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Monday, June 25, 2012

Elder Jones, a recent convert named Marcelo Gomez, and Elder Hull.


Cultural Note. Our mission contains 12 zones, and almost every zone is based off of a major city. Some of the most populated cities within our boundaries are Rosario, San Nicolás, Venado Tuerto, Pergamino, Santa Fe, Paraná, La Paz, and Concordia. In Argentina, every main city has a Peatonal (Pay--at--toe--nal). Unknown in the U.S., the peatonales in Argentina always excite new missionaries and tourists. First off, I'll explain about "centros," which will help when describing about the peatonales. Each main city has what´s called "Centro," which basically means "downtown." Many small cities and pueblos (small villages) surround every main city, and in Centro you find all of the modern buildings, businesses, banks, etc. So it´s actually a little similar to the set up back home for me, just on a smaller scale. The coolest part is the Peatonal. Each centro has its own main street called the peatonal. No cars drive along the road, the architecture has an older/formal feel, and people always pack into the stores. The closest comparison would be an outside mall or group of outlet stores. Even though it´s only one street, it usually runs a length of 20 blocks or so, just jam-packed with stores of all kinds: sports, Argentine culture, leather workshops, restaurants, computer cafés, museums, and even more. I didn´t get to go until my third transfer since the Centro and Peatonal are pretty far from most of the areas. We could have gone like my second week if we had planned well. Overall, it is a great thrill, and I feel kinda strange there :). It kinda has an amusement park feel to it! As far as I know, it's a specialty to the Argentine goer. So if you ever come down here, be sure to hit up the peatonal!

The Jehovah´s Witnesses. Well, it´s been forever since I left the small part of Santa Fe called San Martín. However, I still have some great news! I called the missionaries working there for some details, and found out about some converts. You will have to prick your memory, during my service there a senior couple joined the church after listening to us for a little over a month. Always faithful but with a few doubts, they had been Jehovah´s Witnesses, the faith to which they found the most comfort and understanding according to their thoughts and ideas as a couple. Leonardo y Nelvis are now faithful, active members in the church. The missionaries serving there told me that Leronardo has already provided service for the church, accompanied by his wife, and that he will receive the Melchizedek priesthood soon. They have attend church regularly and now serve without being asked by other members. They have many friends within the ward as well. :) Hearing this news made me smile, and I hope to hear of their first temple visit in the future. Long story short, they are doing great and feel happy about receiving the message of the restored gospel. They love cruising through and online just to watch videos and to learn more. I gave them a few internet lessons before leaving, knowing that some senior people struggle a bit with technology haha, and it helped a lot!

And guess what? We plan to head to the peatonal today, so I don´t have much more time. I haven´t been in over two months, so it should be fun since we actually have some time today! Below are just a few more quick facts you might like to hear:

-The mission home is over 100 years old. I knew it was old . . . but not THAT OLD!

-Our mission broke 200 new convert computer records this week. Since I joined the offices last March, we have brought over 200 people into the church as a mission.

-I have driven the mission van close to 1000 kilometers, running errands for president, helping with apartment moves, going to the terminal to pick up new missionaries, or just doing other random tasks!

-I made sushi again this week. I think we will order some really good rolls from the restaurant here this week too!

-We had five people come to church this past Sunday, a new record for me!

-We burned some food in the kitchen this week, and it smelt terrible!

Anyways, I guess that´s about it for now! I hope you guys are doing great. :). Thanks for the dearelders!

Elder Jones

Monday, June 18, 2012


I really appreciate all of your mail and have sent out many cards this past week. Hopefully you all will get them soon. :). Over the past few weeks, I have had some incredible experiences and thought to share them with you all today.

1. Spanish. Right now, I have a pretty solid grip on the language (finally!), and Elder Hull and I can talk to basically anyone when we work together. However, like all good things, it came with a price. One day, after living in Argentina for about one month, I felt overwhelmed as if learning a new language were impossible. Frustrated, I continued studying the gospel and language with high hopes, knowing that one day it would come to me. For those of you who don´t know, as missionaries we can study the scriptures, our missionary manual called "Preach my Gospel," and a handful of other specially selected books. We have the majority of these resources in both languages, as well as a college grammar textbook and some vocabulary packets. Simply put, a new missionary has tons of resources and figuring out where to start can be mind boggling. I decided to think about it and pray some, hoping for some inspiration. I then decided to focus the majority of my studies on the Spanish scriptures and my Spanish textbook of over 2000 exercises and 28 chapters. We really do have lots of language material, so picking what to use was difficult. I still had two other language books, vocabulary pamphlets, church magazines, and even more to help us learn the language. So this was when my adventure began.

Every day, I would spend about an hour reading the scriptures, either listening to it on my ipod or reading silently, always in Spanish. Many times, I had a dictionary right at my side to look up words and to help with the grammar. At first, it was incredibly hard, but little by little, I made progress. For another hour and sometimes two, each day I would study the language out of the college grammar book, trying to learn as much as possible and apply it throughout the day. Long story short, I know a divine hand helped me during this part of my mission. I finished the college textbook at the end of my fourth transfer. I had felt all along that when I reached this point, my language abilities would be sufficient. Just two days later and basically right after finishing the book and all its exercises, the president called me on our cell phone and asked me to come work here in the offices. This experience hit me powerfully. My responsibilities changed dramatically through my transition to my position here in the offices, where I´ve worked since the middle of March. Instead of just working alongside an older missionary, in the offices I have had to send emails in Spanish, call people in Buenos Aires, help out missionaries with their records, talk to president, and basically do tons of daily tasks in Spanish. Without the inspired study, I don´t know if working here would have been a possibility for me. It has blessed my life, even though the older guys make fun of me a lot since they go home soon :). I know that the Lord guides us when we seek His help and assurance.

2. Finding an Apartment for other Missionaries. Some days I leave with Elder Camacho to help with apartment/contract information. Two elders have had to switch apartments, and we have the responsibility of finding them a new one. Since the Internet isn´t used as much down here, we couldn´t find anything online, which is usual. So the only other common method here in Rosario is to drive around and look for a "to rent" sign! A bit tiring and tedious, it is still the best option. I know what it is like to not have an apartment, so I always urge Elder Camacho to find one for them. Sleeping and cramming in the apartment of other missionaries is terrible, and luckily it doesn´t happen too often. One day, we left and had looked for over an hour, crossing through almost every street in this area called Belgrano, just hoping to find a small litte house for them. We were about to give up. I decided to turn down a road while we headed home, even though we had already gone down it earlier that day. Elder Camacho asked me why, and I wasn´t sure, but we just kept going on down the street. We found a sign hidden behind a tree that we hadn´t seen before the first time after about five minutes. We were really excited! We wrote down the information, and Elder Camacho is working with the landlords and contracts right now. Once again, I know a divine hand guides us in our decisions and daily tasks.

Alright, I planned to write about our recent converts today too, but I´ll save it for next week since we have a lot to do here today! I will still squeeze in a small, quick cultural note!

La Siesta (See--eh--stah). A nationwide tradition, the siesta takes place from 12:30pm to 5:00pm. Everyone sleeps, and the majority of businesses and stores close down since customer flow slows down significantly. Walking in the streets or driving during the siesta feels really weird, and everything really appears completely deserted. Literally, almost EVERYTHING shuts down. It is just different and kinda cool. They then work from about 5:00pm until 9:00pm. So the average worker's schedule here differs from that of the Untied States. They then usually go to bed at about midnight and wake up at 9:00am. This is common and took a while for me to get used to, as well. Everyone eats dinner here around 9:30pm, which felt incredibly late at the beginning of my mission. :). Just like everything, you get used to it with time!

And I guess that´s it for now. I really do appreciate your mail. I can´t explain how it makes my day to sit down after working hard and to be able to read your messages. It sounds like many of you are doing well, and I can´t believe a whole year of BYU has come and gone during my missionary service. So many of you are JUNIORS in college now. Crazy stuff.

Oh, and just a few side notes:

- I made homemade sushi! It tasted pretty good actually :)
- My companion had severe stomach cramps numerous times. I drove him to the hospital yesterday, where he received an IV and some medication. He is doing a lot better.
- I am going to take a nice long nap today. Finally!

Elder Jones

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Una Semana Mas, Una Semana Menos

Hey, everybody! I hope you´re doing great. I plan to mix things up a bit with this email and will go in this order: Cultural note --> fun experience in the mission home related to the cultural note--> Info. about converts --> testimony meeting. We plan to visit a planet museum this afternoon, so I kinda have to hurry. I recently finished the weekly newsletter for the president, so I have a decent amount of time. We´ll just have to see. :)

Cultural Note. The most famous food of Argentina is called Asado (ahh--sahhdd--oh), which is a little similar to BBQ in the U.S. Most families have one Asada a week, usually during the weekend on a Saturday or Sunday night. Everybody loves them, and people ALWAYS do Asados when someone has a birthday or if there´s any other excuse to throw a party :). For example, on my birthday, the Bravo family made me an Asado. I wanted to learn how to cook one, it being the most common tradition/food in Argentina aside from Mate. To prepare your own, you need to buy the following:

-Meat. This is usually a quality cut of meat similar to steak.

-Salt. Lots of Salt.

-Mustard and Chimi Churri, a special Argentine sauce.

-5 to 10 kilos of coal.

So really, you don´t have to buy that much food. Just like with all kinds of meat, the quality comes with the price. One of the nicest cuts of meat here is called "Mar de Plata," which translates to "Sea of Gold" in English. I have only eaten it twice during my eight months here, and it was INCREDIBLE! haha. Anyways, so first you have to have a parrilla (pah--ree--sha). This is extremely similar to a grill, except made of a different metal. It´s very similar to the metal racks you flip over campfires. These are usually quite large, and you can cook enough meat for about 20 people all at the same time. Once the parrilla is in place, you light the bag of coal on fire and wait until everything appears dark red and hot. Then you use metal tools to move all of the coals underneath the parrilla, spreading them as evenly as possible. The people usually keep about half of the coals piled up and really hot just off to the side for a second batch of meat. With the heat baking everything close by, you place the meat on the parrilla, and it always makes a cool sizzling sound. Directly afterwards, you shake and rub salt into all the meat! Then you just cook it for about a half hour, depending on the strength of heat from the coals. You can adjust the height of the parrilla too, affecting how fast the meat cooks. Some Argentines like to cook everything really fast since it takes less time, which covers the meat with a crunchy outside and leaves a nice, juicy red interior. Other have slow-cooked everything for close to two hours, giving it a completely different taste. I like them both. :). I will make it for you all after the mission! Right before you eat, you mix mustard and this chimi churri sauce to make a special meat dip. It is really yummy!

Fun Experience in the Mission Home. Alright, so my time is short. I won´t give hardly any details. The president knows that Elder Camacho and I know how to work the parrilla and make asado. We have done it a handful of times here together for birthdays and just for fun every once in a while. So knowing this, he asked me and Elder Camacho, one of the missionaries working in the offices from Mexico, to prepare food for all of the new missionaries. Normally, Brother Bravo comes and cooks, but he had other obligations that day. So long story short, Elder Camacho and I went through the process above and made 162 hamburgers for all the new missionaries and their trainers!! We had enough for everyone, and most people ate two burgers. We were a little nervous, but it worked out great.

Marcelo Gomez. Even though we do so many random jobs here in the mission home, we still get a little bit of time to work as regular missionaries--some weeks more so than others. Elder Hull and I left to visit investigators only three times (about 10 hours total) this past week since everything was so hectic and tons of people needed help during transfer week. However, I will try to always share at least a little bit about our investigators, especially the best ones who have progressed incredibly fast. We have been really blessed here recently as two of our investigators entered into the waters of baptism this past month. With what little time we have, a difference can still be made in people´s lives. That´s why I serve as a missionary. I can´t describe my feelings of comfort and happiness as I watched Marcelo Gomez, a recent convert that Elder Benson and I baptized, pass the Sacrament and give a small talk in church yesterday. Seeing the change in his life has changed my own. He bore a powerful testimony of prayer and of his conversion. I know that the church can help everyone out, members and nonmembers alike. Though hard and challenging, my mission has changed my life bit by bit, molding me into a better person and strengthening my testimony. The next time you hear "Called to Serve," just know that we are doing exactly that here in Rosario, Argentina and also in over 400 missions around the world. With close to 70,000 of us around the world sharing the truth, miracles happen each and every day. I promise and know it´s true.

Elder Jones

P.S. I was going to write more but will just save it for next week. We are about to leave for the museum and to buy groceries.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Elder Jones and Elder Hull (companions).

El Repaso de Elder Rojo (Elder Rojo´s review)

Well, we have had another decent week. I actually have quite a bit to say. Anyways, here we go. :)

Mechanical Engineering! The VW van we drive here in the mission home has gone many months unattended. Unfortunately, this happens quite often in the mission because missionaries know they will leave/switch areas soon, so they don´t fully take care of apartments and other appliances. Elder Camacho and I decided to apart some time to tidy things up. Even if we leave in just a few months, it will be nice to have everything in good condition and repaired. :) With this attitude in mind, on Saturday morning we took the van into the shop and explained the problems we had both found to the mechanic. We needed all of this repaired:

Headlight. For as long as I´ve been here, one of the headlights hasn´t worked, leaving us with just little light while driving at night.

Two Breaklights. At least one of the three worked... We still definitely needed to get the other two replaced.

Spare Tire. One of the tires drove over a nail many months ago, so the missionaries took it off and attatched the spare wheel, supposedly a temporary fix. We have driven on the spare tire for almost four months--including before I even arrived at the offices. I hadn´t even noticed, to be honest, but Elder Camacho (kah--motch--oh) and I decided to get it changed as soon as possible.

Quick Inspection. This isn´t an official inspection like those back home, but the mechanic did a quick run through over all the main parts of the van, verifiying that everything funcioned at least reasonably.

Then we drove back to the misison home to show the improvements made. The other missionaries excitedly look it over. They liked it, and now we drive a lot better and safer. Before, we didn´t really stick out on the road very much since many cars have problems here, but it was still great to get it repaired. I can´t wait to take care of my own car one day in the future!

Funny and quick story. Elder Artunduaga, one of the assitants and the companion of Elder Bruin, had a great idea: hide his companion´s package and eat some of the candy from inside it. He knew where Elder Bruin had hidden his package in the offices, so it was going to be perfect. This package is filled up with many candies and other special goodies from the states, by the way! So one day, Artunduaga left the dinner table running and shouting, "I´m going to eat and hide your candy, Bruin!" As he turned the corner and left the room, the smile on Elder Bruin´s face quickly faded as he jolted up from his seat and started sprinting after Artunduaga, half jokingly but legitimently worried at the same time. haha. This is just part of the office drama :). All the rest of us just stared at each other in silence for a few seconds after the chaos. We heard some more screaming and footsteps, and after looking at each other, we all decided to get up and make our way to the offices. When we arrived, Elder Artunduaga had pulled out a peanut butter and a box of pepto. haha. Elder Artunduaga is from Columbia, where Pepto-Bismol doesn´t exist, so he assumed it was candy just like everything else in the package!!!! Elder Bruin continued to play along as if he was worried that Arunduaga was going to eat his "precious" candy, which was exactly what Artunduaga wanted. Finally, Elder Artunduaga broke free from all of us and ran away a litte bit. He opened the pepto box and took out like six circles, popped them in his mouth, and started chewing! He thought they would taste like skittles, but after two bites, his face completely changed to an expression of disgust. We laughed SO HARD while he spit everything out in the trash can! hahaha. So much for a great joke. It kinda backfired. Here with our routine schedule, we get kinda bored sometimes. So this was really funny!! :)

I was about to start my cultural note, but we are super busy today. It´s transfer week! Ahh. Old missionaries are having their ceremonies today and getting ready to go home. New missionaries are coming in from the MTC on Wednesday. All of the trainers will arrive in a few days, and we still have all of our regular duties. SUPER BUSY. It should be good, though. I will keep you all in my prayers and try to write a few letters today. I love the mail from all of you guys. I will write a lot next week. If there is a little more time later today, I will write the cultural note! Thanks!

Elder Jones