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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

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