Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Trip to the Post Office with the the Ehmkes

  Recently I received several questions about mailing things to missionaries in the mission.  I have an idea that will help you each see what happens with the mail here in the mission.

Right after Christmas I wanted to take some packages to the post office to mail to our three missionary daughters. The Ehmkes were kind enough to allow me to go with them to see what happens at the post office. The Ehmkes are the wonderful matrimonial couple here in the mission who oversee many things, including all of the mail to and from the mission.  Since they are the experts on the mail, I am going to turn this blog post over to Sister Ehmke to explain what happens to the mail that comes to the missionaries here in the mission!

The Correo (post office or customs office) is located in the center of town in Neuquen.  We park about 6 blocks away and walk there every Tuesday.  Mail is only delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  When they are closed for holidays, we switch our pick up day to Thursday.

The first step to the process is to check with the front mail area for copies of the packages received for the missionaries.  Our post office box is 321.  Elder Ehmke has the key to the box for letters that have arrived.

After collecting the mail, we place the small mail in our red bolsa and continue on to signing for the packages.  Elder Ehmke has to give them his national identification number to begin the next process.  We tease him that he is signing his life away to have access to the packages for our missionaries!

Our friends who work at the Customs have been wonderful to the missionaries.  They enjoy homemade brownies and cookies, as well as postries, that Hermana Ehmke bakes for them periodically.  There are about 8 different people who work at different times in this package office.  They always greet us with hugs.

Christmas is a very busy time for mail delivery for the mission, with over 150 missionaries in the Neuquén Argentina Misión, it is a lively time in the Correo for all involved.

Elder Ehmke opens all of the packages, one at a time, for review of contents by him and the attendants.  The officials attach a price on each package (usually about 40 per cent of their apprised cost of the items), which individual missionaries are charged when they receive the package.  It helps if senders enclose a receipt for the purchases.  The packages are then re-taped and placed in our large bolsa for return to the mission office.

Some senders make the mistake of placing a value on the outside that is much higher than the value of the contents.  Sometimes, the reverse is true.  If a receipt for the value is included, that simplifies the precedure.  Argentina does not allow new electronic appliances, medications, vitamins, etc to be imported.  These items may be confiscated if they are found in the packages.  Missionaries receive an abundance of sweets, food stuffs, clothing and seasonal and spiritual decorations that enhance their lives as they serve in their areas.

After all the packages are opened, values are assessed and listed per missionary receiving the package. About 6 carbon copies are made of the list, it is totaled and Elder Ehmke has to pay officials anywhere from $500-$2000 pesos.  (This is about $50.00-$400.00 U.S.)  They also charge us a small amount of handling fee per package. ($5 pesos per package.  This amounts to $1 U.S. per package).

This is the large bolsa of packages.  Sometimes at Christmas, we fill 2 of these!  We love thinking about the smiles on the faces of those hard working missionaries when they get their packages that week!

This is our parking attendant who watches our mission van for us as we walk over and back to the correo.
He is so good at his job.  He sees us coming from across the park, and pulls the van out in readiness for our arrival!  It costs the mission about $15-25 pesos each time.  ($3-$5 U.S. depending on time we need). 

After driving back to the post office, we are allowed then to park in their fenced area to pick up our bolsa.  The trip is so worthwhile, when you know the packages are like an embrace from home for our marvelous missionaries out in the field.

Elder Ehmke, upon delivering the bolsa to the mission office, sorts through the mail and packages received and places them in small green bolsas to go out to the field that Friday.  And so, the process begins again the next week!

Another important task to keep our missionaries well and happy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Los Refuerzos-The Reinforcements

We have been able to enjoy two wonderful days with these amazing new missionaries.  Two of them come from Canada, two from Paraguay, five from the USA, five from Chile, one from El Salvador, one from Argentina and two from Mexico.  They each have different strengths and talents that will be a great blessing to the mission and to the people of Argentina.

We have been looking forward to the day when we were going to be able to pick up these new missionaries from the airport.  It is so fun to see them for the first time through the frosted glass between us and the baggage claim area. 

 (Please remember that you can double click on any photo to make it larger.)

President Lovell and the assistants are ready to help with the luggage!


It is such amazing site to stop and look at all of us and luggage that holds important things that will be used for the next eighteen months or two years!

It is fun to see that there is already a bond between these missionaries.  It one of the great blessings of the mission to learn that all of us are just the same!  These sisters are from Chile, the USA, Paraguay and Mexico and it is so fun to watch them.  Those that are learning Spanish are so courageous to speak the best they can and those who speak Spanish are so kind and patient as we learn!

 As soon as we get to the mission home we do the most important things first!  We eat and get to know each other!

Then we take a few minutes to learn about the mission and what will happen during the next two days of training.

They were each willing to share their talents...even on this first day in the mission!

President Lovell gave them each their "Carpeta".  Hermana Ehmke works very hard to put these together for each of the missionaries.  We will use them in our training but they also contain important information that these missionaries can refer to throughout their mission!

The next morning five of the missionaries went with our secretary to do the paperwork to get the proper documentation to be here in the country. They joined us after a few hours.  The rest of us met in the mission home and did the necessary paperwork for the mission.  Each missionary also had their first interview with President Lovell.

There is also time to take the mission photo and get to know one another better.

One thing we like to do for lunch is to have everyone draw a number and sit at the place with the matching number.  This way it helps us all to mix up a bit and get to know each other.  We invite those that work in the office to eat this meal with us because they will work so closely with each of these missionaries during the training and throughout their missions.  

There were so many things we wanted to share with these new missionaries.  We want them to feel confident as they start their missions here in the Argentina Neuquén Mission.

Again...the missionaries were so willing to share their talents!


President Lovell enjoys teaching and training missionaries and it is fun for me to see him interact with them!

The assistants are also both excellent teachers and are so key to the success of everything that goes on during these two days.  They think of all the necessary details and keep things running smoothly.

It is so fun when they explain where each of the trainers are serving and to enlarge the pictures of each of the trainers as they talk about them.  The new missionaries are each so curious as to who their trainer will be and where they will be serving!  It is especially interesting right now because the mission will be dividing on July 1st. Since the training of a new missionary takes twelve weeks they know that this assignment will also decide which mission they will be in for the rest of their mission!  

One of my favorite parts of being able to train these new missionaries is to talk about the language training.  Those who don't know Spanish will of course learn Spanish but also those who don't know English will learn English.  The church has a program that they ask us to use in the mission to teach English.  This will open many doors in the future for each of the missionaries in their future.

For one of the practices those who are learning Spanish work together with a missionary who is learning English. This emphasis on learning a language is a  great opportunity for all of us!  They were able to do part of a module in the companionship language study that is put out by the church so they will know how to work together during  their daily language study time.

Our daughter, Liz, just created an amazing phonics sheet with pictures that is based on the sounds in the front of our missionary grammar book for those who are learning English. This picture was taken for you Liz to say "Thank You"!  
 I made a CD with me saying all the sounds in a rhythm that will help them learn these sounds.  They were all good sports about it and seemed to be excited! 
The next day there was training in the office with those who work in the office.  The new missionaries learned about health, baptism records, pensions, the mail system in the mission, the things that are available to buy here in the office, finances, visas and much more!  I didn't get a picture of our secretary doing training but he does so much for us and all the missionaries!

 While we were training at the Mission Home and the Mission Office, the trainers were being  trained at the nearby church.  It was very exciting for us to go to the church and eat lunch with the trainers.  The new missionaries were so excited to find out who their trainer would be.


The rest of the training was at the church in the chapel so I was not able to take pictures there.  I can't even tell you how amazing it was when we put up the power point that the assistants had made that showed the picture of each trainer and then who they would be training.  It is  one of our favorite parts of being in the mission! 
We then went outside to the beautiful trees behind the church to take a group picture and pictures of each of the new companionships.

Now everyone was able to eat with their new companion and learn more about them.  I have a lot of pictures of us eating together but we have a lot of fun when we eat!  The missionaries tease me and say we could have a book of pictures of us eating!  It is probably true!


After a very spiritual meeting together we had a chance to take lots of pictures while we waited for taxis and colectivos.



There were some very tender moments as we share feelings with some of our very favorite missionaries who will be in the Comodoro Rivadavia Mission after July 1st.  They will be such an asset to President and Sister Rogers and the people in the far south of Argentina but we will miss them.  We are so grateful to remember that these relationships are eternal!

It is a great blessing for us to be able to share this wonderful mission experience with these amazing missionaries.