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

Arrived in Poland

August 19, 2014
We are happy to report that your sons and daughters arrived safely to Warsaw Poland.
They are tired but excited to be here.  Tomorrow they will be introduced to their trainer and to their first area.  We are so pleased to have them here and we look forward to working with them.
Kindest regards,

President and Sister Edgren

Last Week at the MTC

August 14, 2014
Is it really here... has the time really come??? The next time I email anyone will be from the country of Poland. Yes, we are finally done with our nine week stay here at the MTC. Wow what a journey, and yet it is still just barely beginning! Apparently the two Polish districts here will be the biggest group of sisters and elders to ever go to the Poland Warsaw mission. Our arrival is going to make a heck of a splash! So last Friday we finally got to open up our travel plans. My group leaves for the Salt Lake airport on Monday morning at 4:30 am. We then fly to Minneapolis Minnesota, and from Minnesota to Amsterdam Netherlands, and then we fly into Warsaw Poland around 11:30 Polish time. Crazy! I am so nervous but so excited. Now I just need to figure out how to get my luggage underweight because I am pushing it hardcore. I guess I will just have to leave all of my good ole' American toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. behind. (Sigh) Hopefully the Poles make good deodorant haha! Hopefully they are also forgiving of dumb American's who do not speak the language well! 

Our last week here has been pretty bittersweet. It will be so good to finally get out there and actually be real missionaries. Sometimes I still look down and am surprised to find a name tag with the name Sister Benson Kościół Jezusa Chrystusa on it, especially since sometimes I don't even recognize the language... whoops. At the MTC everyone has a name tag, everyone is some kind of missionary/ teacher/ employee, I have almost forgotten what it is like for people to see your name tag and say hey look, they are a representative of Jesus Christ. Many probably do not know what that means, but it is something that is different out there in the big wide world that will draw attention. I will be sad to leave my two crazy companions Sister Woodward and Sister Slagowski. We have sure been through thick and thin together and they have taught me more about myself than I have probably ever learned in such a short amount of time. I also will miss the many other great sisters in our zone who will be serving in Czech, Adriatic North, Baltic States, Bulgaria, and Croatia missions. It is my personal opinion is that the Eastern European missionaries have the most attractive sister missionaries haha.

A mission has been the most important decisions I have ever had to make. It was such a hard choice, and I worried for so long that I was making the wrong choice. Now that I am here I see the goodness of God ever single day! The more I look for miracles the more that I find them. Going on a mission is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it is hard in way's that are hard to describe. Leaving family and friends for a year and a half sometimes leaves your soul feeling empty, being forced out of your comfort zone is just plain painful, learning to love those you serve and those who serve with is so difficult sometimes. Plus as a missionary you are forced to question your own beliefs and testimony countless times because how can you be a missionary and teach the people things that you yourself do not believe or understand. Investigators ask, well... how do you know that for sure, where is the evidence??? Sometimes you are just not sure how to explain how you just simply know inside. But somewhere in this journey that I am on I am finding myself and my personal relationship with God. Other than my beautiful family, that is probably one of the best gifts I could ever receive. Finally coming to have a surety and confidence in who I am and what I mean to Heavenly Father and Christ. I definitely do not know everything, but I do still know for a fact that the greatest happiness I have discovered in this life has come through God and being a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also that God is actively involved in each of our lives, even if we do not see Him ourselves.  

So one of my teachers Brat Smalley told me that if I wanted to get a better grasp of grammar I needed to memorize the grammar case chart which is a beast! Its huge! But I did it in about a week. ( I also finally got the first vision memorized, but some parts I have to like ghetto american white girl Idaho rap it to remember, its pretty strange, maybe I will be able to recite it normally within the next week). So I was like... now that I have this huge case chart memorized, how do I apply it!!! But we finished our last online audio learning assessments, and my teacher Brat Tribe (who finally got home from his honeymoon this week yayyy he is our favorite teacher), went over my learning assessment with me. He was like, okay I am going to be super nit picky with this so that you can correct your mistakes. We would listen to my shoddy audio recording and then he would say, okay this was this mistake fix it! And then I was just busting it out perfectly fixing and casing all of the grammer on the fly from memory. The case chart works! It was probably the first time that Polish grammar has ever made sence to me. Though it was a small miracle, it really made me feel good. Especially since we have wasted so much time at the residence in the past few weeks with the sickness, I worried I would never get it down, but work pays off! 

Well that was the highlight, but we also practiced contacting for the first time in Polish in our class this week. Sounds like no big deal right... well it is. When you can’t speak the language properly and can't fake it with real people in Poland it is pretty dang difficult and intimidating. During our class exercise I ended up getting paired with our teacher Brat Smalley. Needless to say I messed up hardcore! It was so bad he made me start over like 4 times. That was probably one of the first legit times when I wanted to throw in the towel and say hey I quite. It was super defeating. I wanted to just rage and throw my desk and say I didn't sign up for public humiliation, especially with the name of Jesus Christ on my name tag getting dragged through it as well, but I waited out the day and will just have to practice harder. I am glad that I have the example of my big brother who already showed me how it is supposed to be done! Who went out to Italy and just was fearless and talked with everyone without reservation even though I can't speak the language. I just can't figure out how I am supposed to put away that fear of failure quite yet! I am also nervous the people are not going to like me. Apparently Polish people don't smile... like ever. I am going to have to get used to that kind of personality because that is so not me! I am praying for love for them and that they may have love for me!
Ready or not here I come.
Love Sister Benson

What’s Crackalakin Rodzina

This week has been pretty great. Things were pretty difficult there for a while here at the MTC, but are finally picking up again and getting good. I am really going to miss Provo, America, and the MTC when we leave but hopefully I will find a happy home in Poland. So I have been trying to see the little miracles and blessings in my life, and the more you look for them the more you see.  My comps and I are just making so many good memories and having so much fun with each other. It is such a blessing to see eye to eye with them and get along. On Monday we were having a bit of a rough day but had a huge down pour here in Provo. Since we were confined to the rez studying, and we started to hear the thunder storm from the inside of the dorm. All three of us just look at each other, jump up and throw on some pants, and go sprinting outside into the rain. It was just one of those moments when you can just smile and dance and scream and act like a free wild child once again. It sounds crazy, probably like not very much fun to everyone at home, probably against the rules too here haha. But for us here it was a miracle and blessing to go out and dance and jump and puddles. We got some pics, Then last night before bed my comps and I sat on my bunk bed on the fourth top floor of my rez and watched another lightening storm roll across the valley, it was a moment where you could just sit there and say life is good and I am so blessed. Life is so precious and we shouldn't waste a second. Finding joy in the little things is what life is about. Pretty soon I will be leaving the culture and people that I know and going somewhere completely foreign and new. It is bittersweet, but I know that the gospel is something that can bless and bring happiness to every person on this earth!!!

The longer I am out here the more I am in awe at the way God works in our lives. You would think that with how much I have been learning about myself, others, and God that I would have this figured out haha, but I sure don't. My favorite scripture is now Alma 26:12... I think that is the reference, but it just talks about having confidence in God. Like, hey I can't boast in myself because I mess up a lot, but I will boast in my God, because he is a just and loving God and through Him we can survive all things. Sometimes it is frustrating because you want answers and understanding right away. But somehow God helps us all get where we need to be, even when our faith is lacking. I have been praying so hard for experiences that will help me become completely converted to Heavenly Father and the Savior because I worry I will get to Poland and not be able to stand with my testimony when the world is railing against it. Experiences where you cannot deny the faith. The thing is that you pretty much can never be 100% sure of everything in the gospel, and part of being a part of this great plan is having enough trust in God to say... hey I may not understand this or that, but I am going to rely on you and let you help me when I do not know or are not sure. Faith is a muscle, seriously such a cheesy analogy but it is so true. You must use it or it will grow weak and fail. And it is funny because as you are trying to teach your investigators to have faith you are trying to feed yours as well. We don't have real investigators here at the MTC usually. But there have been times when I was bearing my testimony with our "investigators" that I could really feel the glory of God. The spirit is real and converts not just investigators but missionaries as well. During those moments my Polish just flows through me and I cannot deny the Christ and His message. All of His children are great in His eyes and I hope to have so much love to share with ALL of the people in Poland. With Conviction! 
Love Ellie

Only 18 Day’s & the Refiners Fire

July 31, 2014
Dear Family,

Only about 18 days until I am getting on a jet plane and flying over to Europe to be an actual missionary. Wow, I don't think that one has set in yet. I am pretty nervous. Actually the time is going really really slow right now and I am confident that we have been stuck here at the MTC for like half of the millennium. But the mission is great. I used to think that I chose the mission life, in reality the mission had me picked long before I knew, and God was good enough to decide to let me have this blessing.
 What is missionary work to me? Well all of these words just started coming to mind. Service,Love, Happiness, Growth, Discovering oneself, Discovering God, Developing and Evolving and Becoming more like Christ, Inviting others to do the same, and the refiners fire. I seriously am not sure how to put it into words. A mission though is a gift. I thought I chose the mission life, but in reality, God was good enough to allow me this blessing and choose me.
-What is my Def of mish work? Trying as hard as you can every single day to work hard hand in hand with God's will to bring others the same happiness that the gospel means to me. 
- How has my Definition of mish work changed from before my mission- I seriously was not sure what to think of mish work before. Missionary work was just that... work. But it means so much more to be out here actually serving God. I don’t think I have learned more about myself more in my entire life than I have in the past two months, and through that learning what it means to become more like Christ. I knew God before my mission, I knew the church, but now I ask myself... Did I truly know? Because through this I am starting to really see Christ and my imperfections and what I need to develop to become more like Him. It is so important and an essential time in my life.

Sister Kelsey Brown from my Home Ward
-What is the most important aspect of mish work? Definitely a combo of things, but love is the top notch thing. and not just half hearted human mediocre love. I am talking all consuming, pure, filling, Christlike love that allows you to see God's children in a new light the way that He does. And through that love learn how to see everyone's full potential, and to forgive wholeheartedly, and to serve whole heartedly, and to just live life the best we can because life is a gift and we just need to learn to love it the best we can. 
Love Siostra Benson

The Downward Slide

July 24, 2014

The MTC is a good place. I am so nervous to leave here and go to Poland but know that if I rely on the Lord and remember that it is His work that we are doing than everything will work out and be okay. I keep forgetting it, but I wholeheartedly believe that with God on my side, He will make more of my life than I ever could by myself! I am finally starting to live in the present and leave my future to the Lord. I am starting to let my previous life go and focus on the work. Poland and Polish is one heck of a beast to tackle. Thank you for how wonderful you have been to me, thank you for all the work it takes to put up with me, and raise me. I have come to realize that the greatest gift that God has given me other than having the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, is the gift of my family! I miss you all so very much and wish that I could tell you every little detail but everything just kinda blurs here. I am feeling good about where I am at. I am praying for a good area and trainer in Poland, and will hopefully be ready to leave when the time comes; or as ready as I will ever get. Okay well gotta go this week. Love you so very much. Have a great week.
Love Siostra Benson

Czesc Rodzina

July 17, 2014
We have been working hard in classes. The gym where we usually do devotionals had its floors redone so we got to go over to the BYU Marriott center on Sunday and Tuesday to watch the devotionals. We might get to do it again this week but it depends. Not gonna lie when they opened those gates up to let us walk over there it was like the halleluah chorus was being blasted from the heavens and a stampede of missionaries surged forward. The security almost had to pull out there batons on us because we became like a stampede of penned up animals who were dying to escape to freedom. I considered making a break for freedom considering I could make it to Courtney's apartment here in Provo in less than 5 minutes at a run from the Marriott Center, but some how I found the restraint to not escape. Okay maybe that was a slight over exaggeration, but everyone was feeling a bit whoosy from excitement of getting to go outside the MTC for once. But not gonna lie the second we walked into the Marriott Center it was like I could hear the swoosh of the basketball and scream of the fans from all of the games my friends and I watched in there, and all of the devotionals we got to listen to in there every Tuesday. My companions couldn’t get me to shut up. I was like " and this was the portal we used to enter, and there is the baseball stadium out that window, and that is the row we always sat on for devo, and look there is some random guy I know from college, hi guy, and look there is the bathroom I used that one time, and then and then and then..." until Sister Woodward threatened to kill me if I didnt shut it up. It was definitely bittersweet to get to sit in that stadium considering all of the wonderful memories it reminded me of about college. We shall see if we get to go back this week for sun and tues devo or not. 

We also got to host the new missionaries again yesterday by some miracle. Some districts who have either been here as long as us or longer have not even had the opportunity to host a single time yet haha and this was our second go around. Another 560 missionaries arrived yesterday which was amazing.. Super cool thing to get to witness. Surely, even amidst doubt and discouragement, that many people would not be giving up so many years if this gospel were not the true gospel of the Savior Jesus Christ.
The language is coming along decently. It is frustrating because the gift of tongues is real, but people have unreal expectations and you don’t notice it all of the time because of course God is not going to give it to you all at once. Looking back, I guess I should be a bit more positive about my progress in the language, but I am definitely still one of the ones lagging in the entire group, actually it is kind of just my companionship bringing up the rear and it is frustrating watching everyone else succeed in such high amounts. But it is coming along; all it needs is more positivity, concentration, and hard work. I can pretty much pray in Polish, bear a halfway decent testimony, and reply in simple terms. It is just all of the verbs and a ton of filler words that are missing. Honestly the hardest part is yet to come though. The most difficult thing about Polish that prevents even the children in Poland from being sufficient in the language until their mid teen is something called the decending cases. So even though we are barely beginning to speak the language now, it is all cased wrong. The casing is how the sentence is structured and based off of the endings and casings and context of the sentence, then you have to change and conjugate a bunch of things. So yeah, I don’t even know English grammer, try learning Polish grammar while your teaching is only speaking Polish to you.  It’s a challenge.
Okay love you all. Have a great week. Things are great seriously. I am growing in both spirit, and pant size. Yayyy for me!!
Love Ellie

Go Change the World. . . But with a Plan!

July 10, 2014
Red White and Blue Through & Through
How was your 4th of July?  I was surprised and impressed at how much work went into celebrating the holiday! Nothing very interesting happened during the day other than regular classes but that evening instead of study time we got to go to a Fourth Independence Day celebration in the Gym. Something that really surprised me though when we arrived though is that pretty much the entire MTC presidency and their wives and the support staff was there with us. I thought that the missionaries were the only ones who had to miss out on so many things, but I think that many people forget about the hundreds of people who have jobs and callings here at the MTC that spend the holiday's behind these walls right alongside the elders and sisters. Especially the MTC president and his wife President and Sister Nally. Wow tons of sacrifice. So we got to enjoy a pretty good program with lots of musical numbers, then a speaker who spoke on how all can have freedom through Jesus Christ. Then I was sure they were going to send us to bed but President Nally got up and announced that they were going to let us watch 17 Miracles. Whooohooo! The movie got over around 10:20 and I got bummed because I was like awww we missed the fireworks and now they are going to send us to bed. But even better, President and Sister Nally let us all outside where there was an ice cream truck with ice cream for all of the missionaries and we got to watch the remainder of the fireworks from the Stadium of Fire. Not the greatest show from behind a fence and rather annoying building parked in front of us but it is better than going to bed early. We ended up finally getting to bed around 12 ish, the next day you could definitely see how tired and haggard all of the missionaries were. No wonder we go to bed early here! So yes, the Fourth was pretty good actually. Not as good as spending at home with the family, but it was satisfactory! 

Our 4th of July Outfits!!!
Another great thing that happened this week was on Wednesday (yesterday) we got to host the new missionaries entering the MTC. This is something I have been dreaming on doing since before even I entered the MTC for myself. Over 800 elders and sisters were dropped off in about a 2-3 hour period and things go pretty smoothly. I was upset because at first I got assigned to relocate the early arrivals who were international missionaries who were in temporary housing already here and I worried I wouldn't get to do any curb side hosting. But it was great because I got to eventually do both, and not gonna lie curb side hosting is pretty raw emotionally and physically hauling peoples luggage around is hard! I have a new respect for the sweet Sister Stewart who just left to Portugal this week who helped welcome and settle me into the MTC. My international missionary was a sister from the Philippines who will be serving in Arizona English speaking. She was such a sweet heart and I enjoyed getting her books and new room and then introducing her to her new class. Then I sprinted off to the curb where it is an all out war among the sister missionaries trying to get a sister arrival. Finally after twenty minutes of running around I got one!!! She was a sweet sister from the Utah area who will be serving in Tacoma, Washington, which is actually where Grandma and Grandpa Benson live so I was thrilled to tell her a bit about it. Honestly I think her mum wanted to punch me in the face for taking her daughter away hahaha, but I got her all settled in nicely! Then I went back and grabbed another sister in one of the last waves who was also going to Tacoma which was cool! Her name is the only one I can remember, Sister Rasmussen. Overall it was great, but I looked like a sweaty beast by the end haha. Yesterday really reminded me of when we dropped Drew and then later me off at the MTC. This is weird but honestly I remember it being more heart wrenching when we dropped Drewbie off. So many families making so much sacrifice.

My Polish is slowly growing, not as quickly as I wish but oh well. In our classes we are not allowed to talk now unless we can do it in our language which is frustrating because my grammer is horrible. But my Eurotrashinese ( what we call our attempt at speaking Polish ) is finally picking up and hopefully by the time I leave I will be able to piece together a decent sentence. My teacher Brat Tribe asked me what my vision was for the language. I told him, it’s crazy but I want to change the world... Especially the Polish world. My problem is I suck at making the short term goals and steps that will get me to my long term dreams. That is how we came up with " Dream Big, Go Change the World... but Do it with a Plan!" So that is what I am working on now is trying to make my dreams a reality in small step by step plans. It’s slow but we will see how that all works out!
Sister Benson

Getting Into the Swing of Things

July 3, 2014
Hello Family,
Polish is coming along steadily, but it is still very difficult. I am definitely not in the top half of the learning group is all I can say! But our teachers work really hard to keep us unstressed going through the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 11 hours of class days. Sunday is the only day without any classes, so they keep us pretty busy here.  There is such a spirit of peace and growth here. I am loving my district and zone and we all get along super well. I am actually even more appreciative of my companions this week as well.
As I continue to reside and learn here at the MTC I just feel my faith growing little by little every week. Before I left on my mission, and sometimes even out here I wonder why I left my life and plans for 18 months. But then God always sends some kind of confirmation of why I am supposed to be out here. I have already mentioned it but there has been so much emphasis on not just having a testimony, but becoming converted. And not just becoming converted to the church, but becoming converted to Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. And there is no better place to become converted than a mission because your entire day is centered around serving the Lord. It is an honor to look down and see the name of Jesus Christ over my heart on my name tag. Siostra Benson Kosciol Jezusa Chrystusa Swietych W Dniach Ostatnich (missing all of the accents of course). 
My testimony is simple but is growing little by little.  I know that the times in my life when I have been most happy are the times when I have been trying to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The alternative is not worth it, and no matter what other title you hold in life whether it be father, mother, friend, teacher, athlete, business professional, or anything else. The most important title you will ever hold in your life is the title of Disciple of Jesus Christ. My challenge to you all this week, and it may take a bit to  complete, but watch the MTC devotional the Character of Christ by David A. Bednar. It is life changing. It is only a decision that needs to be made once in your life, but CHOOSE HIM! Once and for all... always! It will be the best hardest decision ever but it is worth it.
With Love,
Siostra Ellie Benson

Summer Vacation at the MTC

I have survived my first week at the MTC, whoohoo! Last Wednesday was the day I got dropped off at the MTC. I don't know how I had the strength to walk away from my family for 18 months when they dropped me off, but somehow I did. I knew the minute I got set apart that I could do this. The whole day was just one big blur. Wednesday was the day that I was just on cloud nine. We had a lot of introductions and tours and as we walked around people kept repeating with a cheesy smile... "Welcome to the MTC" (We had stickers called dork dots on our name tags so people knew we were greenies). Then we went to class, ON THE FIRST DAY! My Polish teacher's name is Brother Tribe, but we have to call him Brat Tribe, which is Polish for Brother Tribe. He is a BYU student and served his mission in Poland a few years ago, he is pretty awesome because he has a really kind energetic personality and he is excellent in charades/ body language, which will make sense in the next sentence. When I walked into the room and greeted him with czeszcz (or however you spell that) which is pretty much the only Polish I knew, he replied back ALL IN POLISH. And everything the teachers ever say is in Polish. Come to find out later, with the mission age change the foreign language training and all teaching training here is done all in your new language... EVERYTHING! It is called SYL or speak your language. So we have never heard him speak any English and probably won’t until the very end if we are lucky!!! My district is pretty good at guessing what he is saying. Grammar lessons, history, and missionary training are the hardest to understand in Polish but as the week has progressed I can understand most of what he is saying. I have learned a ton though and hopefully can start to reply back with sentences soon. 
 There are way more Polish missionaries than I first thought. Two districts in fact, which makes for a total of 7 Polish sisters and 8 Polish brothers I believe in both districts. We are in a zone with the Bulgarians, Czechs, and Croatians with one solo Turkish missionary. I am in the one trio companionship which I love. My two companions are Siostra Slagowski and Siostra Woodward and we are the only ones in our residence room and district with four of the Elders, the other four Polish sisters are next door and are in the other district but we all get along just dandy. Both are from Utah but Sister Woodward is actually from Israel and is of a Jewish heritage. Hebrew is her first language and English her second, Polish is getting mixed in there somehow. She has so many interesting stories. Sister Slagowski is a ginger and she is seriously such a sweetheart, she just finished her second year at Utah State and she just makes me laugh so much. I love having a trio companionship because of the added friendship it brings, plus it helps in lessons when you can’t speak any Polish and you are trying to read off of your shabby Polish script so having two companions helps to kill time. Did I mention we taught a lesson all in Polish our second day here!!! To be honest the Polish language is a BEAST!!! Not gonna lie it is pretty difficult. You start to wonder if you are just plain dumb and know you are in trouble when you can’t even read the language. Italian and Spanish is a cinch compared to Polish because you can actually look at a word, read it, pronounce it, then memorize it. Not with Polish though! The alphabet is fairly similar (it would help if they would actually give us one, but they kind of just threw us into it and said figure it out), but there are a lot of accents and letter combinations that completely change how you would pronounce the word. So it is hard because I can barely read a sentence without having to stop and ask a question or sound something out and it has been a week. And let me tell you the Italian and Spanish missionaries are way more advanced than that in a week, so the Polish missionaries really do need those extra weeks here. It really is a beautiful language though and I can’t wait to learn it. I have seen the gift of tongues at work though and know that I can become fluent at this language before the half way mark of my mission; that is my goal. 
I really didn’t know what to expect from the MTC, but there is such a spirit of peace, support, and love that radiates from this place. There were many things that worried me about going on a mission. I knew that my answer was to go but I just felt so unsure before I left. I worried I didn’t have enough good reasons to go out and serve. Sure I wanted to give back to the Lord for all that he has given me, Yes I want to bring others to Christ, Yes the People of Poland need the gospel, Plus I wanted to do something to really challenge myself. All of the above reasons plus more are good reason to serve a mission, but I found a few more here at the MTC that have changed my perspective. #1 is The greatest convert you can bring to the gospel is yourself. I know I am going to the beautiful country of Poland for a reason, I never knew that I was going to serve a mission, but the Lord has been preparing me for this long before I ever knew myself. One of the most important reasons I think I needed to go on this mission is become my first, greatest, and most important converts to the gospel needed to be myself. So that I can rely on the testimony I gain here for the rest of time and eternity. Another realization I got in my week here is that this missionary work is so sacred. We are blessed with the opportunity to be doing the very work that the Lord is doing. We are on the Lord's team and it is the winning team. I am so glad to be on a mission right now. I know there is no other place that I need to be right now. I am going to learn and grow through this so very much, and though it is so very hard sometimes, I just have to say the Lord needs you one more day and the storm passes and it is good again. Some days here it feels like I will never leave the MTC but Poland is coming faster every second every day. Life is so beautiful. Prayer works, and the refiners fire is something that everyone needs to go through; especially me. I was good before... but now I am becoming the person that God designed me to be! The work is great, the work is hard, but there is joy that I never thought
Have a good week! God has been good to us. 
With love,
Sister Benson

I'm Alive

June 19, 2014
I don't have very much time so this will be very brief. I am just letting you know that I have arrived safely and am getting all settled into the MTC. Seriously talk about sensory overload, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose. Wow I can’t even sleep at night because my mind just races and races. 

My Companions 
I must say that we just barely received our first letters and it meant the entire world to have gotten so many letters. I got 9 total! I think everyone wanted to kill me haha! Seriously please keep them coming!
Seriously this is the best thing I have ever done! I don’t know how I had the strength to walk away from you all but I did it and I have found joy in the service! Hope all is well at home.
With Love,
Sister Benson