Monday, September 24, 2012

Živijo from Beautiful Slovenija

Hey all family and friends!!

Home all is well on the home front in America! I arrived in Zagreb
after a very long flight from Chicago to Zurich, to Zagreb where I met
my mission president, President Rowe and his wife, and a few other
missionaries here in the mission.

It was an interesting first day. We had introductions, met, and ended up in President Rowe's house for the night, having an amazing meal Sister Rowe cooked and sleeping in the little girl's room for the night. He has a great family. two little girls (I'm guessing probably about 8, 10ish years old?) and three sons (two I'd guess in their like 13-17's and another who wasn't there, but I'd guess he is like 10ish?) Super nice family! We got to
sleep in that night until 8:30am! Before President came in and woke us up. We had a meeting that morning and then my new companion and I took the train off to Slovenia!

So on the way out of the mission home (President's home), we got our
assigned areas and new companion. I'm with Elder Hardy who is super
cool. He's from Boston sort of (and Toronto, France, but Boston is the
simplest answer) and has been in Slovenia for around a year. I'm so
glad he's been here for a while so he can speak the language. The MTC
definitely prepared me to speak, but understanding is a TOTALLY
different experience! I'm glad I did all I could from the MTC to learn
the language cause otherwise I would probably be totally lost. Trying
to understand what everyone says can be a real challenge sometimes,
but I can cope. At least I can say what I know fairly well and am
easily understood when I don't butcher the words or make a silly word
mistake So... side story, yesterday at church, the branch president
(Pastor basically) asked me to introduce myself for five or so
minutes. In that I said, "Jaz sem smešen biti tukaj", meaning to say
"Jaz sem srečno biti tukaj". Meaning: I am funny to be here vs. I am
happy to be here. Oops!!!. But I am very grateful Elder Hardy can
really speak the language well. I would be so lost without him

So I am currently in the city (town really, not THAT big) of Kranj,
about thirty minutes northwest of the capital Ljubljana. we're
reopening Kranj. There haven't been any missionaries in Kranj from
about a year. It's a super quaint little place. Very European. Just to
the South east of the Gillian Alps, and to the south of the mountains
bordering Austria. You can see the mountains really well in many
places in town, but I haven't taken any pictures yet. Sorry!! Next
week! :-/ There is snow now on the mountains though, and is quite
cool for what I'm used to. Elder Hardy said this is the coolest town
in all Slovenia because it is the closest to the mountains. Elder
Burdette by the way, went off to Maribor in the northwest corner of
Slovenia, really really close to the Austrian border.

So some interesting things about Slovenia and the people here. there
is no central air systems. At all. Meaning no air conditioning, or
heating systems. Everyone has radiators here, but no one has turned
any of them on yet since it's still in the 60's ish. Winter is going
to be interesting. take the guy who's never lived in snow and starts
to get really cold below 70 degrees and put him where it gets really
cold in the winter. Oh well. I'll survive. I'm going to go buy some
winter clothes later today. Kaj še.. what else.. So everyone has a
garden here! it's awesome. All the apple trees in everyones' front
yards have apples. And the juice and bread here is amazing! I haven't
run into any really weird food yet. I had a strudle yesterday at church
that I couldn't figure out what it was, but i still sort of knew what
it was. and some Serbian food a few days ago, but that was more like
fried bread with sausage in it. delicious, if not healthy. Also, I've
come to the conclusion a few days ago that I like Slovenes a lot more
than Americans. they're a lot nicer, almost everyone you walk past on
the streets says something like Živijo (Hello), and they're all just
really polite. And direct. My kind of people!

So really amazing story from Wednesday, my first day here in Kranj.
Because we're opening the area, we had no appointments. just because
there haven't been missionaries here though doesn't mean people don't
know us. We had a few people want to talk with us because they
recognized us and haven't talked to us in a long time. But my first
day, great intro to Slovenia. we get to Kranj (A older missionary
couple serving in Ljubljana drove us up from the train the Ljubljana),
get groceries, and find a house someone wanted us to go visit. It
starts to rain. A lot. And it's cold. We get to their house
(navigating by map since this is Elder Hardy's first time in Kranj too)
and no one is home. So we head back to check out a room we have in the
one skyscraper in town, close to home. we come back outside after
checking the room and Elder Hardy asks which blok (apartment complex)
we should go visit. I point to one across the street. It's really
started to pour now. We get there, and start from the top door. The
first door we knock on opens. We (by that I mean elder hardy in
Slovene) says a statement about a small portion of our message and the
guy who opened the door is interested. His name is Andre and we had a
great lesson with him. he speaks great English, but as with most
people here, much prefers to speak in Slovene. It was a great tender
mercy from the Lord to introduce me to the work through that. I mean
what are the chances? first door knocked on in Kranj is a lesson. It's
as if the people here are finding us to talk to instead of the other
way around. We have a lot scheduled to do this week so it's really

Hope all is well on the hope front. We have District conference here
(all the churches have a single church meeting from across Slovenia)
next Sunday in Ljubljana, and then we have general conference (World
wide church meetings) the next Sunday, so the Sundays will be super
busy too. sorry about the no pictures, I will fix that next week!!
Mail might take a little to get to me but I promise to write back.

Hope all is well!
-Starešina Benson

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Safe in Zagreb

Dravo friends and family!
Hope all is well back home! I had a nice little 25 hour flight to Zagreb and I am here in the mission office in Zagreb. I should find out who my new companion is tomorrow, and where I should be for the next little bit... exciting!!
So to briefly fill you in on what has happened since the last week. we finished our last week in the MTC, said goodbyes, had two new districts come into our branch to pass leadership off to, and then headed to the airport on the way to Zagreb. Met a ton of people on the way here, an awesome hippyish-hipsterish girl in the Chicago airport, a man from Czechoslovakia on the flight to Zagreb. And then here in Zagreb, we just had lunch and then an assistant to the president, Elder Bishop and I, went out to talk to people on the street. Awesome people. The place is amazing! They don't seem to be big fans of air conditioning, but then again it's fine. The mission office is in the city center with all these old buildings around (it is actually in an old building). It's amazing how many people here can speak English! Pretty much every person we talked to could speak English. Some better than others, but that is good. The food is amazing here too, the one meal I've had. The juice. Oh man.
Not a lot else to report. I'm alive here in the middle of southern Europe now. All is well.
-Elder Benson

Elder Benson with President and Sister Rowe

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lepo se Imaj Amerika

Hey all friends and fam!

How's life going on? It's getting cooler here in Utah and still hot in the day and dryer than the inside of a toaster. But you know what? That doesn't matter much anymore! Why? Because I'm leaving in less than a week!!!!! Woooo hooo!!!!!

So the four of us going to the North Adriatic (my district) got our travel plans last Thursday!! Here's the scoop: We report to the travel office on campus at 8:00 a.m. (yay for not having to wake up earlier than normal!... we always wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day), then our flight leaves SLC at 11 a.m. for Chicago. One time zone and three hours later, we arrive at 3pm Chicago time. Thennnnn we leave Chicago at 5:45 p.m. to fly through seven time zones and arrive in Munich Germany at 9:50 a.m. German time!! (you can do the math on the flying time. All I know is it's just A LOT... then we have a nice little hourish layover until we leave at 11:30 a.m. to make the comfy hour flight to Zagreb Croatia landing around 12:40 p.m.! to be picked up by the Mission President, and probably sleep for a billion hours trying to catch up on losing 8 hours of time. Yeah, we arrive just before 1 p.m. Zagreb time, feels like just before 5 a.m. to our bodies. THAT will be fun!!!......

But really, I'm so super excited to leave! This is what I've been waiting for! The opportunity to go to Slovenia to meet the people being prepared to meet me, and having the chance to get to know them, hear about their lives, and help them. The language has been better and better. At this point, it's all kind of just learning more and more words until I know enough, and applying grammar principles. I'm still probably not going to know a single word anyone says to me the first week, and everyone will probably be asking me to repeat a million times, but that's ok!!! I can learn quickly! And I'll have a new companion who's been there a while, knows what he's doing (hopefully), and is fluent to correct the language mistakes I've made.

But what does all of this mean? This means letters have a much smaller chance to make it to me before I leave next Monday (start using the Croatia address hint hint ;-) ) AAAAnd it means the letters I send back to ya'll will now have fancy Slovene postmarks and stamps on them!

Regardless, time at the MTC however has been amazing. I have grown and learned so much about who I am, what I have the potential to become and learn and do, and about the eternal truths the soul craves. Everything which is good comes from God. (Alma 5:40) We are often passively led by God to do good. I would encourage everyone to take a look at this short youtube series here on light by Elder Bednar. It explains what I just said far more clearly than I ever could.

If nothing else, know this. I know that God is real Jesus Christ lives and the same doctrine (or light/truth) and church Jesus established and taught in the New Testament is restored and on the Earth today, whom He leads.
Hope all is doing well. Not sure if I'll have an email next week or not, but expect not.
Hear from ya'll soon from across the pond!!

-Starešina Benson

Monday, September 3, 2012

Initiate Coundown!

Hey all friends and family!!

Hope all is well this Labor day weekend! See, I'm not that isolated from the world. I still know it's Labor day. :-p Mainly because I don't receive any letters today since the post office is closed though. But anyways, life is going great here at the MTC. My tiny district is officially on the final stretch before heading out to the mission field iiiiiiiiiiin TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY!!!!!!!!!! That means that next week's email will be the last letter sent from the states barring anything that has drastically changed. Who knows, the Turks who were on our floor were reassigned to NYC Turkish speaking for like 6 months before going to Turkey. Also, that means if you want to send me a package of any kind, you are quickly running out of time before packages go from $10 to $50, and letters go from 50 cents to a dollar.

But those are simply silly details. The best part of the mission is about to start! Getting to meet the Slovene people and giving them the opportunity to find an infinite amount of happiness and the freedom from guilt and pain of past actions. It's amazing how much love I already have for these people even though I haven't met a single one of them. Part of it is probably a part of my call, and another is probably a small portion of the infinite love our Heavenly Father has for them. I simply can't wait to go and experience them!!! Yes, the MTC here in Utah has been great, but nothing could compare to the actual experience and people.

So cool experience this week. On the first day of new missionaries arriving to the MTC, they go through an interesting introduction to teaching. Thirty or so missionaries are put into a room together with a person who wants to hear the gospel, and they have to "try" group teaching that person one at a time (emphasis on try). It's interesting. But to start it off, they have a companionship that has been here for a while and are quite good at starting conversations and teaching to lead the newbies into it. Elder Burdette and I were asked to do this this Wednesday! It's super exciting, terrifying, and humbling that our teachers would recommend us for that, and that they would pick us for it. We get a special training for it tonight, and will let ya'll know how it goes next week.

Also, we had a widow named Sister Madsen come and talk to our tiny district going to Slovenia and Croatia Tuesday. She was amazing! Her and her husband Truman Madsen were good friends with former Croatian basketball player Krešmir 
Ćosić. They were a significant part of his discovering the gospel. After Krešmir joined the church, he wanted so badly to share it with his countrymen in then Yugoslavia, and so basically founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day-Saints in then Communist Yugoslavia. She shared her experience with him there and since his passing, and the work going on there now.

I will be blunt from what she said. There are miracles happening there right now. Where before only some 60 people were accepting the gospel a year in the whole mission area, in the past 6 or so months, there has been an explosion of people coming to know Jesus Christ. What was once 60 baptisms a year is now like 60 baptisms in 3 months. The work there is exploding, and I am going to be a part of it!

I know if I have faith that I can be effective and CHOOSE to be a useful tool in the Lord's hands in building His kingdom on Earth, I can and will be. We each have this choice. Will we reject what we hear and say around us, or actually put it to the test? Experiment if it is true? No results are had without trying. And I know this Restored Gospel is true. I know because I tested it, initially to prove it wrong, but still gave it a fair chance, and it has changed my life in every facet to be a better, stronger, and most importantly happier person. But these are only the physical blessings. Spiritual blessings beyond description and imagine are attainable. I encourage everyone to have faith and test truth where it is offered. If it brings forth good works, it is good and true (Matthew 7:13-19).

I hope all is going well at home. Hope to hear from you soon before I leave the States.

Best Wishes - Starešina Benson

P.S. Here's my new address for when I'm in Slovenia. Since I'm only two weeks out, figure it's good to have now. Will probably take a little longer to receive and get back, but could be worse, like somewhere in South America.

Elder Cameron Benson
Adriatic North Mission
Crkva Isusa Krista Svetaca
Posljednjh Dana, Svačicev Trg 3/1
10000 Zagreb