Monday, January 28, 2013

Insane Week and the Beginning of Training!

Hey all friends and family!!

Hope all is well back home in the warmer states (especially Texas).
High's in the 70's? That's just weather I dream of right now.

This week has been a bit of insanity, but has gone by super fast and
already last Monday feels like ages ago. Of course last Monday I was
still companions with Elder Bateman before his death to all the
Slovene missionaries with his defection to Croatia. We spent the whole
day running around different government buildings in Ljubljana trying
to get him deregistered from Slovenia so he would be able to get a
Croatian visa. Then once we had it all done some 5 hours later, we ran
to Celje on a train to spend the last few hours of p-day with all the
other missionaries in Slovenia. We were there for an hour or so, but
it was great to see everyone.

Then super early Tuesday morning at 5:40 we were on a train to Zagreb.
The new missionaries arrived at around 11:50, but didn't actually come
to the mission office where I was helping for the day, doing some odd
jobs for the office couple and Zagreb missionaries until about 3. We
then went out with them to do a little intro to missionary work talking
to people on the street before heading out and doing some missionary
work in Zagreb with a Croatian missionary. The language from Croatia
to Slovene is hard. Even if I spoke perfect Slovene, there was still
only like a 50% chance the people would understand me.

The next day, Wednesday, I found out who my new companion was!! All
day we had a training conference with President so we were in the
Zagreb chapel from early in the morning until about 5 pm. We then had
to catch our train to Ljubljana at 6, and then head back to Kranj that
night, arriving home around 9:30 pm.

Slept well that night after all the travel and earlier than normal
mornings, and then back to work!! We had a bunch of lessons packed
into this week, having to compress a 5-6 ish day work week into 3
days. But it was a really effective week. We had our first English
class that Thursday evening, and a few dinners with the people we met
with. I don't mind if I don't eat again for a few days. So much

We also had one of the first people we meet with come to church on
Sunday as well!! She is a friend of a member here and is incredibly
outgoing and nice. In Kranj, it can be difficult getting people to
church for the first time as it is a 30-40 minute drive to Ljubljana
each way, but she seemed to have a great time there.

So my new companion's name is Elder Wilson. He's from Provo Utah and
is a great guy. I think he knows Slovene better than I did coming out
of the MTC. His week of course has been hard, what with the compressed
schedule, jet lag, and being in a country where you can't really
understand anything that anyone is saying. But he's doing great and
will be a great missionary before too long. Everyone I feel has that
transition time.

On the other hand, it really shows how quickly I have grown here in
the mission to now be training a new person. I no longer have a
companion who's been in the country longer than me, and with Elder
Wilson not understanding hardly anything right now, I'm the one having
to have most of the conversations with people. But I've had hardly any
problems in the past couple of days. I've only had one moment this
week in Slovene where people didn't understand what I was saying, and
only a handful of moments where I didn't understand what they were
saying. So it should be a fantastic transfer this transfer!!

I am so grateful for this opportunity to train. I expect it is going
to be difficult, but that would come one day or the other when I would
be in the country longer than my companion. But because it is going to
be difficult, I know that I am about to grow so much more in the next
two months in language, as a missionary, and as a person. Even in the
first few days, I have seen more and more where my weaknesses are, and
places I can improve. Being the one someone relies on makes this even
more apparent, and even more necessary to correct. And so I am looking
forward to the great experience we are about to have.

Ajdaj, Gremo naprej!! (alright, we go forward!!)
-Starešina Benson

Monday, January 21, 2013

Training and the Spark

Hello all family and friends!!
The snow has been absolutely gruesome here, but will now be short lived with the rain starting yesterday and today. We got about two feet of snow starting on Sunday and going straight through to Friday.
So no sense in beating around the bush. There are a whole lot of changes going on right now. We have transfers coming up today, meaning every missionary in the mission has the chance to move and or change companions or stay. We got a special call on Tuesday however from President where he personally told us how we are moving. I am going to be staying in Kranj for another two months (length of a transfer), and am going to be training a brand new missionary to Slovenia like I was 4 months ago! Also, Elder Bateman, my current companion, is going to go to Zagreb to be one of President's two assistants!! He is really bummed about that because he sees Slovenia as his home and has been here for 16 months, and now to go to Zagreb, despite all the new things he will get to do, is to leave behind practically his identity for the past year and a half. But he'll do great I'm sure. He'll learn Croatian pretty fast, and will be back in Slovenia for at least the day once or twice a month.
And so, he and I are going to Zagreb tomorrow morning super early. If you're up at 11pm central time Monday night, know that I'm boarding a train to Zagreb right now somewhere around the world. I'll be in Zagreb all day Tuesday as that's when the new missionaries should be arriving, and then for most of Wednesday as that's when we will know who exactly my new companion will be and we'll do some training things from President and his two assistants. It's going to be strange to know that that assistant was my companion only a month or two ago.
So it's going to be incredibly exciting.
This week, we met with a man we've met with a few times in the past who hasn't really shown much interest. He had met with missionaries like us A LONG time ago (like 2003?), was recontacted in mid 2010 before missionaries were pulled out of Kranj, and then we recontacted him sometime last October or November. We hadn't met with him since before the holidays started as his interest level wasn't that high, but we called him last week and set up with him, and we had an absolutely AMAZING lesson with him. He clearly understood our purpose in helping him come to a knowledge of God's truth and his own peace of mind, and the Spirit was strong testifying of this truth. He committed to praying about where God's path was and reading the Book of Mormon to see if it was true and the story we shared about it's coming forth was truly inspired.
It goes to show that even when people don't really seem to express interest in what you are doing or saying, even the second or third time, that not all is lost.There only needs to be a perfect inspired moment of understanding to spark a level of interest. And as we go about our work, to not lose faith in the fact that this moment can spark at any time. Rather to continue enduring and strive to do our best to work with God to bring this spark in others lives. If we give up hope and faith, and thus stop working towards our goals, we will not progress. And our purpose, which as a missionary is God's purpose, will come to pass through other means, and we will not have the opportunity to be a part of that joy and experience we could have had.
I hope everyone is warm and safe at home, and hope there isn't too much white powder of death (snow)(Goes to show how much you take on your companions personality the longer you're with them. That totally sounds like something Elder Bateman would say) on the ground.
-Starešina Benson

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

President Rowe and Joy Beyond Measure

Greetings everyone!!

It's snowing today all across the former Yugoslavia, especially in
Kranj. It snowed perhaps 9in to a foot last night and looking outside
right now, it's still snowing. I was getting used to the cool but snow
free weather of the last 3-4 weeks. But it is winter in Europe I
guess, so it all comes in the same package.

This week has been a great week. Elder Bateman, my companion has
finally fully kicked his sickness at the beginning of the week, and
just in time too! On Thursday, we had President Rowe, my mission
president (the person in charge of all the missionaries in my whole
mission) come up and spend the day working with us.

He arrived in the morning, shortly after our studies for the day were
over, and we spent an hour or two talking about the Kranj area and
Ljubljana. It was great since I'm now the most experienced missionary
in the mission in Kranj since I helped reopen it, and Elder Bateman
spent 4 months in Ljubljana and so knows a lot about there.

After that, we went to lunch, contacting people on the way. It was
pretty funny trying to make it down the one little side road in Kranj
as one of us stopped to walk backwards with a person, talking
to them, then the other would to do the same, with President kind of
following us around making small talk with us. After about 1 hour of
this we hadn't made any progress what soever, so he said, ˝You know,
we do need to make it to lunch eventually, so you don't have to talk to
EVERY person you see, just if you're inspired to do so.˝

After lunch, we went to try to visit a less active member
President knew from last year but she wasn't home, then Elder Bateman
and I both said in unison, ˝Then we can go visit these people!˝ We
hadn't mentioned it to each other at all, but that morning we had both
thought of visiting the same person that day with President. Now
that's inspiration.

About the beginning of November, I visited this person and did some
service with her and Elder Grover on exchanges. Unfortunately, her
husband was in Germany sick, and so we met with her once before she
went back to Germany to be with him. And so we went to stop by their
home to see if by chance, they were back from Germany... and they

We rung their door and within a few seconds the door unlocks. I crack
the door open and there is the wife at the top of the stairs, ˝Oh!!
Starešina!! Živijo Živijo!!! Pridi notre!!!˝ (Oh!! Elder!! Hello
hello!!! Come on in!!!) She was incredibly excited to see us, and her
husband was with her from Germany. It was difficult because he can
only speak German, and maybe a handful of Slovene, but we managed
with his wife translating for us. Ultimately, we discussed our purpose
in helping them be happier and having more blessings in their lives.
They already know everything there is to ever know about religion and
the church. And so we invited them to baptism and they were prepared.
They will set the date themselves, but they are ready. Her husband has
a fear of water, but we can accommodate them.

Having been around the church for so long, they recognize the
blessings the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer, and are
eager to be able to take part in them, most particularly the blessings
from the temple. After the long time growing comfortable and sitting
on the invitations of older missionaries, they are ready to partake of
the happiness they can have, the strengthened relationship with
each other, and personal eternal peace, comfort, and strength which
comes with entering into the restored gospel and kingdom of God. The
experience really helped me understand exactly, what my purpose is.
It is, most simply, to help others find happiness. To understand who
they are more fully, and receive blessings in life beyond measure. I
am so grateful to be a part of this great work going forward, and
feel privileged to be able to have the joy of helping others
experience joy.

I pray everyone at home is safe and has an absolutely joyful week
beyond measure.

-Starešina Benson

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sickness and Reality


This week has been a good week. It all started of course with New Years eve last Monday, which was a little bit insane. We had some trouble getting back to Kranj from our day in Ljubljana as apparently new years eve is a holiday of holidays, so not even the holiday buses were running on the night. After waiting a few hours though, it finally came. But that night waiting was crazy. So there are no firework laws in Slovenia, so anyone, no matter where they are, can light off fireworks. Not just the small kinds but the big kinds also, anywhere, including in the middle of the capital Ljubljana. So it sounded a bit like a war zone Monday night with an explosion going off every few seconds somewhere, but you got to see a lot of free fireworks! That and midnight is supposed to be absolutely insane as everyone lights their own grand finale all at the same time. Unfortunately though, I fell asleep before hand and slept straight through it. But I'm definitely not fireworks starved. There have been fireworks going off since Christmas eve, all the way to last night.

The big drama of this week however was that my companion, Elder Bateman got really sick on Wednesday night. He spent most of the night in the bathroom, and then the next day recovering. We had to cancel on some of the people we had set to meet with, but I guess everyone needs one of those experiences every two years..... (hopefully not me!! :-/) He's still feeling under the weather and recovering, but now with the new year over, we've set up with a whole lot more people for this week too. It should be a fantastic week!

The great story of this week however was with a friend of a member here. He's a younger guy, my age, and his friend who is in the church, brought him at the end of November to hear Elvi, who had just come back from his mission in Utah, give a fireside, or a presentation, about his experiences from his mission after church. He enjoyed himself at church, and was interested to hear more about what we believe. Unfortunately, he's a busy person, and so we weren’t able to meet up until this week, after Elder Bateman had started to recover thankfully. 

And he is incredible. He said he wants to know what is truth, and how to know who in all the religious circles is correct. He recognized that truth is things as they really are, and so there can not be multiple realities of truth which contradict each other. Also, he doesn't want to be like so many of the people you see walking around, who say they are Catholic, or orthodox, or christian, but don't really know what they actually believe. He is sincerely searching for answers from God as to what is truth, and to have a certain knowledge of it. One of the things he said he also likes about us is how certain we are of what we believe, that we say we KNOW what we believe, not simply think it is right, or is just what some person told us or is something we read out of a book and sounds good. 

He has truly come across a great realization, that things in this world are as they are, and there can only be one truth. Just as if it is raining, that is how it really is, it happened, and is a simple truth. The realities of God are the same. If, for example, God is, He speaks to us today, and particular events in the past (such as Moses, the ministry and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith's first vision) really happened, then we know more about the simple truth and reality of us and our relationship to Divinity. 

I am looking forward to this week and wish everyone back home a happy and safe week this week!

Do naslednjiča! (Until the next time!)

-Starešina Benson