Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016 to Sunday, November 27, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Birthday John… we got to sing to John this morning while they were waiting for Gustavo to buy snow chains just in case they needed them on their trip to Utah.

We hit the road again today. After the morning office meeting and piano lesson to Jocelyn Poncio, we loaded two mattresses in the car and drove to Jinotega, a little mountain town three hours north of Managua. We have a sister missionary who has been struggling with chiggars and bedbugs, thus the need for new mattresses. After unloading, we took them to dinner and then drove home.

One of the missionaries is Hermana Amado. Her grandfather is Elder Amado. I had the opportunity to be interviewed by him about 15 years ago in Spring Creek, Nevada. He was the visiting authority assigned to reorganize the Spring Creek Stake. I was serving as a Bishop and was interviewed by him. It is a small world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

We have started to get instructions on dealing with Hurricane Otto, which is projected to hit Nicaragua on Thursday. The instructions include to have food and water for a week in our homes and be prepared to stay in if we need to. The chapels can be used for emergency shelters. Our biggest concern is with the 20 Missionaries in Puerto Cabeza. However, all the current projections are that Otto will go south of us, in southern Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  However, we should have a lot of rain.

We decided we wanted to do something a little different for Christmas this year. So we asked John to send $100 to each of our children (we transferred money to Kim) and have each family use the money to create a “lasting memory” and then share that experience with each other. We worked on our “lasting memory” today, but can’t disclose it yet…. More to come on this.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I got a new computer for Somoto. It was delivered to me and I will take it to Somoto when they have internet at the Chapel and an office that can be locked. I can’t leave it though until they have an office that they can lock. We also went to Pricesmart to get groceries. We were instructed to have a weeks’ worth of food and water so we stocked up a bit.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Birthday McKay and Happy Thanksgiving. Sister Bell made 7 pies this morning: 2 banana crème, 2 chocolates, 1 strawberry, 1 cherry and 1 apple. She had to make the crust without shortening as we couldn’t find any shortening here. She used butter instead, and it turned out wonderful. We took the pies and ice cream to President Poncios home. We had thanksgiving dinner there with the Lee’s, the leader missionaries and the Poncios. There were 16 for dinner. We had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salads, relish tray, rolls, corn and squash. It was delicious. The Elders showed 5 videos of dancing elves with faces of the Poncios and all the office and leader missionaries (including Sister Bell and I).  The missionaries can be very serious and focused on the work when they are working, but when they have down time, we realize they still are young people that like to goof around.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hurricane Otto hit us while we were sleeping. We had about 3 hours of light steady rain. That was it. We watched White Christmas…. So the Christmas season can now officially start.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

We drove about 8 hours today. We started from home and first went to Trinidad. Only Carelys was there for the lesson. Maria Clara was in Managua with her mother. We delivered a box of donuts to Elder Hatch and Elder Nonu. They had the cleanest apartment in the Esteli Zone. 

Then we headed for Matagalpa, an hour to the east. We delivered donuts to Sister Jenson and Sister Sanchez, two more happy winners.

We then headed to Jinotega, an hour north over some of the most beautiful country in Nicaragua to bring a package to Hermana Amado.  (Remember we had just been to their house on Monday) We then took a road we had not been on through some beautiful mountain country.  It was really enjoyable driving on a new road. We arrived in Pueblo Nuevo about 20 minutes late for our Priesthood Preparation Class. We found the missionaries and a recent convert walking just on the outskirts of town. Apparently, they gave up on us. So we loaded them in the car and went back to the Elders house. However, they didn’t have any lights, so we talked with candlelight and lights from our cell phones. The new convert is getting the Aaronic Priesthood tomorrow, so we focused on the basics: what is the Priesthood, the history of the Priesthood through the ages, the restoration and the difference between power and authority. We ate dinner in Condega on our way back to Esteli to stay with the Koellikers. We are glad to be out of the car….

Sunday, November 27, 2016

We started out in Ocotal, 1.25 hours north of Esteli. We arrived about 15 minutes late (we stopped in Condega to give Elder Spence some materials), but they were just starting. The missionaries were happy to see us (it was a surprise because we didn’t tell any of them that we were coming). After Sacrament Meeting, I visited with the Branch President. He has been serving for 3 weeks and is a little overwhelmed. He doesn’t have counselors or a secretary. (I got permission on Monday to authorize the branch president to use the missionaries as counselor, secretaries and other branch leaders). The missionaries are doing a lot now. They blessed and passed the sacrament (Elders Valle, Bendeck and Hodges), played the piano (Elder Packard), led the music (Sister Barrios), gave talks (Elder Valle and Sister Silva) and taught three lessons during SS (Gospel Doctrine, the youth and gospel principles). The Elder’s Quorum President left after Sacrament meeting and didn’t return. He was supposed to teach the priesthood lesson, so I volunteered to teach the class. I noticed that one of the sister missionaries (Sister Silva) was teaching the RS class. President Poncio has a goal to prepare the Ocotal Zone to become a district. It is now part of the Esteli District. However, for that to happen, we need a lot more Priesthood holders in Ocotal, Jalapa, Somoto and Pueblo Nuevo.

Sister Bells SS experience:  I had an interesting experience during Sunday School class.  The teacher was a missionary and or course he was speaking Spanish.  I usually don’t understand much of the lesson, but he was using the whiteboard very effectively, and I could follow the scriptures and the lesson because of that.  The lesson was about milagros (miracles) and the scripture references were from Mormon 9.  Anyway I began thinking about the miracles in my life and that I have small miracles happen all the time and that I need to recognize that what I sometimes think of as coincidences really are small miracles.  The thing that was unusual was that I was thinking in Spanish and making sentences in my head in Spanish.  Well, the teacher called on me specifically and asked me a question.  I could not understand what he was asking, but with his patience and a few English words, and with help from the sister missionary sitting beside me, I finally figured out what he was asking.  The answer to the question was exactly what had been going through my mind in Spanish a few minutes before and I was able to answer in Spanish easily.  I just repeated the words that had been going through my head.  Hermana Silva looked at me in surprise and said, “Usted es una misionera.” (You are a missionary.)  I smiled and agreed, “Soy una misionera” (I am a missionary).  It was such a unique and personal experience, but it helped me realize that I really could have the gift of tongues and the help of the Holy Ghost when I needed it.  

Now back to Elder Bell’s narrative.
I talked with the Branch President about how to help prepare some of the men to receive and magnify the Priesthood. I explained that we are teaching Priesthood Preparation Classes in Somoto, Pueblo Nuevo and Condega and gave him copies of the lesson manuals we are using. I also gave him a list of members of the Somoto branch whose records are still in the Ocotal branch records. Somoto used to be part of the Ocotal branch before it was made a branch and many of the Somoto records have not been transferred yet. He said he would work on it. Ocotal needs strengthening. I don’t see how we can help them much unless we begin to come up on Friday, which we are not prepared to do yet.
We finally got out of Ocotal at noon. We eat our P&J sandwich on the way to Somoto. We arrived in Somoto at 12:30pm. Elder Santizo and Elder Simpson were in the Church waiting for us. Cristin arrived shortly after so Sister Bell gave her her first piano lesson. Afterward I talked with her about YW (she is the new YW president) while Sister Bell gave Elder Santizo a piano lesson.

One of the frustrating things about Somoto is that they are always very late to everything. Church was supposed to begin at 2pm, but didn’t start until 2:40. Even the missionaries show up late. It is very frustrating to me. However, the highlight of the Somoto Branch meeting today was when Hermana Celia taught the RS lesson. She is the 40-year-old daughter of the RS President and serves as the RS Secretary. She is extremely timid, doesn’t smile a lot and doesn’t look people in the eye. She appears to me to have been treated badly for most of her life. So I was extremely happy when she accepted the assignment to teach RS. She was well prepared and taught a wonderful lesson. She showed pictures in the lesson manual, had others read portions of the lesson, and asked questions. I was very proud of her and she seemed to be very proud of herself as well. She wants to teach again next week in order to finish teaching all of the material in the lesson.

Another side note; during Church in Somoto, the community had a parade that went right in front of our little chapel. There were a lot of horses, but also bands and loud speakers with music, which was very disturbing to our meetings. Some of the people have beautiful horses in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of the parade because we were in Church, where we were supposed to be.

We arrived home at 9pm and were in bed by 9:30pm. We are getting too old for this ….. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016 to Sunday, November 20, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

We started the day with our office meeting with the President, Sister Poncio, the assistants and sister trainers and all the office staff. We primarily review the week’s schedule and discuss any issues we might have. It was a short meeting this morning.

Sister Bell then gave Yoselyn Poncio another lesson. She is doing really well. Then we went back to the office for lunch (the mission buys lunch for all the office staff on Monday). Then we ran home to take the laundry off the line (Sister Bell put a load of wash in the washing machine this morning and hung them up before we left). Then we went shopping for Drugs… that sounds pretty bad but we have a missionary who has severe stomach problems so the Church Doctors (in Guatemala and in the States) developed a treatment plan. It is a little complicated so we decided to get all the medicines here and take it to him tomorrow. He is in Chinandega, about 2.5 north west from Managua. It took us awhile to find the medicine, but we finally got it all. We did a little shopping on our way home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What a day this has been. We left this morning for El Viejo, which is a few kilometers north of Chinandega, to give our sick missionary the medicine and make sure he understands how to take the medicine. We got there about 11 am. The whole zone was there so it was good to see Elder Scaggs, Elder Mendez and others that we have worked with these past several months. I was able to update them on what is happening in Somoto and Condega. They were excited and disappointed when we talked about those that were still going strong in the gospel and those who are not. We then went to Chinandega to find a place to give a Hepatitis vaccine to one of our Brazilian missionaries. We headed for the AMOSCA Hospital in the middle of Chinandega. We ended up driving down one of their market streets. People had set up their markets on either side of the street. There was barely enough room to drive down the street. But we finally made it to the hospital. We met Dr. Lara, who has been instrumental in getting AMOSCA to accept our insurance again, after not accepting our insurance for more than half a year. However, he couldn’t help us with the vaccine but told us to go to the local center of health. We didn’t know where that was but we found a bicycle taxi outside the hospital and the driver knew where it was. So we hired him to take us there. We got in the front and he started pedaling. It was really enjoyable, but he had to work hard with us two old and fat people. We went to one Center of Health office but they couldn’t help us, so we went to a second and they could. So we got the information we needed and our driver pedaled us back to where we started. He was all sweaty when we got back. We gave him his money and a big tip for his efforts.

We then had to drive to El Realejo where our Brazilian missionary is stationed to give him the prescription and instructions. This was about 15 minutes west of town toward Corinto, which is on the coast (Pacific Ocean). We wanted to see the ocean so we drove to Corinto after we left El Realejo. The town is a port town so there is not a real developed beach front. It is old, dirty and not very appealing. We did find acouple of places to get to the beach and walked on the beach alittle. Sister Bell gathered a few shells. 

We then drove to Managua, stopped at our favorite Hamburger restaurant, then to the store to get groceries and then we went home at about 8pm. However, this was not all we did today. Sister Bell was on the phone with sick missionaries most of the day. We seem to be having a lot of missionaries with the flu. She even had to send one missionary to the hospital for an ear infection. I don’t know what we would do without cell phones.

While we have been driving, we have been listening to Elder Bruce and Marie Hafen’s book, “The Contrite Spirit.” It is a powerful book about the Atonement and the Temple. One chapter talks about missionary work, and makes the argument that the focus of missionary work should not only be to baptize people, but to get them to the Temple. Baptism is only a step toward that goal. I have been thinking a lot about our low activation rate and what we can do to help our converts stay in the Church. Helaman 15: 5-8 tells us why the Ammonites were so committed to the gospel. Helaman tells us that they were taught truth, they understood why their past ways were unrighteous and they studied and believed the scriptures which led them to faith and repentance. And it was through faith and repentance that made a mighty change in their hearts.  I have been thinking and reading a lot about the importance of real repentance before baptism. I think we get in too much of a hurry to baptize people, before they truly have repented and have felt the redeeming love of the Savior in their lives. If they had an Ammonite experience before they were baptized, they would be better committed after baptism. I also agree with Elder Hafen that the ultimate goal should be to lead our converts to the temple. This is not an easy task, because we don’t have a temple in Nicaragua and the people are so poor that going to Honduras or Costa Rica is financially improbable. And yet, miracles will happen if people truly focus on the temple.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

After such a day yesterday, we decided to work from home today. Sister Bell had a tutoring session with Whitney Allen at 10:15 anyway, so we each spent the day in our studies. Sister Bell worked on Spanish, charting and talking to sick missionaries. I prepared for a YW training in Somoto this week-end, found several talks from Conference that can help the missionaries in Condega and Somoto, tried to find a missionary that may know the attorney that married Noe and Suyapa in Condega, updated the missionary housing spreadsheet, and a few other odds and ends. We stayed in our casual clothes all day. It was quite peaceful.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

We spent the morning in the office and the afternoon running errands. We ate dinner at the Helbergs home. They live in a gated community next to the Galeria shopping mall. It is very nice. The bonus is that they have air conditioning in their living room, something I wish we had. We played 5 Crowns…. I lost miserably.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Anelca, one of Betty Castro assistants, came into the office today. She was sick with pneumonia. It was about lunch time so we offered to take her home with us and feed her lunch. She was very appreciative of this. So while we fixed lunch she sat on the couch, with her feet up, relaxing a bit. She almost went to sleep. We probably should have taken a few more minutes fixing lunch and she could have had a short nap. We tried talking her into going home, but she said she had too much to do. So after lunch, we took her to Betty’s home where she has a small office. Their office is across town, near the Walmart. At least she didn’t have to take a bus. She told us that she and her 10-year-old daughter are going to her Aunt’s house in Costa Rica for a week. She will get a much needed rest break there.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

We started today in Trinidad, teaching piano to Carelys and Maria Clara. We have developed a great love for these girls. They are very patient with Sister Bells limited Spanish.  They always begin and end their lessons with prayer.  The Spirit is a wonderful teacher and prayer invites Him to come to the lesson.  If Hermana Bell forgets the prayer, the girls lovingly remind her.  That tells you what kind of young ladies these girls are.

We then went to Ocotal, after having lunch in Esteli at Burger King. We went put a dust strip around a door in one of the Hermana’s house, who gets congestion when there is a lot of dust and sealing the door, hopefully will reduce the amount of dust in the house. Her companion wanted chocolate, so we took them Hershey candy bars. When we got there, they were going to a baptism, so we took them there. They have their baptisms at a public swimming pool. When we got there, we saw Elder Packard and Elder Hodges. They are companions, one being the country for about 2 weeks and the other about 5 weeks. It wasn’t planned that way, their trainers all got sent home early for various reasons, so the President put them together. They seem to be doing find, learning to be missionaries together.

We then went to Somoto for the Noche de Hermanimiento and Elder Santizos birthday party. We had gotten a chocolate cake at PriceSmart on Friday with funny birthday glasses, balloons and candles. The kids had a fun time with the balloons and glasses and everyone devoured the cake. 
Elder Santizo showed a video about living above the world. Elder Baez also talked and Elder Nelson bore his testimony. Sister Bell said this about Elder Nelsons testimony, “He poured his heart out”. He has a strong testimony that touched Sister Bell’s heart (and mine). While the other missionaries were singing and playing with the members, Elder Simpson was helping Sister Bell get the refreshments ready. He is a good missionary, who told me he is adjusting to missionary life well, he loves his mission and is doing better with the language than he thought he would. When Sister Bell had 20 candles lit on the cake, we took it out and everyone began singing “Las Mananitas”. Steve taught us this song before the mission. The boys got cake all over Elder Santizo.

I am realizing that many of the Latinos don’t understand me. I tried explaining a few things to Hermana Natalia, the RS President. I asked her if she understood and she politely said she did, but I could tell she didn’t. So I tried explaining the same things to Hermana Zaida, the 1st counselor. I asked her if she understood and she sheepishly looked and me and said no. Oh well, hopefully, I will be talking more like a native before we go home….

Sunday, November 20, 2016

We attended our first meeting in Pueblo Nuevo. Elder Esquival and Chinchilla asked me last night to talk for 10 minutes on a subject of my choosing. I have been thinking a lot lately about repentance, tithing and the temple. Last night, my focus and research and preparation was about tithing. In order for PN to become a branch, they need at least three Melchezedik Priesthood holders that are worthy and the worthiness issue that is affecting them the most is tithing. But this morning, when I woke up, I felt strongly that I should talk about the temple…. So I did. I first told about our experience losing LaVoy and how the temple sealing gave us great comfort. I also related my experience of entering the Celestial Room in the Los Angeles temple when I got my own endowments and being met by my parents, family and friends. It was a little taste of what the Celestial Kingdom will be like, being there with our families. I encouraged them to set a goal to go to the temple. I wasn’t sure why I was impressed to talk about the temple until during SS when an older sister, who is a member of another branch told how she lost a son to death. I realized why I was impressed to talk about this subject. Temple ordinances are a comfort to her.

We then went to Somoto. We arrived early to give Cristin her first piano lesson, but she didn’t bring her father’s key (she is the branch Presidents daughter) to the Church so we sat in the car and talked about Young Women. She is being sustained today as the new (and first) young woman’s president in the Somoto Branch. I brought her copies of the YW handbook, lesson outlines, For the Strength of Youth, Personal Progress books and various other YW materials. Finally, the key came but we never did give her a piano lesson. We will try again next week.

I was very proud of Sister Bell. She led the discussion in the RS class after showing Sister Oscarson’s talk from General Conference. Sister Bell asked several questions that generated a lot of discussion. I was truly amazed that she was willing to do this and did such a good job of asking questions and responding to answers.

We arrived home about 9:30pm, tired and ready for bed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday, November 8, 2016 to Sunday, November 13, 2016

Monday, November 8, 2016

When we were out walking this morning, we came across this mural on a wall….
The writing means, “one only sees well with the heart. The essentials are invisible with the eyes.”

We love our guards. They are really good friends and do maintenance work around our little compound.

David is on the left and Salvador on the right. Salvador is David’s uncle. Both are reading the Book of Mormon and visiting with the Missionaries. I think David is a little more serious than is Salvador, although we originally thought Salvador would be more interested as he lost his wife a couple of years ago. They both like to do extra things for us, because we pay them for it. They wash our car a couple times a week. We pay $C150 (about $5.00) to wash the outside and little more to do the inside and outside. We trust them both implicitly.

Another interesting thing we see in Nicaragua is ball moss growing on the powerlines. Ball moss is a bromeliad, an air plant. It is actually a flowering plant, not a true moss or grass. If the seed lands on the power line, it will grow on the power lines. It gets nourishment from the air, and water from the humidity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

We spent the morning at home, studying. Sister Bell had a tutoring session with Whitney Allen in late morning, then we had lunch and ran errands. I needed a new watch battery and then we shopped for pie ingredients in preparation for Thanksgiving. We went to the Lees tonight for dinner and games… the Helbergs came as well. They are adjusting to missionary life in Nicaragua.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We held a new missionary training today. Sister Bell made her Umbrella of Comfort presentation. Elder Santizo and Elder Simpson took things out of her purse and she talked about how they helped her deal with life in Nicaragua. Our hope is that they would put some things in their backpacks that could add comfort to their missionary stay.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We left Managua about 8:30 this morning and drove to Somoto. Our purpose was the help the new RS Presidency hold their first presidency meeting. Only Elder Santizo and Elder Simpson were at the Church when we arrived in Somoto. So we drove to Hermana Natalia’s (RS President) home, looking for her walking along the way. When we got to her house, her daughter, Celia said she had already left. Celia, who is the secretary should have been with her, but she said she couldn’t leave because she was taking care of children. So we drove back to the Church. We also found out that Zaida, the 1st Counselor (and only counselor) wasn’t coming because she had been sick. So we loaded up Sister Natalia, her granddaughter who had come with her, and the Elders and drove to Zaidas house to hold the meeting there.

The meeting went well. We taught Natalia how to direct a meeting. We created an agenda together. Elder Santizo took notes. We had three agenda items. The first was a brief training on the RS, which I did, using the material in the Handbook. Then we talked about this week’s RS meeting and lesson. We will be showing another talk from the general Woman’s conference. Then we talked about visiting. They got excited talking about planning a RS activity and also when we went over the RS list. I think they appreciated our help and they have a better idea of what their callings are.

We then headed for Ocotal to work with Sister Hernandez and Sister Silva. Sister Hernandez has been sick, so we wanted to check on her. We took them to dinner then we went visiting. They taught two lessons in the street, one informal and the other a formal lesson about the restoration. We went by several other houses but no one was home. We thoroughly enjoyed helping teach the gospel.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sister Bell taught Carelys and Maria Clara piano lessons this morning in Trinidad. Then we headed for Condega stopping first in Esteli to buy a speaker system for our computer. We grabbed a chicken sandwich at Tip/Top and drove to Condega.

We met Elder Spence and Elder Sanchez. Our purpose was to visit some of the potential priesthood holders to teach and encourage. Unfortunately, we either didn’t find them home or other issues prevailed in our conversations. We visited Edgar, who was baptized about 4 months ago. He has been pretty faithful, but was in a motorcycle accident about a month ago and is slowing recuperating. Elder Spence told us that he was drunk when he was hit by a truck. We have had several of our potential Priesthood holders “fall off the wagon” lately, two in Condega and one in Pueblo Nuevo. Drinking is a major problem here.

We did have a good visit with Noe and Suyapa, our teachers for Priesthood and RS. They found out recently that the lawyer who performed their marriage four years ago, didn’t complete the process. So the Elders have been helping them. They need to find the lawyer who married them, but they don’t know who it was.  So we devised a plan to find the attorney…. More of this in tomorrow’s journal entry.

We then went to Pueblo Nuevo for another Priesthood Preparation Class. We missed Javier, who “fell off the wagon” a couple of weeks ago. But we had three there. We talked about the keys of the priesthood.

We then headed for Esteli and arrived just in time to take Hermana Fackrell and Largaespada to the other sisters’ house. They discovered that their own apartment is full of mold. Even some of the clothes that were in their suitcases were moldy. Sister Poncio approved a new apartment, but they can’t move into it until Monday. So they washed clothes at the Koellikers home and moved in with the other Sisters. We will be bringing them 2 new beds, a wardrobe and new fans, all because their old items were full of mold. 

Sister Bell had to chart the medical calls she received today, and I was asleep before she came to bed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

We were up at 5:30 am to drive to Condega to pick up Noe and Suyapa and drive back to Esteli to attend the Esteli Branch. Our goal was to talk to some of the witnesses to their marriage in order to find the name of the attorney. They did find a witness but he didn’t know the name of the attorney either. We talked to the Second Counselor in the District Presidency. Noe explained the situation. The counselor assured them that they were married and gave them the name of an attorney from Matagalpa who did a lot of marriages during that time frame. We looked him up in the church membership system, found a man by that name and sent him an email. Hopefully, he will respond. But the fact that they are legally married was wonderful news. They can continue to serve in the Church. They are really needed. They still need to work toward getting the final documentation of their marriage and are doing so.

On our way back to Condega we stopped and walked across a suspension bridge. It had a few boards missing and it rocked back and forth really bad. 

We had a peaceful picnic lunch on the side of the highway outside of Somoto. We got to the church at 1pm to give Cristin, the Branch Presidents daughter her first piano lesson. We waited, and waited and waited. She and her dad finally arrived a few minutes before 2pm. She had forgotten. Church was supposed to start at 2, but of course no one was there, including the missionaries. We started about 2:30. So we gave Cristin a crash course in leading the music. She led the music for Sacrament Meeting and RS. She got the basic pattern down, but rarely started the first beat in the measure with the down stroke. But we were proud of her anyway.

There were about 30 people in attendance, at least at the end of the meeting. Elder Baez, Elder Simpson and President Alaniz all talked. Elder Simpson's spanish is improving for a new missionary. He also blessed the sacrament with Elder Nelson. Elder Santizo, gave the Gospel Principles lesson. He is a very fun and animated Elder. Everyone had a good time and learned about the principle of work. Then we split for RS and Priesthood. Elder Simpson gave the Priesthood lesson, and Sister Bell showed one of the talks from the General RS meeting. President Natalia, directed the meeting, using the handout we provided her. The sisters seemed to really catch the spirit of RS and the talk by Sister Stephens of the General RS Presidency was well recieved.  They had lots of comments about the talk, most of which we didn't understand.  The sisters really sang with enthusiasm the closing song with Sister Bell playing the keyboard and Cristin leading the music. It brought a big smile to my face as they sang with great emotion, but not quite on tune.

We helped President Alaniz set apart Sister Zaida as a counselor in the RS, then left for home. We did get stopped by the police about 30 minutes from home, for crossing a solid line when passing a slow truck. I explained that when I started to pass, the line was not solid, but was solid at the end of my pass. He was going to give me a ticket (and take my license) but I kept talking, explaining who we were, where we had been and that we were sorry. He discussed this with his supervisor and the supervisor let us go, after telling us to be careful and writing my name down on a paper. We got home about 9:30 pm, tired and ready for bed (and glad I didn’t have to pay $C800 and take another day to get my license back). 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

MOnday, October 31 to November 6, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween… there are a few stores here that sell Halloween stuff. David, our guard, said that Halloween is a day of parties, but we didn’t see evidence of this. The sisters brought treats for everyone and Hermana Poncio shared a ginger bread house with everyone in the office, so we did have a little flavor of the holiday.  We attended the office meeting, talked to a few sick missionaries, went to the store, bank and distribution center, did laundry (Actually Sister Bell did the laundry, but I did help her hang clothes on the line), fold and iron clothes (again Sister Bell did this) and talked to Becky and Steve.  

It was pure delight of seeing Steve’s children dressed up like Peter Pan characters.  Avery was Tiger Lily, Heidi was Wendy, Dutch was Peter Pan and Nora was a mermaid from the lagoon.  Ginger had created the costumes and they were adorable.  It was fun to see the grandchildren and what they wore for Halloween mostly on Facebook.  Isa looked adorable as Mini Mouse.   Becky’s children were adorable as a kitty and a little pony.  The Dynamite trio, a troll, and paw patrol came from Paul’s family.  Synnova and Henry were magneto and quicksilver.  Holidays are when we miss the grandchildren the most.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

We picked up the mission call for Raudy Padilla, who is from Puerto Cabeza. The missionary packets come to the Church’s Management Group office here in Managua, where we pick them up and then deliver them to the missionary. They could be in any part of the mission. We usually get them to the local missionaries who then deliver them to the candidate. Today, we picked up Raudy’s missionary packet and took it to the Leaders training. which was going on today at the Waspan Chapel, here in Managua.  We gave it to the Zone Leaders for Puerto Cabeza, who will deliver it to the missionaries in Raudy’s branch, who will give it to him. ( We learned later that Raudy is going to Honduras in early December). This is not an easy way to deliver mail, but the fastest and safest. Then we went to Los Laureles, another suburb in Managua to look at a missionary’s toe, but they were not at home. So we went to PriceSmart for lunch (hot dog and fries) and did some more shopping. It seems we go to PriceSmart about every week, sometimes for us and sometimes for the Koellikers. Today it was for us.

Tonight we hosted dinner and game night with the Lees and a new couple from the South Mission, Elder Ray and Hermana Anna Helbert from Southern California. They arrived last Friday. I gave them directions to our house, but they made two wrong turns and were headed toward Masaya. So we got them turned around and guided them to our house. They are a delightful couple. She is a native of El Salvador but has been in the States for 40 years. She is a convert of about 20 years. They told us their conversion story, which was very uplifting to hear. We ate Spaghetti and played 5 Crowns…. I won but not by much.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We met with a missionary at the Villa Flor chapel to check his ingrown toenail. Sister Bell decided he needed to have it worked on by a doctor. So he went to the hospital after lunch and we met them there. He had his toe nail fixed and we took him back home. I also got a haircut. I tried a new barber today. I have tried several since I have been here but none cut my hair like my barber back home. They have a hard time with my cowlick. I don’t know how Ron (my barber at home) did it but he could cut my hair in such a way that my cowlick stayed down. But the barbers here can’t do it. So I tried another. He couldn’t do it either, but I did like him better than the last one I tried.  (From Michelle – I think it is the humidity.  It not only sticks up, but when gets longer it goes in a little curl on the top of his head.  It is pretty cute and funny, but Scott is not amused.)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

This morning I prayed that I would see Heavenly Fathers hand in our mission and I saw it tonight. We went to PriceSmart this evening to pick up some things for the Koellikers. We were going to go north on Saturday and come home on Sunday. However, we have been warned from several people that Sunday is not a good day to be out traveling because it is election day. Apparently, the opposition gets upset on Election Day after losing. The Mission President has set a curfew for the missionaries for this week and next week… that is to be in our homes by 7:30pm. We had our weekend schedule all worked out to stay in Esteli on Saturday night, being at the Koellikers by 7:30pm; staying again on Sunday night and driving home on Monday. However today, Elder Lee got a call from the missionaries in Ciudad Dario, warning the Lees not to come to Dario on Sunday (he is the Branch President) because of potential unrest. Elder Lee called President Poncio and he was instructed to stay home on Sunday. Elder Lee asked about us and we got the same instructions. Well, I had the week-end all outlined and needed to do a few things in Somoto, Condega and Pueblo Nuevo. Therefore, we moved our trip up a day. So we are leaving on Friday and coming back on Saturday. Therefore, we went to PriceSmart to get a few groceries for the Koellikers.

Well, back to my story. On our way home from PriceSmart, we have to go around a roundabout. We are seeing more roundabouts in the US, they are circles in the middle of the street and you have to go around it, allowing other cars to merge in as there is room. There are many here, particularly at the major intersections. Well, we were turning left at this roundabout, which means we have to go three quarters around the roundabout that then turn right. I was in the inside lane, which is where I needed to be and had to cross two lanes (there are three lanes at this roundabout) to make my turn. The cars coming the other direction should wait until I cross the lanes and enter the side street. So all was going well until I began to cross the other lanes. The cars coming the other direction began to come into the roundabout as if they didn’t see me. I missed the first car by breaking, but the second car was also coming fast. I moved to miss it and then there was a bus in the outside lane. I barely missed it and finally made my way into the side street. It was a miracle that we missed hitting any of the cars and not being hit ourselves.  Well, I asked to see the hand of the Lord today…. And I sure saw it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

We spent 4 hours processing tithing in Somoto this afternoon. There were 25 donations from June through October. The missionaries were all there helping. Elder Simpson opened the envelopes with President Alaniz, Elder Baez inputted the information into a spreadsheet on my computer (they don’t have their own computer yet, nor the internet, so they couldn’t input directly into MLS), Elder Santizo helped with this and Elder Nelson supervised. Even with all this help, it took 2.5 hours to process the donations. This was a learning experience and next time they have to count tithing, it should be a quick affair. 

After that, President Alaniz, Sister Bell and I went to the bank to deposit the money. We waited in line for over an hour just to find out that this account was at another bank. They sent us to another bank. The first bank did call ahead and explain that we had waited for an hour so the second bank agreed to let us get in the front of the line. When we got there, they let us cut in. But when we got to the teller, we were told that this was not the right bank either. At this point, I called my church contact in Managua who explained that there has been a change in the ownership of the banks and neither one was the right bank. The closest bank is now in Ocotal, 30 km from Somoto. Someone will have to make the trip to Ocotal weekly to deposit the money. I now have the money and will deposit it in Esteli in the morning.

One our way to Pueblo Nuevo from Somoto, we passed a basket maker on the side of the road. He was making baskets out of bamboos and selling them for harvesting coffee beans. We bought one for $60 Cords, which is about $2.00. We are not using it for harvesting coffee but for putting our walking shoes into it.

We see rice and bean drying pads all over the north. They are large cement pads where they spread the beans/rice to dry. They turn the rice/beans with hand scrappers, then shovel into bags when dry. It is all done manually.

We had another Priesthood Preparation class in Pueblo Nuevo. We had 4 members, three that have come for several weeks and a new convert, plus the missionaries, Elder Esquivel and Elder Chinchilla. So we had a review and then talked about magnifying our callings. There was a sweet spirit there. I find that I can communicate pretty well when I am teaching. I still struggle to understand all that they are saying, but I do get the general idea. I am waiting for the day, when I realize that I can understand all that is being said and can say anything that I want to say. Hopefully, that comes before we go home in 16 months.

We stayed with the Koellikers, arriving about 7:30pm. Sister Koelliker had cooked a Lasagna dinner…. Fabulous.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

We slept very well, which we always do in Esteli. The extra bed is soft and it is cooler. We stopped at the bank this morning and deposited the money from Somoto. I feel much better not having this money on my person. Then we went to Trinidad. Sister Bell taught Carelys and Maria Clara another piano lesson. She reports that they are catching on very well. I visited with President Cruz (their father and branch President) and Luis (his first Counselor). The branch is moving forward, but they are disappointed that there are no men joining the Church, just a lot of women and children. I found out today, that they now have a primary. They are moving forward.

We make a quick stop in Ciudad Dario on our way home to pick up the Church’s computer and printer. Apparently they are not working properly. The drive today was uneventful. It was nice to be driving in the daylight and not be in a hurry to get someplace. The Malinche trees are in full bloom with huge bright orange blossoms. They are beautiful.

Sister Bell sent a missionary to the Doctor with an eye problem. Initially, she was going to treat it differently but asked the missionary to send her a picture. When she saw it she changed her mind and sent him to the doctor. The doctor reported that it was an eye infection in the early stages and said if they had waited longer, it could have been much worse. Another good call, Sister Bell.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

We went to the La Catroce Ward this morning at 8am. Sister Staker and Sister Jimenez are the missionaries in that ward. We enjoyed the meeting and we both bore our testimonies. Sister Bell bore her testimony without notes. She did very well. I talked mostly about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Sister Bell and I had been listening to the Mormon Channel while we traveled this week and listened to a program about the Prophet Joseph. I also read Elder Craig C. Christensen’s General Conference address about the Prophet Joseph. Therefore, the prophet Joseph was on my mind. In my testimony, I referred to this quote by Brigham Young. “It was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people and receive the fullness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him…. For he was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation.” Of course, I read it in Spanish. 

We then went to the Gospel Principles class. The lesson, which was taught by the Ward Mission Leader, was about fasting. We then went to the Villa Venezuela Ward, which met at the Villa Flor building a short distance away. We had been to this ward about a month ago. Sister Ruiz and Sister Pehrson are the missionaries in this ward. Sister Bell volunteered to play the piano, as there was no one there who could play. We also bore our testimonies. Again, Sister Bell did it without notes. We then attended the Gospel Principles class, which was on Chastity. Sister Ruiz taught it. There were two others in the class beside us missionaries, one was a male investigator and the other was a young man ward member. I thought Sister Ruiz dealt with this topic very well. I contributed quite a bit, talking about why Sexual Purity is so important. The young man seemed to understand and accepted this principle very well.

While we were at Villa Flor, we also saw Hermana Baquedano and Hermana Lord and Elder Martell and Elder Pineda. They always seem excited to see us and we them. They all seem to be doing well.

For dinner we tried a new vegetable, Chayote. It is like a squash. We got it from the Koellikers, who received several from a local family in Esteli. They gave us one to try. We asked our guard how to cook it and he told us to cook it in water and add cheese on top. So we did…. It was very delicious.

We topped dinner off with a Chocolate Mochi Mug Cake with Strawberry ice cream (I put the ice cream on after I took this picture). 

We have been finding, trying and sending out recipes that the missionaries can make in a microwave. This is part of our health education. The missionaries have a 2 burner stove and a microwave to cook on. So we have sent them recipes that are easy and good so they will begin to eat better. We stopped sending this out a month ago, thinking that the missionaries are not using them, but we started getting complaints so we have started up again. Along with this recipe, we sent out an information sheet about upper respiratory infections. We believe this education is helping as the number of missionaries calling Sister Bell have gone down since we first came, from about 25 a week to about 10-12 a week.