Monday, December 30, 2013

The Holiday Week

Srečno Novo Leto!!!

And a merry post humorous Christmas! Christmas this year was quite good. I can't believe the day went so incredibly fast. 

During the week, we taught our friend who we met through English class, and he is doing wonderfully. We met with him on Christmas eve, before heading over to the senior couple's place for Christmas eve dinner (simple, but friendly soup). He is doing really well. We met with him twice this last week despite the holidays, and he launched us straight into teaching the plan of salvation, talking about the purpose of this life, where we came from, and how we benefit, especially from the challenges and trials of this world. We completely put our other plans aside as this was what he was interested in, and really benefited him in building his testimony of the full truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge and direction we receive for the questions of the soul that can not be found anywhere else.

We had great experiences with another friend we have been meeting with for awhile, a mother. She is really spiritually growing in her understanding of God, and is starting to really show personal progress in building her personal relationship with God in prayer and through reading His word, especially the Book of Mormon. From the time when we first started meeting with her again a few months ago, she has really progressed a lot, and can see a lot of the change she has experienced in that time, all for the better.

Otherwise, Christmas was excellent. The Maribor missionaries came down and we had a wonderful and massive Christmas brunch with all the great American breakfast foods that you can not get here. Unfortunately, I ate a little more than my fill. Then, a few hours later, still very stuffed, we get a call from the member we have been working with for awhile that we were going to go skype at his place. He was calling asking if we could come over an hour or so early as his girlfriend had cooked us dinner!!!... So we went over, and they had 3 different types of meat, čevapčiče, sliced roast, šnitzle, mashed potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and a great orange juice. It was all absolutely amazing, just I was so so so so so so so so so so so full. Elder Lyman and I then Skyped our families at his place, and walked on to the senior couple's for the rest of Christmas. It was a great day, just it all went so fast. 

Otherwise, the week has been very full of rain. It has been really nicely warm actually relatively. Quite nice, no snow like last year. We'll see how long it will last. New years is coming up though. We'll see how it is. Last year it was crazy, and this year it looks like it will be so again. We have heard fireworks every single day for nearly a week now, even in the rain. It is bound to be crazy.

So I hope you all have a great week, and New Years, just not too crazy. Stay safe and happy!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 23, 2013

A BUSY Christmas week of border crossings and amazing people

Vesel Božič!!!!!!!

This week has been an absolutely insane week. Truly insane. Truly.  As I logged out last week from writing my letter, it began to snow. The first true snow of the year. But the snow was not long lived. It stayed on the ground for a few days, and then on Thursday (when we had an... adventurous border crossing and our Christmas Party in Zagreb) The sun came out and it has been really nice weather ever since. Almost 9 degrees Celsius I heard yesterday on Sunday!! So nice and warm!

As I just mentioned, on Monday last week, I still wasn't sure if I was going to get to go to the Christmas party for the whole mission in Zagreb yet as my renewed visa still hadn't come in yet. And so Tuesday morning I called the visa person we work with as missionaries to hear that my visa was still in process, and thus had absolutely no chance of making it to me before Thursday. No Chance. Done. And so, that was sad. I resigned myself into sinking mindset that I would simply have to find someone (I have no clue who also cause everyone was busy) to spend the day in Slovenija while everyone else went on to Zagreb. 

Then, the day before, on Wednesday, I talked with the zone leaders who said they talked with the visa person who said that if I had the paper confirming that I was in the process or reapplying for my visa I could still cross the border even though I didn't have the visa!! I had hope!!!!... until I looked at the paper itself, and there in the last sentence it said, ˝This confirms for the foreigner the ability to reside in the Republik of Slovenija, but is not valid for border crossing.˝ None the less, we all decided we were going to go for it, so I quickly found a white elephant gift, was up at 5am Thursday morning, and on a train by 6:30. Keep in mind now that Elder Burdette meanwhile had the same issue as I did. And so, we quickly arrive at the border, the border guards come on the train, and start checking all the other missionaries visas. All is well, then they get to Elder Burdette first. He had the great plan of just giving them his passport without the old visa card like everyone else, which immediately got him caught. However, he presented the guard with the old visa card and the confirmation and they said it was fine and moved on to me. I had quickly wised up and slipped my old visa card into the passport, and didn't get a second glance from the border guard! Before too long we had arrived in Zagreb!!

Then the next question was getting back in. But the process was the exact same. I simply gave them my visa with my old visa card, and all was well, them simply stamping my passport and moving on. And so that was incredibly stressful, but we ultimately had no problems.

As for the spiritual work this week, I am probably the busiest now that I have ever been in...... for sure since I've been in Celje, if not for my whole mission. We doubled how many visits we had last week from this week, and even yesterday we were running from appointment to appointment, ending late in the end because of all the work. 

Furthermore, I had a bike accident yesterday as we rushed to our first appointment. As we were going through a right angle corner around a building (on a side street) I was leading. I've always hated that corner because it is impossible to see around it before you start to go through it. So I was leading, and start to go through it, to find a car coming towards me only about 2-3 meters away. I quickly brake, which ultimately was a bad decision, as the hard brake mixed with the damp streets caused my bike to skid off balance and me come crashing to the ground. But hey! It's better than getting hit by a car, right? My right hip is now really sore along with my right elbow, and I tore some of the skin on my hand, but in a few days it will all be well.

But this week, one of our English class students who we started meeting with a week or two ago personally about the gospel has suddenly showed a lot of interest. He said he is willing to meet with us almost every day, and came to both our Christmas Concert here in Celje (which was a WONDERFUL success, we had nearly 50 people here for it) and then church services the next Sunday. He is reading the Book of Mormon nearly every day and is finding new personal spiritual insights with nearly every single sentence he reads. I can see him progressing very quickly.

Also, we met with a referral we received from the mission office this week who lives in Velenje, about a good 20 minute drive away from Celje. She had lived in America for a good amount of time and there had investigated a few faiths, but when she moved back she was disappointed as she found she had no one with whom she could have these spiritual conversations with her. Until she somehow (we're still not sure how she came in contact with us) found us. She has a lot of questions, but seems sincerely interested in finding and coming to know the truth of God herself.

The work here in Celje is insanely busy, even despite the Christmas time. Elder Lyman is wonderful and a master of language now practically. He is a wonderful missionary. Otherwise all is well. Looks like we'll have another green Christmas this year. Who would have guessed the two years I live someplace where it can snow that both years would be green Christmases. Oh well. No complaints as long as this year isn't as insanely snowy as last year was.

Sending warm greetings and love and care from across the ocean! Merry Christmas!!!
-Starešina Benson

Zone Conference Dec 3,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lots of visits and family

Zdravo vsi prijatelji in družina v Ameriki!

This week has been a cold week, and fairly foggy, but not overly horrible. Just still more frost. It kind of looks like snow still, but it isn't. And doesn't get everywhere like snow usually does. The people are also saying that it probably won't snow here for another week or two at least. So if we have a white Christmas, I don't know, but one thing is for sure. There is definitely not the same amount of snow this year as there was last year. It hasn't even snowed once this year yet! Last year it had snowed multiple times already.

This week, especially, this weekend we have had a lot of success. We have taught a lot of people and we found a few new ones as well. In our English class, we are seeing one of our students who has been interested in gospel discussions and the spiritual thoughts we have at the end of class.  He became even more interested in diving deeper into faith. He has even said that in the time he has come to English class, he has learned more than any other class, it has all stuck, and that he has learned more and grown spiritually more in the last month than ever before.

This weekend we also had a lot of visits set up as well, and despite many of them falling through or moving to a different day or week, we were still able to find other visits in place of them so that we have taught a lot of lessons over the last two days.

We have also had a bit of success yesterday with our less active friend who was baptized a long time ago here in Celje (which means a lot since we don't exactly have a ton of members here) but had been inactive for some 8 years. In the last two months he has been coming to church (regularly nearly every Sunday except for the past few weeks) and is now talking about the church and we are kind of.. almost... teaching his girlfriend who he has been with for two years. We talked about his spiritual goals and desires not just for himself, but for his family, for them to be unified and together, in the presence of his girlfriend. We discussed that a bit more and the doctrine and the importance of the family not just on this earth, but to God as well, and invited them together to pray together. They accepted the commitment. I truly hope they act on it. I know that they will strengthen both themselves and each other as they act and come closer to God in acting in unity as one. This is where the greatest happiness lies I believe, is in a strong unified family. Nothing else can replace that.

With Christmas coming up, we also had transfers. And of course, when you think you could just about expect almost anything to happen and you can't be surprised any more, the Lord throws a curve ball at you and you get surprised. The transfers? Where we all are moving? Where am I moving to from Celje since I have already been here a long time (~9 months)? The answer? Nothing. No where. I am staying in Celje another month and a half (which will mean I would have been here for 11 months total at that point). In fact, no one is moving anywhere in Slovenija. We are all staying the same. Which actually works out for now for all the Christmas plans we have with the branch here. 

Also, we have the mission Christmas party this week on Thursday... If I will be able to go. My renewed visa still hasn't come in yet, and my old one expired last week. While I am in the middle of the process, I cannot cross the border without not being able to get back in. So... we will see. Elder Burdette is currently in the same boat.

And such is live in Slovenija. The work is moving ahead wonderfully.

I hope you all have a great gear up for the holidays! Vesel božič!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blog Additions

Dear Family and Friends,

We are having success with a less active we have been working with for a majority of my time here in Celje. For the last few months she has only been minimally responding to our efforts to invite her back, to little response. However, I feel the whole time that her only concern really was a lack of motivation in the mornings. But she has since been put in charge of the Christmas program we are having here in Celje, and has suddenly been becoming more active as a natural result. (along with the support of the other active members and our help with her responsibility.) She came to church on Sunday, and has been attending almost all the activities and choir practice we have been having to prepare for the concert. It is working a miracle.

We have also been working some with another less active member from Ljubljana as he is here in Celje working on renovating the church. We spent part of the day today helping him sand the door frames and put rooms he has nearly finished back together. We've talked a bit about his mission experiences and shared some Thanksgiving treats with him. He is doing well, but I have little idea what has been going on with him in the past with different missionaries.

Also, I achieved a major milestone in my goal of memorizing the sermon on the mount in finishing fully memorizing Matthew 5.

Hope all is well. Transfers are next week.

-Starešina Benson

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pumpkin Pie!!

Hello all readers,

This week is an excerpt from the letter to Cameron's family. Because "I haven't really any time left at all as we just left and came back from lunch / dinner. You can include the thanksgiving blurb for the blog." were his instructions. So, here it is:

The pumpkin pies were an absolute success!!!! The pumpkin was great, not too big like last time (10 kilos, even when it was still only half the pumpkin!) This time the pumpkin was just 4-5 kilos, and we still only used half of it to make 4 pies. The only disappointing thing about the pies was the crust. I don't think I used enough wonderful butter, but we'll all probably live a few extra hours because of it.

Thanksgiving in general was wonderful. We arrived at around 11 after spending all night the night before (OK, to around 10pm) cooking pies, ran into the Maribor missionaries on the street, and began having a wonderful time. We all helped finish the last things for dinner (how's that having 8 assistants help you finish cooking?), and then we sat down and began eating for what must have been an hour or two. SO MUCH FOOD!!!!  We had turkey (not a proper full turkey, but the biggest turkey breast that a turkey has probably ever made), ham (the turkey and ham were sliced up into slice chunks), berry jelly, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry jam, green bean casserole, crescent rolls (not from the can, those don't exist here, but from scratch), candied yams (with the marshmallows on top, you know?), pumpkin pie, cranberry granola crisps, peanutbutter bars, no bake chocolate cookies, juices, and a simple salad. Absolutely wonderful. I might have forgotten something. Afterwards we chatted and played some Uno before the Maribor missionaries had to go back up to Maribor. Then we finished the day with English class. It was a good day.

It is also very very cold this week. It has been freezing every day as we leave the apartment now. The snow will not be too much longer as the frost is here pretty solidly. But it is supposed to be really nice weather for the next few days, which means really cold nights, and cold days.

That's all. Sorry for being so brief, no more time. In short, yes, turkey was good and pie was great.

Elder Cameron Benson