My MTC Experience: Oct to Dec 1995

I was in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah from October 25 to December 26, 1995 as I prepare to go to Rosario, Argentina to serve my full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This article is one of a series of posts I have written about my mission to the Argentina, Rosario mission. Click here to see them.

I loved the MTC from the very beginning; everyone I met there was so nice and the spiritual growth I experienced was phenomenal. I’ll have to tell you about it in words because I only have a couple of pictures from my MTC experience. I had a camera, but it was the first time I had ever owned a camera, thus I wasn’t very familiar with the process of loading and unloading the film. Apparently, I did something wrong in the process and all the pictures got exposed and turned out completely blank. Thankfully, my friend Mark Bigelow, who was my freshman roommate at Brigham Young University (BYU) the year before, was at the MTC at the same time as me and he donated this picture he snapped on his camera.

mark bigelow and jimmy smith at Provo MTC Oct 1995

Here’s my friend Mark Bigelow and I in front of the map at the Provo, Utah MTC.

Traveling to and entering the MTC was the typical experience in some ways, but in some ways not. I flew from my home in Maryland to Utah on a Tuesday and spent the night in Provo at the college apartment of my brother Stephen. I don’t remember getting dropped off. I presume it was Stephen, so it probably wasn’t the typical family tearful goodbye.

I liked the MTC from day. I enjoyed the spirituality and I felt comfortable. My comfort level was helped by the fact that the MTC facilities reminded me of the dorms at BYU. My MTC stay was just a few months after I completed my first year of college at BYU and all the facilities (beds, laundry, cafeteria) was just like in the BYU dorms. Check out this post for more information on the life and schedule at the MTC and what facilities and services are available.

I was amazed at how they just threw us into Spanish, teaching us to pray and contact people in Spanish, on our very first full day. I was in one of the first trial runs of the Technology Aided Language Learning (TALL) program which included a daily class in a computer lab where we had the ability to listen to native Spanish speakers and also record ourselves and play it back. I believe using this kind of technology, which was very new at the time, is now part of all missionaries’ curriculum at the MTC.

At the MTC, I felt I had a peaceful, happy life that was relatively stress-free. I had few worries about what was going on in the outside world, I just studied Spanish and the gospel and felt the Spirit God almost all day, every day. I loved learning more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to share it with others. I think my ability to really enjoy the MTC came from the preparation I received during my youth, at home and at church. I had been an active member my whole life, my parents held family home evening weekly, I attended early morning seminary, I had read the Book of Mormon, and I had prepared myself spiritually and physically for the mission. These things I did to prepare led me to receive a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I knew the gospel was true and I knew that a mission was where God wanted me to be, and I was able to immerse myself in the work and truly enjoy it.

Of course, I know not all missionaries enjoy the MTC and the experiences there as much as I did. I have known plenty of missionaries who struggle with the transition to missionary life. Many missionaries have a hard time adjusting to life away from home, some have trouble learning the language, and many, frankly, have a hard time being spiritual all day every day. If youth have largely ignored spiritual things throughout their life, then going to the MTC can be a difficult transition. I believe that preparing spiritually is the most important thing to prepare for prior to going a mission because a firm testimony will help youth overcome any other trials. But physical and emotional preparation, as discussed throughout this website, is also vital mission prep.

I had many special, spiritual, faith-promoting experiences at the MTC, but I’ll share just one that happened after I had been there for about a month.  We had a lesson on faith and as I sat there listening, my mind and soul seemed to open up and receive knowledge from heaven. After the class, one of the other missionaries asked me what I had learned about faith, and as I tried to convey through words what I had felt the Spirit of the Lord poured over me like never before.  The other missionaries and I worth both greatly edified by this experience.

The more I learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. The more I studied the scriptures, the more I wanted to immerse myself in them and learn all that I could.  An hour a day of personal scripture study suddenly didn’t seem like nearly enough.

I came away from the MTC with more gratitude in my heart, more meekness and penitence, a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon, a firm understanding of the importance of obedience to the commandments and to the mission rules, deeper gospel knowledge, a stronger testimony of the Church and of the atonement of Jesus Christ, greater sensitivity to the Spirit, greater trust in the Lord, and joy and happiness that worldly things cannot bring.

At the conclusion of my MTC experience, I wrote in my journal, I knew I had had a life altering experience, even if I never set foot in the mission field.  While that is certainly true, oh how little I realized how much I would learn and grow once I got into the mission field. And believe me, I was anxious to get to Argentina and start real missionary work. I was in the MTC for 9 weeks, and as much as I enjoyed everything there, by about the halfway mark, me and the other missionaries in my were getting stir crazy. I remember feeling like I might burst if I didn’t get out of the MTC and start tracting and teaching people. As it turns out, once I did get the Argentina, on my first day, I wished I had made better use of that time and learned the Spanish language and the missionary techniques better. But the Lord blessed me, as he will all of you.

Here’s a video I made a few years ago about my experience in the MTC:

A Week of Bike Miracles

danielle smith riding bike mission oklahoma april 2018

My niece is on her mission in Oklahoma, Spanish speaking. We enjoy getting her emails and are glad she writes a nice letter weekly. In a recent letter in which she mentioned both things that happened to her and the lessons she learned, I was reminded of my mission to Argentina and my experiences and personal growth. Here’s the experience in her words:

This week was a week of bike adventures! Which basically means a week of bike miracles!

The Spanish speaking population here are pretty few and far between, so some days it’s a little tricky to find things to do, especially during the day. One day we decided to try to visit a family that hasn’t come to church in a while. They live seven miles away, so we biked out there and they weren’t home. But then we tried her neighbor, and she turned out to be a Spanish speaker! We gave her a Book of Mormon, and were even able to set a return appointment! We’re going back tomorrow!

On Saturday, it was cold and rainy. It was physically probably one of the hardest days of my mission. The first 45 minutes or so were kind of fun, but once the rain soaked through my boots and jacket, I wasn’t quite as excited to be out. We ended up biking about 10 miles and were outside in the rain for about 5 hours. But I think the hardness really made me appreciate more the love and sacrifices that other people have made for me.

I know my parents would have gladly ridden through the hills in the cold rain if it meant they could help me. And clearly the Savior sacrificed so much more than that for me. And it helped me realized how much I do love my Savior and how much I would give for Him. Most days it’s not to hard to get up and get out. But Saturday, I did not want to be out, I would have loved to stay inside in the warm. But as we were biking, I was thinking about what I would be willing to do for Christ, and that because I love Him, I was willing to stay out and bike the way back, and keep on talking to people. I am grateful to have had that experience, and I am grateful that usually I don’t have to bike in the rain, haha.

I love you all! Thanks for the love and the prayers!

Hermana Smith
danielle smith caught in rain mission oklahoma april 2018

My Last Day and Traveling Home from My Mission

This is another in the series of articles I have written about my mission to Rosario Argentina from 1995 to 1997. Today I’d like to talk about my last day in the mission field and about traveling home.

One day each month, the mission president would call all the zone leaders and tell them of the companionship transfers that were to take place on the following day. On that day in early November 1997, I received the call to pack up and head to the mission home to begin my journey home.

As I recall, I got to the mission home in the mid afternoon. I had an exit interview with my mission president, Presidente Ontiveros. In the interview, he thanked me for my hard work to build the Kingdom of God and gave me some advice for life. I remember he told me that the mission is designed to teach us lessons that we should carry throughout our lives, like always wearing a suit and tie to church meetings. And since then I have always strived to do that. He also counseled me to try to find a good wife and get married as soon as reasonably possible. He counseled me not to delay marriage or having children until after college graduation or feeling secure financially. He reminded me that the family is eternally important and that God would bless me for making spiritual matters a priority in my life. He told me many other wonderful things, and one of the last things he said was to remember that throughout my travels home I was still a full time missionary and the mission rules applied until I got home and my stake president released me.

That evening we had a lovely dinner with the mission president and his wife and family and the other missionaries who were heading home. Some time that afternoon or evening, I also received a visit at the mission home from Hedgars Gonzalez. I unfortunately don’t have a picture of our reunion, but I was very touched that he would come to see me off. I wrote about Hedgars in my article about serving in the Godoy Ward.

We slept at the mission home that night. There was a small building behind the mission president’s residence that served as the mission office and there was a room with some bunk beds where we slept. In the morning we got ready and headed to the Rosario International Airport, pictured here.

The Rosario Argentina airport was much smaller than the airports I was used to, but it did the job just fine. Here is our group of departing missionaries walking out to board the plane that would take us to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, we would catch our flights that would take us back to the United States or wherever each missionary called home (there was at least one missionary in our group from Chile).

When I got to Buenos Aires, I found out that my flight to the US didn’t leave for several hours, so our hosts, the members of the church helping to drive us around and catch our flights, had arranged to take me and some of the other missionaries to the Buenos Aires Temple to do a session before we left the country. To my extraordinary surprise and delight, my trainer and first missionary companion in Argentina, Elder Loesener, heard of these plans and met me at the temple. Elder Loesener, by his suggestion, took this cool picture of me with the Buenos Aires temple spire in the background.

Here’s another photo of the Buenos Aires temple that I took. This was my first trip to the temple since I went to the Provo, Utah Temple when I was at the MTC. After a session at the temple, I said good bye once again to Elder Loesener, and some good volunteer took me back to the Buenos Aires airport. There was a little drama at the airport when a security guard insisted on opening and going through my suitcase. I guess he didn’t find any contraband and soon I was on my way, boarding the plane, and enjoying a 13-hour flight to Miami, Florida.

After a layover and switching planes in Miami, I got on a short flight to Washington, DC. At the airport in DC, my family was there to meet me. Above is me with my mom and six of my siblings. From left to right: Michael, Christine (my first time meeting her as she was less than two years old), John, my mom, Julie, Peter, myself, and Paul Jr.

Looks like my dad and Peter switched places between this and the last photo and Peter is the photographer now. Left to right: Christine, my mom, my dad, John, Paul Jr., Michael, me, and Julie. From the Washington D.C. airport, we headed straight to our stake center where we met the stake president who released me from my calling as a full-time missionary. And that marked the end of my mission.

My mission was one of the greatest and most formative experiences of my life. I poured my heart and soul in to the work and I hope my offering was pleasing unto God. I think it was. I was able to help many individuals and families come closer to Christ through the ordinance or baptism. I hope to meet each of them again someday, whether in this life or in the next, and have a joyous reunion.

Saladillo Ward: Oct to Nov 1997

I served in the Saladillo Ward in Rosario Argentina from October 15 to November 11, 1997. I was surprised to get transferred to this area because it was only a month prior to the end of my mission. Being there for only four weeks, I didn’t take a lot of pictures and I don’t remember many members of the Church in the Saladillo Ward. We didn’t have any baptisms that month and there were not even any serious investigators that we were teaching. Still, it was a good month, I met and worked with a lot of great missionaries and I’m glad to had the experience.

I have a brief story to share from my time in the Saladillo Ward and after that I will post the few pictures I have from when I was in this area. As a reminder, please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

Missionary Work is a Game of Numbers

One memorable story I have from this time in my mission was when we did exchanges with some other missionaries in our zone. My companion, Elder Bandley, and I were the zone leaders and one of the companionships in our zone were really struggling. These two missionaries were not getting along and almost no missionary work was being done in their area. One of them went with Elder Bandley to work in our area for the day and I went with the other missionary to work with him in their area for the day.

I got to the other missionary’s apartment in the morning, probably around 9am, which was the time, per the missionary schedule, when we were supposed to be leaving the apartment to teach or find people to teach. I asked the missionary if they had any scheduled appointments during the day, and he said no. I asked if they had any people to whom they were actively teaching the missionary discussions, and he said no.

I asked him what they had been doing during a typical day over the past few weeks, and he said that they spent a lot of time hanging out at member’s homes. I told him that was not appropriate and that we would not be doing that. Just to clarify, visiting members can be a good thing for missionaries to do, provided it’s planned in advance and there is a spiritual purpose. That’s not what was happening in this case. I informed my missionary companion for the day that we were going to hit the streets and open our mouths, sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we saw.

I asked the missionary if there was a neighborhood or apartment complex that he suggested we go to for some door knocking and we headed out. Along the way, we stopped and talked to every able bodied adult we passed on the street. In those days, when we knocked doors or street contacted, we gave people what we called a “charla corta” which means short discussion. It was an abbreviated version of the first missionary lesson for investigators, and at the end of the charla corta, we would asked the person if we could come to their home to teach a more lengthy discussion.

We spent the whole day talking to people of the street and knocking doors and we probably gave 100 charla cortas that day. That other missionary probably worked harder than he had during any other day on his mission. It was tiring, but it was great. At the end of the day, we had about 10 or 12 appointments to return and teach the full first discussion. The missionaries in this area had the calendar full for the next week, and we felt the Lord had really helped us find some good families to teach.

missionary work game of numbers patternI later found out that of those families that had invited the missionaries for a full lesson, most, but not all, followed through and allowed the discussion to happen. Of those, about half, 3 or 4 families, accepted the invitation to receive the second missionary lesson. One or two of them eventually came to church. And one of the people we contact that day, got baptized a few weeks later, and became of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That’s why I say that missionary work is often a game of numbers. If you approach 100 people, only half or so will hear you out. Of those half who listen to your short discussion, maybe only one in 10 will invite you for a full lesson. Of those that hear to first discussion, only a percentage will progress to the second lesson, and only a percentage of those will come to church, and only a percentage of those will get baptized. While the percentage varies from country to country and city to city, the pattern remains the same in most parts of the world. If a missionary wants to bring people to Christ via baptism, which is the missionary’s purpose, knowing these numbers means also knowing that you have to always be opening your mouth and finding new people to teach and by so doing, you’ll be able to help more people move down the funnel toward baptism.

Pictures from the Saladillo Ward in Rosario Argentina

Now for the few pictures I have from my time serving as a missionary in the Saladillo Ward:

Here’s my companion, Elder Bandley, shining his shoes in preparation for a hard day of missionary work, walking the streets, testifying to people of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Bandley turned 21 while we were together. I attempted to make and decorate a cake for him but it didn’t turn out as well as previous cakes. I’m guessing his mom sent the celebratory candles, balloons, and other stuff.

This is a picture our district basketball game on p-day. I’m the one with the basketball shooting a jump shot.

In this picture, I’m the one with the ball shooting a reverse layup.

Here’s a picture of our whole district, from left to right: Elder Smith (that’s me), Elder Bandley, Elder Bates, Elder Facer, Elder Merritt, and Elder Benitez.

Arroyito Ward: August to October 1997

I served in the Arroyito Ward of the Rosario North Stake from August 13 to October 14, 1997. I was only in the Arroyito ward for two months. It was a difficult area to serve in for a variety of reasons, yet I served happily and well during that time. There were not a lot of residential neighborhoods in our area. Rather, we had a lot of shopping and businesses, including some busy streets in this area that had a lot of stores and shoppers. We usually spent a couple hours or more each day walking up and down these busy streets, asking people to talk to us. Percentage wise, very few people would stop and speak with us, but we opened our mouths none-the-less and we had a few conversations every day. Almost everyone who did speak to us, lived outside our area so we wrote down their name and address and sent the referral to the mission home so they could send the missionaries in that area to visit them.

Please note this article is one of a series of posts about my mission. Visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina to see my other mission areas and the conversion stories of people I baptized.

People We Taught and Baptized

I had no baptisms while I was in Arroyito, but the man in this photo on the right, Alberto Gomez, was a recent convert. We were trying to teach the discussions to the rest of his family to get them baptized as well. From left to right: Damian, Susana, Romina (a cousin), myself, Carlita, Alberto, Silvia.

Members in Arroyito

This is me with a member in the ward named Claudio Rodriguez and my companion, Elder Peterson. Claudio wanted to join the church for many years as a young man but his family prevented him. When he turned 18, he investigated the Church, took the missionary discussions, and got baptized.

An Arroyito Ward Family home evening activity.

This same FHE activity. I think that hose is the iron rod in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.

Sister Tello, her daughter Mariana, and myself. Every Sunday we ate dinner with the Tellos, including Abel, the father of the family who was not a member.

This is the Sola family. They were baptized about five years prior to this photo. Their youngest, a fourth daughter, is not in the picture. The father of the family is a chemical engineer with Exxon. They lived in a nice home and had a car and I can remember him giving a us rides a few times. They fed us dinner sometimes and once I even remember making them dinner. We had dinner crepes using my family recipe.

This is Bishop Ravello and his family. The only names I wrote down are the oldest three kids: Andres, David, and Ruth.

Missionaries I Served With

This is my first companion in Arroyito, Elder Peterson, sitting at the study desk in our apartment.

Here is Elder Peterson and I outside the Tello’s house.

This is a P-day zone activity where we played American football. The missionaries are (left to right): Elder Decuster, myself, Elder Wasden (squating), Elder winter, Elder Merritt, Elder Nasal, Elder Jeppson, Eddie Pope, Elder Bray (squatting), Elder Peterson (laying on the ground), Elder Araya, Elder Bell, and Elder Rolon. I think Eddie might have been an American who was playing in the Argentine professional basketball league and some of the missionaries must have met him and started sharing the gospel with him.

After a month with Elder Peterson, he was transferred and I had the priveledge of training a brand new missionary, Elder Lopez. Here he is writing to his family on P-day.

This is Elder Lopez and I at a zone lunch. One of only a time or two that I ate at a restaurant in Argentina. We asked the photographer to get a picture of all the cow parts that were being cooked on the grill. Unfortunately, all we got was the cook’s back. Oh the perils of film cameras. Too bad we didn’t have digital technology back then to know immediately if the picture had turned out.

This was the same zone lunch as the picture above. They had an all-you-can-eat buffet for $5. A super deal.

Neighborhoods

This is me in front of the “Vino Toro” (“Bull” brand wine) factory. Argentina is well known for their beef, so I thought it would be cool to get my picture in front of this giant cow’s head.

I had seen this Catholic Cathedral from the bus when I served in Beltran. We passed by it whenever we took the bus from Beltran to the mission home for interviews with the mission president. It turns out this church was in my area in Arroyito and we walked by it multiple times each day.

Apartments

Here I am working on removing the drop down ceiling in our apartment. The plaster ceiling tiles had been falling and it was presenting a hazard. We talked to the land lord and got permission to remove all the tiles and the wood structure holding them up. It was our service project for the week.

Elder Lopez snapped this picture of me with a huge smile on my face. I’m not sure why I was so happy. As you can see, we were just coming into our apartment after getting caught in a rain storm. I guess when you’re in the service of the Lord, he blesses you with great joy inspite of afflictions you might face.

This was on my last day in the Arroyito area. I only had a month left in my mission and I assumed I would be staying in Arroyito for that month, but I suppose the Lord had other plans. I was transferred to the Saladillo ward and made a zone leader for my last month of my mission.

Godoy Ward: April to August 1997

I served in the Godoy Ward in the Rosario West Stake from April 23 to August 12, 1997. Rosario was the biggest city in my mission area and the location of the mission home (where the mission president lives) and the Rosario West was one of three stakes in the city. This was the sixth area/ward that I served in during my mission. The Godoy Ward was memorable because it was an area where I had more success in terms of baptisms than just about any other area on my mission. I also have great memories of the ward members and my mission companions there. Also please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

People We Taught and Baptized

This is the baptism of Maria Ines Theodoroy on May 4, 1997. The baptism was performed in a above ground swimming pool that the Godoy Ward put on the roof of the building they were renting for Church meetings. As I recall, many in her family had been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the month prior, before I arrived in the area. Around the time I arrived, she decided she wanted to get baptized, so we taught her the discussions. This was a memorable baptism for me because I remember that it was a cool fall evening and stepping into the pool was uncomfortably cold. I went into the font first, and when Maria Ines stepped into the water, I remember a warm feeling coming over me, not just spiritual in nature, but it felt like the water got physically warmer. I took it as a sign from God that he was pleased with me as a missionary. I don’t recall if I asked Maria Ines if she felt the same thing or not. I think God was also pleased with her decision to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism.

May 11, 1997. The woman on the far left was named Stella. She and three of her children were baptized that night after being taught by the other elders in the ward. My companion, Elder Loertscher, and I taught the boy in the front right named Cristian. His uncle, Walter Pizarro behind Cristian and to the left, is a member of the ward and performed the baptisms.

May 18, 1997. This is the baptism of a man named German Arrieta and a young man named Sergio Arrieta (no relation). From left to right, Elder Loertscher, unknown boy, myself, Sergio Arrieta, Hedgars Gonzalez who is Sergio’s friend, German Arrieta, his daughter Evelin, German’s wife Sara, and their niece. I’ve previously written about the conversion of German and his faith and testimony. Hedgars, I believe, was the ward missionary at about 19 or 20 years old here, and he was a great member-missionary. I believe he later went on a full-time mission. Sergio was Hedgars’ friend to whom he introduced the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s another photo of the Arrieta family. Back row: Me, German, and Sara. Front row: Evelin (8 year old daughter), Alba (a friend), and Ivana (a younger daughter, I think).

June 15, 1997. A friend of the Gonzalez family named Jose was baptized on this day. Jose is a good friend of Noe, the one in blue behind me. Hedgars performed the baptism. From left to right: Elder Brown, Brother Gonzalez, myself, Noe, Jose, Hedgars, Sister Gonzalez.

Also on June 15, 1997, Javier Benitez, a relatively new member himself, baptized a friend of his from work, Oscar Sosa. From left to right: myself, Javier, Oscar, Elder Brown.

Here’s another photo of the baptism of Oscar Sosa. His grandfather, girlfriend, and other friends came to the baptism. Also in the picture is Carlos Godoy, Oscar’s uncle, and the rest of the Godoy family.

Myself, Jose, Elder Brown, and Oscar after the baptismal service.

July 13, 1997. This was a great day. The Godoy family was baptized and took a step towards become an eternal family. I have previously written about the conversion of the Godoy family. It was miraculous and it was a joy to teach them the gospel and see them make the sacred baptismal covenants. From the left: Elder Brown, Carlos Godoy, his son Carlos, myself, their daughter Angelica, and Beatriz Godoy.

Here is Elder Brown and myself after the baptism of the Godoy family. I’m a little embarrassed by this now, but  made them a cake and decorated it with the words “Congratulations Godoy Family. They have chosen the right.” With a crude drawing of the CTR shield in Spanish.

This picture was taken a few days before the baptism. The Godoys had been together for many years, but like many in Argentina, they weren’t actually married. They said they always intended to do it, so when we told them they had to get married in order to get baptized, they made arrangements right away. My companion and I were able to attend the civil wedding. The Godoys had a party that night with family and friends but we weren’t able to go to that.

And here is one final picture of the Godoys. This one was taken at the home of German Arrieta during the going away party that the ward threw for me when we found out I was being transferred out of the ward. Left to right: Beatriz Godoy, Carlos Godoy (with the hair cut I gave him), Carlito, myself, and Angelica (who truly was an angel).

Members in Godoy

This is some of the Theodoroy family. Most of this family had joined the Church in the months prior to me arriving in the area. From left to right: Sister Theodoroy, myself, Matias (age 15), Dafne (age 3), Sandra, and the father, Alejandro, who had not yet joined the church at this time.

This was a ward family night. From left to right, the names I remember are: Hilda, Stella, Brother Zapato, Sister Theodoroy, Dafne, Hedgar, Sister Romero, Athenas Theodoroy, Elder Bray, Matias, Unknown Sister, Jorge, Elder Araya, Carlos Pizarro, Sergio, unknown little boy, young sister Romero, Elder Loertscher, unknown sister, young sister Marquez, Sister Zapato, Maria Ines, Sister Marquez and her daughter.

The Theodoroy family fed us lunch about once a week and we were very grateful for that. It was always very delicious and they were great to visit with. Back row: Maria Ines, Sister Theodoroy, Sandra. Front row: Athenas (age 8), Dafne (age 3), myself, and Matias.

This was the baptism of Jorge and Sandra Roma. They were taught by the other Elders in our ward, Elder Bray and Elder Redd. The other young lady in white was taught by Elder Call and Elder Guest who are in the far right of the picture. The date was May 25, 1997.

After the baptism of Jorge and Sandra Roma.

When we found out that I was being transferred out of the ward, Juan Juarez, pictured here with me, set up a surprise going away party at German Arrieta’s house.

German Arrieta, at the far right in the picture above, was sad that I was leaving. He was a good man and a good friend. Also present in the picture are the Theodoroy, Gonzalez, Godoy, Marquez, and Pizarro families.

Here’s another picture of the going away party.

Missionaries I Served With

Elder Bray, Juan Juarez, and my first companion in the Godoy ward, Elder Loertscher. Juan was a recently returned missionary. When Elder Bray’s former companion, Elder Araya, received an emergency transfer, Juan became is companion for a couple of weeks.

This is Elder Brown who replaced Elder Loertscher after we had been together for a month. This was taken when we still lived in one of the worst apartments of my mission. It was a one car garage with a make shift bathroom in the corner. We moved a couple weeks after this picture was taken.

On this day, all the missionaries in our zone got together to eat lunch and play basketball.

I love to play basketball, but didn’t get to play it a whole lot on my mission. Every once in a while, perhaps once a month, on a p-day, we would be able to make arrangements to play. This picture was the same zone activity as above.

Here Elder Brown is sporting the present the Godoy family gave him for Friends Day, a River Plate hat (River Plate is one of the big futbol/soccer teams in Argentina). The Godoys gave me a tie for the occasion. Also in the picture is Juan Juarez, who needed a place to stay for a few nights. In our new apartment, we had an extra bed and we were so grateful for his help earlier, so we let him stay.

This is the Rosario West Zone (which corresponded to the Rosario West Stake) at a zone conference.

This is a get together of the missionaries of the Rosario West zone at the Argentina National Flag Monument. It was good to see my former companion Elder Sanchez there.

Neighborhoods

This is Juan Juarez and I at a Catholic Cemetary that was in our area. We always had to walk around it and it was quite large so I guess one day we decided if we could take a look inside.

This is a photo I snapped near the Godoy’s house of a man selling fruits and vegetables from his house drawn cart. A common sight in Argentina.

Every day we walked past this statue. It is of the newest Catholic Saint, Gauchito Gil, who is said to have performed some miracles during his life.

We visited a Catholic Cathedral one day and snapped these two interesting pictures, or at least to us as Mormons it was really fascinating. The one above is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and the one below is of course our slain Savior Jesus Christ before he resurrected.

Apartments

I arrived in the Godoy ward to find the missionaries living in this apartment that was no more than (loosely) converted garage. It was cold and damp and small. Living conditions in general were lower than what most North American missionaries were used to, but this apartment was pretty pathetic even compared to all the other apartments I had been in. Elder Loertscher didn’t complain, though. But still, I talked to the mission president about it right away and began making plans to move.

After my first month in the Godoy ward, we moved from that terrible garage apartment into the house of Walter Pizarro for a short time and then into this apartment pictured. Walter and Hedgars Gonzalez helped us move. The owner of the home, Theodoro, lived in the front of the house, and we missionaries lived around back where there was a separate apartment with its own entrance. This new apartment was twice as big, had little kitchen, and better bathroom facilities.

Elder Brown told me that he could tell I had been out on my mission for a long time because of all the holes in my socks. I thought it was a badge of honor for putting in all those long hours, day after day, walking the streets of Argentina, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unversidad Branch, Concordia: Feb 1997 to April 1997

I served as a missionary in the Universidad Branch of the LDS Church in the city of Concordia, Argentina from February 19, 1997 to April 22, 1997. Here is a brief summary of my service in that area. Also please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

People We Taught and Baptized


Four days after I arrived in the city of Condordia to serve in the Universidad Branch, we had the baptism of Maria Grillé on Feb 23, 1997. In the photo is me on the far left, then the brother performing the baptism is Ramón Dartuquí, then Maria, and then my companion, Elder Sanchez.  I don’t remember much about Maria because she had already been taught all the missionary discussions before I arrived. But I do remember visiting her modest home a few times and the fact that she was part of a large family.


Here is Maria Grillé surrounded by much of her family on the day of her baptism. The baptism was held at an LDS Church owned building in the city, but that was not where the Universidad Brand met. In the picture are Maria’s mom Dolores, who was baptized two weeks earlier, her brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews.


Here is the wonderful Lescano Family who I have previously written about and the miraculous way God guided us to them. I wish I had written down their names. I know Jorge is the father and Beatriz  is the mother, and I think the son is Jorge Jr. but I do’t remember the names of the daughters in the family. They were such a darling family. I still remember the discussions we had around their dining room table.


I was transferred after only two months in the city of Concordia and it just a week or two prior to the bastism of the Lescano family. My companion while I was in Concordia, Elder Sanchez, gave me this photo of their baptism.


When I told Jorge Lescano that I was being transferred he got a little emotional. I too was sad to be leaving and not see their baptism. I was surprised when Jorge pulled out a photo album and gave me a picture of he and his wife Beatriz on their wedding day. He said he wanted me to keep it as a “recuerdo” (memento) and he even wrote his name and phone number on the back of the photo. I certainly will always remember him and his family.

Members in Concordia


This is the Dartuquí family along with a couple of their friends. The Universidad branch was rather small so there weren’t a lot of families to feed the missionaries. But not to worry, the Dartuquí family stepped us and fed us lunch three times a week. I’m sure it was a sacrifice for them and I’m sure the Lord blessed them for it. If my memory serves me, the people in the photo are, left to right, Celestino, Sister Dartuquí, Esteban, Maria, Claudia, Sandra, Ramón, and Miguel.


This picture was taken at the building that was rented for the Universidad Branch to meet in. The occasion was a branch Famil Home Evening activity. Pictured left to right are: an unknown baby, Elder Sanchez, myself, Esteban Dartuquí, the Sister Missionaries Jara and Salva, and Sister Dartuquí.


And here’s another picture from that same Family Home Evening activity.


Here is my companion, Elder Sanchez, with Ramón Dartuquí. He must have come with us to an appointment. Or perhaps we were doing exchanges with the members. They are standing in our apartment in front of our study area.

Missionaries I Served With


This picture was taken on one of my first day in the city of Concordia. This is my companion, Elder Sanchez, standing outside of our apartment. Elder Sanchez was a great missionary and I wish I could have been with him longer. Though Elder Sanchez got to this branch first, and you would have expected him to be transferred out first, it was actually me who got transferred out first, after only two months together.

Neighborhoods


Here is a guy selling buckets, mops, and other household cleaning supplies. He simply walks down the street and shouts out what he is selling and people that are interested stop him to buy what they need. I thought it was an interesting aspect of Argentine culture, so I snapped a photo.

Apartment


Here I am in our “pench” (short for pension which is Spanish for apartment). Mine is the first bed. I don’t remember being so sloppy and unorganized, and I apologize for not cleaning up a little before snapping this photo. Perhaps the picture was impromptu.

Parque Urquiza: Dec 1996 to Feb 1997

I served in the Parque Urquiza neighborhood of the city of Rosario, Argentina from December 18, 1996 to February 18, 1997. It was the ward in the very geographic heart of the city. Like all the areas in which I served, it was very enjoyable in many ways, and had it’s unique challenges in other ways. Prior to me arriving in this area, as I recall, this ward had not had a baptism in a long time. With the help of the Lord, though, we were able to see many good people brought into the Church through the waters of baptism while I was there.

People I Taught and Baptized

This is Juan Carlos Lopez and his mother with me at their apartment. From the way we met Juan Carlos to his ultimate conversion and baptism, his story was filled with the miracles of God. Click here to read more about the conversion story of Juan Carlos.

Here is a photo of the baptism of Juan Carlos Lopez on January 19, 1997. From left to right: Juan Carlos’s mother, Juan Carlos, Elder Wasden, a local member, and myself, Elder Jimmy Smith.

This is the Laurino family. I really enjoyed meeting them and teaching them the discussions and seeing their whole family come into the waters of baptism. A few years ago, I connected with Brother Laurino on Facebook and found out that his youngest son, the baby in the picture, was preparing to serve a full-time mission. That gave me much joy and satisfaction. I felt like Alma who, when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah, “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord” (Alma 17:2).

Here’s another picture of the Laurino family–this one with the stake president, Krasnoselski, who performed the baptism.

Members in Parque Urquiza

This is the wife and children of the Parque Urquiza Ward bishop, Cabrera. This family fed us lunch frequently, for which we were very grateful. I also enjoyed spending time with them, as they reminded me of my own family back home. This is Steve Regis, a member of the stake high council, and his wife and sister in law. Steve grew up in California, and I heard he may have later moved back to the US, but we have not connected since the mission. I remember a powerful lesson he gave one Sunday about the Prophet Joseph Smith.

This is the bishopric of the Parque Urquiza Ward. From left to right: A brother who’s name I don’t recall, Bishop Cabrera, and Brother Burgeño. As I recall, Brother Burgeño got married and sealed to his wife in the Buenos Airies Temple while I was serving there.

This is Brother Cutri and his daughter Joanna. Brother Cutri is Argentine, but he raised his family in California and they spoke perfect English. I remember Brother Cutri coming with us one day to teach a discussion to Juan Carlos Lopez and we appreciated his support.

This is the Fuentes family, a hard working and faithful family in the ward in Parque Urquiza. From left to right: An aunt, Grandma Fuentes, Daiana, Maria Belen, Luis, Cookie, and myself.

Missionaries I Served With

On my first day in the Parque Urquiza ward, this man, a professional photographer and former church investigator that the missionaries had worked with, took this picture of Elder Wasden and I.

The missionary district Parque Urquiza. I don’t remember these missionaries very well. We really only saw them once a week at district meeting.

This is my companion, Elder Wasden, and I will the zone leaders/district leaders. From left to right: Elders Staffanson, Rindlisbacher, Smith, and Wasden. The lady in front is the land lord for Elders Staffanson and Rindlisbacher. She was upset that day because one of them was being transferred.

The Rosario Zone. A Christmas day 1996 get together at the mission home.

Here’s our mission president, Presidente Ontiveros grilling up some hamburgers at the Christmas day 1996 get together at the mission home. Who doesn’t do a back yard bar-b-que for Christmas? 🙂 But you do need to remember that Christmas occurs in the middle of summer in Argentina.

This looks we’re deep in the jungle, but it’s actually right in the city. This is a day when Elder Wasden and I did some service cutting some grass for a poor family we met.

Here’s the family. We met the father when he was pulling his cart, a old car axle and tires, around the city…a real modern day pioneer hand cart.

Neighborhoods

Me in on the 20th floor of an apartment building looking out over our area. You can see the Rio Paraná (Paraná River) in the background.

The meeting house for the Parque Urquiza ward. This chapel and grounds were very nice with a basketball court / concrete soccer field in the back. The building was a major contrast to all the high rise buildings around it.

A city street in our area with the Monument to the Bandera (Flag) in the background.

A view of our area from the Monument to the Bandera (Flag), one of the few historical/cultural sites I visited during my mission.

This is a Catholic Cathedral located in the Parque Urquiza area. I thought it was a beautiful building, so I snapped a picture of it.

Apartment

I have a picture of the apartment I lived in for most of my mission areas but I can’t find one for this area. But these two pictures were taken inside my apartment.

This was our land lady, Adelia. We shared the apartment with her. She cooked us lunch and dinner from time to time, which was very nice of her. This picture was after she got caught in a rain storm.

Elder Wasden and I got caught in the same rain shower.

Beltrán: Aug 1996 to Dec 1996

I served in the city of Fray Luis Beltrán from August 28, 1996 to December 17, 1996. It was a small city a few miles north of the main city of Rosario, Argentina. I think we were part of the Capitan Bermudez ward, which was a city just to the south. This was the third area of my mission. (See this article on my first mission area, the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná, and my second area, the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe). This was an enjoyable area to serve in and the first where I was able to have a leadership opportunity of being a district leader and trainer.

People I Taught and Baptized

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Above: This is the baptism of Maxi Paré Sept 8, 1996. His mom was baptized the week prior, having received most of the discussions before I got there. But Elder Gertge and I taught Maxi all the discussions and then he was baptized. I remember teaching him the principle of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy because in the lesson, he mentioned that he played in a basketball league and had games on Sunday. He did not want to stop playing ball on Sunday, and I felt bad pushing the issue. I remember him agreeing to a rather weak commitment to come to church and to avoid playing basketball if he could on Sundays. I have often wondered if I did the right thing.

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The picture above was taken at the baptism of Aldo, September 29, 1996. Aldo was a great young man. We met him my first week at Church when I was in Beltrán. He was dating a girl in the ward, Gabriela Reide. We taught him the discussions and he was soon baptized. Click here to read the full Conversion Story of Aldo.

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The baptism of Betiana Pare and Silvina Saucedo, October 6, 1996.

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This is the baptism of Agostin Zapata, November 24, 1996. Agostin’s was a memorable conversion story. Read it here.

Members in Beltrán

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This is the Columbo Family (the three in white across the front: Enrique, Yolanda, and Ines). They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.

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This is Yolanda and Maria Jose Celentano’s baptism. They are in white with Elder Gertge. Her husband and their younger son are also in the picture. They were baptized only weeks before I got to Beltrán.

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This is the familia Godoy, the older daughters were Gishela and Shamila, and I don’t remember the names of the others. Sister Godoy would wash our laundry for free. All she asked was that we pay for the laundry soap, which we were happy to do. Thanks Sister Godoy! She would go above and beyond the call of duty in cleaning our laundry. As I recall, we once arrived at her house to find her ironing our jeans. We, of course, told her that was not necessary. The Godoys also fed us frequently and for that we are very grateful.

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This photo was taken in the home of Claudia Santoro. She is in the front left, and her mom and sister, Hermana Wagner, are on the right. Her dad is in the middle. Her daughter Raquel, and other family and friends are in the photo. Sister Santoro was a relatively new member as I recall, about 6 months. She was very stalwart and served as the stake primary president. Sister Santoro would cook for us often and each Sunday night she would let us use her phone for 30 minutes (not an inexpensive thing). Read more about the Santoro family here.

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This is Monica Brenner and her three children, the younger two are named Emanuel and Pamela.

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Here’s the Santoro family. Alejandro Sr was not yet a member, but Claudia, Raquel and Alejandro Jr were baptized a few months before I got there. The dad was baptized a few months after I left.

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Here is the familia Torres with friend Leandro Paré making bunny eyes in the back. Children Daniel, Elizabeth, Maita, her son Leandro.

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Here’s Jorge Torres (no relation to the Torres family above) and his wife and seven kids.

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This is Brother and Sister Zacarías and there two youngest children, Rafael and Gloria. They were also very stalwart members. Several of their sons served missions.

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This is Sister Portillo with two of her children. One of the things I remember about her is that she had been endowed in the temple and thus one of the few people who was able to do all our laundry, including temple garments.

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Brother Jose Chopita playing ping pong in a table set up in the chapel of the Church owned and constructed building in Capitán Bermudez. The two in the back are resting against the sacrament meeting podium. Each Sunday we would set up chairs in that space for sacrament meeting.

Missionaries I Served With

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Here’s my companion, Elder Gertge, on our first day together. He had been with his trainer for four weeks. We would spend the next three months together.

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This was the composition of our district of missionaries: Elder Draper, Elder Segelke, Elder Gertge, Elder Smith, Sister Sines, and Sister Johnson.

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Me and Elder Gertge got caught in the rain and took refuge at Sister Santoro’s house.

argentina-rosario-mission-beltran-jimmy-smith-16Elder Quick, the zone leader, and I. I remember being amazed at his grasp of the Spanish language, then he confided in me that when people spoke in slang, he couldn’t understand a word.

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Another picture of the missionaries in our district. Elder Videla is the new one. This is the room in the Capitan Bermudez chapel where we had district meeting each week.

 

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This was when the Elders in our district went to downtown Rosario to donate blood for Brother Zacarías who was having open heart surgery.
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New missionary in the district is Sister Ireland. I think she was brand new out of the MTC.
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Elder Gertge and I pretending to drink mate. I only drank it for real once, and that’s when it was accidentally given to me in a normal cup by a member. Usually when Argentine’s drink mate, they do it out of those special cups with a cool, filtering straw called a bombilla.
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Here’s Elder Adams and I with Agostín Zapata.
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Two new additions to our district. This photo was taken at the mission home, where we would go once a month to have interviews with the mission president. Sister Ireland, Sister Julien, Elder Smith, Elder Adams, Elder Videla, Elder Manriquez.

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Here’s me standing out in front of the mission home in Rosario.

Neighborhoods

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This was the view looking north (I believe) from our apartment.

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The city of Fray Luis Beltránwas located right on the Rio Paraná. A large river that had huge barges going up and down it.

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This is the Terminal de Omnibus, the central bus station in Rosario. Each time we had transfers, you would see a lot of missionaries coming and going through here.

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This is a Carrefour super store, kind of like a Super Walmart, but much more rare in Argentina. They had a huge assortment of groceries and other things that were hard to find anywhere else. I believe there may have only been one in Rosario at this time and it was near the mission presidents home. So we had permission to go there after we came in for interviews with the mission president.

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The Carrefour had a McDonald’s in it. McDonald’s were rare in Argentina at that time. This was the only time I recall going.

Apartment

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Here’s where we lived. This is our land lord’s house, and he rented the second floor it us. It had one bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom, all a missionary needs. We would sometimes hang laundry out to dry on the roof that we could walk out to.

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This is our land lord, Luis Sanchez and his wife. They were always very kind to us.

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This is the bathroom toilet and bide in our apartment. I never used the bide and don’t think most America missionaries did. Once Luis, the land lord, found out that the bide was broken and he was shocked. He asked “how do you clean yourself?” We explained that we use toilet paper and we shower daily and that keeps us clean.

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This is the birthday party of Luis Sanchez. We almost always got back to the house around 9:30, and Luis knew that. But on this particular day we had a discussion that went long and it was about 10:25pm when we walked in. We were planning to race to bed to meet our 10:30 bedtime in the missionary schedule. But when we realized they had been waiting for us, we decided it was more important to socialize with them, so we joined them for the party.

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A picture of me at Luis’ birthday party. Luis gave this one to me and signed his name on the back.

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Here’s the bedroom in our apartment. Two bed and a desk in between. When we did daily companionship study, we did it at the kitchen table instead of this desk.
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Me in our apartment. Getting ready to go to district meeting, I believe.

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Here’s Elder Adams in our apartment.

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Here’s what my mom sent me for Christmas that year. Thanks Mom!

Rural Ward: Apr 1996 to Aug 1996

After serving in my first mission area, the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná, Argentina, I was transferred to the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe where I served from April 3, 1996 to August 27, 1996. This was the longest area in which I served–nearly 5 months. There are a lot of pictures, so I have broken them up into these sections:

Members of the Rural Ward, Santa Fe, Argentina

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This is the Sassettis, a great family that fed us lunch frequently. The Hermana Sassetti always used the most interesting combinations of food, but it was always tasty. I think the husband was the former bishop of the ward. He was always at work when we came over for lunch, but we got to know the wife and kids really well.

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This another great family in the Rural ward. The Martinez family. They invited us often for lunch.

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This is Sergio (I can’t remember his last name) and his son Mauricio and his daughter Jessica. Sergio was not a member, but I think his wife was. His wife’s parents were the Loveras, in the ward. Sergio was very nice to us missionaries. We would visit them often to strengthen them spiritually and they would invite us to lunch or dinner at times. The husband would use this horse drawn cart to drive around neighborhoods selling fruits and vegetables.

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Sergio even once let me takes the reigns of his cart.

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This is the Andrada family. Brother Andrada is cooking some fried pastries dipped in sugary syrup. I’m sure there was a name for them but I don’t remember now, but they were a common in Argentina. They were sold in pastry shops or small neighborhood stores, kioskos. People would also sell them on the streets, which is what this family was preparing to do, to make some extra money. In fact, we met their kids my very first day in this area when they approached us and asked if we wanted to buy some pastries. This was a great family, very faithful, and I always wanted to do more to help them temporally, in the material aspects of life. Still they were happy and generous with what little they had.

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This was a great family; the Moyanos. Martin is 12 with the orange drink. Maria Jose is his sister in the blue jacket. Emiliano is their younger brother in the red sweater being held by his mom. The dad is the one I the blue v-neck sweater.  They fed us lunch and dinner frequently, which was very kind of them. But this was also the family that fed us huevos de torro without telling us what they were until after we had tried them. Pretty gross. There are actually two families in the photo, both of which lived in this house. The little baby I’m holding was the younger couple’s child and he was just a month or two old. Like many Latin babies, he had a ton of thick dark hair. I had hair clippers, so they asked me to cut his hair shortly after he was born. So I did.

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This is Emiliano Moyano’s birthday party. I was frequently amazed at how Argentines would go all out for their kid’s birthday parties. I guess a great many people in the US are just as guilty at that. Anyway, I remember many families didn’t have a camera, so they would rent one for the day when they had a birthday or special occasion.

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These are two young adults in the ward: Carina Campos and Fernando Benavidez. They were dating at the time and I assumed they would marry, but I guess it didn’t work out because a few years later I ran into her at BYU in a single women’s apartment complex.

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This was a part member family in the ward. The Alegre family (they’re name translated means “happy”. What a great name!) We visited them frequently in an effort to befriend and strengthen them. They fed us often. I can remember eating some delicious empenadas with them as well as some fried spinach rice patties. I don’t think all missionaries had a pallet for them, but I thought they were delicious.

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This is Obispo Picolo, the bishop of the Rural ward at the time I was there. We took this photo after a dinner appointment with them one night.

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This is the Benavidez family. They are a great family and strong in testimony. They had sent there older son on a mission (he is pictured above with his girl friend in the bike picture). They lived a modest life style, without many of the niceties we are accustomed to in the US, but they were happy and faithful.

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The Benavidez family fed us all the time. Brother Benavidez was the ward mission leader and very dedicated. It looks like we’re have giso, or something of the sort for dinner. Giso was a generic name Argentine’s often called stew or soup. And of course notice the segmented loaf of bread on the table. That was the most common form of bread in Argentina. You almost didn’t have a meal with it.

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This is the Craven family. Brother Craven was a counselor in the mission presidency. The Cravens had two boys and also in the picture is Elder Maynes, Sister Thomas, myself, and Sister Vallejos.

Investigators We Taught

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Here I am with Lenny Marquez, a remise (taxi) driver in the city of Santa Fe that lived near us. He was from the United States originally, so he was one of the few people in Argentina, besides other missionaries, with whom we could speak English. We tried to teach him the discussion and we did have a couple of visits to his house. But ultimately, he really wasn’t interested at that time in the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we planted some seeds, though, that may sprout and allow other missionaries to teach and baptize him.

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This is a family we had just found and began teaching in the weeks before I was transferred. Adrian Martinez and his girlfriend and their daughter. I’d be interested to know if they ever got baptized. Though Adrian was interested in the gospel, he needed to get married to his girlfriend before he could get baptized (an obstacle we ran into quite frequently).

Missionaries I Served With

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These are pictures of Elder Pinto and I. After only one month together, Elder Pinto was transferred. When we learned of the transfer, we asked the land lady to take our picture. Her hands were shaky and somehow I didn’t think the first photo was going to turn out, so then we took the selfie. Elder Pinto was a great companion, but my time with him was difficult because he did not speak any English. He was from Mendoza Argentina. This was only my fourth month in Argentina, so my Spanish was still pretty rough. I can remember dreaming in English at night and then waking up in the morning and the dreadful thought hitting me that I would have to speak Spanish all day long without the option of communicating in English. It was difficult, but the hard work paid off and my Spanish greatly improved. My first day with Elder Pinto, he bought me hot dogs because he thought all North American’s did. I don’t like them, though, so it turned out to be a funny story. Read it here in my article about my first transfer.

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This is Elder Maynes, my second companion in the Rural Ward. I think I caught him a little off guard in this photo. He had just arrived from the transfer and was unpacking his things.

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This is a picture of me with my second companion in the Rural Ward, Elder Maynes. Also in the photo are the other sister missionaries in our district, Sister Smith and Sister Thomas.

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Here I am with the zone leaders, Elder Davis and Elder Rindlisbacher. I did a couple of day-long exchanges with Elder Rindlisbacher. In fact he was with me during the experience I wrote about when the power of the Book of Mormon was manifested.

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This is Elder Stephenson and myself at a regional conference in Rosario. I believe Elder Boyd K. Packer was visiting. Elder Stephenson was from the Frederick Maryland area like myself.

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Here is our Rural District with Obispo (Bishop) Picolo. We are in the chapel of one of the nicer church buildings I saw in our mission. It was owned by the Church (rather than rented was the case in many of my wards and branches there). It was two stories high and I believe it may have housed multiple wards.

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This is Elder Maynes and I with Hermana Thomas and Sister Epul, the other sisters in our district.

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This picture was taken on Preparation Day (P-Day) when Elder Manes and I went to the Church and played basketball with Jose Luis and Orlando Andrada. Notice how the basketball standard has a soccer goal under it. The soccer goal got used a lot more than the basketball. But the missionaries used it for basketball, not every week, but once in a while.

Me Cooking

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Here I am making crepes. This is a Smith family favorite recipe that comes from my dad when he served his mission to France. I’m kneeling beside a propane tank with a burner attached to the top. We did not have a stove or oven in the apartment, nor a kitchen, nor a fridge, for that matter. The owners, in a house on the same property, would let us use their refrigerator if we had something that needed to be kept cold. I’m sorry the apartment appears quite messy in this photo. I assure you that we generally kept the apartment neat, clean, and organized.

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Here I am cooking some asado, Argentine barbequed steak. We had it served to us from time to time, so Elder Maynes and I decided one day that we would try to cook some ourselves. I don’t think it turned out as well, because we never tried it again during my mission.

Cutting Hair 

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For some reason I had the thought to bring hair clippers on my mission and it turned out to be a good idea as I put it to use on other missionaries and and many members. When Elder Pinto was transferred, I gave him the hair clippers and asked my mom to send me a new set.

Here I am putting those hair clippers to good use on Orlando Andrada. The other young man is his friend, Jose Luis Osuna. I was always anxious to give the young men missionary-style hair cuts at a good price: free. Haircuts was often part of my weekly service as a missionary.

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Here I am cutting the hair of a member of the ward named Hermano (Brother) Aquino. This family was very poor. As you can see, there home consisted of whatever scrap sheet metal they could find. Four walls and a roof made up their modest home. They had electricity, though, and a television. Often people in circumstances like this would want to come to church, but since they had no way to lock their home and secure their belongings, they felt they needed to stay home.

Neighborhoods in Rural, Santa Fe

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These are pictures from the roof of my first apartment in the Rural Ward of Santa Fe, Argentina. The first is looking into the city, the second is looking away from the city center. Our apartment was on the edge of our area. Our area went away from the city. The sisters in our district had the more urban areas of the ward because it was safer.

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These are two pictures of one of the more run-down areas of one of the poorer neighborhoods we visited from time to time. There were a handful of members that lived in this neighborhood, and we would occasionally find people here to teach discussions to. Though no one in this neighborhood, or in our entire area for that matter, was baptized while I was stationed there. That fact made this one of my hardest areas. It was the longest baptismal drought on my mission. I was in the Rural ward for 5 months. Anyway, back to the photo, the little cow on the left of the top one, tied to a tree by the train tracks was a funny situation to me which is probably why I snapped this photo.

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This is another picture of that poor neighborhood. I took this photo because the house has mud walls. That type of construction was rare but not unheard of, and must have meant the family inside was very poor as to worldly possessions.

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I couldn’t believe it when we came upon this piece of graffiti. It says, “Why are there so many religions if there is only one God?” This is a great lead into the first discussion about Joseph Smith and how a similar question led him to study the scriptures and pray and receive a marvelous revelation we know as the First Vision. If we only could have found the perpetrator we could have had a great discussion about the apostasy and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.

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In our area was the soccer stadium for one of the city’s major soccer teams: Union de Santa Fe. Union was doing well this year, and I believe this was a championship game or one of the games leading up to the championship. The city was going crazy with excitement. Along the streets around the stadium were lots of vendors selling flags and shirts and other branded paraphernalia. At first we thought it presented a great opportunity to talk to the vendors about the gospel. Then we realized most were from out of town and so the teaching opportunities would be limited. I always wanted to see the inside of this or another Argentine soccer stadium but I never had the chance.

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This is the Benavidez family’s neighborhood, “Barrio Villa del Parque” (Park Village Neighborhood) according to my notes. Notice the “zanja” in the bottom right of the photo. The zanja is the drainage ditch on the side of roads, which in certain parts of Argentina, always seems to be stopped up and would become cesspools of filthy water. Disgusting, yes, but part of life there and part of my memories as a missionary.

Apartments in Rural, Santa Fe

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This is a picture of our apartment in the Rural ward in the city of Santa Fe. Particularly, it’s a picture of the bathroom. While it’s pretty typical for an Argentine bathroom, it has some features that distinguish it from typical bathrooms in the U.S., which is why I snapped the photo. Notice the box connected to the shower. That device was filled with copper pipes that the water ran through. Flames instantly heated the water as it came out. Also notice that nothing separates the shower area from the sink or toilet, a common layout in Argentina. Notice the squeegee off to the left in the bathroom, that was used to clean up the floor after a shower and push splattered water down the drain on the floor.

Off to the right of the bathroom is the desk where Elder Pinto and I would study each day and our beds are right behind the person taking the photo. On the desk you can see some of the snacks I used to eat frequently in this area: Pepitos, which are were chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t get those in all areas, so it was nice when I could. And there is a stack of wheat crackers and a little tub of strawberry jam. I’m not sure who introduced me to that combination, but for a time I was really enjoying jam on crackers. It also looks like there is a jar of Tang powder. Tang was one of my favorite drinks in Argentina, when we could get it.

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This is a picture of Elder Pinto taking out the trash. Who knows why I snapped this photo. It is interesting to note the yellow, orange and blue papers on the right wall. Those, as I recall, were cheat sheets to help learn Spanish verb conjugations. I think generally, Spanish is an easier language than English, but those verb conjugations could be very tricky. Click here to read more about my experience learning Spanish.

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This is the second apartment in Rural. Not long after Elder Pinto was transferred, we had to find a new apartment. This one was a little crammed for space, but it worked out fine. One thing this photo brings back to my memory is sleeping each night with a cap on. Winter came while I was in Rural and it started to get cold. Our apartment had no heat, which really only would have been needed at night. I found it difficult to sleep at night because my head was cold. I tried sleeping with my head under my blanket, but I felt like I was going to suffocate. That’s when I realized why the night cap had been invented all those years ago. I bought a comfortable winter cap to wear at night while I slept. Problem solved!

Other Memories of Rural

I don’t have a picture to go with these memories, but still wanted to record them:

  • In this ward there was a sister who would invite us to lunch and would make an oatmeal based chicken soup. It was a little strange to me at first, but it was very delicious.
  • There was a family that invited us over from time to time and usually served polenta with chicken and tomato sauce. Again, most missionaries I knew did not like polenta. It’s a lot like grits. But my mom is a southerner, so I grew up eating grits, and I really enjoyed the polenta.
  • During my first month in this area, I would get up an hour early to go jogging in the morning with Elder Pinto.
  • In this area we would often take the bus from the far end of our area back to our apartment when it was getting late in the evening and we needed to get back quickly to meet our curfew.