Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

We went to the Dental Clinic at the Hospital Metropolitano this morning. We had a missionary who had broken his retainer (which he shouldn’t have had in the mission) and needed it fixed. So we made an appointment with an Orthodontists. We needed to go to pay, since he hadn’t received money from home yet. When he got the money from his folks, he would pay the mission back (the church does not pay for dental work). So we went early and waited and waited and waited. Apparently, they got lost and didn’t arrive until 9:30. The doctor had other patients to see in another clinic, but was very gracious to wait for them. He removed the remaining parts and set another appointment for later in the week. We were not happy with these Elders. But we could have prevented this by making sure they had better instructions on where the hospital was. So we quickly forgave them.

One of my assignments is to help the locals (in the three Districts) prepare their mission papers. One of the young men that I have been helping is Yunior Gonzalez from Jinotega. He has been calling me about every few days since he sent his papers in late last month. His call came today to the Facilities Management Office, so we went and got it. We called him; he was so excited. We can take it to him on Friday unless he comes up with another way to get it sooner.

I have another all ready to go, a young woman from Matagalpa. All she needs now is an interview with the President. We got another notice about another young man from Puerto Cabeza. The area office has sent his application back twice with instructions that he needs to see an Optometrist. His vision is not very good and he needs glasses. We have another 20 or so in various stages of preparation.

Then we had to buy a new car battery, since ours finally died. It cost $166 US for a three-year battery. I am glad the Church reimbursed me for that expense.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This morning we had a “We are in Nicaragua” experience. We had several things that needed to be done and we outlined a very efficient way to accomplish them. They included helping the Sister Leaders get their house ready for new mattresses that they would be storing (30 minutes with travel time), picking up dirty sheets so Michelle could wash them (1 minute), buying medicine for a sick Elder and delivering it to him (30 minutes), dropping off a mission call at the office to be picked up by a future missionary who was traveling to Managua from Jinotega (15 minutes with travel time). We planned to be back at the office by 10 am. HOWEVER…. The first change came when the future missionary, Yunior Gonzalez called and asked if we could meet at a church by the airport. He was leaving early and would be in Managua by 7:30am, so we agreed to meeting him at 8am. We left at 7:30 for the normally 20-minute drive. We arrived at 8:30am. The traffic was terrible.

We then went to the Sister Leaders house, but when we got there, we found out that they had a meeting and couldn’t be at the house when the mattresses were supposed to be delivered, so we agreed to be there and borrowed a key so we could get in. We did pick up the dirty sheets and put them in the car. We then took the Sisters to Waspan, (where we had been earlier to give Yunior his mission call) because we had time before the mattresses were to be delivered. After we dropped them off, we called our church contact to find out when the mattresses were to be delivered. He said they had left and would be there at 10am. It was now 9:30, so we quickly drove back to the Sisters Apartment. We waited….. and waited….. and waited…… We called and were told they were 10 minutes away…. So we waited…. And waited…. And waited. We called again and they finally realized they went to the wrong neighborhood but were headed back to where we were. They finally arrived at noon.

It didn’t take long to unload, but we still had to buy medicine and drive back to Las Americas, which is by Waspan, which is where we had been twice already this morning. We called the missionaries, which by the way is another problem we will discuss at a later date. They were still at the church, so we bought the medicine and headed toward them. We found them walking to the bus stop. Success; the Elder got his medicine and Sister Bell was able to give him instructions on how to use it. Now we just had to get the keys back to Sister Walborn, the Sister Leader. She was close at the Waspan Church. We called and she was still there but was getting ready to leave… so we hustled over there in time to give her the key…. Finally, we got everything done we set out to do this morning…. It just took us 4 hours more than expected. Such is the life in Nicaragua.

By the way, Yunior is going to Guatemala and leaves November 16. He will be a wonderful missionary.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We worked from home today except for a trip to the store after lunch. Sister Bell had a tutoring session with Whitney Allen, her MTC tutor. With the internet at the house, we can do most everything we need to from home, except print.

Sister Bell washed sheets from the Sister’s house and old white shirts from the Elder’s house. We will take the white shirts and old ties to Pueblo Nuevo for new converts to use so they can pass the Sacrament. She also had to sew on about 14 buttons. Someone had taken some of the buttons from the shirts.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

This morning was clean out day at the Office Secretaries house. There are 5 Elders who live there presently, three Secretaries (one is leaving to be a Zone Leader in another week) and 2 Assistants. They host the Elders when they come to town and are the keepers of most of the supplies, many of which have become junk through age, use or not functioning. So Sister Bell and I went over this morning at 8am and began making a pile of junk on the street…. Old mattresses, frigs, fan parts, broken bed frames, old magazines and worn out clothes. There was quite a pile. We had Jonathan Estrada haul it away. I hope I can get out of bed tomorrow… my back is already tightening up.

Sister Bell got her first haircut in Nicaragua. She has been worried about this for some time and has been putting it off for weeks. But today we did it. She went to the salon where Hermana Collado went. She came out looking good. She said the best part was getting her hair washed and head massaged. She said they took 20 minutes and it was wonderful…. I wonder if they will wash men’s hair?

Lees are coming over for dinner and games. I hope I win. (I did win…. That doesn’t happen very often)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Well it finally happened. After not getting stopped by the police for almost 2 months, I got stopped just out of Managua for crossing a solid line (which I don’t remember doing). He gave me a ticket. It will cost me C$800 (about $28). I will need to find out from Betty Castro how to pay it.

It was raining very heavy on our way to Pueblo Nuevo. Therefore, we only had one Priesthood Holder brave the weather and come to our Priesthood Preparation Class. We should have had 6. So we taught the one…. We talked about Ministering of Angels. We gave him a white shirt and tie (taken from the Office Secretaries house) so he can help with the Sacrament on Sunday. After the lesson, we took the missionaries out to dinner, or I guess they took us. They eat every night at a local restaurant, so we went with them. We had carne asado, rice and cabbage salad.

We arrived at the Koelliker about 9:30pm.
Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sister Bell taught Carelys and Maria Clara this morning in Trinidad. They are to a point where it is getting alittle more difficult so they were alittle discouraged this morning. After the lesson, we went to see the building that the church is renting as the Trinidad Chapel. It is a home across the highway from the baseball stadium. It is a nice size for this little branch with room to grow. It will be a wonderful place for this little branch to worship. The person in the picture is Luis Pereda , the first counselor in the branch presidency. 

Guess where we had lunch? 

 Then we headed for Somoto. We had a wonderful talk with the Branch President. We discussed many things, such as how to handle tithing money, branch counsels, making assignments to the Elders, general conference, Priesthood ordinations, etc. He was very grateful for the mentoring. We then visited with the new President and Secretary of the Relief Society. The President is the mother of the Secretary. They own a little store on the outskirts of town. We discussed with them what the RS is and how to get started. We also offered to bring the General Women’s Conference Broadcast to the Branch. They had not been set apart, so I helped the President do that. He gave wonderful blessings, especially for someone who is so new to the Church and this calling. While we were there, one of the RS Presidents grandsons, probably about 2, brought a baby live bird and put it in Michelle’s hands. She didn’t know what it was until he gave it to her. The bird sat there, ruffled it wings a little, then peed in her hand. She handed it back and quickly washed her hands.

We then picked up Elder Santizo and Elder Howland and visited their new chapel (it is still a home and the Church is still working on the lease agreement). They had not seen it yet, so the President and the Elders were really excited as well. It should work out well, at least for a few years. It is not as big as the Trinidad Building, but it is big enough for the members that are there now.

We watched the General Women’s conference tonight at the Koellikers home. We had the two sets of Hermanas with us. We watched it in English, but had another computer on in the study that was broadcasting in Spanish. Only one of the Latina Hermanas watched it in Spanish. I was very impressed with all the speakers, but especially Sister Binghams insights about Charity and President Uchtdorfs talk on Faith. We are looking forward to listening to general conference next Sunday. We will watch it from home in English. We live in a wonderful time, where we can be in Nicaragua and watch it live in the comfort of our own home…. Or the Koellikers home.

Sunday, September 26, 2016

We started in Pueblo Nuevo for Sacrament Meeting. The number of members in attendance is down from when we were there before.  In fact, we have found that to be true with the other branches we are working with as well. We are not sure why. We had brought white shirts and ties. Two of the men that have been coming to the Priesthood Preparation classes, put on white shirts and tie and then passed the Sacrament. They did very well and felt very appreciative to beable to pass the Sacrament.  I also talked. I showed pictures of the new chapels in Trinidad and Somoto and told them that someday they will have a chapel like that. I then talked about the things they need to do to prepare for that day, such as read and pray daily, share the gospel with others, and serve one another. We stayed for the Gospel principles class, gave the missionaries some advice and then left for Condega.

We found a shady spot along the road to eat out 2-day old peanut butter sandwiches. We tied in with Elder Spence and Thackeray in Condega in time to visit an investigator and get the chairs for the meeting. Sister Bell led the music and gave a talk about Family Home Evening. Then the Gospel Principles class was taught by Rosa, a new member. She is a young mother who has a strong testimony of the gospel. She bore her testimony and told about how her mother left when she was 4, how she joined another church but never left good about it, had her baby and found the gospel. She is very happy and feels peace. We also attended the RS and Priesthood meetings. They were taught by Noe Ramirez and Suyapa, his wife. They had been called a few weeks ago as the Priesthood and RS teachers. This was the only the second week to have separate Priesthood and RS meetings. In the Priesthood meeting, Noe taught about Priesthood Keys. I was glad I was there, because I was able to explain about Priesthood Keys. After church, we helped the missionaries return the chairs, gave advise and left for Esteli.

We eat Lasagna at the Koellikers and got about about 9:15pm. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016 to Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Today was moving day, not for us, but for missionaries. We have three new apartments in Managua. We hired Jonathon Estrada to take beds, stoves, frigs, etc. from the Assistants and the Sister Leaders home to the three new apartments in the city. Sister Bell and I arrived at the Elder’s home about 10am and began to remove items that we needed. I was sweaty and dirty after we got done loading the truck. Then we stopped at the house to have lunch and pick up a few extra items. We then went to Villa Flor to drop those things off. We found the zone leaders and then took three missionaries across town. We stopped at La Colonia to buy a few groceries and stopped briefly at the office. We were going to go to the airport tonight to greet the new missionaries but we needed to get ready for the new missionary meeting tomorrow, so we didn’t go.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yesterday and today, 23 new missionaries came to the mission. We had our new missionary training. There were several highlights. Sister Bell and I were really impressed when the new missionaries and their trainers sang “Called to serve”. It was truly powerful.

At the end of a morning of training, the new missionaries met their trainers. The trainers came into the chapel and the President introduced a trainer and introduced their companion. They hugged, everyone cheered and a picture was taken. It was really exciting. At the end, the President looked at Sister Bell and I, who were sitting in the back of the chapel and told everyone that we didn’t have a companion change. When we heard that, Sister Bell and I cheered and then kissed. That got everyone cheering, clapping and laughing. Only certain companionships can kiss…. And I am glad we are one.

When we got up this morning we found that we didn’t have any water. We do have a backup tank that feeds the four houses on the compound. However, the city water was off. We asked Salvador about this and he showed us the leak on the street in front of our house. There was a steady stream of water flowing down our street. Apparently a big part of our block was out of water. Yesterday when we got home, there was a ditch dug across the street and men were installing four water lines to our compound, instead of one. Apparently our landlord wanted to install four separate emergency tanks of water instead of the one we share with the others on our compound. Apparently the connection didn’t hold. We called the Lees and they invited us to shower at their house, so we grabbed our towels and went to the Lees. We fully expected it to be fixed during the day, but we live in Nicaragua…. So we were disappointed but not surprised when we got home tonight and found the leak had not been fixed. The next two days are holidays so I doubt it will be fixed before Friday. We have a little water from our emergency tanks but that won’t last long. So we will be trying to use little water for the next few days.

Wednesday, September 15, 2016

It was a normal day, doing things in the office, delivering a frig to some missionaries, etc. until about 5pm when we were leaving the office. We got a call from a missionary in Cuidadela, about 30 minutes north of Managua. He was complaining of coughing up blood. So we told him to get a taxi and head to the hospital in Managua. We met them at the hospital. His companion also has had feet problems and had an ingrown toe nail, so we ordered a payment guarantee for him as well…. We figured we might as well get them both taken care of. The one was diagnosed with a respiratory flu and the other had his ingrown toe nail taken care of. But by the time we got medicine and then took them back to their house, and back to ours, it was 2:30am. Another long night.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

WE HAVE WATER…. All is well again in Nicaragua.

We slept in until 6:30am… I wanted to sleep more but couldn’t so we got up and walked…. Well actually Sister Bell got a phone call from a missionary who needed her and charted for a little while before we walked. The exciting part was when we turned on the tap and found we had water again…. That was a great way to start the day.

We spent the morning gathering or at least looking for items for our ailing missionaries in Ciudadela. We finally gathered them all up and delivered them about 12:30pm. We got to their front door, but no one was home. A cute 16-year-old member girl, who lives down the street, helped us track them down. They were eating at their lunch appointment. After they finished lunch, we went back to their apartment and Sister Bell taught the Elder with the foot problem how to clean his foot and reapply the bandage. This Elder is a big, soft spoken, gentle and humble missionary. He doesn’t say much, even in teaching situations, but the members of the branch just love him. He doesn’t socialize very well either, but I think Sister Bell has connected with him and he has appreciated the help we have given him. When we left, he came to the door and waved as we drove away. Again, we had that sweet spirit that comes when we serve as Jesus would have served.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Koellikers came to town today and we all had dinner at Lee’s. Sister Lee had us play a game where we have to guess what our spouse would say to various questions, such as “What is a phrase your spouse says a lot”, and where is her favorite food and restaurant. I thought we did pretty good. But I have to admit I am learning a lot about Michelle being on a mission with her and spending so much time doing this together. I should have been more observant over the years and I would have been a better husband.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

We hosted breakfast this morning with the Lees, Koellikers, and the Poncios (President, Hermana and their 16-year-old son, Kenneth). We had blueberry pancakes, ham and fruit.  We posed for a picture on our front porch.
Then we headed for the Masaya Volcano. The Koellikers had not seen it. Sister Bell and I had the opportunity to ride with the President and visit with them. We talked about the potential move of the mission office to Waspan, sick missionaries, poor retention of convert baptisms (apparently Nicaragua is one of the highest baptizing missions in Central America) and the fact that President Poncio gets a lot of pressure from the Area Presidency to baptize more. We are so impressed with the Poncios. They are marvelous leaders, who are fully committed to serving the Lord and have great capacity to do so. He told us that he was out proselyting the night before with one of the assistants.

The volcano was not as impressive as it was the time before, partly because it was hard to see the lava through the vapor. They only let us stay for 5 minutes because of the exposure to the vapor.

 Then we headed for the Laguna de Apoyo. We went to the same restaurant as we did acouple of months ago, but instead of rain, we had beautiful sunshine. It was very beautiful, peaceful and the food was good.

When we got home, we were greeted by a full rainbow.  This is the view from our bedroom.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We are not in Managua very often on Sunday so we talked where we should go to church. I wanted to go to the La Catorce Ward to see Hermana Golding. She is one of the two missionaries in the MTC that were going to Nicaragua. We have a special bond with her and haven’t seen or talked with her for a while. We arrived at 8:45am, thinking we had 15 minutes before church started. But we walked in and they were already giving talks…. We realized that they started at 8am. This has happened to us before. Since we wanted to take the Sacrament, we left and went to Villa Flor. They too had started at 8am, but another Ward, Villa Venezuela was going to start at 10am. So we sat through the rest of the meeting. Villa Flor is a large ward, with 4 missionaries serving in the Ward: Elder Walker (ZL), Elder Pineda (ZL), Hermana Cruz (ST) and Hermana Lord (new this week). After Church Sister Bell met a young woman who was there visiting with her finance. He is from Salvador and served his mission in Nicaragua. She is from Nicaragua and served her mission in Salvador. They met while he was in Nicaragua on vacation after his mission. Sister Bell found out that she is a doctor and has a small clinic in Ciudad Sandino, which is on the outskirts of Managua. She would love to serve the missionaries, is willing to accept our insurance and is fluent in English. There was a reason why we needed to be in Villa Flor today.

We stayed for the Villa Venezuela ward meetings with Hermana Ruiz and Munoz. We went to the hospital to be there when our Elders from Thursday night came for their follow-up visits, then home for the rest of the day. It feels nice not to be traveling 4 hours this afternoon to get home. But on the other hand, I miss not being with the Saints in the north. I feel like they really need us and we are making a difference.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday, September 5 to Sunday, September 11, 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016

After the office meeting this morning, we met two of our Sisters from Matagalpa at the hospital. One of the sisters had a doctor’s appointment with a cardiologist. She was having chest pain and was concerned that she might have heart problems. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon with them. Fortunately, the doctor did not find any problems with her heart… so we are all relieved. We took them to McDonalds (that is where they wanted to go) for lunch and then they caught a bus back home. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at home, trying to get caught up after a long week-end. We had mac and cheese with chicken, made in the microwave for dinner. We are trying different simple recipes that we can cook in the microwave. The good recipes, we send to the missionaries. We will send this one; it was pretty good.

Tuesday and Wednesday, September 6&7, 2016

Wednesday started on Tuesday afternoon. We had received a notice that the Epipens that Paul had sent last week had arrived via FedEx. So Monday evening we went to the FedEx office but they told us the package was at customs and tried to explain what we needed to do to pick it up. Well, I just thought the whole time while they were jabbering in Spanish…. “I will just call Betty”. Betty Castro is the Churches emigration expert. She knows all there is to know about working through the Nicaraguan government maize.

So Tuesday afternoon, Betty comes to the office. Betty is a short Nicaraguan in her mid-50’s who has “hyper” energy. She talks fast, walks fast and get very animated. She is a lot of fun, but I have a hard time understanding her. So she had talked to Elder Lee and myself about what documents we needed to gather to get the package out of “hock”. So we had been gathering documents; copies of our passports, copy of Elder Santizo’s passport, note from the doctor in Ocotal documenting Elder Santizo’s allergy, letter from Paul explaining what he sent and why, copy of his identification, a letter from us outlining what was the medicine that was sent and why we needed it, on and on and on. We thought we had the perfect letter…. Until Betty showed up at the office and said, “this is what you need to say” and proceeded to write out a letter by hand. I then took the letter and typed it up, printed it and signed it…. Now we were ready.

So Wednesday morning, armed with a packet of documents, we left the house at 7am and picked Betty up near her home at 7:30am. We then went to the Ministry of Health. We had to go there because Epipens have a drug that is not found in Nicaragua and we needed their permission. We went into one of the offices there, with our documents, ready to get a quick approval. Well, nothing is quick here and in fact, after quite a while, we found out that we needed to go to another department in the ministry of health. So we walked to the pharmacy department. Here we waited in line again (however, Betty is a little bulldog and is not one that likes to be in the back of the line, so she tends to work her way to the front… it is really amazing to watch her work). Finally someone looked at our stuff and determined that we needed to go to customs and have someone verify that there are only 3 epipens in the box. This is now about 11:30am.

We went to customs, which is by the airport. When we got to the gate, the guard told us that we needed to go to FedEx and get a name change on the package. Paul sent the package to Elder and Sister Bell… but our official documents (passports) say we are Scott Woodruff Bell and Michelle T Bell. Apparently, only FedEx can change the name on the package. So we left Customs and went to FedEx. The name change was easy enough and only cost $15.00…. we felt we got off cheap. Back to Customs. They let me in this time, but didn’t let Betty or Michelle in. I was on my own….

The guard directed me to another guard, who took me into the main room for this kind of thing. I took my pile of documents to a counter. The lady looked them over and told me I needed to get an official to sign one of the papers. Fortunately, she sent someone to show me the way. That didn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes. They then sent me around the corner to another office. They looked at my papers and told me I needed to make copies of acouple of documents. I asked where can I make copies. They told me there was a man in the lobby that made copies… so away I went. He made about 5 copies, which cost $C10.00 (10 cords or about $.35). Back I went. She stamped some forms and told me to go back to the lobby. I went up to the counter, they wanted more copies (another $C10), back to the counter. She said I still needed to go to another office, so she took me there, just to find out I had already been there. Finally, I got to sit and wait….. I waited probably 20 minutes and they called me up and told me to go to the FedEX cage in the customs. I found that, showed the man my paper work and he told me to go stand in another line. I figured out that this is the line where the customs agents finally inspect the package…. Great I was close to being done. I was number three in line, but I soon realized that there were only two custom agents, and the people they were helping had really big boxes. I took another ½ hour waiting until my turn.

I did make a couple of friends with a middle aged man and young man who were waiting in front of me. The young man was learning English, so he practiced his English while I practiced my Spanish. Finally, I got a custom agent to help me. She opened the package, find that it contained three epipens, scribbled a note on the back of one of my papers, closed the box and told me to wait again in the lobby. I went back and sat down, expecting a quick turnaround…. When will I ever learn? Almost an hour later, they called me to the counter, took the scribbled note that the custom agent had signed, put a stamp on it, gave it to me and sent me away….

I was happy because at least I had my note…. Back to the minister of health. Now it was after 3pm, but we were still optimistic we could get our letter of approval and go back to Customs to get our package. The first thing they said was it will take 24 hours to process the approval letter and we couldn’t pay the $C35 today because the cashier closed at 3pm. Well, we were very disappointed. About this time, Sister Bell, who was sitting down, bowed her head and pleaded with Heavenly father that a way would open up so we could get the package today. As soon as she was saying this prayer, Betty mentioned that the Elder that had the severe allergy to fish was in Ocotal and I further explained about this need. The people helping us immediately went to visit, with what we presumed was a supervisor. They came back with a letter of authorization and instructions to go pay the fee (apparently the cashier was open until 4pm). We literally ran to the cashier (I was amazed how fast Betty could run), paid and went back to get our authorization. It was now 4pm. When Michelle said that prayer, their attitude changed immediately. We even found out that one of the people helping us had a cousin that was LDS. Definitely a Tender Mercy, but it is interesting that it came at the end of the day after we had done all we could, the Savior took over and made this happen.

We took off again for the customs. Michelle and Betty stayed in the car, while I went up to the gate myself. The guard at the gate, who was new, told me they shut the gate at 4pm (it was now 4:15). I explained that I had been their earlier. Finally the guard that let me in earlier in the day came out of the guard shack, recognized me and let me in… another tender mercy. When I walked up to the counter, the lady who had helped me before was there, smiled and seemed to glad to see me again… another tender mercy. She did the paperwork quickly (it was the end of the day), and sent me back to get my package. The only hick-up was I apparently needed a few more copies, so I had to go back to the copy man, pay him another $C10 to get the copies I needed and back to get my package. I had to pay another $15 to FedEx, I am not sure why, but at this point I didn’t care. I left with my package.

The last customs person I interacted with said “hola hermano, es de la norte o de la sur?” (hello brother, are you from the north or the south… meaning mission). She was a member. I walked out of customs a happy man….

It was 6 pm when we got home. Sister Bell and I, the missionaries in Ocotal and our children were all praying for us and I kept looking for the hand of the Lord in what we were trying to do. It came very strongly at the end of the day when we had done all we could do and Sister Bell quietly pleaded for help.

The last thing Betty said when we dropped her off by her house was “no FedEx”.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

We spent the morning at the office, putting together fans (we got our order in the other day). We took 3 fans to the sister leaders because they have a lot of sister missionaries that stay with them and they need extra fans. We brought two home and will take another to the Koellikers this week-end. We also are beginning to hear about new areas being opened next week and new apartments that will need to be furnished. The zone leaders usually have extra things but we will need to fill in what they don’t have. Sister Bell is also putting together new pill boxes for the new apartments (each apartment has a box that has a variety of pills in it so the missionaries have medicine on hand when they need it – however, they are supposed to replace the pills when then use them…. As you can guess, that doesn’t always happen).

Sister Bell spent the afternoon typing a list of “rules” that the sister missionaries put together for the missionaries to abide by when they stay at the sister leaders home.

We then invited the Lees for enchilada dinner and games. We played phase 10, Elder Lee won again…. Michelle came in second. Sister Lee in third and I (as usual) came in last.

Friday, September 9, 2016

This morning we met to review the changes for next week. We are receiving 23 missionaries and sending home 11 missionaries. So we will be opening about 6 new areas and closing two. We have to have the new apartment ready to go before Tuesday of next week. I did some preliminary planning this afternoon, after taking beds, frig, etc. to Tipitapa. I need to run this past the financial secretary and assistants before I can go any further.

We decided to cancel our trip north, at least for tomorrow. We may go up on Sunday and come home of Monday. Sister Bell needs to buy some medicine and make up 6 new pill boxes for the new apartments. We also want to deliver Epipens to Elder Santizo in Ocotal, so we are still working on a plan.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

We woke up this morning feeling that we have a plan in place in order to have the apartments ready by Monday. So we decided to head north. We had to stop by the Office Elders home to get some fans and a mirror for the apartment in Matagalpa. As we were leaving the city, the traffic was at a standstill. We waited for at least an ½ hour without moving an inch. Finally we slowly moved and eventually got through.

We were over an hour late for the piano lessons with Carelys and Maria Clara. None of the new students showed up. We stopped and visited with Elder Worden who is going home on Tuesday. He served in Trinidad for over 10 months and has seen this congregation go from a few converts to a branch. He is a quiet, unassuming, humble missionary, who has truly made a difference in Trinidad.

We had lunch at pizza hut, then bought more pills and boxes for the new apartments. We then headed north again. We stopped in Condega to give Elder Spence a package. We found Elder Spence and Elder Thackeray to be a little down. They were going to baptize a young family, a husband and wife. They got married yesterday and were planning on getting baptized today, but she called the Elders today and said she wasn’t ready. So we went by their house but they were not home. We took the Elders downtown where we thought they were at. Before we dropped them off, we said a prayer that the Elders could find them and their hearts would be softened and have a desire to be baptized. The spirit was very sweet and peaceful. We left them and went to Pueblo Nuevo. When we got back to the Koellikers house about 9pm, we found they were not home. We found a text they had sent to us telling us they were taking the Elders and this family back to Condega after their baptism. So we called Elder Spence. He said they found them, and their hearts had changed. They decided to come to Esteli to be baptized so took a bus to Esteli and had the baptism. Apparently the Koellikers found them and took them home.

On our way, we found groups of young people all along the road, in small groups. We didn’t know why, and kept speculating why. We finally found out that they were waiting for the Torch Relay of the Liberty to pass. The young people were the torch bearers. That was pretty exciting.

We taught another Priesthood Preparation in Pueblo Nuevo. We had four new converts there. We taught about the Aaronic Priesthood.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Happy 5th month anniversary

We left about 7:30am, headed north to Ocotal. We stopped briefly in Condega to drop off a RS lesson manual to the missionaries to give to Suyapa Torrez, who was called last week as the new RS teacher.

We arrived in Ocotal about 15 minutes early only to find very few members and no missionaries. They began arriving a few minutes before 9am. To the branch Presidents credit, they started only 5 minutes late. Sister Bell played the piano for the meeting. By the time Sacrament Meeting was over, the meeting room was pretty full. They confirmed 4 new members and had a baptism for 2 more today. There are 4 sets of missionaries, 2 sets of Hermanas and 2 sets of Elder. We enjoyed being in a branch for all three meetings.

After Sacrament Meeting, Sister Bell gave our elder with the fish allergy the precious epipen and showed him an instructional video about how to use it and answered his questions.  He is being transferred to Somoto tomorrow and will have to find all new food resources.

We then took Sister Marquez to Managua with us. She is the new Sister Leader Trainer, replacing Sister Ramos who is going home. Sister Marquez is from El Salvador and has only been in the mission about 9 months. She has served her whole time in Ocotal. She slept most of the way home as she was awake most of the night thinking about her new assignment.

We stopped in Matagalpa to deliver a few items they needed for their new area. Elder Diaz, who we worked with in Somoto, welcomed us in English. Apparently, Elder Hobbs is helping him learn. We visited several missionary apartments this week-end and I was very disappointed to see them in about the same condition as they were the last time we saw them. We had given them a lecture then, but it didn’t do any good.

On the way home we called all of the zone leaders and talked to them about opening and closing areas and DVD’s. Only trainers need DVDs so the ZLs need to gather them from past trainers and get them to the new trainers. If they don’t have enough, they call me. Sister Bell dialed their numbes and I called. I hope there is not a law about talking on the phone while driving.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016 to Sunday, September 4, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016
We went shopping for pants with Hermana Gould and Hermana Willes. All the sisters have been approved to wear pants in areas of the world where mosquito borne diseases are prevalent. There are not very many places in Ocotal for the Sisters to buy pants, so they took advantage of being in the city with some time on their hands. Both bought 2 pairs of pants, Sister Bell bought a blouse and I bought a tie. A good shopping day. We ended the day at TGIF. The Hermanas had a great time. We also took a fan to an Elder in Waspan and new mattresses to Elders in Rene Polance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
We took Sister Willes to a leader’s conference at the Waspan Chapel (she is a sister leader). We kept Sister Gould with us for the day. Sister Bell was her companion (and since I am Sister Bells companion, I guess I was Sister Gould’s companion too). We went back to the office for a few hours, but while we were there, we received our scripture covers and ties from Guatemala. We ordered them about two months ago through some of our Guatemalan missionaries.
They cost us $66.00. But they are beautiful.  Then we went home for lunch and back to Waspan to pick Sister Willes up.
That night after dinner, we watched the 17 miracles movies. Sister Gould had gotten it in a “care” packet and had not seen it. It reminds me that we really don’t have it too bad in Nicaragua.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
We took the Hermanas to the bus stop and said good-bye. They were a delight to have in our home and we miss them already. We sent them away with a sack lunch after feeding them a good breakfast… the last prepared breakfast they will probably have for a while. Doesn’t Sister Willes look good in her new pants?

We were invited to Lees tonight for lasagna and games (6 card golf). Elder Lee won…. Miracles still happen.

Thursday, September 1, 2016
We spent the day in the office doing the following things:
·         Talked to Roger Perez in the facilities management group about a purchase of housing items such as fans (40), mirrors (10), DVDs (60), mattresses (20), and stoves (20). We started trying to make this order about 4 months ago, without success. Finally, we figured out the process, got the order sent and now are receiving the items…. This afternoon hopefully.
·         Then I called our insurance company in the United States about an insurance issue. We have a missionary that has an ingrown toe-nail that needs out-patient surgery on Wednesday. The hospital that he is going to, used to take our insurance, but now doesn’t. AETNA, our insurance company has been trying to fix the problem and they have told us that they have. So this is our test case. The hospital has received the guarantee of payment and has told AENTA that they would honor it…. So we shall see next Wednesday.
·         I also found several Western Union offices in Managua and Chinandega, just in case they change their minds and want payment. If we can’t wire money, then Sister Bell and I will have to make a quick trip to Chinandega (3 hours north west) to pay the bill. Hopefully, all will go as planned.
·         I completed an inspection form that we can use when we inspect missionary apartments. Sister Bell and Sister Lee have looked at it. I will have Sister Koelliker look at it and then give to the mission President for a final review.
·         I contacted our piano students in Trinidad and asked them to invite the three young people who want to begin piano lessons to come at 4pm tomorrow, an hour after our piano lessons with her current students.
·         I gathered the items we need to take tomorrow to Esteli for Zone conference.
·         Then we talked with President and Hermana Poncio about various medical issues.
·         Sister Bell talked to sick missionaries, charted, made doctors’ appointments for missionaries and ordered Payment guarantees from the insurance companies.
·         She made copies of the handouts she needed for her presentation tomorrow.

This is a sample of what we do when we are “stuck” in the office.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Happy Birthday Meena…

We left the house at 6am heading for Esteli for a multi zone conference. We gave our presentation on Zika. It went well and only took 17 minutes, three minutes less than assigned. The highlight of the conference was when the Koellikers told about themselves and what they are doing. Elder Koelliker did most of the talking but Sister Koelliker did most of the acting.

Sister Bell taught three piano lessons in Trinidad, picking up another student; a young girl named Carol. We think she is probably 11 years old.

Then we returned to Esteli for a District Priesthood Meeting. We had the new branch presidency from Trinidad and one Priesthood holder from Condega. President Poncio attended and talked for about 45 minutes. He is such a gifted teacher that he had us all spell bound for the full time…. Spell bound with the Spirit that is.

Sister Koelliker had a late dinner prepared for us. She is such a wonderful host. We really appreciate their willingness to allow us to stay in their spare bedroom most every week-end. We brought frozen blueberries as a token of our appreciation.

Saturday, September 3, 2016
We took a little time this morning to explore the area. We went to Ducuale, a small town north of Condega where they had a “Taller Comunal de Ceramic de Ducuale”. This is a small community owned business that makes ceramic products. We had seen a sign on the main highway advertising this business. When we got there, we found it closed, but a lady who lives above the business came down to open it up. They are open Monday through Friday. They have 9 people who work there, but have had as many as 29 people working there. Unfortunately, they don’t have any younger people learning the business to take over when these older people die or at least “retire”. This lady showed us how they make the ceramic bowls, plates, etc. It was quite interesting. She even turned a bowl on a pottery wheel while we watched. It took only 3 minutes to turn a lump of clay into a bowl. We bought a few pieces, a pitcher and a serving plate.

After lunch at Rosti Pollo in Esteli, Sister Bell and I went to Congeda. We met Elders Spence and Thackeray. We took them around to invite members to attend the Noche de Hermanimiento. We did have one quick lesson to an investigator about tithing. We then visited a home, where the girls have been baptized but the mother is still taking the lessons. The girls were really excited to see us and in fact had just asked a couple of days earlier why we hadn’t been by. Maybe we are making a difference. The mothers mother (Laurdress) is also taking the lesson. I had a strong impression about two days ago to teach Laurdress the story of the rich young man.  I wasn’t sure when we would have the chance to go by her home, so I was really excited when she came by her daughter’s home when we were there. I related this story which is; a young rich man asked the Savior what he needed to do to gain Eternal Life. The Savior told him to keep the commandments, which the young man said he was. He then asked what else he should do, and the Savior told him to sell all he had and follow him. This young man couldn’t do it because he loved his riches. We then discussed several principles that are taught in this story. One is that the Savior is always asking us to become better, grow line upon line and we discussed the next steps they needed to take to grow line upon line, such as baptism. We then discussed those things in our life that are keeping us from receiving all the blessings that the Lord wants to give us. In this particular case it is coffee that the grandmother is having a hard time giving up. We told her we were proud of her because she has gone from 20 cups a day to 3 and encouraged her to now quit all together. We truly have grown to love her and keep telling her we want to attend her baptism. Each week we ask the Elders if she is going to be baptized and are disappointed when they tell us no.

We then went to the Noche de Hermanimiento. There were about 25 people, which is the most we have seen at one of these events. Afterward we went to the house of Hermano Noe. He is being called tomorrow as the Priesthood teacher and his wife is being called as the RS teacher. They have also been given the assignment to help organize the Priesthood and RS. We discussed their responsibilities, giving them counsel and direction. It was just Sister Bell and I doing this as the missionaries went to other appointments. We communicated very easily. The gift of tongues was truly with us tonight. We understood them and they understood us. They feel very overwhelmed, which is understandable since they have only been members for less than a year. We gave them manuals and told them we would return regularly to help them.

We got back to the Koellikers home at 9pm.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Today didn’t go as planned but it went as it was supposed to go and we got everything done that we were inspired to do. Let me explain…. We were planning on going first to Somoto to help President Alaniz sustain a new RS Presidency. This is the first time he has sustained anyone. We had reviewed the process with him last week, and we planned to be there when he sustained them in Sacrament Meeting.  Then we were going to Condega for their Sacrament Meeting at 2pm. The missionaries had permission from the El Rosario Branch President to sustain and set apart teachers for the Priesthood, RS and SS. So we planned to be there for that as well.

While praying this morning, I had the distinct impression that we needed to be in Somoto this afternoon so we began to adjust our schedule. Then sister Bell received a phone call from a missionary in Dario, which is an hour south of Esteli. He needed medicine right away. She told him to look for a pharmacy that would be open early on Sunday morning and look for the medicine. They looked but couldn’t find a pharmacy that was open and had the medicine. So we changed our plans again. We found a pharmacy that was open and purchased the medicine. We then headed for Dario. We arrived at about 10am, just in time to hear Sister Lee (Elder Lee is the Branch President in Dario) bare her testimony in Spanish. We then bore our testimonies. After Fast and Testimony meeting, we greeted the members, gave the medicine to the Elder and then headed north.

We knew the Lord wanted us in Somoto, (based on the impressions I received this morning in my prayer), so we stopped in Condega to make sure Elder Spence knew how to sustain and set apart these three members in their new callings. He felt pretty confident after our mentoring session so we left for Somoto. We got their alittle early and took Elder Mendez and Noguiera around to some of their investigators to invite them to come to Church. President Alaniz was not there for the afternoon Sacrament Meeting, so Elder Mendez conducted the meeting and sustained the new RS presidency. I was able to provide some mentoring to the missionaries who had recently received assignments in the branch leadership. Elder Mendez is a counselor in the branch presidency. Elder Gallo is the Elders Quorum President. Elder Noguiera is the young men’s President and Elder Howland is the branch clerk. I was able to give each some counsel about their assignments and help them identify things they can do to magnify these assignments. The missionaries were alittle down because they did not have many investigators out to church, so we tried to cheer them up alittle. We both bore our testimonies and hopefully gave this little group a boost.  Sister Bell was able to play the keyboard for prelude and the hymns for the meeting.  The little branch feels very fortunate to have a keyboard.  Many branches, even those with buildings do not have keyboards. It was not obvious why the Lord needed us in Somoto this afternoon, but we went and did what we felt was needed.

We ate dinner at the Koelliker’s in Esteli and arrived home about 9pm. We drove about 8 hours today covering almost 500 miles. We are tired but felt that we did all that the Lord inspired and needed us to do, although none of it was how we planned to do it. But we were able to visit with all that we felt inspired to talk to and deliver the messages that we were impressed to give. Each of these impressions came earlier in the day or week, but the Lord got us and the persons together sometime this week-end.  We have felt His hand directing His work through us.