Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monday, August 22 to Sunday, August 28

Monday, August 22, 2016
The sister missionary who was in the hospital is feeling better today so she checked out of the hospital today. We look her and her companion to our home to recover, after having gotten permission from President Poncio. We stopped by the sister leader's home and we threw an extra mattress on top of the car, since we only have one twin bed set up in the spare bedroom. We got them situated in the extra room, where they are resting and recovering well. They have been a delight to be in our home. Sister Gould is recovering well. Both are a lot of fun, are bringing great joy (and noise) into our home and are helping around the house.

We celebrated Sister Willes birthday tonight. Her birthday isn’t until September but she received packages this week with a cake mix, so she cooked it and we celebrated her birthday after dinner.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
We had a training for new missionaries today. Sister Bell and I gave a presentation about eating a balanced diet. We had twenty minutes but apparently took twice as much time. Just before we were to start, the power went off. We had a power point all prepared, so we quickly decided to use a white board. We had chocolate to give to those who answered questions, which got everyone’s attention. We had a lot of fun talking about food groups and how many portions should be eaten each day. At the end we had a test. We showed a picture of a food, and the first one that guessed which food group it was in and how many portions needed to be eaten each day, got a chocolate. The competition was fierce and a lot of fun.

We then spent the afternoon at the hospital with another missionary. We had a 2pm appointment but when we got to the doctor’s office, the doctor did not have a record of the appointment. He came from Ocotal for the appointment and needed to return the same day. So we were really disappointed and a little upset. The nurse said the doctor comes in about 3:30pm and had another appointment, but could see him after. We stayed. Fortunately, the 3:30pm appointment did not show and the doctor saw the Elder first. We finished just in time for Sister Bell and I to take him and two other Elders from Ocotal to the bus station. We got there just in time to catch the last bus of the day.

We got back at the house about 7pm. Sister Willes had started dinner (there are some real blessing having them in our home). After dinner we watched the new Johnny Lingo movie (we didn’t know there was a new Johnny Lingo movie), and ate popcorn (and M&M peanuts which have been sent to the Sisters in care packages – another blessing for having them in our home).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
We had a multi zone conference in Waspan (Managua) today. It included the Bello Horizante, Las Americas and Villa Flor zones. Sister Bell and I did a presentation about the Zika Virus, focusing on the symptoms and prevention. We also passed out deet, permethrin, spray bottles and one mosquito net. I also helped several missionaries consecrate oil. Sister Bell only had a couple of missionaries that needed medical attention.

Hermana Willes and Gould are still in our home. We made microwave enchiladas for dinner and then watched the old Johnny Lingo movie. The sisters got a real kick out of old movie.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
We took Sister Willes and Sister Gould shopping this afternoon. We first went to the distribution center and then to La Colonia. They went “nuts” at La Colonia. Sister Gould drove around in a motorized shopping cart. Sister Bell and I started shopping, we thought the girls were behind us, but went we looked for them, they were nowhere to be found. We finally found them in the cosmetics section having a great time. We left them and went to PriceSmart and picked them up an hour and a half later. They had just finished shopping, having gone down every aisle.

We invited the Lees over for a Spaghetti dinner and game night. Sister Lee won 5 crowns (as usual), but I came in second…. (a miracle). Sister Willes and Sister Gould came in last, but that didn’t stop their enthusiasm.

Friday, August 26, 2016
We left Sister Willes and Sister Gould in our home and left for a multi zone conference in Chinandega. We got there at 9:30, early for what we thought was a 10am start time. But when we entered into the Chapel, we realized they had already started (apparently no one bothered to tell us that they changed the time to 9am). We gave our Zika presentation, helped consecrate oil, and passed out deet, permethrin and spray bottles. Sister Bell only had acouple of medical conversations. We left in the early afternoon and headed east. We stopped in Jinotega to pick up missionary application information for Yunior Gonzalez and got to Esteli about 7pm… just in time for dinner with the Koellikers. We drove about 7 hours total today, approximately 500 kilometers (about 300 miles).

From Sister Bell
Today when we were packing for our weekend on the road.  As I was putting things in my cosmetic bag, I had the distinct impression that I should put in a little tube of antibiotic ointment.  I then said to myself, “But I don’t need it.  I don’t have any owies.”  Again I had the impression that I should put it in, so I grabbed it and put it in my purse and then did not think any more about it.  At the multi-zone conference, an Elder showed me a small pustule on his arm that looked like the beginning of a small infection.  I taught him to scrub it with warm soapy water four times a day and to put on it – yep you guessed it – antibiotic ointment which I just “happened” to have in my purse because I listened to the gentle nudge from the spirit.  I gave him the tube and hopefully prevented a worse infection.  Wounds get infected easily in this warm, humid climate.  It was a little thing, but I am learning to listen to even the small promptings.

In the early evening just before the sun went down, we saw something truly beautiful and unusual.  The was a huge pile of fluffy white clouds in the sky.  Behind the fluffy white clouds was a sheet of dark clouds that looked like rain.  Just above where the two met was an island of light where the sun was coming through.  Somehow the light was refracted and it looked like a lake of sparkling rainbow.  Every color was there, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  It wasn’t in a bow, just a lake of shimmering rainbow colors.  We enjoyed it until the sun went down.  We have never seen anything like it.  It was breathtaking. Note: we looked it up on Google and found that this phenomenon is called cloud iridescence.

Saturday, August 27, 2016
We started the day in Trinidad (30 minutes south) giving Carelys and Maria Clara piano lessons. They are learning well. Then we headed for Ocotal (2 hours north) to drop off pamphlets. After that we drove to Somoto (1 hour north west). We trained President Alantiz how to sustain and set apart a new RS Presidency. Then we discussed the process on how to interview, sustain and ordain an Aaronic Priesthood holder. They have several that are ready and need to be ordained. We then held a Priesthood Preparation class. We only had two young boys come, along with the branch president and the missionaries. That was very disappointing that we didn’t have more come, especially some of the newly baptized men, since the discussion was about the Melchezidek Priesthood. We ended up in Pueblo Nuevo (1 hour south) for another Priesthood Preparation class. We talked about Priesthood through the ages, the apostasy and the restoration. There were 5 men, 1 young boy and a sister, besides the missionaries. The boy was sitting next to me and helped look up scriptures and read. He had my Spanish bible on his lap, looking at the pictures and thumbing through the pages. All of a sudden he asked “how do they make the edge of the pages gold?” That got a laugh out of everyone…. We left about 7pm when it was pitch black, driving on a winding, cobblestone road and lightning in the distance. It was like driving through a mid-evil forest. We arrived back at the Koellikers at 8pm (1.5 hours south).

I find that I can teach the gospel fairly well in Spanish, but normal conversation is still a struggle.

Sunday, August 28, 2016
What a day….. we stayed in Esteli for church, going to the El Rosario Branch. It was their branch conference today and the Condega group is part of this branch. So just before the meeting started, in walked about 30 members from Condega. We went out to meet them and when they say us, they got really excited. It was like seeing family. We love these members, and they love us. Sister Bell played the piano for the branch conference and I said the closing prayer.

I was able to facilitate getting instructions from the District President for callings in Condega. I also visited with him about several issues in Somoto. This time with President Asivado was well worth being there. I told him about the piano lessons, Priesthood Preparation lessons, clerical support and mentoring leaders. He is very appreciative of our efforts. Elder and Sister Koelliker made sack lunches for all of the Condega Saints who came.

We then went to Trinidad for church. Carelys and Maria Clara played prelude music and Sister Bell accompanied the hymns during the Sacrament Meeting. They had a baptism this week, so they had the confirmation in Church. It was the daughter of one of the members that we had met in one of our first visits. I was really impressed with the father, who had been a member for several years, but inactive for several years. His wife is a recent convert, but their daughter was not. So we were really excited when we realized it was their daughter that got baptized. She was really excited that we were there for her confirmation and after her confirmation, she looked at me and I quietly clapped, which brought a big smile on her face. She looks very happy and has a wonderful countenance. It was wonderful to see the change.

Just after the rest hymn, a major thunderstorm hit that lasted about 15 minutes. The Trinidad meeting house is a garage that is open on two sides.
We all had to huddle in the middle so we didn’t get wet. The lightning and thunder was severe. After about 15 minutes, it let up enough that we could continue the meeting. After the meeting, three youth came up wanting to learn to play piano. So we are looking at expanding the piano lessons.

When we got home, the house was pitched dark and the front door was slightly open. We asked David if Hermana Willes and Hermana Gould were home and he said they were. So we thought they were in their room with the door closed. So we walked in…. they came out shouting “Welcome Home”. They even made signs that said “Welcome Home, we love you”.  Sister Gould made brownies and they were super delicious.  Sister Bell broke her no sugar vow and said that the brownies were well worth it.  The sisters are a joy to have in our home.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 15, 2016 to August 21, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016
A normal Monday but we didn’t have an office meeting as President and Sister Poncio are headed to Guatemala for an Area Mission Presidents Seminar.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
We had a “mercy run” this afternoon to Matagalpa. This morning, Sister Bell got a call from a sister in Matagalpa that she was having pain on one side of her body and just not feeling well. She ended up going to a medical clinic to get checked out. She was there most of the day. They were running all sorts of tests, fortunately most were normal. But it ran up a large medical bill, estimated to be about $300 US$. None of the missionaries have that kind of money and this clinic doesn’t take our insurance, so we got extra money from Elder Hamson and with our mission money, which we always have with us, we headed north to Matagalpa. Matagalpa is about 2.5 hours from the office. We got there about 5pm. We had googled mapped the Santa Fe Clinic so we knew where to go. But when we got there, the clinic was closed. It was a small clinic on a corner in the south east part of town. But all the doors were locked and we couldn’t find our two sister missionaries anywhere. As we were pondering our situation, we heard a voice say “hello Hermanos”. We turned to face a local Nicaraguan, well dressed, about 45, talking to us in English. He introduced himself as Fernando, said he was a member of the church and could he help us (he could tell we were lost). We told him our situation. He explained that there is another Santa Fe Clinic on the other side of town and offered to take us there. As we drove to the other location, he told us he was from Matagalpa, but was working in Costa Rica teaching English in school (his English was very good). He learned English on his mission in Honduras, a few years before Steve was there. He also spent a couple of years in the states. He is married, and has one daughter. In fact, he was in town because his daughter had just turned 15 and had her big party. He went into the Clinic with us, helped us translate what the doctor was trying to tell us and then we took him home. He was truly a ministering Angel, put on that street corner, just when we needed him.

The bill was only about $122, still more than what any of the missionaries had. It turned out that our sick Sister was suffering from stress and exhaustion. The doctor prescribed rest, along with some medications and future tests. We took the sisters, one from Costa Rica and the other was from the Dominican Republic out to dinner, got medications and took them home. Sister Bell and I got home about 10:30pm. If it wasn’t for Fernando, we would still be in Matagalpa looking for another Santa Fe clinic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Today we were tired from our trip yesterday. We worked at the office all day.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ginger

We worked from home this morning. It was quiet refreshing. I worked on my priesthood preparation classes and Spanish and also did a few misc other items. Sister Bell also worked on Spanish, inputted medical information into E-med and then had a tutoring lesson with Whitney at the MTC. We went to the office after lunch, working on our presentation at the new missionary training program.
We invited Lee’s over for pizza and games. I lost and Sister Lee won…. Nothing new.

Friday & Saturday, August 19 - 20, 2016
We made another mercy all-nighter trip north. Sister Bell had been talking with a Sister in Ocotal about pain in her abdomen most of the day. Finally, in the late afternoon, with the pain getting worst, Sister Bell felt strongly that she needed to come to Managua for possible appendicitis. We called Elder and Sister Koelliker in Esteli and asked them to drive to Ocotal to pick her and her companion up and begin driving south. While they did this, we headed north. We met them at the Koellikers home about 10:30pm. We loaded them up and headed back to Managua. We got to the hospital in the early hours. The doctor diagnosed appendicitis and was operating by 5:30am. We stayed until she was out of recovery and in her hospital room. Then we came home and slept a few hours. I was glad we were here to help her. It was a real blessing to have Elder and Sister Koelliker in Esteli, which made our midnight drive a little more bearable. Fortunately, the sister is doing well, resting and recovering.

Sunday, August 21, 2016
We both sleep good last night and feel relatively refreshed this morning. We decided to go to the Las Laureles ward this morning, partly because we had not visited this Ward and it is close to the hospital so it would be easy to go there after Sacrament Meeting. When we walked into the Chapel, Sister Batista, one of our missionaries from Dominican Republic got a big smile and gave Sister Bell a big hug. The member of the Bishopric who conducted welcomed Sister Bell and I from the pulpit. This happens more Sundays than it should, but they think the Senior Missionaries are something special. We sat next to on older man… well he is probably our age…. That must make us old too. He is a recent convert of about 4 months. I think he was glad we sat next to him; he was very friendly and we visited very easily.

Our sick Sister was supposed to be released this morning, but we got a text during Sacrament Meeting that she is having more pain than should be expected and they want to keep her in the hospital for another day. So we went to the Gospel Essential Class. I sat next to an investigator who asked some very probing questions. Hopefully, we answered them to his satisfaction.

We visited with our Sister Missionaries who are in the hospital after lunch. We took them copies of the September Liahona, which they were very appreciative of. We got to visit with the Doctor. He seems to be very skilled and speaks English, which he learned in Belice. It is now 3:30 pm in the afternoon. We are home, which never happens on a Sunday afternoon, relaxing, studying and maybe I might take a nap….. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 8 to August 14

Monday, August 8, 2016
At noon, which all the mission leaders eat together (today the Elders bought McDonalds…. Oh boy). After our hamburgers, Sister Poncio brought in a three milk cake for my birthday and of course everyone sang happy birthday. So I had donuts, a birthday cookie and a cake…. All on different days but none on my birthday. It is nice to be loved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Happy Anniversary Kim and Dan. Sister Bell did some calculations about the illnesses in our mission. Three weeks ago there were 13 missionaries with stomach problems. Two weeks ago it was 6 and last week it was 3. Maybe our trainings are paying off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I have been working hard to get all the necessary items to each of the missionaries’ homes. We delivered the last closets to the last two homes without them, one in Matagalpa and the other in Ocotal. Now I am working on getting fans to each missionary. We ordered more fans about 4 months ago, but found out three months later that that order did not go through. So we have been trying to order again, unsuccessfully I might add. Finally, someone sent us the process and the format that the order needed to be sent in on. So I completed the form (for Elder Lee) and gave it to the President. He sent it on. I am not holding my breath on when we will get these items. So, I have been checking to see if any of the missionaries have extras and have made arrangements for some of those without get a fan from those who have extra. That took care of 2 or 3. However, there are 4 more (no wait, there are now 6 because I found out that one apartment, who had four fans, now have 4 fans that don’t work – missionaries can be hard on fans). Anyway, I found 4 extras, which we will pick up tomorrow and take with us this week-end (I found 2 more in Matagalpa on Friday).

We are also finished putting together a little paper on Zika. We believe we have had over 20 missionaries with Zika like symptoms. We can’t determine if the virus was Zika without a blood test, but the symptoms were sure like Zika. We want the missionaries to understand what Zika is, how it is treated, how they can protect themselves against it and what are the long term consequences of having the virus. Therefore, we prepared a white paper and sent it to President and Sister Poncio for their review (they asked us to review this information with the missionaries at the next multi-zone conferences in acouple of weeks).

Thursday, August 11, 2016
Happy 4-month mission anniversary….
Today was a “get ready for the week-end” day. We picked up extra fans from a couple of Hermanas’ homes in Managua and will take them north this week-end. Then we went to Nagorate, to give some sun screen to a sister missionary, but she didn’t need it. We are still wondering who needed the sun screen. We then went to the bank, PriceSmart and to the office. Sister Bell talked with the Elders in Ocotal about an Elder who had food allergies and had to go to the hospital. Fortunately, he is all right. We are all greatly relieved. We thought we might have to make a quick trip north, but didn’t. We have loaded the car with Book of Mormons, food, fans and misc. other items for the missionaries in Matagalpa, Jinotega, Esteli, Ocotal, Somoto, Pueblo Nuevo and Condega. We will have a busy week-end, beginning tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2016
Michelle started the day by scrubbing our bedroom floors. We have a lady who cleans our house every other week, but the floors needed a good scrubbing. So Michelle got down on her knees (with knee pads) and scrubbed. They look really good, but now I have to take my shoes off at the door. We left town about 10:30am and headed for Matagalpa.

As we were just outside of Managua, by the airport, Sister Bell got a call from a sister missionary that had blisters on her feet. Since we were close, we stopped by their apartment and Sister Bell fixed her feet, at least put mole skin on them and taught her how to take care of her feet.

We arrived in Matagalpa about 1:30pm and met Elder Hobbs, Diaz, Reyes and Rush and dropped off Libros de Mormon, a pillow, mirror and pamphlets. Then we headed to Jinotega. The road to Jinotega from Matagalpa goes through the mountains. It is spectacular.

 We were amazed that they could grow crops (beans, corn, coffee) on such steep slopes. But this is how they do it.

We arrived in Jinotega in time for a baptism, that was going to start at 4pm. So we waited and waited and waited. Finally, two of the sisters went to get the young man and they arrived about 5pm. The baptism went well and everyone was happy. There are 4 sister missionaries in Jinotega, Hermanas Barrios, Alfaro, Pehrson and Romero. The District Leader, Elder Royas and his companion, Elder Perry work in Matagalpa. Elder Royas is the District leader for 4 sets of sister missionaries…. 8 Sisters, plus him and his companion. He is a happy missionary, I am assuming because that is his personality, not because he is leading 8 sister missionaries…. But maybe it is.

While we waited, I visited with Yunior Gonzalez, a young man who I am helping prepare his missionary application. He had a lot of dental work done in preparation of going. The Church helped him pay for the work. Here are the before and after photos.

After the baptism, we took all 6 missionaries out to dinner.
They all ordered hamburgers. The Elders missed their bus back to Matagalpa, so we crowded them in the back seat with the Book of Mormons, fans, our luggage and a bunch of other stuff and took them back to Matagalpa. After we dropped them off at their house, we headed for Esteli, arriving at the Koellikers about 10pm.
A full day……

Saturday, August 13, 2016
Today was another full day. We were very glad we started from Esteli and not Managua. We started in Trinidad giving piano lessons to Carelys and Maria Clara Cruz. Sister Bell is able to give the lessons without any translation from me, although I keep hearing her talk in English. But they seem to communicate well enough. The girls, who are the branch president’s daughters, are doing great. Last Sunday they played acouple of hymns for prelude. They can only play the melody, but that is a major accomplishment realizing they have only had three lessons.

We then went to Somoto. We first had a PEC meeting with the President Alaniz and the missionaries. President Alaniz traveled all night to get back for the meeting. He was out of town on business for a few days. We reviewed the male members and found that two AP holders did not get recorded and there are several of eligible priesthood holders who have not been ordained. Keeping accurate records is so important. Missionaries know how to complete baptism information, but they are not trained about priesthood ordinations. Usually, these functions are done by the wards and branches, but in these cases, the missionaries are functioning as the group leaders. Therefore, I am training them.
After PEC. Emanuel and Angie, both AP age young men, came for the Priesthood preparation class. No others came, which was disappointing. I was planning on teaching a lesson about the Melchizedek Priesthood, but since none of the older men had come, I taught a lesson about the AP and the ministering of Angels. I took the information from a conference talk by Elder Oaks a few years ago. 
We had a wonderful discussion.

We then headed for Pueblo Nuevo about 45 minutes away. It started to rain while we were driving there. We really love PN. It is a very clean small town. We meet in the home of Hermana Nuvia. She was baptized 20+ years ago in Managua, but could not participate in the Church for many years because the Church was not in Pueblo Nuevo. So when the missionaries arrived about 8 months ago, they found each other. The Miracle is that she still had a strong testimony of the Gospel after so many years. Some of her family have now been baptized. They hold the afternoon Sacrament Meeting in her home.

We had three perspective Melchizedek Priesthood holders attend the Priesthood preparation class. Sister Bell, Hermana Nuvia, one of her daughters and the granddaughter of one of the perspective priesthood holders also sat in. I taught the first lesson which is about what the Priesthood is and the difference between the authority of the Priesthood and the Power of the Priesthood. I had to almost shout over the sound of the heavy rain falling on the tin roof of the house. Fortunately, the rain subsided a little and I didn’t have to shout so loud. The spirit was very strong as we talked. We thoroughly enjoy teaching the gospel.

We got back to Esteli about 9pm, having driven in dark, heavy rain the whole way. I was surprised to still see so many people out on the roads. But we arrived safe and sound to the Koelliker’s home.

Sunday, August 14, 2016
We left the Koellikers home about 7:30am and arrived in Ocotal just in time for Sacrament Meeting to start. This was our first time to attend the Ocotal Branch. When we walked in, the keyboard that we left acouple of weeks ago was being played by Sister Willes. The Sacrament song was played by one of their students (remember, they have had the keyboard for only 2 weeks, so this is amazing that she could play a hymn already). There were about 30 people in attendance. They have a second Sacrament Meeting in the afternoon and apparently have more people attend. I worked with Elder Baltimore, one of the zone leaders and the branch President to update some of the Somoto members records and move the Somoto members’ records to the Somoto Branch. They were tied to the Ocotal Branch until they were made a branch about a month ago.

But what was great about our time in Ocotal was to watch Sister Bell interact with the missionaries about health issues. She has a wonderful “bed side manner” with them. They just love her.
We then headed to Condega, eating our two-day old p/b/j sandwiches as we went. We helped Elder Spence and Thackeray clean the clothing factory and set up the chairs for church. We then had a short PEC, reviewing the membership list. We found members that had been baptized but the missionaries didn’t know and members who have been ordained but the record did not reflect the ordination. They have a list of things to do. We also discussed some of the organization things they would like to do. These young missionaries have never run branches before and really appreciate having someone close that they can counsel with.

Sister Bell gave a talk in their Sacrament meeting about the importance of prayer. I gave a Priesthood/RS lesson about the Aaron Priesthood. I started out by making a long line out of ties. I had several of the men take off their ties in order to have a line long enough to cross the room. I had two young men hold the line and I found a rock that I used to demonstrate the earth. I placed the earth a few yards from one end of the line. We discussed how short our lives are in relation to eternity, and how important the decisions that we make in this life are and how these decisions affect our eternity. We discussed the role of the Aaronic Priesthood in helping us progress, such as being baptized and partaking of the Sacrament. The members were very engaged in the discussion and there was a wonderful spirit there. Here is a picture of a portion of the Condega Group taken after Sacrament Meeting. 

We eat dinner with the Koellikers in Esteli. The Lee’s were also there with three of their branch members. They had a district training in Esteli.

We listened to the Mormon Channel from my phone all the way home from Esteli, which made the trip much nicer. We live in a wonderful time….. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 1 to August 8

Monday, August 1, 2016

We spent the day in the office. But the fun began when we went to the airport Monday Evening to meet 21 new missionaries from the States. There were only two sister missionaries and the rest were Elders. It is always an exciting time when we meet new missionaries. One of the missionaries, Elder Howland, is from Castle Rock, Colorado and was one of Paul’s Priests when we was the Young Men’s President in his Ward. This is the largest group we have or will see in the mission. With 21 missionaries, there was at least 63 pieces of luggage. We had rented two buses to haul them around, but there wasn’t enough room in the bus for the luggage so it was tied on top. It was quite a sight.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

We had new missionary training today. In addition to the 21 north Americans that came yesterday, we had an additional 6 Latinos that came this morning, one was from Montevideo, Uruguay. It was fun meeting and visiting with him. Sister Bell and I went through the 10 commandments for good missionary health, first in Spanish with the Latinos (because the north American missionaries were very late) and then with the North Americans in English. Sister Bell talked to a couple of the new missionaries that she had concerns about their health, but all of them seemed to be doing fine, so her stress level decreased considerably. We spent all morning and part of the afternoon with them. We love being there when they receive their assignments. Their trainers come into the room and the President introduces the trainer and then announces the new missionary. They give each other hugs and everyone claps and hollers. It is a lot of fun.

But unfortunately, just before this was going to happen, we got a call from a sister missionary in Leon that she had fallen and thought her arm was broken. Sister Bell sent her to the AMOSCA hospital. This hospital used to take our insurance, but currently they have a problem with AETNA and won’t take the insurance. So we have to pay in cash. Depending on how bad the arm was, it could be very expensive and we knew the Sisters didn’t have that much cash. So we left for Leon (about 1.5 hrs north west of Managua), with money in our pockets. Fortunately, when they did an x-ray, they found that the arm was not broken. They had enough money to pay the doctor and x-ray costs, but didn’t have enough money for the brace and medicine. So when we got there, we paid for the brace and medicine, and reimbursed the sisters for the doctor and x-ray costs. We then took them to dinner and when we realized they were going to Managua for the leaders training on Wednesday, we offered to take them. They accepted and we hauled them to Managua after dinner. They were very delightful to visit with (Hermana Meza de Guatemala and Hermana Perez de Dominican Republic) making our trip very enjoyable. We got home about 10:00pm.

We eat at a little restaurant close to the hospital. A cute little waitress waited on us. She asked if I was the new mission President, which gave us a clue that she was a member. She admitted she was when we asked her but was inactive. She works during the church meeting on Sunday and her husband is not interested in going to church. She does go when they have conference because it starts at a time she doesn’t have to work. We encouraged her and gave her a big tip.

When we were getting our food, big plates of chicken, salad, fries, tortillas, rice and a relish, a Canadian stopped by our table and asked us what it was we were eating.

Since we had so much food, I offered my plate to him, which he graciously accepted. He sat at the table next to ours and we talked. He is in his mid to late 30’s and travels for a living. Actually, he lives to travel. He said he works as a teacher, mostly in international schools, saves his money and then travels. He spent a lot of the past 10 years in Asia and is now expanding to Central America. He travels alone. Sister Bell and I talked a little about him and his life style. Although on the surface it sounds fun and exciting, we can’t believe that he is truly happy. He did admit he is tired of traveling alone and gets lonely, which is why we believe he was so eager to visit with us, although the free dinner probably made it easier to continue talking with us. We wondered what kind of difference he was making in the world and if he were to die today, would anyone care. One of the driving forces in our lives is the desire to help make the world a better place. That is what brings joy and happiness.

Wednesday, July 3, 2016

Today, we spoke at the zone leaders conference. With so many leaders going home, there was a lot of changes. We have been blessed to have worked with so many of these young people, either those who were ZLs or those who have become ZLs. There was great strength, enthusiasm and love in the room.
This is from Mom – I shared the parable of the slippers (I think it is pantuflas in Spanish).  Scott gave me the gift of a cleaning lady for my birthday.  She comes every two weeks.  The day she came, we were gone from home from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm – a long day.  When we opened the door, the house was spotless.  We had two choices.  We could walk in with our shoes on and muddy the clean floor, or we could prevent that from happening by removing our shoes and putting on our slippers by the door which were clean and only for the inside and walk into the house.  A simple action could prevent the floor from getting dirty.  I likened this to the mini-lessons we have been giving the leaders to share with the missionaries at zone and district meetings.  They are mostly simple things to do, but they prevent injury and illness and allow the work to move forward at a faster rate because the healthy missionaries are more productive.  I then shared the statistics that gastrointestinal illnesses have been decreasing since we started reminding them of the things they need to do to prevent these illnesses through trainings and mini-lessons.  For example, two weeks ago we had 13 missionaries with GI illnesses and last week we had only 6.  I then thanked them for all they do, and encouraged them to continue with the mini-lessons, especially as they teach the 27 new missionaries that we welcomed yesterday.  These leaders are the best young men and women you will find anywhere in the church.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

We spent the morning in the office catching up on reports, paperwork and various other things. We went to the distribution center to pick up garments for some members in Esteli (at the Koellikers request) and then to the Colonia for food. We hosted the Lee’s for dinner and a movie. We watched Evictus about Nelson Mandela. I enjoy this movie every time we watch it. I am so impressed with President Mandela. He was in prison for 27 years and came out without bitterness and hatred. He was forgiving and showed tremendous compassion and wisdom as he unified the country. We need more Nelson Mandelas.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sister Bell slept in until 7am this morning. She must have been tired…. We spent the morning in the office. Then the Lees invited us to their house for a birthday lunch. That was very nice of them. After lunch, Sister Bell and I went to the National Museum of Culture for a little P-Day excursion. It is housed in one of the old parliament buildings. They had 9 rooms of artifacts, history and art. We had an English Speaking tour guide. It was very interesting seeing old bones, pottery, paintings and statutes. 

 Saturday, August 6, 2017
Happy Birthday Elder Bell

Today, Sister Bell taught Carelys and her sister their second piano lesson in Trinidad. Wilbert Narvaez bought three keyboard stands so we gave one to them. They had bought another table, so we felt bad that they went to that expense. However, we figure they can leave one table at their house and another with the Elders (who live next to the church) and not have to carry tables/stands back and forth. Carelys practices more than her sister and therefore was better prepared, but both girls are doing great.

We stopped at Burger King in Esteli and headed to Ocotal. We dropped off another keyboard stand with Sister Willes and Sister Gould and then headed to Somoto.

I had a meeting with President Alaniz and the missionaries. We discussed organizing their leadership in the Branch using the missionaries and one other Melchizedek Priesthood holder. I suggested he calls 2 counselors, a branch clerk, an Elder Quorum President and a Young Men’s President. President Alaniz was working on calling a new RS presidency. So I outlined the process for him to follow to accomplish this. With these callings, he could begin to have Branch Councils, which will help him greatly. After our little meeting, we held a Priesthood Preparation meeting. We had good attendance from the branch, with 5 young men and adult men in attendance, besides the branch President, missionaries and our wives. We talked about the Aaron Priesthood, the offices and duties. I taught the lesson. If find that I can speak and understand better when we are talking about gospel topics, but still struggle when we talk about other subjects.

After this meeting, we had a couple of hours before the Friendshipping meeting. So Sister Bell and I drove up the highway (closer to Honduras, which is only about 20 kilometers from Somoto), found a secluded spot, had a snack and skyped with Steve and Paul. We live in a marvelous time, when from remote places in the world, we can talk and see our children, thousands of miles away.

For the Friendshipping (hermanimiento) meeting, we met in a home of a member. Several of her daughters attend. I found out that most of her daughters are not members yet. Only one daughter and son have been baptized. They seem to enjoy the meetings and participate in the meetings, but have not made the commitment. Elder Galo gave a wonderful lesson about receiving answers to prayer, just what they needed. My personal take is that they don’t have a strong desire to change and therefore, are not fully committed to change and follow the inspiration they would receive. We need to ask in faith, with a sincere heart and real intent. President Nielson teaches that real intent means that we are willing and wanting to follow the spirit, to take that next step, no matter what. We need to be willing to act. Without that, we will not get an answer to our prayers.

We took the Elders, all 4 out to eat and then headed to Esteli. We arrived at the Koellikers about 9:30pm.

One of the missionaries in Somoto is Elder Howland. He was one of Paul’s Priests when Paul was the Young Men’s President. He is a good missionary. He took Spanish in school, so he has a good grasp of the language. In fact, he conducted the Hermanimiento tonight. He knows the people’s names and is not afraid to interact with them. He seems to be very happy. It is truly amazing since he has only been in the mission less than a week.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

We spent the day in Pueblo Nuevo, a new city we had not been in before. We worked with Elder Reinoso, who is from the Dominican Republic and Elder Arias, who is from Guatemala. Sacrament meeting started at 10am. We arrived a little late because we missed the turn off the main highway and drove another 15 kilometers before we realized we had missed the turn. When we arrived, we called the missionaries. They gave us directions, but as usually happens when Latinos give directions to gringos, especially old gringos that don’t have a great grasp of the language, we went right instead of straight and ended up in the wrong place. Fortunately, Pueblo Nuevo is not very big, so we kept driving around, talking to the missionaries, who by this time were out walking the streets looking for us. About 5 minutes later, when we found them, we were only a block from the Church (actually it was just a house where the group meets).

We were about 5 minutes after 10 am. The members were quietly sitting in their chairs waiting for the meeting to start. We were unprepared for that. All the meetings we have attended start anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour late. There were about 15 members, 2 investigators and 1 visitor from Managua. They also held a gospel principles class. We then visited a new member; a sister and 4 daughters who were baptized. They lived outside of town, in a mud house, with a dirt floor. Two of the girls were twins, turning 9 on Monday. They were very shy, so shy they would not look at us, smile at us or even smile. They hid behind their mother. They were a very poor. It takes them 40 minutes to walk to church, but they do.

We loved Pueblo Nuevo. It is a very clean city, cool, and surrounded by mountains. Many of the men rode horses, in fact it seemed that there were more horses than dogs…. That is probably not true, but it seemed to be true. The people were friendly and although their numbers are few, they are excited about the gospel. Elder Reinoso and Elder Arias are wonderful missionaries, hardworking, spiritual and love the people.

We bore our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting. We also visited 3 perspective Elders in their homes and set up a priesthood preparation class for next Saturday. We felt very good about our time there.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the Koellikers and then headed for home. I find that last part of the trip, from about Sebaco to Managua are the hardest. I have tried of driving by then and just tired. I am always very tired when we get home and grateful to get out of the house.   Sister Koelliker made a giant chocolate chip cookie with a smiley face on it for Elder Bell’s birthday.  What a special treat.  We love those Koelliker’s.

Monday, August 1, 2016

July 25 to July 31, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016
At office all day. Talked to John and went to Hawaii (via Skype and drop Box).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
We had new missionary training today. It is always fun to be with the missionaries. We are getting to know them better, having dealt with many of them now for over 3 months. We truly love them and are beginning to know which are the valiant and which are not. However, we love them all. Sister Bell talked with missionaries on and off all day, many conversations were to check up on past or ongoing health issues and a few new ones.

President Poncio showed a couple of videos of President Eyering and Elder Holland. They were powerful testimonies of the importance of working hard. Elder Holland talked about how miracles happen when we have done all we can and then give just a little bit more. He talked about feeling just alittle bit of what the Savior felt in the Garden as he prayed and bled for us, as we give our all to the work. All the videos were powerful and very spiritual.

Sister Bell gave a little presentation about health. At the request of Hermana Poncio, she taught principles of good eating and then shared what she has in her purse that helps her stay healthy and comfortable. Elder Gallo and Nogueira helped her with this. Elder Gallo reluctantly pulled items out of her purse and told everyone what it was in English and Elder Nogueira told what it was in Spanish. Elder Gallo didn’t want to stay going through her purse, but at her instance he did, much to the delight of the other missionaries. We work with Elder Gallo and Nogueira in Somoto so we know the very well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Office…. Games and Dinner at Lees…. Michelle won and I lost. Nothing changes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016
Spent the morning at home. Sister Bell had a tutoring session with Whitney. We went to the distribution center to pick up some things for the Elders in Somoto, then after lunch we went to the office. Sister Bell is working on short talks about the family in the Guide to the Family, the short church publication. There is a lot of good basic information about how to incorporate the gospel into our homes.  Today she prepared a talk about family scripture study and gave an example from our family experience when we first started studying together as a family when President Benson asked us to and the blessings that we received from following that counsel.

Friday, July 29, 2016
We spent a couple of hours at the office, then went shopping. We went to the distribution center to get garments and scriptures for the missionaries in Somoto. We then went to Walmart and PriceSmart to buy things for us and also for the Koellikers. The Koellikers, who live in Esteli, can’t get certain items in Esteli, so we get a list each week of things they need, mostly from PriceSmart. We deliver them when we go north and stay with them. It is a little service we can give them for allowing us to stay in their spare bedroom. After we got all this done, we received a note that one of the Sisters in Esteli needed garments so we went back to the distribution center one more time.

The Office Secretaries invited us to a wedding and baptism Friday night. We got there at 5:30, when the wedding was supposed to start. Of course no one was there. The wedding was at the Maximo Jerez chapel. They have a keyboard to Sister Bell began to play. She quit after playing for 1.5 hours (they still hadn’t started, waiting for the attorney who was to perform the wedding…. He was stuck in traffic). She stopped playing, but then Elder Ramirez asked her to keep playing so she did. The wedding got started about 8pm. Appar­­­ently only Attorneys can perform marriages in Nicaragua. Fortunately, he was LDS so he gave them LDS approved advise.

After the wedding, the bride (who was in her 40s) was baptized. Her husband, was already a member. Another Sister was also baptized.

Sister Bell and I had a conversation with President and Sister Poncio after the Baptism about the Zika Virus. We have had a large number of missionaries get a virus that lasts about 7 days. It includes a low grade fever, muscle and joint pain and a rash. Sister Bell sent a note to Elder Lynn, our Area Doctor in Guatemala, asking him about this virus. He wrote back that these symptoms are very typical of the Zika Virus. Sister Bell read up on Zika and found that although the researchers don’t know everything about the virus, they have found the Zika virus in men for up to 6 months after getting the virus. With the concern about birth defects in new borns, we wanted President and Sister Poncio to know about this and talk to the missionaries who will be leaving next week. Some have had it. He will encourage them all have complete physicals when they get home, testing for Zika, among other things, such as parasites.

Saturday, July 30, 2016
We left at 8am, headed for Trinidad. We had two new Yamaha keyboards with us. We gave the first keyboard to the Branch President in Trinidad and gave his two daughters their first lesson. Trinidad was made a branch about 6 weeks ago. They still meet in a garage next to the missionaries’ apartment. They have not had a piano to accompany the singing. One of the daughters leads the music. She will sing the first line to demonstrate what the hymn is and then they begin singing. The first lesson went very well. Both girls are committed and excited about learning. They will keep the keyboard at their house until the Church finds them a Chapel.

We stopped in Esteli for lunch at the Koellikers and then continued on to Somoto. We had a Priesthood Lesson at 3pm at the Branch Presidents home. We arrived about 3:05 to find only the Presidents family at home. We called the missionaries and they said that they were holding a baptism and would be late. Well they showed up about 1.5 hours later. We had visited with the President and his family while we were waiting. The President talked to us about some experiences and frustrations he was having. I understood some of what he was saying, but not enough to really feel I understood what he was saying. It was very frustrating. When the Elders finally arrived, we were just leaving to go to Ocotal. So we reset the Priesthood meeting for tomorrow and left. I encouraged him to talk to the District President and he said he was feeling impressed to talk to him as well.

We met Sister Willes and Sister Gould in Ocotal. We first took them to dinner at a nice restaurant, El Viejo. It was the best food that the Sisters had had for some time and they kept telling us that. Then we went to their apartment and got out the keyboard (this was the purpose of our trip to Ocotal). Both play the piano and have committed to give lessons. They were really excited. Ocotal has a branch that meets in the morning and a group that meets in the afternoon. They haven’t had a keyboard until now. So they are very excited.

It was very dark on our way back to Esteli, we went through a little town. There were people walking down the middle of the road, mostly in dark clothes. Fortunately, I saw them in time to swerve but they had to run to get out of the way. That was a close call.

Sunday, July 31, 2016
This was a long and fulfilling day. We left Esteli about 8:30, headed for Church in Somoto. We made a quick stop in Condega to give Jade, a young 11-year-old girl, a picture of her baptism that we had taken the week before and framed. She was very excited and showed the Elders later in the day the picture. They said she was very excited to have it.

We arrived in Somoto at President Alberto Alaniz home (on the front porch, with dogs and chickens walking through the meeting… at least the cats stayed away). It was a very touching meeting as this is Elder Diaz’s last day in Somoto. He has been there for 10 months, his whole mission. He has seen this area go from a few members to a branch and has progressed from a junior companion to a district leader. President Alaniz invited Sister Bell and I to talk. Sister Bell was prepared but I was not, but quickly pulled together some remarks about the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had a confirmation of a 15-year-old young man, who had been baptized yesterday (during the time when we were supposed to have our Priesthood training meeting). Sister Bell had prepared a short message about the importance of family scripture study, taken from the Guide for Families that the Church publishes. President Alaniz and Elder Diaz also talked.

Afterward, Elder Diaz taught about Exaltation for the Gospel Principles class. It was a wonderful lesson, which I believed helped the members understand why we do what we do. Afterward, Elder Diaz took pictures with each member (Just as we were leaving Hermana Alaniz pulled me aside and gave me a lovely costume ring that she had bought just for me.  She said it expressed her love for me.  It touched my heart to the core and made me so humble.  It was a big sacrifice for her to do that and I was so surprised and moved by her expression of love.  Mom) and then we loaded up the hymn books, gospel principle manuals and sacrament trays and drove across town to another home where the afternoon Sacrament Meeting meets. We took President Alaniz and his 7-year-old son with us, along with Elder Diaz. The other missionaries had already left to perform another baptism. This baptism was supposed to be done before the second meeting started, which was a 2pm. But as always in Nicaragua, things do not always work out as planned. For some reason, the baptism took longer to get going and they didn’t show back up until after the meetings were over. But since most of the members were still there, the Elders confirmed the two young people who had just been baptized. Not quite Church policy but I guess it worked.

We did get to have another Priesthood meeting at 1pm, but there were only 3 branch members there, President Alaniz, one Deacon and one perspective AP holder. It is very frustrating to try to prepare priesthood holders when they do not show up. I suspect that most of them had not been invited. We set another time for next Saturday, and I specifically asked all the missionaries to get the perspective priesthood holders there AND to not schedule a baptism or other discussion over the meeting….
We took Elder Diaz to Ocotal (he is being transferred to Matagalpa as a new zone leader), stopped in Esteli for dinner at the Koellikers (we were an hour late… we are turning into Nicaraguans), then headed for home, arriving at 10:30pm… dog tired and ready for bed.

There was a huge change this week-end as we have 28 missionaries going home and 27 new missionaries coming. We will miss many of these missionaries who have been leaders in the mission. But we are excited to see many of the missionaries we have been working closely with receive other assignments. Elder Scaggs from Condega is headed for Chin Oeste as a new zone leader. His personal touch will be missed in Condega but his enthusiasm is needed in Chin Oeste. Elder Diaz is going to Matagalpa as a new zone leader working with Elder Hobbs. Elder Diaz is a lot more serious than Elder Hobbs, both will benefit from their different personalities. Elder Alvarez from Chichigalpa is headed to Puerto Cabeza as a new zone leader. We got to know him two weeks in a row when we took midnight rides to Chichigalpa for medical reasons. He is a good missionary who will enjoy the challenges of PC. Elder Spence is coming to Condega. We brought him a package from his parents when we arrived 3 months ago. We look forward to work with him. Elder Hamson came into the office to train to be the new financial secretary. We know him from Somoto. Also Elder Neilson, the financial secretary is now the new Assistant to the President. We are also excited that Elder Howland a new missionary who was one of Paul’s Priests when he was the YM president is coming to the mission on Monday and will be assigned to Somoto with Elder Galo. Don’t anyone tell either of them because they don’t know this yet.

We also learned something that gave us great joy…. The branch and group in Ocotal loved singing to the keyboard we brought them yesterday. Three sister missionaries play the piano and all three took turns playing.