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!

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!
Siostra Benson