Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017 to Sunday, January 29, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Quiet day…. I began printing branch/group lists for Trinidad, Somoto, Pueblo Nuevo and Condega. I started with Trinidad. The membership list has 20 members. However, I found 13 more in the Esteli Branch (Trinidad used to be part of the Esteli Branch) and another one in the El Centro Branch (another branch in Esteli). One of the problems we have in Nicaragua is that the records of the church don’t get updated very often. I will need to work with the Branch President and the District Secretary to get these changed.

We had dinner at the Helbergs with Sister Lee’s parents. They flew in last week to spend a few days with them. Sister Lee’s dad is 92 and her mother is 89 years old. We enjoyed visiting with them and had a wonderful dinner. We really enjoy our association with the other senior couples.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

We had a new missionary training today in Waspan. Sister Bell did her “Items for comfort” presentation. She had Elder Simpson and Elder Tax from Somoto come up and go through her purse. She then explained why she had each item in her purse; items such as lip balm, water, Kleenex, handy wipes, etc. Then we sang “8 vasas al dia” …. A missionary favorite.

We went back to the bank on our way home. We had stopped yesterday to get our monthly living money ($1000 sent from our bank in the US to a local bank in Managua). When we left the bank, I had an uneasy feeling. On our way home, I had sister Bell count the money, we had C$4000 more than what I thought we should have had. This morning, I looked closer at the receipt and counted the money again and realized that we did have more money than we should have had. So we went back this afternoon and talked to the teller. We have used this teller for several trips to the bank. She speaks a little English and has been very helpful. We explained that we think we got more money than we should have, which surprised her because her account balanced out last night. But after 45 minutes of checking, having the manager check, they sorted it out and gave us our money, less the C$4000. We hope our little teller will not be fired.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We went to Esteli with the Lees to attend a Worldwide Missionary Broadcast with the Missionary Committee of the Church. The Koellikers joined us as well.
The General Missionary Committee consists of Elder Oaks, Bednar, Anderson of the quorum of the twelve Apostles, Sister Oscarson, Bishop Waddell, Elder Neilson, and Elder Andersen. They discussed, among many things, the importance of repentance in the conversion process, don’t baptize someone until they are ready and that baptism is only the beginning ordinance necessary for exaltation. Elder Bednar said that we cannot force the spirit into someone. We can bring the spirit into the room, but only the investigator can open themselves up to feeling the spirit.  These are things that I have been thinking about lately as well. It always amazes me how the spirit teaches me principles and then I hear these same principles taught by the Brethren.

They also made a few changes to the missionary schedule. Now our missionaries will come in ½ hour earlier; at 9pm instead of 9:30pm. They still will eat dinner after work, but before, many were not eating dinner until 10pm or later. Most were just eating snacks on the street and not having a balanced dinner. Sister Bell likes this better than before, but would still like the missionaries to eat earlier in the evening.

Afterward, President Poncio outlined his vision for the Esteli District. He envisions 3 Districts; Ocotal, Esteli and Sebaco. He would like us to work in the Ocotal District (not yet formed), the Koellikers to work in the Esteli District and the Lees to work in the Sebaco District (not yet formed). Our work is to continue doing what we have been; preparing Priesthood Holders, mentoring leaders, assisting missionaries, preparing members to go to the temple and updating records. Our area would include Ocotal, Somoto, Pueblo Nuevo and Jalapa. We are working now in Somoto and Pueblo Nuevo. We have attended Church occasionally in Ocotal and provided some mentoring there. We have not been to Jalapa which is about 2.5 hours north of Ocotal, very close to the Honduran border. President Poncio would like us to finish with the Temple Prep classes and piano classes in Trinidad. The Koellikers will begin to visit Condega once a week. We are not sure what we will continue to do in Condega, especially after we finish the Temple Prep classes with Noe and Suyapa. This whole area needs to grow more to create new districts and to eventually become a Stake. We probably won’t see a Stake before we leave but we certainly could see another District before we leave.

Thursday, January 26, 2017
We took the car into Casa Pellas, the car dealer, to get serviced. We needed the front brakes replaced. The total bill was $366.00.

I continued working on creating branch/group lists for Condega, Pueblo Nuevo and Somoto. I found a lot of brethren whose priesthood ordinations had not been entered into the system, including Noe Ramirez from Condega whose records does not show any priesthood ordination. He is an Elder (or we thought he was). I texted back and forth with President Acevado, the District President. His research found the same thing. We may need to ordain him again at the upcoming District Conference in March. I will talk to Noe on Saturday; hopefully he will have some proof of his ordination. Otherwise, we will need to quickly ordain him to the AP so he can continue to help with the Sacrament. His son also turns 12 soon, and he will want to be able to ordain him. Noe and his wife are preparing to go to the temple, but that might have to be delayed until June.

Sister Bell worked on her weekly report. 

Friday, January 27, 2017
We went to Huembas, a local market here in Managua. It is very large with hundreds of small stores, packed into a large building. It gets very hot and Sister Bell gets a little claustrophobia if we are inside for very long. We needed to get my briefcase fixed, one of the seams is ripping. While one of the shoe repair people was sewing away on my briefcase, I had my shoes shined for C$30… about $1.00.

Saturday, January 28, 2017
We headed north, but got a call from Carelys telling us they won’t be home for piano lessons. So we went to Somoto to work with Elder Baez to begin to update the records in MLS. We finally had internet and electricity so we were expecting to get a lot done. But when we entered into the system, MLS wouldn’t let us make changes because it said we were not authorized. Again we were foiled in our efforts in Somoto.

We had a wonderful 5th lesson with Hermana Nubia in Pueblo Nuevo. Then went to Condega for a lesson with the Ramirez family, but they were not home. They had to work. So we went to dinner and then back to their house for the Noche de Hermanimiento. By this time, they had gotten home from work. The missionaries both gave brief messages and then we played a fun game. We all got in a circle. We had two ties, one with one knot and the second with two knots tied in it. We gave one person one of the ties and another person the second tie. The object was to untie and then tie knots in the ties and then pass the ties to the person next to you. They had to do the same. If the two ties ended up with the same person (the tie with one knot gets untied and tied faster) they lose. It was a lot of fun. 

After the Noche de Hermanimiento, we gave a second lesson (worthiness) to Noe and Suyapa Ramirez. They are very responsive to the teaching but have decided to wait until the June Temple excursion. This will also give us time to get his Priesthood Ordination fixed. We got to the Koellikers in Esteli about 9:30pm.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

We got to Somoto about 8:30am and picked up President Alaniz at his house and took him to the Church. While Sister Bell played the piano, President Alaniz and I talked about a lot of things; The Area Plan for 2017, how to interview and complete the recommend forms (he will need to do this for Hermana Nubia in Pueblo Nuevo and for himself), plans for SS, RS, Priesthood meetings, Priesthood ordinations, etc. We attended the branch meetings, which last about two hours. The Area Presidency sent a Video outlining their 2017 Plan for Central America and instructed each unit to show it during SS. However, Somoto had not done it. So I got out my computer and we showed part of it. One of the goals is getting more members to the temple. We stopped the video during this discussion so we would teach the members more about the temple and the ordinances of the temple. The members are so new that they don’t know much about the temple. So we taught them a little about it. After 2 hours, most of the members began to leave. They are only used to two hours of Church and staying for the third block is difficult for them. After everyone left we had an impromptu  branch counsel with President Alaniz, the missionaries and the RS Presidency, to discuss how we can hold all three meetings. We came up with a plan that over time should work. I felt bad for Celia, the RS president’s daughter, because she had prepared a RS lesson and wasn’t able to give it. 

As we were driving through Esteli, we got a call from the sister missionaries in Esteli. One had a severe cold and needed medicine. We had some cold medicine in the car, so we returned to Esteli and took her some medicine. They were very appreciative of our little act of kindness. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday, January 16 to January 22, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017
Our goal for today was to get a Cedula for one Sister missionary, get another to the hospital for eye surgery, find their new companions and get them settled for the night. We also needed to go shopping. What we didn’t expect was an emergency run to Ciudadela.

Things started out well. We arrived at Immigration about 8 am. There were about 30 missionaries, from both the North and South missions, waiting to get their cedulas. Fortunately, we had talked with Betty Castro about needing to process our sister missionary early so we could get to the hospital about 11 am for the other sister missionaries surgery. So Anelka, Betty's assistant got her processed first. We had her cedula by 10:15am. We were feeling pretty good.

Another bonus of today was that Sister Bell got to meet the new South Mission Nurse. She was there because her companion needed a cedula. Sister Bell and Sister Dick (who is from England) talked for a good hour. A tender mercy for both.

We got to the hospital in time. The surgery took about 10 minutes (laser surgery). All went well….

After going to Burger King for lunch, we took the sisters to the Sister Trainers house, where their new companions were waiting for them. We made a quick trip to the office, stopping at Burger King to feed another hungry missionary (note: the missionaries get food money twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. However, because yesterday was Sunday and the missionaries who were traveling today, could not go to the bank, they were all out of money. So we bought several meals for the missionaries today).

We then took them to their new apartment in Las Mercedes, which is by the airport. We were disappointed (and I am sure the Hermanas were disappointed as well) with the condition of the apartment. It needed a good cleaning. The Hermanas put on a “good face” but I could tell they were a little upset.

So now to the story of Hermana Perez from Guatemala. She has been in 
mission for 6 weeks and was serving in Chinandega. She was supposed to go to Jinotega, her new area, but since her companion was in Managua, we had her come here.  The sister trainers were at the bus station waiting and worrying for two hours.  She never showed up. Apparently, Sister Perez got off at the wrong bus stop and she ended up at the South Mission Office, where President Brown called President Poncio, who called the Sister Leaders, who went to get her. She did not have a phone, but with a little help from above, she made it to where she needed to go and now she has a good story to tell.

As we were leaving Las Mercedes (about 4pm), we got a call from Elder Hamson telling us there were problems in Ciudadela. Ciudadela is about 15 kms outside of Managua. There were 2 sets of missionaries there. However, we transferred all the missionaries out of Ciudadela and brought in two new missionaries to the area, Elder Alfaro and Elder Noguiera. So we closed one house. However, our new missionaries were confused about which house they were expected to stay in and for good reason. We had hired a contractor to remove the furniture from Ciudadela 1, which is the house we were closing. However, he got confused and removed the furniture from Ciudadela 2. So when the missionaries showed up, they found that their apartment (Ciudadela 2) did not have any furniture and since Ciudadela 1 had furniture they thought this was their apartment. Ciudadela 1 is run down and filthy. The previous missionaries trashed the house and left it a mess. When we arrived, we found them sorting through the mess in Ciudadela 1; they were in shock at the condition of the apartment. So when we showed up, they cried “Elder Bell” and gave me a big hug. They were really glad to see us. We told them they were not going to live in the filthy apartment, which brought a big relief to them. We devised a plan to clean their new apartment, then remove any decent furniture from the apartment we were going to close and get it to their new house. We agreed to bring them new mattresses on Tuesday. We then took them to dinner (they hadn’t eaten since early this morning) and dropped them off at the Zone Leaders house to spend the night.

We then headed for Managua, went shopping (we were still out of food) and crashed when we got home. What a day….

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We met 17 new missionaries this morning. Four came from the US last night and the rest came from Latin America this morning. Sister Bell taught "10 commandments of good health". She did most of the teaching in her broken Spanish, but they all seemed to understand. She also talked with several of them individually about various health issues.

After lunch, we took 2 new mattresses to Ciudadela. Elder Alfaro and Elder Noguiera had been cleaning like mad men. Their new house was clean and they started bringing furniture from the old house. When we arrived they were cleaning the frig, which needed a deep cleaning. We hauled the frig, 2 closets and a white board to their new house. They were very appreciative of our help (We got a text from them that said, “Nosotros estamos muy agradecidos por su ayuda. Gracias por apoyarnos en estos dias que no teniamos nada les apreciamos un monton. Gracias por toda su paciencia y ayudarnos con la casa y pues estamos en la casa super limpia”.

We then delivered a fan to Las Mercedes and arrived home about 6pm; had dinner and relaxed. Another full day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WE HAD AN ACUTUAL P-DAY…. Last night, the Helbergs (south mission senior couple) called us and asked if we wanted to do something with them. They have been here for 3 months and have not   had a full p-day. We rarely have a P-Day either so we jumped at the chance to do something fun. We picked them up at 10am (Sister Bell did wash before we went) and we went to the Masaya Volcano (the Helbergs had not seen it). The level of the lava in the crater was down a little but we could still  the

lava. . 

After the volcano, we went to the Mirador de Catarina, which looks out over the Laguna de Apoyo. We ate a picnic lunch while we looked over the lake, which is in an old volcano crater. Kim, Paul and their families will spend a couple days here this summer. Beautiful….

The Lee’s hosted our senior missionary dinner tonight; pizza rolls, salad, fruit, cookies and ice cream. We played, “true or false”. We all came up with three statements about ourselves, two of which are true and one false. We learned a lot about each other.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We had our 3 zone conference in Managua with Bello Horizante, Villa Flor and Las Americas zones. Because of the changes this week, several of the missionaries had already been through a conference in another area. Sister Bell taught about bedbugs, chiggers and fleas. She is able to teach more and more without help. Her Spanish is still very broken, but the missionaries (and I) greatly admire her for trying. She had about 6 missionaries talk to her about health issues. I gave a mirror to Elder Alfaro and Noguiera. Theirs had been taken when they were moving from one apartment to another. The rumor around town is that a drunk, who is always around the house, took it and sold it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

We headed to Somoto ready to get the computer connected to Salt Lake. We picked up Pedro Castillo, the District Secretary in Esteli and took him with us so he could teach us how to use MLS. We have a lot that needs to be done, such as put ordination information into MLS, process tithing and fast offerings, find lost records, complete a patriarchal Blessing recommendation, find a patriarchal blessing for a sister who had gotten a blessing years ago but needs a new copy, move records, etc. So we were expecting a busy and productive day (we should have remembered we are in Nicaragua). So we got to Somoto, turned on the computer, called global services to get the branch information downloaded, and then tried to get on the internet to begin the training. But low and behold, we didn’t have internet. The lights on the routers were on, but the internet didn’t come up. We had 4 young men (missionaries) working on it without success. We even went to Claro, the internet provider, but they needed our contract number, which we didn’t have. We have been trying to get the internet up for several months now without success. Maybe next week….
We took Pedro out to dinner at a little restaurant in Villa Lucinda, a pueblo in between Somoto and Condega. It was traditional Nica food; meat, cabbage salad, French fries and rice. It was good and I would go back.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

We had success and didn’t have success. We started in Trinidad giving Carelys and Maria Clara piano lessons. Those went well, in fact this was the first lesson for Maria Clara in over a month. She practiced this week and her lesson was very good. 

Our first disappointment was when they cancelled our second temple prep class. Apparently, the president got called out on a job (he is a mechanic), the first counselor called and said he couldn’t come, the second counselor’s wife went somewhere with her sister and the fourth family was working on their new house. So we set an appointment in another week.

Then we went to Pueblo Nuevo and taught Hermana Nubia. It was a wonderfully spiritual lesson. We taught about ordinances and covenants (lesson 4). During the lesson she told us about her life. It has not been an easy one. She lived with her grandparents in Managua when she was a teenager. She joined the Church with them when she was 16. She said that when she first heard the Joseph Smith story she knew it was true. Her grandparents went through the temple when she was 18 and she remembers how that changed her grandparents, especially her grandfather. That made a big impression on her. But when she was 18 she moved to Pueblo Nuevo to live with her parents. Her parents had a rocky marriage. There was a lot of fighting and eventually her father left. She then needed to stay with her mother because she was the oldest and her mother needed her help. She said they were very poor but even though they always had food, they could never get ahead. Her mother still lives in a small mud house. Nubia eventually moved in with her boyfriend and began having children. However, she never lost her testimony and taught her daughter a lot about the Church. When the missionaries arrived in Pueblo Nuevo years later, she still had a testimony and began attending Church. She wanted to get married but her “husband” didn’t want to. But finally after a couple of years, his heart softened and they got married. She is really excited about going to the temple, remembering the experience of her grandfather. I promised her (under the influence of the spirit) that her grandparents will be in the temple with her. It was a real pleasure to teach her. She is a wonderful member and ready to go to the temple.

Then we went to Condega for their Noche de Hermanomiento. It was at Virginia and Freddy’s house. Elder Martinez and Elder Russell are brand new missionaries, just getting to know the area. Elder Russell arrived from the MTC this week. We were really impressed with his language skills. He was not shy to speak and spoke pretty well for a new missionary. Elder Martinez has been in the mission awhile. He was in Puerto Cabeza for several months before being transferred to Condega. Both missionaries shared a scripture and told about it. Then we played a game. Hermana Rosa led the game. She gave us a word, then told a story and every time we heard the word we needed to stand up. If we made a mistake, then we had to tell a story. I was the first to lose, so I had to pick a word and tell a story. The word was “Carrie” after Grandma Moses. I told the story how Elder George Albert Smith told grandma to not worry about mom and dad getting married because dad had a good heart and would join the church. Since “Harry” and “Carrie” were close words I had fun telling the story and getting everyone confused between the two names.

Afterword, we took the missionaries to Noe and Suyapa’s house. This week, their son and his wife were in a motorcycle accident and they went to Esteli to help with this. We now knew why they were not home earlier. We set another time to teach them and then headed for Esteli and the Hotel Hex.
It was a long day but a very satisfying one.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our primary task today was to help Elder Martinez and Russell conduct church. That is no easy task in Condega because the group meets in a sewing factory. They also have to rent chairs from a store 5 blocks away from church. That is not a big problem when we are there because we load the chairs on top of our car, but when we are not, they move them by hand.

We then took the Elders to get the chairs (16) and take them to the building where we meet. We moved the sewing machines and swept the floor. We then set up the chairs. Freddy got there in time to help set up the Sacrament Table. Most of the members were there on time, except for the Ramirez family. They got there about 10:15am, just as we started the meeting. Sister Bell had her keyboard so we had organ music. Sister Bell talked first about being member missionaries. She is getting better and better every week with her Spanish. I talked about Enos and stressed the importance of teaching our children (like Jacob did), repenting, keeping the commandments, praying and working to teach your family, community and even enemies. Elder Martinez gave the last talk.

We only had 15 there, but they are strong members, the nucleus of the group. Now that the missionaries have been through one Sunday, they can be better prepared next week.

Sister Bell made a friend with Rosa’s 3-year-old daughter. She gave her candy and helped her draw during class. She likes me too because I give her hugs and tickle her.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017 to Sunday, January 15, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017
The lights were off for most of the day. They came on about dinner time so I put a meatloaf and potatoes in the oven. About 15 minutes later, the lights went out again. Fortunately, we had gone to the store and bought a roasted chicken. So we had that instead, since it was already cooked and hot. Life in Nicaragua….

I took a little time this afternoon to look up the church in several of the towns I served in Uruguay. In Florida, my first area, there are now several wards and chapels. We had a small branch and met in a house. In Melo, there are now 4 Chapels. The Chapel we met in is still being used. There are two chapels in Mercedes. We also met in a house. Paso de los Toros now has several buildings and are now wards. We were a branch and met in a little home. I am reminded of President Eyring's Conference talk when he talked about seeing the Church grow in the NE over a period of 40-50 years. We get discouraged when we don’t see immediate progress, but it is very obvious when we look at the progress over time. Hopefully, my efforts contributed a little to this progress.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We spent a good part of the morning at the dentist office next to the Hospital Metopolitano Villian Pellas, finding out why a missionary is having jaw pain. We have taken several missionaries to this dental clinic before. They have always been very accommodating. We have seen different dentists each time, and each time they have made room in their schedules to accommodate the missionary. The Dr. we saw this time was Dr. Martinez, an oral surgeon. He actually did a quick exam, ordered an panorama x-ray of her mouth and emailed the x-ray to her dentist in the states. He charged nothing. He is a third generation dentist and the clinic is as modern as those in the US.

We hosted our Senior Missionary dinner tonight. We cooked Lasagna, salad, garlic bread, fresh pineapple/apple juice, and apple pie and ice cream. We found out after dinner that we needed to go to Immigration tomorrow morning to get our cedulas (residence cards). We were scheduled to go to a Multi-zone conference tomorrow, but since the President, Lees, Koellikers, us and a few missionaries from our mission and from the South Mission needed to be there, we changed our plans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
WE ARE IN NICARAGUA….. We met at the south mission office at 7:30am in order to be at the immigration office at 8am. However, Betty Castro, our immigration specialist arrived 20 minutes late. So we arrived at immigration at 8:30am. There were about 20 of us, waiting to get our Cedulas. After waiting another 30 minutes, we found out that their machine to make the Cedulas was not working, so we ended up leaving with plans to come back tomorrow. WE ARE DEFINITELY IN NICARAGUA….

Thursday, January 12, 2017
After Two and ½ hours, we walked out of the Immigration office with our Cedulas…. We are now official residences of Nicaragua.

Friday, January 13, 2017
We had our multizone conference in Esteli today. We left Managua about 5:30am. We were loaded with Book of Mormons, pamphets, packages and letters for the missionaries. Sister Bell gave her presentation about chiggers, fleas and bedbugs. I did the little test at the end. Sister Bell talked to several missionaries about health issues, but we had one sister that was having problems with her eyes. It was serious enough we made an appointment for tomorrow in Managua and brought her and her companion home with us. We plan to take her to the doctor tomorrow. So instead of staying with the Koellikers, we went back to Managua, taking our sister missionaries with us. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017
We spent the morning with two sister missionaries at the eye doctor. He found that the sister missionary would need laser surgery on both eyes. We talked to President Poncio and called her family. Sister Bell made sure that the Church’s insurance would cover the surgery. We scheduled the surgery for Monday. We took them to McDonalds for lunch and then back to their area in Jinotega. It was 17 degrees (62) in Jinotega which is the coldest we have seen here.
We then drove to Esteli, ate dinner at Rosti Polli and stayed with Koellikers. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017
We started early, having a Temple Prep Class in Somoto with President Alaniz and his family. We talked about the blessing of the temple as outlined in D&C 109 and 97. We then attended Church in Pueblo Nuevo. We are sad to see Elder Esquivel go home. He has been a positive missionary there. Elder Chinchilla will get a new missionary on Tuesday. This will be his first training assignment, but he is ready. He is a good missionary and has been trained well by his trainers. We then took Hermana Agustina, an older member who lives several miles out of town, to her home. She normally walks or takes a bus. She lives in a little farming community. We had to cross the river to get to her home. Sister Bell thought that was a lot of fun. She wanted to show us her house. It was a little adobe home with a porch and a beautiful garden. We had Dania and her brothers with us.

There are thousands of white flowers on a particular species of tree in the mountains. We don’t know what it is but it is beautiful.
We then went back to Hermana Nuvias home and taught her and Dania (her daughter) the 3rd Temple Preparation Class. Then we headed to Jinotega to pick up the Sisters to take them back to Managua for the eye surgery tomorrow. Tomorrow is changes. There is a lot of coordination that has to go on to get missionaries to their new assignments. Most of this coordination is done by the zone leaders. We have several young or new Zone leaders so getting missionaries to and from is a little more difficult this time. With new missionaries coming to the mission, their trainers have to come to Managua to pick up their new companions that arrive on Monday night (north Americans) or Tuesday morning (Latinos). It is a logistical nightmare, but somehow it all happens with little problems every 6 weeks. Amazing….

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017 to Sunday, January 8, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017
We have house guests. President Poncio asked if we would host a couple from Puerto Cabeza this week that came with their youth for especially for youth. They are Marvin and Sorayda Sequeiva.

They brought about 15 youth. The youth are staying at the local university close to our house, but they don’t have accommodations for couples. When the President brought them over tonight, we found out that they also have a 4-year-old son, Larry Richar with them. They are a nice family. He is the 1st Counselor in the District Presidency and she is the 1st counselor in the District Relief Society. We look forward to getting to know them better this week.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KANIKA!!!!!!!!!  We love you very much and hope that today was fun for you.  You are a good son-in-law.  You would be in heaven in Nicaragua.  Everything they make has lots of cement, the houses themselves are cement floors and walls or big cement bricks.  Each house has a wall around made of cement and metal.  You would be in great demand and never have a snow day.   

We went house shopping today. The mission office is moving to the Waspan Chapel, which is by the airport. They are remodeling the back portion of the building to accommodate the mission office. The office space doesn’t look as big as what we have now, especially the storage area, but we will make it work. They said it could be finished in a week. But since this new office is across town, we are considering moving to be closer to the office. There would be some advantages in doing so. It is much closer to the airport, making it easier to get from the airport to the office. Also, it is close to the end of the city making it much easier to travel north. But the area surrounding the chapel is not very nice or safe so finding someplace to live in a safe and nice neighborhood would be difficult. The Lees are especially interested in moving because they have to come to the office every day. We can work a lot from home, so would probably work from home more instead of driving across the city every day. We looked at a couple of gated neighborhoods. None were very inviting. One neighborhood is new, with several of the homes still being constructed. The other two that we looked at were older neighborhoods. We now live in what I would classify as middle class. These neighborhoods are lower middle class. So we will probably stay where we are for now.  Besides we have a lease until May.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Michelle: We had a very special experience today.  Marvin, the dad of the family staying with us, had not seen his mother in 5 years.  He lives on the other side of the country in Puerto Cabezas and the family does not have the money to make the trip very often.  She lives in Ciudad Santino which is just outside Managua on the North west side of the city. We took the family to his aunt’s house where his mother lives.  She did not know her son was coming and when she saw him she flew into his arms and began sobbing and thanking God for answering her prayer.  Evidently this morning, she had asked God to send him to her for a visit, and then there he was on her doorstep.  I started bawling as well and she put her arms around me and thanked us for bringing him again and again.  It was such a sweet reunion.  I expressed to Elder Bell that it was an inkling of what our reunions in heaven will be for those who have passed on.  I thought especially about my sweet mother and how I would love to be enveloped in her embrace.  I have great faith that if I can continue to make good choices that someday that reunion will happen.

We made a run to two Elder’s house with a refrigerator that worked as theirs had died.  Elder Bell and Elder Lee made a run to the post office.  John, the package you sent finally arrived.  Thanks so much for sending it.  We packed up packages, Liahonas, and pamphlets to take to the missionaries.  We have a 3-zone conference tomorrow and Elder Bell and I are teaching about bedbugs, chiggers and fleas.  Yes, the missionaries have been bothered by all three here.  The family that are staying with us called and they are staying with the mother, so Elder Bell and I have the house to ourselves.  We will try not to be too rowdy. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

We left the house early, heading to Chinandega for a Multi Zone Conference. We arrived about 8:30am. The missionaries were all waiting outside the gate, waiting to get into the Church. Several missionaries will be going home; a couple we have worked with a lot on the mission. One is Elder Scaggs. He is one of the Zone Leaders in Chin Oeste. We worked with him in Condega. He is a fun missionary who teaches with a lot of enthusiasm. Another is Elder Ramirez from Guatemala. He worked in the office with us from the time we arrived to about 3 months ago. He helped us a lot, helping us with technology and getting familiar with mission life. We will miss both of them.
Sister Bell taught a lesson about chiggers, fleas and bedbugs. We have had some problems with these critters. She had each zone (there were three zones) help teach about one of the critters. We had a short test at the end. I read a comment about one of the critters and the zone that represented that critter stood up and cheered. It got them active a little.

Sister Bell talked to about 7 missionaries for various reasons. Then we headed for home. We arrived just in time to pick up the Lee’s at the office and go to the Helbergs for dinner and games. We enjoy our weekly dinner with the Senior Missionaries. They have become good friends.

Friday, January 7, 2017

We had a sweet surprise when we taught lesson one of the Temple Preparation class in Trinidad. We expected to teach the Branch Presidency, President Cruz, his wife and 2 daughters; Luis Pineda the 1st Counselor and Yasser Rivera, the second Counselor and his wife. But Yasser (another Yasser) and his wife also came. President Cruz invited him. He has been a member for many years, but his wife is
a recent convert of just over one year. I hadn’t thought about inviting him because he has not been very active, but he seems to have recommitted himself to the Church. This was a wonderful surprise and we are excited that they came. We gave each family a framed picture of the Honduras Tegucigalpa temple.

Maria Clara also committed to begin piano lessons again. Hurray… (starting again next week)

We then made a medical stop in Esteli to talk with the sister missionaries.

We had a wonderful second lesson (Temple Prep) with Hermana Nuvia in Pueblo Nuevo. This lesson is about worthiness. We discuss several commandments in detail, such as Tithing, Word of Wisdom, Sabbath Day and the law of Chastity. Sister Bell taught the Word of Wisdom and Sabbath Day. She did a wonderful job. I was proud of her. Hermana Nuvia is such a wonderful Latter-day saint. She was recently diagnosed with some sort of bacteria in her blood and is taking shots for 6 months. She felt very anxious about this but as she began to think about going to the temple, a peaceful feeling came over her which has continued through the first shot. This has given her great confidence that going to the Temple is something the Lord wants her to do. However, I checked the membership list and found we don’t have her membership record so I will need to find it and have it sent into the Somoto Branch.

We then taught a 1st temple lesson with Noe and Suyapa in Condega. Elder Spence and Elder Sanchez sat in on this lesson. We only had about an ½ hour so we condensed the lesson. There was a sweet spirit there. We then went to Rosa’s house for the Noche de Hermanimiento. We got there at 6pm, which is when it should have started. But there were only Elder Spence, Elder Sanchez, Sister Bell, Rosa and myself until about 6:30, when about 10 others walked in. Elder Sanchez taught a lesson about obedience. Elder Spence then asked if anyone had a suggestion for a game. I suggested we play “ask Elder Sanchez about his mission, since he will be completing his mission in a week. He got all sorts of questions, like what is one of your favorite experiences, what did you learn, what was your favorite Nicaraguan food. Everyone seem to have a good time, even Elder Sanchez.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

We had a sweet day in Somoto. It started at the Branch Presidents house about 8:30am (we left Esteli about 7:30am). We taught him the 1st Temple Prep class over again because his wife (who is not a member) and his daughter (19 yrs old and is a member) were there for the lesson. The first lesson is about the Plan of Salvation and we wanted to review the Plan of Salvation with the whole family. We also gave them a framed picture of the Honduras Tegucigalpa temple. President Alaniz immediately put it on their wall of the house (which is actually an outside wall under a porch). Christin, the daughter is planning to serve a mission so we gave her a copy of Preach my Gospel (in Spanish). She was excited. We love this family and look forward to seeing Hermana Alaniz get baptized. But we haven’t sensed any softening on her part. And now we don’t have Church on their porch any more, she doesn’t come to the meeting. Therefore, we have decided to teach all the Temple Prep classes in their home.

Church in Somoto is now in the morning. They used to meet in the afternoon. They told everyone that Church started at 9:30am and then plan to start at 10am. They actually started on time today, at 10am that is. There were only about a dozen people there when the meeting started, but by 10:30, 25 or so walked in. As we were waiting for Church, Elder Nelson was helping Alejandro Lopez, an 81-year-old member, put on a tie. He passed the sacrament today for the first time, under Elder Nelson’s tutelage. It brought a sweet feeling to my heart. During Sacrament Meeting a young girl, about 2 years old came up to Sister Bell and wanted to sit on her lap. She snuggled up to her and then came to me. However, during the Sacrament, she followed Hermano Lopez around, probably hoping to get more bread and water. She was really cute and Sister Bell loved having her on her lap.
The other surprise was that they held a Gospel Doctrine class for the first time today as well. They divided everyone up into two groups: those who have been a member for 6 months or longer and those who were investigators or members for less than 6 months. Elder Gonzalez taught Gospel Doctrine (D&C) and Elder Simpson taught the Gospel Principles class. We were well feed spiritually.

They only down side of the meeting was that after two hours, everyone was ready to go home. They have been used to only two hours of Church. We will need to begin educating the members to stay another hour in order to have Priesthood, RS and YW. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday, December 26, 2016 to Sunday, January 1, 2017

Monday, December 26, 2016
Today was a light day. Normally we have an office planning meeting in the morning, but because the Mission President is on his way to Puerto Cabeza, we don’t have a meeting today. So we stayed home in the morning and worked from home. Sister Bell worked on her weekly and quarterly reports and I had time to work on Spanish Grammar. I normally don’t have time to work on Spanish so I appreciated having a “light” day. We then had to go to the store in the afternoon to stock up on our food supply.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
We made a belated Santa Run to the 3 zones on the West; Leon, Chinandega and Chin Oeste. The Lees went with us. Our first stop was Leon. However, getting to the Chapel where the missionaries were holding their zone meeting, was not an easy thing. We got off onto a market street where there were tents with people selling their wares, which lined one side of the road. There was thousands of people and only room for one vehicle. Most of the vehicles were three wheeled bike taxis, no other cars. Nobody gave us a dirty look so we must have been ok.

When we got to the Church, we found we had a flat tire. So while Sister Bell, Sister Lee and Elder Lee gave out the few packages, letters and the donuts we had brought, I changed the flat tire.
Next we went to Chinandega to drop off item to the Chinandega missionaries and then to El Viejo where the missionaries from the Chin Oeste zone were meeting. All of the missionaries were glad to see us and appreciated the packages, letters and donuts. Sister Bell had a few medical discussions with missionaries while we were there. We then said goodbye and left them to their meetings.
On our way home, we made a stop in Leon to give medicine to some missionaries, then drove to Las Pinetas and Polenoya, towns on the Pacific coast. We found them delightful, with nice beaches and some decent hotels. The best beach towns we have found so far.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
We skyped with Grandpa, Roxanne, Kevin and Jamie this morning. We had not talked with Jamie or Kevin since our mission so it was very nice to visit with them and get caught up on how they are doing. Kevin and Cathy are taking Grandpa to New Mexico for 6 months. He has lived with Roxanne and Paul for about 6 months. They have taken very good care of him. We appreciate their care of him. Dads care was one of our major concerns about leaving on our mission. But Michelle’s siblings have done a marvelous job taking care of him.
We spent several hours in the afternoon helping a missionary get to a dentist to have a cap put back on his tooth. It came off a couple of days ago. Dental costs are not covered under the Church’s medical insurance so the missionaries have to pay out-of-pocket. Fortunately, the missionary (from the States) had a credit card he could use. We did have to call his father to put more money on the card. But all went well. He got his cap glued back on and he was back working this evening.
Sister Bell is working on a presentation she plans to use at the next Multizone conferences, which start next week. She is teaching about bed bugs, chiggers and fleas. Fortunately, only a few missionaries have problems with these critters. Our hope is that with a little education, we can reduce these problems even more.
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Sister Bell did some wash this morning before going to the office. We came home for lunch and the laundry was all dry. She quickly took the clothes off the line before the rain. We (I should say the Church) bought new tires for our car. Bridgestone’s…. sorry Dan. Then we went to the bank…. We are rich again.
Sister Bell got a health call of a lifetime. She got a call from a missionary who said “we ate too much, what can we do?” She told them, with a big smile on her face, that time will cure this ill.
At most of the stop lights in Managua, there are young men trying to wash your windshield. We usually get our windshield washed at least once a day. We always pass out pass along cards with the few coins we give them. Today, we had a young man come up to our window, show us a pass along card we gave him sometime in the past and wanted a Book of Mormon. We usually keep a few copies in our car, but we are all out of Books of Mormon in the office right now. So I told him, I would bring him one another day. Simple things sometimes produce big results.
Friday, December 30, 2016
This morning we headed for Somoto with the intention of getting the Somoto computer on line. We had been waiting for CLARO, the internet company to get internet in the Chapel. We got word this week that it was all set, so we headed to Somoto with great expectations. When we got there, we met President Alaniz, Elder Gonzales and Elder Esquivel. Elder Esquivel was visiting from Pueblo Nuevo. We set up the computer and turned on the power switch, but nothing happened. The power had been cut to the Chapel. Apparently, the power bill had not been paid. President Alaniz will go to the power company office Monday to get the power turned back on. Four hours of travel without accomplishing our purpose.
We did however take advantage of the trip. We taught President Alaniz the first Temple Prep lesson and attended a Noche de Hermanimiento. The noche de hermanomiento was at a home at the top of a hill overlooking Somoto. Elder Gonzales gave the lesson about prayer, using the example of Enos to illustrate the power of prayer. President Alaniz then taught from 2 Nephi more about prayer. When they asked me if I had anything else to add, I testified that what was said was true and said “Amen”.

Saturday, December 31, 2016
Happy last day of 2016. We started in Trinidad teaching piano to Carelys. That went well, but Maria Clara was still in bed so she didn’t get a lesson again this week. We went to a fun store in Esteli that sold Nicaraguan art. We bought some pictures made from colored corn husks. Then we drove to Pueblo Nuevo and taught a temple Prep class to Hermana Nuvia. She has been a member for about 20 years, but could not attend Church for many years because the Church was not in Pueblo Nuevo. When the missionaries arrived a little over a year ago, she embraced the gospel again, bringing several of her family members with her. We had a wonderful lesson about the Plan of Salvation.
She told us about an experience she had the night before. She could not go to sleep, and while she was awake she had a very bad feeling came over her. She thought she might be dying. She then focused her thoughts on going to the temple. As she did so, the spirit of the Lord came to her very strongly, replacing the bad feeling with a feeling of peace. It reminded me of the evil spirit Joseph Smith experienced just before the First Vision. It was when he cried out to the Lord, that the First Vision occurred. In like manner, it was when Hermana Nuvia focused on the Temple, that the Holy Ghost came to her. Satan does not want her to go to the temple, but the Savior does.
We stopped in Condega to give another Temple Prep class but the family wasn’t home. We then had to decide whether to go to Somoto for a Noche de Hermanimiento or go to Esteli early. We both felt we should go to Esteli early so as to not be out on the roads after dark, since there will be a lot of parties and drunks on the road tonight. So we returned to Esteli and parked in front of the Koellikers home, sitting in the back seat, typing away. We were close enough to their internet connection that we were able to tie into the internet. We had several hours to wait as we arrived about 6pm and the Koellikers did not return until about 8:30pm. We spent part of that time at Rosti Pollo, a local restaurant having a light dinner. It was a tender mercy that we felt impressed to return to Esteli early as Sister Bell got sick when we got close to town and needed to be close to facilities. It would have been difficult for her to be traveling while sick.
There is a new year’s tradition here in Nicaragua that we have not seen before. Many families made Mannequins of an old man and place him in front of their houses. He represents the old year. At midnight, they set fire to him as a symbol of letting the old year go and welcoming the new year. Here are some examples.

This has been a wonderful year. We have focused on serving the Lord. First in preparing to serve a mission and now in serving in Nicaragua. We feel good with our service thus far. Sister Bell has helped countless missionaries with all types of illnesses. She is well loved by the missionaries. Her Spanish has improved a great deal; she is talking more and more all the time. She has developed wonderful relationships with doctors, nurses and medical staff across the country. We have resolved a few problems with hospitals and clinics across the country so they are now providing our missionaries with excellent medical care. We have implemented a health education program that is helping bring down the number of sick missionaries across the mission. This has been our primary assignment and will continue to be.
We have developed a great love for the people in the north, where we serve on the weekends. We are still trying to find the right balance between the needs of the Church and our physical stamina. Those weekend trips can be long and hard. But we have seen two groups become branches, started Priesthood Preparation classes in 3 cities, helped mentor Priesthood and auxiliary leaders, began teaching temple preparation classes, taught piano, given a multitude of talks, lessons and prayers and taken countless missionaries out to eat or just given them water and food. We are now working hard to get the records updated and accurate.

Our health has been good, our language is improving and we have been protected on the roads. We feel the hand of the Lord in our daily lives. We have especially learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We are learning patience, compassion, humility and tolerance. It has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. I love my companion and am amazed at the courage, skill and compassion she has. 
Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year…. We woke up to a lot of noise from fireworks. In the United States, the communities put on fireworks shows while the local people do small fireworks. In Nicaragua, it seems that everyone has large fireworks. The neighbors of the Koellikers set off a large fireworks show. We watched from their gate and heard and watched several large firework shows. It was very impressive. The Nicaraguans like fireworks.

We went to Church in Trinidad this morning. Today was their first meeting in the morning (9am). They used to meet in the afternoon and only have Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School. But today, they had all three meetings. There was a wonderful spirit there. All the men were in white shirts and ties. The Sisters were in dresses. President Cruz conducted. Elder Nano played the piano. Maria Clara (one of Sister Bell’s piano students) led the music. Ruddy Perez (from Matagalpa, we think he is visiting Carelys. He will be going on his mission soon) blessed the Sacrament. Elder Nano passed. Three out of the four talks were ward members. The fourth was Elder Hatch. Everyone was well prepared and taught true doctrine (as much as I could tell). The SS lesson was taught by Carelys and the RS lesson about Christ being our center was taught by Hermana Cruz, the RS President. I taught the Priesthood lesson. We discussed Priesthood ordinances. There was a wonderful spirit there. We love these people and they love us. This little branch has progressed since we started attending. It was just a group when we started. They met in a garage. Now they are a branch and have a converted house to meet in. The Church has recently upgraded the house with a pulpit, fans, paint, chairs and internet. We truly feel blessed to have been part of the development of this branch.

We can’t believe how brown things have become the past several weeks. Leaves have dropped off trees, grasses are all brown. There are still a few flowers on some of the trees, but very few. It reminds us of fall at home, except there are no yellow, orange or red leaves.