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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Move

Wow, some pretty crazy experiences this past week have taken me on a
roller coaster ride, leaving me feeling exhausted and rejuvenated all
the same :). Given the current circumstances of the mission and the
plans of our somewhat new president, another move into a new apartment
seemed practically inevitable. And that's exactly what happened :).
Even though it will take some time to explain, I want you guys to pay
attention, or else.... Haha. Just kidding. But seriously, more than
half of this last week has been dedicated to our move. Alright, so
here's the info!

About 25% of the currently serving missionaries in my mission have the
responsibility of moving as soon as possible. Much of the mission
setup with the past president (our current president started serving
in July) centered around four-man apartments. However, our current
president, Hugo Giuliani, has chosen to space out the mission with
smaller apartments, each with a capacity for only two people. This
does have many benefits:

1) the apartments can lie in the middle of a companionship's area,
which means much less walking. We walk A lOT, by the way :).
2) less distractions
3) one gets to know his/her companion better

Obviously, there are benefits to four-man apartments too. I personally
like them better but support the decisions of the president. It's all
good :). In one of my earlier emails, I described the zone leaders'
apartment, which served as my home for the last month or so. That time
came and went, and unfortunately, the official documents and contract
came through, giving us the green light to pack up and leave the
magnificent and spacious zone leader palace. Man, I loved that place.
Haha :) Basically, from the start of this transfer, I had known that
one day we would have to go through the adventurous moving process.
But since the contract still needed processing, which can take weeks
here sometimes, I never mentioned anything in my last emails. Plus I
wanted to enjoy the incredibly nice apartment without thinking about
the future :). Knowing that I had already gone through
this process and learned much of the vocabulary and spanish necessary,
the president put me here on purpose to get the job of transferring
apartments done as quickly as possible :). I didn't exactly want to do
this, especially given the difficulties of the last experience. But
don't worry, like always, I'm glad to serve where needed. So of course,
we accepted the challenge. Just to give you a better idea of the
process, here is a quick list of our main activities from last week:

- visit the landlord's office a handful of times to pay the initial
rent, get the keys, and to review the contract.
- go over the copies of the contract and set up small trips to centro,
where we will set up the electricity and gas connections to our new
- price hunt at at least three places to acquire different appliance
options. We specifically looked for a fridge, oven, closet, kitchen
table, book stand, and fan. Those are the big expenses. The new
apartment had basically nothing, and we transformed it into a home,
bit by bit :).
- analyze our allotted budget and figure out the best deals of appliances
- send a detailed email to the mission offices, describing everything
so it can get approved by the president and then later in Buenos Aires
- going to the new apartment to sweep, mop, and clean everything
before moving in
- actually going to buy all the appliances and setting up a delivery.
Walmart ended up having almost everything at a reasonable price this
time. In my last area, we had to use other stores since Walmart and
other big appliance stores were more scarce. They will deliver
everything this Tuesday!
- pack everything and take down our bunk bed and other stuff from the
zone leader's apartment.
- get a flete, which is basically a Spanish moving truck, to move
everything from our apartment to another.
- set up fan and bookshelves after moving. This assembly took like six
hours total. So much for easy setup haha. Dad, it reminds me of how
long it took to set up my desk in my room :).

Man, that's a pretty good list. We still haven't finished but have
accomplished a bunch :). "Hectic week" is a pretty good way to
describe it. Overall, though a bit stressful at times, I have had many
experiences that should help me out later in life. For example,
whenever I move into my first home, it will be my third
time hahaha. But, on a more serious note, my testimony
has been strengthened on this topic: as missionaries we dedicate two
years of our lives to church service in general. We help out members,
proselyte, schedule church activities, serve in Bishoprics, offer
landscape and home maintenance to those in need, give talks, move,
study, learn a new language etc. Some missionaries even work in
visiting centers for two years. Every mission is different--that's for
sure. I thought my mission would involve more proselyting, but I've
had the opportunity to perform other acts of service. Simply put, even
though more than half of my last week didn't include proselyting, I'm
glad I could help out the mission and the church in a different way.

Like always, I really appreciate all of your support and prayers. I
haven´t gotten mail in about a month but look forward to reading all
about what you guys are doing up there!!. Thanks again.

Elder Jones :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Solid and Hot Week :)

Well, another week has come and gone down here in Argentina, and I have lots to tell you guys. I hope you all have had an awesome week, as well. Like always, thank you for all of the support and prayers. To make sure my time doesn´t run out, I will go ahead and start. Let me know if you guys have any specific questions. Thanks!

1) The Mission Organization. Here are some cool facts in regard to the organiztion of my mission, just to fill you guys in and give you an idea of how the missions operate in foreign countries. It sounded like some good information to relay to you guys, and it´s something different :). Here in Argentina, we have about 200 missionaries serving under the direction of our mission president, Hugo Guiliani. Of course, this number fluctuates every six weeks during transfers- our crazy, two-day period when new missionaries come into the field and old ones return home. In general, the number stays relatively close to 200, though. Right now, we have 196, I think. This group of 200 missionaries (me included!) always follows the counsel of our President Guiliani, who leads and directs the mission as a whole, accompanied by his wife who helps whenever possible. He calls two missionaries to serves as his assistants in the mission home offices, where they make phonecalls and organize the major events each month.

Alongside all of them in the offices work two other missionaries who serve in two very important positions, one as the financial clerk and the other as librarian. The financial clerk is pretty self-explanatory, so I won´t spent too much time on him. As you´ve probably already guessed, though, he DOES have a loaded schedule between his bank trips and phonecalls. He always has to verify that bills get paid and that missionaries don´t encounter severe financial problems. Almost everything he completes requires the approval and signature of the president--for obvious reasons. His service, accuracy, and honesty are extremely important in the work. Then, we have his companion, the librarian, who probably has the the craziest and most distinct job in the mission. As the Bibliotecario (that´s the spanish version), he directs the distribution of all church materials within the mission, including copies of the Bible and Book of Mormon, pamphlets, pictures, manuals, etc. This includes the entire process that starts in the general offices of the church in the states and ends in each apartment of every companionship. For example, scriptures probably serve as the most important commodity for missionaries. To receive copies of the these sacred works, the offices print them off in church headquaters and then ship them to Buenos Aires, where a special and extremely HUGE distribution center manages all the imports. From there, depending on the librarian´s requests, the scriptures and other church supplies get shipped to our mission home. At this point Elder Para, our current bibliotecario, really comes into play. Based on demands and forms filled out by companionships, he decides how to distribute everything across the mission, all once again under the direction and approval of the mission president. All of this sounds horribly complicated, but it´s not too too bad since almost everything is automated and managed by computer programs. However, on top of all this, the librarian has to mangage and direct all of the apartment contracts!! The librarian always has to speak fluent Spanish, so he can talk to the lawyers and help with all of the governmental processes.

That´s the offices for ya! :). These four missionaries still proselyte the last three hours of every day so that they can do at least a little normal missionary work each week. But yeah, the majority of their time is speant in the mission home, which lies in the heart of Rosario and roughly in the center of our mission!

The President directs the whole mission from this home. And even though it sounds kinda crazy, our mission is then divided into nine areas called "zones." About 20 missionaries (10 companionships) work in each zone, doing service for memebers and proselything to share the great gospel message with Argentines. Each one of these nine zones is lead by two missionaries assigned as Zone Leaders. Usually one is a native speaker, and they both help out all of the people working in their area. These Zone leaders always call us to get information and updates on the progression of investigators and the missionary work in general. They then divide each zone into two or three districts, groups of about 4-6 missionaries. In each district, there is a district leader who helps out the two or three companionships which he leads. We meet in our small districts across the mission every Tuesday to discuss investigators, progress, ideas, and goals.

So yaeh, that´s a really basic description of the organization of the mission. And I´m just in one of close to 500 missions around the world!!! To give you another perspective, this is how info travels through the mission. Let´s say the President has a new idea he wants to tell all missionaries. Then this is his process through phonecalls and meetings. President Guiliani ---> Assistants ---> All of the zone leaders ---> each district leader---> every companionship. Mall goes through the same process, which is why I have to wait quite a while sometimes. haha.

Wow, that took forever to describe. There are still a bunch of small details, but I´ll just have to tell you guys all of that stuff after the mission. With my remaining time, I will write about my current zone here in the city of Paraná.

2) My Zone. My current zone leaders are Elder Allen and Elder Guitierrez, the two missionaries who live in the same apartment as me and my companion. Our zone has six companionships, and every week we get together on Pday. Today we are going to play basketball and ping pong for like three hours in the afternoon. I love my new zone. It´s so legit :). In my last zone of Santa Fe, we could hardly ever get together since everyone lived so far away from each other. Here in Paraná, it being more like a city, we all live a lot closer. In Santa fe, almost all areas consisted of tons of property and landscape. "Really Rural" is a good way to put it. But yeah, things are going great here in the mission. Some days never seem to end, and in others the time just flies by without us noticing. Thanks again for all of your support, mail, and basically everything. I have grown a lot both before and in my mission. I have so much more to say but need to go and get other Pday stuff done. Ya know, fun stuff like groceries and cleaning the apartment hahaha. NOT! But yeah, we need to make sure we get everything done before basketball.

Next week, I will have tons more to write to you guys, and hopefully a litte more time too.

Elder Rory Jones!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cool Argentine parrots at one of his current investigator's houses!

Elder Jones and his favorite investigator :)

One of the five service activities in his previous area.

Leonardo and Nelvis Baptism!

Pedro and José Baptism-two soccer players!

The Adventure Has Begun!

The adventure really has begun haha.

First off, Mary, Anna, Sam, and Megan, thank you so much for everything! The pictures, small notes, and everything was great. I plan to write a letter back to you guys today. Hopefully you will receive it in three or four weeks :)

Alright, so I hope you guys have had an awesome week. Like usual, we have taught inspired lessons, attended ward activities, and served with amazing members. Also, just like every week here in the good old mission field, I have enough time to describe about 10% of what you all would like to know about my mission experiences. I will type fast! Haha I've thought about it, though and decided to pick five of the most interesting bullet points. I had considered to do another long bullet list but figured you guys would like some more detailed descriptions this time, especially since some of the topics are unique to my current areas, San Augustín y Anecleto. So yeah. Hope it all makes sense and paints the picture of my current and unique area. :)

1) Apartment. Like you already know, my current apartment is really plush, at least in comparison to my last one. :). It is part of a condo complex about nine blocks from centro. In other words, I live pretty close to downtown! As you walk in the front door, you can see the main corridor. This room fills about 75% of our flat, consisting of the stove, sink, and fridge off to one side, and our beds, bookshelves, and kitchen table off to the other. Yes, it is actually really roomy. It is HUGE! I love having the space, and in comparison to my last circumstances, it couldn't be better :). I've cooked a BOAT LOAD too. I'll talk about that in a bit, though. Anyways, to one side of this corridor/living room/kitchen/bedroom are two smaller rooms, each of which serves as a study and storage for each companionship. Though quite small, each room serves as a nice little nook to study or have some quiet time to write in your journal. We each have a small table for a desk and two closets built into the wall for our clothes. Basically, if you wanna cook, talk, make a phone call, or something like that, you just go out to the corridor. On the contrary, you go into one of the rooms to kinda get some quiet time for studies or to just relax a bit :). In between these two rooms lies our bathroom, complete with toilet, Bidé, and shower. It's definitely considered a quality bathroom for the mission, and it gets used a lot. We are trying to fix things up a bit, as it lacks a mirror and the toilet is half broken. Haha. I'm not complaining, though. So yeah, that is my apartment right now, my home for the next handful of weeks :).

2) Bishopric. As called missionaries, we can serve in leadership positions for wards and branches, which keeps us both occupied and provides us with more opportunities to serve and get to know the members. Simply put, we don't just do proselyting missionary work. But don't worry, our investigators always have first priority. We make time for both. :) With these duties and assignments, my companion and I get really involved with the ward. Each Sunday we have about 20 people come and form our congregation of members, which is a nice and close-knot group similar to a family :). We also hold Bishopric meeting every Tuesday night right after Bishop finishes his shift at work, when we discuss callings and everything about the ward. It's pretty exciting, and I have already leaned quite a bit. Our Bishop is about 35 years old and has a family of four. He learned about and joined the church 20 years ago. Also, his testimony is really strong, which gives him tons of energy and desire to serve the people and the Lord. So basically, he is a great bishop :). We use the manuals, the Spirit, and things are going great. I have had to make a few calls as secretary, which has been an interesting experience for me. One time, the Bishop assigned me to call the Buenos Aires offices and get all of our budget information, just to give you guys an example. And all this is in Spanish!! So crazy. :). In summary, serving in the Bishopric has helped me and my companion learn more about church services and grow closer to the members, as well as to the Lord. I'll definitely let you guys know more as the transfer continues over the next few weeks :). My perspective of life and testimony of the church have both grown in understanding and strength.

3) The San Agustín Branch. Alright, so I mentioned some details about this small branch on my last email. Now, after having worked in this area for another week, I have more to say and tell you guys. First off, on average, roughly 10-15 people attend each Sunday, despite the long commute. Yes, many of these faithful members have to travel for 20-40 minutes to arrive at church. This branch's boundaries lie many miles apart. For us to visit the branch president in his house, we would have to walk about an hour and a half haha. So yep, the branch boundaries are HUGE!! Mainly we focus on the Anacleto ward, whose boundaries include our current apartment and the Bishop's house, but about once a week we set apart some time to work in San Agustín. This all might sound kinds complicated. Haha. Well, it kinda is :). So in sum, the mission president assigned us to these two areas to do proselyting missionary work, the ward (Anecleto) and the Branch (San Agustín). We always work in Anecleto six days of the week, which includes our Bishopric duties. On the one other day, we work references in the small branch of Anecleto and have a branch council meeting with the Brach president in the church, just to see how things are going. Hopefully that all makes sense :). alright.

4) Cooking! Alright, Elder Rory Jones, the Italian chef wonder, now knows how to make homemade Italian pizza from scratch. :). At the beginning of my mission, I always used pre-pizza ingredients and other pre-mixes to help me out. However, for the first time yet, I made a pizza completely from scratch. I know, crazy, huh? Even though the process took up much more time, in the end it tasted way better :). As it baked on the oven, we all waited and watched, hoping it would turn out okay. For those of you who dont know, whenever you get a group of 20-year-old guys/missionaries together trying to cook without their moms, the situation can get disastrous haha. Luckily, this time everything cooked to a crisp and tasted amazing. I will probably make it in memory of Argentina for the rest of my life. Though still pretty simple as far as cooking goes, it was a BIG accomplishment for us missionaries haha. It tasted tons better than Raman noodles or our typical bowl of cereal :). Also, we have cooked quite often in general, just because we have a stove that works perfectly and a functioning oven. Well....almost perfectly. :) The stove starter broke before my arrival, and so everytime we want to turn it on, we have to light a piece of paper on fire and stick it up through the bottom of the oven. That's not all. We then have to mess with the gas switch and shuffle the burning papers around until all parts of the burner catch aflame haha. It works fine once you get it going, though. No worries. Each time we cook = mini adventure, as you might imagine!

5) Photos. I'm gonna try to and them, even though the majority of the computers here really struggle with current technology :).

Elder Jones

Monday, February 6, 2012

So Super Busy

Wow, I have just experienced the busiest week of my mission! Unfortunately, this time I couldn´t organize even a bullet list of what to tell you guys, so my letter might seem kinda random. Hopefully it will all make sense. Since we have had such a crazy week full of experiences, making a bullet list sounded pretty good to me, just so you guys can kinda get a feel of my new area. Ready? haha. :)

- My area has a bunch of hills EVERYWHERE.

- We work right by the main river, which actually serves as one of the borders to our mission. We enjoy looking at the cool view from the highest hills in our area.

- We are SO SO busy. I work as the secretary for the current Bishop in our ward. So I have Bishopric meetings and other duties on top of the ward council meetings and other church gatherings/duties.

- I also serve as an assistent/helper for the Branch President, which as you can imagine, keeps me really busy too.

- It has been a completely different experience than in my last area. Almost all the streets are paved, whereas in my last area about 70% were rocky, dirty passageways calles pasajes (pa--sah--heys) in San Martín, my last area.

- We live with the zone leaders! Oh yeah, I have to tell you guys about the people who live in my apartment. :)

- Elder Guitierrez, who is from Guatemala. He is really cool and tries to help us with our Spanish. He has a lot of stories and has served in the mission for about a year. And guess what? He and I just chatted for about an hour yesterday, which always makes me excited because I have seen so much progress with the language. Also, since he has lived with a lot of American missionaries during his time here, he has learned English. I didn´t believe him at first since tons of people say this when it´s not true. I actually started talking to him in basic English, and he understood A TON better than most of the people down here. He had studied for like six years in school, and he still really struggles to speak but can understand really really well. It´s cool. We help him with English, and he helps us with Spanish. His family is really big, and based on his pictures it seems like his hometown in Guatemala is actually just like the states. He knows all about the NBA and just a bunch of other stuff. He has a ton of relatives who live in the states, and that is why he knows English so well too. Anyways, gotta move on hahaha. He is about my height and LOVES soccer and American football :).

-Elder Allen. He is from Idaho, kinda one of those really chill guys, and he serves as the other zone leader with Elder Guitierrez. Elder Allen will finish his mission after this transfer (in six weeks), and so he has to train his companion everything so he can take over. He loves to go snow skiing, and he is SO DRAMATIC. haha. I don´t know how to describe him that well, and every missionary is so different. It´s funny how well you get to know people when you live with them :). But yeah, he is chill, super laid back, and really likes to cook. Kinda an interesting character. I feel like there is more to him haha. Oh well. He is a couple inches taller than me and super super skinny. Alright, gotta keep going. :)

- Elder Peterson. Yep, he is my new companion. He is from Boise, Idaho, the land of potatoes haha. I asked him if he had met Michael Meehan, but he didn´t recognize the name. He is actually shorter than me, which caught me by surprise, and he is about 200 pounds!!! He is really a pretty cool dude. He has served in the mission for almost a year, and yes, he arrived at the same time as Elder Guitierrez. They both will hit a year at the end of this transfer. He eats ALL THE TIME. It was kinda interesting just becuae I had gotten so used to my last companion. The first day we went into the grocery store, he bought four bags of oreos, caramel, cookies, and a bunch of chocolate cereal. He also bought a whole bunch of potatoes, just to show his Idaho charm haha, and he always makes french fries. He played on the line in football in his 3A highschool, and he really enjoys running. haha. I am just kidding about the last part. The first day when I met him, I asked if we could go to a park and do exercises in the morning. And yeah, he wasn´t too interested, but we might start one day haha. So I just try to do a few abs/pushup stuff in the mornings. My jumprope broke! OH well haha. I don´t mind that much. Overall, we get a long really well. He likes to talk, so we always chat as we climb the hills in our area and make our way to our appointments.

- WALLMMAARRRTTTT! Oh, I am not going to be able to describe this adequately to you guys. It felt like heaven when my foot first stepped into Walmart, the best place ever here. Here is a quick list of everything it has that my last crappy supermarket lacked, just so you guys can see the difference: air conditioning, donuts, more than four cash registers, three times as much fruit with tons of options, Skittles and Twix, sports section (I could finally find a frisbee), more than one brand of milk and cheese haha, and really just a huge selection. The selection of food is by far the biggest change. It is a supermarket, just like the one on Spring Cypress and 249 by my house. Okay, it isn´t that big, but it actually has a lot of stuff. Even though it doesn´t have everything, it has been a huge nice upgrade. Instead of oatmeal and plain corn flakes, I could buy frosted flakes!! Crazy. haha. Our last supermarket was acutally pretty good, and I felt so out of place when I stepped into Walmart. Anyways, just thought to let you know.

- As far as upgrades go, I finally finally finally have hot water. The shower is kinda dirty and pretty cramped, but the hot water makes all the difference. Try not using hot water in your shower, and that will give you a feel of my circumstances for the last three months of my mission. My experiences here have really humbled me and made me appreciate and count my blessings.

- Oven and stove. I was able to make eggs and even cooked a cake with a mix I could find at Walmart. It felt kinda weird being able to do this in the morning haha. This really was another nice change for me.

- We also have almost every church movie you can think of since we live with the zone leaders. So, as you might have guessed, every night during our 30 min of downtime, we watch a movie. They are the short ones like "The Restoration," "Finding Faith in Christ," and even "The Testamants," which is actually longer and plays for about an hour!

- I have learned so much Spanish already just by living with a native again. It helps a lot :).

- It´s like night and day. The Pdays here, when compared to those of my last area, are AWESOME. I have almost run out of time but still want to describe to you guys at least a little bit of what we did today.
The zone all gathered together, forming a small group of about eight companionships. First, we had a quick meeting to set some goals and talk about t-shirts that we will make as a Zone. Then we played kickball at the Stake Center where we had all gathered together. I know, kickball isn´t always the most fun, but we had a BLAST! We split up into two teams and played for about an hour out on the field. Then, what with all the heat and everything, we all wanted to cool off. The zone leaders went and bought three hunderd water balloons. With all of us working together, we filled them all up in about 15 minutes. Then we had a water war! haha. I´m sure you can imagine the scene of a bunch of us all running around and launching waterballoons. Then, after all of this, we still had more stuff planned. We went to Rey de Pizza, which translates to Pizza King in English. We all bought pizza, soda, salads, and empanadas. With all this food split between us all, we only had to pay about 15 pesos each, a really good price. Then we all ate together in the church for about an hour! Wow, what a great Pday. Next week we are going to try and tour some of the historical sites in Centro. I will be sure to keep you updated. Alright, just a few more facts before I have to go.

- We have Hermanas, or sister missionaries, in our zone. This felt really weird for me haha. In my last zone, since it was the poorest and most dangerous the sister missionaries never get called to serve there, which makes sense. :)

- I am in a really nice computer shack right now. I will send photos for sure next week. I forgot my camera today because we have been so busy.

I have grown so much on my mission, and even though everything listed above describes pretty well my experiences, there have been incredible spiritual experiences too. Every week, with my allotted hour to write, I feel as though I can only write 10% of everything that´s going on. I absolutely love my new area and the missionary work. I set up a baptismal date with one of our investigators yesterday, and hopefully we will have another successful baptism. I love you all, and thank you so much for all of the support. Gotta go, but just know that every once in a while, whenever I have a few short moments to just lay back and ponder, I think about you guys. I really hope you´re doing great. And thanks for everything you guys have done for me--both before and after the mission.

The Lord´s Missionary,
Elder Jones