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