Monday, June 30, 2014

Incredible people and American peanut butter

Hello all family and friends!!!
This week has been an incredible week. It's biggest, most important part was the baptism in Ljubljana on Saturday of course. A woman who lives in the Celje area was baptized at the church here in Ljubljana and it was an incredible event! We had many people who came, including our young friend who hasn't been doing too much recently. He said, after the ordinance and while the sister missionaries were teaching a little something while people were changing back into dry clothes, that he felt really great inside his heart.  Like the greatest happiness he had ever felt, pure love. It was an incredible spiritual experience and everyone left feeling that happiness.
Also on Sunday, we had a great church service, with the young kid coming again to church and the first Slovene member coming to church as well. For third hour, we did a little something different combining everyone together and having someone teach about unity, our hearts being knit together in love. It was an incredible lesson, and at the end the teacher asked 5 specific people to stand up at the front, the first 5 people in the church here in Slovenia some 20 years ago. Then, they were a true family, meeting in one of the member's houses and having so much contact with one another. Today, the family is a little bit bigger, but should still seek to be just as unified.
This week, Elder Stott and I also taught a lot of people we found, not all of which though were interested enough to meet with us again. But we met many great people. One of which was a family we met. We were going around on the west side of Moste in Ljubljana one day by some houses when we saw a woman outside by her car. We stopped her and talked to her, but she fairly quickly and politely said she had found her own way and was not interested. However, the next moment her mother came down and opened the back of her van to reveal a truck filled with bags. We offered to help them carry them all up, and they consented. After bringing all the luggage up to the second floor apartment of the house, they offered us some drinks and we sat and talked, meeting the woman's sister and mother, all of whom were incredibly nice. The mother was actually quite interested in our message, and so we discussed it for a bit. As we were leaving though, we noticed a large, family size jar of Skippy peanut butter on the table. THIS DOES NOT EXIST IN SLOVENIA!!!!!!! We of course had to ask them where they got it, and she explained that her other sister was married to an American and worked on a military base in Germany. They brought it down as a gift from the base. We then of course explained how much we loved peanut butter and how it is impossible to find quality and quantity peanut butter in Europe, to which they then offered to give us THREE jars the next Saturday if we would come back. Of course we came back the next Saturday. That Saturday, we met the whole family, including the sister and husband that live in Germany. It was a great visit and we saw that the mother is really interested. We will see how it all turns out, but either way we now have (ended up with two) family size jars of authentic, American, Skippy peanut butter.
Hope you all have a very busy and successful week. These last weeks in the mission with be crazy. Today is President Rowe's last day in the mission, President Grant arrives tomorrow. We will then be having a zone meeting with all the Slovene missionaries this Thursday, in addition to interviews with the Ljubljana missionaries. it is going to be a crazy few weeks.
Have an amazing one as well!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, June 23, 2014

The work is moving forward like never before!!!!

Hello all family and friends!!!
Slovenia is sunny and warm, but not too warm.  It is not anywhere close to 90 degrees again. But the summer is now beginning. School is over and people are heading out to the coast for vacation. Let the summer evacuation of Slovenes slowly begin now. Then again though, I will soon be joining them in a few weeks.
So Elder Stott and I worked really hard this week, and we had a lot of fun.
It all started last Monday where we had a zone p-day together with all the elders in Celje. we played ultimate Frisbee and was great for building unity and getting to know each other. Everyone was invited, but most of the sisters ditched out on coming. Even the Celje ones even though it was their own city! But it was a great day, and we started an exchange there that night too. Elder Deringer came back with me to Ljubljana and we had a great Monday night and Tuesday together. We really got to know one another and worked hard talking to people.
We had a great lesson with one of the less active members Elder Stott and I met a few weeks ago who has very fond memories of all the members and church, but hadn't been in many years following a really bad car accident. But we began teaching him the doctrine again, and it was a powerful experience for him. Then, yesterday, he organized himself with one of the other active member families out by him to give him a ride to church, and he came!! For the first time in many years. He was incredibly excited and happy, greeting everyone who came by. He had a great experience before leaving.
Also, on Friday Elder Stott and I had the opportunity to go to the Slovene coast, Izola, where a member lives. She had come to church in Ljubljana for the first time in months three weeks ago and I met her there, got her number and set up. She is so incredibly strong. She goes to church every single Sunday in Trst about 30 minutes away in Italy because it is an hour and a half away to Ljubljana, even though she cannot speak any Italian, and no one there can speak any Slovene. She struggles, but she endures and is a contributing member there, organizing FHE activities and giving talks sometimes on Sundays, using the help of a computer to translate to Italian.
She said though that she had been praying for years that the missionaries in Ljubljana would not forget her, and that she would one day have the chance to be taught the gospel again in her native language of Slovene. And so she said that us coming was an answer to her prayers after many many years of faithfully enduring with the Lord for this request. She was so happy and broke down in tears a few times. After the lesson and lunch, we then went to go find some people we thought lived on the coast  who were members, and she was the best. She had no fear to ask anyone for help, and she was a great asset.
Also, in the mission, we have had the goal of 500 people attending church in the mission on one Sunday before President Rowe leaves, and this last Sunday we achieved it!!! President says that when he arrived about this time three years ago there were about 300 people coming in the mission. Then yesterday we hit 502 total. Miracles. It has been amazing being able to be a part of that too, especially here in Ljubljana. Since the time I arrived here in Frebuaryish, Ljubljana's attendance has jumped significantly. What was once a record high for attendance here in March is now becoming the usual.
Amazing things are happening as we say goodbye to President Rowe this weekend. On July first the new mission president, President Grant arrives. It will be a great time to improve even more. We also have a baptism scheduled here in Ljubljana from the Celje branch on Saturday, which will be the first baptism in Slovenia in 6 months, and the first baptism from missionary efforts in... nearly a year? A very very long time. It is wonderful. Miracles are happening and people are coming to Christ like never before.
Here's to great success in the next week in the Lord's Kingdom moving forward!
-Much love
-Starešina Benson

Monday, June 16, 2014

The light of one another.

Hello all family and friends!!!!

This week has been a really really really great and busy and crazy week!! It has been cloudy in the morning, sunny in the afternoon, and rainy in the evening. The big summer storms have started to top up. Wednesday especially was really intense. We had an exchange with the assistants from Zagreb, but because there are now three people in that companionship, they just had one, Elder McAllister come up to work with Elder Stott and I, instead of one of us going down to work in Zagreb. So we had a threesome for a day. But it was amazing!! The prior week, we had coordinated with our district president to work with him as well the same night, so instead of being a massive amount of 4 missionaries, we split into two companionships, Elder Stott going with Elder McAllister, and me going with our district president. It was an amazing few hours!!

We started going to see if a less active member was home whom we haven't yet had contact with for a long long time. So we went and knocked and her mom was home, and said that the less active person we were looking for was not there, but she then asked if we would like to come in and talk a bit more about what we believe!! Since I was with the district president, we could, and so we went in and had a great visit. We focused on Christ and the Resurrection, for which she had a lot of questions about.

Then, we went on to a lesson with the first baptized member in Slovenia who was right down the street. She has been doing well, and her desire to return has been growing so much. But then when it all is going great is when the greatest opposition happens. And so (not because of her own will) she has not been about to go to church in the last two weeks. But we both went and had an amazing visit with her and gave her useful ways to overcome her challenge and just showering her with our love. We otherwise fasted with her this last week. Then the miracle Saturday night. All her government money challenges had been worked out!! And so she went to the coast to celebrate... and couldn't come to church yesterday... but she told me that next week, she wouldn't say if she ˝might˝ come, but that she ˝will˝ come. It really is true I've seen. Sometimes someone's desire doesn't really grow a ton until what they were being asked to do suddenly becomes difficult to impossible. I think that is truly evidence that the people with the most challenges in coming into the gospel but endure through them, are the most amazing, strong people.

We also had some incredibly spiritual lessons with members . It really is great being here and being able to serve everyone. Being able to share each other's light and encourage and strengthen one another. The world is a dark place which seeks to tear us down and have us compromise our potential and dreams. But with the light of the gospel in one another, we can endure through everything.

I hope you all have a very light filled week!

-Starešina Benson

PS I can count how many weeks I have left on one hand. Weird.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A week of returning members and the fruits of the work

Hello, Živijo friends and family!!
Hope all is well at home. Here in Slovenija, the Summer is just beginning. It was been up to 30 degrees this last week for a few days, which is about 90 degrees. It has been great! Unfortunately that means that people will soon begin taking their trip to the coast, abandoning the cities, and the tourists will begin arriving by the hundreds.
This week has been a very spiritual and busy week. June 8th, yesterday, we had our "come and see" day. It was incredible as we saw many many members come to church for the first time in many years, up to 8 people. It was also phenomenal in that President Rowe was here in Ljubljana as well (mission president). We also had zone conference this week, the last one with President and Sister Rowe before they head home. Their mission ends July 1st, and then we will have a new mission president, President Grant. It will be a great last few weeks for me of busy change. Also this week, we had our final interviews with President Rowe, for me we basically had a final final interview, as I will have known President Grant for 3 weeks before I go home.
But in Slovenia, the work is exploding!!! In the last 3 or so weeks, we have seen 5 people accept dates to be baptized, three in Celje and three in Ljubljana! That is for 6 total, after a long time of not seeing much of anything. The whole Zone is incredibly excited and all of their faith is just going like nothing else. Also, one of those in Celje is a man I began working with whom we met through English Class. He loves to philosophize, but is incredibly intelligent and has received a testimony of the truth of it all, and now has the desire to be baptized. He still has to quit smoking, but he has the pure desire and faith, and with that anything is possible.
In terms of Elder Stott's and my work, we have been working, with the June 8th day, to contact every single member in the Ljubljana are,. not an easy task, as there are many who haven't had contact with missionaries in a long long time. So we went out, and had some great conversations and met lots of people. One of them is a middle aged man who hasn't been in some 6 years who lives on the exact opposite side of Ljubljana as the church. He is half handicapped by a car accident, but still has great memories of his spiritual experiences here in the church.
Also, alongside having contact with every member, we were asked to then knock on ten doors around the members and invite their neighbors to come as well. So we were in a neighborhood on the far side of our area where we don't go too often, but were there because a member lives over there. We knocked on the ten doors close by, with little success. But it was the end of a row of duplexes, so we decided to knock the last 3 even though it was more than what we were asked. The very last door, a man opened and said immediately to us, ˝Janez Smith?˝ we laughed after correcting him and he immediately invited us right in. He had met missionaries many many many years ago and had a Book of Mormon from them... in Croatian, (The Slovene translation was released in 2002) plus a really old copy of the story of Joseph Smith that is no longer printed in that style anymore. He was really open though and we had a great conversation. I really have learned while being here that the success you have doesn't happen in the first 20%, 50%, or even 90% of your work. It comes once you have given 101%. Then the miracles and blessings begin to flow.
Hope you all have great, successful week, and that you are able to give 101% and then keep going!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, June 2, 2014

Miracles by miracles. Schools and in the right place at the right time.

Hello family and friends!!!
So the summer is slowly coming to a start with the beginning of June, but thankfully it hasn't truly started. All the Slovenes haven't left for the coast yet, so there are still a majority of Slovenes in Ljubljana right now rather than tourists. But over the next month it should slowly start getting worse and worse. Thankfully by the time it is awful I should be gone.
This week has truly been a miraculous week.  It started pretty early with an exchange we had with the Ljubljana elders in Center. I spent the day with Elder Lyman. That night, we were finishing with our day, slowly starting to head home by a round about way to talk to people on the way, when a guy on his bike stopped us and asked us what were the basics of what we believed. He was very interested and so we set a time the next morning to meet with him at his home. We had a fine lesson with him. He had already met missionaries a long long time in the past, and is very passionate about what he believes. But a majority of that what he believes is truth, unique to us. Otherwise, he is a paramedic with a family of five. Great guy.
Also, Wednesday, we had organized a tour of the church for a primary school in a small town called Gorenja Vas. There were about 45 kids there ,plus the teachers who were on a field trip in Ljubljana for the day to see a variety of other faith sites, us included. We had a great tour, teaching a 20 minute group lesson at the end, before having a great question and answer session. They all left with a great impression. As they were leaving though, one of the teachers saw our table out front with free copies of brochures and copies of the Book of Mormon. She asked if she could have one and we said of course. Then, over the next 10 minutes the students started streaming back into the church in groups of one or two or three people, each saying they saw their teacher reading and wanting their own copy. We then handed out more than 20 copies of the Book of Mormon over the next 10 minutes. But the story doesn't end there. Yesterday, one of the teachers showed up at church! We had invited them all to the ˝Come and See˝ day that we are having this next Sunday (the 8th), but she learned she couldn't come then, and so told her family yesterday that they were going on a little Sunday trip, coming to church in Ljubljana!! It was truly a miracle and amazing meeting.
Lastly, in the efforts to get as many people as possible to church on our ˝Come and See˝ day, or open house this Sunday, we have been asked to have contact with every single member in our areas, even ones who probably haven't had contact in the last 5-10 years. Easier said than done. So Elder Stott and I isolated a couple who we hadn't noticed before, and decided to go visit them. Unfortunately, we got the address wrong, and went to the completely wrong address. But still, we met a great man there and invited him to English class as he pointed us in the right direction. So eventually, we arrived at the right address. As we were coming up to the apartment building, we passed by two older women and said hi to them, before walking up the stairs. Once there, we looked at the buzzers for the right last name, but it wasn't there. Meaning? They moved. Still the wrong address. But one of the older ladies we passed came up the stairs to the same building, so we said, ˝Excuse us mam, would you happen to know this family by chance?˝ She said, ˝They're not at home˝. ˝So then did you know them?˝. ˝Mmmm you could say that I know them.˝. ˝Ah! were they good friends then?˝. Then the older woman said ˝The wife, she is my daughter.˝ What are the chances?!?!?!?!!! We then had a great conversation, hearing the sad story of what happened to them, but learning that the wife would be at home on Monday (today), and the grandmother inviting us to come back this evening. It was an amazing experience, not an accident, and completely inspired. We were in just the right place, and just the right time, and talked to just the right person, for it to happen at all.
I know the Lord is leading us. He is the one in charge, and miracles are happening. I hope everyone back home has a wonderful, miracle filled week!
Well wishes-
-Starešina Benson