Monday, June 29, 2015

25th Anniversary of the Poland Warsaw Mission

June 29, 2015

Thursday we got our transfer calls. My new companion is Sister Avonlea Gustafson from the land of Canada and she is great! She just came from being Sister Bąk's companion in Warsaw II. And we will be staying here in Lódż. I am actually really looking forward to this transfer.  We talked for a really long time last night about how we would like this transfer to go, if we can accomplish the goals we have set, it would change and bless us so much. Pray we can have the spirit, motivation, and guidance we need.

Before transfers was the big Warsaw Bash. This weekend was definitely one of the high-lights of my mission. Sister Herrera packed up on Friday and then we set off for the train station early on Saturday morning. There were so many bags!!!! We made it down the elevator in our apartment building and were not even out the door and I was just thinking oh boy I don't know if we are going to make it to the station with this much stuff. I had a back pack and small purse for the night, then she had two huge suitcases and four other bags. Heck I still have no idea how we made it to the bus stop to get to Kaliska train station. Then we met up with our district who also had a huge pile of baggage from the elders leaving and somehow we all got it on the train and into only one compartment. Seriously quite the feat of strength.

We hauled the baggage through Warsaw to the Wolska chapel where we stored all of the luggage. President and Sister Edgren got matching white Poland T-shirts for all of the missionaries so when we got there we got to change into jeans and our matching Poland shirts. We had lunch, played sports and games, then a presentation on the history of the church in Poland which was really quite interesting. This country has gone through a lot, especially the saints here. I have to admit as we watched this presentation I kept thinking wow 25 years and not much growth. Only about 320+ active members in the entire country out of the 1,500+ that have been baptized. I was missing the point, like so many others I have only looked at what was missing. Elder and Sister Adler of our area 70 came and spoke with the members and missionaries. He changed my perspective. We analyzed the dedicatory prayers and he encouraged us to
look not at what is missing, but what we have accomplished in these 25 years since the official establishment. President Whipple the first mission president to serve here 25 years ago sent a video message everyone watched, which was cool. Afterwards we had a grill (barbacue) for dinner then the members had a dance party. I heard they got quite jiggy with it, I am so jealous I wish we could have seen it. The missionaries traveled over to the Wiktorska chapel in our missionary attire and had a missionary fireside with Elder Adler.

They crammed all of the missionaries into various apartments all over Warsaw and the mission home for the night. We luckily got to stay with Sister Bąk and Gustafson in my old Warsaw II apartment. Dang that place always has some kind of funky smell going on. Next day we had the Sunday service, grabbed our new companions and got shipped back out to our respective cities. It was a really great weekend.

I would have to say my very favorite part of the whole experience was the people we saw. Not only did we have every single missionary gathered together, so many companions and friends, but all of the members as well. After serving in three cities now it was such a huge blessing to see all of my Poland family gathered together as saints of the Church of Jesus Christ. The first day when we came walking up to the chapel, guess who was outside waiting to greet us. Anita! I dropped all of my bags and ran to see her. So many people that I love in one
place. Anita, Diana, Henryk, Kaja, Karolina, Ela, Wojtek, Sławyk, the Netto's, Stan, Wioletta, Klaudia, the łódzians, Sister Johnston, Sister Bąk, all of the Elder's and Sister's. We all laughed and talked and took pictures and it just felt so so good to see them all again. I think something I have struggled with lately on my mission is having love in my heart. I feel cold and toughened by hard experiences and sometimes worry if I have made a difference in the slightest for anyone. Seeing everyone lit the flame in my heart that warmed my entire soul, and I remember for the first time in many months that I have an eternal
family here in Poland. I have people I have helped, served, taught, loved, prayed for, and fought for. They are the joy the source of any true joy I have found on my mission and I will miss them so much when I return home. Kaja is the joy of so many missionaries, she is one of the brightest lights in Warsaw, and to know that I had the privilege of meeting her first and serving with her for five months. She walked up to me as I was leaving on Sunday and showed me her Book of Mormon. She said, I have just finished it again, then opened the front cover and there was a picture of me and Sister Tobler taped right in. She is my example and one of my dearest friends, I hope I can be there for her always. Diana is preparing to be baptized soon, she has grown up so much. During the prayer over the food she stopped playing with Klaudia, bowed her head, and at the end sincerely and reverently said Amen. I love that child! I wish it could have lasted longer, but I guess there is just too many ravenous missionaries to feed with the members. I am grateful for the opportunity to be reminded on my mission of the love that Jesus Christ has for me, and my purpose these last 6 months. Poland has struggled, fought, it was said it is "the bloody doormat across which the nations of the world have tread", and in 25 years people may look and say that small
numbers and the difficult work has failed a bit. Honestly I was starting to wonder that myself. But you know what, I look at the growth I do see, and I see the hands of God at work through angles and his servants. This country will have a temple someday and I want a part in building it.
I really look forward to this next transfer and I am praying for you all. Keep the faith, Heavenly Father wants ALL of His children to return to live with Him in glory. He will provide the means and way. Ask, Seek, and Knock, it is far greater than we remember sometimes. We are striving to become like Him.

Sister Benson

Monday, June 22, 2015

One Year Mark

June 22, 2015
No Hej Cześć,
This past week has been really busy with lots of activities yet good. At the beginning of the week I had a really good exchange with Sister Gustafson, she is great! We got to go tracting out in these beautiful houses in the countryside and then almost got eaten by a giant dog. You know that big dog from the sandlot, yeah I think we found it on Tuesday. We also had a wonderful lesson with a member named Maria. She has two beautiful daughters both married in the temple with kids and she blew me away with just how much she understood the gospel. I love it when members just get it! We have been meeting and sharing "Preach My Gospel" books and lessons with our members lately, which has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know them more and help them fulfill their missionary responsibilities.

Thursday June 18th I hit my one year mark on my mission. Wow can you believe it, one year in the mission field. I remember one year ago getting ready to go, being terribly nervous, and sad to leave the family. Now here I am in Poland, and it has been quite the journey. I still miss you all so much but I know I need to work hard and push through these last 6 months and we will see each other soon. I am so grateful that I decided to serve a mission; this has been one of the best decisions of my entire life. I look forward to the coming months and pray that they will be months of love, joy, growth, new friendships, work, and great success.

We didn't really do much to celebrate on Thursday for my year mark, but boy did we celebrate on Friday! I have been looking forward to culture night all month! We have been preparing for an open house at our chapel on Saturday, so on Friday we got together with my district and practiced some hymn arrangements to sing at the open house. Then we spent a little bit of time out contacting and inviting people to the open house. Then it began... For dinner my district went out and ate at Manekin (typical I know) where we had a really good dinner. Afterwards we "waddled" (because we were so full) over to the theatre of music to watch Fiddler on the Roof. The performance was so good! Even though we were in the last row of the top balcony in the nose bleed seats it was still such a good experience. Good actors, singers, and I actually undersood the Polish which was really cool. When they sung "tradition...." it sounded so much better in Polish haha... "tradycja"!

Saturday we had an open house at our chapel. An open house is basically where we open up our chapel and have members present on different topics like the restoration, plan of salvation, and what our meetings look like. Introducing the "Mormons". The past couple of weeks we worked hard and passed out hundreds of fliers and the members were all supposed to come and bring someone with them. Well... we had two new people come, then one of them had to leave early haha, so pretty much one new guy. The elders did manage to get his number though. We luckily had some good stalwart members there though. We spent the morning at district language study, preparing our segments to teach, and baking cinnamon rolls in prep for the open house. I had this recipe that one of the Elders had given me. I forgot that he had told me to half the recipe, so I start making them and was like dang... this is a ton of flour and yeast. Needless to say I ended up to my elbows in a giant vat of dough. We cranked out these delicious cinnamon rolls for the open house and ended up with two pans to spare.If we only get one new person from the open house, then that is good enough for me!

Alright well enough of my ramblings. I just want you all to know that I love you dearly and am so grateful to have each of you in my life. I know that this church is true, and I also know that humility is so key. In my study of the Book of Mormon lately, pride has stuck out like a sore thumb. Honestly it is not necessary in our lives and is so detrimental. I need to work on not being a proud and stiffnecked servant in the hands of the Lord. He needs teachable and humble followers, He has enough proud, He needs more willing and meek children. We are so blessed, I wish you could see some of the things that I have experience on my mission. Observing the world and people around me has opened my eyes to the wickedness of this world and the meaning of having God in your life. This past year has shown me how blessed I am and I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven for the knowledge I have in my life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. I am ever grateful for those who have helped me to be on my mission! I love you all, have a wonderful wonderful week.

Sister Benson

Monday, June 15, 2015

Oh The Humidity!

June 15, 2015
 Hello Family,
It was wonderful to hear from you all this week as usual! The Polish weather is starting to get hotter and more humid. I look like a sweaty wet puppy by mid afternoon these day's. I have never experienced humidity like this before. The instant I walk outside on a hot day and I start to get this panic feeling and want to start ripping my clothing off and running down the street to the closest lake or pond. July is going to be an adjustment!

Happy Birthday To the Most Adventurous Grandpa Ever!
This week we had some really wonderful experiences and activities. There is a member here from China, her name is Linda (He Chong), who we have been helping out lately. The best part was helping her included calling back to the homeland of America and spending hours on the phone with the admissions offices. Man it was wonderful, I definitely believe that my English communication skills are much improved, maybe not grammatically just in general. We called via skype phone on Monday evening, then again on Thursday to about four universities in America trying to figure out her school applications. Just a little bit stressful, but I am grateful for any opportunity to serve. Serivce opportunities in Poland are far and few between sometimes, any chance we get is great!

We also finally had the opportunity to meet and have a lesson with one of our eternal investigators here Ewa. She is so spunky, I love it. Ewa has such a desire and passion for faith yet is so confused about what sources are true and how to know for sure. I kind of understand where she is coming from. As I have progressed steadily along on my mission I really started to wonder about how unfair it is to expect people to accept the gospel immediately. I used to be a little bit flippitant about the idea that if you reject the gospel the first time that is all the chances you get. Being a missionary has changed that perspective. Whether you don't accept the gospel the first, second, maybe even third time, or whether you have drifted away from the gospel you once held dear, I truly believe that God gives us as many chances as we need to get it right. He wants us to succeed. The world we live in is very big, loud, so many different ideas and beliefs, how can we expect people to understand immediately with so many other influences leading them in a thousand different directions. That doesn't mean that God does not have justice in His plan, we are still free to choose, accept or reject, but I believe that He truly does give us as many chances as we need.

Radagast Station where Jews were deported
Friday was a really warm humid day. In the evening we decided we were going to venture out to Aleksandrów Lódzki (a small town outside of Lódż) and explore a new area to tract. It went steaming hot but the moment we got on the tram to travel out there these big angry clouds started to roll in. Our tramwaj headed out straight into the fury of the storm. Aleksandrów is far out so we were only about halfway out in our journey waiting at a bus stop to take us the rest of the way, and the storm hit! These howling winds and the rain just dropped heavier than my shower! We started to walk back to try to find shelter and ended up getting soaked and trapped under a tiny little bus shack with a crowd of fifteen other people trying to hide from the water. We were soaked! It was slightly humorous yet slightly miserable. The roads started to flood so then every time a car drove by they would splash us with a wave of water. We finally made a run to the Biedronka grocery store, and ended up having to go wait at another tram stop because we were too wet to be inside. Quite the adventure. I have a video that is pretty sweet! You will have to see it someday!

Sunday evenings my district usually finds some nice house area to go and tract in. Yesterday while tracting we got let in again!!!! This is the second time my entire mission. It was this beautiful little Polish neighborhood, half of them were działki (little Polish gardening houses, like a very minature cabin where they spend summer weekends). We rang this doorbell to what I thought was a house, turns out it was this ladies działka. She didn't want to let us in at first, but then she had us come and sit with her on her porch. All around us was these beautiful rose gardens, arches of vines and flowers. So beautiful, and perfect setting for the spirit. We had a good conversation, she was religious but not really interested in changing anything. We hopefully left her with a good opinion of the "mormons" and she said that she would come to our open house maybe this upcoming Saturday! Whoot! Such a tender mercy, I love it when the Lord provides us with opportunities to teach!

Today we went to the Radagast museum and train station for p-day. It was the main station used in the deportation of Jews from the Lódż ghetto during WWII. It is just just the main station/ museum now, a couple of trains, but yet another good reminder of the sad history that Europe carries regarding the Holocaust. Most of the Jews from the Lódż ghetto were killed and if they made it out of the ghetto they lost their lives in death camps after being shipped through the Radagast station. Look up in the information online, very interesting. The people here in Poland have had a difficult past.

Well I am really looking forward to this week. We have exchanges today, I will be staying here with Sister Gustafson. Friday we are going to see Fiddler on the Roof (yes dad you should be jealous) and then Saturday we have a great open house planned at the chapel. We shall see how it all goes. The week after next should be even better. The 27th and 28th of June we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the dedication of Poland for missionary work in Warsaw.
All of the missionaries from the whole mission (I have never had that happen before) and all of the members will meet in Warsaw for a party on Saturday and then a conference on Sunday. We will have transfers during the party so I will be with a new comp after the conference. I am so excited, it is going to be great!

Love you all, have a good week!
Sister Benson

Monday, June 8, 2015

Miracles of the Fast

June 8, 2015
Hello Family,
Add caption
This week was good. We worked a lot with one of our recent convert Linda (He Chong) who is from China! She was baptized last year, but we are having the Elder's in Boston skype with us right now to re-teach her the lessons in Chinese. Usually once a week she comes to the chapel and then we skype with two of the Elders in Boston who speak Chinese fluently. It is a great opportunity to hear the gospel preached in yet another tongue, and the spirit is still there. Plus Linda is great! We get to help her this evening calling some American schools to get her applications worked out. Apparently they weren't submitted correctly so we are helping her figure out what she needs to do. Yay English!

Food Truck Festival Yum!
My district found this big food truck festival over by the chapel here in Lodz. I think I ate the best hamburger I have ever eaten in my life, well at least in Poland. My comp and I ended up going back later for our dinner hour and getting Pot stickers, ice-cream, and gofry (waffel's) with nutella and bananna's. Oops naughty us, but it was oh so fun! I wish you could have been there with us to try it haha. Loved it!

Not so funny story of the week. So I tried to go to the dentist this week. I requested an English speaking dentist so I could explain the situation with the abscess on my gums. I thought maybe I had a cavity on my back molar that was causing the problem. But the dentist that I got sent to seriously did not speak English, apparently he isn't used to dealing with such small things or seeing perfect teeth either because of the smoking and drinking problems in this country. He didn't think anything was super wrong. He was like... You want me pull out? and I was like ummm seriously, no! He said he didn't see anything that I would have to get pictures (x-rays). Well they didn't even have x-ray equipment at the facility so he tried to send me to another one. Then he was like... You get picture here... pay me after to see picture... and maybe something hurt still.. then we drill. Then he charged me money for poking my tooth twice and telling me to go to another place. So I was like okay, and then walked/ran out of the office.

One more thing I have to mention about miracles related to fasting. I have always fasted in my life, I knew it was something that was good. Yet fasting has taken up so much more meaning to me on my mission. When I was struggling last transfer and didn't even know how to help myself I did a 24 hour fast, and things changed. I don't even know exactly what changed, but I saw the hand of God in my life. Then yet again this transfer I have seen the Lord answer my fasts and prayers. I fasted for zone conference, and I was spiritually fed. Then yesterday I fasted to find someone elect that we can teach. My district traveled down to southern Lodz to to some tracting in the country. I chose the area and felt guided to a place called Starowa Góra. The elders got let it (the lady also gave them an emerald suit from the 80's and sweaters haha), and then my companionship met this man and son. The son spoke perfect English and was very patient and kind and actually listened to what we said. He was intellectual, but said he could see the conviction in our eyes. They took a Book of Mormon and are coming to English this week to discuss more. I know this is not exactly a guarantee of someone getting baptized into this branch, but I know it was an answer to my fast and prayer. I know that the Lord will help us in way's we cannot even understand if we will exercise our agency to seek, act, and follow. I know this to be true.
You are all very much loved.

Sister Benson

Monday, June 1, 2015


June 1, 2015 Czekam
Hello Everyone,

Today my companion was in Warsaw all day for legal work, so I got babysat by the Elder's all day and our email time got moved back to the end of the day. We don't have much time, so I will just give you a quick rundown of the week.

Well my birthday was wonderfully splendid. My district took good care of me, I bought some fresh strawberries and my wonderful Sister Bąk brought in a ton of birthday mail for me when she came in the evening. Seriously such a great gift to get to spend part of my birthday with one of my best friends in the mission. I was so shocked at how many birthday cards I got, plus all of the voice recordings, and the packages. Thank you all so much.

My district had a wonderful district meeting to spiritually prep for zone conference, then we fasted as a district on Wednesday. Thursday morning we got on a train early and headed into Warsaw. I remember thinking on the train, I have prayed, written down thoughts, fasted and honestly strived to be prepared for this zone conference, yet I still don't feel immensely spiritually in tune. I looked out the window and had the impression... Sister Benson, do you trust me. I thought to myself, as much as I often fight it, I do Lord. And it came again... Then trust me, and you will learn today. Zone conference was so inspired and such a blessing, exactly some things that I needed to hear. The Assistants talked about companionship unity, and President talked about gratitude and following the spirit. It was wonderful. 
I know that this church is true. Worthy men hold the true power and authority of God! The priesthood is on the earth, and personal revelation is available to all. I know that if we desire revelation in church, conference, any holy place... If we sincerely desire, prepare ourselves, pray, fast, and have faith in God, He will provide. God is our loving Heavenly Father, trust in Him, and He will make us more through this mortal journey. 

Love you all,

Sister Benson