Jamie (Argentina Resistencia Mission)
–Paraphrased from Jamie’s mission interview–
One thing that a lot of people assume is that they eat spicy food like other latin countries. They don’t at all. They eat a lot of pasta. Mayonnaise goes on everything. They have simple salads. Rice and mayonnaise was big. Spaghetti with whatever meat they had was good too. They have a dish called mondongo, which is cow stomach. This one member gave it to me and wouldn’t tell me what it was. I think it tasted like chicken but a lot chewier. It was pretty good. They eat this thing called locro too. I despised it. I think maybe it’s because I had some bad experiences with it. They chop up a pig and throw all of its innards in there. They one I ate had no meat, and it was all fatty. Everyone is just convinced that they make the best locro. There is a communal bread stick on the table because they eat bread with every meal. Pre-sliced bread isn’t very common. Empanadas are like mini calzones. They put chicken, beef, or ham and cheese in them. Sometimes they are fried and sometimes they’re baked. I loved them. They’re so good. One of the main desserts they have are called alfahor. It’s like cake with dulce de leche or chocolate. I loved those. Be careful buying from street vendors. Hygiene is not what it’s like here. I saw a vendor take his utensils over to a park fountain to wash them off. Some street food is really good, but ask the members before you buy.
People in Argentina really value soccer. It was one of the things I could use to get into doors. I was there during the World Cup which was a crazy experience. As soon as I would talk about soccer we would be best pals and they would invite us in. They love the sport and they have two teams called Boca and River. Those teams dominate the country. People would ask us which team we were fans of just point blank. Whenever they play it’s a big event. During the World Cup or other big games the country just shuts down completely. So many great players have come through Argentina. Learn to love what the people love because that gets your foot in the door. Even now I keep up with what’s going on. Christmas is awesome. Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas itself. Everyone buys fireworks and shoots them off at midnight. Huge parties. Everyone gets together and celebrates. They have a lot of little holidays like day of the worker and children’s day. They get all of these days off. A lot of people are hungover the next day and can be a little bit grumpy. They love finding reasons to hang out. The people seem to believe in Jesus and God but kind of at a distance. They believe in Him, but they don’t do that much about it.
Chad (Argentina Resistencia Mission)
–Paraphrased from Chad’s mission interview–
The mission covers four provinces. It’s a really big mission geographically. It’s also northern Argentina so it’s close to the equator and very hot. It can get up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. There are little straw hats that most of the missionaries buy. There are three stakes in the mission. Two in Resistencia and one in Formosa. Formosa is right on the border of Argentina and Paraguay. We really really wanted to go to the temple in Paraguay, but we couldn’t get permission because there were so many missionaries from different countries and it was impossible to get visas for everyone.
Almost everyone in Argentina is religious. I think maybe 2% would claim they are atheists. Most would claim that they are Catholics. Most were raised Catholic but they don’t really do anything with it. They might have a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of their house with candles and roses. There is also a growing branch of Evangelicals. They are really varied and have a lot of different beliefs.
Getting People to Church
No one really asked me if I had 12 wives. Most people recognized us as good people and even if they rejected us they were nice. In the mission you had to go to church three times and pass a baptismal interview in order to get baptized. Getting people to church was the hardest commitment. A lot of people accepted baptismal dates, but then never showed up to church. Imagine having church at 9 am every Sunday, but the people of Argentina prefer to be laid back on the weekends. After a time, our mission president told us that the biggest commitment should be reading the Book of Mormon and so we focused on getting them to read it instead of focusing on bringing them to church. Keep the Book of Mormon as a key.
Two Different Mission Presidents
My first mission president was from Arizona and he had already been there for a long time. Our next mission president grew up in Buenos Aires and had lived in Utah for a long time before he came back to Argentina. He understood the culture and what the people needed. He was focused on building great missionaries. He was willing to give us room to make mistakes and grow, but he was also willing to correct us.
Every Area is Great
I heard a lot of negative stuff about some of my areas, but they aren’t true. The people are great.
Clorinda is a very nice city. It’s super hot in the summer. I served there in the winter and it was hot then too.The people are really nice. You have a huge variety of houses. Sometimes you see houses like the ones here, but then you see houses made of brick or plywood or tin grating. They use whatever they can. The range is just so wide. It’s close to Paraguay so there are a lot of Paraguayans. There is a large aboriginal colony of native Argentines. We never had any problems with crime and safety. P day is kind of kicker. There is a mission rule that you can’t play sports with anyone besides your companion. Most missionaries there sleep. Missionaries in the past have made poor decisions and have gotten hurt. Talk to as many people as you can there. They are so accepting. There was one time we went fishing with some members and we would catch little piranhas and cut them into little pieces and we stick the bits of piranhas on the hook and we could catch really big fish.
Corrientes is the biggest city in the mission. You’ll have more paved roads and more established cities and businesses. You’ll also have a lot of poor neighborhoods. It’s the most touristic city in the mission. There are a lot of things to take pictures of. You can go sightseeing around the capital. There are museums and great big malls. It has the only McDonald’s in the mission. It’s also where you do your paperwork so you can be legal to stay in Argentina. There is a movie theater there. The members there are great and were willing to go out to teach with us. The investigators were very well-supported by the members. They would feel very welcome in the ward. I felt like they were just so solid.
Ryan (Argentina Resistencia Mission)
–Paraphrased from Ryan’s mission interview–
Geographically, when I arrived, the mission was Argentina Resistencia, which was about the size of California. It bordered Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It stretched all the way from Formosa to Posadas, or Misiones as the province was known.
A year after I left, they split the mission down the Parana river, so it ended up being Chaco, Corientes, and Formosa on one side, and then Misiones on the other. It’s a huge mission, and you get a whole spectrum of different terrains. On the Misiones side and parts of Corrientes, It’s really tropical. It’s technically called a south american Mesopotamian plateau, which means it’s try but there’s grassland and a really pretty place. Formosa had the reputation of being very barren and desert like
The Church in Resistencia
The church is not very strong in the region. For example the closest temple is in Asuncion in Paraguay. For some members, this was only 15 minutes away, but for others it was 8 hours. The mission itself started in 1991, and before that, Elder Cristofferson served in Corrientes when it was only the Argentina North Mission. The church is somewhat old in the region, but it is really starting to pick up now that there are more missionaries. There were only two stakes in the whole mission, and the rest of the church units were all districts and branches, so you were lucky if you got to serve in a ward.There were even some missionaries who served as branch presidents. One of the biggest challenges facing the church there was that of baptizing good priesthood holders. The women were very faithful and believing, but the men were a little bit harder of heart, and you can’t have the church grow without priesthood holders. The Church has really grown a lot in recent years; during my time there, I saw wards and branches split, and the splitting was great because it allowed the areas to be covered more effectively.
Culture and Holidays
In one of my areas I had a comp from Argentina and he wanted to make sure us Americans weren’t doing anything silly. One thing we would do was pointing at things and people especially. In Argentina pointing at someone is offensive. Usually the things like that I would do I got a lot of slack for because I wasn’t from there and they knew that. Another thing is sarcasm. I’m pretty sarcastic, but they didn’t get it and would tell me I was lying when I said things jokingly. It was hard for me to make that transition and as a representative of Jesus Christ you don’t want to be seen as a liar. The humor in Argentina is very different. Another thing is that if you walk away from a person without excusing yourself, that’s really bad etiquette. Those are the biggest things I had to deal with. Argentina is close to Brazil and that’s where Carnvial happens each year. It’s a big party with alcohol and dancing and scantily clad women. Usually when people get baptized that’s the first thing they stop doing. One time during Easter weekend we were walking around and we saw some men dressed as Roman soldiers walking around. I didn’t understand that one because they were the ones that crucified Jesus. Most of their holidays are just times for families to get together and have big barbecues. We loved holidays because families were home and we could teach them together.
The main dish that they have down there is called guiso. I think it means stew in English. It’s chicken, rice, and vegetables and they make it all in the same pot. I didn’t think it was that special, but since I’ve left I’ve really missed it. It’s a hearty meal and it gets you full. Another thing that they eat are these potato noodles. It was a very similar style. When it comes to eating out, which missionaries do a lot, there aren’t restaurants. They have places called comedores. It’s not as common of a practice, but you can get empanadas. The main kinds are beef with eggs, ham and cheese, or chicken. Milonesas are another good thing as well. When you eat with members you need to remember that everyone is low income. Most of the time the food they have on the table is all they have. Eat everything that they give you. They will eat bread with every meal. Use that bread to finish the rest of the soup or pieces of rice from your plate to show your gratitude. In the white handbook it says not to eat in the carts on the street. For us, dinner is the most important meal of the day. In Argentina it’s lunch. Everyone gets together for lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day. One time we had crocodile empanadas that were really good. There is another food called locro that I really like until I found out it is made of intestines and cow foot.
Living in the North
The people are great and really humble. Resistencia is a lot different than Buenos Aires. Up north it’s kind of like the farmland. They’ll always invite you in. They’re really warm and really friendly and happy. They are relatively poor. The government and economy is socialized so most people live off the government checks they receive. In one of my areas we were in charge of two towns. One was normal Argentines, but the other was an Indian colony. We had to go out with a translator and they did have a branch there as well. There are a few other reservations as well. There is another city that has a bunch of Hungarians that came over during the World Wars. Everyone is Catholic. Whether or not they are active in the church varies a lot. A bulk of people’s incomes is from government plans and funds. Argentina is known for its beef and lot of the beef comes from Corrientes. I never had a probably with crime. There was a companionship that got robbed in my district. Generally if they steal your bag and find that it just has pamphlets and scriptures, they won’t come rob you again. The members were really good and would tell us which areas to not go into at night. Safety and crime was never a big deal, but about every month or so we would hear about someone getting robbed.