Well never thought I would be typing that line.
Yes it is official, I have hit the last week of my mission here as a Poland Warsaw missionary. I will be home in about a week and a day or so on the 29th of December. Crazy I know! My thoughts and emotions swing from sick with anxiety to bursting excitement. Today I realized I was walking around with a giant smile on my face for no reason. (That is a bit unusual here in Poland) So everyone keeps giving me the second glance back because I look like a wierdo! Well it is either because I am smiling so big or because the bags under my eyes now have double bags from exhaustion. I have this song that I have been saving for a couple of months now that is a mission remix of the song "I'm Coming Home" (honestly I don't remember the name of the rap song anymore so I hope you get where I am coming from). Basically it is a remix mission rap about missionaries finally going home from their missions. I cranked it up the other day and my comp and I just sat there with these big O O eyes. My current comp Sister Smith is also coming home in my group so that has been fun. The other day she kept singing... "I'll be home for Christmas... wait a minute". Another Christmas in Poland is a gift.
I don't know if I have ever been this tired in my entire life without having the side effect of jet lag. We have had some really cool opportunities to say goodbye to members and investigators and I love how it is all mingled with the Christmas season. This week we went out to visit Halina, who is the oldest member in Poland. Because the church here is so young, she was here when it all started back in the 80's and 90's. She is 89 years old and back in the day got baptized in Chicago. When she came back to Poland she held the first branch meetings in Sopot up by Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea. I met her when I served in Gdańsk and then later Sister Smith served with her. Right in the middle of Sister Smith's transfer with her she had to move because of old age to a very secluded village in between Warsaw and Gdańsk called Maków Mazowiecki so a relative could care for her. Because she is older and lives so far away she can't attend church anymore. President Edgren knew that Sister Smith and I are the last surviving missionaries who know Halina and so he gave us special permission to travel up and meet with her. When we arrived after the 3 hour bus ride she was waiting for us all bundled up from the cold. We had the opportunity to sit down with her in her home and share a Christmas message, cookies, and some carols. The spirit was so strong and man does Halina know her Book of Mormon, it was wonderful!
Christmas time has always been a time of family and friends in my life and being away for Christmas has been difficult at times. But sitting there in Halina's cute little room up in Maków I was touched with the fact that we are never forgotten. Another woman that we talked with this week said that Christmas has no meaning to her this year because her mother is in the hospital and everyone else is busy for the Holidays. Then my companion brought up the beautiful point that we have Christmas exactly for that reason. Because of Jesus Christ broken hearts can be made whole, family relationships can be eternal, mistakes can be made right, and we can find joy even in the little things. Christmas means celebrating the birth of one who actually does understand and the Savior of the world allows us to access the love of God more fully. Such an interesting but incredible week.
I know that there is so much more I could say. How do you sum up a year and a half of your life in just one email. I don't think I could even do it in a book. I hope that you all know that I love you all so much. Thank you so much for all of the love, support, and prayers. I cannot wait to see you/ hear from you/ Skype if need be. Please know that I have a testimony of a boy prophet that restored the one true church on the earth for us so that we can return to God. Everything we have is given from a loving Heavenly Father and if I truly open my eyes and look without grudges, prejudice, stiffneckedness I can see His perfect plan woven into the fibers of my life. If we will follow God's plan and the example of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ we will be happier than if we will wander around trying to do things our way. I never planned on serving a mission, it actually kind of took me by surprise, yet I am eternally grateful that the Lord called me as His missionary at this time and to this place. The fire burned hot and the refining went deep but I have truly felt the love of God and change in my life. I KNOW THIS CHURCH IS TRUE! And I can shout that and I can proclaim that because I have lived it and tried it in my own life. You can have doubts and questions but you cannot doubt simple and pure testimony. I make you a promise as one who still holds the badge of a representative of Jesus Christ that if you will follow the plan God has for you with humility and love, you will be blessed beyond anything you can comprehend. Accept His love, trust Him, and follow His son. I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Z Wielką Miłośćą
Siostra Ellis Dianne Benson
Kościół Jezusa Chrystusa Świętych
w Dniach Ostatnich