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.