to be several years before we would see each other again. However, I did take her on an official date, held her hand and got a good bye kiss that last week of school. I went back to California and Michelle went back to Idaho. We did write that summer and during my mission. I knew she was the one for me, although I never told her that at this point in our relationship.

During my second assignment in Uruguay, in the little town of Melo, I began to get concerned about Michelle's feelings for me. I always thought that she had similar feelings about me as I had for her. So I was surprised, frustrated and a little angry when I started sensing that maybe her feelings toward me were not as strong as I thought they had been. I am still not sure why I began feeling that way, other than it must have been things she was saying or not saying in her letters. So I thought I had better take this concern to the Lord. I knelt by my bed and told Heavenly Father about my concerns. I told him that I loved her and felt that she was my eternal companion. I asked what I should do. I got a strong impression to "Focus on your mission now and I will take care of your love life after your mission."  Along with those thoughts, came a strong spiritual calmness that comes when the spirit is present. I was at peace.

Well as it turned out, Michelle was dating another boy at this same time. She had gone to his house in Northern California, meet his family and even went to girls' camp with his sisters. He then went on a mission. Well, I got home first and Michelle and I were married before he ever got home off his mission.

I learned that if we do our part, Heavenly Father fulfills his promises.

Thursday, May 12, 2016
As we were walking this morning, we came across a beautiful tree in full bloom and a horse drawn cart in our neighborhood. We see the carts all over town but this is the first one we have seen in our neighborhood.


Friday, May 13, 2016
Friday the 13th started out by us having to go to the National Police Office. Our immigration specialist, Betty Castro, asked us to meet her at a bank at 8:30am. We didn’t know why, but thought we had to do something at the bank. Apparently, my immigration process has hit a snag because all my documents show my name as Scott Woodruff Bell except for one document which shows my name as Scott W. Bell. So I am having to do additional stuff that Michelle does not have to go through. We got to the bank about 8:15. There was already a line formed so we got in it. The line started into the bank at 8:30, but Betty had not gotten there yet so we stepped out of the line and waited for her on the front steps. At 8:45, Betty’s assistant showed up and told us we had to walk a few blocks to the National Police station. We asked to meet us at the bank because it was a secure place to leave our car. We met Betty at the station. Michelle and Betty’s assistance waited in the lobby, while Betty and I went into the mail building. We went to a door with the name Interpol on it. We waited a few minutes then were invited in. I had to complete a form with name, birthday, passport information, parent’s names, spouse’s name and passport number (which I didn’t have), our address in the states and our address in Nicaragua (de polisal de la UNAN, 2 cuadras a sur, 15 vacas arriba, porton blanco which means from the guardhouse of the National University of Nicaragua, 2 blocks south, 15 varas (I have not found a good definition of vara) up, white gate….  Now try to find our house with that description). They also took my finger prints. Later in the day, the officer called my contact phone number, which is Michelle’s mission cell phone number, to verify it was my contact information. I hope he understood that it was me on the phone because I didn’t understand him very well and I doubt he understood me very well. He said he would call back later in the day but we didn’t hear back from him. Things must have gone ok because they didn’t put me in jail…. Yet.

We had a birthday party at the Presidents home for Elder Neilson, the Mission Financial Secretary, with fajitas and birthday cake. Then later in the day, I got a call from some Elders in town telling me their frig doesn’t work. So Elder Neilson, Elder Robles and I went to Elder Neilsons apartment (which keeps the extra supplies), picked up another used frig and took it to them. That took about 1.5 hours in rush hour traffic. Well these are things that need to get done…..

Saturday, May 14, 2016
Today was supposed to be our P-Day but instead it was a missionary day. We spent the day in La Trinidad, a small town about 2 hours north of Managua. President Collado had asked us to help prepare the Priesthood brethren in three small towns to be ready to lead the church. Each area, La Trinidad, Somoto and Condega have been open to missionaries for only about 8 months. All three groups are meeting in homes. The President said that they need at least three Melchizedek Priesthood holders who are worthy, including being full tithe payers before they can be made into branches.

We had a wonderful conversation about the gospel, focusing on how the gospel makes us happy. I was able to contribute a lot and Michelle bore her testimony.

We then went to the home of a man who is the only member of his family. His wife, daughter, and son are not members. He was baptized in December. He seems to be excited about the gospel and would pay tithing is he had an income. His son sat in our little discussion. We invited his son to attend church tomorrow and he said he would. We talked about the plan of salvation and how the commandments help us become like our Heavenly Father and the Savior, which help us receive exaltation. Again I was able to contribute a lot to the conversation and Michelle said the closing prayer.

We then attended a baptism of a mother and her daughter. She is the sister of a member. The baptism was in a pool, which was next to a partially build home. The owner lives in Miami but her mother was there. There were about 20 people in attendance. The missionaries gave the talks, conducted and performed the baptism.

We were a taxi service to and from the baptism. We made four trips to the baptism location taking 3-4 people at a time. Fortunately, we only had to go about a mile. All the roads off the main highway are very rocky and rough. I am glad we have a SUV with some clearance, although we did hit bottom a few times.
After the baptism we visited two homes in a small part of Trinidad called Villa Trinidad. These homes were very basic, mostly made a brick with tin roofs. The first was a young couple with a little girl. The little girl liked the little candies that Sister Bell had. The wife was asked to bear her testimony in Church on Sunday, but she was very scared about doing it. We offered to give her a blessing, or help her husband give her a blessing but she declined. They are a very humble family.
We next went by another home of a member in the same neighborhood. We found him building a new house for his wife and 12-year-old daughter. He has been a member for 22 years and said he probably was the first ordained Elder in Nicaragua. He has been inactive for many years, but started going back to Church recently. His wife has been baptized recently but his daughter has not been baptised. 

We then took the Elders (all four of them) out to dinner. We tried several places before we found one that was open. We were their only customers. We had hamburgers and burritos, with fries.  It was all good. They had one item on the menu that was called “gringas”. I asked the owner if a gringo like me could eat a “gringa”. She thought that was funny.

The last home was another recent convert, of about 4 months. He is a mechanic and she runs alittle store in the front of her house. They have two daughters, 21 and 15. She is the sister of the women who got baptized today. Again we had a wonderful gospel conversation, talking about what Heavenly Father has in store for us if we keep his commandments.

In four of the homes we had the opportunity to read scriptures, talk about the gospel and pray. I was able to understand fairly well and talk better than normal. The spirit was at each home. They all seem to be happy and doing well. I believe our visits were well received and we strengthen testimonies and commitments. At least, Sister Bell and I were edified and felt like real missionaries.

We stayed in Esteli at the Hotel Hex, which is where we stayed last week-end. We pay $50.00 for a clean room with carpet, air conditioning, and a warm shower. It is fairly new. We can’t ask for much better than this.

Sunday, May 15, 2016
Today was a very special day. We started the day by driving back to Ciudad Dario for Church. Elder Lee, one of the office staff and good friends is the Branch President. Their branch does not have a keyboard nor a keyboard player. However, two young sisters in the ward want to learn. So we ordered them a keyboard, which we got this week. The Lee’s brought it to church today and we came so Michelle could begin giving the sisters lessons. Michelle played the keyboard for Sacrament Meeting and then gave the girls their first lesson after church. Of course, most of the branch stayed to watch and get in the way of the lessons.

Then we went back to La Trinidad for Church. We got there about 15 minutes early and no one but the missionaries were there. They meet in a garage type structure with plastic chairs donated by the local Catholic Church.
There were 33 in attendance, 22 of which were members. Several of the nonmembers were ones we invited yesterday. I was asked to stand in the circle when the missionaries confirmed the two women who were baptized yesterday. We feel like we are best friends with the people in La Trinidad. Elder Worden talked first, he is the District Leader and the only English speaker of the 4 missionaries working in La Trinidad. Then one of the new members talked. We visited him and his family (wife and 2yr old daughter) yesterday. He has a wonderful, humble spirit about him. His wife was also asked to bear her testimony but she couldn’t muster enough courage to do it. So Elder Worden read her testimony as part of his talk (anonymously of course). I looked at her while he was reading it knowing he was reading her testimony, smiled and winked. She smiled back. Michelle talked about our family and shared an experience about paying tithing early in our marriage.  She mostly talked in Spanish which she prepared from Google translate. She ended with her testimony.

I was the last speaker.  I had prepared a talk about pioneers and how they were pioneers in La Trinidad. Then this morning, I prepared another using President Monson’s conference address about decisions. However, when I stood up, I talked briefly about pioneers and decisions, but spent most of my time about the role of the Holy Ghost to sanctify us. There was a wonderful spirit there. After the meeting I asked a couple of the investigators if they felt the spirit and they said yes. It was a wonderful day, but we are both very tired. We drove back to Estelí and will stay in Estelí tonight before we drive to Ocotal, about 40 km from the Honduran border, tomorrow morning to go to the doctor with a sick missionary. Then we will drive back to Managua tomorrow afternoon. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mission Goals

Mission Goals
Elder Bell and Sister Bell

Nursing: Assist the Mission President and his wife to keep the missionaries healthy.
  • Put all notes on missionaries in e-med
  • Create reports from e-med to see trends of illness in the mission
  • Tailor my training at leadership and zone conferences to address the trends of illness in the mission.
  • New missionaries – 10 Commandments of Health Power point presentation in Spanish with an English interpreter.  Handouts in both English and Spanish to summarize power point. Give out missionary health card
  • Zone Conference – Have all health boxes brought in.  The following drugs and supplies will be added to the boxes.  10 Acetaminofen 500 mg, 10 Ibuprofen 400 Mg, 4 Latoratadina 10 mg, 2 Lansoprozolde 30 mg, 2 Motilium 10 mg, 2 Migratil, 30 assorted sizes of bandaids.  I have ordered these from Jonathan.  Have a training with power point.  I am still thinking about what to teach.  Collect the following information from the missionaries.  Names, addresses, phone numbers, and a check box that they have received their medical supplies.
  • Visit the hospital in Managua.  Visit Dr Lopez’ clinic.  Talk to Dr Guido (dentist) and visit his office.
Music: Use musical abilities to improve the Lords work in the mission.
  • Keyboard.  Can I get a portable keyboard that I could put in the car?  I might be able to find one locally.
  • Possible site for keyboard lessons Máximo Jerez ward.  They have a keyboard.  It needs repair to the music holder on the top.
  • At Zone Conference find out those missionaries that have musical talent and can either lead or play piano or another instrument
Seminary and Institute: Assist the CES employees, teachers and Students to register and attend seminary and institute. The priority is within the Esteli District. Coordinate with Hermano Barcenes (87012949;
·         Visit with each Seminary teacher within the next three months.
§  Ciudad Dario: Ana Delgadillo, Students need to register
§  Sebaco: Jeanette Beldiva (5822-7023), Students need to register
§  Esteli:
·         El Central Seminary: Claudia Chacon (58458053) 6pm M-Thu in home
·         Esteli Seminary: Students need to register Fatima Gonzales M-Th @ church
§  Ocotal: Adali Bermudes (57545244)
·         2 classes; 1 in morning and 1 in afternoon, need registrations
·         Assist Teachers and Hermano Barcenes to register each student within the next three months
·         Encourage attendance
·         Coordinate with Hermano Barcenes regularly and assist as needed.

·         Visit each Institute teacher within the next three months and assist as needed.
§  Sebaco: there are students interested in attending institute but no teacher. Work with Hermano Barcenes and the Branch President to call a teacher.
§  Esteli: Pedro Castello (89406494). There are 3 registered but more are attending. Need to complete registrations.
§  Ocotal: Need to complete registrations

Mission Preparation: Assist President Collado, Branch Presidents and perspective missionaries to complete their mission applications. Insure that the applications are complete and meet the readiness guidelines. Assist Branch Presidents to help perspective missionaries to be prepared spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally for missionary service.
There are currently approximately 40 missionary applications in the missionary system. Over the next three months:
  • Contact each Branch President; receive an update of each applicant’s status and offer assistance.
  • Contact each applicant that needs assistance; develop a plan to complete their application and prepare for their missions. Ensure that the Branch President has input into the plan. Provide personal assistance as needed.
  • Learn Missionary application system
  • Investigate opportunities to train perspective missionaries, in such things as “Preach my gospel”

Branch Development: Assist President Collado and the local missionaries to prepare the Melchizedek Priesthood holders in new areas in order to prepare them for leadership. Train in the importance of being full tithe payers.
  • Meet with Elders and develop strategy.
Somoto: Elder Castro
Condega: Elder Scaggs
La Trinidad: Elder Worden
  • Review Strategy with President Collado
  • Implement plan
Missionary Housing: Insure that the missionary apartments are safe and clean.
  • Provide the missionaries at least one referral a month
  • Assist others in the office and mission in any way possible
  • Love the Missionaries, Country and the people
  • Learn the language

Monday, May 2-Friday May 6, 2016 - Michelle's summary
     This week has been so busy with so many wonderful experiences.  I made a health report for Sister Collado.  I had 25 encounters with our missionaries.  One missionary was very sick with diarrhea and ended up having to have stool studies which showed Giardia.  He ate at a members house on Sunday and has been very sick.  He is now on a medicine which will help him and has learned the importance of an immediate fast when at a members’s house who wants to serve him food.  We had several “strep throat” and ear infections.  A lot of dermatology problems.  The two biggest nursing lessons I have learned this week is to have a copy of the guarantee of payment sent to me so when the hospital cannot find it and to refer the missionaries to the missionary health card to put the responsibility for their health on their shoulders.  Dr Lynn has been so helpful.  He is in Guatemala and he is very patient as I am learning.  He teaches me principles so that I don’t have to keep bugging him.  I am feeling better about giving the missionaries advice and I have found that they really try to follow it and have returned to good health.
     Scott and I have had a couple of missionary experiences this week as well.  We gave a Liahona to both of our guards and had a little conversation about the church.  They have both been reading them and perhaps we will give them a Book of Mormon.  We met a woman and her daughter at the tire place when we were getting 4 nail holes fixed on our tires.  Both tires had been slowly leaking and now we know why.  The lady that was waiting for her car spoke English very well because during the war, she had moved with her family to United States.  She has two children and a husband and cares for them very much.  She also cares for the forest here and blames the drought on those who are cutting the trees and not replanting them.  We had a very interesting conversation and we left a pass-along card with her which she accepted very warmly. 
    We heard a bird that was singing his heart out the other morning and puffing out his chest and lifting up his wings with each song.  Our guard said that he was praying to God, but later he admitted to Scott that it was a mating call.  He certainly seemed urgent, so he must have seen a hot female close by.
     I finally feel back to normal with food, digestion, and even the heat.  We have figured out where to go for groceries and how to keep cool.  We are adjusting to life in Nicaragua quite well.  We went to the show Thursday night, A Miracle from Heaven, with the Lees for our Mother’s day celebration.  It was a very moving show.  I recommend it to the family. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016 (Scott's Summary)
After Elder Lee and I moved furniture into a new apartment (we hired Jonathan Estrada to deliver furniture to another apartment), we headed to Esteli for the District Conference. Esteli is about 3 hours north of Managua, tucked away in the mountains. It is much cooler there, about 85 degrees. They have a nice building there to meet in. We got there just in time for the Priesthood Leadership meeting which started at 3pm. It ended at 4pm and the Adult session started at 5pm. There were not a lot of members at either session, because most members could not pay to come both days. Michelle played the keyboard for the adult session and the general session on Sunday.
After about 1.5 hours, Michelle left to use the restroom thinking the session would go until 7pm. President Collado had just gotten up to speak, being the last speaker. We both thought the meeting would last until 7pm. However, he basically bore his testimony and sat down. Michelle was still in the restroom when it was time for the closing song. So the chorister, a young man in a pinstripe suit, got up and started the closing song without the piano. No one seemed to care or notice…. But Michelle and I did.

Sunday, May 8, 2016: Happy Mother’s Day.
We enjoyed our stay at the Esteli Hex Motel. It was clean, modern and had carpet. The breakfast was better than normal, with really good Mango Juice. After breakfast, we drove through downtown looking for a medical clinic. The streets in the downtown were narrow and paved with pavers, so it was very rough. Most of the streets were one way. We did find the clinic, which looked very modern, but it was closed. We found out from a friendly policeman that it is open M-Fri. It was not a hospital but a medical clinic. We did find the hospital as well when we drove out of town later in the day.  

I was able to talk with 2 branch presidents about perspective missionaries and with the Elders from La Trinidad and Condega. We set times to visit La Trinidad and Condega. I was not able to talk with the Elders from Somoto long enough to set a time to visit. So our trip was mostly successful.
The District Conference was good. There were a lot of people who came, mostly because the Church hired buses to bring the members. They were friendly and wonderful to see and meet. Michelle played the piano for the conference. I held a microphone next to the keyboard so everyone could hear it. One of the highlights of the conference was when all the missionaries that work within the District (about 40 of them) sang “Called to Serve”. It was very powerful.
We got back to our little casita about 5:30pm. It is very pleasant tonight. I am sitting on the front porch.  With a little breeze, it makes this night almost perfect. 


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday is planning day at the Mission Office. President Collado started the planning meeting at 9am. Michelle and I, Elder and Sister Lee, Assistants, the financial clerk, the records secretary, Sister Perez (the temporary nurse) and her companion were all involved. President Collado started by showing excerpts from a training from various members of the twelve to the rest of the general authorities from 2015. Most of the rest of the meeting dealt with preparing for the next transfers which will occur in about two weeks. I didn’t realize all that had to be coordinated prior to sending missionaries home and transferring them to various place around the mission. President Collado had this outlined in a spreadsheet with specific assignments and time frames. He is very organized and can run a meeting.

Michelle and I met with Gabriel Barcenes, who is the regional coordinator for the Seminaries and Institute program in Nicaragua. He told us about the various seminary and institute classes being taught within the Esteli Branch. This is where President Collado would like us to focus our attention. There are various classes, but like in the States, many of the youth are not going or are not registered. Our assignment is to help get more youth attending seminary and Institute and to be registered. I keep thinking about visiting these sites, but we do have limited overnight budget so we will need to go and come in the same day.

We (MP, Lees and us) then meet with Jonathan Estrada who is the purchasing agent for the facilities management group. This meeting didn’t start until after 6pm and ended lose to 9pm. I was impressed with his understanding of technology. We talked cell phones, vehicles, missionary supplies, tires, our housing needs and many other topics. President Collado kept us on task. The church will purchase a lot of items we will need to furnish and stock our new house (we call it our bungalow). But we will also need to purchase a lot of items the Church will not buy. We got back to our hotel late, having picked up some burgers from Burger King. We again relied on the Lees for our transportation. Michelle will get her mission cell phone tomorrow. I will get one sometime but don’t know when. I think I will beable to have internet on my phone as well (Michelle’s will have internet). We don’t know when we will get a car; it could be two weeks or two months. In the meantime, we will need to be hauled around or borrow a car. We are also waiting for keys to the office.

There is so much going on. We are trying to understand our responsibilities, get settled into a house and find our niches. We feel alittle over whelmed so far but know that things will begin to fall into place as time goes by.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today, we signed the papers for our house tonight. It is a small two-bedroom apartment in a closed compound with 3 other houses in the compound. The compound has a tall block fence around it, a big gate and a full time guard at the gate.  Two single ladies live in two of the small houses and two are currently vacant. They are clean and everything seems to be working. We are in house number two, which is yellow. There is a little living room, two bedrooms, a maid’s quarters, three bathrooms, a small patio with grass, a kitchen and a
laundry room. There is a lot of closet space and the best part, is there are air conditioning units in the bedrooms. The church will pay the rent ($650/month) and we will pay for electricity, propane, water and internet. We are excited about moving out of the motel and creating a home of our own.

We attended briefly a zone and sister leaders training. We arrived with the Lees just before lunch. President Collado invited us to introduce ourselves. Michelle and I went up together. I expressed how happy we were about being there (all was in Spanish) and told alittle about ourselves. I asked is an Elder Spence was there (he is a district leader, not a zone leader so he wasn’t there) so I invited his zone leader to come up. I gave him a hug to give to Elder Spence and told him it was from his mother (we brought a small care package from his mother with us from SLC). I then asked if Elder Clark was there (he too is a district leader not a zone leader so he wasn’t there) so I asked his zone leader to come up. I gave him a hug and told him to tell Elder Clark thank-you for doing a blog about his mission which helped us understand what the mission was like. Both these hugs got a welcome reaction from the group. Michelle then told them about our children (In Spanish) and she bore her testimony. I gave her a kiss, which got a welcome reaction from the missionaries. I then expressed my love for my Heavenly Father and my Savior, bore my testimony and encouraged them to make the most of their mission. I believe our introduction was well received, at least I felt very good about it. It was fun and our testimonies were spiritual.

In the afternoon, the Lees and us decided to go shopping, at least go look at things for our home. We were told to go to the Metrocentro (which is a mall on the north end of town) where they have a store where we can buy furniture. We had just gotten there (through terrible traffic), when we were called on the Lees cell phone told the mission president needed us back at the office in order to sign our lease contract with the owner. We had about 10 minutes to get back to the office. We were sure we wouldn’t make it because it took us almost an hour to get to the mall because of the traffic. So we headed back, going a little different way. We made it back by the time the mission President wanted us there…. A little tender mercy. It was fortunate because the owner came before the Mission President got there. If we had not gotten there in time, the office would have been closed when she arrived. So we welcomed her, introduced ourselves, and got acquainted. She is a classy, upper class lady. We met the Mission President and his wife at the house. We inspected the house, met the neighbors and signed the papers. We will get a key tomorrow and can move in any time. We have an appointment with Jonathan Estrada on Thursday morning to go shopping. He will purchase those items that the church will purchase and we will purchase the rest.

The Lees took us to Priceline (the Nicaraguan version of Costco) for pizza. We then walked around looking at things we will need. We might go back another day when we are ready to actually purchase items.

Wednesday, April 27

We got our mission car today. It is a Rav 4 made by Toyota. The only problem with having a car is now I have to drive. Driving in Managua is an adventure. The roads are rough; some are made from pavers instead of pavement. The busses and taxis are crazy. Bikes and motorcycles go anywhere at any time. They have speed bumps on many of the side streets and sometimes I don’t see them in time. The roads go all over the place. The only way I can get around is using google maps or a navigation system called WAVES. Michelle has become a pretty good navigator.

Friday, April 29

Today we went on a road trip with President Collado. The purpose of the trip was for President Collado to meet with each of the Branch and District Presidents in the Matagalpa District to determine if there is enough Active Melchizedek Priesthood holders that pay full tithing. If there is 120 or more, they can make the District into a Stake. We went to Jinotega and Matagalpa. Both are north of Managua and in the mountains. They are beautiful and it is cooler there. The meetings got behind so we didn’t get home until 2:30am. The President said they counted 122 active MP holders that pay a full tithing, but he was skeptical of this number. While he was in his meetings, Michelle and I visited with missionaries, perspective missionaries, attended a baptism and took 2 missionaries out for a late night snake.

When we got to Matagalpa, we found that they had just had a wedding in one of the chapels for a young couple. They had a little baby. After the wedding, she was baptized and ended up being baptized in her wedding dress. Apparently she had forgotten to bring a white blouse to be baptized in so decided to get baptized in her dress instead. I had never seen that before and probably will never see it again.

While Michelle slept in the back seat of the car, President Collado and I talked; he in English and I in Spanish. He wants to attend BYU to get his master’s degree in Business. He will be released at the end of June. I asked him what things he was pleased with during his tenure as President. He said he loved to see the growth of the missionaries. Also, he was pleased that the Tipitapa Stake was organized during his tenure and hopes that the Matagalpa Stake will be organized before he leaves. He said he was pleased with our progress after only one week in the Mission Field. In fact, he was so pleased that he gave me another assignment.

He said there are three groups that have been formed recently after these areas have been opened. They include    
Somoto, Condega and La Trinidad. The members are meeting in homes under the direction of the missionaries. Once they have three active MP holders who are full tithe payers, they can be made a branch and the church can find them a place to meet. This sounds like a fun assignment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Today we went to three different chapels to find a doctor and a dentist. We were only partially successful. We started at La Maximo Jerez Ward to meet Dr. Flora Lopez. She is the Doctor that gives missionary physical for free or for very little money. She leads the music in her ward. When we met the Bishop, I mentioned that Michelle plays the piano if they needed someone. Apparently they did because he announced that “Sister Bell” will play the piano for the songs. Michelle also bore her testimony. I was going to bear my testimony but there were so many members that wanted to bear their testimonies that I didn’t try to squeeze in. After the meeting, we went to the Villa Flor Ward to meet a Dentist. We need a dentist to give a dental exam to a young man in Jinotega who wants to serve a mission but can’t afford to see a dentist. We found out that he was in the Las Laureles Ward which meets in another building. The Bishop asked a young member (19) to show us the way. So we first went by the Dentists home. His car was there so we thought he might be there, but only his wife was there. We then went to the chapel, but found he had left because he was sick. We did get his contact information and the Bishop said he would give him ours.

We spent the rest of the day at home. We cooked dinner for the Lees, then talked with Paul, Steve and Becky (we had talked with Kim and John yesterday).