In the 1950s, Church membership in Argentina grew nearly threefold. Construction of meetinghouses did not keep pace. A massive building program was initiated in the 1960s to provide places for the rapidly expanding membership to meet and worship. Much of the work was performed by local young men called as construction missionaries. Most had little or no experience and only rudimentary or makeshift equipment. Despite these limitations, in five years 19 chapels were completed or under construction.
A dual approach provided these young men with both a trade and spiritual growth. Because of their inexperience, their supervisors trained them in all the necessary construction skills. The missionaries also studied the gospel for half an hour daily and followed rules similar to those of full-time proselytizing missionaries. Despite working long hours without the standard two-hour break, they occasionally spent their evenings proselytizing.
The work could be backbreaking. The footings for the Mendoza chapel, for example, were dug by hand. The chapel required 40,000 cement blocks, all of which the missionaries made—two at a time. Each day they carried sand from the river for grout. On-site, the grout was hauled up the walls bucket by bucket.
Six months after being introduced to the Church, Andrés Martin was called as a construction missionary in Mendoza. “That’s how my passion for construction began,” he said. “I had no experience in construction at all, but I felt like I was creating something every day. … The building of this chapel is where my testimony began to grow, mixed with cement, sand, steel and hard work.”
Within a week, Martin was made the leader of the missionary crew. A short time later, he was made the temporary building supervisor. After his release, he started a company that specialized in building maintenance. Eventually, he worked for the Church as an area manager of construction and properties and then as the regional manager of temple maintenance. In the Church, he served many times in leadership positions, including as a stake president and as a counselor in mission and temple presidencies.