Monday, December 19, 2016
We had our mission Christmas Party today at the Hilton Hotel. All of the missionaries came except for the 20 missionaries in Puerto Cabeza. The President is going there after Christmas for a Christmas Party with them. We had a wonderful time. We first took pictures of each companionship, ate breakfast (catered by the hotel), watched a movie (Captain America – Civil War), ate lunch (again catered by the hotel) and ended with a talent show. What a day.
The missionaries really got into the talent show. We had singing, dancing, and even some rapping. The Latinos really like to party. Sister Bell played a melody of Christmas numbers. It was one of the few quiet performances, but the missionaries were very respectful. The Senior Missionaries also conducted the 12 days of Christmas. We split all the missionaries into 9 groups, then organized 1 group for the leader missionaries, 1 for the Poncios and another by the Senior missionaries, for a total of 12 groups. Each group took a verse. Once they understood the song (the Latinos didn’t know the song but quickly learned), they really got into it and had a lot of fun with it. By the time we got to the end, the groups ended up having a chanting contest, with each verse/group trying to out chant the others. We lost control of the whole song in the last verse. The MC, Elder Vega, had to step in and get control again so we could finish the last verse. It was a lot of fun.
At the end of the party, The Poncios gave each companionship a fruit basket.
After the party, the Lees, Koellikers and us went to El Zocalo for dinner. What a day.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Happy Anniversary to Mom and Dad Bell.
We held a training for the new missionaries, those who were still in training. The missionaries are in training for 12 weeks (2 changes) after they arrive. We have two trainings for them and their companions during this 12-week period. Today Sister Bell taught the new missionaries about how to eat a good breakfast under $C50 (about $1.50). Sister Bell showed a PowerPoint showing examples of inexpensive breakfasts. We then sang a new version of the 12 days of Christmas using breakfast foods for the 12 gifts, such as 3 Gallo Pinto or 2 huevos fritos. After learning the song the day before, the missionaries really got into the song quickly. They loved it.
We then settled into watching the rest of the training, when a missionary showed Sister Bell his knee and ankle. He had severely injured them the night before when he tried to do some acrobatics. So we ended taking him to the hospital to get it checked out. He ended up with only sprains, but that took the rest of the morning and up until mid-day.
We hosted the Lee’s and Helbergs for dinner (Homemade chicken noodle soup, salad, rolls, ice cream and cookies). The Koellikers were also in town and joined us. But they had to leave early and the Lee’s went with them so they both left right after dinner. So the Helbergs and us watched White Christmas. It was a nice evening together.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
We had our office meeting today. We usually have it on Monday, but we had the Christmas Party on Monday and the new missionary training yesterday so we had to postpone the office meeting until today. We got a sneak peek at Januarys schedule (zone conference, new missionary training, changes, new missionaries). It will be a busy month. We had an opportunity to review the mission’s medical statistics since we came to the mission with President and Sister Poncio. The greatest number of illnesses was stomach problems, with infectious diseases number two. However, the overall number of sick missionaries went down from almost 120 calls the first month (May) to 72 this past month (November). We hope that our education efforts are making a difference. President and Sister Poncio are very appreciative of our efforts.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
We went with the Lee’s to make a post office run. They have to go to three different post offices to pick up mail. They are not sure why because all of the letters and packages are addressed the same way. Well, we are in Nicaragua. On our way to the main post office, we drove by an area where there were about 40 large manger scenes. Here is a sample.
Friday, December 23, 2016
Today we made a Santa Run. We delivered a Christmas Present to a new Elder from the Dominican Republic. He comes from a poor family and hadn’t received a Christmas package. His companion, said he would love a nice set of scriptures (his were an inexpensive, investigator type scriptures), so we bought a nice set and took it to him in Matagalpa, 134 km north of Managua. He was really excited to get a package. We told him he couldn’t open it until Christmas, which is celebrated on the 24th here. He was disappointed at that because he wanted to open it immediately, but he agreed to wait. (We got a call very early on the 24th thanking us for the scriptures. He was really excited and grateful. He apparently couldn’t wait any longer so he opened it as soon as he woke up). Then we went to Jinotega 34 km north of Matagalpa to pick up a cedula (Nicaraguan residence card) from a missionary who is going home next month. Then we drove to Somoto, 133 km northwest of Jinotega, stopping briefly in Condega to give bagels and jam to Elder Spence and Elder Sanchez. We also dropped off a large print triple combination for Virginia, a recent convert who can’t see the print in the regular size scriptures. She already had a large print Bible but needed a triple in large print. In Somoto, we dropped off more bagels and jam for the missionaries, dropped off some Christmas packages and mail for the missionaries in the Ocotal Zone and signed some checks so that the branch could have their Christmas party on the 24th. These were the first checks used in the Somoto Branch so I reviewed with President Alaniz and the missionaries how to fill out a check, the need for receipts and how to document the transaction. Each check requires two signatures and in Somoto only President Alaniz and I are authorized to sign checks, thus one of the reasons for our trip north today (Checks are not used much in Nicaragua. Several of the vendors don’t accept them. So in those cases, the Branch Presidents fills out a check, goes to the bank and cashes it and then gives the money to the vendor. Things are not always easy here). We also talked about the proper use of the branch computer and I left the computer with them. We then dropped off more bagels and jam in Pueblo Nuevo and Trinidad on our way home. We got home about 9:30pm after a 13.5-hour day, driving about 550 km (340 miles) and making 6 Santa stops. Ho Ho Ho…. Merry Christmas
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Today is the day that the Nicaraguans celebrate Christmas with parties, presents, dinners and fireworks. We celebrated it in quiet fashion at home. I even took a nap. We watched a couple of movies and made some chocolate chip cookies for the office Elders. We skyped with Roxanne and Grandpa and then in the evening we read the Christmas Story and sang a few Christmas songs together. It was a pretty poor concert, but since we were the singers and the audience, we didn’t care how it sounded.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Merry Christmas…. President Hinckley said, “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.” Sister Bell and I love the Savior and thus we are in Nicaragua serving Him. He is my personal redeemer. I learned that very early in life, when as a teenager, I experienced the joy that comes from repentance and being forgiven because of the redemptive power of the atonement. I only hope and pray that each member of our family (and each missionary and member of the Church) will gain a personal testimony of the redemptive power of the atonement. That knowledge is so critical in today’s world. Without it, it will be difficult to stay committed to our covenants.
We went to the Ruben Dario Ward this morning. When they found out that Sister Bell plays the piano, they asked her to play during the meeting. The C note on the keyboard made a funny sound, so she tried to not play that note. Elder Charette lead the music. It was also good to see the other missionaries, Elder Medeiro (who is from Montevideo, Uruguay; my old mission), Elder Galo and Elder Hamson. The members treated us like royalty.
We got home in time to Skype with Kim, Dan, Synnova and Henry who are having a wonderful time touring through Europe. They were in Prague, Czech Republic. We then visited with Becky, Paul, Steve and eventually John and all of their families. We love our family and are proud of each of them. Not only of what they are accomplishing, but more importantly, who they are becoming. It really felt like Santa had come after talking with our precious family.
This evening we hosted a dinner for some of the Sister Missionaries: Sister Willes (Utah), Sister Zafra (Virginia), Sister Martinez (Guatemala) and Sister Paulino (Dominican Republic). It was a delightful evening. We talked about their experiences as missionaries, Christmas traditions and sang a few Christmas songs. They sounded a whole lot better than our duet last night. We feed them ham, au gratin potatoes, corn, salad, apple pie and ice cream. Our neighbor had given us a citrus custard desert which we shared with the Sisters (but after we tasted it and found out how good it was, I wished we had hogged it all for ourselves).