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.