Monday, December 31, 2012

Praznik week!

Lepi Prazniki prijateli in družina! (Happy Holidays friends and family!)

This week has been a bit of a slower week what with the holidays,
Christmas on Monday and Tuesday, and now New Years tonight and
tomorrow. Today is called Sylvestrovo, or the day before New Year's, and
while everything is open, it's all closing early. And tomorrow is a
prav (real) holiday in Slovenia, so no one is going to work tomorrow.

Because of the holidays, it has been a slow week. A few good meetings
with some of the people we regularly meet with, but most everyone we
know wanted to wait until after the New Year's and the holidays are
over. So this next week is going to be super busy and awesome. We are
planning on going up to a town about an hour north of Ljulbjana, like
45 minutes north of Kranj called Jesenice.

Christmas was a great day as well. Christmas Eve, Monday, we went
around Kranj with all the missionaries in Ljubljana and caroled around
to different members and people we know. Then on Christmas day, we all
met in Ljubljana and the missionary couple's apartment, the Hansons',
and had cinnamon rolls for Christmas and told stories. We then went
around to different members and people the Ljubljana missionaries knew
in Ljubljana and caroled to them, eventually ending back at the
Hansons' to open presents and letters I received, play games, and eat a
great lunch and dinner, and begin calling our families on Skype! It
was a great day.

The most miraculous day of the week was yesterday. This week, starting
on Saturday and going until tomorrow, is a big youth conference for
all the youth in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia in Ljubljana.
There were about 40 youth (12-20) there in all, and everyone was at
church. There were well over 100 people there and the meeting was all
the youth giving the talks (or in other words, sermons) and their
testimonies of the truthfulness and blessings of the restored gospel
of Jesus Christ. It was so inspirational to see so many people at
church and to hear just how strong the youth are in our mission,
especially knowing that many of them and their families found the
gospel not too long ago.

Many times, life can be hard. The youth mentioned how at times it may
feel like they are all alone in who they are, what they believe, and
the morals they stand for. But being collected, we know we are not
alone. There is a light inside each of us which shines through the
darkness around us. And when we are gathered together this small light
builds and multiplies into a great fire which cannot go out. And as we
are here in Slovenia to share, we know this light which inside all of
us will build and grow individually with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Such were Jesus' words to His followers, that ˝you are the light of
the world. A city which is set on a hill cannot be hid, neither do men
light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick and it
gives light to all in the house.˝ In this holiday season, we can be
the light to another person, and should seek to build and strengthen
our personal indivudual lights through a greater understanding of His
gospel, living that, and sharing it with those around us to build an
eternal flame in our areas which will not be put out.

Vesel Božič in Srečno novo leto!, (ja, vem da sem malo pozen, ampak
še!!!!) (Merry Christmas and Happy new year! (yes, I know that I'm a
little late, but still!!!!))

-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Growth

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

The people are starting to get busy this week in the streets of Kranj
as Christmas approaches... tonight. This week has largly been one
preparing for Christmas and contacting old people we had met before
and haven't seen much of since.

Last Thursday, we had a mission wide Christmas party in Zagreb with
all the missionaries in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia coming
together to see each other, play some games, have a white elephant gift exchange, and a
devotional. It was a great experience being able to really see for the
first time every person who is in my mission. It also really
emphacised how isolated Slovenia is from the rest of the mission.
Basically, because Serbo-Croatian and Bosnian is all the same
language, and there aren't too many visa troubles between the
countries, all the other contries move between eachother. Slovenia,
however, while the language is still quite similar, it is quite
different (especially for Serbo-Croatians understanding Slovene) and
visas for Slovenia are really difficult to get because we're a border
country of the EU. So all the Slovenes know each other and we all move
between the 4 towns in Slovenia with each other. There's a whole other
world outside of Slovenia!

But it was fantastic to see Sister Giles and Sister Compare, my MTC
sisters. It was also a fantastic spiritual and learning experience
where I learned may things regarding how I can change and be better.

Life and the gospel is a process, not a destination or things to learn
and do. Yes, the steps of our days are made up of things to learn and
do, but are not the complete whole. We never stop moving. We are
either progressing or regressing. We can not stay in a point exactly
the same. We are either being tried and tested to be able to grow
through our challenges, or we can be destructive and destroy the
progress we make, or simply sit and let the progress we have made
simply decay.

The choice of which direction we go, who we become, and how we effect
others as to who they can become, however, plays out in the quiet
corners of our minds. What do we choose to focus on? Do we nurture the
seeds of trial and growth, or water the seeds of doubt and denial?
Sometimes it may seem easier to go the way of denial and doubt, easy
only because we can do it through our own power. But when we understand
and begin to harness the power of the sacrificial atonement of Jesus
Christ, the easy way is no longer the doubt and destruction, but
instead the challenges, trials, and growth; made easy through His
strength, understanding, and love.

The easy destructive path becomes the difficult path. The difficult
beneficial path becomes the easy path.

The Christmas season can be difficult for many. But what is beneficial
for yourself and others doesn't have to be difficult. Take a step
back. Look at the eternal reasons of why you are doing what you do.
You have help greater than you can imagine avalible for you.

Vesel Božič all and srečno novo leto!

-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 17, 2012

Firewood, Food, English class, Božič

Lep pozdrav prijateli in družina!
(Beautiful greetings friends and family!)

This week has been a little bit of everything. Weather-wise (cause it
always seems like that's how I start these isn't it?) It's been all
over the place. No new snow really, but SUPER cold. One night we were
out in -15 C. Then, a few days later, it started to rain, so a lot of
the snow has melted now. And it's been relatively quite warm, which is
a nice break. I still wear my nice and warm winter European coat

And service this week! So much service. By the end of this winter, I
think I am going to be an absolute pro at chopping firewood. And when
I say that, I mean chopping firewood like the fronteirsmen did, with
an ax spliting it down the center. We cut some firewood for one of the
older ladies again in Kranj, and a person who has met a lot with the
missionaries before. So much firewood. Many things in Europe are
obviously modern, but now and again you see these glimmers of the
past. Probably becuse those things are better (and cheaper!) than the
˝modern way˝.

And if any of you had worries that I would be starving in the frozen
wilds of the west side of the alps known as Slovenia, you can have your
fears put to rest. I have been fed so much this week it's not even
funny. Most of it is interesting Slovene food. But really, Kranj is
the land of milk and honey when it comes to free meals because people
love us. Cmoki, more stews than you could describe, veineršnitzel,
potica, anchovies, more stew, it's amazing.

This week has been a fun week with a lot of visiting less active members
of the church here. Elder Bateman and I are starting one of the
members who we've met with a bunch this week to stop smoking. We have
a program where we help them be able to completely quit smoking within
one week, and we're starting this today. He's had great success with
it, and this is my first time trying it. If the person follows it
completely there's a 90-100% chance of success. Curious? Ask your
local mormon missionaries.

Also, this past week the church here in Ljubljana had the Božič
(Christmas) activity. It was a ton of fun, complete with music
(performed by members and the missionaries. Yours truly doing a jazzed
duet of Joy to the World, and bass part of a polish folk song) and
well done videos of the birth of Jesus. I baked little miniature
pumpkin pies (exotic for Slovenes since they don't have pie like we do
in America. Really, they have never ever seen pumpkin or apple pie
before), and there were all kinds of delicious desserts.

Three of our English class students came to the activity and had a ton
of fun. They really enjoyed the program, even with its religious
content. We are now going to have a discussion with all of them this
week on the gospel. We'll see where this goes. English class ended as
the Christmas season is beginning this last week. We'll start it again
in January (after everyone makes new years resolutions to learn
English!!) It is a lot of fun and we both learn a lot.

One of the things which really surprised me here in Slovenia, however,
is how few people know the origin of Christmas is related to the
birth of Christ. This season is a time to be with family, and enjoy
the most valuable relationships we have here on earth, and feel the
love of one another. And also to recognize that this love and these
relationships do not have to end in this life. That because Jesus was
given for us, because of the love our Heavenly Father (God) has for
us, we can overcome death, both spiritual and physical. (John 3:16)
With the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us, we
can live in peace and free of the guilt, sorrow, and pain this world
can give us, both now and for eternity. This is our message, and the
reality of the work we share because we have experienced it.

I wish everyone a merry Christmas!! No promises on an email next week
as it will be Christmas eve which is a holiday in Slovenia, and
computers may be impossible to get to. But still. Merry Christmas and
Peace and happiness!!

-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 10, 2012

CRAZY CHANGES and more... snow...

Hey everyone over in the warm world of America.

This week has definitely been one of the craziest weeks so far. The
unimportant news is that it snowed again, and a lot more than it did
back in that freak October snow storm or whenever that was. It started
Friday night, and snowed for probably like 12 hours slowly. We got
what looks like on like 9˝ to a foot of snow? Something like that. And
the real fluffy snow too, not the frozen snow that's easy to walk on.
The weather has been somewhere between below freezing and just above
for the past week. The coldest I think was -9 Celcius, warmest...
maybe 6 Celcius? There's no fahrenheit here so I have no idea what
that would be... except cold and below freezing. But since Saturday,
it's been sunny even if not really all that warm outside.

The Christmas lights in the centers of Ljubljana and Kranj have light
up. Last Monday, we went to the lighting ceremony in Ljubljana and saw more Slovenes than you would ever see at one place at one time. Then on... Tuesday evening maybe.. they had the lighting
ceremony in Kranj center, just so happened as Elder Hardy and I were
walking though. We looked around wondering why are there so many
people?!?! And then we found out. It was interesting. Complete with a
catholic priest blessing the Christmas tree, childern playing
harmonica and accordion music, and Sveta Niklauša comming (Saint
Nicholas, so Santa and Saint Nicholas are two totally different
people here with two different times for arriving). But now it's
really pretty, what with the snow and the lights and now its been
super clear the last few days, the mountains in the background
covered in snow.

But the most exiting thing to happen this week is.... I have a new
companion. It took everyone by surprise, and still no one is really
sure why it happened. President called Elder Hardy and I on Wednesday
morning to tell us that Elder Hardy is going down to Ljubljana, I'm
staying in Kranj, and one of the Elders in Ljubljana, Elder Bateman,
is coming up to Kranj. With that change I also became district leader
of the missionaries in Ljubljana and Kranj... all 6 of us. It's
outside the transfer week, which was about 3 weeks ago, so no one was
expecting it. But it is a refereshing change. It's super nice doing
work with a different person who has a different outlook on the work.

Elder Bateman is from Vancouver, Canada, and now, besides Elder
Burdette, is the youngest missionary in the mission age-wise, but is
the 2nd oldest missionary here in terms of being in Slovenia. He
actually first served in Kranj as his first area as the last
missionary before president closed Kranj. Then he went to Maribore for
8 months, Ljubljana for 4, and now back. Fun fact: Age-wise, I am the
oldest missionary Elder (boy) in Slovenia now. Of course, I'm still
younger than most all the sisters, but give them some time and they
will be gone before too long.

This week has largly been a transition week with the exchange. One of
the successes we had however in the beginning is one of our older lady
people we visit, the one I had a really hard time understanding before, is finally progressing in the gospel. We challenged her last
week to try an experiment, to 1) ponder a question, 2) Pray about it
to God, then 3) To read the Book of Mormon to then 4) receive her
answer. She did it, and after talking about it for a moment, she
realized herself that God had answered the question and concern she
had expressed to Him. She said she would try the same experiment again
this week with another, more specific question.

In my life, I have seen how the scriptures, both the Bible and the
Book of Mormon, are more than just books to read with information, but
rather that the words are, to put it in a metaphoical way, alive. They
are a means God uses to comunicate to us, through His word and spirit,
to address the concerns and challenges we have in our lives, whether
they be spiritual or even physical. God has all knowledge, knows all
truth, and knows what is best for us and how we can be most happy.
Whether the question is about what is the true path back to God and
salvation? (because millions of people say they have the way,
contradictoray to another). How can I be more happy? How can I have
better relationships with my friends/family? Should I really take this
job? They are all important to Him and He wants to help us, and will,
through communication to us, or personal revelation. Prayer and
reading the scriptures are all methods, and that is part of what I do
here. To help people have these spiritual experiences and communication
with God, because it has been such a blessing in my life. And as we
have these experiences, we gain a sure knowledge of where we should go
and what we should do, both now, in the future, and for eternity.

I pray everyone is safe this week. Enjoy Christmas as it fast approaches!

-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas and Comfort

Heyo F+F! (Fam & Friends),

Hope all is well and warm back home. The weather here has been slowly getting colder and colder every day until it finally snowed again yesterday. It was the first time it's snowed since the freak snow storm back in.. October? Thankfully this time I am more prepared for the winter now and am fully outfitted with a winter coat, scarf, gloves and cap. But snow is here, and so are the lights in the cities! Tonight is the first night where the lights turn on, and everyone is having a big party supposedly in town, especially Ljubljana to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. Before now, there hasn't really been many signs of Christmas. Slovenes don't really start Christmas in November since they don't have Thanksgiving to kick it off from.

This week has been an interesting week. English class has been really fun. I've finally gotten into the routine of how to effectively do it, and one of my students is interested in the gospel. Every time we talk about some topic in English. Some of the topics of the past are: What is your favorite holiday? What fables did you grown up listening to? What is your favorite foods? It's been a great opportunity to really learn the culture too. Last week, I brought some homemade pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving from my mom's recipe and everyone was super excited and interested. They don't have pie like we do in America, so it was a new dessert none of them had ever tried before.

This week, we also reached out to a member who has been stuck in a nursing home for months and months. Very few people have reached out to her, and she has fears of what is next. It was a great opportunity to be able to go visit her and comfort her soul with the truthful peace that comes with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and the greater peace she can achieve through living the gospel. To visit her and be only a poor similitude of the love Christ has for her was humbling to know that I am being given this chance and time to bring people's souls to peace.

Also, we had an... interesting, if not a little crazy, discussion with our great legenda who knows it is time to return to the fold. We learned she is not particularly keen on returning to reading from the scriptures, believing she already had them as a part of her heart (she said she's read the Book of Mormon over ten times). The plan of the things we wanted to talk about almost immediatly dissolved and the Spirit of the Lord took control. I was reminded of an experience I had had in the MTC, when I was in a particular low of if I could really do this. Could I really learn a second language that is night and day difference from English? Can I really teach people to bring them to Christ? What am I doing? Going off for two years to the middle of a foreign country to say things no one really wants to accept. And then I was reading in my scriptures through this, in Alma 45:2-8, and the words began to talk directly to me. I likened the words to myself, and God spoke directly to me. The name ˝Alma˝ changed to the name of the person who taught me the gospel, and it became, ˝And (Elder Hertig) said again; Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who (came)? And (I) said; Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken. And (Elder Hertig) said unto (me) again: Will ye keep (His) commandments? And (I) said: Yea, I will keep the commandments with all my heart. Then (Elder Hertig) said unto (me): Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.˝ From that moment, I was filled with a peace and power that words can't describe from God, and was given the confidence and comfort to continue, many steps and days later, to where I am today. She, and her friend who was there felt the Spirit, and committed to read the scriptures.

I know the power the scriptures have given me in my life. More than just knowledge, but peace and power in this life as well. The blessings are undeniable. They are from God, and will bless every person who reads them with a sincere heart desiring to know God and build a relationship with Him.

I pray everyone is safe and happy this Christmas season! I just got a TON of letters yesterday, so combined with Christmas gifts, mail should start rolling out before too long.

Much Love and Care,
Starešina Benson