Articles in this category are about everyday aspects of life while on a mission as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Missionary Schedule

Missionary Studying ScripturesMissionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to work hard, be obedient, and keep a strict schedule. Following the missionary’s daily schedule as prescribed in the Missionary Handbook is an important aspect of being in the right place at the right time. This schedule is a major part of mission rules and obeying these rules as a missionary will keep you safe and blessed. Abiding by the schedule will also help you to do the things you are supposed to do at the times you are supposed to do them. Here’s a quick overview of the daily routine:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake up, pray, exercise, and do other preparation for the day.
  • 7:30 a.m. Breakfast.
  • 8:00 a.m. Personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, chapters from Preach My Gospel, etc. with an emphasis on the doctrines of the missionary lessons.
  • 9:00 a.m. Companion study: share what you have learned during personal study, prepare to teach, and confirm plans for the day.
  • 10:00 a.m. Language study for 30 to 60 minutes, if necessary and approved by your mission president.
  • 10:00 a.m. Begin proselyting: teaching appointments, finding people to teach, open your mouth, etc.
  • Lunch and Dinner: You may take an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner at times that fit best with proselyting. Normally, dinner should be finished no later than 6:00 p.m.
  • 9:00 – 9:30 p.m. Return to the apartment and plan the next day’s activities. Write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
  • 10:30 p.m. Go to bed.
  • This schedule may vary a little in some countries and missions. For example, in the Rosario Argentina mission, where I served from 1995 to 1997, we were expected to be out proselytizing by 9am and we had our companionship study after lunch when the rest of the country was taking a siesta (nap).

Missionaries are expected to follow this schedule every day, except on preparation day (P-Day). On p-day, missionaries get up at the usual time, get ready, and do their personal and companionship study, but then, rather than going out to teach and proselytize, they use the day to do laundry, go shopping, write letters to family and friends, and perhaps have some recreational activities.  P-day ends around dinner time (6:00 P.M.), after which missionaries are expected to carry out their normal proselytizing schedule.

Even when it is hot, or snowy, or rainy, or cold, it is important for missionaries to keep this schedule. As missionaries do so, the Lord will bless them, for God “doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you” (Mosiah 2:24).

It is important for missionaries to be out of their apartment, meeting people, and sharing their testimony at the most opportune times. If it is mid-morning, 10:30-ish, and missionaries are still in their apartment, then they are not where you are supposed to be. But if, at that time, they are knocking doors, meeting people, and sharing their testimony, then the Lord will bless their efforts and help them find people he has chosen to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

If missionaries linger at a member’s home after a dinner appointment and have been there for long past the prescribed hour, then they are not keeping the missionary schedule. If, rather, missionaries keep their dinner appointments brief, thank the members for their hospitality, and get on their way to your next teaching appointment, then they are working hard and being obedient and the Lord will bless them to be a better instrument in His hands.

Finding Juan Carlos Lopez by Keeping the Schedule

Had I not been obedient to the missionary daily schedule, I would have missed out on many opportunities to meet families and eventually see them join the true Church of Jesus Christ. Once, when I had just been transferred, I arrived in my new area around 8:30 in the morning. It would have been easy to justify lingering longer in the apartment to unpack my suitcases, but by 9am we knew we were supposed to be out working, so we hit the pavement. It just so happened that within minutes of leaving the apartment, my companion and I first met Juan Carlos Lopez, who eventually got baptized. Had we chosen to disobey the rules and not keep the missionary schedule, then we may never had met Juan Carlos.

As missionaries are obedient to the mission rules, including the daily schedule, they will have the Spirit in greater measure. They will be guided by God and be more successful in their important labors.

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Summary: When missionaries are in the right place at the right time, they will have the Spirit of the Lord with them which will bear testimony that what they are teaching is true, a crucial element of the conversion process.

Mormon Missionaries Knocking Door

Photo Credit: Tyler McFarland

The principle of being in the right place at the right time applies to all of us. It means to do what the Lord expects you to do at the time the Lord expects you to do it. It applies to missions, temple marriage, and everyday opportunities to serve our fellow beings. For today, I’d like to focus on what it means for young men and all missionaries to be in the right place at the right time.

The Right Place for Young Men is on a Mission

First of all, for young men in their late teens or early twenties, the right place to be at that time in your life is on a mission. The prophets have long taught that every young man should serve a mission. Recently, at the October 2012 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson said, “We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve.”

It was in that same talk that President Monson announced the reduced age for missionary service for young men to be 18 years old. Said Pres. Monson, “I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.” The prophet has never said that young men need to leave on their mission right at age 18. He gives young men the flexibility to find a good time to go, to wrap up school or work or athletics, and then go on a mission. But certainly by the time that young men reach their early twenties, if they are going to school or working or involved in athletics instead of being out in the mission field, they are not in the right place at that time in their life. The age limit for men to serve a mission is 25, so for young men in their early 20s, the right place to be at that time of life is on a full-time mission.

Following the Missionary Daily Schedule

The second aspect of being in the right place at the right time that I would like to discuss is about mission life, obeying mission rules, and doing the things you are supposed to do at the times you are supposed to do them. Mormon missionaries are expected to work hard, be obedient, and keep a strict schedule. Here’s a quick overview of the daily routine:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake up, pray, exercise, eat breakfast, and do other preparation for the day.
  • 8:00 a.m. Personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, chapters from Preach My Gospel, etc.
  • 9:00 a.m. Companion study: share what you have learned during personal study and prepare to teach.
  • 10:00 a.m. Begin proselyting: teaching appointments, finding people to teach, etc.
  • Lunch and Dinner: You may take an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner at times that fit best with proselyting.
  • 9:00 – 9:30 p.m. Return to the apartment and plan the next day’s activities. Write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
  • 10:30 p.m. Go to bed.
  • This schedule may vary a little in some countries and missions. For example, in the Rosario Argentina mission, where I served from 1995 to 1997, we were expected to be out proselytizing by 9am and we had our companionship study after lunch.
Mormon Missionaries in the Rain

Photo Credit: Tyler McFarland

Even when it is hot, or snowy, or rainy, or cold, it is important for missionaries to keep this schedule. The schedule helps you as a missionary be in the right place at the right time, and as you do so, the Lord will bless you. It is important to be out of your apartment, meeting people, and sharing your testimony at the most opportune times. If it is mid-morning, 10:30-ish, and you are still in your apartment, then you are not in the right place at the time time. If it is mid-morning and you are knocking doors, meeting people, and sharing your testimony, then you are in the right place at the right time. If you have been lingering at a member’s home after a dinner appointment and you have been there for over an hour, then you are not in the right place at the right time. If you keep your dinner appointment to under an hour, thank the members for their hospitality, and then you get on your way to your next teaching appointment, then you are in the right place at the right time.

You get the point. Keeping this schedule is an important component of being obedient to the mission rules. And as you are obedient to the rules you are asked to live by, you will have the Spirit in greater measure. You will be guided by God and be more successful in your missionary labors.

Examples of Missionary Success By Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Virtually every family I taught and baptized was a result of being in the right place at the right time. I know that had I not been obedient to the missionary daily schedule, then I would have missed out on many opportunities to meet families, and eventually see them join the true Church of Jesus Christ. Here are some examples:

  • Finding Juan Carlos Lopez. I had just been transferred to the area and it would have been easy to justify lingering longer in the apartment to unpack my suitcases. But it was 9am, and we knew we were supposed to be out working. And it was that morning that my companion and I ran into Juan Carlos Lopez, who eventually got baptized.
  • Reconnecting with a Family in Rosario. We had taught a family in the city of Rosario and they had been progressing well, when all of a sudden they lost interest in meeting with us. We didn’t see them for a few weeks, but one day when we were out working, we happen to run into them on the sidewalk and we resumed the discussions. They got baptized soon thereafter, and this wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been out working at the appropriate time.
  • Finding teaching and baptizing the Lescano Family wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been in the right place at the right time.
  • Also, meeting and getting an appointment with the Godoy family is another example to led to a family being baptized.
  • The examples could go on and on.

“I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place…for the salvation of souls”

The Lord spoke to the prophet Joseph Smith about being in the right place at the right time in order to bring about the salvation of souls. In D&C 100: 4- 8, the Savior says, “Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls. Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say. But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things. And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.”

Future missionaries, you will be called by God as a missionary and sent to the place where the Lord would have you serve. There are people in that area that need the gospel and need you to bring it to them. Please be in the right place at the right time in order to do the work and bring the blessings of the gospel to the people of the world according to your call from God. Be where you are supposed to be. Do what you are supposed to do. Open your mouth, preach the gospel, bear testimony of the Savior, and teach by the Holy Ghost. The Spirit will testify to the hearts of the people that what you are teaching is true and you will have more power to convert. I know that as you do this you will be blessed and you will be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing to pass much righteousness.

Santoro Family of Beltran

Santoro Family of Beltrán ArgentinaI feel impressed to tell you about the Santoro family who lived in a city called “Fray Luis Beltrán” a little north of my main mission city of Rosario, Argentina. As I begin writing, I’m not even sure my purpose in sharing this post. Perhaps it is to give you more insight into the life and experiences of a missionary. Perhaps there is some other reason the Lord has in mind.

The Santoros were a wonderful family. They served well in the Church and went out of their way to serve and help the missionaries. They fed us lunch about once a week and welcomed us any time we needed to stop in for a cold drink of water. Every Sunday night they would let us use their telephone to call the zone leaders to report our numbers (people contacted, discussions taught, hours worked, etc.). To Americans, especially today in the era of very inexpensive phone calls, allowing us to use the phone for 15 or 20 minutes each week may not seem like a big deal, but this was very expensive for them.  I cannot now remember, but I certainly hope we offered to pay them back. They never said a word about the cost, though, and always freely lent their phone, their home, and other support.

Sister Santoro had only recently become a Mormon, being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just a few months before I was assigned to work in the Beltrán area. Her husband was not a member; he was quiet but friendly to us missionaries. Sister Santoro served in the stake primary presidency, as I recall, which was quite a substantial calling for someone so new to the Church. But she was not your ordinary new member. She had a zeal for the gospel that was contagious (she helped convert her sister to the gospel, the Wagners who I highlight in my Mission Life Videos, Part 4 Dinner with a Member Family) and she loved reading all the Church literature she could get her hands on. I remember that while I was there, in addition to the scriptures and the Church magazines, she was reading the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Like many young missionaries, I was full of energy and thought I could convert the entire world to the gospel. My natural inclination would have been to pressure Brother Santoro into listening to the missionary discussions. I have written many times about opening your mouth and talking to everyone you can about the gospel, and this situation would have seemed like an obvious one to do so. But for some reason, unknown to me but known to the Lord, I did not feel compelled to discuss the gospel with Brother Santoro. I felt perhaps that the former missionaries had pressured him enough related to spiritual things, and that he would take interest in the Church when and if he was personally ready. Instead, we as missionaries simply enjoyed their hospitality, thanked them for their help, and tried to serve them in any way we could.

A few months after I left the Beltrán area, I heard that Brother Santoro got baptized and had a leadership position in the Church. I was thrilled about the news because I knew that Sister Santoro had been praying for it. I was very glad to have met and associated with the Santoro family. I was glad that I didn’t push gospel conversations on someone who wasn’t ready, and I’m glad I had faith in the Lord and listened to the promptings of the spirit. And I guess, as I come to the conclusion of this post, that is the point, that though missionaries are taught techniques like opening their mouth at all times to share the gospel, above all, we have to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and obey the commandments of the Lord that we receive that way. And as missionaries, and in all other aspects of life, as you faithfully follow the path the Lord leads you down through his Spirit, you and those around you will receive the greatest blessings God has in store for us.

What to Expect in Argentina for Missionaries

Summary: For the soon-to-be missionary in Argentina, here is a little of what to expect on your mission. For parents and friends, you too can read on to find some interesting information about missionary life in Argentina. Also check out my Rosario Argentina Mission Life Videos.

I remember fondly my days as a missionary in Argentina; I will always cherish the time I spent in Argentina and the friendships I made there. But I also remember that living there was a bit of a culture shock at first, with different foods, a different language, and different customs. Therefore, for the benefit of future missionaries from the US going to Argentina, I thought I would write a little about what to expect in Argentina, some of the unique parts of life there, and other things you may expect to experience. My experience, which will be somewhat different than other missionaries in other cities at other times, was in the Rosario Argentina mission from 1995 to 1997. Though some of these things may seem funny or unusual, they are part of what gives Argentina it’s character. I’ve divided my observations into six categories:

The Food

  • Mild Foods: When I first got my call to Argentina, in my ignorance, I was expecting spicy food, perhaps like you would find in Mexico. On the contrary, though, I found mostly mild foods, with a lot of Italian influence: noodles, beef, chicken, salads, pizza, potatoes, rice, etc. Salads vary, as they do in the US, though a common Argentine salad that may be new to Americans is tomato and onion and that’s all. Salad dressing generally consisted of oil, vinegar, and salt (sorry, no ranch or zesty Italian dressing).
  • Beef and Asado: Argentina is famous for it’s beef and asado is the national dish. Asado usually refers to a grilled steak, but can also refer to a barbecue event. I remember the first time I was ever served asado. I think I ate more food at one sitting than I ever had in my life. Good stuff. I should also mention, though, that during my time in Argentina, I was served just about every part of the cow, many of which I honestly could not bear to eat. I just couldn’t stomach stomach.
  • Pizza and Toppings: Pizza is another common dish in Argentina, which many Americans will be glad to hear, though the common toppings may be different than you expect. Green olives and hard boiled eggs are two of the most common toppings you’ll find on pizza there. Usually, I just got cheese pizza, and it wasn’t bad. In fact, frequently, we just made our own. You could buy a pizza crust, tomato sauce, and queso cremoso (literally translated “cream cheese” but it was more like mozarella) at many corner stores.
  • Sandwiches: A very common lunch (or any time) meal was a ham and cheese sandwich. Most neighborhood stores carried fresh baked bread and deli meats and cheeses. My companions and I would frequently stop and buy some bread, thin sliced ham and cheese, and have a simple but good lunch.
  • Little or No American Fast Food: My brother, who served his mission in Poland, often wrote home about eating at American restaurant chains on a weekly basis (McDonald’s, KFC, etc.), but that will likely not be the case in Argentina. The only American restaurant chain I was aware of in Argentina was McDonald’s, and they were very few and far between.
  • No Cold Cereal for Breakfast: If you are used to a daily breakfast of Lucky Charms, Golden Graham, Fruit Loops, or Honey Combs, you may be disappointed. The only cold cereal I was ever able to find was corn flakes, and still that was a relatively rare find. I did have a companion, though, who improvised cold cereal by using a bag of assorted cookies and pouring them in a bowl with milk. It worked for him. I, on the other hand, ate a lot of pancakes and french toast with dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a very common caramel spread which made for a decent substitute for maple syrup which was not to be found there.
  • Polenta: Polenta is ground corn meal that is boiled into a thick soup, very similar to grits. Though unlike grits, polenta is usually not served for breakfast. It is served for lunch or dinner, often with tomato sauce, chicken, or other ingredients. Many missionaries I knew dreaded being served polenta, but I actually liked it. My mother is a southerner, so I was no stranger to grits.
  • Water: The water in Argentina, with a few exceptions, is generally safe to drink…once you’ve gotten used to it. And getting used to it generally involves having diarrhea for a week first. The alternative is to always drink bottled water, but that would mean turning down the glass of cold water or “jugo” (literally translated “juice” but it was more like a juice flavored punch) that virtually every member, and many non-members, will offer you. One funny thing about water sources in Argentina, is that most people have water tanks on top of houses. I once asked why this was and someone told it provided more stable water pressure to the house when the city water pressure was sporadic.
  • Mandarin Oranges: Argentina had great fresh fruits and vegetables, often at very good prices. When mandarin oranges (mandarinas) were in season, we could get 20 or 30 for a peso (roughly a dollar when I was in Argentina). Deliciosa!

The People

  • Language = Castellano: Contrary to what they tell you in the MTC, they do not speak Spanish in Argentina; they speak el Castellano. (Don’t tell the Argentine’s, but Spanish and Castellano are basically the same thing.) The name Castellano comes from the Spanish region of Castile where the language originated.
  • Economics: Argentina has wealthy millionaires and very poor people and every economic living condition in between. As a missionary, you will likely be exposed to more impoverished people, and more extreme cases of poverty, than you have seen in the US.
  • Fútbol: Fútbol (i.e. soccer) is, of course, huge in Argentina. In our mission, we were not allowed to play soccer (too many injuries, I heard). My first companion, who happened to be a native of Buenos Aires Argentina, introduced me to the main soccer rivalry, two teams called “River” and “Boca.” I tried to not pick sides, but most Argentines are passionately behind one of those teams, though there are lots of other professional soccer teams.
  • Catholicism: The overwhelming majority of the people of Argentina are Catholic. “Soy Catholico Apostolico Romano” (“I’m Roman Catholic”) is a phrase you’ll hear multiple times a day, frequently from people trying to get rid of you. In such cases, be polite, but be persistent.
  • The Falkland Islands (“Las Islas Malvinas”): The Falklands are a group of islands off the coast of Argentina. They are a British Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. Yet to Argentina, the islands are theirs, and they are called the Malvinas. In 1982, Argentina invaded the islands, but their forces eventually withdrew in defeat. Still, many Argentines pursue their claim to the islands and, believe me, you’ll hear about it.

Environment and Surroundings

  • The Mosquitos: In my first week in Argentina, one day I saw a mosquito on my companions arm, so I swatted it. Big mistake. Blood splattered all over my companion’s white shirt. Not many days later, we crossed through a field and I ended up with mosquitos completely covering my companions back. This time, my companion taught me how to gently shoo them away. Dealing with the mosquitos was a constant battle throughout my mission. During the nights, in our apartment, we would have gotten eaten alive by the mosquitos if it wasn’t for the mosquito-repellent incense that we would burn.
  • Dogs Everywhere: I have never seen so many dogs in my life as I did in Argentina. They seemed to run wild in the streets, and yet I don’t think I ever saw a dog catcher. Many of the dogs were ownerless and roamed the streets in constant search for food. Many of them were disease ridden. I had a companion who was a hunter who used to joke (at least I think it was a joke) about coming back to Argentina with his gun and taking out all the stray dogs.
  • The Zanja: The zanja (translated: ditch), is the gully along side streets, in front of homes in neighborhoods. In the poorer neighborhoods, the zanja was often deep and filled with disgusting runoff water. Zanjas were definitely to be avoided, and if you are in a hurry, they are only to be jumped over with great caution. (I heard a disaster story or two of missionaries trying to jump the zanja and ending up in the middle of it.)
  • Rain Storms: Many of you, particularly those who have lived in Utah your whole life, may be shocked by the powerful rain storms in Argentina. With almost certainly, you will be caught out in one of these storms, so pray you are prepared. For my first big rain storm in Argentina, I was caught unprepared. Everything in my backpack got soaked, except my scriptures; they came out completely dry. It was a mini miracle. If you are serving in an area with a lot of dirt roads, count on walking through a lot of mud the following day.
  • Flooring: It sounds funny to have a section on flooring, but this is a major difference that Americans will have to get used to. You will find mostly concrete or tile floors in Argentina. Dirt floors are still common in many areas. I also thought it was so funny to see women sweeping a dirt floor, but they did it. You will likely not see carpet while you are there (I didn’t), though some of the nicer places probably have it or throw rugs.

Transportation

  • Be Prepared to Walk: Your primary mode of transportation as a missionary in Argentina is walking. You will put a lot of miles on your shoes, so be sure to bring a couple of pairs of shoes that are good for walking. At first, I had a hard time keeping up with my companions, but by the end of my mission, I could speed walk with the best of them.
  • El Collectivo (the Bus): For long distances or when walking was not practical, we would take the local bus. Most cities in Argentina have a really good bus system. In many areas we would buy bus passes, though we had to use them sparingly to stay within our budget. Taking the bus on P-day to the grocery store was common, as was taking the bus to go to zone conference. Taking the bus was also usually a good time to sit down, open your mouth, and talk to someone about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Remises: Remises are basically taxis, though Argentina had taxis too (I never was clear on the difference). In extreme situations where you have to get across town fast, you can call or flag down a remise. A remis, compared to taking a bus, is expensive, which is why you can’t take them often. When you do take a remise, hold off for your life. The drivers in Argentina are not generally known for driving safe and slow. And don’t forget to talk to your remise driver about the gospel; you’ll have several minutes of his attention.
  • Horse-Drawn Carts: From the small towns and even to the big cities, you will see horse-drawn carts in the streets of Argentina. These are not your tourist-type horse-drawn carriages, but real, utilitarian carts being used to transport goods, often fruits and vegetables.
  • Multi-Person Bikes: These bikes weren’t designed for more than one person, but I would often see two or three people only a bike going from point A to point B. One time I even saw a family of five (dad, mom, and three kids) on a single person bike. I wish I had had my camera for that one. Many people did not have cars, so a bike was frequently the way for people to travel around.

Apartment Living

  • Shower and Calefón: A calefón is an appliance found in many (maybe most) homes in Argentina used to heat up the water for a shower. It is usually a metal tank attached to the wall in a bathroom or shower. Be extra careful plugging or unplugging it; I got a shock or two of Argenitna’s 220 volt electric current from the calefón. Most bathrooms don’t have a separate shower area, with a shower curtain as you are used to in the US. Instead, the calefón shower is usually placed right by the sink and toilet with no separation. Yes, water gets all over, and that’s why you have a squeegee and a drain in the middle of the floor.
  • Electricity: As I mentioned above, Argentina’s electricity is 22o volts, double the US standard of 110 volts. So don’t forget a power converter/adapter if you want to plug in your electric devices. 
  • Laundry: In about half my areas we were able to make arrangements to pay a woman in the local ward to wash our clothes, but often times we had to wash our own laundry. I don’t think that’s something my mom really taught me, but thanks to my first companion’s training, I picked it up pretty quickly.
  • Bidets: For those of you who don’t know what a bidet is (as I didn’t prior to my mission), it is a low-mounted plumbing fixture, generally located right beside the toilet, for washing your derriere. I never used one, but I guess a lot of people do because they are found in most bathrooms in Argentina. In one apartment, our land lord came into our bathroom one day to fix the shower and he asked if if the bidet was working okay. We said we didn’t know because we didn’t use it. He was shock and asked us “how do you clean yourself?” We told him toilet paper was enough for us.
  • No Central Heat and Air: I’m sure some people have central heat and air, but no missionary apartment I ever saw did. Depending on where you are in Argentina, the north or the south, excessive heat or cold may be an issue. In the summer, I couldn’t sleep without a fan blowing directly on me to keep me cool. And in the winter, we generally needed to get an electric space heater to warm our bedroom (which we could only afford to run it in the morning when we were getting ready). For my first winter in Argentina, I asked me mom to send me a winter hat to sleep in, and once I had it, I slept much better.

The Church

  • Church Buildings and Units. The first area I served in was a small branch called Gazano on the outskirts of a city called Paraná, and there we only averaged about 25 or 30 people a week at Church. Later I served in the big city of Rosario, where we had a beautiful building downtown and a large ward with hundreds of members. All told, I served in eight different areas, ranging from the big city to small towns, from large wards to small branches. About half of the areas had Church-owned buildings and half used rented building for their Sunday meetings.
  • Outdoor Baptisms. In areas without a Church-owned building, we would often have to drive long distances to use the baptismal font in another ward building. Or, in some cases, the wards/branches had gotten an above ground pool to use as a make-shift baptismal font. These fonts worked just fine to perform the saving ordinance of baptism, though it could be quite chilly if the weather didn’t cooperate.

Rosario Argentina Mission Life Videos

Update: Also check out my post on What to Expect in Argentina for Missionaries.

At the halfway point in my mission, when I had been in Argentina for almost a year, I was serving in a city called Fray Luis Beltrán. There was a new member who had been baptized only a few months prior, Sister Santoro, who lent us a video camera. My companion, Elder Gertge, and I then spent a few minutes over a couple of days recording aspects of our life as missionaries in the Argentina, Rosario Mission. These videos were taken in September of 1996, and though 15 years old now, I think they will still give you a good taste of missionary work and mission life in Argentina. Enjoy!

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 1 – Tour of Our Apartment

This video gives a tour of our (Elder Jimmy Smith and Elder Gertge) missionary apartment in the city of Fray Luis Beltrán, a small town north of Rosario, Argentina. It was a typical, Argentine, three-room missionary apartment: a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 2 – Visiting a Member Family

Here we visit to a member family, la familia Godoy. You will see a little of the every-day life of a family in Argentina, getting there kids ready for school, etc.

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 3 – District Meeting

As we are about to begin district meeting, I take a minute and introduce the Elders and Sisters in our district in Rosario Argentina. I didn’t record the actual district meeting, but it still may give you a feel for what those meetings are like.

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 4 – Dinner with a Member Family

In this video, us missionaries are eating dinner with a member family, the Wagner family, of the city of Fray Luis Beltran. Again, you will get a good view of a typical Argentine family.

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 5 – Tour of Our Area

Here, Elder Gertge and I give a tour of our area, the city of Fray Luis Beltrán. We show you some typical sites and sounds in a small town that is a suburb to the much bigger city of Rosario.

Video: Argentina Rosario Mission Part 6 – Testimonies and Goodbyes

Sister Santoro, a member of the LDS Church for only a couple of months, and the one who lent us the video camera, bears her testimony. Then Elder Gertge and I say goodbye from Rosario, Argentina, September 1996.

Poem: The Race by D.H. (Dee) Groberg

boy running in raceI like the poem “The Race” by D. H. Groberg because it is so very applicable to all aspects of life, including mission preparation and mission life. We all fall down in the race of life: we make mistakes, and we fall into sin and error. But we all have a Father in Heaven cheering us on, encouraging us, and helping us to get up each time we fall. The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us power to get up each time we fall, and as we do so God and the angles of heaven rejoice when we cross that finish line.

The poem “The Race” is posted here by permission of the author, Dr. D. H. (Dee) Groberg.

THE RACE

By Dr. D.H. (Dee) Groberg

I

“Quit! Give Up! You’re beaten!”
They shout at me and plead.
“There’s just too much against you now.
This time you can’t succeed.”

And as I start to hang my head
In front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by
The memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will
As I recall that scene;
For just the thought of that short race
Rejuvenates my being.

II

A children’s race–young boys, young men–
How I remember well.
Excitement, sure! But also fear;
It wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope
Each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that,
At least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side
Each cheering for his son.
And each boy hoped to show his dad
That he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went
Young hearts and hopes afire.
To win and be the hero there
Was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular
Whose dad was in the crowd
Was running near the lead and thought:
“My did will be so proud!”

But as they speeded down the field
Across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win
Lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself
His hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd
He fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope
–He couldn’t win it now–
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished
To disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up
And showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said,
“Get up and win the race.”

He quickly rose, no damage done,
–Behind a bit, that’s all–
And ran with all his mind and might
To make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself
–To catch up and to win–
His mind went faster than his legs:
He slipped and fell again!

He wished then he had quit before
With only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now;
I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched
And found his father’s face;
That steady look which said again:
“Get up and win the race!”

So up he jumped to try again
–Ten yards behind the last–
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought,
“I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exerting everything he had
He regained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead
He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lied there silently
–A tear dropped from his eye–
“There’s no sense running anymore;
Three strikes: I’m out! Why try!”

The will to rise had disappeared;
All hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error prone;
A loser all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought
“I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad
Who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low.
“Get up and take your place;
You were not meant for failure here.
Get up and win the race.”

“With borrowed will get up,” it said,
“You haven’t lost at all.
For winning is no more than this:
To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to run once more,
And with a new commit
He resolved that win or lose
At least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now,
–The most he’d ever been–
Still he gave it all he had
And ran as though to win.

Three times he’d fallen, stumbling;
Three times he rose again;
Too far behind to hope to win
He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner
As he crossed the line first place.
Head high, and proud, and happy;
No falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster
Crossed the line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer,
For finishing the race.

And even though he came in last
With head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he’d won the race
To listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,
“I didn’t do too well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said.
“You rose each time you fell.”

III

And now when things seem dark and hard
And difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy
Helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race,
With ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win,
Is rise each time you fall.

“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”
They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says:
“GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”

Bike Tires and How to Fix Flat Tires

This is the second of a series of posts about mission bikes by Shaun Gogarty, founder of Pedal With A Purpose.

When the Rubber Meets the Road

Bike Tire photo by Mr. T in DCRecently I saw someone on a bike, in a white shirt and tie, cruising down the street all alone. It took me a while to realize he was a missionary, because his companion was so far behind him, struggling to keep up.

Was the one in front a “seasoned” and strong senior comp? Did the one behind have a crummy bike? Is an expensive bike better or faster? There are many variables in how fast you can ride a bike. But one often overlooked variable is the lowly tire.

Even if you aren’t a runner, you would undoubtedly see the flaw in running a marathon in a pair of boots. Unfortunately, when it comes to mission bikes, missionaries don’t seem to use the same logic when picking tires.

Road Bike Tires Will Be Best for Most Missionaries

Lets face it, mountain bike tires look cool.  The huge width and big knobs sticking out in all directions make your feel like you could ride over anything just like a monster truck. The problem is those monster trucks get about 7 miles per gallon. Similarly, when you ride mountain bike tires, they suck the “fuel” quickly out of you! If you need to pedal over the tops of cars, then a beefy mountain tire is great.  But most of your contacts are in a town, on a paved road.

Bicycle racers use narrow, almost smooth tires because they require less energy to pedal. A first look at a skinny road tire might make you wonder if it will even stay “attached” to the road.  In fact, it is more evenly in contact than the knobs of a mountain tire.  Additionally, the flex in a road tire as it hits the road is far less than the softer knobby tire.  This “stiffness” and “smoothness” allows the road tire to roll easier on pavement, taking less energy from the rider. The downside for a road tire is that they are typically a harder/bumpier ride (i.e. less “protection” for you and your metal rims).

One missionary summarized it best after riding a road tire and then returning to a mountain tire: “I felt like I was pedaling a tractor.” Ride the one that works best for you while keeping in mind your objectives. Speed comes in a smooth package while comfort will cost you some speed.

How to Fix a Flat Tire

  1. Patch or Spare: Patching on the go is painful, difficult and time consuming. Carrying a spare is really your best bet. But to save space and weight, just carry a “cheap” thin walled spare at all times. You can quickly pop in the spare and take the flat tube home for patching at a more convenient time. Of course, if you have slime in the tube then it can’t be patched – just toss it in the trash.
  2. Tool Kit: Your kit can basically consist of two tire “irons”. These come in all shapes, sizes and materials. While plastic is gentler on your rim, they can break. This is not a time to scrimp and the “right” tool only costs a buck or two more. So get a heavy, solid plastic lever. Most wheels are attached with a quick release requiring only your hand. However, some bikes have nuts and you need a small crescent wrench. One other tool is a pair of latex gloves. When you take a back wheel off you will get greasy. Shaking a new contacts hand with a greasy hand can make a real first impression.
  3. CO2 or Pump: You have the flat fixed, now you need air in it. While the number of available, cool little hand pumps is in the 100’s, they can all be ignored for one wonderful invention: the CO2 inflator. These use compressed CO2 (think paintball gun) to inflate your tire. Don’t get a fancy or expensive one. Buy one that uses non-threaded cartridges so you can buy a cheap box of replacement cartridges at Wal-Mart. Learn how to use it and it will take you 10 seconds instead of 10 minutes to inflate your tire.

Avoidance: How NOT to Get a Flat

missionaries-bikes-mapFlat tires are not too difficult to fix.  However, when your bike is your transportation and you’re dressed in a white shirt, repairing a flat is problematic.  In many parts of the country, flats are a rarity, while in other areas having some flat resistant method is mandatory. Waiting until you are in your mission to see what works well locally is probably your best bet and might save you money. However, here is a quick course on what is available. There are basically four techniques that can be employed to avoid flats:

  • Thorn resistant tires (not tubes).  Several companies sell tires made with materials that resist puncture (e.g. Kevlar).  They do work for most thorns but are quite expensive. One advantage over other methods is they are generally lighter than thick tubes and slime.
  • Thorn resistant tubes. They do help avoid flats from small thorns like “goat heads.” In combination with tire sealant they can be very effect, albeit quite heavy, in avoiding flats. When you put thick tubes and slime in big mountain bike tires you will definitely notice a weight increase.
  • Tire Sealant (e.g. Slime).  This is actually squirted into the tube (not the tire) and seals small leaks from the inside out.  It can be used with regular tubes but works better with thorn resistant tubes.  It adds significant weight and you cannot patch a tube that has sealant in it so you have to buy a new tube when the slime doesn’t seal a leak.
  • Tire liners.  This is a strip of plastic seated between the inside of the tire and outside of the inner tube.  In theory it should work, but often with riding they shift to the side of the tire and so punctures still occur. This is especially true with wider tires.

Regardless of the method, flats still occur. Always carry a pump, patch kit and spare tube and tools to fix a flat. And learn to change a tube, patch a tube, and properly place a tube, tire, and wheel on a bike BEFORE you are on your way to the most important meeting of someone’s life.

Care Packages

Care Package for Mormon Missionary With Christmas season fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to put together some information on missionary care packages. For most missionaries, getting a letter from a family member or friend is the highlight of the week. And getting a care package is an even more momentous occasion!

One of the greatest things about getting a care package is the little glimpses of home they offer. These tastes, sounds, and smells from home are comforting, and shout “we miss you,” “we are thinking about you,” and “we care.”

Delivery Times

Sending packages to missionaries in foreign countries usually takes a minimum of two to three weeks, but in many instances could take up to eight weeks. Check with your postal delivery service for more specific time estimates to the country where your missionary is serving. But remember that there can be unexpected delays so send your care packages early!

What to Send

It is usually a good idea to talk to (or email) the missionary before sending your care package to ask what he/she wants or needs. For missionaries in a foreign land, you may not want to send them something that they can already get in that country. I was once told of a missionary who was sent toothpaste and a large box of tissues, which due to it’s weight and size were not cheap to send. God will surely bless those senders, but both items were readily available and inexpensive in the country.

Also, depending on the circumstances in the particular mission, the missionary may prefer the package be delivered to the mission home, rather than his/her specific apartment. Try to find out from the missionary what they want and where they want it sent. Most will not be shy about telling what they really want if you ask them. If you need some ideas, here is a list I compiled of some of the most frequently requested items:

  • Kool-Aid packets
  • Home-made cookies or other favorite foods from home
  • Candy (Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, Twizzlers, gummy bears, etc.)
  • Snacks (Candy bars, chips, Combos, Oreos, chocolate covered raisons or peanuts, etc.)
  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate (in whatever variety your missionary prefers, but remember that it might melt along the way)
  • Prepared mixes (sloppy joe, taco seasoning, salsa mix, ranch dressing, Italian dressing, gravy, etc.)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Pop tarts (though I can’t imagine they would survive shipping well)
  • Chewing Gum
  • Fruit roll ups
  • Jell-O packets
  • Over the counter medications (Ibuprofen, cough drops, Airborne, vitamins, etc.)
  • Holiday related items (simple decorations, traditional Easter, Halloween, or Christmas candy)
  • Scented items (e.g: small candles, potpourri, or Plug-ins. It’s nice to have a “smells like Christmas” feel around the holidays.  But be aware plug-ins might not work due to differing electric currents in other countries.)
  • Church DVDs (if appropriate, for your missionary to show to their investigators)
  • Church CDs (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, etc.)
  • Toiletries and personal items (Deodorant, mascara, etc. if suitable items are unavailable for your missionary)
  • Books (from the approved missionary reading list)
  • Pictures of family and friends (hard copies, as opposed to emailed photos)

There are, of course, many other possible items you could send, so remember to ask your missionary what he or she needs. They may have some seemingly unusual needs or desires. Take, for example, on my mission to Argentina. We were teaching a very poor family that had a flea infestation. My companion wrote home and asked his family to send flea collars to keep the bugs off of us while we visited them. Boy was I grateful when that care package arrived!

Shipping and Packaging Considerations

Packages go through a lot en route to their destination. They may be thrown around, crushed, opened, taxed, or travel through several countries before they reach their final destination. Here are a few ideas on packaging and shipping:

  • Padded envelopes are often the best packaging material. Some people have found that if items are small enough to fit into an envelope, then it’s less likely that the package will be opened by unauthorized personnel. If you have a lot to send, it may even be better to send multiple padded envelopes, rather than one big package. Plus, if one of the envelopes is lost or stolen, you won’t lose everything. Remember, you may be able to remove the original packaging from store bought items so as to make the missionary care package smaller/lighter.
  • Try not to send liquids, but if you must, double or triple bag them.
  • Consider sending food in a different package from soaps, toiletries, etc.
  • Label the package with an address in the language of the target country. Many foreign country address formats differ from our own, so be sure to enter the addresses carefully and completely.
  • The US Postal Service as well as all major shipping companies ship packages over seas. Be sure you speak with them about any questions you might have. And be sure to fill out all the paperwork they may give you.

Other Considerations and Warnings

Care packages to Mormon Missionaries in third-world countries can be very unsecure. Unfortunately, care packages are sometimes stolen or lost during delivery. So be sure not to send extreme valuables or irreplaceable items. At times, the country’s postal service may require the mission office to pay duties (taxes) before releasing the care package. Be sure to communicate with your missionary or the mission office with regard to how this should be handled. As the sender of the package, you’ll need to do everything you can to understand the rules and laws for package delivery to the country you are sending it.

Let’s all remember our missionaries and show them how much we care and appreciate their service to the Lord by remembering them in our prayers, writing to them, and sending them care packages!

Special thanks to Missionary-Blogs.com for many of these Missionary Care Package ideas and tips.

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Arriving in Your Mission

airplane-landing-over-city After your time in the MTC is up, generally 3 or 9 weeks, you will travel to your assigned mission. That might mean a drive down the street or a flight half way around the world. Arriving in your mission, for many missionaries, means culture-shock and fear of the unknown. Arriving in your mission as a new missionary is a different experience in every mission and for every missionary. But usually your mission president will see to it that you are properly oriented and taken care of when you arrive.

I recently wrote about the MTC when my brother, Michael, had just entered there.  Now he has left the MTC and he arrived in Poland this week.  Michael’s mission president took time to write about his arrival and the various activities he and the other new missionaries went through when they first arrived in the country. I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast Michael’s experience arriving in Poland with my experience arriving in my mission in Argentina.Misionaries-Warsaw-Castle-Old-Town2

Arriving in the Poland, Warsaw Mission

From Torben Engbjerg, President of the Poland Warsaw Mission: “The new group of missionaries was met at the Frederic Chopin Airport here in Warsaw by my wife and I and our Assistants. Everyone seemed very excited to be here. We followed our normal procedure when receiving new missionaries. After having put their luggage in the mission van and bringing it to the mission home, we took them all to the “Rynek” (old market square), in the old city of Warsaw, where they were met by other missionaries with the assignment to give this new group of missionaries a first impression of street contacting in Poland. The weather was wonderful today, with the first signs of spring, the sun shining, as you will see in the pictures, so everything was perfect for them to have a great experience.

Elder-Smith-street-contacting-Warsaw-Old-Town-2“[In the] early evening we fed them pizza in the mission home, after which they were allowed to retire early to bed, in order to quickly get over the jet-lag. So they are now sound asleep here in the mission home as I am writing this. Tomorrow we are going to have introductory meetings in the mission office in the morning.  In the afternoon the Assistants will take them on a brief sightseeing tour of Warsaw, after which they will be brought back to the mission home for their first interviews, the official welcome dinner and a testimony meeting.

“On Thursday morning we will again take them to the mission office for further instructions and to be introduced to their first companion/trainer, who will come to pick them up from their various work areas. This moment is always filled with excitement and a bit of nervous feelings, before they all go by train, tram, or bus to their various work destinations.”

Arriving in the Argentina, Rosario Mission

rosario-international-airportI arrived in Rosario Argentina in December of 1995. Getting off the airplane I was nearly floored by the hot, muggy weather (remember, the seasons there are opposite those of the United States). Another thing that struck me was the military guards posted at the airport, carrying rifles and looking very intimidating. Two missionaries from the mission office met us (me and two or three other missionaries) at the airport and took us directly to the mission home. At the mission home we got a brief tour of the mission office, a building directly behind the residence of the mission president and his family.  Then the mission president and his wife spoke to us for an hour or so. A couple of highlights from that meeting were:

  • I got gently reprimanded by the mission president for not taking notes. As the meeting began, I was in a bit of a haze, but I was paying close attention to the mission president and his wife.  I hadn’t even noticed when the other missionaries whipped out a pen and paper and began taking copious notes. I quickly followed suit.
  • drinking-water-argentinaThe mission president’s wife told us we could follow the missionary guidelines and only drink filtered or bottled water.  Of course then we’d have to turn down water at the homes of members and non-members alike when they offered us a cold drink.  Alternatively, she said, we could just drink the water, have diarrhea for a few days, then get used to it and then be able to drink the local tap water.  I opted for the second alternative.
  • Lastly, I remember the mission president telling us that though the missionary guide said preparation day lasted until 6pm and could be used to go site seeing, there were no good sites to see in Argentina.  Therefore our p-day would end at 4pm, thus giving us 2 more hours of proselytizing each week.

After the group meeting, each of the new missionaries had a one on one interview with the mission president. In that meeting he told us about our first assigned area and who our first companion/trainer would be.  After that, and within a few hours of arriving in Rosario, I was on a bus, all by myself, on my way to a city two hours to the north called Paraná.  Boy that was a scary bus ride.  I remember at every stop leaning over to the guy next to me and asking him in my broken Spanish, “Es esta ciudad Paraná?” (Is this city Paraná?). He and the bus driver were kind enough to make sure I got off at the right place.

So that was my experience arriving in my mission.  What was yours?

Additional Mission Expenses

mission souvenirsReaders, I need your help.  Many people have asked me about additional mission expenses for items not covered by the normal monthly allowance. I have written previously about the LDS Mission Cost and Saving for a Mission, yet there are uncovered expenses that are not intended to used with the monthly allowance such as photography, souvenirs or dining splurges.  Many future missionaries and their parents are curious about these un-included expenses and would like to plan for them.

I need your help to answer this question in a more complete way for those parents and future missionaries. My mission was long ago, and specific to Argentina of course, so things now and in other parts of the world may be different from my experience. But this is how I would answer the question…

From my experience, an extra $20 to $50 a month would be nice depending on what your family can afford and what kind of souvenirs you intend to buy and other splurges you may want.  It is important to remember, though, that your companion may not have any extra spending money, so you should be sensitive to their situation.

Anything above and beyond the monthly allowance given missionaries truly is discretionary, therefore it is difficult to give much further guidance.  The missionary program is designed so missionaries can get along just fine without any extra money beyond the monthly allowance.  On the other hand, though, it sure is nice to have a little extra cushion, especially for young people who may not be frugal or may not have learned practical steps for mission prep like managing money well.

I’m interested in all of your thoughts, though, so please comment below to add to or correct my response. Thanks.