Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm Coming Home!

December 21, 2015
Well never thought I would be typing that line.
Hey There,

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

My Polish Home Ward

December 14, 2015

Siema psa,
 It has been actually really good to be back in my area. Sister Smith and I have been working really hard and trying to stay busy, we have an insanely busy two weeks coming up as well. Combining Christmas and going home, two of the biggest events of a missionary’s year, into one week has been interesting. We are from the same MTC group and so we will be going home together. I really love Sister Smith and am so grateful that we could end our missions together. She keeps me going in all aspects. She is a great runner so regardless of her tiny size we run each other into the ground in the mornings, and work hard throughout the day. Not gonna lie there is a bit of trunkiness with two going home sisters in one companionship, plus we have the end of mission exhaustion, but I think we keep a good reign on it. Also we are on to battle round three of War of the Lice this week. Unfortunately no one thought that it was serious enough to put me on quarantine because I was on maybe 16 splits this transfer, but now there is a lice outbreak among all of the sisters in Warsaw. Four other sisters now have lice as well. Sister Carlson and I had it the worst, so everyone thinks that it started with us sometime last transfer. I luckily think I am coming to the end, thank goodness, it was interfering with our schedule way too much! We had to take drastic measures this week and bag all of our clothes, deep clean my new apartment and then chemically bathe everything.
This week we met with our sweet Thai member Som Chit. She barely speaks any English and less Polish, so we teach her Book of Mormon stories by acting them out with the elders. It is kind of craziness, but we love love love visiting Som Chit. Sweet Kaja also invited us over for dinner this week. She has been one of the greatest blessings of my mission and it is getting harder and harder to say goodbye, but I am so grateful to have Sister Smith as my companion because the way she teaches the gospel and interacts with Kaja is so beautiful. Kaja is the best!

 Sunday we went to church and it felt like going to my home Polish ward, of course everyone was surprised that I was back though, round III baby! Some of my favorite people in the branch are President and Sister Neto, our branch president and his wife. They have been so kind and such a support to me my entire mission. It was my last chance to see President Neto. I felt like it was such a miracle that I got to see him one last time. After church, Sister Smith and I hopped a distance train and rode about an hour and a half East to Siedlce. I think that is the closest I have ever been to Russia!!! We are helping prepare this sweet little girl for baptism on the 23rd, so we went out to teach her a little bit about baptism. Her dad speaks only Spanish to the children and the mom only Polish, and the live on a little farm.  We are excited to help get her ready for her baptism. There will be a piñata. Whoot!
Next P-day will officially be my last P-day in Poland because the Monday after that I am going to be out with my departure group having our last day together. My mission has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and I am so grateful that I have made it. I am so grateful for all of the love and support along the way. I know that God is with us and that the Church of Jesus Christ is the one true church on the earth today. Have a fantastic week, love you all dearly!
Sister Benson

Monday, December 7, 2015

Merry Christmas and Lots of Love from Poland!

December 7, 2015

Isiah 7:14
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel."

Emmanuel, meaning God with us, is one of the treasured names and titles of which we bestow upon the savior. I truly have a testimony that God is with us! Through everything we experience while in this mortal journey the knowledge that a Savior, a brother, a God is with us and understands us probably more than we understand ourselves gives me comfort and the strength to carry on. This will be my second Christmas away from family and friends here in Poland. As I have been reflecting back on last Christmas, it was a decent one, but not what it could have been. As this year has rolled around all of the missionaries in the Poland Warsaw Mission have been focusing on Service and Love in honor of the Saviors birth. I have already felt a difference in this Christmas, it is almost like when we remember and honor Him, He is with us even more. As my mission draws to a close I can barely contain my excitement to see my loved ones again, but I also am grateful for the time I have to remember Immanuel this Christmas season here among my brothers and sisters in Poland. If you are looking for a little Christmas uplift, please go and visit the churches website and view the new Christmas film, "A Savior is Born". Love you all so very much and I wish you a very merry Christmas all the way from Poland!

Oh wow, what another week. So we had some really cool events and things happening this week. I had my last zone conference on Wednesday, I know weird! This year we have focused all of the missionaries on service to bring more love and Christ into our holidays. I think it is going to be wonderful! Recently we have been looking for a lot of community service opportunities. It has been really great having the AP's in my district because we were kind of a trial run for all of the service activities they were looking into so they could present at zone conference. We talked a lot about the new video from the church, which the more I watch the more I love! They even tied a little Christmas program in at the end!

As I sat there I couldn't believe that it was my last zone conference. I gave my little talk, we sang, I even ended up getting called to improv on the piano, but it still felt like just another zone conference. I even found myself looking forward to the next one. But when President got up at the end he surprised our departing group of sisters and asked us to each come up and bear our testimonies. Half of me was glad that I hadn't had time to ponder and mull over agonizingly what my parting words of wisdom were going to be, but part of me was wishing that I could find something really helpful and inspiring to say! Honestly I don't really even remember much of what I said, just that it felt right. I was able to truthfully say that I know the church is of God and that it is true! I really felt through the Holy Ghost the truthfulness of what we teach, and the love that the Savior feels for his missionaries. I am far from a perfect missionary, but bit by bit the spotlight is coming off of my flaws and starting to show me the changes that have happened. The refiner’s fire burns bright, but in retrospect I am so grateful! When president talked about our departing group he talked about how he received a bunch of great missionaries, but sending us home, he now sees great changes for the better. For that I am so grateful!

We also held a Wieczór Kolęd on Saturday evening. I was on a tramwaj the other evening and talked to this sweet lady who said that she is actually friends with a member in our branch. Then she even ended up showing up at our choir night. It was wonderful! We had been stressing all week about trying to get this choir event up and running, but it wasn't really happening. Somehow with lots of prayer and work it came through and we sang a bunch of Christmas songs in maybe four or five different languages, I especially loved the Polish Carols that had like 9 verses. So fun. Even though the Caroling event went well we kind of had a strange day. We were out on the Rynek with some of our members advertising for the evening’s performance when President Edgren called. Next thing you know I am being transferred again. I am going back to my good old Warsaw II area to serve with my good friend Sister Smith. We both are from the same MTC group and will probably end up flying most of the way home together. Well that was for sure a surprise, it had been mentioned to me a few weeks ago that there might be some changes, but all three sister companionships in Warsaw changing really took me by surprise. For some odd reason I always thought I would end it back in Warsaw II, strange how things work out that way. I really have loved my time in the Warsaw I branch though, I am really going to miss it here, but I know the Lords hand is in it. Hopefully putting two departing sisters together their last month does not make for two very trunky monkeys! Haha! I always thought that the end of my mission would be different than it has been this transfer, but looks like things are about to get a pick up my last three weeks.
Sister Benson

Monday, November 30, 2015


November 30, 2015
Well Dearest Family,

Here I am, yesterday I hit one month until the finish line! Wow, I really cannot believe it! I got my travel itinerary today. I can't believe I have that 6 hour layover in Salt Lake, are you kidding me! Looks like I will be getting home around 9:20 in the evening! Cannot wait! I am sending lots of love and prayers your way!

This last week we wrestled with the lice every morning, sadly it disrupted morning studies all week, but I seem to have hit the green thus far. My companion got really sick this week though and so I am worried that might be what is coming next. The weather has been really really cold, but no snow yet. They have started to set up the Christmas decorations on old town so Warsaw is getting all jollied up for the season. I am so excited! Side note to mom and dad: I sure am excited to celebrate Christmas when I get home hint hint, ie. we should do Christmas eve the night I get home and then the next day Christmas! A little non traditional eh! It is kind of sad to know I wont be with my family again this year, but I also am happy to spend one more in Poland!

We had a good Thanksgiving celebration here this week. Not as good as spending it with all of the family, but probably the best we could have done it here in Poland. We did potluck style so everyone brought one or two things and it was really TASTY! Tak Smaczny! We had turkey, roasted goose, mashed potatoes, salad with avocado, rolls and Sister Edgren saved the day and somehow managed to make pumpkin pie. Seriously Sister Edgren makes the best pie I have ever had in my life! Happy Thanksgiving!

This week we had some interesting experiences with our investigators. One day we got dropped by one of our investigators and in the same hour span chewed out by the other on the phone. One of our baptismal dates got moved back to January or February and the other one is still in January so we shall have to see. It was interesting to learn how to react in those types of situations. There are so many variables when you are teaching people, it never goes 100% smoothly. There are always obstacles and bumps in the road. After getting chewed out by one of our investigators because they were offended by someone else. I got off the phone and was like, hah, we are dropping them.  Well, by Sunday I had to humble myself and help solve the situation more thoroughly. I think that something the Lord is really trying to teach me this transfer is to salvage my confidence, but stem my pride, to be positive and have hope, but still able to relate with those who are struggling. Maybe I am supposed to be finding happiness and gratitude even in the most difficult of situations. Limping along, but still looking for that sweet joy in the journey!

Love, Sister Benson

Monday, November 23, 2015

Itchy Scratchies and the Psychiatric Ward

November 23, 2015

Cześć Moja Umiłowana Rodzina,

Oh my heavens, you are all going to laugh your heads off at this week. I think I am only able to laugh about it in retrospect! I really do love my mission, even with all of the random crazy, sometime unpleasant things that happen.

The beginning of this week I had the blessed opportunity to spend time with my old companion from Gdańsk, Sister Bąk, before she went home. She came in on Monday night from Wrocław to stay the night with my companionship and spend her last day with me before heading off. We hauled her ancient hard cover green suitcases through the city to my apartment and we reminisced late into the night about our missions and our futures.  It was interesting to look back at how far we have come on our missions and to realize that it is drawing to a close, much earlier for her than me. We dragged ourselves out of bed on Tuesday and she spent some time with Kaja while I went to district meeting then we met up

for lunch again and I got to be her companion for the day. We had manakin crepes with some of her mission friends, walked around old town a bit, then caught a bus down to the mission home. While she was in her departure interview I played with the Edgren's adorable grand-kids who have been visiting for the past couple of weeks. We had a nice big family dinner with President and Sister Edgren and their daughter and son-in-law and laughed about missionary life. Then there were sweet testimonies and my group’s farewell video. Yes, I got a sneak peak of the departing sisters group. As I watched the mission and watched one of my best friends leaving the mission I was just struck with a lot of love and gratitude. I really have loved my mission, and the people, and my companions. I really do see the hand of the Lord in my life, in Sister Bąk's life, in the lives of all of the members, missionaries, and people here. It was a wonderful experience to remind me of the good things, and the good things yet to come. I left that evening with a renewed desire to work hard, to hoe to the end of the row as Grandpa Dance always said.
So after Sister Bąk left the mission home, Sister Gustafson, another one of my previous companions from Lodz, came on exchanges with me. This is when all crazy broke loose. I had been an itchy little monster from sometime around Tuesday morning. Wednesday I finally called Sister Edgren about it. She told me I needed to do a lice check, and I just laughed and told her that I am extremely clean person, especially my hair, but we checked anyways. We couldn't find anything for a long time and then I looked down on my hairbrush and we found a little bug just running along one of my hairs full of my blood. I freaked out and called Sister

Edgren back and was like "OH MY HECK I HAVE LICE". By the time we got done with the meeting we were in, all of the drug stores were closed and we couldn't buy lice shampoo. I called Sister Carlson, another one of my previous companions; because she went to beauty school and she told me a natural remedy would be mayonnaise. So we did the only thing we could do and bought a jar of mayonnaise. Sister Gustafson was a champ and picked out all of the ones from my hair that she could find, even a jumpy rather frisky louse. Once we figured out what they looked like, we found a lot of them. It just really surprised me how small they are. Then the painting of my head with a jar of mayonnaise began. We wrapped my head in a plastic bad to sleep in but the oil dripping from the bag was so bad I had to wear a toilet paper scarf to sleep. Needless to say I didn't sleep much.
Mayonnaise did not work by the way!! 
Then the next morning I had to be hung over the tub and sprayed down, showered, ran to the drug store with wet hair and finally got our hands on some lice shampoo, showered again, then spent five hours sorting through every strand of hair picking out lice. Our exchange got extended from its already long 4 days to five days so Sister Gustafson could keep helping me pick out lice. We have to go through my hair every single day for the next 10 days, deep clean the apartment, wash my sheets every day, and vacuum every day. On top of that everyone goes running screaming whenever I walk in a room and I am like, wait guys, I swear I am a clean person! So along with juggling my little lice buddies we have been trying to still get work done. We still even got to go to Legionowo outside of Warsaw to visit our investigator Kasia and her family and take a sweet member some dinner. We taught about divine nature and individual worth. I just thought it was funny sitting there teaching about confidence and selfworth, while I looked like a run over super self-conscious dog. So I have been a bit sleep deprived all week from staying up late to fight the lice and my scalp is really tender and itchy from being poked, prodded, pulled, scraped, mayonnaised, and chemically bathed. Oh the things you experience on your mission. Someone called me this week and told me that the southern sisters have dubbed me the "Job" of the mission. I just thought that was funny because all of the crazy things that have happened are usually humorous later.

Here is where the other super interesting event of the week comes in. We went to visit a dear friend had had recently been committed to a psychiatric hospital earlier this week for some things that she was struggling with. She is honestly one of the most beautiful kind people I have ever met! I took another one of the sisters from my district with me, Sister Craig, to go and find her hospital after church yesterday. It was about an hour outside of Warsaw in Ząbi by bus and then we had to walk down this long country neighborhood lane just following the map out to where she said her hospital was located. After a few miles, it starts to turn foresty on one side of the road, but all of the leaves are gone so the trees are bare and the sun is starting to go down. This creepy looking building suddenly rises up from behind the massive grey wall on our left and Sister Craig was like, oh no, that has got to be it. Well, yep it was. We approached the security gates and the guard let us in. As we walk up, these men were pressed up against the windows watching us approach the building. We had to ring the bell and a nurse came down and unlocked the doors to let us in. Then they led us upstairs and took us through another locked door where we were actually inside the psych ward. As we walked into the ward everyone turned and looked at us. Like picture 1970's horror psych film. Yellow walls, people in robes and orange pajamas with stripes wandering around in a daze, beds crammed down the hallway and 4 people crammed into every tiny bedroom. We were led down the hall until we finally found our sweet friend. Her wonderful mother was there and we got to meet her, which was nice. We went back out to the commons area where we sat down at a table to talk with her. When we pulled out our Book of Mormons to share a message, suddenly our table was surrounded by five or six men just staring. They pulled up chairs and starting trying to talk with us. They just had empty or really sad eyes. After we shared our thought we got introduced to a new friend who ended up bawling and begging us not to leave her there. Poor sweet lady. They were all really nice people, it was a sad experience seeing people that much mentally struggling. I truly believe that God has a ton of love for all of his children, no matter what they struggle with. You could feel it, even in such a heartrending situation.

Well for the gospel part of this email. My verse of the week is Proverbs 27:7. I highly highly recommend looking this up. I would say this scripture describes my mission perfectly.

Love you all so much! Have a beautiful week
Sister Benson

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Work in Progress

November 16, 2015

Well Dearest Family,

Jak zwykle, it is a joy to hear from you all again! As I near the end i get more and more anxious to actually get to see you in person. Love you guys so much!

There have been many times of trial and difficulty on my mission, I can't even put it into words. When people come home from their missions and say that was the hardest thing they have ever done I never understood. Even when my brother said it several times after he returned all I could think of was what... you missed family a bit, couldn't sleep in for 2 years, struggled with a foreign language?  Yeah, oh boy, was I in for quite the treat. Through it all, I have seen the Lords hand through good and bad. This mission has changed my life, and changed my eternity. God knew what He was doing when he sent 18, and 19 year olds out to take on the world; to build their lives, and build others. Basically as I near the end, I am filled with a deep and eternal gratitude for my privilege to serve in Poland at this time. I wish I had been more willing to do things the Lord's way the entire time, but I am a work in progress and am so grateful that I could be one of the Lord's missionaries.

Sister Bąk, on of my best friends, a previous companion, and from my MTC group, goes home on Wednesday and she will be spending her last day with me. She comes in tonight and then tomorrow I get to be her companion for most of the day. Well this is going to derail my focus train! It will be strange to have to do the whole last day, last dinner thing, twice! I am going to miss her. I have met some of my very best friends here! It is hard to watch everyone drift away slowly to progress onward in their own lives. It is all a part of the plan!

My entire mission I have made it with only getting officially sick once, way back in January when I had a cold for a few weeks. Well on Saturday one of my investigators, Emma, from Sweden, took us to go and get Mexican food. After living in this country for almost a year and a half now I should know that #1Mexican food here is not actually going to be Mexican and #2 that is usually destroys your body. I disregarded the logic and ate a huge burrito! Well I did fine until about four in the morning and then it hit me.  I was sick all day yesterday! I managed to make it through church with only moaning occasionally haha! So pathetic! I only cried for mommy a few times.

Love, love love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, November 9, 2015

Of These Truths I Testify

November 9, 2016
Dear Family,

Wednesday we had a wonderful opportunity to serve after all of our plans canceled on us. The other sisters called us and let us know that one of the mothers of our branch was sick and maybe we could serve her and her family in some way. So we made them a hearty sausage soup, apple crumble and took that over with bread. I know other people are always grateful for the help, but in reality I always feel that the service is such a blessing and privilege for me.

On Friday, Elder Adler came and had a fireside with the Warsaw missionaries on Friday evening. Oh man, it was splendid. Just what I needed to hear, seriously! He talked about how our missions are more than survival, getting rejected and enduring difficult trials, they are about us growing, leading others to Christ, and for other purposes that our Heavenly Father knows. He sent me to Poland not to chasten me, but because He loves me! I have been so blessed in my life. The blessings are endless. This mission has continually proven itself to me as one of those priceless blessings, and to think I never planned on serving a mission when I was younger! I know this church is of God, and that is is true. I believe in Latter-Day prophets and apostles and in a Savior that loves each of His children, and this knowledge is beautiful to me. One of the challenges that Elder Adler left us with was to testify every single day deeply and soulfully, I have included it in there to testify of the Savior. Actually I feel like this email is my opportunity today to testify. A testimony is hard to express in words, but I have felt and seen the difference the gospel brings, I have experienced the love of God and seen it for His other children. True happiness lies not in following our own wills but in following the Savior of the world. Of these truths I testify.

I don't know everything going on out in the world because I don't have access to news, but from what I do hear it is crazy; so many people fighting, so much contention, anger, and confusion. The tempest is raging. I fully support the equality and love of all mankind, but take my stance as a disciple of Christ alongside the prophet and the doctrines of the gospel. One of my investigators from Sweden this week told us that by believing in such restrictive and conservative views in church we are limiting the love of God; that God would not require of us such ridiculous things as abstaining from pre-marital sex, drugs, and alcohol. She proposed that because God gave us free-will to choose, we do not have consequences for the actions we make, and we are happier governed by our own conscience. Being a missionary has given me much an opportunity to discuss with every walk of life the points of that discussion, and it has also given me the unique perspective of viewing the outcomes. I truly believe that the love of god is extended to all mankind, and the commandments and gospel is an extension of that love. The Holy Ghost will confirm that to you if you will live by it and ask of God!

Anyway, I love you all so much.
Siostra Ellis Benson