Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23rd

First transfer: completed! I really can't believe I have been in the mission field for 6 weeks! It feels like I just got here yesterday....and at the same time, like I've been here forever haha. Mission problems. 

This week went well; we had some great things happen! I got to meet with Yuyu (the elders' Chinese investigator who agreed to teach me some Chinese) and she is the nicest person on Earth! She is helping me make my sentences sound more natural. She also helped me learn how to explain sin to Chinese people (because she said they do not really understand completely what sin means. She said a lot of them assume that sin is just another word for crimes). After about 45 mins of teaching, she started asking a few questions about the Gospel and we were able to address a lot of her concerns about being baptized. It was a really great opportunity and the elders were so grateful to get more information. 

Edmund has not been progressing as much lately and so Sister Montgomery and I decided to do a fast to understand what was keeping him from being baptized. At the end of our fast, we felt like we were suppose to go over the first few baptismal questions with him. We went to the meeting and Edmund seemed really down. He said that he had recently had a job interview and he did not get a call back. We talked to him for a while and then, after praying, we asked him the first baptismal question: Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? He sighed and said, "I don't really know." Ouch. Back to square one. We talked about God is our loving Heavenly Father more and asked him if he wanted a blessing, because he really seemed down. He agreed and, later that week, the elders gave him a blessing. This Sunday, you definitely could see a change in him. He was much happier and he wore a suit and tie for the first time! Just goes to show, answers do not always come in the way we want, but they definitely come. 

Last Saturday, our stake threw a Pioneer day party with a huge dinner and games. We were heading to it, when we ran into Maria for the first time in two weeks. Maria was the investigator with the garden that loved talking about Jesus. We had gone to her house a lot in the last couple weeks and she was never home and never called us back, so we had reluctantly dropped her. But she yelled to us from across the parking lot and waved us over. We talked to her for a bit and invited her to the Pioneer Day party. She accepted and came with us! We got to introduce her to a lot of ward members and even gave her a short tour of the chapel. As we were heading home, she said, "You know what, I am going to surprise you guys by showing up to your church sometime!" 

After the Pioneer Day celebration, we planned for the next day and started preparing for bed when we got a phone call. It was from the stake high counselor. He said that he was giving a talk in our ward tomorrow and the person he was speaking with had to drop out at the last moment, so he was wondering if we could speak instead! Because we had two meetings in the morning the next day, we only had an hour to prepare our talks, but they both turned out really well. It really forced us to rely on the Spirit haha. 

My talk was about becoming reconverted to the Gospel. It was based a little bit off Elder Bednar's talk, "Converted Unto the Lord." In this talk, Bednar mentions an interaction that Jesus has with Peter during the Last Supper, in which He said to His head disciple: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to … sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Bednar goes on to point out that Christ is saying this to the same man that gave such the powerful witness that Jesus was "Christ, son of the living God." We all need to seek to become more converted. We need to constantly be seeking to strengthen our testimonies and seek out spiritual experiences. Just going to church is not enough. Even just having a testimony is not enough. We need to recommit to the Gospel regularly and that starts with a desire to change anything that is not in harmony with the Lord, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, and coming unto Him. 

Update from last week: We are meeting with Rophael today and Marc on Wednesday! I'll let you know how it goes! And my eye is doing MUCH better; I took the antibiotics and it went down in a few days. THANK GOODNESS. I still haven't gotten my visa. But, I did get an email this week that said that the minute my visa came in, the mission president would be notified and call me. I personally don't think if it will come in time for me to get to Australia by July 30th, so I will probably be spending the next 6 weeks in this area and I feel like it will really help me. It is definitely a hard area to crack; not a lot of people want to hear about the Gospel or are willing to change, but we know that there is someone out there waiting for the Gospel, whether they know it or not. And we're going to find them! I am so grateful for the Lord for giving me mountains to climb and forcing me to rely on Him always. 

Mom, I got your package today! And I LOVE that you included the skirt! I was just wishing I had brought it last week! You are such a mind reader. 

I love you all and you are in my prayers! 

-Sister Sarah Bennion

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 16th


I'm on my 5th week in the field! It is so crazy to think that transfers are coming up next Wednesday! I'm hoping I stay in our same area, because we had some awesome things happen this last week! 

Awesome thing #1: Last Tuesday night, we were having dinner with a really fantastic member family named the Hadleys. The husband, Brother Hadley, was telling us about some of his mission experiences, especially those concerning "transfer sacrifices," something that his mission president had instituted in their mission where, every transfer, the mission president would present a different challenge for the missionaries. Sister Montgomery and I wanted to know more about what the sacrifices were, so Brother Hadley began to list a few. One transfer, it was reading the whole Book of Mormon in 6 weeks. Another transfer, it was only eating with members if there was a nonmember present at the dinner. This last challenge really interested me and I asked Brother Hadley how that had worked out. He said that it worked really well and they found a lot of great investigators that way. He then stopped and turned to his wife and said, "Honey, why don't we try to find someone to eat dinner with us and the missionaries next week?" The wife was a little nervous about it (they just moved into the area, she is VERY pregnant, and has three kids to take care of), so Sister Montgomery and I told them that we would do a fast for them to find someone prepared to hear the Gospel. They agreed to both pray and search. We fasted all of Wednesday and, thenext Sunday, were greeted by a very enthusiastic Sister Hadley. She said that she had met someone at the kiddie pool next to their apartment who had lived in the area for years and really wanted to get to know more people in the community. Sister Hadley had invited her for a BBQ to meet more people and had arranged for a lot of members in the area to come! So awesome! There is definitely a lot of power in fasting and praying. 

Awesome thing #2: WE GOT A REFERRAL! It was from Sister Montgomery's last companion. She sent us a text saying that there was an awesome guy named Mark that we needed to visit who worked as a plumber or cable guy and had helped a member out and seemed interested in the church. We went over there right away and knocked on his door. A guy opened and Sister Montgomery said, "Hey, are you a plumber?" Not exactly the best opening line, especially when his reply was no! haha. But, once we had confirmed that he was indeed Mark (and not a plumber),  we introduced ourselves and asked if he would be interested learning more about the church. He said he really would and gave us his number! We are going to call him tomorrow to set up an appointment! 

Awesome thing #3: We finally found out more about Edmund's background! He told us a lot about his life and how he became interested in seeking out God more. He even shared with us a poem that he had written about repentance (it is really good! Definitely "back page of Ensign" worthy). We also found out that he has not been reading the Book of Mormon lately and recommitted him to that. He leaves the second week of August and is still hesitant about being baptized before then, but we are going to follow the Spirit and see what happens! We are planning on teaching him more about Joseph Smith and modern day prophets this week with an emphasis on the ability that the Spirit has in confirming truth.

Awesome thing #4: One of the elders in our district has a Chinese investigator named Yuyu, who heard I am learning to speak
Chinese and really wants to teach me more about it! So I am going to meet with her this week and go over the 1st lesson with her in Chinese and she is going to assist me with tones and pronunciation! The elders said that she has a baptismal date for later this month, but is getting really nervous about it, so this could be a really great step to keep her grounded in the Gospel. 

Awesome thing #5: Saturday afternoon, as we were helping paint a less active member's house, I realized that I had a really painful bump on my eyebrow. I had no idea how I got it (I could not remember hitting my head or anything) and just tried to ignore it the rest of the day. However, when I woke up the next day, it had swelled a ton and was making it so I could not open my eye all the way. Monday morning, it was even bigger and was hurting, so I called the mission nurse and had to schedule a doctor's appointment. When I got there, the doctor took a look and said I had a staff infection. He gave me a prescription for some pills that I could pick up at a pharmacy near our apartment (Notice: This may not seem like it deserves to be on the "awesome thing" list, but bare with me...it gets better!). So, today, my companion and I stopped by the pharmacy and the lady at the counter told us to come back in 30 minutes. To use up some time, we went over to the store's bakery and bought some bread for lunch. We talked to the checker, Ropheal, for a little bit and he asked us about what church we were from. We told him a little about the LDS church and Sister Montgomery asked if he would like to learn more. He said he would and gave us his phone number to call him about it later this week! Staff infections are not exactly the best method of finding people, but whatever works! The Lord definitely knows what He's doing!

I got Mary's wedding invitation in the mail today! AND I LOVED IT! I was showing it to everyone I saw in the mission office and they all loved the design of the card and the gorgeous, gorgeous pictures of Mary and Michael! I am so sad I am missing the wedding (1 more month!!), but I am glad I'm being kept in the loop. Definitely keep me updated on wedding prep. 

Big news: One of the elders who came to San Diego the same day as me and was also waiting for a visa to Australia got his visa last Saturday! Hopefully that means mine is coming pretty soon! I figured out that the next transfer date for the Melbourne mission isJuly 30th, so if my visa comes in the next two weeks, I'll be in Australia by the end of this month! If not, I will probably be there around September 10th. Whatever happens, I have complete confidence that the Lord knows more than I do and He will make sure I am where I am suppose to be. 

Spiritual thought: I have really had a problem contacting people on the streets lately. It still feels so awkward to me and the people always seem like they are busy and really not interested. However, this last week, I was reading a conference talk called, "Come, All Ye Sons of God" by President Thomas S. Monson and was really struck by one of his points: Teach the truth with testimony. In this section, he quoted from 1 Peter 3:15, which states "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." I realized that, because I was hesitating to talk with people on the streets, I was missing out on an opportunity to testify of the reason for the joy I have. This reminded me of another scripture I had read, from D&C 4. It states: If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work. Missionary work is never easy. It was not simple for Ammon, Abinidi, Elijah, Christ's disciples, Joseph Smith or any other follower of Christ who has cried repentance throughout all time. It certainly was not easy for Christ, who was completely rejected and crucified. And whatever position we are serving in, as leaders, members, or missionaries, there will very rarely be an opportunity to share the Gospel that will not feel awkward. It all comes back to our desire. In a recent conference talk, Quentin L. Cook shares a scripture that he calls "one of the most profound verses in all of scripture," in which Alma proclaims, "If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" Are we truly converted? Have we truly tasted of the fruit of the Gospel? How much do we want to share what we have?  Do we have faith in the Savior and a sincere desire to gather his sheep? If so, He will call and sustain us to do His work and be His hands, no matter where we are. I know that as I testify and share the joy of the Gospel with more boldness, I will be strengthened and gain an even greater testimony of this Gospel.

I love you all! Glad my letters were well received! More are on their way today! 

With love,
Sister Sarah Bennion

July 9th

Fam! So fantastic hearing from you! I LOVE THE TREE HOUSE. And the picture of Rachel and the rice cooker...I might have to print that one out and hang it in my room. Gooood stuff right there. 

This last week was a little rough. It was so hard to visit people, because everyone was out of town for the Fourth of July. Our number of lessons was pretty low. BUT, here are some of the week highlights! 

1. The Fourth of July! Our ward had a party the morning of the fourth and we got to help with it! Our investigators all bailed at the last moment, but Sister Montgomery and I had a great opportunity to know the members and talk with some less active people who showed up. We were in charge of the face painting area and, even though we had drawn up some suggestions of what they could ask for (an American flag, fireworks, a heart, etc), they came up with some crazy requests. To name a few: Shawn the Sheep (Who is that?? Never heard of that character in my life), a Ninjago ninja (I did know that one, courtesy of Luke), an albino crocodile, a Star Wars Clone, and the cub sign. So much fun. After the party, we let the elders use our car and walked over to visit an older gentleman in our ward. On our way over, we were able to talk to someone on the streets about the church for a while (which was fantastic! It is really hard to street contact, because a lot of people are plugged in or talking on the phone. Ohhhh, technology). After visiting the member, we were walking back home (the mission president told us we had to be back inside our apartment by 7, because there are a lot of drunk drivers out on the Fourth) and both Sister Montgomery and I felt like we needed to visit a less active member named Ed, who lived in a retirement home nearby. We talked to Ed for a little while and gave a lesson on hope (D&C 6:34). To close the lesson, Sister Montgomery said the prayer and in it she said, "Please help Ed to be happy." Ed stopped us after and told us, with tears in his eyes, that he was suffering from depression and the fact that she had prayed for him to be happy meant a lot to him. He also told us about how he really wanted to go back to church, but did not feel worthy enough. We shared with him the story of the Prodigal Son, telling him that the son also did not feel worthy to come back to his father, But, as the son made the trek home, his father saw him on the road and ran to him. We told Ed that, as long as he was trying to make his way back to His Father in Heaven, the Lord would help him and welcome him back with open arms. He agreed to pray about it and said that he was going to try to come back to church soon! Such a neat experience!

2. Some of the sisters in our district announced in district meeting that they had a baptism, so Sister Montgomery and I decided to invite Edmund. He agreed to come. However, when we got down to the chapel where the baptism was suppose to take place, there was no one there. We called the sisters and discovered that the baptism was scheduled for the next day. We were super embarrassed; the chapel was a good 30 minutes away from our area and Edmund had already arrived by the time we tried to call him about our mistake. But, it actually turned out really well. We got to show Edmund the baptismal font and explain more about the sacred ordinance. He said that it really helped him as he was trying to make his decision. 

3. During companion study on Saturday, we had to watch a small selection of a video called "The District." One of the things that stuck out in the video was a comment from one of the sisters, who said, "When we are having dinner with members, we always try to stay as focused as we can on missionary work. The members know who we are and why we are hear and they expect it." I realized that that was something that we did not do as much as we should at. It is always so awkward bringing up the subject of referrals and missionary work too much dinner, because none of the members ever have anyone for us to visit, that we would often avoid the subject until the end. I decided that I would try to bring up the topic early in the conversation later that night. During dinner, the member family began asking us the usual questions (where do you come from, how many kids were in your family, etc). We answered the questions and I started talking about our investigators. I then asked them if they had talked to anyone about the Gospel before. The parents both told us stories about people they had talked to and lessons they had taught. The wife, who had served a mission, began telling us some of her favorite mission stories. After she finished one of the stories, she said, "I use to be so much better at talking about the Gospel to people. I am really going to work on that this week." Score!! 

4. I GOT LETTERS TODAY!! Thank you Emma, Luke, Rachel, Mom, and Diane! You guys are amazing and completely made my day! Mom, I loved, loved, loved the skirt (I am already getting tired of my clothes... not a good sign) and am so grateful for the cook book. I also hung up the snoopy flag in my room to remind me of you guys!

Thanks for the prayers! I can definitely feel them in my life and it is such a huge comfort to know that I have people supporting me back home! I still have not heard anything about my visa, but I know the Lord put me here for a reason! 

Quick spiritual thought!
At the beginning of Ether 12:48, it states "If men come unto me, I will show unto men their weakness." My first thought after reading this was "That is terrible! It is hard enough to come unto Christ, but having our shortcomings revealed in the process makes it so much harder!" Then, I realized that of course we see our flaws more as we come unto the Savior. As we try to become like Him, we will no doubt recognize that we definitely fall short. It is inevitable when coming unto Christ that you won't find something you need to improve on. It is that recognition of our flaws that allows us to meekly and humbly call upon the Lord for strength and desire to change. I know that I have never felt my shortcomings more acutely than I do now, as I am trying my best to come unto Him. It is what motivates me to make the difficult step of putting my faith completely in Christ and relying on his power to be healed and improved. And as I put this faith in him, I am promised in that same verse that He will "make weak things become strong."

Come unto Christ! Recognize your flaws! Because with His help, you can overcome all things! 

Love, Sister Sarah Bennion

PS More pictures to come I promise! I left my camera at home today!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2nd

Thank you so much for the emails! I loved hearing about the crazy Pratt reunion (I was dying laughing at the tree story...typical Pratt family) and am really....interested to see what the shirt looks like haha.
This last week, we put a huge focus on members. Since our mission is non-proselyting, we are told to work with the members to find most of our new investigators and receive referrals. The only problem? Not a single member in our ward has given any referrals to the missionaries in more than two months (despite the missionaries' frequent pleas). We have been trying to change that by involving members in the teaching process of less active members and trying to gain the members' trust as much as we can. One of our ideas: Since there are a lot of members in our ward who are really stressed with kids, pregnancies, etc, we printed out conference talks and visited some of them with cookies. The families really appreciated it and one of them agreed to give a Book of Mormon to a friend from work! Score!
We are still teaching Edmund, the investigator that came to church the last month. It seems like he is really liking what he is hearing, but he never asks any questions or really answer any of the questions we ask him, which is getting frustrating. Yet, he is keeping all of his commitments and coming back for more lessons, so something is bringing him back. Last week, we taught him about the Plan of Salvation and the Spirit was really there. However, at the end of the lesson, we asked him if he would commit to baptized and he said he still wanted to know more before making any commitments. We told him to pray about it and he promised he would. Meeting again this Wednesday...wish us luck!
We also met with our new investigator, Liz, yesterday and she is doing awesome! She read a chapter from the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2) and wanted us to go over it with her. She asked some completely fantastic questions about the Atonement and you could tell that she had put a lot of effort into her reading. We clarified some of what was being said in the chapter and she said it all made sense! And she agreed to go to church this week!
We finally met up with an investigator we met two weeks ago, named Mat. He is from China and we taught him about the Restoration. I got to tell him the First Vision in Chinese (I had memorize it last week. STRESSFUL, but it went well). He agreed to try to read the Book of Mormon and said we could meet again on Saturday.
All in all, the mission is going great! Except for last Thursday...Sister Montgomery and I went out to eat at a pizza restaurant with a family from the ward. We were pretty hungry so both got the combo (2 pieces of pizza each). What we didn't know is that each piece of pizza were bigger than our heads. We ate so much; it literally hurt to walk afterwards. When we got back to our apartment, we spent a half-hour of our time before bed doing ab workouts to try to burn it off. I don't think I will ever look at a piece of pizza again (unless it was made by Mary and Michael).
I loved the package I got from the Telfords!! Thank you so much. I must admit, I squealed when I saw the box of otter pops. Flawless merriment. And we ate the crockpot meal for dinner yesterday, a VERY welcome variation from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. However, in my cooking adventures, I have found out how to make something rather delicious. We bought a ton of berries and we put them on our pancakes. They are called....woman cakes :) (since their small size, limited toppings, and my lack of pan-flipping skills prevent them from coming close to Michael's mancakes).
During personal study, I was reading in Mark 5 about Jesus' travels in the country of the  Gadarnes early in his ministry. Shortly after arriving in the area, Jesus ran into a mad man with a legion of devils inside him. The man lived in the mountains, dwelling in the tombs nearby, and would often cry out and cut himself on stones. The townspeople, who no doubt wanted this man to stay away from their ancestral tombs, had tried to capture him many times before, but no one could keep him locked up. He broke chains and ropes and so they left him there, in the mountains. Jesus casts out the demons from the man and sent them into a herd of pigs, which promptly ran into the ocean and died. When the herders of the swine saw this, they ran and told the rest of the city, who asked Jesus to leave their city. As Jesus was leaving, the man who not long ago had been filled with demons begged Jesus to let him come along. The man's reasoning makes sense. He has nothing left for him in the town. He had been crazy for so long, the people probably still feared and ostracized him. He had no occupation, livelihood, or anything else that could tether him to the city and he wanted to follow the man who had saved him from a life of pain and madness. Yet, Jesus does not let him come with Him. Jesus, who invites all to come unto Him and follow Him, tells the man to stay behind, to "go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done." When I read this, I remember thinking "What friends can this man possibly have? What home? And who in the city would ever listen to this man?" But back to the city the man went and he began to tell people about the miracle the Lord had performed. And amazingly, people listened to this man. It says in the scriptures that "ALL men marveled" at what the man proclaimed. Sometimes, at the times that we think we are doing everything we can to follow the Savior and come unto Christ, He will tell us to go another way. He will tell us to do something that seems too hard, too embarrassing, too impossible. But, as we follow his commandments, He will give us strength and power to do what He has asked.
I love you guys! Have a great fourth of July! Mom, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!
-Sister Sarah Bennion