Monday, December 29, 2014

Called to the Harvest

December 29, 2014 
So much has happened this week. Wednesday we spent the day with half of the mission here in Warsaw for Zone Conference which was incredible. I will never forget Elder Fotu unwrapping that Babcia cart during the white elephant gift exchange. Then Christmas day we got to have breakfast with my district and get together later with all of the Warsaw missionaries, plus a few others who lingered from Zone Conference and play American football which was a blast. That evening we got to spend with the wonderful Mastroianni family skyping and just enjoying Christmas.
We went in on Friday and stayed the night then trained for most of Saturday. I haven't had a spiritual whooping like that in a very long time. This training is not just going to change my mission, it is going to change me and I am so excited.
President Edgren truly has a vision for this mission, and it is the same vision that the Lord has for the missionary work all over the world. Just because this is the Poland Warsaw mission, does not mean that God has not prepared people and great things to happen here just as he has in different missions all over the world. People need to know that this is an incredible mission, that the missionaries here have a new vision and the work is about to change. People have always talked about Poland as the country that “someday” will have the gospel message spread throughout the land and “someday” there will be a temple here.  It’s always in the future, because we keep treating it like that. The day is today! We are working to change the vision out here of what we can accomplish personally as missionaries, and we need you out there to be helping boost that with words of confidence, positivity, support, and prayers. Together, we are going to help build the Lord's kingdom here.

I just want you all to know that I love this work. I love this people and I am grateful everyday to be able to be a representative of my Savior Jesus Christ. I used to count the days of my mission, now I just try to make every day count. A year ago I was sitting home during Christmas break, so unsure of where my journey would lead, still trying to decide if I wanted to serve a mission. Little did I know that here I would be a year later in the beautiful country of Poland, forever grateful that I took that huge leap of faith and clicked send on those papers. That leap of faith have changed me forever. Another year from now and I will be finished with my work here as a missionary, and my main goal now is to see how much growth I can make in that amount of time. This gospel is true, it all really happened; deep down if you have put in the honest effort you cannot deny it! I encourage you all to take some time in the coming months and new upcoming year to deeply consider your personal relationship with God. No matter where that relationship stands, continue to seek for the hand of God in your life and evidence of a loving Savior. I promise you as their representatives that you will find the truth. He lives, and knows each personally, I so testify always!

Have a great week, and Happy New Year!
With Great Love,

Sister Ellis Benson

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas From Poland!!

December 22, 2014 
Dear Family,
So, yeah I am going to just be straight up honest here, it’s been a brutal week, yet, there has been a lot of growth and pieces of tender mercies as well. Last Monday I said goodbye to Sister Tobler, then after that is was a flurry of five different companions and lessons until I picked up my new companion on Wednesday. The rug kinda got ripped out from under me with that one. I never appreciated Sister Tobler enough, she did so much! I went from riding shotgun to in a period of two days taking over everything. We kinda put off the goodbyes until the night before because we wanted to focus on our work, but then before I knew it, she was gone. Everything feels different now. I remember her quiet yet firm example everyday in everything I do. Gooness I miss that woman! Tuesday was a tender mercy from the Lord because I was feeling really bummed and overwhelmed plus we had two lessons with Polish members to teach. In those two lessons, a miracle happened. I have never spoken such beautiful, understandable Polish in my entire life. I do not even know what happened, I was able to understand almost everything, and I could just speak for the first time in a long time in Polish. It felt so good. It was such a blessing from the Lord! That helped to uplift me and boost my confidence before everything fell apart after that. I went from so confident and ready to so humbled and brought low in such a short amount of time.
Wednesday we went in for training before we picked up our trainees. Most of the stuff they were talking about for trainers was still stuff I don't know or am in the process of learning. It was pretty overwhelming. I was praying so hard that entire day. Then next thing you know, I was in the captains seat. My trainee's name is Sister Johnston and she is from Texas. I actually met her the night before when we took the new trainee's out on the Rynek their first day to go contacting, and I knew from the second I met her that she would be mine. She is super sweet, understanding, and I love her already. She is so good at just rolling with the flow; I love it.  Sometimes I even forget that she has only been here for just a few day's because she is so good at just going with it. Her first name is Ellen, but everyone calls her Ellie, just like me! We have had an interesting week!
I guess mainly I am just trying to get everything figured out. The burden of responsibility is pretty crushing, but so many elders and sisters have been so good about reaching out and offering me love and support. I mainly just feel so overwhelmed and inadequate, so frustrated by primarily my inability to speak the language, and also not knowing how to deal with tons of stuff. I had that one good day of speaking the language, being able to give an entire lesson, to the next day not being able to do even a lesson in English the next. I feel like all of the work that we have been building up in this area is going to fail because of my lack of experience and knowledge and it just is so stressful and frustrating. I am my trainee's lifeline, yet half the time I am looking for my own lifeline to save me. That is when it comes down to turning to the Lord. I don't think I have ever worked harder in my entire life for such an extended amount of time from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30. The Lord pretty much has to carry me through every single day somehow. We have been working with so many fantastic people lately that I have just been so scared of failing because of my inadequacies. My fear has been trumping my faith which is never a good thing. Honestly though, it can only go up from here I hope. I may not speak Polish, but in training, we learned that a trainers job is not to teach the language, it is to teach the trainee how to be a good missionary. I may stink at everything else we are trying to do right now, but I know that I can set the example/ standard and pray for the Lords help with the rest. It's been probably the hardest thing I have ever done. There has been a lot of long sleepless nights. But I know that the Lord and President Edgren know better than I do, and they called me to do this not because I would fail, but learn how to succeed. I just have to keep that in mind. Keep me in your prayers.
Other activities of the last week. We caroled on the Rynek in the pouring sleet last night. Sister Johnston didn't find that half as halariously fun as I did haha! And then, poor Sister Johnston, we spent her second day with 8 hours of contacting and tracting. We also had a really cool lesson with our investigator Molly. Yeah so much has happened I don't even remember. I am so excited for this next week though. Wednesday we have Zone Conference on Christmas Eve, and half of the mission is coming into Warsaw for that. Christmas day we get to have breakfast and play sports, then of course skype our families that evening. The day after Christmas I get to go into the mission home and stay the night for MLC (mission leadership conference, STL stuff) and then prepare for Zone training next week. It is going to be a good week. Anyways, I am so excited to talk with you all. Bensons sure can do hard things! I am super bummed about Kaiser, he was a good friend, more like a member of the family for so many years. I really will miss him! Love you all, have a very Merry Christmas. Though this year of Christmas is so different than any other I have ever had, I don't even care. All I care about is my beautiful family back home. Other than the most important gift of Christ all of those years ago, you are my most precious gift this year. Talk to you soon.

Siostra Ellie May

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lord Lead Thou Me On

December 15, 2015 
Dearest Family,

I cannot begin to explain what a week it has been, so much has happened. Every extreme of the emotion scale has been experienced this week. So much happiness, joy, and excitement, yet so bittersweet, scary, and nerve wracking. Today was a really hard day. This morning I dropped my dearest Sister Tobler off. She has had a profound impact and influence on my life, and she is and always will be one of my best friends. I will miss her more than words can express. These past four months together have been unforgettable. Not only was she my trainer but I have relied on her for everything for two transfers, it was hard to let go.

So on for the news that I know you are all dying to hear. I knew all week long that I would probably be staying in Warsaw and be with someone from my MTC group. I thought I had it all figured out. I waited all Saturday for my transfer call from President, then finally late Saturday evening I got the news. First president has asked me that I stay in my area and become the Sister Training Leader of my zone. Well, umm, that was a surprise. Then he asked me to train!!!! I am going to be a trainer. Umm what! I was legitimately shocked and so surprised! I really couldn't believe it. I was immediately struck with equal amounts of excitement and terror. What a humbling opportunity this is going to be. I cannot believe the amount of confidence and trust that the Lord and President Edgren just entrusted in me. I never thought I would be training so soon in the mission. It probably doesn't sound like a big deal to train to others outside this mission, but it is a huge responsibility, especially with so difficult a language.
Regardless of how much of a surprise that was to me, I feel very blessed and humbled to have been given this opportunity. This next transfer is going to be a time of great growth, I have no choice now but to spread my wings and fly. Sister Tobler didn't know about any of this, yet she has prepared me so well. I look forward to the great amount of time I know I will be spending on my knees with my Father in Heaven in the next few months. I have no choice but to now just have courage and use the language. It’s pretty awful Polish but I’m going to work really hard. I exchange companions four times in the next three days until Wednesday morning when I get to pick up my trainee at the mission home. I am so excited, Lord lead thou me on and let the journey begin.

So regardless of that big news, so much else has happened this week.We visited so many members and investigators so that Sister Tobler could say her goodbyes. I hope that someday I will have the privilege of loving and helping so many people in the same way she has, love is so key in this missionary work. We spend last Monday on the Rynek looking around, shopping, tasting, it is so beautiful at Christmas time! Thursday we went caroling with all of the missionaries of Warsaw on the Rynek, it was so cool. There was about half of us singing and then the other half contacted those who stopped to listen! On Friday we took our culture night as a district. I absolutely love my district family from this transfer. They are some of my best friends and biggest support here! We went and got dinner at a famous Polish Naleszniki place called Manekin. Yumm so good! Then we went to a trans-harmonic symphony in a big concert hall. So cool!

Saturday was also a huge day for my comp and I. Sister Tobler and I had a transfer goal of having two baptisms this transfer, well that happened Saturday. First Anita got baptized and guess what... Roza got baptized!!!! She is one of the coolest people I have ever met here! She has been an investigator for a couple of years and just recently was allowed to be baptized. She got baptized on Saturday at 11 in the morning. We are so happy for her! What a good way to send sister Tobler out the door because Roza was one of her first investigators when she first entered the field. Roza is so helpful with missionary work, she has such courage, even before she was baptized she would come out street teaching with us. It was a beautiful baptism, and I feel privilege to play even just a small part in all of that. That evening we had our branch Christmas party and it was interesting to see that the Lord's kingdom is the same all over the world. So many people gathered together like a family, simply beautiful.

I am grateful to be a missionary everyday. I know that the Lord has a plan for all of us, and I know that the Lord will always stand by us and be with us. I love you all so much and wish you a happy holiday season. I pray for you everyday!

With Love,

Sister Benson

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tis the Season To Be Jolley!

December 8, 2014
Dearest Family,
I can’t believe that Anni got baptized! Wow my little sister sure grew up fast. I am so glad that you made such a great decision to be baptized. I promise that so much good will come because of it! I love you so much and I want you to know that I am leaving my legacy behind here so that when you put in your mission papers in ten years, you can come and help the missionary work here in Poland too. I am so proud of my beautiful family.
I just want you all to know that I have changed so much. Haha but I still am the same old Ellie. This morning I got up and ate a banana for breakfast, but then I was still hungry so I ate a cup of noodle (european style of course) haha. Sister Tobler was so grossed out! bahaha. Funny food story of the week. We have been making the rounds running all over visiting all of our members, less-actives, and investigators last week and this upcoming week because Sister Tobler is leaving. Yesterday we had two later evening appointments with some members from this branch, so we made a huge batch of crepes for lunch/dinner and rushed off. We went to the first appointment and she had made us soup. Thus I had my first run in with Barszcz soup. Mum would love the stuff, because it is essentially beets and carrots in broth. It is this crazy purple red color and stains your teeth. It is actually not as bad as all of the other missionaries led us to believe, kinda tasty, until you get a huge heaping bowl of it after you just downed 6 crepes. So yeah, Barszcz soup is not too bad, unless you go to your next appointment and they make you fish sandwiches. So then we had to down these slices of bread covered in butter, fish, and fresh onion. Plus this tea, that I am pretty sure was not tea. Anyways, my tummy was in a rumble all night long. People put food in front of missionaries, and we just basically breathe it in as fast as we can, its just a weird missionary thing.
Tuesday the Kosanoviches had us over for Thanksgiving/ Christmas dinner. Seriously this family is simply fantastic! Friday we got to go to Wilanów palace with a Hungarian member whos husband lives here in Warsaw and saw all of the Christmas lights. Then we made crafts with the relief society sisters that night. Saturday we went out and visited another member outside of Warsaw. She bought us lunch, took us out to a bakery, and then sent us home with a box of Florentine cookies. We were so surprised by her generosity but she said that because the Americans took such good care of her son when he served in America that she tries to take good care of the missionaries here. It was just such a good reminder to us that every missionary has a home and family somewhere out there. Then that night we had a super cool YSA Christmas Party! We had about 7 YSA investigators there that the missionaries brought, more than the YSA members who attended! The growth of the church here is going to start with the YSA's, and the I feel that things are going to really take off in this country! Some day there will be a temple here!
Simply put, we worked a lot! This coming week will be kind of insane. Today we are going to see the Rynek all lit up as our last p-day all together. We have Róża's baptism next Saturday, plus a ton of other meetings set up, then add Christmas on top of all of that and we have a very full, great schedule set up. It has been a blessed four months serving with Sister Tobler. I don't think anyone else on this earth knows me as well as this point in my life, she knows me even better than I know myself sometimes. I guess the best way to put it is, I am "forever grateful" for the time that we have shared! She leaves me next Monday and it is going to be a hard goodbye.
I love being a missionary. I know that I am where the Lord needed me to be right now, and I am grateful that the Lord blessed me to be able to serve a mission. I will never forget this blessed and sacred experience. Dearest Family, this church is true, it truly is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my privilege and duty to testify of that message. I can't believe how long it took me to realize it, but the true gift of Christmas was given long ago, it was our Savior Jesus Christ. Being away from my family this holy season has reminded me of that very simple and basic message. We are beyond blessed to have the knowledge and opportunities we do! I love you all and wish you a very merry week!

Love Sister Benson

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's That Magical Time of the Year

December 1, 2014
Hello Everyone,
I was surprised that the lesson I learned most from this week was about prayer. We pray a lot as members of the church, and we pray even more as missionaries. The bad thing is that I was starting to let my prayers become automatic, not as meaningful. I spend hours on my knees (much to my knee's chagrin), yet how much of that is actual true heartfelt communication with my creator, my Heavenly Father. When we pray, we are not just praying to nothingness, our prayers are always heard and we need to take them seriously. Thus I have started to revamp my prayers. We always pray only in Polish, but I’m really trying harder with grammar and wording which has already upped my Polish game. I have already noticed a difference in less than a week. For example, the other night at the end of planning I said the prayer in Polish. I felt this really heartfelt prayer just come pouring out of me and the words just flowed.  When I finished Sister Tobler and I both look up and each other and burst out laughing. She was like... "no way, where did that come from!" Super cool. Anyways, my challenge of the week. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
Thursday was Thanksgiving; my first away from home. Missionaries don't get the day off, but we still made it a fantastic Thanksgiving Day. I have to just add, that I absolutely love my district right now. Everyone has just such a different cool personality, put it all together and there is a ton of character in this group. We planned a district white board on Thursday afternoon, went out and preached it hardcore for two hours and then went and had Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment. Sister Tobler and I cleaned our apartment all up and then put two huge leafs in the table and decorated quite festively. We had rotisserie chickens from Biedronka, mashed potatoes, bread, fruit, salad, apple crisp, brownies, and ice-cream. Not bad for a hastily thrown together missionary Thanksgiving dinner. During the middle of dinner, I don't even know what happened, but everyone just had a huge laughing attack. Everyone was laughing so hard we were choking and couldn't even eat dinner. It goes to show that the spirit of holiday's comes from within, even if you are thousands of miles away from home and family, the magic of the holiday's can still be there.
So guess what... Anita got baptized on Saturday. There was just such a sacred feeling at her baptism and sitting there during her baptismal program I couldn't help but think of how much it all meant to her. To have gone through so much, and struggled so much and then finally it is all washed away, clean. I can't even express coherently in words what it is like to watch someone go through all of that and then be able to see the relief and change that baptism brings. Then add the gift of the Holy Ghost on top of that, and it is a beautiful sight to behold. Very touching.
Sister Benson

Monday, November 24, 2014

Meatloaf But Not Meatloaf

November 24, 2014
Dear Family,
Wow, what a great week it has been! Really up and down, but great all the same. My language is finally barely starting to turn the corner. It’s still bad, I can't casually converse with people, but I get the gist of what is going on. I am excited for continual opportunities of growth!
I just have to say that I have a FANTASTIC district. I love them so much, they are a huge support here. It is comprised of Sister Tobler and I, Elders Retallick and Jourdan, and Elders Wride and Write. For Thanksgiving this week we are actually having a district dinner at our apartment to celebrate. We are buying rotisserie chickens, and then everyone is assigned to bring a couple of things. It is going to be a smashing hit, I just know it!
In reference to the title of this email, Meatloaf but not Meatloaf, allow me to explain. We went to visit a friend who surprised us with dinner; seriously so kind! There were two thick slices of meatloaf, vinegar salad, and some very interesting tea. I look over at Sister Tobler and she has panic written all over her face. She hadn't been feeling that well all day and eating this meal might push her over the edge. I mean what and the heck do you do in that kind of situation, you can't just refuse a meal that someone so lovingly made you. So we sat down and dug in! Turns out, the meatloaf, was not meatloaf. It was comprised of Kasha, onion, cranberries, dates, chicken broth, and some kind of crazy spices all smashed into a pan and then chilled. The vinegar salad actually tasted good in comparison, and then to wash it all down was that nasty strong herbal tea. I started choking it down bite by bite. I wonder if she noticed that I wasn't exactly chewing my food. I could barely manage smashing it around in my mouth and then swallowing as fast as I could. Sister Tobler only made it through the first of two slices before she excused herself to go to the bathroom. I knew the second she left what was about to happen. I almost busted straight up laughing, but then I realized I was the one left to finish my food and wished I could go join her in the bathroom. She came back five minutes later little pale and shaky and got excused from finishing the meal because she wasn't feeling well. Meanwhile I am in the middle of tactical deep breathing exercises trying to finish.  It was quite the experience, but I love how willing people are to serve us.
Sunday evening we did whiteboarding with the AP's and it really changed my perspective. My first few day's in the country I was just constantly scared. It was awful, suffocating. That fear always comes back when doing street teaching, whiteboards, tracting, etc. But last night, I was just like, you know what I am tired of my fear trumping my faith. So I just faked it until I made it. I tried to be bold and talk to everyone, and soon my fear went away and I was just full of faith and happiness. It really boosted my confidence and motivation to continue to learn Polish and be a confident missionary/person. Really tender mercy to experience such an opposite change. I want to be that kind of missionary all of the time.
Today we are going on exchanges again with the Warsaw IB sisters. I will be with Sister Poklinkowska for the next few days. She is such a sweetheart and I we are really going to focus on learning to love the Polish language. I know that I can learn this language so much better and faster if I loved it, so we are really emphasizing that factor. It's gonna be great! Today we are also going to go and finally tour the newly dedicated Jewish museum with our awesome investigator Kaja. She has been making such good progress and I just feel such a connection with her. I looked at her the other day during a lesson and the thought came to mind, you are one of the reasons that I was sent to this country. It was such a special thought to have, and to think that I almost decided never to turn in those mission papers. I would have missed an innumerable amount of growing experiences and might have never met some of these people who I know will be my lifelong friends.
Anyways, it was a really good last week. I love being a missionary! Just know that the Lord loves all of you so much. He knows us better than we know ourselves. The knowledge that we have of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important, soul saving, and brings true happiness. It is true! I know it is true because I have studied it out, lived it, and loved it! Prayer and Scripture study sure goes a long way!
Love Sister Benson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Busy Busy!

November 17, 2014
Hello Everyone,

No time to write this week, but here are some pictures. Life is great here in Poland. It is getting pretty cold that is for sure.

The Lord is always there for us. The atonement is so real and can help us to go from good to great! I love being a missionary and wouldn't trade this for any other thing that I could be doing right now!

I finally visited the famous Rynek in old town Warsaw.  I love you all and hope that you have a wonderful week.
Love Sister Benson

Monday, November 3, 2014

All Saints Day

November 3, 2015
Hello Family,
Oh what a week it has been! This week was the Polish holiday All-Saint's Day on November 1st. We spent much of the week preparing for the open house at our chapel on Wolska as a way to invite the Polish people to come and learn more about the Mormons. On All-Saint's Day, or Day of the Dead, the Polish people honor their families by going to the cemeteries and cleaning off the graves of their passed loved ones and decorating them with tons of flowers and candles. The chapel on Wolska is between two really old and beautiful cemeteries in Warsaw, so it was a great opportunity. We made a huge Plan of Salvation chart and put it up in the cultural hall with refreshments and the office translated some really cool Mormon Messages and Bible video's that we also had playing. At night we lit up the walkway's in front of the chapple with paper bag lanterns (which was kind of my project of the week), and it actually turned out pretty cool. Sister Tobler along with the AP's Elder Fotu and Swicegood spent a good chunk of time this week putting it all together and it turned out beautifully. I have to admit that of the throngs of people walking by outside, not many actually came in, but I have hope that maybe one of the twenty or thirty people who came in will be a little better because of the experience. It was a blessing to be able to try to serve the Polish people a little more as they honored their families this holiday.

Afterward on Saturday night we took our dinner hour and went and walked around the two cemeteries. I wish you could have seen it. So many fresh beautiful flowers just covering these ornate and beautiful graves, and don't even get me started on the miles of candles. I didn't have a chance to send all of the pictures, but all of the graves were just covered in these mainly red and white candles that lit up the night. Near the West cemetery was a monument and graveyard honoring those who lost their lives in the Warsaw uprising, and surrounding the base of this monument for like twenty feet was just a sea of candles. It was pretty incredible. One of our brilliant and super cool investigators Kaja came with us when we visited the monument and she told us some pretty cool histories. She is an intern at the recently dedicated Jewish museum here in Warsaw that opened last week and she wants to give us the grand tour of the museum one of these p-day's. We are pretty excited!

Last night President and Sister Edgren had all of the sister missionaries serving in Warsaw, the six of us, come and stay at the mission home for a sister's retreat last night. Sister Edgren fed us soup and cooked us breakfast and we were able to kinda just relax and unwind. I am really grateful for the breather, it was well needed. This morning president gave us a nice long pep talk about our importance as sister missionaries and the role that a mission will have for us personally as well as in the lives of others. The mission age change is something that has and will continue to affect the entirety of church culture, especially for the women. Never before has the voice of women been so respected and heard and what an opportunity for the women of the church to represent the Lord as a missionary. It is life changing for us now, and for the lives of our future families. I loved what mom said about me being a different person now. I really am. I could not have progressed as far or fast if I had simply remained a student at BYU instead of serving a mission. This year and a half I have as a missionary has farther reaching effects than I first realized when I pushed that submit button on my mission papers. Missionaries have to do hard things every single day, and as dad say's, it builds character. I guess I am just saying that I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I may not be perfect, but through the enabling and cleansing power of the atonement I know that I can change. This morning really reawakened and enlarged my perspective of Heavenly Father's love and care for His Sister missionaries.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learning to Breathe

October 27, 2014
Dear Family,
So yesterday I was sitting on the couch in our chapel building before church with all of the elders from my zone sitting or standing around me. We were all mingling and getting ready to welcome the members and investigators when they showed up for church. I think that rather than choose to feel so many emotional extremes lately, (because missionary life is full of them), I just decided to turn them off. It sounds weird, I know! I can't even cry lately. I have only cried like three times since I left on my mission which is a big deal for a girl, especially a sister missionary. But anyways, back to the chapel. I was just finishing telling the elders... ya know, I just feel so emotionally drained lately, I just turned them all off. Now I feel nothing. The elders were all like... umm what! Not possible for a girl. Right then the office elders walked in and handed me my first PACKAGE! I immediately snatched it from the Elders hands and clutched it to my chest and started bawling haha! It was pretty funny/ embarrassing! Then I got sarcastic comments like, "are you feeling yet?", "how is emotional numbness?" all day! So yes, I got the package yesterday, and thank you so much! As soon as I opened it I immediately knew that dad had picked out the candy. I told Sister Tobler, I think my dad packed the candy and then reading it in mom's note totally confirmed it! Anyways, it was pretty dang great! I loved it, THANK YOU!

Did I mention how amazing my companion is? Goodness I just love that woman. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to serve yet again with "Toby". She is truly amazing! Speaking of amazing, there is this amazing American family here named the Kosanovich's. They take such good care of the missionaries, and this week they were such a source of help and strength. Sister Kosanovich came to a challenging lesson with us, and we were in an honest sense, defenders of the truth. I felt like even though we were being challenged and confronted so intensely, my testimony was firm. I could feel the angels watching from above and standing beside us as we testified again and again that Jesus is the Christ and only through following him and the guide lines set up by our Heavenly Father will we obtain celestial glory. I also have a newfound love and respect of our prophet Thomas S. Monson, and a new understanding of the beautiful and just plan of salvation.

Well on to the Halloween party. We throw a pretty dang fantastic party if I do say so myself! It was pretty stressful trying to manage our normal work, the Halloween party, as well as Day of the Dead this upcoming week. All of which Sister Tobler and I are planning, but it was really fun. We had chili made by the senior couples with corn bread, we baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, a huge dessert table, pumpkin soup, whole caramel apples with toppings, and then we carved pumpkins at the end. We had the perfect amount of people show up, and had a ton of new potential investigators come.

One of the greatest reasons that gave me a desire to serve a mission is wanting take take my testimony and make it a conviction, a surety of heart. It is a life long process, but a mission is a great place to start and has been such a great source of growth and strength for me. I wanted to go through the refiners fire, so that I could become more refined, and the Lord is definitely providing opportunities for that. It is still not easy, or fun all of the time but I am grateful every day for the opportunity to be growing and learning on a mission in Poland. The people here matter just as much to God as the people at home, and someday the work will roll with great speed.
Love Sister Benson

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Details of Our Lives

October 20, 2014
Hello Family,
Oh what an interesting week it has been. Then again, most weeks are pretty interesting when you are living in a foreign country! Well we are all settling in after transfers, Sister Tobler and I were already settled though haha. Our new district is great and I am excited for the next transfer to come. On Wednesday Sister Tobler had mission training with all of the other mission leaders, so that left me the odd one out. This happened to me when I first got into the country at the beginning of first transfer. That was the time that Sister Hemming and I went and contacted at the University. Well this time it was my turn to take the newbie out by myself. Which is pretty funny considering I still feel like the newbie. Only one sister arrived in the new batch of missionaries, and let me tell ya, she is adorable. Her name is sister Simkins and she is from Utah. She was so happy to be here and to be a missionary, it was great! I hope we are companions someday! We got to chat a bit at the MTC since we overlapped and it was great to finally be reunited. I have to admit I was terrified to go out and do some street teaching with her because that meant I was going to really have to take the lead. You should have seen what a nervous wreck I was before I picked her up, but Sister Simkins and I set out and some cool miracles happened. Nothing huge happened, but it was really cool to see little miracles in my language as I really pushed myself and tried to talk with everyone! I even had like a five minute conversation with some really nice old lady, which is am 60% sure I kinda knew what was going on haha. Five minutes sounds like nothing, but it was huge to me! Sister Simkins was a huge help too! I remember feeling so terrified when I first arrived, but she had such courage and happiness for the work we were doing that it gave me courage. There were some pretty rocky contacts we made haha, but It was huge a big blessing to see that I have made some progress since I have arrived. The Lord really does bless His missionaries with the gift of tongues.
The people who accept the gospel are so courageous. They have to make so many changes in their life, surrounded by a culture where church standards are definitely not normal, yet they do it all because they have faith and a desire. It is amazing to see that the Lord has prepared people even over here in Poland who are so ready for the word. We also have another cool investigator named Kaja who is so smart and great. She made us Persian food this week which was definitely different. She has so many questions it has really pushed Sister Tobler and I to study harder and better than ever.
Sister Tobler and I are busy planning meetings and activities left and right. We are planning and Halloween party for this Thursday for the Warsaw YSA's. There will be dinner, pumpkin carving, and caramel apple dipping. The older generations here really don't like Halloween here because it is a silly American Holiday, but the younger ones are more open. We shall have to see how that one goes. After that we are in charge of planning the huge open house at the Wolska chapel in Warsaw I. Instead of Halloween here, everyone celebrates Day of the Dead on Nov. 1. Everyone goes out and visits the graves of loved ones, which is cool because it is probably one of the only day's a year that Poland really focuses on families. The Wolska chapel is situated between two graveyards so it is a great opportunity to find some new investigators. So it is about to get a bit crazy, but I am excited, that is just the way I like it!

Through the help of the Lord and the atonement we can make the changes in our life that will make us better. It doesn't mean that it is easy, but hey, I really want to change and become better on this mission. Why not try to become the best I can. The Lord really is in the details of our lives. I know He is there and always listening. He has blessed me so much and so it is my privilege to be able to come to Poland and serve Him for such a short amount of time. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, and that the restored church really is true. The atonement and repentance are real and available to all of God's children. Living by the commandments and principles given to us by God through revelation truly does bring the most lasting and satisfying happiness to our lives. Seriously though this church really does just make sense, and I feel blessed every day to be a member of this church and to have the knowledge I do. I am a Mormon. I am an Adventurer. I am a student. I am a Sister Missionary. I am a Benson. And I am a Daughter of God. And this brings me joy! Have a great week everyone!
Love Sister Benson

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bay-Bay Tobes!!

October 13, 2014
Dearest Family,
So I guess you have heard from other sources already, but yes, Sister Tobler and I are staying together thank goodness! Seriously I was really pretty nervous about it but finally just had to say, if we are meant to be together another transfer then we will be. Apparently we are! When we told some of the other missionaries in Warsaw, they were like what... no way, that never happens with Sisters. Since there are so few sisters in the mission I guess it is very rare to stay together in the same area with the same person twice. Thus Sister Tobler and I are very grateful for another opportunity to serve together. It also leaves me with a very high chance of running the area next transfer, so I also feel an immense amount of pressure to know everyone and everything. Another great way to push myself!
This week has had some really interesting moments. I absolutely loved General Conference last weekend and it really put a new spring into my step. It is really interesting to watch Conference from a missionaries perspective and be a part of the work they are talking about. We have gone to a lot of different meetings this week and had the privilege of having Elder and Sister Adler our area seventy come and speak to us on Saturday and then they spoke in our branch on Sunday. Basically our week was sandwiched by two fantastic conferences. They talked about some really cool things. Some of my favorite things he talked about was converting yourself every day, being committed to learn the language (because the spirit can only do so much in preparing someone for making covenants), and never forgetting the people you teach and baptize because they will remember you always and you will be their savior for years to come. It is amazing to have a general authority come in and just tell you some exact things that will bless your life.
Also crazy thing. We were sitting in church yesterday and I saw this girl sitting a few rows up with a friend that I didn't know. I knew that we had a potential investigator that was supposed to come that week so I assumed it was her until I discovered they were from America. Thus the entire meeting I was like, who and the heck are they. So after the meeting I saw my comp up talking to them and I went and joined in the conversation. I sat down in front of them and turned around and was like, Hey I am Sister Benson! One of the girls smiled and was like... Hey I am Lindsey. I sat there for like a minute just chatting with her and my comp and then it hit me. It was Lindsey Sterling. Ummm wow, I felt kinda dumb. We knew for weeks that she was coming to Warsaw for a concert and we had even just watched her Mormon channel video in English class this week. Needless to say, it spread through the congregation like wildfire after that and she got swarmed. Elders were pulling out cameras and getting selfies with her and all of the American teens were having geek fan club moments and someone even cried. All of the English class investigators got to meet her too. It was pretty funny to watch. Especially since none of the Polish people, mission president, or Elder Adler (who had just spoken) knew really who she was, but all of the Americans and missionaries sure did haha. I should have gotten a picture for you dad... I know your a fan!
I feel extremely blessed to get to share her last transfer with my beautiful comp Sister Tobler. Not a day goes by that we are not rolling around on the ground laughing at some point. We have set some pretty tremendous goals for this coming transfer. I want to make sure to send her out the door feeling pretty exhausted and good about the work that she has accomplished on her mission. I really don't know how exactly we are going to do some of the crazy things we have planned, but I know that the Lord is going to help us a lot. The hand of the Lord was in General Conference this last session, He is always in the missionary work, and He is constantly trying to direct our lives. It has been amazing to see the testimony I had before growing so much. It brings me so much peace to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father and a brother Jesus Christ who has provided a way for us to be free from guilt, sin, and sorrow. It makes me so frustrated when I forget about that simple, but oh so important knowledge that God is always in our lives, because not a single moment goes by that He forgets about us. That is pretty incredible. I am really starting to appreciate this mission even more. While I am out here it feels like I have gone forever without talking with Drew, or laughed with mom, or played soccer with dad, but truly missions are such a small fragment of time in eternity. That is why you have to live in the moment and make them count. That is also why the gospel is so important, because the rest of eternity is based off of the decisions you make in this short time on earth. An eternal perspective is a huge key to happiness and peace now and forever.

Sister Benson

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hairy Lips and Vanity

October 6, 2014
Dear Family,
I thought once I left the MTC that the saying "every day feels like a week, every week feels like a day" would not apply, but it still does... just in a different sense. By the end of this week I will be out on my mission for just about 4 months. Doesn't mean it has been easy to be away, but sometimes it does feel like just yesterday that I was home, well not really, but sometimes. The time is definitely speeding up.
Well by next Monday, I will be informing you about what transfer calls were made. Seriously I am almost at the point of begging president to let me stay with Sister Tobler in Warsaw. People are right. Most people only dream of having a companion and first transfer like mine, but that isn't stopping me from praying really really hard for one more. Next transfer is Sister Tobler's last transfer and I would love the opportunity of sharing it with her. Needless to say whatever happens is going to be God's will. I just pray that I still will find joy in the work no matter what happens.
We are still working with Kaja and also have two other really cool YSA aged girls that are fantastic. Thus we are planning a fun YSA Halloween party for this month to help get everyone introduced to each other, maybe once we do this they will bring friends and then maybe things will continue to explode. It is just a super cool thing to be a part of. All of them speak fluent English as well so I think though their personalities are all different that they will get along great!
The things that added up to me going on a mission were small and simple, not the huge revelation that I wanted, but that doesn't mean that I am not supposed to be right here where I am. This week has just been full of personal revelation that has helped me realize that just because an angel didn't visit me and tell me to go on a mission, doesn't mean I am not supposed to be here. In alma 32:27 it talks about having a desire to believe. This scripture actually really describes me going on a mission. I had a small desire that was growing, but the Lord waited for me to act on that desire and show Him that I could choose the right path even without Him hitting me over the head with a pile of bricks. I know now that that is the way the Lord wanted it to be. I would have still been a good person if I hadn't come on a mission. But now being here I can see that my potential to be great would have been limited. By turning my life over to the Lord I have truly now seen how through Him, He is making more of my life than I ever could by myself. My hope is that I will still keep working on that desire to believe and still allowing Him to shape my life and create the daughter that He knows I can become.
So on to the title of this weeks email. Hairy lips and vanity. There is a missionary joke here that says the Polish water makes your facial hair grow. Actually its a combination of humidity (not that I can tell) and hormones. All the same, we are talking legit facial hair here. Sometimes you see old women walking around with these huge gigantic hairs coming off the upper lip and chin. Sister Tobler has this facial hair remover cream. She put some on on Friday and it effectively removed her upper lip hair. Well upon further examination, I found a healthy peach fuzz growing from my upper lip and on my lower jaw in general. Not noticeable to most of the public eye, but very noticeable to me because apparently I am a vain idiot. Thus Sister Tobler let me borrow some of her cream. I put it all over my upper lip and then thought... hey, why not, lets get the whole lower jaw. Well I disregarded the fact that the cream had made Sister Toblers lip numb all day. When I wiped the cream off after five minutes most of the hair came off, but so did probably the upper layer of my skin. It was on fire for days and turned bright red. You could say I was Sister Red Beard the Pirate. Essentially I burned my whole lower face. It has been a pretty humbling and humiliating experience. Most of it is no longer red and has turned scaly and dry now, because heck that looks better right psh... not! But anyways today we found the second part of that cream you are supposed to apply second in a suitcase. It probably wouldn't have helped much anyways. I hate skin!!!!!!
Sister Benson

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Benson's In White

September 29, 2014
Hello Everyone,
Beautiful Baptism!
Well, what a good week for our family! I was sooo sooo excited to get onto email today and see all of the wedding pictures and hear the details! You should have seen me when I rushed into the computer cafe. We are not emailing at the library today so we can send pictures. It is only a few zloty so it is worth it. I sat down, quickly emailed the president and then opened up my email account. The computer screen is a bit fuzzy so you can imagine me with my nose like two inches from the screen trying to see the pictures in more detail haha. It looks like it was a smashing hit as Walace and Gromit would have said! I will be looking forward to some more pictures definitely! Chelsea looks absolutely stunning, and my own dear brother turned out to be quite the stud! I am so happy for you all!
To start of this week, I got to go on exchanges with Sister Moncure from Warsaw I. She is actually from Idaho Falls, so it was fantastic to get to spend some quality time with a fellow Idahoan. She is seriously the sweetest thing ever. She came and worked with me in my area, Warsaw II, so I was essentially in charge which was crazy. It was definitely a big learning experience and I had to really learn to take more initiative. Tuesday was also the first legitimately cold day here in Poland and we were ill prepared, thus we froze. We had some plans set up that we thought would mean we would be inside all day, instead we spent about three hours out street teaching at various times through the day and stood at a train station and bus stop for like an hour and a half. We were supposed to take a train out of the city with a member to do her visiting teaching with her, but once we rode the train out and waited for the bus forever, it never came. We didn't take gloves or coats with us, so during our dinner hour (since we were too far away to run home) we caved and went to the mall and bought scarves and gloves and then just froze in our sweaters for the remainder of the evening. It's funny because last p-day we went shopping for winter stuff and I only bought like one thing because I was like, it is not even cold yet haha! Yeah the next day I was regretting that! We will definitely be looking for winter stuff soon. The season is officially changing.
We had a really cool experience on Wednesday. We got a text with an address from a self-referral. When we got to the apartment and rang the dom-a-phone, a super cute girl answered. She buzzed us in and we went and knocked on the door. When it opened, there stood two of the cutest, most bright and smilie, Polish girls I have ever laid eyes on. Both are students at one of the universities here in Warsaw. Somehow one of them had already read 1 Nephi without even owning a Book of Mormon, but we made sure to give her a copy. She just blows me away. She had already read all about us online, and when she referred herself online she thought she was ordering a package, the Book of Mormon, so she was super surprised when we arrived with it haha! Anyways we had a fantastic lesson, somehow my Polish was just on fire (probably not gramatically) and it was just a really cool experience. Then she ended up coming to our baptism on Saturday, stayed the whole time, helped us clean up afterward, and then she came to all three hours of church on Sunday. I guess she was so nervous on Saturday to come to the baptism that she walked three laps of the chapel before she could work up the courage to come in. Anyways she starts school this week so she won't have much spare time, but she just makes me so excited. The work is going well.
So on to the baptism, I know you are all wondering how that went down. Saturday was an emotional stressful rollarcoaster, but a wonderfully fantastic day! It was one of the most pure things in the world to see your investigator dressed in white on their baptism day. We got a call on Friday night telling us that the elders didn't have time to help set up the Wolska chapple for the baptism, so we would have to drop all of our plans and get there super early. Come to find out on Saturday that "setting up for the baptism" means boiling pot upon pot of water to heat up the baptismal font. I assumed that since there was a font in the chapple with running water, it would be no big deal, but the water heater broke a few years ago and so now they have to do it by hand. And especially with Anna's delicate condition from chemotherapy, which she started this week, we had to make sure everything was decently warm. So we spent five hours on Saturday hauling and transporting pots of boiling water from the kitchen all the way around to the other side of the chapple and dumping it in the font. After five hours we barely had it warm enough. We also had to set up heaters in the font area and bathroom for her. It was crazy! I think I about broke my wrist and the chapple stove after a couple of hours of hard labor haha! Totally worth it though! We got her all dressed, took some pics, and then it began. Sister Tobler, Anna, and I actually got to sing at the service and it turned out beautifully. She got confirmed on Sunday and she will make a wonderful addition to our branch. She bore a beautiful testimony afterwards, and we are praying that this chemotherapy will not damage but help her body to fight the cancer. We had almost a record baptismal attendance so many people came. It was pretty cool. Lot's of good food, lots of good people!
Sister Benson and Moncure
I just want you to know that while yes... I was focusing on my work, I was thinking of all of you all day on Friday and Saturday. I kept checking my watch and saying, oh I wonder how they feel right now, ugh I am so glad I am not getting married right now, oh they are waking up right now, oh they are at the temple right now, oh my goodness they are probably married right now! As much of a bummer as it is to miss Drewbies wedding, it was a special thing to have a baptism on the same day. I truly gave up a year and a half of my life with my family, so that others could be with theirs for eternity. In Salt Lake City my family was dressed in white and growing, and here in Warsaw Poland my own investigator was dressed in white taking the first step and growing the gospel family. The work of salvation is important! I was very touched to hear that I was remembered amidst all of the celebration. Thank you for that family! You are all so important to me and I love you more than words can express. Congratulations on a successful happy marriage and may the coming months bring everyone much rest, peace, love, and happiness. I pray for you daily and know that angels are watching over you in my place. Have a fantastic week.
With Love,
Sister Benson

So Grateful Everyday for My Mission

September 22, 2014
Hello Dear Family,
Wow, the weeks just blur together and I have such a hard time distinguishing between days. Every day is like a week but every week is like a day out here. I can't believe that three months has passed since I left on my mission! Seriously the time is ticking and I know that the remaining fifteen months is going to go fast.
Sister Tobler and Benson
Well the fall has rolled in finally with the fog and the rain, and I have begun the season of cold. This country grows even more beautiful in the fall. I have busted out the tights finally and can't tell if I love it or hate it! So many layers of clothing ugh! It’s just brisk enough that you go through phases of hot and cold flashes, and have to remove or add clothing based on what is occurring at that moment haha!
This week was kind of emotionally draining; so up and down and all over the place. It is hard to not build up walls to protect yourself. Sometimes I worry I have just thrown up defenses because I would rather not feel and see everything the way that I normally would.
Wednesday was my first zone conference, and I am already looking forward to our next one. I got to see like four or five missionaries from my MTC group plus all of the other missionaries in our zone. There were about 6 sisters and like 24 elders haha. We also have a new senior couple serving in my branch, Elder and Sister Tueller and they are fantastic.
Our Amazing Investigator and Friend
Friday was the day that I was seriously living for. On Friday morning we went over and helped Sister Kosanovich can apple sauce. I just love that woman; every time we go over there I just feel better. We went over in the morning and she just pulled out a huge box of apples. We finished those off fairly fast and were like okay... what now. Then she pulled out like 6 more bags of apples. I always struggle with cheese graders and peelers, they just don't get along with my hands. Needless to say my hands were savaged by the end, but we busted through those apples like none other. After peeling (we will send pics later of the huge peeled apple mountain) we helped cut and mix the apples. We only had enough time to can one batch, but sister K is great and let us take home two jars. She also fed us lunch. Twenty jars of apple sauce later, we are better friends than before! Yay! There is nothing better than the smell of the fall leaves and the smell of apples and cinnamon spices, seriously! Wonderful! Later that night we went over and another American family, the Law's, had us and our investigator Anna over for dinner. So Friday was pretty fantastic.
Last Warm Days
Sunday we went over to Anna's house to run through the baptismal questions. Umm yes, did you just read that correctly, we have a baptism this Saturday. My first one!!! Whoot. She actually starts chemotherapy this week though so we are super nervous she is going to be wiped out! Pray for her! I get my first baptism the day my brother gets married! It's going to be a good day for the Benson clan! Anna lives pretty far away out by the mission home, and when we were walking to her house from the bus we passed President Edgren and his son who is visiting with his family which was super cool. Later we got a text from President offering us a ride home after our meeting. So we ran from the bus stop where we were waiting all the way to the mission home . When we arrived President and Sister Edgren fed us amazing chocolate pie, sat us down and we got to chill with their super cute family, and then we got to go home. Man they are so amazing. It was just a really good way to end the week.
I guess nothing too exciting happened this week. I am sure a missed a million details in there! Our investigator pool is really dwindling right now, but we have some plans to really revamp referrals in the branch and hope to get some new people to teach soon. The language has really just left me baffled. I am pretty motivated with the language, but I am really just lacking direction right now. There is so much to learn that sometimes i just feel like I am going in circles. I have goals that do help direct studies, but really am missing the steps to get from point a to point b. Its pretty frustrating. Sometimes I wonder if I have even progressed since I got here! Ugh! Its been a bit crazy this week with studies, we haven't had time with a few things that popped up or when we do it is at a weird time of the day so that has been a bit frustrating! But I have hope that in time I will get it down. I still believe I can make a difference here, even if I can't speak the language quite yet.

I go on exchanges for the first time today! Its just with the Warsaw one B sisters, but guess what that means!!!! I will be with Sister Moncur who is from Idaho Falls. I actually met her grandmother at Deseret book once but never thought I would serve with her. She and I are already good friends so I am excited. She will be coming to my area and Sister Tobler will be going to hers, its going to be weird handling most things because this is my area. I really wish I could speak the language right about now!
Fall is Upon Us
It sounds like the family is doing well and is in the final push for wedding planning. I am so excited for you all and really hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend full of joy and excitement. I am very excited to have a baptism this Saturday and am grateful for the example that Anna is to me. She is seriously one of the most Godlike people I have ever met in my life. She truly makes me want to be better. I am grateful every day for the chance to be on a mission. I am learning so much from studying, and teaching, and listening, and watching the people all around me. It is amazing how much your eyes are opened, how much you gain a desire to change your life. Family is so important, and even from this side of the world over here I am celebrating with you all and will be with you in spirit. My baptism will be at about 5 o' clock pm polish time, so like 8 or 9 am your time. Right about when Drew and Chelsea are tying the knot! I love you all so very much and hope that all of your hard work this week will pay off! Lots and Lots of love! Sister Benson

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lifelong Pursuits

September 15, 2013
Dear Family,
This was actually a bit more of a laid back week. Sister Tobler got the flu last Monday so we spent Tuesday through Thursday completely locked in the apartment. It was ugly, I felt pretty bad she was so sick. So you know how I used to be kind of lazy. (Yes it takes a lot to admit that). Well no longer! I have caught the missionary fever. Since we had to stay in for three days I had to find a lot to do to occupy my time. It used to be easy to waste the day away, relaxing even. Now it just feels strange to not have something to do, somewhere to be constantly 24/7. So I made the best use of my time in the apartment. I deep cleaned everything... twice. Cooked delicious soup. Read and studied, which is kind of hard to do when you can only read church materials. I think I read every church magazine in our apartment. And yes... I did nap. It was weird not being out and about, yet it was nice to have three days to catch up and get things back and organized again. Now we are all back and running at top speed again. Let's just say Sister Tobler handles being sick a lot better than I do! I am very impressed, she is a saint!
So, sad thing. We went from having the 'standard of excellence' last week and having three baptismal dates, down to only one this week. It was really sad to lose two of them, but I am not giving up in the slightest. One of the hardest things that you watch happen on your mission is people exercising their God given agency. At the end of the day it is all about personal choice because your relationship with God is a personal matter. Sometimes I worry that I should care more and more about the people and the work, like I am not taking it seriously enough, but then I think if I cared any more that I would constantly be breaking because things don't always go as planned. Again, there is a really good balance between being light hearted and not light minded about missionary work. Filling your heart with joy and love really attracts people to the gospel message. Another interesting thing my mission president said in his weekly letter this week is that you can be exactly obedient without being perfect. I don't know how this makes sense, but it just does haha! Perfection is a lifelong pursuit. Just because you mess up doesn't mean you give up. Through Jesus Christ and His atonement we can find that perfection.
My perspective this week has just been changing. I feel like I saw a lot of good and a lot of bad. One of the most heartbreaking things here that I have seen is in relation to families. My family is my rock, they are one of the most important things to me in the entire world. When missionaries talk about the plan of salvation and eternal families it usually sparks peoples interest, but we have so many people straight up be like I don't want to be with my family forever, I can hardly stand them now. Someone even joked, when you get married it's supposed to be "until death do you part" for a reason. Families can be a source of your greatest joy in life, but also some of your greatest pain. That is why Gospel centered homes are so important. Families really need to step it up now days to keep the love and harmony at home. Something I have realized on my mission is that I used to go out and give my very best to people at work, school, community, church, and then come home and give my family my leftovers or nothing at all. Your family is what is most important after all, so why come home and give them your anger, frustration, stress, etc. Of course you need the outlet; you can be your most base self around your family. But I really hope that I come home changed from this mission. A little more patient, a little more kind, a little less easy to fluster, and always trying to give my family a little better piece of me than before.
We also saw a lot of good this week. We didn't get to watch the European women’s broadcast, but we did get to attend the women's district conference on Friday evening and Saturday morning with all of the Ladies of the church from Warsaw. So many wonderful souls, it just goes to show that the gospel is a worldwide thing. It is definitely different based off of culture and progress of the missionary work, but what the unity and love and message the gospel of Jesus Christ brings is the same. My companion is also really amazing. Seriously though, I think I might die if President doesn't keep us together next transfer. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard or so much in my entire life, than with Sister Tobler. I love her to death.
It is finally turning fall here, but it is actually still really warm. We don't even wear sweaters out during the day and practically live on our back balcony. The Poles don't consider it fall yet, even though the leaves are beginning to change and fall off the trees, but you can smell it in the air. mmmmm.
Love, Love, Love
Sister Benson

Also did you know that it is socially unacceptable to whistle here! I get in trouble all of the time!

Miracles All Around

September 8, 2014
Hello Family,
So we are seeing tons of miracles all around. Sometimes I don't think I realize how good I have it! We went from having one baptismal date to three in one week; we plan on having two more hopefully within the next couple of weeks too. Pretty unreal huh! Some people go their whole mission without that and this is my first transfer. Actually my companionship got the Standard of Excellence this week, which means you were killing it all week meeting with a ton of investigators and members and such. My comp has gone her whole mission without ever getting the standard, she came close a lot, but it is pretty cool to get the mission standard. Honestly it was all up to the Lord and my comps hard work but I was running for buses right alongside her the whole week. The Elders in our zone had a big role too. So yeah it was a pretty crazy busy week for us!
Our investigator who has a baptismal date is as Drew would put it... Elect. When we gave her the third lesson with zero commandments, she asked us so what are these rules or commandments you follow? So nervously sister Tobler and I gave her a rundown of some of the major commandments like the word of wisdom and chastity and such. Always touchy subjects but she said... oh finally people who live with my kind of standards. In sacrament meeting yesterday she got up and bore her testimony which was fantastic. When she sat back down afterwards and I was like hey great job. She was like... that wasn't planned, I just felt it. Now that is the spirit right there! Super cool. Our other investigators, got up and bore their testimonies too on Sunday. Go investigators!! Such courage. Seriously there are so many little miracles that I don't even notice them sometimes. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to teach these people. We have actually never met one of our other baptismal dates. She was found by the Warsaw one sisters Sister Hemming and Smith, and committed to baptism ON THE STREET, but she is in our area so we get to teach her. Our other baptismal date was found by the AP's who passed her off to us. So yeah we are keeping really busy over here on this side of the world. Whoot! I love it when we are busy.
I never thought I would like the city but it is actually pretty good, I do miss the smell of grass though, we get it like every once and a while in a park though. Warsaw doesn't grow very much grass. I can't tell whether I like the food or not. Some is pretty good like Kebab, and some of the traditional stuff is not so good. They have like 20 varities of the milka candy bars here though and I probably ate one every single day my first two weeks. Ugh I would be losing weight from all of the hard work if not for those little beastly candy bars (actually they are not so little). I am hoping to gain some self restraint out here. The mission is a great place to work on personal flaws, of which I have a ton! I hope that by the time I return I will be a changed person. Seriously it is so important to me that I change my heart out here and become better. The process is so painful and slow and frustrating most days, but the mission will definitely give you that change of heart if you work hard for it! I have a hard time not living in the future or past, but I know that what is happening right now in my life is so important so I’ve got to work on that focus. I am grateful for the chance to work on my diligence and obedience out here in the field. Hard work is good for the soul; there is no replacement for the work in missionary work. I hope that you all have a fantastic week and I hope to send some pictures this week. Keep up the hard work and find joy in the present. You don't want to be so busy dreaming about tomorrow that you forget to live today! Not a day goes by that I don't think about my family, so stay safe and be happy. Love Sister Benson

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Warsaw Week 2

September 1, 2014
Dearest Family,
Wow what a week! Sometimes I forget that I have only been here for two weeks. The language is not too hot right now but I have confidence that with harder work and time it will come. I definitely am understanding a lot more right now, but now that I know what things are kind of supposed to sound like I am afraid to talk because I know how wrong it all is. Plus I need to work on building my Polish vocabulary, so many dang words. Sometimes I wonder if year and a half will be enough time to learn this language. Some sisters still can't speak it and they are almost finished and some sisters have it by around month 8, with some prayer hopefully that will be me. Now that I am finally settling in I am so grateful to be here in Warsaw. We have a decently nice and really safe apartment, a huge branch (by Polish standards), and lots of work to do. I think that I really needed the support that comes from such a large branch, collection of missionaries, and the mission home. We get to see probably around 20-24 different missionaries every single week and it is really good for the soul to be around so many missionaries and support each other. I guess most of the other areas all over the country have maybe 2-4 companionships in a whole city. Warsaw is a blessing. Plus we get to do things like gather at the mission home for important occasions such as presidents birthday duh da da dahhh! So Sister Edgren is way more sneaky that I would have ever guessed. She snuck all of the Warsaw missionaries into the storage room of the mission home yesterday to surprise President Edgren. Then she somehow managed to make three gourmet cakes and dinner for everyone who came without President even knowing. Once everyone was crammed in this tiny little storage room in the basement she sent president down to grab something and we scared the crap out of him. It was pretty awesome. Then we had a huge barbecue out back; legitimately the best food that I have eaten in a long long time. It reminded me of momma's cooking. She made funeral potatoes and grilled chicken and some crazy good cakes. Good ole Sister Edgren. I think the missionaries who got to go were happier to be there than President was! I know I was for sure! Now we get to look forward to Warsaw holidays, which with all of the missionaries gathered at the mission home are supposed to be epic! (Side Note: I guess president Edgren is making more of an effort to keep people in the same area and companionship longer so Sister Tobler and I are crossing our fingers for two transfers together, then she goes home right before christmas). Speaking of my companion, Sister Tobler is such a blessing. Really the whole first week I was just disoriented, ok to be honest I still am, but this week I finally started to realize how great of a companion I have. The more I get to know her, the more blessed I feel that I get to be trained by her. She is patient, and kind, and loving, and smart, and has common sense, and is normal! Seriously what a good combination. She is not who I thought I would get but she is better. She is also Zone sister training leader so she has a ton of extra stuff to do that keeps us busy which I love.
So just an update of random stuff that happened this week. Tuesday, we had zone training which was fantastic. I love my zone, my companionship is the only sisters, and we have some great elders. Also on Tuesday one of my MTC buddies Sister Grgich got to come and stay the night with us because she got shipped in to go in and do legal work together on Wednesday. We spent all day on Wednesday on transfers trying to get out legal work done and should be set to go. Wednesday night President called us super late and was like... I am coming to pick you up right now, sister Benson is going to stay with the Warsaw I sisters tonight and sister Tobler is staying at the mission home. Sister Tobler had to go with President to Lodz on Thursday for zone training and they had to leave super early so I stayed the night with Sister Hemming and her companions on Wednesday night and then spent all of Thursday working with them. All the sister missionaries here are amazing but needless to say as much as I love them, I was super grateful to get my own companion back after so much separation. On Friday the office elders Elder Jaeger and Piper drove us about an hour and a half to visit a recent convert and less active family. I FINALLY  got to see some polish country side if you could even call it that but it was nice to have a break from the city. I really could use some Idaho potato and wheat fields right now even if they are all moldy from the rain haha.
So for the big news of the week. We got a baptismal date this week. My first one. Baptism is a really big thing in this mission. To be honest I was kind of surprised. I almost actually have been preparing myself not to get any baptisms because I didn't want to disappoint myself when none came, but the Lord is providing miracles. We are teaching this lady named who is fantastic. She committed to baptism on only the third lesson without even having been to church, then after she committed she was like wait... what exactly am I even committing to? So we nervously gave her a rundown of all of the commandments. She is as Drew would say... elect! I hope she will continue to progress. 
PS  Random moments of the week .. When we were visiting a less active family I had to use the bathroom, and it had no seat. NO SEAT! Just a huge gaping hole that was all nasty. What is this, the stone ages? I think I had a mid life crisis right there in the bathroom, but nevertheless survived. Then when I went out to finish the lesson the lady was feeding us cookies and I found a huge hair in mine. I couldn't eat around it or pull it out so rather than offend her I ever so slightly slid the cookie inside my Book of Mormon and smashed it a few times until it looked flat. The grease stain in that chapter of Mosiah is worth not having to eat that hairy cookie! Oh the things we experience on a mission.
Love, Love, Love,
Sister Ellis Benson

Chasing the Day

August 25, 2014               
Hello Everyone,
I have officially arrived safely in the country of Poland and what a journey it has been. It was really weird actually being out in public again after being locked away in the MTC for so long. People actually recognize the name tag with the name Starszy and Siostra plus the name Jesus Christ and it really sets us apart. We flew to Minneapolis, then to Amsterdam Netherlands, then on to Warsaw Poland. It was seriously such a long flight!!! Flying over Ireland, England, and then the Netherlands coast again when we landed just at dawn with the city lights below was probably one of the most beautiful things that I have seen in a long time. Its strange how beautiful all of those city lights were below our plane, but more importantly is all of the lives that they symbolize below. Wow, I am officially a weird sentimental sister missionary now after those comments. 

We landed on Tuesday Morning European time and were greeted at the airport by our mission president and his wife. President and Sister Edgren are amazing!!! They are so full of life and energy and they are really shaping the mission and the whole country of Poland through the work they are doing here. I had a hard first couple of day's with jet lag because I only got three hours of sleep the night before we left and then couldn't sleep on the plane. Thus I spent all of Monday through Tuesday with no sleep, and ended up paying for it the rest of the week. On Wednesday morning we got our companions and said goodbye to our MTC group. That was harder than I thought it would be, but my group of missionaries from the MTC is the largest group of Polish missionaries to have ever arrived, so I know we are going to make a big difference here. My companion's name is Sister Cassie Tobler and she is from Mapleton Utah and she is simply fantastic. Seriously she is so kind and patient with me it really helped ease my heart when we arrived. We are stationed in the Warsaw II area and we are seriously pretty much living right inside the heart of the big city. Our apartment is actually really really nice, and rumor has it we have the nicest apartment in the mission. The balcony overlooking a little park by our building is my favorite. I never would have guessed Warsaw before but this city is so cool. When you think of Europe you think of big old beautiful buildings, but that is not Warsaw. Much of it was destroyed during WWII then rebuilt under communist influence, thus not gonna lie most of the buildings here are pretty ugly. Then you find the rare old buildings every once and a while and it takes your breath away. The mission home is actually stationed right by an old palace that survived the war I believe, and that is a stunning sight. 

Okay so I will try not to overload everyone on the details. Our first day here I was walking back to the mission home from the mission office, when an elder we were with was like... "look at that old bapcia (grandma) over there, let's go and try to contact her." So he walks right up to this fierce looking old lady and we hear him saying some things in Polish, next thing we hear is.. "hey these two sisters want to say something to you" in Polish. The old lady takes one look at us and starts screaming at us in Polish, stiff arms the elder and then walks away. I think my heart shattered into a gagillion pieces right then. I had to pick up what remained of my dignity and soul. After that I just about swore it all off, missionary work takes courage! We worked on building that courage later that evening on Tuesday and thank goodness the Lord is merciful and gave us some positive experiences to help save us from despair. Missionaries don't really get to have pride or dignity.
On Wednesday after dropping my bags off at the apartment our investigators called and wanted to meet me. Yayyy! We are teaching the only family that is currently interested in the church in Poland right now, it is pretty cool! So I will admit that I can be a bit of a chicken sometimes. My first like 4 days in country I was so nervous and scared all of the time that I made myself sick, add jet lag on top of that and I was barely holding my shoddy courage together. We head off to meet our investigators at their apartment. The are an amazing couple with a daughter who is 7.  I was super nervous to meet our investigators because of course you want to just love them and vice versa. Everything went great.  

Anyway, I do believe I am finally settling in and getting into the swing of things, the jet lag is wearing off. We go street contacting or whiteboarding a lot because sisters here don't really go door knocking for various reasons. I have to admit I have surprised myself with how courageous I have been, not to pat myself on the back or anything. But I think doing so many hard things is really stretching me as a person and forcing me to grow. God gives us challenges because we wouldn't normally grow without things like trying times or challenges, trying to become more like Christ and Heavenly Father is beyond important. When we go out and talk to all of these many wonderful people in Poland you learn a lot about yourselves and others. The worth of souls, and finding joy in the journey. Many here at very very religious and despise the missionaries. So yes I can finally get yelled at now and take it like a man, probably because I don't understand what people are saying. We have more investigators and people interested in the church that I could have hoped for here so the work is progressing. I cannot say how grateful I am for the chance to be here and doing what I am. It is so hard every single day, but it is so worth the fruits that you reap. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the chance to be out here on a mission learning to love and live, this is priceless to me and I am grateful everyday even when it is hard. I miss you all so much and will hopefully be able to answer some more questions next week. Love you and pray for you daily.

Love Siostra Benson