Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm Coming Home!

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

Yes it is official, I have hit the last week of my mission here as a Poland Warsaw missionary. I will be home in about a week and a day or so on the 29th of December. Crazy I know! My thoughts and emotions swing from sick with anxiety to bursting excitement. Today I realized I was walking around with a giant smile on my face for no reason. (That is a bit unusual here in Poland) So everyone keeps giving me the second glance back because I look like a wierdo! Well it is either because I am smiling so big or because the bags under my eyes now have double bags from exhaustion. I have this song that I have been saving for a couple of months now that is a mission remix of the song "I'm Coming Home" (honestly I don't remember the name of the rap song anymore so I hope you get where I am coming from). Basically it is a remix mission rap about missionaries finally going home from their missions. I cranked it up the other day and my comp and I just sat there with these big O O eyes. My current comp Sister Smith is also coming home in my group so that has been fun. The other day she kept singing... "I'll be home for Christmas... wait a minute". Another Christmas in Poland is a gift.
I don't know if I have ever been this tired in my entire life without having the side effect of jet lag. We have had some really cool opportunities to say goodbye to members and investigators and I love how it is all mingled with the Christmas season. This week we went out to visit Halina, who is the oldest member in Poland. Because the church here is so young, she was here when it all started back in the 80's and 90's. She is 89 years old and back in the day got baptized in Chicago. When she came back to Poland she held the first branch meetings in Sopot up by Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea. I met her when I served in Gdańsk and then later Sister Smith served with her. Right in the middle of Sister Smith's transfer with her she had to move because of old age to a very secluded village in between Warsaw and Gdańsk called Maków Mazowiecki so a relative could care for her. Because she is older and lives so far away she can't attend church anymore. President Edgren knew that Sister Smith and I are the last surviving missionaries who know Halina and so he gave us special permission to travel up and meet with her. When we arrived after the 3 hour bus ride she was waiting for us all bundled up from the cold. We had the opportunity to sit down with her in her home and share a Christmas message, cookies, and some carols. The spirit was so strong and man does Halina know her Book of Mormon, it was wonderful!

Christmas time has always been a time of family and friends in my life and being away for Christmas has been difficult at times. But sitting there in Halina's cute little room up in Maków I was touched with the fact that we are never forgotten. Another woman that we talked with this week said that Christmas has no meaning to her this year because her mother is in the hospital and everyone else is busy for the Holidays. Then my companion brought up the beautiful point that we have Christmas exactly for that reason. Because of Jesus Christ broken hearts can be made whole, family relationships can be eternal, mistakes can be made right, and we can find joy even in the little things. Christmas means celebrating the birth of one who actually does understand and the Savior of the world allows us to access the love of God more fully. Such an interesting but incredible week.
I know that there is so much more I could say. How do you sum up a year and a half of your life in just one email. I don't think I could even do it in a book. I hope that you all know that I love you all so much. Thank you so much for all of the love, support, and prayers. I cannot wait to see you/ hear from you/ Skype if need be. Please know that I have a testimony of a boy prophet that restored the one true church on the earth for us so that we can return to God. Everything we have is given from a loving Heavenly Father and if I truly open my eyes and look without grudges, prejudice, stiffneckedness I can see His perfect plan woven into the fibers of my life. If we will follow God's plan and the example of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ we will be happier than if we will wander around trying to do things our way. I never planned on serving a mission, it actually kind of took me by surprise, yet I am eternally grateful that the Lord called me as His missionary at this time and to this place. The fire burned hot and the refining went deep but I have truly felt the love of God and change in my life. I KNOW THIS CHURCH IS TRUE! And I can shout that and I can proclaim that because I have lived it and tried it in my own life. You can have doubts and questions but you cannot doubt simple and pure testimony. I make you a promise as one who still holds the badge of a representative of Jesus Christ that if you will follow the plan God has for you with humility and love, you will be blessed beyond anything you can comprehend. Accept His love, trust Him, and follow His son. I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Z Wielką Miłośćą
Siostra Ellis Dianne Benson
Kościół Jezusa Chrystusa Świętych
 w Dniach Ostatnich



Monday, December 14, 2015

My Polish Home Ward

December 14, 2015

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

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Merry Christmas and Lots of Love from Poland!

December 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thankful

November 30, 2015
Well Dearest Family,

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

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

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

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

Love, Sister Benson

Monday, November 23, 2015

Itchy Scratchies and the Psychiatric Ward

November 23, 2015

Cześć Moja Umiłowana Rodzina,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Work in Progress

November 16, 2015

Well Dearest Family,

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

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



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

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

Love, love love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, November 9, 2015

Of These Truths I Testify

November 9, 2016
Dear Family,

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Warsaw I

November 2, 2015
Dear Family,

Well I officially just finished my first week of my last transfer.  I thought my heart would always be stuck in the Warsaw II area but I actually really like Warsaw I. We are the missionaries in charge of the only actual chapel in Poland and we get Old Town and the Rynek. We scored for the Christmas season area wise. We get the Warsaw Old Town during Christmas when everything is lit up. It is great! The branch here is really great! We also have two baptismal dates we are working with and might have a couple more on the way. I had almost forgotten what it was like to teach! Everything is very much a blessing!

We met one of our baptismal dates on Thursday. She is so sweet and kind. Her husband is a member and they are working towards coming together. We also had a wonderful lesson with our new investigator. Other than service, one of my favorite things to do as a missionary is to sit down and have a spiritual lesson with an investigator. I always see the hand of the Lord in sit down lessons.

We just had a national holiday here this last weekend called Dzień Zmarłych, or Day of the Dead. They deck out the cemeteries with miles and miles of candles, flowers, and lanterns. The chapel happens to be conveniently located between two cemeteries so we held an open house this weekend to try to coax some people in for tours. Most people generally think we are a sect or cult, but we actually had a couple of people come in and learn about the Mormoni! It was a Really good weekend. We spent most of Saturday at the open house and some of Sunday as well. We couldn't get very many people interested at first because it is such a solemn holiday, but by Sunday we actually had quite a few visitors. We took big trays of cookies and would go out and advertise the hot chocolate and tea to catch people's interest. "Ah, Zapraszamy wszystkich na dzień otwarty. Mamy czokolady na gorąco, herbaty, ciasteczka, i bez płatne toalety." Whoever though that I would be yelling "free toilets" for the general public to hear. The things you do on your mission... Sunday night we finished if off by getting to see the lights in the cemetery. So wonderful! Kocham Polskę!

Well love you all. Have a wonderful week!
Siostra Benson


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Transfers

October 27, 2015
Transfer news came this week. My new companions name is Sister Antczak and she has about six months of her mission left. She is from Texas and we have been together for approximately two hours or so. I feel optimistic about my last two months here as a Poland Warsaw missionary and I feel like there are some good things to come. I love you all and am so grateful for the support and love that you show me. Watching the departing group go was so bittersweet. Knowing that is me next makes me more determined to work hard and do all I can do to keep the work moving forward.
Love Ellie

Monday, October 19, 2015

Life is Precious

October 19, 2015
Well Hello Everyone,
I would have to say that we had a very interesting past week. Monday we moved out of our apartment for a few days and lived down in Walanów with the other sisters in our area because of some strange events from the past week. But it was a really good opportunity to bond with the other sisters. Wow that seriously feels like it was a month ago.

Tuesday evening we were able to have our culture night and it was awesome. I know call me crazy, but we went and saw Edipus Rex in Polish. I will be honest I probably didn't understand the first 25 minutes because I got confused about the story line, but it was very well put together. We watched it in this old small theater in the magnificent Stalin's Tower in the middle of Warsaw. Overall a really good night.

On Wednesday I got sent down to Lodz on exchanges, which was a huge blessing. This was by far one of my favorite most productive exchanges I have ever had on my mission. Not only was I able to return to my old area, but I also got to serve with my last companion Sister Gustafson who is amazing!!! On Thursday we had this crazy whiteboard in the rain/snow but talked to some really cool people. One of the first people that I stopped was this adorable older lady dressed in a hot pink puffer, and boy was she so prepared! It was probably only a two minute conversation but she asked about baptism and church and then we set up a meeting for the Lodz sisters on Saturday. That reminds me, I actually need to ask how that went! I am so grateful that we were able to meet her, no matter how fast the conversation went. Not only did I get to serve with one of my favorite companions, I also got to see Elder's Wright and Wride, who are two of my best friends in the
mission (Elder Wride goes home next week). The four of us had the opportunity to go to the Jewish cemetery in Lodz, which I believe is the biggest Jewish cemetery in Europe, and do service. It was one of the most spiritual and beautiful experiences of my mission. It was this old green overgrown place, rain and mist falling, graves everywhere, some new, many of them were very very old, and we just raked leaves for a couple of hours. Some of the tombstones read names from victims of Auschwitz. We took a little break where we walked through some of the graves and were reading the names that were not in Hebrew. Through the trees we could see a big field, so we decided to go see
what it was. The further we walked the older and more decayed the graves became and the thicker the trees got. Then suddenly the trees thinned and we appeared on the edge of this gigantic field. It was a field of victims from the Lodz ghetto and I believe other concentration camps from all over the east. It was a mixture of random tombstones spotting the landscape, a field of hundreds of grave markers of those without official graves, a couple of twisted trees, and then the wind tossed grass. I just had this striking moment standing on the edge of that field with the wind blowing where I was struck with such reverence and respect that it seemed to bring my world into focus and quiet the tumultuous thoughts that moments before had been running through my mind. Human life is sacred. Anyone who forgets that needs to quickly get that back into focus. The other turned back into the forest of graves and trees raining their colorful leaves, but I was just stuck there on the edge of that wind blown field. It was my privilege that day to serve those people, even if it was just by raking a few leaves.
Later Sister Gustafson and I got to teach a new investigator on her first meeting. Man I don't know what I am doing wrong in my own area but it went flawlessly. Why can't I pull that together when I need an investigator! Ironic eh! Then we got to meet with one of my other investigators . She took us to a bar/nightclub to get hot chocolate. That was an interesting experience. Friday I came back to Warsaw and
we got to can apples that evening with the relief society sisters from our branch. Looking around at all of the different nationalities American, Polish, Ukrainian. It was so funny to see so much diversity, yet a spirit of love and friendship was still there. We get transfer calls this Saturday. I had honestly planned on for sure ending my mission in this area, but with some events that have happened lately, there is a high likelihood that I will now be transferred. Watching all of the ladies of this branch that I love so much was a bittersweet moment, but I am trusting in better things to come. I always thought that I would care a lot more my last transfer where I would end up, but I am good with where the Lord needs me to be. I had a feeling at the beginning of this transfer that it would be challenging, but that I would learn a lot and the spirit whispered to me that I had lessons yet to learn and things yet to change. Looking back on this transfer, it definitely was a hard one, but I
know that the Lord has a plan for us much greater than we can often see. Trials are still hard to accomplish, but they are a part of the plan. There are two blessings that I always fall back on, my family and the gospel. Protect your testimonies and protect your families. When the going gets tough, those two things are all it really comes down too. Love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, October 12, 2015

Different Shades of Life

October 12, 2015


I am currently sitting in the mission home stuffed full of the most delicious food I have eaten in months. Sister Edgren had the sisters over today for us to fix some of our sewing repairs, have some TLC, email, and have lunch. She made the most incredible lunch ever. Carrot soup and tomatoe cheese pie, then for dessert, the best homemade apple pie and banana cream pie I have ever eaten. Seriously soo good!

The past week was pretty good. We have had a bunch of random things going on lately so our schedule has been all over the place. Some of my favorite parts of this week have been working with some really amazing people.

On Saturday we had a really cool relief society district activity. When we showed up at the Wolska chapel at the start, right clustered around the door was all of my wonderful Lodz Sisters, Zosia, Irena, Mirka, Dominika, and Wiola. I ran to go inside to greet them and Zosia turned around and when she saw me she had the biggest smile on her face. Oh I love them so much! We had a great conference on Sunday about service. We baked a strange banana bread cake with cream cheese frosting for the sisters. Knowing Polish people and how much they hate too sweet of cake, I have no idea what they thought of it. Then that night we got to see our wonderful Thai member Sam Chit at her Indian/Thai restaurant and she was so thrilled to have us come visit her at work. Man curry and pad-thai is amazing!

We had kind of a psycho weekend, spent yesterday in the mission home, finally got to see some good old general conference the Sunday afternoon session. General conference was really wonderful this year. Every single talk resonated with spirit and meaning. This week I also have a greater appreciation for my companion. Sister Carlson has been a wonderful companion this transfer and she has been such a huge support to me!

For some reason when we started this transfer I felt like it was going to be a challenge. And thus far it has been, but I have also seen the growth. My friend Julia emailed me this week about an analogy with watercolor. We had been emailing recently about the lessons that our trials teach us. She said, " It was in watercolor class. I finished a painting but I wasn't a huge fan of it- it really didn't look that great, and it was of the temple so I was rather disappointed! When my teacher looked at it, he said, "it looks like you're hesitant to go in with darker values." I experienced first hand that a painting does not look whole, complete, or perfected, without some serious contrasts (light AND dark shades) in the overall painting. Long story short, I just understood so clearly that sometimes there are dark shades or times in our lives, and it may seem unfavorable or unfair. But those very experiences are what makes the painting complete, balanced, and beautiful in the end!! And no matter what you are doing in a painting, you always keep elements of design such as lines, color, shapes, in tact. Just as no matter what we are experiencing in our lives, we must always keep consistent principles such as faith, scripture study, prayer, temple attendance etc. in our lives." I would say that this is a wonderful depiction of learning from the different shades in our life!

Well gotta run, love you all!
Siostra Benson

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bread of Life

September 28, 2015
Dear Family,
Wow what an interesting week. This week we saw some really cool miracles that I cannot wait to tell you about.
Last Monday my companion and I were out tracting in the middle of the city. We were blessed to find a random two streets of houses. So we are tracting along down this street, it was getting later and we weren't having much success. We rang this beautiful Polish house, and I remember looking through the front window and seeing the elegantly decorated parlor wishing I was inside, the woman who answered the door said no, so we kept going. We tracted a couple more houses down then crossed the street. Suddenly my companion turns and say's, "I need to stop this woman across the street." She jumps the bushes on our side and I follow. We are so creepy sometimes... but we come walking up on this dark street standing off of the sidewalk and stop this girl. She was like ,"it is so cold and late out here, what are you doing out this late in the dark girls, my house is like three down, come have some tea with me." We were thrilled, trying not to look too giddy, but went with her. Then she stops... right in front of the big beautiful house we had just tracted. I awkwardly explained that we had already rang the house and she just laughed and said that she will explain that we are her new American friends. So we ended up sitting inside that beautiful parlor I had just been admiring 5 minutes earlier drinking tea with our new friend Klara and we were able to teach her a bit about what we believe. She is our miracle of the week.
We had the opportunity to later go back on Friday and teach a Plan of Salvation. She is a very dedicated Christian, but I love how open she is to learning about our message.
This week we also had the opportunity to make cinnamon rolls for our branch. We went to the mission home on Friday and baked three huge batches of cinnamon rolls and then made a bread of life message that we attached to all of them for as many of the members of the branch that we could get to. We spent all of Friday and Saturday delivering them. Gotta love public transportation with Biadronka grocery bags full of cinnamon rolls. The Polish members were so funny because when we tried to call ahead to let them know that we were dropping by with a surprise, most of them were like, uh ehh no we don't have an appointment with you. Some wouldn't even let us come over, but when they found out what it was, they loved it. One of my favorite things to do on my mission is serve people. Honestly some of the greatest joys in life don't come from living for yourself. It is about living for the Lord, your family, children, and the people you touch along the way. Service and true changing growth bringing you closer to God and the Savior is what brings true joy.
John 6: 35" And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst"
John 6: 51" I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
As missionaries we have the opportunity to bring people the "bread of life." We testify that through our Savior Jesus Christ, we may become spiritually full. As we come unto him our lives will be happier and filled with  true joy that comes through living in accordance with the will of God. We must choose everyday to partake of this spiritual bread. We promise you that as you follow and partake you will find greater satisfaction in your lives and be able to feel the eternal happiness and love of our Redeemer. We love you all dearly!
-The Missionaries

We were really blessed this week to have many of our kind members feed us which was such a blessing. I have never had it happen this much my entire mission. This must be what it is like to serve in the states whoot haha! Anyways, Have a wonderful wonderful week to you all. I believe in a loving Heavenly Father, may we all believe and live according to the knowledge that we have. Good luck with Gen, Conf this week. I get to watch a few sessions yayy! Make sure you spiritually prep!
Love,
Siostra Benson



Monday, September 21, 2015

Banana Scrambled Eggs and Brownie Batter Coma

September 21, 2015

Rodzino!
We had a wonderful week here in Warsaw II. Same trials and tribulations but we are creating joy in the journey. Poland actually had a fairly warm last week but is getting chillier now.
I absolutely love the YSA in this country. Sometimes we go with our members or investigators to the FHE for the youth and it is so much fun. They all have such humor and character, put it all in a foreign language that you can kind of understand and it makes for some good times. It makes me excited to see my three little sisters soon! Congrats on your 16th birthday little Wee.
Wednesday evening my comp and I had a meeting with a member later in the evening and were going to be late home. Rather than waiting for the bus that wouldn't come we took off running. We ran probably a mile or two in ballet flats and skirts, and we made it in perfectly on time. It was fantastic, but I think my feet are still bruised haha!
Zone conference on Thursday was probably one of the highlights of this transfer and my mission. President Kearon a current member of the first quorum of the 70 and also the President of the European area came and directed zone conference. Seriously so inspired. Something that has continually struck me is the immense love that general authorities have. I was preparing myself for a smack down, like the whole those whom the Lord loveth he chaseneth. Instead we were shown absolute love and respect from the get go, such a good lesson to me. I really impressed that we can change and grow; expecting good things from ourselves, and do it in a way that we are not demeaning to ourselves when we mess up. Everything they said was just what I needed to hear. I love the general authorities, and looking at the steps they take in life, I see that they are following closely and diligently in the steps of the savior. It inspires me to do the same.
Thursday evening Sister Johnston, my trainee who is not so much a trainee anymore, got to stay the night with us. It was so good to be with an old friend and especially see the growth she has made. It is incredible. She speaks better Polish than I do!
Sundays for the missionaries here are usually fairly crazy. Every set of missionaries running around trying to juggle our investigator friends, members, lessons, and everything else that happens at church. This Sunday was especially overwhelming. The missionaries are assigned to speak and put together sacrament meeting every third Sunday of the month. We had the other Warsaw II sisters stay the night at our apartment after splits the night before because they live so far away, and we live close to the chapel. Friday the elders sprang on me that I had to play the piano in the musical number. Those of you who know me know that I hate playing in public. In my last branch in Lodz I had to play every Sunday, but only after much prayer and practicing. So Friday we throw together this musical number and I made up an accompaniment. Somehow the musical number went fairly well, even with me playing a made up accompaniment haha. Then I had to speak, whoot whoot, my first talk in Poland. Somehow I have escaped until this point without having to speak. It was a wonderful growing experience, both preparing and giving the talk was a privilege from the Lord. Then I had to last minute direct the music in the meeting and teach a primary lesson flying from the seat of my pants. Gotta love the day of rest eh!
Last night, Sunday, we  got to meet with  one of our members here. We sat under a tiny little light in her tiny Polish apartment and had such a beautiful lesson. I know the Lord helps us know what to teach because it was exactly what we needed to discuss. Her little turtle was running wild around the floor and her dog is worse than Kaiser and won’t leave you alone. I love Polish people, they are just the best.  When we got home I was starving, but our house was literally destitute! No flour, no milk, no meat, no butter. We only had a couple of eggs some old bananas and jam with moldy bread. So I tried to make pancakes out of eggs and bananas. I know call me crazy, but it had worked before. Well last night it did not work because alas no flour. It turned out to be scrambled eggs with smashed banannas. We were so desperate that we started eating it with jam smeared all over and sugar and cinnamon. It was so gross, so I was like... Sister Carlson I need something to eat that is sweet. Then we remembered that we had a box of hidden Betty Crocker brownies that Kaja had given us from an American family. We tried to make brownies with some of the ingredients missing, got too impatient after it was only in the oven for twenty minutes, so we took it out early and drank it with spoons. My companion might have a sugar intolerance and I am a horrible influence. Both of us were sick all night, well my comp more than me. I just slept like a rock all night haha! Thus we went from a sweet meeting to a couple hours later sitting on the floor with brownie batter everywhere happy as clams until the sugar hit. We missionaries are strange people!
I love my mission and I am so grateful for the privilege to represent the Lord at this time. I know this is His true church.
Have a good week!
Love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Key to Not Being an Idiot

September 14, 2015
Hey Family,
So I don't have very much time this week, but I will try to give you the run down.
Tuesday- Went out to visit Grójec and got to see the wonderful Wiśniewski family. The Lord is a miracle worker, for some reason Namra was inspired to tell us that the next bus back to Warsaw left in like 30 minutes, and the one after that wouldn't come for several hours leaving us stranded and late. Somehow we managed to run across the city, heart attack Wiola's house, and make it to the bus in time. Cud!
Wednesday- We got to spend some time with the Warsaw I sisters on Nowy Swiat and teach, so awesome. I love the other sisters kind and diligent examples. We also might have eaten two Pączki and a milk bar dinner in the process. Soo tasty, I wish you all could try it. Good old fashion Polish food has some great secret recipes!
Thursday- Life really hit the fan this day. I had to go to the dentist, which turned out not being as traumatic as I was working it out to be. Yay for modern day technology. My companion and I did a week of exact obedience this week. So we worked hard all day and were trying to be diligent and stay out and teach but be exactly in on time. We tracted and then raced home, running as fast as we could, to make it in exactly at 9:00 pm. to be diligent and obedient. We race up the stairs, get to the door and the clock is right at 9:00, throw the key it the lock, and and and... nothing. It wouldn't work. So we wrestled with our door for ten minutes before accepting the fate that something had happened and we were locked out for the night. We spent the night at the other sister apartment out in Wilanów.
Friday- In the morning we woke up like crusty homeless people after spending the night on the floor. Had breakfast with the other sisters, put back on our same clothes from the day before, gathered our little kid dolphin toothbrushes that we had managed to buy at a grocery store the night before, and set off for home. Of course the door was still locked when we got home. We tried again to open it and then racked our brains as to why the lock wouldn't work. We called a member to come help us. He called our landlord who then sent a locksmith. The locksmith man was not very happy at all, actually he was quite angry for no reason right from the get go. He kept asking me if we were using the wrong key. Well we only had one giant key that went to our apartment, and I don't ever carry the key's my companion does so I kept telling him no, we have no other key. We hadn't given anybody else the keys either in the past couple of days. We went downstairs to try the mail box key, which then didn't work either. It was then we had the horrifying realization that they were not our keys. My companion when she had transferred from Wrócław had accidentally taken the keys from that apartment. She had put our house keys in my bag, and in the process of trying to find the keys the night before had mistaken the Wroclaw keys to be ours. Of course the locksmith was even more furious and even though he had only been there for 10 minutes charged us 350 zł. Brat Jarosz the member had mercy and convinced the office to refund us. Oopsies. We are idiots.
I will just say. The mission teaches you many many things. I have learned so many hard lessons in the past year plus. So the key to learning how to not be an idiot is to serve a mission and learn everything the hard way. We limped into our apartment emotionally and physically battered that day.
Saturday- Taught some really awesome members and recent converts
Sunday- We got invited over by an American family, the Chadwick's for dinner. It was AMAZING. We got there and Bother Chadwick pulled out this giant meat, cheese, bread, and cracker spread for us and the other Ukrainian family over for dinner. I am assuming the nice meal was primarily for the Ukrainian family, but oh boy were we grateful. Then we had chicken and dumplings with an amazing salad, cookies, and cobbler. Sunday was the saving grace of the week!
Wow sorry this is all so jumbled today. I am hanging in there and trying to work hard and be an instrument in the Lords hands. In our week of obedience we may not have been perfectly obedient, but in the pursuit of trying, we saw a lot of improvement. Thus is the nature of our lives. In the pursuit of excellence we experience detours and lots of failure, but God expects that each of us tries our best and improves bit by bit until someday when we are worthy of eternal glory. Carry on my dear family and friends, we have good things to do yet!
Love,
Siostra Ellis Benson

Monday, September 7, 2015

I Will Trust In Thee Forever

September 7, 2015
Hey Family,
It has been raining here all day, downpours! In the space of two day's we went from decently warm to freezing. Pretty soon the snow will be here. This is fore-casted to be one of the coldest winters in 20 years according to some of the older generation here. I thought that last winter was decently chilly and it was considered mild, looks like I am in for a treat this year!

So here is a fun story of the week. Last week while out contacting on the streets we stopped and had a really nice quick conversation with this guy. We invited him to our church services because he didn't want to exchange numbers, then we walked away and I didn't think much more of it. Yesterday we sat down in church and as usual were trying to spread the missionaries out enough to cover all of the investigators and less-actives in the branch sitting in the congregation. We are trying to double church attendance this transfer, and we actually had a good number of people come yesterday. We are all settled in and I hear my companion gasp, I turned around and there was the guy we had talked to on the street. He had actually come to church, which honestly I can't remember the last time that has happened to me. I stood up and went to the back and grabbed him from the confused elders talking with him and got him to come and sit by us. Heck I couldn't even remember the poor guy's name. Anyways he ended up staying all three hours of church and then some. He had so many questions, wanted a Book of Mormon, and didn't even run screaming when one of our members information dumped on him. We were thrilled! He was our miracle of the day, even though we found out he moves to Kraków this week. Bummer. Hopefully he will make some missionaries down there very happy.
We also went and heart attacked one of our members door's this week, Emilia. She is such a sweet wonderful lady that I have loved since the beginning of my mission. She has a really big work load, but still is so loving and has a beautiful testimony. Honestly when nothing else is going right, service is such a wonderful blessing for the receivers and especially the givers of it. I love it when the Lord guides us to opportunities to serve, it is some of my favorite memories as a missionary! We also had a white board where I met this sweet girl from Ukraine. She spoke in Ukrainian and I spoke back in Polish. Wow, I kind of understand Ukrainian! The gift of tongues is so real!
Know that I have a testimony of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ! The plan of redemption is real. One of my favorite passages of scripture is in 2 Nephi 4: 16-35. I love this passage because I feel like Nephi. I love the Lord and I want to be good, do good, and accomplish all that my Father has asked of me. Yet often I am prohibited because of my weaknesses, selfishness, pride, temptations, and mortal incapacities. I know I have done good things with my life, but yet I expect so much more and when I fall force myself to change immediately and when that change is not forthcoming the frustration builds. But I also acknowledge that those frustrations, shortcomings, mountains we climb are part of the plan. They teach us patience with ourselves and with others, they teach us spiritual self reliance, they teach us that change happens when we work hand in hand with the Lord to make our lives count. We will never be perfect in this life, life will never be perfect, but with Jesus Christ all can be made whole, all can be made well! I testify and extend the words of 2 Nephi 4: 16-35
"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever."
Love Siostra Benson

Monday, August 31, 2015

Back in Warsaw II

August 31, 2015
Cześć Wam,
We had an interesting first week back here in Warsaw II, but alas we are finally getting the ball rolling. Somehow, regardless of the delays we were actually able to work with some people and teach a lot of lessons. We even met some amazing potentials. My new comp is really great. Sister Carlson is from American Fork, Utah. I love her work ethic, and I think we are going to have a great transfer! Let me just share with you one of our interesting miracles of the week. We had about an hour of time left on Friday evening and we were trying to street teach to finish the night strong. Well it was getting dark and no one really wanted to stop and talk on darkened streets to the two smiling girls in skirts haha. Thus we decided we needed to change tactics, we then tried to tract a few doors but that didn't feel right either. So I turned to my companion and said that my stupor of thought was evidence we needed to be doing something else. Sister Carlson turned to me and said... "We need to go to Empik." Empik is like bookstore thing here like Barns and Noble. Obviously later in the evening it was a strange idea. Regardless that it was a strange idea I was like, heck okay, I am not going to ignore a spiritual prompting. So we walked over to the tramwaj platform to take a tram to Empik. Then I saw her, this adorable girl that I knew we needed to talk to. Immediately the words came to mind that I needed to say. We got in a nice conversation and she happened to be taking the same tram as us. Her name was Angela, and she was soooo awesome. We didn't even have to introduce the Book of Mormon, she asked what it was herself. We hope that something can result from this super cool miracle. God is real!
The area and branch has changed a lot since I have been here. We have a couple of new families from Ukraine and the States which is wonderful. Well love you all. Life is what you make of it, we are objects to act, not be acted upon. Make an effort this week to remember the Lord and the gospel in all that you do. We have to stand by what we believe and live it in everything that we do!
Z Bogiem,
Siostra Benson

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kaja's Baptism

August 25, 2015
Where to begin!
The last two weeks in Lodz were really great. We were able to accomplish a lot of good. Actually one of my favorite things about this last transfer is that I look back, and I can really see the growth, the difference that we made. While there is still a lot of room for growth, the past two months with Sister Gustafson have brought change. My district focused our transfer on creating a firm foundation with the members, less-actives, and investigators. By the end of my time we actually had investigators, meetings regularly with members, and a stronger feeling of love in the branch. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to serve in Lodz, and with Sister Gustafson.
For a quick summary of the past two weeks. We got to attend part of the YSA conference with our investigator who is on date to be baptized the 3rd of October. Three members helped us out on her lessons, which was super cool. We also made a gigantic batch of delicious cinnamon rolls for the YSA's. Looks like my baking and cooking skills are worth something after all. Throughout my last week we got to meet with some of my favorite people/ members in Lodz. The more I spend time with these people and learn about their history, the more I love it here in Poland. The culture still takes me by surprise sometimes, but these people are amazing. Thursday we had culture night with our district. We went out to a Polish restaurant called Galicia and ate Hungarian goulash and naleszniki. My favorite part of the week then came on Saturday.
So some stuff happened last week that actually almost prevented my companion and I from going to Kaja's baptism, but it worked out, and I am just so grateful that we got to go. Saturday was just one crazy, busy, emotional, happy, wonderful day! We woke early on Saturday and caught a train to Warsaw. While on the train we actually got transfer calls, which totally surprised me! I wasn't expecting them until way later in the evening. Guess what, guess what, guess what... I am headed back to my homeland of Warsaw II. We are whitewashing the area and bringing in two other whitewashed sisters, so my area has four sisters for the first time that I have been here. My companion, Sister Stephanie Carlson, and I will be serving in my familiar area same apartment and everything. While Sister Smith trains a new sister down in the Walanów area. It is going to be a good transfer I can feel it.

Anyways back to Saturday... so we get off the train and went to old town where we met up with the Warsaw I Sisters and had a language study together. After we went out by the university on the Rynek and had a finding activity. I knew I would be seeing Sister Tobler sometime, and I was so excited. Then up she walked, my wonderful, beautiful, Sister Cassie Tobler! It was so unreal I didn't even know what to do, but at the same time I remembered even more so why I love her so much. Cassie is the best! She and I had the opportunity to contact together for a bit. The funny thing is the only guy we taught a lesson to was all in English, good times. Then we ate Kebab's at Amrit, and headed over to the chapel to prep for the baptism.

 Kaja was already there super early. Goodness I love that girl. She looked absolutely radiant in her baptismal white! I was feeling pretty anxious because I was nervous for Kaja, nervous to sing (first solo in front of a large crowd for part of the song), and so much was happening all at once. I prayed that I could calm down enough to feel the spirit, sing in the musical number, and support Kaja. The baptism started and I still just felt so overwhelmed until the opening song started. The opening song was "I like to look for rainbows" in Polish, and as I sang the first line of the song, I was hit with one of the most overwhelming spiritual feelings I have ever felt in my life; more than anything I think I have ever felt on my mission. I had the realization of where I was sitting, in Poland, at Kaja's baptism, and the feeling I felt was so powerful that I immediately started weeping; uncontrollably, actually it was rather embarrassing. But the spirit that I felt was so pure, so piercing, and so powerful. I know that was a feeling straight from God, and if that is any indicator in the slightest of the love God has for us, than we are indeed truly precious. When Kaja got up to go to the font she looked so nervous, I am proud of the courage she displayed. Then with me, Sister Tobler, and Sister Gustafson sitting right on the front row, she was baptized with what I know was authority from on high. Such a beautiful moment! I could not for the life of me stop crying. Cassie and I got up to sing at the end and I thought I was going to stop breathing from nerves, but heck if Kaja could be brave, so could I, plus I had a professional singer with me! I probably sounded a bit like a scared child opening the song, but the harmonies kicked in and it ended with a couple more tears and a powerful punch of spirit. Several people were crying, including me; I could not pull it together. Basically, Kaja was a miracle and I am so grateful that I ended up on a mission in Poland and met her. I have said it many times, but I know she is one of the reasons that I am here. 
After the baptism was just a flurry of greetings, chats, pictures, and then us rushing to the train station to head back to Lodz. We accidentally lost my companions cell phone in the process, managed to call and have the elders find it, caught our train, and then rushed back home in Lodz in the night. Such a crazy day, but so worth it. Sunday was spent packing and singing with my district for one last time at a musical banner board. We managed to contact this amazing lady Iwona who set up with my companion. Yesterday (Monday) I hopped a train, picked up my comp from her train, wrestled our baggage across the city, and arrived back at my good old apartment in Warsaw. 
So with the ups and the downs, I am a happy camper. Seeing Cassie this week was such a blessing, things are so different, but at the same time, still the same. My bond with her runs deep and I am grateful that I ended up with the chance to live and serve with her for four blessed months. I know that she is also another reason I came to this mission. 

 I am grateful for how good the Lord has been to me and for the opportunity to serve this mission, I have been grateful for that every day since the start. I know with all of my heart that this church is true, if you doubt that, I challenge you to ask God. He will answer. I really look forward to the next transfer and feel like we can do some really good things. I have always wanted to return to Warsaw, especially to end my mission, but I prayed that I would be in the coming months where I could make the largest impact and where the Lord needed me the most. These last four months are going to count, and like my setting apart blessing says, I hope that generations of Poles will know the name of Sister Benson for good. God has been good to us!
Love, Love, Love
Siostra Ellie Benson

Monday, August 17, 2015

Castle Zamek

August 17, 2015
So this is going to be a quick one. Currently I am sitting in the tiny village of Oporów, somewhere in the middle of Poland. It has been quite the p-day. My district adventured out here today to visit the castle here, Castle (Zamek) Oporow. You should google it, seriously so beautiful! Anyways we got up at 5:30 and traveled out, our bus broke down in Zgierz. We somehow managed to switch buses, made it to Kutno. Then we found out the bus to take us to the castle wasn't running today so we caught a random bus to some random village... walked three plus miles through the countryside, and somehow we are here. Well worth the experience.

We are headed into Warsaw on Saturday for Kaja's baptism. We will only be there for a couple of hours but I am just grateful we get to go. The YSA conference was wonderful! We had a really crazy but good week. Thinking of you all! Have a beautiful week. Pray for me, transfers are rolling in fast! My last two have got to count!

Love Love Love,
Siostra Benson




Monday, August 10, 2015

Sweldering Heat!

August 10, 2015

Can Never Drink Enough In this Heat!
It is BLASTED HOT OVER HERE!  I never am doing this heat thing again! Even when the sun is not blazing, the humidity still clings to everything. You would think that because Europe is supposedly modern they would invest in air conditioning, NOT! Basically this week has been very very warm and sweaty. The members say it is the hottest summer in over 20 years, and might last until September, Mommy help! I seem to wander around in a sticky haze all day and no matter how much water we drink, it never quenches the suffocating fire. At the end of the day my comp and I come limping and dragging into our apartment building looking like run over wet animals, then we spend the night tossing and turning with all of the windows open and the fan on high speed 24/7. Needless to say I don't know if I am cut out to live in the tropics.

Other than the heat, we actually saw quite a jump in our work this week. It was wonderful. We did that member MTC a couple of weeks ago, and ever since then we have been working with members role playing and studying Preach My Gospel. Then we saw some really good success with our less-actives as well. Over all we had 7 less active/ active member lessons! The week before last, we had two of our less actives CALL US, and they wanted to set up to meet, which never happens. Both meetings opened the door for future opportunities. One of them said that thanks to an invitation from a member, she wants to quite working on Sunday so she can start coming to church again. Then she said that she wants to find out personally that her decision to get baptized a couple of years ago was a good one. I jumped on the opportunity in my mind and was like, we are going to meet every week and work on building that testimony, then she beat me to the punch and asked if we could meet at least once a week to discuss more. I finally feel that after working for months here that things are finally connecting yayy!

President Edgren came last week and did interviews that presented to our district about linking our weekly planning and daily planning better. It was cool because my comp and I had already been working to do exactly that and Sister Gustafson was a driving force on staying on track with our goals all week. We managed to meet and surpass most of our goals this week. The Young Singe Adult conference will be all of the YSA's in Poland, so you know what that means, Kaja is coming to Lodz heck yeah! She always ends up strengthening me. This will be the weekend before her baptism so I think it will be a good opportunity to see how she is doing.  It will be great!!We are going to be doing a tone of cooking and running around with our heads chopped off this next weekend for the YSA Conference so I will have to let you all know how it goes.
I am so grateful for the blessing of serving a mission. It has opened the way for me to build a personal relationship and with Heavenly Father, one that actually needs to keep growing stronger. This week it also hit me how much I love this country. I have had some hard bitter moments, and never felt the deep love and felt the knowledge that I am really going to miss this country and this culture. I learned a lot about Polish history this week and it has helped change my heart even more. I LOVE POLAND, AND I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. Well... most of them, sometimes I struggle with the hoolies. Obviously I have a way to go. Keep the faith, this church is true!

Love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hoe to the End of the Row

 August 3, 2015
So... let's see, what did we do this last week. Well the beginning of the week was kind of uneventful. Monday Zosia taught us all how how to make Gołąbki! Basically Gołąbki is meat and some kind of rice or grain rolled up in a GIANT cabbage leaf and then boiled in a tomatoe type sauce. They tasted really really good until I ate the second giant one which pushed me over the edge. Zosia also made us sample the raw meat, ugh, dziwny! Basically they are comparable to cabbage rolls.

On Thursday we proselyted then got to meet the family of a previous missionary who showed up. It was really really nice to spend some time talking with them. We ended up running into his mom and sister later and we walked with them part of the way home! That is where that picture came from. Super nice family! It reminds me of the fact that I really want to come back and visit Poland with my family. I think you would love it! Sometimes I will just walk around or see things that mentally I am like, Oooh mom would have loved that. Or the girlies would have really enjoyed this! Who knows maybe in the future!

Friday we headed into Warsaw for zone conference, which was a spiritual feast as usual! Not only do you get spiritual upliftment, but also you get to see you mission family. Two of my favorite things combined into one! We practiced a lot of different ways to improve contacting techniques and did a ton of practicing in groups. One of the strangest things was saying goodbye to a whole set of some of my favorite missionaries. It is weird to grow old (missionary wise) and watch all of your hero's die and move on. I guess it is time to start leaving my own legacy!

Saturday we hosted a mini MTC for our members. We discussed with them why members are important in missionary work, then we role played with them a couple of lessons. It was hilarious because we did a good example role play, and then a really terrible one. We took a couple of problems that we have had with members on lessons and implemented into the how to not do a member lesson. In the role play the "member" totally took over the missionary discussion and started bashing on other religions, then interrupted like five times and went on crazy twenty minute rants while bringing up deep doctrine in the very first lesson. We only had about five members show up but they thought it was hilarious and learned a lot. After the role plays we did a Book of Mormon challenge where each member wrote their testimony in it and are supposed to give it out in the coming week. Our branch president enjoyed it so much that he asked us to present it again in the Sunday school lesson during church because more members would be there. This coming week we are going to be trying to follow up with as many members as possible!

While on the way home from work on Saturday we stopped in our apartment building's garage to drop off our trash. On the way back up to our apartment my comp was like huh weird, that garage is open. I looked over and found out the only garage gaping open was our own. Since we are living in the senior couple’s apartment we have several perks, one of those being that we have a huge personal garage down in the main parking garage with a storage room. We never use it though because we don't have a car. Thus it was really weird that it was open seeing as obviously I haven't opened it since we explored it about two months. So we ran upstairs to grab the remote control and garage keys. Came down and tried the control and yes indeed it was our garage. We went inside and into the storage room and saw that some smaller boxes had been taken off of the shelves. We also got our good friend the front door man to come check it out with us. He told us that the garage door has been open for at least TWO WEEKS now! I was so embarrassed. He said that he was wondering whose garage it was! We never go down there because we don't have a car, hence the reason it has been open for that long and we didn't know. When we closed it up to secure it we found that it looked like the main lock had been broken into manually. I am just glad they didn't break into our apartment and another blessing is that nothing valuable was stored down there. Everything was up in the apartment. President just laughed about it when I told him they might have stolen the Christmas decorations, but hopefully we get that lock fixed in the coming weeks.

I really love you all so much. This week I am going to try to work hard and focus. As the Benson/Dance family always says "hoe to the end of the row". At the beginning of my mission I never thought I would see you guys again, that my mission would last forever. Now here I am coming up on my last four months and I want to go hard to the finish. Let's hope and pray that I can do so! I think that what you all said is so true.  If I can focus here God will take care of the rest! Have a good week!
Love,
Siostra Benson

Monday, July 27, 2015

By Small and Simple Things

July 27, 2015
Well this week I went on exchanges to Warsaw with Sister Bąk which was awesome! Mondays train ride was fairly uneventful, they moved the whole mission over to using Polski Bus rather than trains, except Lodz, so we still get the trains whoot! Kaja was at the train station right when I pulled in to say hello. She is doing so good! Life is not perfect and I can understand why she is nervous, but everything is pretty much set for the 22nd of August. Please pray for her. But we had a wonderful chat while Kaja escorted us home on Monday evening.
Tuesday was really great. We had district meeting and I got to see two of my really good friends who were in my very first district. Elders Retallick and Wynne were comps in Warsaw II when I first got in the country and now Elder Retallick is ending his mission with Elder Wynne in the same area. After district meeting we had a rushed lunch and then I got to see one of my favorite members from the Warsaw II branch, Karolina. She left last week right after we saw her to go and live in England as a nanny, so I am so glad I caught her one last time! We helped her clean out the relief society closet for Monika the president as one last farewell gift, then had a very sweet lesson with her! As we were teaching her this lesson I felt the spirit so sweetly, I never cry in lessons, but I was tearing up the whole time. Moments like that are so so good. I am going to miss her so much! The elders came and grabbed Kebab's with us for dinner at one of my favorite Kebab shops in Poland afterwards, which let
Cleaning the Relief Society Closet

me tell you is such a sweet miracle. Lodz is supposedly the Kebab capital of Poland, that is such a lie! I have not found a single Kebab here that is even worth trying. So Kebab time in Warsaw is coveted by us Lodziankan's. Then we had contacting at this completely random corner in downtown that was really successful. Sister Bąk and I had 8 really good lessons at this banner board and the elders had like 6. That is another miracle, we no longer have to deal with the dinky heavy trashed white boards anymore. The mission finally ordered in these light-weight portable banners that we can put up when we are out contacting.

Wednesday was pretty uneventful other than a really hot sweaty train ride back to Lodz. We then rushed up to Zgierz and met with one of our members, Irena Zak. She lives an hour away, can't see, is older, and she still is an active members of the church. God bless that woman! All week we have been gearing up for our new referrals lesson on Saturday. We practiced our restoration all week, I legitimately have not taught an actual interested investigator lesson in so long that I was nervous out of my mind. I know because we
prepared that the Lord blessed us! It went really well. She accepted baptism on August 21st, whoot I know! But alas we already have to move it back significantly. She lives far out of Lodz and can only come in every week or two, so we need more time to teach her the lessons, and she needs more time to learn and gain a testimony. Then the same day, Saturday, we received another referral from a member in Wrocław of her friend who is living in Lodz. She was supposed to come to church on Sunday, but ended up canceling the morning of so we are praying that it will happen next week! Finally some momentum in the work, praise the Lord!

I just have to let you know, not because I am a missionary and I have a missionary obligation to throw
something spiritual into my emails, but because it is something that has been on my mind. This week I have felt the spirit so strongly as I have studied and pondered and tried to seek after good things. It all started when I watched the movie "Mountain of the Lord" one night before bed, then another pioneer movie "The John Tanner Story". My mind has been called to serious reflection. This gospel, this life, is so much more than we actually see. I have been trying to pray for the veil to be lifted a little so that I may see with a clearer perspective all that is in store for those who honor and give their lives to the Lord. This life is a life of preparation, and we will never be fully prepared, we will never be spiritually full enough to stop progressing and stop making those agonizing changes that make us more like our Father in Heaven. All of this jolly spiritual ranting means nothing to any of you unless you try them for yourselves, they are simply put just a bunch of words. But words put into action result in growth, real life-changing, life-building growth. The words of the scriptures put into actions equal a living testimony. Having a living testimony also means it has the potential of dying unless fed by continuous nourishment and care. One more thing, for years I have read the Book of Mormon over and over again. Yesterday I finished the Book of Mormon for the second time on my mission. I have always had a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true, that it is good, but I have always felt that Moroni's promise at the end has fallen flat for me. " 3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:3-5)" I never feel like I had received that big spiritual witness and it was so frustrating. Like I said, it doesn't mean I didn't believe in the BOM, I have read it every day and I know the difference it makes, I just felt like I was still searching for something more from that promise. Yesterday as I read the last five chapters of Moroni and tried that promise yet again, I feel like I got my answer. Still, ever so small, but yes it was an answer. As I read those last five chapters I knew what they taught was true, I knew that was my answer after all of these years. God truly has been patient and merciful to us children, Christ is the way and the life. The decisions we make now will truly affect our eternal destinies! "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." Basically dear family and loved ones, don't give up, don't give in, make the gospel something personal in your lives. The more you learn, the more you understand, the more you will find joy in living it, and vice versa! This mission is blasted hard, but so so worth it. Miss you all, but we will see each other again soon!

Love,
Siostra Benson