Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Simply, who you are

Zdravo all family and friends!!!
This week has been an amazing week. One of the top highlights of the week was on Wednesday, we had a Zone Conference in Zagreb for all of Slovenia and Croatia, where Elder Kearon of the European Presidency, of the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke. It was an amazing experience. He is actually a convent to the church as well, and I felt a particular brotherhood with him as the conference went on and we had the opportunity to interact.
One of the main principles he taught is not to focus on what you need to do specifically, to do a particular thing better (ex. become a better teacher, or to become a better finder), but rather, focus on the characteristics of people who do these things well, and work to become better at those characteristics. It is not about how you do what you do, rather it is who you are, which then results in how you do what you do well or not. For example, if I want to be a better, or in other words a great teacher, I need to build my patience, my creativity, my simplicity, and most importantly my love for the people I am teaching.
On simplicity as well, he made an excellent point that often, people who have been religious for a long time tend to develop a language of expressing particular things, which actually masks the understanding of what we are describing. Take the feelings and ˝presence˝ (there's one of those words) of the Holy Ghost. We tend to use words like charity, inspiration, fire, to explain it, but what do these words actually mean, especially to someone feeling these things for the first time? Absolutely nothing. We instead need to think deeply about how to simply explain the things perhaps many of us have experienced and grown accustomed to experiencing. How instead to explain the Holy Ghost? Peace. Power. Good. Happy. Strong. Confident. Love.
This week we are seeing amazing things happening in Celje. People whom we have been working with for a little bit becoming interested in learning the gospel, and people we have been working with for a long time receiving undeniable evidence from God that the things which we share are true. It is a true blessing to be able to play a part in seeing people form and build testimonies. A true blessing.
I hear things are heating up in Texas. The weather here has been up and down. It's cool in the mornings, then heats up until a storm rolls through, then cools down after that until the next morning.
I hope all is well.
Much love and care-
-Starešina Benson

PS: Transfers are this week. I have no clue what is going to happen, if I will stay in Celje or not or if Elder Simon will stay in Celje or not. Anything could really happen. We'll see!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, May 13, 2013

Be at Peace, Have Faith. It's Truth

Lep Pozdrav družina in prijatelji!
First, I want to mention that there is not a lot of time today because we are on our way up to Maribor for P-Day, and we might go to some waterfalls in Croatia today if we can get permission from President Rowe to leave Slovenia. This week is gearing up to be absolutely amazing. On Wednesday we have a Zone conference with all of Slovenia and Croatia combined in Zagreb, and we will be having a special guest for the Zone Conference, Elder Kearen of the Quorum of the Seventy. He spoke in Priesthood session I think a few conferences back about being stung by a scorpion. He is from England and has an English accent. It should be a great day. A few of the missionaries in Slovenia (us included) are going down to Zagreb the night before and sleep over there so we don't have to wake up early and rush the next day.
This week I probably had one of the top spiritual visits (lessons) of my mission so far. We met with the investigator last night who currently has reset his baptismal date to the beginning of June (from middle of may) and has problems with quiting smoking. He has been off and on smoking over the last few weeks, and so we had planned to go over a 12 step spiritual based stop smoking program with him yesterday. However, we soon discovered as the lesson began that the Lord wanted the lesson to go a different direction.
Through a series of questions starting with why exactly again he had the desire to be baptized and the wish to quit smoking, we re hit the concern that he felt as if he hadn't felt the Holy Ghost for some 10 years, despite having met with the missionaries often within that time.Despite doing all the things the missionaries had asked (praying, reading the scriptures, coming to church, he felt as if it was impossible for the Holy Ghost to visit him). He had no idea how he would describe the Holy Ghost.  He felt as if the things we shared were true, that Christ had a possibility to be a savior, that the Bible might be from God, as well as the Book of Mormon, but ultimately all this was based on the testimonies of others and not of his own. The only thing he knew 100% was that God exists.
And so, we began discussing the Holy Ghost. Who is the holy ghost and His relationship with God? What is his role? (3 Nephi 11:32) What can we do over time to have his fruits (Alma 32:28) (Patience, love, long suffering, meekness, joy, etc Galatians 5:22) in our lives, and what, step by step do we have to do to have Him come to us and answer our concerns and calm our troubled hearts? (Moroni 10 :3-5)  As we went through these scriptures sentence by sentence, word by word, pausing frequently to expound the meaning and application to him in his life, he began to better understand more fully, who, why, and how we have the Holy Ghost in our lives.
At the end, despite having gone way over the usual time of a lesson (sorry for being a little late for the mother's day call mom! This is why)  We discussed who he knows as God, his actual Father who has all power and lives in heaven. Then we invited him simply, to ask these things, and then pause during and/or after the prayer and listen. Listen to God.
And so we did. He offered the most sincere, grateful, heartfelt and personal prayer I have ever hear him give, and then, after the close, silence. We sit, reverently, watching for the promptings and feelings of the Holy Ghost to come to us. After a minute and a half or so of silence, he speaks up saying, ˝You wouldn't believe this, but I think I just felt the Holy Ghost.˝ He then described in his own way, undeniably, the power of the Holy Ghost in his heart. The best way he could describe this indescribable feeling? ˝It felt like I had just smoked two cigarettes!˝  Oh man. But progress!!
This experience was truly a testimony to me to have more faith in the promise of Moroni. That God and His Spirit really are real and work in the lives of others all the time. Also it was a testimony of the power of immediately applying what we had been teaching (especially simple, simple, simple, teaching), and seeing the miracles happen, despite the doubt you might have had. That we need to have faith in what we teach, and apply it in our own lives as well to strengthen our own spiritual power such that we can strengthen others. And most importantly, a testimony again that God is real. He speaks to us today through His Spirit. Jesus is the Christ, and the fully restored gospel of Jesus Christ is here on the earth again.
I hope everyone at home is well, and would practice daily what you yourself teach and preach and believe, whatsoever that may be. We can only grow stronger through use.
Much love-
-Starešina Benson

Monday, May 6, 2013

Refiner's Fire

Zdravo vsi družina in prijatelji!
The last few days large thunderstorms have been rolling through the mission, bringing lots of rain and cooler weather. They are actually the first thunderstorms I have seen in Slovenia, so it is a good experience. Also it makes me glad that I learned the words for storm and thunder months ago before I needed to actually use them.
This week the big success of the work is with one of the people we work with, whom we inherited months ago from the Sisters when they left Celje. She had largely already come to know the truthfulness of the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ we share, but is prevented from baptism because she needs to get married first (a challenge which is proving to be a refiner's fire). None the less, we have been working with her to not lose her fire and light of the gospel through enduring the challenges she must face. Her fire in the gospel shown bright on Sunday as she came to the pulpit and bore a strong, sincere testimony, to which the Spirit accompanied to testify of its truth. I have little doubt she will join the community of the saints one day soon, and be an ever stronger member here in Celje.
Largely, I have found that the more opposition, whether from others or from self, they and we must endure to become active members of the restored gospel, the stronger we become once we finally overcome our challenges and enter the waters of baptism. And still after that, if opposition still exists, if we endure it, they continue to become ever stronger and resilient in the faith. I have seen this especially when I was in Kranj, that it was a true sacrifice of time, and for some, money, to travel the 30 minute to hour long trip each way to church each Sunday. This dedication and action, and their very presence, showed and still strengthened their resolve to the gospel of Christ and increased love and dedication to the Savior.
Each of us has our own unique challenges and circumstances with which we must each overcome, and it is my wish that we would all use them as opportunities to become ever stronger, instead of letting them pull us down and make us weaker.
Much love and care to each of you across the large ocean!
-Starešina Benson