Monday, November 26, 2012

Čudno Teden & Arkitekturo

Strange week.

Really really strange week. but no French... sort of... yet... This
week started with the first transfer of my mission. Surprise! Nothing
changed. Elder Hardy is still my companion and we're still in Kranj.
The only thing that really changed in the Ljubljana/Kranj area is one
of the sisters, Sister Gullo, in Ljubljana moved to a town called
Celje half way up Slovenia to the Northeast. So Sister Ary who was in
Celje is now in Ljubljana. But ultimately not a lot changed. Next
transfer though, in two more months, Pretty much everyone is
predicting Elder hardy to go down to Ljubljana and I'll either be back
with Elder Burdette or be training a new missionary in Kranj. Not that
I mind, I absolutely love Kranj. Language would be something
interesting, but I'm working hard to prepare myself for something like
that. But it's all speculation. We'll all have to wait until the
middle of January to find that out. :-)

Thanksgiving here in Slovenia was awesome as well! Of course, Slovenes
don't celebrate Thanksgiving, they hardly even know about it. When we
mentioned it was Thanksgiving today (like to my English class) every
one asked, but isn't there a big holiday on July 4th?.... Yes, but

So all the missionaries in Kranj, Ljubljana, and the sisters from
Celje all came and was had a big Thanksgiving lunch in the church
building. I cooked my mom's homemade pumpkin pie (hoorah for bringing the recipe with me from the states!) from this massive 17 pound half pumpkin I got from the sisters who got it from one of their english class students. I'm practically drowning in pumpkin puree right now.

But there was turkey (not a full one though, can't find those in
Slovenia), sweet potato casserole, salad, rolls, stuffing, practically
a full good thanksgiving. Then one of the Elders in Ljubljana made a
big murder mystery to solve over lunch. It was super awesome,
basically an alternate reality where one of us at the table killed him
and was have to figure out which one of us it was. Clues were left
around the church to find and some people randomly were given clues.
You really wouldn't have any idea how aggressive some of us can get
until it's a competition to see who can get that one vital clue that you know one of the other missionaries has.

Then, the next day, we had a weird convoluted exchange, where Elder
Grover who usually serves in Ljubljana was my companion for a few
days, then Elder Hardy went up to Maribor to be Elder Burdette's
companion for a few days. Was really strange. But we had a baptism on Saturday! This man the Ljubljana elders have been teaching was baptized and it was an amazing experience. Sister
Ary and I did a duet of ˝Vem da Odrešenik Živi˝ (I Know that my
Redeemer Lives) for the service, which was interesting but amazing with ~30 minutes to prepare/practice.

And then on Sunday, all the elders in Ljubljana drove up to Maribor to
end the exchange. So I have now basically driven through all of
Slovenia, and seen Celje and Maribor. And so we are today.

But this week, we taught this man who had met with missionaries a lot
before. One of his missionaries was actually Brother Sherman, one of
my Slovene teachers in the MTC. He is super prepared. We basically
rediscussed with him the restoration and asked him his relationship
with Christ. He said Christ has been there for his so much, and He has
ultimately saved his life. We discussed getting answers from God
regarding anything, whether life troubles or questions of what is
truth and he said God has spoken to him many times. We finally
discussed what it would mean if our message was true, if the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was Christ's church, and he said ˝I
know it is true˝. A little surprised we asked how he knew and he
answered, ˝Because I know Jesus and He told me it's true.˝

As we were leaving he mentioned to us that us reappearing to him was a
sign from God, that he hadn't been thinking of Christ for a long time, and had begun smoking again recently after God and Elder Sherman
had helped him quit. But now that was have returned, that was are a
sign from God that the time has come to once again refocus his life on
what is important and to quit again.

We can all be messengers of God. Just because you don't do what I do
full time in reaching out to people as a set apart, full time representative of Jesus Christ doesn't mean God can't use you to help others in bringing to pass His will. Something I have come to realize in the last few months is that God is one of the greatest architects
ever. However, He is not the architect of buildings, but the architect of
people. We are all influencing each other in a grand masterpiece we
can't begin to comprehend, and slowly bringing to pass His ultimate
goal and His glory, our enternal happiness through eternal life. And
why does He do all this? Because He loves us. Because He has already
sacrificed and paid the ultimate price for us. And now we just need to
bring the final pieces together to complete His purposes. This is my
work. And thus is the work of all those around us.

I pray everyone is and will be safe as the Christmas season starts.
Lights are going up in the city centers now. It's going to be

Much care!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, November 19, 2012

And if you thought last week was amazing...

This week has been even more so!

This last Wednesday, we had a whole Zone meeting in Ljubljana with President Rowe, so all the missionaries in Slovenia were down for that. It was a great meeting, where we discussed explaining simply our purpose as missionaries, the meaning and importance of baptism, and how all of that relates to missionary work.

Then, that night we got back to Kranj and went back by our wonderful Legenda who wants to return and her friend. They were tired after work, but were excited to see us. We began discussing the restoration of the fullness of the gospel and she runs out and grabs a whole other stack of memories to review as we discuss Christ's ministry, the great apostasy (or, in Slovene, the great fall) of the early church, and the restoration of Christ's full gospel, with her friend. At the end of it, we discussed baptism a little and what it means, and he committed to being baptized in December if God confirms to him what we share is true! It's so exciting to see the faith of other people as they begin to rely more and more on the Lord for understanding as to what to do in their lives. I know from experience this direction leads to far better paths than we could do on our own.

Then, the next day, we went to go cut more firewood for one of our older member ladies in Kranj. Afterwards we had lunch (she always serves interesting food. It's not bad usually, just interesting. Gorjenska, the name of the state Kranj is in, farm food. Hardy, filling, and quite... interesting.) and a short lesson about missionary work as we had learned the day before from President Rowe.

About probably 7/8 through, her doorbell rings though, and she says, ˝Oh! My friend is here. I don't think she's really interested, but we can try doing a little missionary work still.˝ About five minutes later, her friend comes in an begins a large gospel discussion with us. Since, her friend has agreed to meet with us again and to see for herself if our message is true. Absolutely amazing how much the Lord softens others hearts if they are introduced to the gospel through a friend and not some strange foreign kids wearing white shirts and ties on the street.

Then the next day (yeah that's right, this is all in the space of day by day). We had been trying to get in contact with a person who had met with missionaries before in the past, but lives in the absolute middle of nowhere mountain Slovenia. We finally got in contact with him, and made it out by a series of bus transfers and him picking us up in a small town to get to his place. He's a super awesome guy. An amazing musician, has had his own band, and can learn a song in probably 5 minutes of playing it, and is almost building his own house by himself, is super prepared through past spiritual experiences to receive the gospel. The only big problem really is he lives in the middle of nowhere. And so, after a great (and long) visit, we had to get back close to Kranj to meet with a member family. Problem? the last bus left 10 minutes ago, and there won't be another for 3 hours.

There... might... have been hitchhiking involved... from a former

Missionary English class student....

Also! English class was started this week. We have about 10-15 students, a majority older women, all sincerely wanting to learn English to be able to use it in America. I am teaching the middle and advanced classes, and so my lessons have mostly involved having discussions about a variety of topics in English. It's quite fun though, and am looking forward to each class.

Possible highlights for next week? Thanksgiving of course, and... French in Slovenia? We'll see. Also, today is transfers. Elder Hardy and I are staying in Kranj for another two months. Elder Burdette's companion up in Maribor is finishing his two year mission today, and so he will have a new companion, and because we will have an odd number of missionaries in Slovenia, a Croatian missionary is coming up. We'll see how well that works with the language. The only change in the Ljubljana missionaries, is one of the sisters is exchanging with a sister in Celje. And that is all.

I hope everyone has a fantastic, safe, Thanksgiving week full of turkey and thankfulness.

Much love

-Starešina Benson

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blessings, Albanians, German Service & an Exchange, and The Return of a Legenda?

Hello all family and friends!!!

This week has been a fairly spicy week, event-wise, capped off with the
most amaying experience of my whole time serving last night.

Weather's quite mellow and damp too, but unimportant.

So!! First. Wednesday! Having a lesson we had fall through, we went to
go visit an elderly članica (member lady) nearby with another member
we were intending to bring to the lesson. First of, this lady is
absolutely amazing. She joined the restored gospel about two years ago
at the age of 80. She is probably the sweetest, kindest person I have
ever met in my entire life. Anyways, on Dan Mrtve, she went to her
home town, a small town in the northeast end of Slovenia, to go
visit her ancestors' graves. While there, she fell and broke her arm!
She's since had a little trouble getting around, and so we went by to
offer her help and a blessing, which she warmly received.

After the visit, Elder Hardy and I decided to go door to door for a
little bit before heading home for the night. We went to a blok in the
northern end of Kranj we had peppered with English class fliers the
week before. (Or two weeks? I don't know. Time is all a blur). Going
into this really large, tall blok, we take the elevator to the top to
begin working down and we knock on the first door. A lady probably in
her late 20's opens the door and as we begin speaking, she
stops us and says, "wait." She goes to get a man (her husband) and we're
thinking like, ˝oh no.˝ When he comes to the door he looks at us,
instantly smiles before we say a word, and says, ˝Notre! Notre!˝
(Meaning Inside! Inside!)

We slowly walk into the living room, a little confused and cautious,
and we're invited to sit at a table. It was so eerie, like they were
expecting us. We quickly find out however, that none of them can speak
Slovene. Problem. We soon discover the three people home are all
Albanian, the husband can speak Serbo-Croatian (which is how we knew
to come inside, we can understand him but he can't understand us very
easily), and the wife who opened the door can randomly speak Spanish.
Thankfully, Elder Hardy can speak Spanish (studied it for 7 years in
school), and so we work through her, speaking Spanish to her where she
then translates into Albanian (Which is nothing like Slovene). And so,
after explaining who we are and why we're here, the husband starts
going on a rant on how great America is in Serbo-Croatian. ultimately,
we're invited back when we have time in the evening. Even though
they're all Muslim, as he said, Jesus is God, or Allah, so it's all
the same.

The next day we had the English class sign up day (~12 solid people,
plus a few more friends they might bring, we start tomorrow
afternoon), we had what's called exchanges. Basically, one of the
Elders from Ljubljana named Elder Grover came up to Kranj for the day
to be my companion while Elder Hardy went down to Ljubljana for the
day. It was an intersting day having a companion with a different
teaching style and... living style and sense of humor, but was
ultimately fun.

We recontacted an older member who looked into the gospel for a long
time but was ultimately never baptized. Her husband is German and
apparently can't speak hardly any Slovene, so that would be
interesting. So we went by and she opened the door. She said her
husband has been having issues (they are older) and was in Germany
right now and she was planning on going up to be with him Wednesday.
Either way, we offered if she needed any help or service and she said
to come back the next day at 11am. Returning, we helped her move all
of her plants and lawn furniture into her cellar for the winter before
she returned to Germany. She is super sweet and kind. She has had A
LOT of friendships with missionaries and even the Mission President,
and made us lunch afterwards (most amazing potatoes I have ever
eaten!) After she said there's a chance she may not go back to
Germany, but we have her number, so we'll see what happens. Either
way, it was a great opportunity to help her.

Lastly, the greatest miracle of them all. for a few weeks now, we've
been trying to get in contact with an inactive member in Kranj, but
each time we've been by, her son answers the door and says she was
resting. Our faith in her was starting to wear thin, but from what we
heard about her, she was awesome! (Former black belt, hilarious, (Jaz
sem anti-krist contact). So, we tried again to contact her last
night. We ring, the light turns on, we see someone look in, hear
someone leave, then come back with the keys and this good middle aged
lady opens the door. We start talking, asking to make sure this is the
right place and who we are and she suddenly just says in English,
˝Take it easy!˝. She goes, runs to put on a robe, stands in the door,
smiles, and says, "come on in!"

We sit down at her kitchen table, and there's a picture of a temple on
the wall. hmmm... cool... She then tells us these amazing spitirual
experiences shes had, good friends she made, her baptism experience
(and the records she still has of it), and brings out an old Croatian
Book of Mormon (they used the Croatian translation before there was a
Slovene version 10 years ago), shares more spiritual experiences shes
had, and is just pure awesome and funny. When asked how her
experiences were, she thought for maybe 30 seconds of silence
then bursts out in English, ˝Glorious!˝ Ultimately, we asked her if she
would like to return to church and she sits and thinks for a moment,
and muttering under her breath in English (she didn't speak a lot of
English by the way) she said, ˝yes, it is time... to return.˝ The
catch to returning Sunday? We have to drive with her to show her where
the church is. The problem? We need another man with us for safetly
and mission rules. The fix? She calls a friend she has over in the
other room in, (mind he's never had any experience with missionaries,
doesn't really know who we are) and practically tells him they're
going to church together Sunday and he's like, ˝Ok.˝ Super!!

She is super awesome. She was super prepared to return, just needed
someone to visit with her, remind her, and bring the Spirit and God
does all the work. That and her friend might also be prepared to
receive the gospel as well. Simply goes to show when you put yourself
out there and act as a representative of the Lord as we are doing (and
as all do as home teachers and visiting teachers in the church), in
faith, miracles happen.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and His work is going forward. Let
us all join in of this great labor and not get left behind.

Until next week friends and fam!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Week of Fliers and Tongues

Živijo Family and Friends!

All is well and a bit wet here in Slovenia. The weather has been a
little bit of everything (I seem to talk a lot about the weather, don't
I?) It started this week with the remnants of the snow, being really
cold, then we had one or two quite comfortable days, then back to
freezing, and now it's somewhere between comfortable and cold and
pouring rain. The snow is all gone (for now). It stayed on the ground
a bit longer in Kranj than it did in Ljubljana, a few days worth, but
then again Kranj is higher up. I guess we got maybe 3 inches here? One
of the people we've been wanting to go visit who lives up in the
mountains said they got a meter of snow though!

The last weekend, as expected, was slower because of the holiday. We
spent halloween and dan mrtve going around the bloks (basically small
highrise apartment buildings, they don't have apartments like in
America) placing fliers in mailboxes advertising the beginning of free
English class. It was a good use of time I think though. We didn't
disturb anyone on their holiday, and now we have the sign up day for
this Thursday! We'll see what happens.

We also have a new person we're meeting with up in Bled, which is the
big tourist place in Slovenia. I included a picture of the grad
(castle) and church on the cliff over lake Bled last week. We should
hopefully be going up there more often to meet with him, (like

So. The gift of tongues is real. Truth. How else could I have spurts
of near fluency in Slovene after only being here for a month? Also, I had
really cool experience this week. We meet with an older lady in
Kranj every week. The problem for me however, is that the older people
have a much thicker accent and are really hard to understand
typically. This can be a problem. That and this lady likes to talk, a
lot, a lot, and about random things (like mice infestations in
Slovenia, true story). This last week we met with her on Friday and
the discussion began as usual, understanding some, maybe 20%, and then
suddenly, something happened, it's hard to describe, like something
moved in my mind and a warm feeling and I could understand pretty much
everything she was saying. It stayed like that for the rest of the 45
or so minutes we continued to talk. Soon after it was over though, I
was back to where I had been before, asking people to repeat what they
said so I can understand them.

It truly is amazing reflecting how far I have come with the language.
One or two people have actually asked me where in Slovenia I'm from.
When I tell them I've only been here for a month they are amazed at
how well I can speak. Hard work is a part of it, yes. But with faith,
God provides the rest of what's needed. Our needs can be fulfilled,
despite how impossible they might seem, if we simply act in faith
believing it can be done. If you don't, it is near guaranteed that it
will not happen. Such is life, and even more so is missionary work.

Hope all is well at home and everyone had a great and safe halloween.

Much care,
-Starešina Benson

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Elder Benson sent new pictures!


Bled castle and church

View of Kranj