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.