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.
Sister Benson