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