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Monday, March 26, 2012

Elder Jones and Elder Larson (previous historian)

ESPN Top 5 in Argentina

Another ridiculous week has come and gone here in the mission field. We have a highlight reel ready, and here are this week´s top five!

1) Elder Benson recently finished on the race tracks with the mission home´s van, steering through Argentine traffic and maneuvering like a pro on his way to the bus terminal, where he and Elder Jones had to drop off some fellow missionaries. With all six cylinders raging within the Volkswagon six-seater, they made great time.

"These young men show great faith with their hands at the wheel," said Hugo Giuliani, the current president of the mission and director of all driving affairs within--and without--of the mission home. "We don´t know what we´d do without them."

It´s true, these two men have had great success these past few weeks working under the President and driving when needed in the popular mission van. Just like many of us have already seen and heard, ALL Argentine Volkswagon vans on the current line accelerate like a cheetah chasing its prey and utilize the latest, high-tech manual transmission systems.

"I couldn´t believe the control I felt at the wheel," said Elder Jones, a newly added missionary to the offices and the companion of Elder Benson. "We just took off, and I learned how to drive stick faster than expected," he said later, while discussing the helpful assistance he had received earlier from Elder Benson, the well know veteran of the offices and manual transmission guru.

We´ll just have to see what happens as the mission season continues. Up to this point, it´s safe to say that President Giulinani seems to have a pretty solid grip of new coaching position over the current driving staff. Time will tell.

2) Four brand new missionaries just called off the MTC bench and onto the mission field arrived at the mission home this past week, bags loaded with gear and suits looking spiffy. Despite the long trip, many of them almost exploded with excitement.

"I can´t believe we finally made it this far," exclaimed Elder James, one of the new missionaries in the crew. "We´ve been training our hearts out for the last nine weeks, and now we finally feel ready."

As you can see by the excitement in their voices, we have some solid rookies ready to dominate out here in the field.

It couldn´t have been said better by Elder Donjuan, the most energetic rookie of them all: "We came to win, and we know what we need to do."

And that´s exactly what we like to hear down here in the mission home. We receive all types of information, the good and the bad, ranging all the way from sicknesses and injuries to the successful baptisms and confirmations. "There´s just nothing better than the camaraderie of a new squad ready to hit the ground running and replace some of our older players," President Giuliani said during a video conference earlier in the week.

3) The office missionaries have seen some vast improvements over the last few weeks due to a recently acquired exercise regimen. Each morning just after the break of dawn, they hit the roads running and leave the mission home in their tracks as they make their way down the three mile stretch of pavement.

"I´ve never worked out quite like this before, but it´s just great," said Elder Buhl, the current assistant to the President who has worked in the offices for the last six months. "And I really want to get ripped for my future girlfriend," he confessed later, during an interview with our team here from ESPN.

Life habits get formed on the mission, and regular exercise has been proved to help by its release of endorphins (Editor's note: nice "Legally Blonde" vocabulary! haha), not only for current missionaries, but for all ages. And why not? We all know of the benefits from exercise and eating healthy foods.

To a question asked about his perspective of running during the most recent press conference, Elder Jones answered, "It´s just a way to live, and running has always been a hobby of mine."

And no one can argue that one. Elde Faldmo, Elder Jones, Elder Buhl, and Elder Benson, the current office workers of the running club, have seen great results.

"Working out helps me feel motivated and stay awake throughout the day," said Elder Benson, the current secretary to the president who has worked out for most of his mission. "You can always do a little more, and you get just great results."

There you have it. Working out is essential and pushes us forward in life. We´ll see if they can keep it up at such a rigorous level over the course of these next few months.

4) Elder Banks has finally come off the bench! Hold on to your seats, folks, because the champion missionary from last year has already come back and will tear up the field here in a few weeks. After finally ending with his grueling back surgeries, his fitness abilities have reached their peak once again.

"I can´t wait to get back out there," he said during his first interview. "I had been on the DL for an eternity."

And we agree one hundred percent with that one. Having too many players on the DL always hurts a team, especially someone as good as Banks. With his natural abilities and renewed desire to serve, we should get knocked off our feet once again as he racks up the baptisms.

"It´s just great to have him working for us again," said President Giuliani. "The whole ordeal with the back surgery seemed to never end."

Just as the President stated, the back surgery ordeal lasted FOREVER, calling for the help of some of the most prestigious doctors in the world and lasting for nearly a whole year. To describe the scene better for our readers, this young missionary named Elder Banks had served out in the field for just a mere couple of months when small back spasms and random pains shot up his vertebrae. Driven by his strong testimony, Banks fought the situation for a few months, but after awhile realized that he needed some serious medical attention. Later, five doctors' appointments and one attempted quick-fix left him with almost nothing--just a plane ticket back to the States, where he would seek out further medical help. Finally, after having endured all of these exams, tests, and surgeries, he is ready to go. We need him, too, at least according to the president and coach of the mission, Hugo Giuliani.

It will be great to have one of our stars out there again.

5) Elder Benson and Elder Jones completely dominated in the kitchens this week, inventing the new banana pancake wonders.

"I couldn´t believe the taste," said Elder Faldmo, now a pancake addict. "I just had to eat five."

He´s not the only one, as more than half of the office staff has started making these new breakfast treats. Pancakes, though a standard breakfast food in the States, serve as a real treat here in Argentina.

According to Elder Buhl, these pancakes "are absolutely incredible and should get eaten after every hard day of work."

As each day goes on, we might see a lot more of this pancake craze. They have already become a regular here at the mission home and might spread like an epidemic here in the next few weeks.

"Everyone needs energy, and if it comes in the form of pancakes, that´s fine with me," said the Hermana Giuliani, the spouse of the president and health guide for all missionaries. "What matters is that we have success."

Success has already come, and we hope it doesn´t leave. The mission is taking off with rocket force, and hopefully it will last.

Just like Elder Donjuan said, "We came to win, and we know what we need to do."


I hope you guys liked it. Mixing up my weekly email home sounded like a fun idea. All of the events are true, and I just tried to put a journalism spin to it :). I will be sure to write more details next week. I am so grateful for all of your guys' support and everything. The mission has been a great experience for me.

Your Missionary and Historian in Argentina,
Elder Jones

Monday, March 19, 2012

From the Offices

Wow. what. a. crazy. week. Working here in the mission offices has really changed my schedule here in Argentina, and it´s been a HUGE adventure. Each day of the week is a little different, a little stressful, and tons of fun. I´ve already learned mountains of information, including anything from standard baptismal statistics to recent converts graphs :). After having worked here for a full week, I have a better grip on the new job and new many more details about my duties for the next 4-9 months. So I will just fill you guys in on my weekly schedule here in Rosario, Argentina. Yep, I am finally living really close to the heart of the city, and my new area is completely different than my other two.


Alright, so every Sunday we wake up and have a somewhat normal missionary day, though still a bit different since we work in the offices. We wake up at 6:30am and get ready for the day, eat breakfast, shower, etc. until the clock strikes eight o´clock. At eight, we all come into the offices to try and get some power studying in before heading to our normal church meeting block, which starts at 9 and goes till 12. We try to get studying in everyday like normal missionaries, even though it can be tough sometimes with all of the people coming to the mission home and all the random events of each day. After the block, we head to a member´s home to eat lunch, our only meal appointment of the week, accompanied by two other elders who work in the offices. I don´t wanna get into too many details since time is limited, but four of us here in the offices share the same ward, and the other two have their own smaller ward. The boundaries are a bit more compact here in Rosario since we have more members. So I really enjoyed this meal, especially since the members always treat us really well, and we ate A TON. In my first area of Santa Fe, we had lunch everyday of the week with a member. In Paraná, my second area, we had lunch about twice a week. Now here in the offices, we can only eat on Sundays with members because our assignments keep us busy throughout the week. We all have random duties and can´t always leave at the same time for lunch. So we only eat on Sundays with members, which means I get to cook almost everyday. I made pizza again for two other missionareis today :). Anyways, after lunch, we all go through our emails and respond to missionaries, members, or area authorities who need information or updates about the happenings of the mission. This keeps on going until we hit 2:30pm, when we have our district meeting. We have to have it on Sunday instead of Tuesday, the normal day throughout the rest of the mission, because we can´t all get together on Tuesday in the afternoon. This meeting lasts an hour and a half, just like the meetings I´ve had every Tuesday of my mission, and we discuss goals and brainstorm about our investigators. After the meeting, we each get to go out into our respective areas to work for three hours, trying to get as many lessons and contacts in as possible since our time is limited. Then we come back at 8 to get ready for the statistic hour. Each Sunday, every companionship adds up their totals of lessons, contacts, copies of the scriptures placed, lessons with member, etc. They all send their info to district leaders who then send them up to the Zone Leaders. Then each companionship of zone leaders calls and gives us the stats for the WHOLE ZONE. We each are assigned to two or three zones here in the offices, and we get to enter everything into this huge, complicated, AWESOME, Excel program. They have a really cool tech setup here. We each have our own individual computer--way nicer than anything else I´ve used up to this point in the field--that has a hookup to a shared server hardrive. So we all can save and open the same file since it is saved on a big super computer called "apollo." Alright, I gotta move on. There are more details, but that´s basically it for Sunday. After updating all of the missions statistics, we all get about an hour of downtime before bed, just to chill and relax a bit.


Yes, we still get Pday, despite all of the other weird differences of working in the offices. Yes, I was glad to find that out cuz it is the only day when I can take naps hahaha. So I will most definitely be taking a nap after sending this message to you guys :). Anyways, we still have to do office stuff for the first three hours or so, which really isn´t too bad. I take all of the mission info, enter it in to a spreadsheet, make it look pretty, and then send it off to the president. I get to keep track of all the spreadsheets of everything, and once a month we formulate this mission monthly report and send it off to Buenos Aires and eventually to church headquarters. Man, this stuff is all really cool, at least in my opinion. I will try to just go over all of the basics this week and then maybe give more detailed emails throughout the next couple of weeks. After completing this, I am in charge of what´s called the "Los Estandarted de la Misión," which basically means the standards of the mission. That literal translation doesn´t work perfect for me. To fill you in a bit more, it is like a huge powerpoint that talks about all of the mission´s stats with a letter from the president and a weekly health message. We also put some baptismal pictures and other things on too, whenever it´s necessary. I like working with computers, like when I made the boating trip video for Mother´s Day, so I really like this part. I will try to send you guys the powerpoint just like I sent it to the 200 missionareis in the field this morning. This weekly information for the whole mission isn´t that hard or anything, but it is time consuming. It took me about three hours this morning. So yep, after sending this out and verifying all of the stats, we start our normal Pday. So yeah, Mondays are pretty sweet. We leave and work in our areas from 6-9 too, once again, trying to get as much work in as possible.


Alright, this is where everything starts to get kinda into a routine. I have this myldsmail email account but can only use it on Pdays, like right now! haha. I also have the missions historian´s gmail account, wich gets used ALL THE TIME. I honestly feel like I am working in Dad's office at Shell! I have my own phone and get anywhere from 10-20 calls everyday from missionaries. I have already sent or received close to 50 emails in one week. It is all just exciting, and I am still getting used to it. So yeah, all of the missionaries who baptize a new member have to send me their Regisro Bautismal. I am honestly not sure of the exact translation into English, but it basically means baptismal form/record. It has all of the information necessary about the convert that I need to enter them into the church system. So I spend most of Tuesday calling missionaries who have questions about how to complete certain parts, and a lot of the time they call me too. We all work together so that we can help the people come into the church. So I am working at the computer almost all day, entering in the information and making lds and membership numbers for new converts. All of the zone leaders also send me all of the statistics from the wards in their zone. I edit and save them as pdf files and then send them off to each Bishop or Stake President, just so they can have a feel for how things are going in their own areas. So cool. It´s awesome! We also leave at 4:30 to work out in the field. Sometimes we are too busy, and when that happens we just leave as soon as possible. Almost everyday we get out by 6 at the latest.


It´s just a continuation of the stuff from Tuesday. :)


This is the day when I work a lot with the finalization of all the new baptisms from the prior week. I double check the entries and call missionaries sometimes to verify if certain information isn´t completely clear. Then I send everything off to Buenos Aires, where they further sort and organize all of the member´s files of the world! There are like 400 historians who do this each Thursday too throughout the world cuz every mission has one. The church´s organization just knocks me off my feet sometimes. It´s incredible. Anyways, they have it backed up in the computer system, but just for like a huge emergency, I always print off a report off all of the mission´s data along with the records of the people. We have about a year and a half filed here, and eventually we can just throw them away. It is just in case something happens after we send the info to SLC and they were to need the information again. This is the main part of the day: just making sure that everything is officially ready to send off :). I also begin working with some of the mission´s charts and graphs in Excel. Some of the stats are really cool to look at as you compare different things over the years.


It was a relief to get all of the reports sent off and to have everything done from the prior week. After having to do all of the official stuff, back everything up here, and enter more information in the computer, Friday seems really chill. On Fridays, I just go into our files and figure out the names of all the recent converts. I put together special letters for them from the mission. Each one includes a special talk, a letter from President Guiliani, a pedigree chart, and just a welcome. They have everything set up so it´s incredibly efficient. I get to use the Excel files from earlier in the week to do mail merges and get our copiar to just print everything off in exact order. I had to have a big refresher/quick lesson training on how to do that stuff from the last Historian. I am glad to have taken the BCIS computer course at Klein. Our copiar/printer is a beast, by the way. It does staples, double side printing, etc. It is really cool. Like I said earlier, sometimes I feel like I work at your office downtown! haha. One Friday a month, I also take all of the original backup documents and put them in this special red bag. This mailman comes every Friday and takes anything from our mission home that needs to go to church headquarters. We don´t have to pay, so I am assuming it is mail through the church pouch serve. Idk. I also have to put in some mission stat summary info, just so they have a paper backup. I think this sounds a little excessive cuz the church has like five backups. There is the main computer file in SLC, there is another one in Buenos Aires, I have stuff on my computer, and then there are two paper copies. So basically, if every computer crashed in the world and someone stole one of our files, we would still have the other paper copy of the record and know who had gotten baptized in Argentina. Cool, huh? :)

I also get some more free time to just study this day, which is really nice after being so busy earlier in the week. Tuesday-Thursday of last week, I didn´t get to study the gospel or language at all since I was too busy with everything. It´s been great, though, and I am getting the hang of it. Like with everything in life, it just takes some time.


We treat this like a normal workday, just as if we were working out in the field as normal missionaries.

And that´s my week!!! I love it here and am learning so so much. I am really tired--no, exhausted--from last week. So I will take a nap here pretty soon. I want to just leave you guys with some cool facts:

-Everyone except one other missionary here in the offices will go home in less than four months. So sometimes I feel kinda young and new. I hang out with the financial clerk who has been out for just six months more than me quite a bit since we can relate a bit more. All the missionaries here are great guys, though. Plus it is helping me more with the language too, since they all speak really well.

-I have gotten to know the President so much better. He comes in, works in his office a bunch, and we can always hit him with questions. He comes to us for info sometime too!

-I had to talk with a church representative in Buenos Aires because they are coming out with new software for data entry. Right now, they are working with new converts and retention rates, and a completely new software program for this area of church statistics. We have a video conference set up for this Wednesday so that he can show me the ropes to the new system. They are still testing it. He is really cool, and I look forward to the conference. I have already read and been briefed on the new program through email last week. I will have to let you guys know how it goes.

-I have already started memorizing zones and areas in the mission. It is cool to learn so much.

-The air conditioning and technology just feels so out of place here, especially considering the circumstances of my first couple months in the mission.

-My comp is Elder Benson. He is really cool and likes to work out and play tennis. We are gonna try to go play on clay courts this upcoming pday if we aren´t too busy!

Wow, sorry for writing so much. There is just so much info. I feel like there is so much stuff that I haven´t said. I haven´t even talked about my new area or investigators or any of that. I have to go, though. I hope you are all doing great. I am learning at a really rapid pace and look forward to see what else the mission has to teach me. The language has been amazing for me, and I really recognize the Lord´s help in my adventure here. Eight months ago, I never would have imaged me working in an office, emailing people, and speaking to my president everyday in Spanish. There really are miracles, whether they be small or large, in every part of the world. I have grown so much here in Argentina. Once again, my testimony has grown about my call to serve here in Argentina. I don´t only have the opportunity- to preach the gospel, but also to help the church as the historian.

With love,
Elder Jones

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Argentina Rosario Mission Historian


Wow, I don´t even know where to start. This past week has probably been the craziest so far during my seven months of service, which is pretty solid considering my first two areas and moving processes. Basically, I can´t describe everything that has happened during these past few days, and to be honest, I still have quite a bit to learn here. Just to give you guys a brief lowdown, on Friday morning the Mission President called me in my apartment in Paraná to ask me a quesiton. I AM THE NEW HISTORIAN IN THE MISSION! So basically, I left my new little apartment yesterday to travel to Rosario to begin working in the offices. From now until Wednesday, the old mission historian, Elder Larson, and I have worked together, trying to get everything organized and ready for both the new missionaries coming in this week and for the old ones who finish the mission tomorrow morning. Simply put, we have tons and tons to do, and I´ve had some pretty crazy experiences. Since it will probably work out better this week, I will make a bullet list. So much information!!!!!

- As historian, I work in the offices with five other missionaries. Luckily, I kinda described some details in an email a few weeks ago. Two missionaries work as assistants to the president and help with all of the main mission conferences and meetings each month. One missionary works as the financial clerk and is in charge of ALL the financial aspects of the mission. Another missionary works as the secretary and is in charge of visas and other official documents. Then another missionary works as the librarian and has to work with all of the contracts and supplies of the mission. Then there´s me, the historian!!! I will explain my job throughout the email!

- I work with baptismal forms, church data computer programs (MLS and other ones), and with a special historian gmail account. So basically, I still have tons to learn and have only worked here in the offices for about one day. However, I still kinda have a general lowdown of my basic duties :)

As the historian, I will:
-keep track of all new members and current baptismal services within the mission
-be in charge of all the mission data, which we log into and organize in excel to do analysis and brainstorm of ideas for improvement in areas (# of contacts, lessons, etc.)
-put together the weekly powerpoint presentation that gets sent to all missionaries every pday. I might send it to you guys one week, just so you can see what I get to do! It includes mission information about everything and letters from the president and other area authorities.
-help out the secretary, my current companion, with some of the visa stuff and centro trips to fill out official documents
-work with all of the referrals within the mission, which come from both, the general offices of the church, and phone calls from currently serving missionaries
-work with new misisonaries sometimes when they come into the field
-put together documetns and print off files that the president needs for certain meetings

And that´s about all I know for now. I still have small other things too, but those will just come with time. Elder Larson is really cool and is from Dallas, Texas!

- Right now, one of the newly called assistents is Elder Artunduaga, the same missionary who lived in my first apartment in Santa Fe! We just talked for a long time, and I really enjoyed it since I can finally communicate with him. At the very beginning of my misison, speaking in spanish was SO HARD! He is from Columbia and really cool!

- The air conditioning is AMAZING! This is my third time in an air conditioned room since I arrived here in Argentina!

- This computer here in the office feels incredible, even though it is just a two-year old PC!

- We work in the offices all throughout the day, each with our respective duties, and then leave out to work in the field for the last four hours before nighttime.

I want to write a lot more, but we have some stuff to do with the older missionaries. Also, there are some baptismal documents we have to enter into the computer. So I have to go. I love you guys and hope you all are doing well!

Thanks for all of the suport and everything. Next week, I should be able to write quite a bit more! The mission has really been quite the experience for me, and I really appreciate all of your prayers and what you had taught me before the mission. I love working with computers, so this should be a pretty fun experience for me.

Your Missionary,
Elder Jones

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mission Miracles

Spiritual Experiences/Small Miracles

My mission here in Argentina has blessed me with many spiritual
experiences, strengthening my faith and helping me grow closer to the
Lord. As you read about these special moments, hopefully something I
say will bring these same feelings of peace and comfort into your
lives as you strengthen your faith and testimony of the restored
gospel and of missionary work. Many of these moments here in the
Argentina Rosario mission, both big and small, have truly blessed my
life. For this reason, I have chosen to share many of them with you
all. I hope you like them :).

1) The blessing of the missionary gospel library. Aside from the
scriptures, church manuals, PMG, etc, we have the opportunity to read
"Jesus the Christ," "Our Search for Happiness," "Our Legacy," and
"True to the Faith." Of course, none of this is obligatory, and we
still set our main focus on the scriptures and Preach my Gospel. I
still have set a personal goal, however, to read the gospel library in
Spanish throughout my mission, a process that I started a couple months
ago. With four books to choose from, I didn't know exactly where to
start and decided to think it over for a bit. After a few days, I
started reading "Our Legacy" without really any specific intentions.
It just seemed to have a little more basic Spanish and learning more
about church history didn't sound too bad, either :). So that's how it
went. Almost every day, I would set aside a bit of study time to read
the book. A few weeks past, and we followed our normal routine until
one night when our ward mission leader called a special meeting with
us. That night he asked me to give a special talk about the pioneers
the following day at the ward activity. During that entire week I had
read about the pioneers and early beginnings of the church. In other
words, I had learned much of the vocabulary and felt prepared to give
the talk, which would have been much harder for me had I not read the
first half of "Our Legacy." This is one example of our small miracles
in the mission. I started reading that book for a purpose unknown the
weeks before. :)

2) Tower Contacts. In most areas of the mission, huge towers of
apartment complexes stick up into the skies and make me think of
downtown. Haha. We usually don't spend much time working with them,
especially when we have better options. We struggle with the towers a
bit since you can't get inside until someone sends an electric signal
down to the outside fence to open the door/entrance. So we must use
this huge box that functions as a weird, telephone-like gadget. It's
kinda similar to the machines you use to get into gated communities in
the states, just to give you a better idea. Between the telephone
machine, the odd environment, and the surrounding security fence, it
is extremely difficult to introduce ourselves and share our message.
Every once in a while we will still work with the towers (~1 a week)
to find people to teach. We know that people everywhere need to listen
to the gospel, even those who live in the skyscrapers :). So that's the
basic lowdown, and one day we decided to hit up the towers and test
our luck. We contacted the entire top floor and continued the process
of contacting each complex within the building. We where on the eighth
floor and had received many rejections when I punched one of the
numbers of a first-floor complex. Kinda weird, but then a humble and
meek voice sounded from the voice box, inviting us in to talk and
drink some juice. Excited and curious, we passed through the gate as
soon as she sent the electric signal. After entering to her humble
apartment and talking for a few minutes, she told us that she had been
waiting for a messenger from a church, and that she had recently prayed
for help in her life. A few minutes after the prayer, her buzzer rang
and she talked with us, the missionaries. Of course during the
conversation we mentioned that we had a special message that could
change her life, just what she was looking for in this moment of her
life. Simply put, she believes that we were the answer to her prayer.
Once again, a mini miracle in my eyes :).

3) The Book of Mormon. I recently finished reading it for the second
time in Spanish. Right now, I have decided to focus on the New
Testament during my scripture study too, to try and have a rounded
scriptural knowledge and testimony. Both books have slowly changed
both my life and perspective as I serve down here in Argentina. Not
only have these books helped me with my teaching and missionary work
in general, but they have blessed my personal testimony with strength
and assurance, which grows a little everyday. The scriptures
themselves are a mini miracle and a tool we can use throughout the
bumpy roads of life :). Even more importantly for me, I have read them
in a completely different language twice now, another small miracle in
my life and from my mission. When I look back from when I started my
mission to this very moment, I can see the divine help sent to me
during my mission service.

And these are just three of my spiritual experiences described above,
and I know each of us has small miracles each day of our lives--some
too personal to describe. We just need to pay attention, and with time
we will see the Lord's hand touch our lives :).

Elder Rory Jones