Monday, July 30, 2012

Second email!

Hey All!

Thanks to those of you who have written me letters! I really appreciate hearing from all of you. Life here is amazing at the MTC. The craziness of the first week has passed and I'm really starting to get into the groove of things. For those of you wondering, the food here is amazing. Somewhat like cafeteria food, they do have to feed like 2300 people three times a day, but so much better than regular cafeteria food! My favorite meal so far was probably tilapia with this amazing spicing on top of it. To be honest though, the "Mexican" food they try is way way way below par. But what else should you expect being so many miles from the border?

I don't remember if I mentioned last week, but on our third day we taught our first "lesson", entirely in Slovene! It was so difficult but it turned out really well. When you only know how to say a handful of words, it makes everything you say a million times more powerful and truly heartfelt. We've had about five since, and have another one today. I can basically say goodbye to teaching the Gospel in English though. It's going to be in Slovene from now on.

The language has been really fun too. Some days its still like grinding your head into a wall, but now that we're starting to get the basic grasp of how the language works, it's becoming more of a love-hate relationship. In many ways, it is teaching me more and more how to be more patient with myself. I'm coming to realize that while I’d like to be really good at the language in... 7 weeks, I can only absorb so much at a single time, and it doesn't do any good to get frustrated with the language. Instead, the more I relax and lean less on myself and more on God, the better I will be. It has truly been a learning experience there.

Wednesday, my companion and I got new roommates, Elder Gray and Elder Roe. Elder Gray is from Utah and Elder Roe from Idaho. They are good, really chill guys. They aren’t in our branch even though we are in the same room, so we're not on the same schedule, but we still see each other every night and morning. They will be good.

Eight people from our branch are leaving Wednesday. Such is the life of being at the MTC for nine weeks, while all the other English people will be here for only three weeks. My small four-person district is going to see so many people come and go. Wednesday we're getting twenty new people in the branch. Twenty!! That's so many people! I’m not going to have a personal leadership role with many of them since they won't be coming into my district, but it will still be good to get to know them.

For those of you unfamiliar with the structure and are a little confused, every person has a companion they are with all the time. These companionships are then combined into small groups called districts, usually about ten people. My district is an exception, since there are so few of us, but we're all going to the same place so we get to stick together! :-)  The districts are then combined into a zone, with about three to four districts. Here at the MTC, our branch, or congregation basically for church is our one zone. It took a little to figure out how it was organized, but I figured it out before too long, especially since I am a leader of the district I am in.

Last Sunday, we had a district meeting where we shared our experiences, which brought us to where we are today and why we are serving. It was a great experience getting to hear how we have all been guided one way or another into the service of the Lord. The Branch President (the pastor of our congregation basically) was there watching me conduct and lead it. It was a good experience being fully in charge of a little church meeting.

Otherwise, life is so amazing here in Provo. The atmosphere is so thick with spirituality that we are all learning things individually from God but are all connected in a singular purpose. As I dig deeper and deeper into the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our purpose, and come to understand the vital and unavoidable significance the Holy Ghost has in all I do, I am coming to realize how much I can't just rely on myself, and how other's prayers are so vital. Our work would be futile without the Spirit.

The most important thing I have learned by far this week is that the Gospel changes lives. It has changed mine. Joy, peace, triumph, cleanliness, and power. These are but a few things I have been blessed with. I am eternally grateful to those individuals who raised me and led me into it, and to god and Jesus Christ for supplying and performing it. This is what I seek to share. These are the people I seek to be. To help others discover the Gospel for themselves. To experience the things I have. For this there is nothing greater in life.

Hope all is well at home, be safe, both spiritually and physically.

-Elder/ Starešina Benson

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elder Benson's First Email

Hello all!

I'm alive and doing well at the MTC! It has been an absolutely amazing and really difficult five days since I first reported in Provo last Wednesday.

When I first got here, I practically ran through all the hoops to get all set up, and then I hadn't been here for more than twenty minutes before I was put into a room with a teacher and one other person to find out that the teacher wasn't going to speak a single word of English!! It was crazy! But the learning began instantly. I'm not going to lie, Slovene is really hard. There aren't really any words that are similar to English, but at least it still uses the Roman alphabet... with a few alterations... but that's not so bad. The pronunciation is a bit straight forward as well too. Every letter more or less is pronounced instead of like English where there are so many silent letters. I feel bad for people learning English.

But anyways, this place is absolutely amazing! It's so ethnically diverse. You walk around or are studying outside and a big group of Samoan or Tongan Sisters walk by, or people are rushing past you talking Russian, or greeting each other in Spanish, it's so cool. Yeah, most everyone, and by that I mean probably about half, of the people here are from Utah, but still there are so many different people from all over the Nation and world. There are a few Canadians that I've met and am starting to become friends with.

Remember that one other person I said was in the classroom with my teacher and me? That was my new companion! (For those unfamiliar, I am going to be with another guy nearly 24/7 for the next two years). His name is Elder Burdette and he will be my companion for my time here in Utah. He is really cool. He's a really quiet, kind of nerdy kid from Salt Lake City but is super smart and caring. I think we'll make a great team. It is just us two learning Slovene here after all. We're practically getting one on one instruction with our teacher.

Not only do I have a companion with me however, I am also assigned into what's called a district, which is basically a group of people all going to the same place. Usually these are like 10 people-ish. Well our district is only Elder Burdette and I and two sisters! Super small!! The sisters are Sister Giles and Sister Compare and are really nice. Sister Compare is from Woodstock, Vermont and Sister Giles from Pleasant Valley, Utah and they're learning Croatian and the Cyrilic Alphabet (so they can read Serbian if needed). Also, there's some leadership within the district and I was called as District Leader on Thursday night. It’s a huge responsibility because I have to make sure everyone is doing all right and there is unity, but it is also incredibly rewarding as well. I know that this calling isn't a responsibility that puts me above everyone else, but below everyone else. That as I serve them and help us become more efficient and productive, we will all do better preparing to go to the Adriatic.

However, overall, this place is amazing. There is such as spirit of joy and happiness here that everyone has. Everyone is here with a specific purpose and has a desire to help everyone else. I know that we are here to help people find this joy and happiness that only comes through our Savior, Jesus Christ, as I personally have found myself in my life. This is why I am here. I want to simply make people happy and there is no better way that I know of than through the gospel. Something I learned this week is that when you are in need of strength and ask God for help, he will support you. However, often times, he will support you through Christ-like attributes of faith, patience, charity and what I am especially learning now, courage. This is probably the most terrifying thing I have done in my life, but I know I can do it with God. I am grateful for this opportunity to be here, and am looking forward to hearing from you all!

Take courage my friends and keep your heads up!
-Starešina Cameron Benson

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hey, he reported! And this is crazy... But here's his address. So write him, maybe? (Post by Kelly)

Send Elder Benson a letter today!

Elder Cameron Allen Benson
MTC Mailbox #132
2005 North 900 East
Provo, UT 84604-1793

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Kelly Orgill. I have been friends with Cameron since junior year of high school. He has asked me to run his blog while he is gone. Generally, the posts on the blog will be straight from Cameron's letters. However, today, I thought I would post about Cameron's Utah trip and what it was like to drop him off.

By the way... the title of this post was in request of Elder Benson.

Cameron flew into Utah on Friday. He was shocked by how dry the climate is here, but he was also surprised by the stormy weather. We had an unusually stormy week, last week, and he made several jokes about making assumptions that it must always be like this here.

He stayed with the Smiths (a missionary couple who served over Austin Institute) until Monday morning. During his stay he got to see The LDS Conference Center, Visitor's Center, Salt Lake Temple, a production of The Sound of Music at the Hale Center and much more. He thoroughly enjoyed his stay, even getting to see Elder Sorenson (a former elder who served in San Antonio) and meeting Sister Justice (a former sister who served in the North Adriatic mission)!

On Monday, at 8:20am, I got to pick him up, we took pictures and then headed to Magelby's Fresh for breakfast in Provo with Brother Hopkin (One of Cameron's former Institute instructors who now teaches at BYU). We had a great time visiting with him. Next on the agenda, we ran errands to get office supplies and then met Ian Harward (another former elder who served in San Antonio) for lunch at J Dawgs. Cameron really liked the special sauce at J Dawgs. After that, we parked the car and I gave Cameron a quick tour of BYU campus. Of the buildings I showed him, his favorite was the Joseph Fielding Smith Building (JFSB). He was surprised at the size of the BYU Bookstore and liked BYU's Museum of Art, which currently displayed Beauty and Belief, an exhibit of art from Islamic culture. When we walked outside the museum, it started raining and then we realized we were hungry, so we ordered Indian food over the phone and ran in the rain to the last building I wanted to show him (the Ezra Taft Benson building)... I wanted to show him this since he is related to President Benson several generations back.

Well, just like the entire trip, we were on a time crunch, so we picked up our Indian food, came back, ate super quickly and went to FHE (Family Home Evening, in a singles ward, is basically an assigned group of people from the ward that meets on Mondays for an activity and spiritual thought). For FHE we went and participated in a blood drive. Cameron had never given blood before... and in all, I am not sure he really liked it... but he donated it his blood in exactly 4 minutes! Pretty good time. And, because our whole group gave blood, we got free pizza and drinks!

Finally, our last stop of the day was Sub Zero ice cream! There, you can choose what percent fat of cream you want and your toppings and then watch it freeze in seconds as they spray liquid nitrogen onto it and stir your creation. Cameron thought the ice cream had an interesting texture, but he liked it. Afterwards, I dropped him off to stay the night at my brother's house.

On Tuesday morning, I came to pick him up. When I walked into my brother's house, I saw Cameron eating breakfast with my nieces and nephews. They had a blast with him and he even played tag with my nephew until it was time for us to leave. 

Our first stop of the day on Tuesday was Shoe Carnival. We got there at 9:50am, ready to look for casual shoes. When we tried to open the door, it was locked. One of the employees unlocked it and told us that the would not be open for another 10 minutes. We went to Office Depot in the mean time, then came back at 10:01am the doors were still locked, so we jetted out since A. we didn't know for sure what kind of shoes Cameron needed and B. we figured we didn't have enough time to look since we had to meet Jeffrey (my brother) at 10:45. We met Jeffrey at Jamba Juice, chatted for 40 minutes and then headed to meet with Cambron Sherman (a guy in my ward to served in Slovenia and currently teaches the language at the MTC). Cam was awesome! He showed us pictures of Slovenia, gave us a brief history of the country, told us about the members there, answered all Cameron's questions and bought us pizza to share. We had a great visit with him and it was fun that Cam ended the conversation with, "I'll see you tomorrow" to Cameron.

Then, we hung out with Cooper Howell (another former San Antonio elder) at a park in Orem. We swung on a massive swing-set and just caught up on each other's lives. Cooper was so thrilled that Cameron had chose to serve a mission. We only stayed about an hour when we realized, our time was slim and that Cameron and I needed to swiftly change into church clothes and get to Manti, Utah so we could meet another former San Antonio elder, Jeff Hertig. It took us an hour and a half to get to Manti. And the view of the temple was GORGEOUS! The temple looked like a castle on a hill and glistened in the sunlight. We walked to the front doors of the temple and saw Jeff and his two friends standing there, smiling to see us. It was a fun little reunion/meeting. The temple was packed for baptisms, but with Jeff's help, we were able to convince the temple workers to squeeze Cameron and I in to do baptisms. After that, Cameron and the guys went through a session at the temple. I got to sit outside and watch the sunset. I loved every second.

By the time the guys got out of the temple, it was 10 o'clock. Cameron and I rushed back to Provo so he could meet Jordyn, my roommate, since she had been out of town and really wanted to meet him. And then, finally, I dropped him off at my brothers around midnight. It was a long day! 

On Wednesday morning, I came to pick up Cameron for the last time. After he was all packed and did the last couple tasks he needed to at the house. As we were ready to walk out the door, I looked at the clock and saw we had one hour until he was to report to the MTC. It was at this point that he told me we still had three things to do: 1. Go buy a spiral notebook and calling card, 2. Mail a box at the post office, and 3. Take pictures before he entered into the MTC. I was super nervous that we were not going to make it in time, but luckily it everything worked out perfectly.

As we drove through the security gate to enter the MTC, we saw several smiling faces. I rolled down my window and a guard leaned in to ask Cameron, "Are you going on a mission? Congratulations, son!" 

We drove around and parked next to a sign labeled 24, where Cameron's host anxiously waited for him. We pulled out Cameron's luggage and I gave him a quick hug. Before I knew it, he was gone, walking the other way. I waved and said, "Goodbye Cameron! Good luck Elder Benson!"

Cameron is going to be an amazing missionary. It was fun to see all the people he knew the past week and hear about the impact that he had made on their lives. Everyone was really impressed with his knowledge, dedication to the gospel, his head-start learning on the Slovene language and that he had already completed three years of Architecture.

As soon as he sends out an email for the blog, I will post it. Until then, here a few photos of him leaving San Antonio and his time here in Provo.


Cameron and the car all packed. Ready to head to the airport.

Cameron with his parents before he left to Utah.

Cameron while donating blood at FHE.

Cameron. After giving blood.

The FHE group. Proud donors.

Cameron and Cooper Howell.

Jeff Hertig, Cameron and Kelly at the Manti, Utah temple.

Cameron with Hallie and Jackson (Kelly's niece and nephew) before he reported to the MTC.