Monday, July 29, 2013

Transfers and Success

Bok vsi! (Bok is Croatian for hello)
Your daily weather forecast here in Slovenija is hot hot hot, getting up to about 32 C (90 F) everyday. Everyone is hiding indoors during the day because of it and is the common topic of conversation of the Slovenes now. ˝Joj! Kak je vroč!˝ It makes it even better since we are dressed in dark slacks all day everyday, so we've definitely been getting some attention. But it's a good kind of attention.
I won't hold the surprise back and just get to the point instead of building suspension (too too too much). As I said last week in a PS I think, we have transfers  this week, and things are changing for me. It was quite entertaining actually. With Elder Bateman going home tomorrow, and no one coming from the MTC to replace him until October, president had to pull someone up to Slovenia from the other half of the mission to fill the hole. Also, Elder Hardy, Elder Mills, and Elder Grover are going home in three weeks to be back in time for school, and we will get 3 missionaries from the MTC to replace them. What that means, however, is that we need experienced missionaries in each of the 3 areas.
So, we got the call Friday morning. Elder Benson, you're staying in Celje, Elder Simon, you're going to Ljubljana with Elder Hardy to train in three weeks! Also, Elder Burdette (my MTC companion) is coming down from Maribor to be my companion! And a Croatian is going to serve with Elder Grover in Maribor. Awesome!!!... wait... a Croatian missionary is going to be training a Slovene missionary in Maribor? What? But I get to be with Elder Burdette again!! I'm so excited!!! Then it begins to get strange. After a few calls between us, zone leaders, and even a call from President Rowe for us in Celje, we get a call on Friday night. President is thinking of changing the transfer. Another call some 10 minutes later, yep, the transfer has changed.
Elder Benson, you are going to be staying in Celje, Elder Simon, you're going to Maribor with Elder Grover to train in three weeks! Also, Elder Burdette (my MTC companion) is going down from Maribor to Ljubljana¨to be Elder Hardy's companion! And a Croation is going to be my new companion in Celje.
So that's how things should be looking. His name is Elder Baldwin, and we think he has about 5 months left of his mission. He has been serving in Zagreb for a really really long time. I have met and talked with him before. It should be a great transfer. Also, because we are switching from 9 week transfers to 6 week transfers, the next transfer is in 3 weeks when the three go home and the three from the MTC arrive. From that point on we will have transfers every 6 weeks like the rest of the world.
As for missionary work this week, we had an amazing experience building off of the less active member who hasn't been to church in 6-8 years. We had contacted him outside the elevator last week after being led to him by inspiration. At that time, we set a time to meet with him the next Wednesday. We arranged for an active member to come with us for the visit. However, the night before, we texted him to confirm, and he texted back he couldn't do it, but to do the same time on Friday. We rearrange with our member, and show up at his apartment on Friday. When we arrive, we ring his name outside the apartment, but no one answers. Bad sign. Our member takes off, and we get into the bloc, knock on his door, and discover no one is home. So we leave a note on a card in his mailbox saying to call us, and we'll probably be back before too long to check up on him. The end for a little bit.
The next day, the priesthood (the men of the church) were on the rotation to clean the church Saturday afternoon. We were asked to be there to help out, and it went really quickly as we had a handful of people there. Afterwards, the president of the Melchizedek Priesthood asked if he could go out with us for two hours to do some home teaching. We didn't have a lot of time however, as he had to catch a train back home around 6pm, so we didn't have time to go to a town just outside Celje to visit one of his friends. Also, two of his home teachees were on vacation, and another didn't answer her phone. That left us with one person, the same less active we were supposed to meet with the day before who wasn't home. And so, we go back up to his bloc, calling the president's home teaching companion on the way to meet us outside the bloc. We arrive, us two, the president and him HT (home teaching) companion (neither of whom have met the less active member), and ring him. No one answers. We then, figuring it's worth a shot, get into the bloc and go up to the door. We arrive, to discover the door is open!! Elder Simon knocks and the less active comes around the corner and welcomes us inside! We then have a great lesson showing our love for him, inviting him back, and inviting him to read and pray to build up his strength. He has a lot of potential, it has just been a really really long time since he was at church, and so lacks courage and is unsure who is still there whom he knows. None the less, we are set to meet with him again this week.
As the transfer with Elder Simon draws to a close, I am so incredibly thankful for him and our time here. We have had a lot of success in strengthening the Celje branch together, both in bringing the active members together and dispelling contention, and bringing back some people who had strayed away. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned, and look forward to the lessons in the future yet to learn. And particularly, I am grateful to the Lord for the blessings he has given the branch here in Celje these last four months. Without Him and His will, none of the success we have seen would have been possible.
I hope you have a wonderful week!
LP Starešina Benson

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Albanian, Catholic Mass, Gypsies, and Miracles

Hello all family and friends and everyone under the face of the earth!!!!
I am so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry I did not write an email last week.
So the reason..... we went to the Slovene coast last week, and so, to be smart, decided to leave early early in the morning so to avoid the traffic and the heat of the day. However, it meant we didn't get back into Celje until later. And so, after a great trip, we get back with just enough time to email.... to discover the library in Celje closes at 3 pm... in the summer. Hooray Slovene business hours!!!    and so I profusely apologize.
But none the less, this week has been... one of the strangest weeks at least of my mission. The high points which are important are of course that on Thursday, I had my one year mark being on my mission!!! It's all down hill from here, in a great and scary sort of way. We had a lesson with two members about studying the scriptures, and then they made us lunch!! It was wonderful. We chatted a bit before heading to the church to plan a bit for the week and do English class. After English class we all went out and had desserts with friends and members. It was a great great day.
Also, last Sunday, we found an Albanian family. So here in Slovenia from time to time you meet Albanians. They are the third ones I have taught in my year here. They are always incredibly friendly and open to talk. The only problem is however ... they don't always know Slovene. This family we found however, the dad could speak great Slovene, and so we gave him a Book of Mormon in Albanian and set a time to return to talk about it. Then, however, things started to get weird. Me, thinking it would be a good idea, and show respect and care for them (and probably because I'm starting to get a little bored of Slovene since I know it quite well enough now) if I learned a little Albanian, began learning a little bit (grammar, words, etc). For those interested, Albanian is incredibly different from Slovene. Next to no similarities. So, taking an English and Albanian Book of Mormon, I began working through it. I did learn a few things, like cases, word order, and a few words. For example, 'unë jam' means 'I am', 'Perëndia' means 'God', and 'A je mir?' means 'How are you?'. And so we went by their place at our appointment to find out the dad wasn't there, and the mom who could speak pretty much no Slovene. And so for the last week, I kept learning a little more and more Albanian, and the family kept being stranger and stranger with not ever being home, or running into them outside their apartment leaving when we arrived, and so forth. Eventually they said they aren't interested, but it was a fun little jaunt into a very strange language (I'm half convinced written Albanian looks like Elvish would look like).
As for Catholics, it would happen eventually being in a country that pretty much says that if you're Slovene, you're Catholic, but it finally happened. Three weeks ago, a man came to our church service, saying he heard about it in Ljubljana, but lived in Celje. We were super excited that he came and said he had a good time, and so the sisters met with him last Tuesday and taught him a bit. A little into the meeting however, the sisters began realizing that he wasn't so interested in sincerely listening to their message, as in arguing about catholic doctrine with them. At the end, (and with us in English class we taught them an hour later) they invited us to their Catholic mass just across the street saying that since he came that week before, we needed to come with him. Not wanting to be rude (but I don't think church invitations work that way), and a bit curious ourselves, we set a time to come on Sunday morning. There, we came, sat, stood, sat, stood, listened to hymns and creeds in Slovene, an old testament and new testament reading, a nice message about Mary and Martha and how we should listen to and apply the words of Christ, and watch them all bless and take the Eucharist. Not too different actually from the traditional Methodist service I grew up with. Not a bad experience, but my opinions of it all weren't changed. One amazing thing however, is that we had our church service some 15 minutes after we left mass, and wow is the contrast striking. What we offered vs mass is something completely different in approach and application. So now I guess I can say I've had a catholic try to convert me.
Gypsies you say? A little side story. In Celje, we know where the Gypsy camp is, and simply walk by with without looking into it. I never really believed what Europeans said about the rundown state of gypsies, until I actually saw it. Their camp literally looks like.... yeah.
But yesterday, we found out about a women who had met with missionaries years ago, and approximately where she lives, and so, we go to the outskirts of Celje, to the best guess as to where she is, and begin asking around. We soon find ourselves outside another gypsy camp however, asking the gypsy neighbors where this woman is (of course all her neighbors on the street knew her). Quite awkward being in a shirt and tie and walking into the gypsy camp, but nothing bad happened. Eventually we found out which shack the woman lives in, to find out she wasn't home. She had cool turkeys and chickens.
But the best part of the week are seeing the miracles happening. We met with one of the members, finally, who hasn't been to church in a handful of months. We've been trying to set up with her for a very long time, but something typically happens, or she forgets. And so finally, we met with her with another active member and WOW was it amazing. God was in charge of everything said and shared in that night, just the right scriptures used, and the right questions and invitations offered. The Spirit was strong and in charge. By the end, she promised us she would come back to church that Sunday, and she came!!! Everyone was incredibly happy to see her back. All of it would not have been possible without her member friends in the church. She said that she talked to and promised 3 other people besides us that week that she would come, and she walked from her apartment to church with a close member friend. Goes to show that the Spirit can touch the hearts of everyone, and how crucial the fellowship of those around us is in supporting us to do what is right for ourselves.
 Lastly, the greatest miracle of the week, is that Elder Simon and I have been starting a tradition of going out in the morning after studies and talking to people on the street. One morning, we went out, and not knowing where to go, began going south. Not passing very many people to talk to, we ended up outside of two blocs (apartment buildings) where two less active members live. I stop and think about it and ask, ˝Should we visit them?˝ Elder Simon asks who, and I stop and think and watch for the feelings of the Spirit tell me who we should visit. I then get a really good feeling about one of them in particular in the left bloc, and so we go to that bloc. We get into the doors (typically a minute if not more process to ring someone and ask them to open the door) and then as we approach the elevator out comes two people and a little girl, the dad being the less active member I felt we should go talk to!!! We talk and share that we were prompted to go talk to him and, after a chat, set up with him for this week. It truly is true that miracles have not stopped in our day, but rather that miracles stop not because of God, but because of us. If our faith is strong enough, we go out and do, believing it is possible, and especially if we listen to the promptings and feelings God places into our hearts by His Holy Spirit, miracles WILL happen. Without a doubt.
I pray each of us can live in a way where we can see miracles happening every day of our lives. It is true, that I know.
I hope you all have a nice and warm week. This week is looking to be hot, some highs of 32° - 38° C, which is what, 90° - 100° F? You know, so horrible.....
LP in se slišamo naslednji teden. To vam obljubim!

-Starešina Benson
Me at the coast with Sister Legro

 Most of Slovenia at the coast. Only Maribor is missing

Walking down the town of Piran with a member and her friend who came, on the coast. Ancient roman city on the coast, you know, the usual
A good portion of the Celje branch. Sister Porter, Elder Simon, and the Hansons (senior couple who are going home today) are the missionaries. Everyone else is a member in Celje.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No letter

No e-mail was received today from Elder Benson.  I assume the internet was down at the library in Celje.

Check back later.

Twyla Benson

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Storms and New Experiences Pictures

Us on top of Grmada.

View of Celje from the top of Grmada, a hill south of Celje. The whole town and the castle.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Storms and New Experiences

Hello all friends, family, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, Americans and... well.. you're all pretty much Americans so....
Life in Celje is peachy and stormy. I think it has rained and sun shined every single day, including the worst storm I have ever seen in Slovenia so far. But thankfully because of the rain the temperature has stayed down and the humidity has stayed up!
On Wednesday, Elder Simon and I went to mow the lawn of an older member who lives just outside of Celje. It was a good visit with her, and the work went by fairly quickly relatively. As we were leaving however, we could hear thunder in the distance. The member thanked us profusely and wished us a quick journey home, hoping that it would rain after mowing everything, but not as we rode. But alas, twas not to be. After some 5 minutes from her house, after safely riding down a massive hill (we are on bikes after all)... it began. It wasn't bad at first, only a few drops here and there. But looking behind us, we noticed the whole ,mountain, more hill, behind us was obscured by the rain, and it was headed towards us. We went as fast as possible as Elder Simon's broken geared bike would go (so not that fast), but never the less by the time we made it to center of Celje, it was pouring. Being in service clothes though instead of missionary clothes, and a helmet with a brim really helped though, so it was actually quite refreshing. And so we continued on, quite wet, but it wasn't annoying. As we came to approach the major road and the railroad tracks however, there was another set back. The railroad crossing was down. And so we sat in an ever increasing downpour for five minutes waiting for a 4 car train to pass by. By the time we made it though and back on the road, we were only probably 5 minutes from home, but it was getting worse and worse. What had been bad weather became catastrophic for a biker. It began kind of like little, hardly noticeable pin pricks, which quickly intensified to a storm of increasingly painful pebbles pelting my head and back. The hail had arrived. Not to mention that but the puddles on the streets had turned into pools, one of which I rode through some 6 inches deep at least. We quickly took shelter, only some 3-4 minutes from home in a service entrance to a bakery just off the street. As we waited, the hail and wind only got worse. The maximum size hail we saw was probably the size of a pea to a fat blueberry. No fun for a bike. The rain was intense as well. And so we waited probably some 15 minutes for the hail to stop and the rain to begin to slow down before pushing the last way through the flooded streets home. Quite an adventure, but definitely one to remember.
In other news, my mission has just increased in size!! On July 28th, Montenegro will join our mission. Currently there is only a small branch in the capital of Podgorica, and being a Slovene missionary means I will probably not see any effects from the addition, but if my mission wasn't massive before, it definitely is now! (5 countries, from Slovenia to Montenegro, to Serbia.
Another fun little bit from the week, I conducted Sacrament meeting in Celje yesterday. The branch President was at work and both of his counselors had family obligations which prevented them from coming, and the president of the priesthood here can't speak very good Slovene (he's from Peru), so I was asked to conduct. It was a good experience and was told I did a good job. Who would have thought I would be conducting sacrament meetings of a developed branch like Celje, in a different language no less, for the first time. An older member said he hasn't... ever seen that. He joined the church some 8 years ago, but then again was inactive for probably 4 or 5 of those years.
We also had a massive Slovene Pick nick on Saturday which was incredibly fun and successful.
And so yeah, life is amazing. Searching out for the people who the Lord has prepared and opened their ears to hear the message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has been my life this last week. It is hard, hard work, but incredibly rewarding work as well.
This week is going to be another very busy week as well. We have a special guest coming to Celje from Utah to speak to us on Wednesday, then we have Zone conference with all of Slovenia in Ljubljana on Thursday.
Here's to an awesome week. Well wishes and rewards!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hastening of the Lord's Work

Hello all family and friends!!!
This last week, and really the last week continuing up into this last week, has been an interesting, difficult, amazing, and revelatory experience. It has been two weeks of lows, and then highs because of the revelation and Spirit felt on my part.
Last Sunday, following a difficult point in my mission, I prayed to the Lord and asked what could be done to resolve the concerns I had about the work, a miracle or something we needed to do. As I prayed, however, I felt the strong impression, ˝Wait, I am sending a miracle˝. Difficult to believe in the moment, but I simply had to put faith in the prompting. Little did I know that night as we slept the Lord was sending a miracle, in the form of The Work of Salvation broadcast, a Church wide broadcast on strengthening and fully utilizing the work of the missionaries.
The broadcast to the whole world was exactly what the Lord had referred to as the miracle he was sending. We watched it on Tuesday morning, and the Spirit I received from it carried me to today, changed how I do missionary work, gave me hope and peace, and most importantly a measure of the Spirit in my life where for the first time on my mission I realized what it means to ˝Preach My Gospel by the Spirit˝.

In terms of the changes announced by the broadcast, that missionaries will start to use the Internet in email, Facebook, blogs,, and so forth, in addition to getting iPads, leaves me incredibly excited. Now missionary work, at least with the finding part and organizing with people, will be more similar to real life, instead of methods which are different and... old fashioned? Not to mention of course having all the digital materials and language materials at easy access would be a God send. It will all be phased in over the next year or so.
But the material was also another answer, specifically the answer to my prayer. The Lord was sending a storm from the horizon to motivate and strengthen the members to serve each other and their friends, acquaintances, and family in order to one, strengthen themselves, and two to direct them to us and to Christ.

The Spirit I received from the broadcast also strengthened me personally with an indescribable measure of the Spirit. With this Spirit, I followed His directions completely for the first time in my life, and found an indescribable amount of help, guidance, and happiness. I stopped coming up with premeditated idea statements and rather would let the Spirit give me what to say once I saw the actual person. The result was a true love for the people which they definitely recognized. I barely had anyone rudely reject me without having a nice conversation with them, despite them not being interested. It added and created a right, dynamic, and loving form of missionary work I had not yet experienced.
Also in this time, one night as I prayed, the Lord afforded me a glimpse of my whole mission and how it is turning out. For the first time in my whole mission, I have practically no people to teach. Before now, it had been, not easy to find, but doable on a consistent basis. As a result I have generally always taught a lot and feel that I have become particularly good at teaching, even if the people I taught were only marginally interested. Now however, the Lord showed me that now that I have become a good teacher, the Lord is giving me this drought of people to teach, to teach me how to find on my own to be able to better perfect me as a missionary.

Over all, this week was capped by the first fruits of our labors. We found our first new person to teach in weeks last night right before we had to go home. We met her at her door and I spoke to her by the Spirit as I mentioned I have begun to do. We went back to check on her to see if she wanted to meet and she did. Talking outside in the public park, she has been searching for a church for many years, but has been unsuccessful so far. She said the moment she saw us at the door and heard our words, she could tell we were something different, and that the Spirit was with us. She has had many difficult experiences, but has drawn close and is sensitive to the Lord because of it. Now we only have to follow the Lord's direction for her.
Also, the branch presidency has become focused on members working and assisting the missionaries as well. This is the first time ever I have seen this. Instead of being asked who we met with this week, we talked about who we can go contact together, or what friends and family to meet with together.
The Lord has sent a storm which I feel is beginning to stir the pool. Amazing things are happening, and incredible spiritual growth is occurring. Here's to the Hastening of the Lord's Work!

-Starešina Benson