Monday, March 31, 2014

Unusual, but Miraculous

Živijo, Živijo, Živijo!!!
The sun is out, the weather is warm (a scorching 65-75 degrees), the birds are out singing, the trees leafing out, and flowers popping out everywhere. Slovenija is undoubtedly BEAUTIFUL!! Able to see the alps from the kitchen window today? Yep. Still snow on the tops? Yep. Another great spring week coming up? Yep.
This week has been quite good, and a quite strange week. It started Tuesday with an exchange with Celje, where I went back after 3 months to go serve in Celje for a day and a half with Elder Hunt. It was quite great, and is interesting how much of my influence is still in Celje. I felt like I had hardly left going back to see the members and the apartment. It was great seeing some of the people I had taught there as well, being able to further strengthen them and really see some miracles that had happened there since I had left.
Then on Thursday Elder Burdette and I headed down to Zagreb to a leadership meeting which was absolutely wonderful. This week, on Thursday we have a zone conference with all of the Slovene missionaries and i am REALLY excited for it!! It is going to be great!!!!
Then Friday we went and did service for a less active member which was really great. After the ice storm during February which destroyed a lot of trees across Slovenija, he had a lot of work for us to do, cutting broken branches, cutting them down to firewood size, and mulching the small ones. He then took us home, dropping Elder Burdette and I off about a 5 minute walk from our apartment, and here is where the evidence is that the Lord places his missionaries exactly where they need to be.
As we were walking home from where he dropped us off, we came to a major intersection and waited at the light. While waiting though, we saw someone on the opposite side of the street stop at the light as well on a bike. We looked closely and realized it was our 15 year old investigator whom we had lost contact with in the last week!! He waved at us and when the light changed he rode over to us. We talked and set up to go see him after we got changed back into missionary clothes.
The following lesson we had with him was amazing, one of the best we had had in weeks. He knows and remembers a lot of the doctrine we have taught him, prays often, and believes it all, but we discovered he wasn't really putting in much effort to read the word. So we discussed the significance of reading, and just opened up the Book of Mormon and began reading with him. It was a great experience and the spirit was strong, and he recognized it. He also committed to come to church on Sunday, came, and had an excellent experience.
We then set up with him for Saturday, the following morning, where we would all go together to his 17 year old friend's home to go find him. In the last month, after a great experience with him, his friend completely disappeared, his phone not working, and we didn't know where he lived. But the following morning we went to his door, us three, and knocked. No one was home, but we will go try again earlier in the morning tomorrow.
Otherwise, then Saturday we had an interesting experience of a group finding activity with the Ljubljana district. We all went to the city park, Tivoli, and made a chalk drawing asking, ˝Kako lahko najdemo resnično srečo?˝, meaning ˝How can we find true happiness?˝ We then talked with people who walked by, and had some great conversations.
Then Sunday, we had a really special opportunity and experience. Yesterday was the 23rd baptismal anniversary of the first member baptized in Slovenija who hasn't been to church in a long time, whom we know and have met before. Last week, we made a quick card and had a bunch of the Ljubljana members sign it, wishing her well, and then yesterday, on her anniversary, we baked a little cake and went by her place, and she was home!!!
She was so happy and excited, saying she had been praying all day for someone to come help her, especially for someone to come to give her a blessing. She figured she would have to come to church to get a blessing, but then we came and knocked on her door!!! She was so surprised and so happy!! She recognizes the things she has done in her life, and what she needs to do to go forwards, and has our help for it. Also, she is going to be moving to Zagreb within a few weeks, so we came exactly at the right moment. We committed her to come to church this Sunday before she leaves, and we will all go together.
While this week has been unusual, it has been excellent, and the Lord is obviously the one who is in charge. Great things are happening. here's to another upcoming great and inspired for me, and for you! Enjoy general conference!
-Starešina Benson

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Small acts of kindness

Hello all, fam and friends!
The weather in Slovenia has been outright wonderful this week. Up to seventy degrees F, sunny, and flowers blooming all over the place... until Sunday. It started raining in Sunday, and it poured, and is still raining today, but it is good. Hopefully the next few weeks will be sunny again and then it can rain for a day or two. I would be completely happy with that. We need rain every now and again, at least to selfishly clean up the air so I can see the alps from my kitchen window again. ;-)
Otherwise, we have a great new person we are meeting with from Macedonija whom we know through English Class. He has come to three spiritual thoughts / institutes, and we were finally able to meet with him this week for a lesson after the spiritual thought on Tuesday. He has been living in Slovenia for awhile, and speaks great Slovene as his wife is Slovene, and has a 5 year old daughter. He grew up in a completely atheist family in Jugoslavija where there was no such thing as faith. However, when he started going to college, he became curious about different faiths and started investigating different ones, including Hare Krishna, through which he developed a faith in God. Then, he graduated as an archaeologist and began working in the field in Macedonija. One of the places he worked at was near a Russian orthodox monastery where a sect of Russian monks who had been exiled because of Stalin's regime were staying. He got to know them very well and began learning from them as well, and developed a faith in Christ through them. However, he has a deep dislike for churches, and very clearly can see the apostasy. However, since he has moved to Slovenija, he has not been able to find an outlet  for, as he puts it, ˝living water˝, and so is very grateful for being able to meet with us. We are very excited for him and hope and have faith that he can progress.  Otherwise the week has been fine. Elder Burdette, myself, and the Thompsons, the new senior couple in Ljubljana, went with a member family on Wednesday to visit a member who lives about a 2 hour drive from Ljubljana. She used to be an incredibly active member, until she was suddenly struck with a degenerative neural or muscular disease which now has her confined to a wheelchair and unable to talk. She was so happy to see us. The moment she came out of the elevator and saw us she broke down crying and began embracing the members and grabbing our hands. We had a good hour long chat with her before we had to leave, having gotten her address to send her mail, and the phone number of her daughter. This for me was the definition of pure religion in James, that ˝Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.˝
It is all about the small things we do for others that matter. Think about it, and find some small act of kindness you can do for someone this week, and I promise your week will be 5 times better than it would have been because of that.
Otherwise, hope you all have a great week!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Frightening Checkpoint, and You're Valuable!

Good, morning, afternoon, or evening friends and family (all depending on you of course and when you are reading this ;-)  )!
Spring has definitely sprung in Slovenija. The flowers which herald the coming of spring are fading out to the grass. Leaves are bursting out of the trees slowly, and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a cloud in nearly a week now. The temperature should hit 70 F for the first time in months and months today. But, as we are in Europe and not America, we have a different day light savings time, so were not ˝springing ahead˝ for another two weeks.
Otherwise, while the trees are beginning to burst out and the sun has been pouring out its life giving power for the last week, this week we had an incredibly enriching week for the whole district. The big event of course was district conference for all of Slovenija to gather on Saturday night and Sunday morning, and a very special guest, Elder Kearon who is the first councilor for the European area presidency from the first quorum of the seventy. He was also one who came and did a mission tour back last March if I remember right. I might have also mentioned all of this last week as well, but the weeks now feel like months long, so I can hardly remember what I said last week.
On a more sad note, I made a very very very very very very very very sad realization this week on Wednesday. So, little Slovene lesson. Slovene is a case language like Russian, and one of the cases changes the ending of a noun and its adjective if it is in a quantity of 5 or more. So once I had been in Slovenija for 5 months, I could say I had been there already for pet mesecev (five months), and I have been saying that for the last year, maybe more...... until now. I came to the dark realization, that I can no longer say that when someone asks me how much time I have left to be here, because I only have štiri meseci (four months) left. Absolutely terrifying.
Also, this week we are switching up for transfers. The exciting changes of where I am going? Nowhere. And my companion Elder Burdette? Nowhere. No changes with the zone leaders. But the whole rest of Sloveinja is changing except for 1 other companionship, the Elders in Maribor. But another terrifying thing? I only have one more transfer change left on my mission. so just 2 transfers left... at all. Because Elder Burdette and I are staying together as well, I can pretty clearly see my mission to the end as well now. I will (most likely) be staying in Ljubljana Moste to the end, as I will be with Elder Burdette the next 9 weeks, then I will have to train a new zone leader for my last transfer.... and then... that's..... it................................................................................................................................
But the work is marching forward. I sang a song for District Conference, which I found out I was doing the day before. Odrešenikova Ljubezen... not sure what the proper English title is... our savior's love? Something like that.  But the conference was great. It all focused on D&C 18, that the ˝worth of souls is great in the sight of God˝. We truly are beloved. God knows and understands us perfectly, better than we do ourselves, and we need to try and look at every other person in the same way he looks at them. The value of each person is so remarkable and unfathomable. More and more in the material world, we devalue people to simply objects, good for something or good for nothing, but this is an illusion. Each and every person is valuable without end. And capable of miracles every day. Do not forget this with yourself, and with your friends and strangers.
Have a great warm week!
Well wishes from Slovenija!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Day

Živijo živijo

This week has been a fine week for Elder Burdette and I. We are still working with the two kids towards baptism, just we haven't been able to meet with them as often as possible to get them to baptism on the 15th, so the 15th won't go for them, but we are still meeting with them, and they still want to be baptized, just we will work out the timing with them and the Lord soon. We had a great lesson with the 17 year old yesterday, an'd he still really wants the power and change in his life, but will think and work it out with the Lord as to how.

We also took advantage of a little Slovene holiday called  ˝dan žena˝ or basically Woman's Day. We bought a bunch of flowers and went around surprising some of our members and less active members who haven't been to church in a long time. One of them, a younger woman, about 20 years old, she and her sister are members, but haven't come to church in some 8 years, but we have contact with them. Before we went over there, she told us she was in the hospital with her grandfather, and so we quickly stopped by another place and got flowers for her grandfather as well, and went to surprise her. She was so so so so so happy, and told us how the previous night had been so hard, but that we just brought this ray of light into her night which she had cried out all her tears. We later had a lesson with her sister, who is doing well, and should hopefully come this Sunday. It reminds me of the quote from the Joseph Smith movie, when he and his friends are serving this old lady, chopping wood, and she comes up to him and says, ˝Joseph! I may not agree with your religion, but I sure am grateful for your help.˝ Then he answers back, ˝Well ma'am, you might say that that is our religion.˝ It is so true! It is not just about sitting around and dreaming of our mansions above, but it is about going and doing, bringing smiles to people's faces and making people's days brighter. We need to take every opportunity we have to do this. This is what we believe and who we are!

Speaking of this Sunday however, we have district conference this weekend in Slovenija (basically stake conference, so it's all of Slovenija coming down to Ljubljana) and President Kearon who's the first councilor of the European area presidency is coming. If you remember, a year or so back he talked in conference about going walking in the desert without shoes against the council of his parents and got stung by a scorpion. It's super cool that such a high level general authority is coming for conference. Great things should happen, and it should be a super spiritual experience. We will see.

Afterwards we are going to have a dinner with all the missionaries in the zone (Slovenija) as well. It should be super great.

Otherwise the work is going ahead. We have transfers coming up this week. Actually, I feel like the last 9 weeks have gone by at lightning speed. I didn't even realize that it was the transfer up until we planned for our next week last Thursday, and I realized it was the last week in my planner. Super strange. Whatever changes happen, the Lord is in it. 

Well wishes from Slovenija,
have a happy week! Go make some one's day for me!  :-D
-Starešina Benson

Monday, March 3, 2014

Miracles moving forward

Lep pozdrav iz slovenije!-

Spring is coming for sure everyone!! It hasn't gotten below 0 in a long while now, the snow piles are pretty much all gone, and flowers are starting to pop up all other the place. It is a little sad though too to see the forests. some of it looks pretty bad after the ice storm Slovenia had last month. But the world is starting to wake up from winter. I've seen the alps out our window nearly every other day now instead of once a month!

This week has been a fine week. Moving on with the two kids who are set for baptism, we had an interesting week with them. We met both of them on Monday, to discover that Monday afternoon they had had a fight, and were no longer interested in being around each other. We set up with the younger one (15 years old) whom we have mainly been working with, while talking to his friend (17 years old), giving him our number and telling him to call us. Through the week, we met with the younger one with him again and resolved his concerns about baptism, but all the while we waited and waited for his friend to call us, but nothing happened. Then on Sunday, after not hearing at all from the 17 year old friend since Monday, we went on to the home of the 15 year old so we could all go to church together, but as we knocked on the door we soon discovered, no one was home. We, a little discouraged (but understanding! There has to be opposition in all things, if not we would not learn and there would be no true happiness with every success!!) we got on the bus and made it over to the church, meeting another member on the bus and the other elders. Then as we arrived at church, about 20 minutes early, we saw a few people standing just inside the doors, the sister missionaries, a visitor there for the first time.... and the 17 year old friend waiting for us!!!!! He came all on his own desire and effort. We hadn't had any contact with him since the prior Monday, and hadn't even discussed coming to church that Sunday! But as I told Elder Burdette when we were starting to close hope for him, ˝He may not know exactly where we are throughout the week, but he knows 100% where we will be on Sunday from 10am-1pm˝, and he came! What's more, he stayed all 3 hours of church, and called us later that day to set up for coming to a family home evening today with us and so we now have his number to contact him. It is all so wonderful, and a true miracle that it all worked out in the end. Just goes to show though that you can't despair at the first sign of opposition. Know it WILL come. But if your heart is in the right place, you believe, and trust that the Lord will win in the end (which he WILL), then you have no need to despair in the face of opposition.

Otherwise this week has been fairly bland. Elder Burdette and I have been working a bit to try and get set up with the people we usually meet with, but it is proving to be a bit tricky. Meanwhile doing our best to try and get out and meet new people. This is the wonder of life of a missionary! It is so exciting. You get to meet so many new people every single day.

Otherwise I hope spring (or if you are in Texas Summer since we really don't have a spring) is springing up there as well.

Well springing wishes!

-Starešina Benson