BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Church members from 139 stakes and districts in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay responded to the invitation of the area presidency to take part in the "Clean Our City" project.
About 34,000 members in multiple locations in the major cities of the South America South Area cleaned and painted public walks, hospitals, streets and avenues, buildings, schools, homes for children and for older people, transforming them in a few hours to be cleaner and better. They worked under the theme as set forth in the parable of the Good Samaritan: "Who is my neighbor?"
As they cleaned sites in various cities on Sept. 27, residents were surprised by what they saw, and many took a moment to express their thanks for this work. Local news media, including newspapers, radio and television, gave coverage of the service.
Elder Carlos E. Aguero, Area Authority Seventy and first counselor in the area presidency, said, "This activity has shown the generosity of the members, and provided a way that Church leaders have worked with the directors of Churches, hospitals and schools to plan and work together, building on points of brotherhood and mutual understanding."
In Ushuaia in the extreme south of Argentina, district President Marcelino Tossen said: "The activity included cleaning the 'Playa Larga' [Big Beach]. This was the first time that an activity like this has been publicized. When the television crews covered it, they invited others to join in the task."
Another area in the south, Comodoro Rivadavia stake President Camilo M. Merino said that more than 300 Church members took part in 10 areas of cleaning. "Many people approached them to thank them for the free and generous service."
In the north of Argentina, Dr. Juan Manuel Urturbey, national deputy, an elective office similar to a U.S. Congressman, joined some 400 members who were working locations in Salta.
"Initiatives such as this are very important, and demonstrate that society, which many times works without fanfare, can build a road of understanding based on service," he said.
Not just in large cities did the service progress. In the small town of Itati, in the interior of the Corrientes Province, district President Raul Alberto Ramirez traveled with four others to assist the tiny branch with its project to clear away garbage, rocks and refuse between two streets, in a block-long area.
When they arrived, they found the branch president, his wife, their two children and a local couple working in the hot sun. The four joined them and, three hours later, the city hauled away three heavy truckloads of the rubble from a now clear passageway. People were surprised at what a small group of members had accomplished. Plans were immediately made to start larger projects involving more local residents.
In Paraguay, some 3,500 members in some 60 parts of metropolitan Asuncion and 50 other communities cleared trash and debris that was also hauled away by the local municipality.
"More satisfying than just a job well done, the members and youth have been able to have the gratifying experience in spiritual welfare to improve their eternity, exemplifying the slogan 'To love is to serve,' " said Myriam Maluff, public affairs director in Asuncion.
In Uruguay, some 3,200 participated in diverse projects. About 280 members of the newly created Tacuarembo stake volunteered, dividing into groups of five and working on grounds each was assigned. After cleaning one area, each group moved to another and eventually cleaned the entire city.
In Montevideo, Elder Carlos Perez, Area Authority Seventy, joined in the cleaning of the grounds of the Industrial School of Columbus, and afterwards remarked that "this community service has had an impact and has given a very good impression to those who do not belong to the Church. School authorities were left with a good impression of the strength and interest demonstrated by the members."