October 28, 2013

This week certainly was interesting. I really feel like it didn't even happen. It just disappeared right before my eyes. It was a little bit of a rough week. Because of the fires most of the people we have been working with couldn't meet with us, because they were either evacuated or they wouldn't let us up the mountain.   All of the members are looking for opportunities to serve and then calling us and telling us about it and asking if we can help. I love giving service!  Over 200 homes have been lost in the fires which is so sad, but it has been great to watch this area really come together and help people out. I love watching the members become more united in a crisis to help out. A friend here works with the SES and she has said that people have been donating all sorts of things, so much that they don't even have room enough to store it all. There just really are such great people here in Australia.

My core experience with God this week was a really powerful one. One where I really got to feel and receive a witness why my leaders are my leaders. My District Leader always does amazing with the trainings he gives and he is always wanting to make sure that we are doing well and taken care of. Our Zone Leaders are wonderful. They have both been my leaders before and they have helped me through some pretty rough times on my mission. But I love it because they don't think any less of me because of my shortcomings, they just try to see how best they can help me. It made me think of my Bishop that I had all growing up in my ward at home. He has certainly impacted my life in a myriad of different ways, and I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for him. When I was going through problems he always showed me love and always tried to help me. He didn't tell me the wrong that I had been doing but looked past it and helped me to fix it. I always appreciated that. I felt like I could just tell him anything and I could be comfortable. Which is how I think they should all be. We all have a great role to play to build the kingdom of God and when you do it in the right way you can touch so many lives. I see that with President Howes. I can't even think of how many times something would go wrong and then his words of counsel would come into my mind and keep pushing me forward. Or the times when I really have been struggling and he just knew exactly what to say to help me keep going. Because lets face it, missionary work is not always a walk in the park, but he has certainly taught me how to handle the stress and to become a better and more consecrated missionary and for that I am grateful.

I had another great experience as I followed the counsel of my leaders to prayerfully study Chapter 1 in PMG. It has been a wonderful experience. Things have stood out to me that haven't made this much of an impact on me for my whole mission.
One thing that really stood out to me was who we really are representing. And I know that we are representing Jesus Christ and doing what he would do and say, but I just never thought about it on this level before. It made me think of an experience as a child though. Now this was a pretty stupid thing that I did, but Hey you live and learn right? :) So I was riding my bike as a child and I don't know why on earth I would have thought to do this, but I just thought, "I should ride down the street with my eyes closed." (Now picture my face right now as the face President Monson made in conference as he told the story of starting the fire as an 8 year old) So I did it. And you know what happened. I hit the curb and I fell off onto the grass. And you know what? It hurt pretty bad and I felt pretty foolish. But I did learn from it. But I related that experience to life. And how if we shut our "eyes" to the guidance of the Holy Ghost then we will hit the figurative "curbs" in our lives and put ourselves in some pretty bad situations. But just like in the situation with my bike, my body healed itself and I wasn't in pain anymore. Just as how we get hurt and broken but then the Atonement of Jesus Christ heals us. So what did I learn from this, that as a missionary I cannot close my eyes to the guidance and example of the Savior in all that I do and say as a missionary. He is the one who helps us and guides us and gave us the example and if we don't follow his path, of course mistakes will be made. But just the same, when we do follow his example his work will be accomplished and more lives will be touched because of it. There has been a quote stuck on our fridge from some previous missionaries and I've read it heaps of times, but it never really held a place within me until now. It is by Bruce R. McConkie and it says "Anytime men can devise a system of worship that will let them continue to live after the manner of the world, to live in their carnal and fallen state, and at the same time, one that will satisfy their innate and instinctive desires to worship, such to them is a marvelous achievement." And to me I thought it’s so true. The real only way to fulfill those desires we all have to worship, is to do so in Christ's name and in His way. And that way is through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Another great experience was attending the Baptism of a 12 year old boy. He was introduced to the Church by a friend of his. And I guess this boy had said that he was sick of going to Young Men's by himself so he wanted a friend to come with him. So he went out and invited his friend to come to church and you know what happened? This boy got baptized. Just because this boy did his part in missionary work and invited his friend to Church. This Baptism was a wonderful experience though. The Spirit was so strong in that room. And this boy got up and bore his Testimony and you could just feel that he knew what he was doing and that he believed it all. And it made me think of the Scriptures and how Jesus always said that you can learn a lot from the example of Children. And those two boys are a great example to me and to many others I'm sure.
In my practice this week of teaching how Jesus taught, I really wanted to prepare a good lesson for the Family we were having dinner with Sunday evening. We were planning to share a lesson about missionary work and so my companion and I sat down for about an hour and went through and role played this lesson until we invited the spirit enough to feel comfortable sharing this lesson with this family. And it was a really powerful experience. It really helped me to see how we should be preparing these kinds of lessons for everyone, because then all the lessons would be transformational lessons. And so we have set goals for ourselves, to make sure we take the time to listen to the spirit to really know what these people need. I really love preparing lessons this way, because then you don't just teach a principle, you teach a person. And you change lives. :)

Something though that really impacted me this week was the focus on families. That is what our sacrament was centered on this week and it really struck a chord with me. And then it made me think of how I have really learned how important families are as I have been a missionary. I have really seen some pretty terrible family situations, and every time I do it makes me think back to how blessed I have been to be raised in the family that I was raised in. I have 2 wonderful parents who are incredibly strong in the Gospel and they have truly taught me so much, not only through their words but also through their example. And then I was blessed with 4 amazing siblings, who are also incredibly strong in the Gospel. They have taught me so much through their example and the choices they have made. And not to mention my extended family either. They are incredible as well. I grew up with them and they have all blessed my life in so many different ways. And then I thought about how that I want to create that environment for the family that I will have one day. An environment and a home, where the Gospel is taught and where love abounds. Just like the Gospel teaches us to be. That has really been something that I worry about, but then I always have the thought that Heavenly Father will take care of it all. If I do my part then It will all work out and "it will all be worth it."
And my mission has been worth it. It has been the greatest experience I have ever had. I'm so grateful that I was able to come and experience this. My life will never be the same.
Love you Heaps
Sister Benjamin


Fire Danger

(There are horrible brush fires burning in NSW right now.  Some of the fires are right in her area.  The initial threat seems to have passed for Alexis, but sounds like weather conditions are bad, and authorities fear the fires will spread because of this. We are praying for rain!)
I can't believe its almost the end of October already. I feel like we just started. The time is just flying by. This week has been good but just a little bit crazy. The fires haven't helped anything either. The mountains are still up in flames. I think the one closest to us is almost out, or out completely now. There is smoke everywhere though. Ash is falling, and it is really, really thick. But it’s all good. Nobody was hurt from the ward and none of the members houses were destroyed either so that is a relief. We are really glad that everyone is safe. It is crazy that it just started so fast. I guess the wind made an electrical wire break and it sparked and started the fire. We got preevacuated because the wind was blowing the fire down the mountain, but then the wind changed so it was all good. It was a little crazy, but good at the same time.
This week went by so fast, but it was really good. We had really great lessons with our investigators. We taught one about the Book of Mormon and we talked about it for about 30 minutes. It was really powerful and he kept saying wow you really seem like you believe that. I said I did and that if he reads and prays about it he can know too. It was really great. I love having the spirit teach. It is so great. I'm glad Heavenly Father has that perfect plan in store for us to just testify to the witness the spirit gives. It makes our job a lot easier. :) Another lesson was taught to 2 boys. They are from a part member family and the mom really wants them to get baptized so we are working with them. They have really strong testimonies of the Gospel and we are really excited for them. We talked about the Restoration and they knew the story of Joseph Smith and they both believe its true. It was really great to see. It made me think about how much of a role parents play in their children’s lives, whether for good or bad. And just like they said in Conference we need to make sure we are helping them in the right direction by teaching them about covenants and helping them make and keep those covenants.
In trying to become more like the Savior this week, I really have been trying to go more in depth with my studies. I feel like some mornings are really really good and then others, my brain is just in a completely different realm of some sort. But it is really great that every time I pray to be able to focus that Heavenly Father helps me to really have powerful studies. Something I have loved studying on my mission is the New Testament. I never really studied the stories of Jesus on my own before and I just finished the four Gospels and now I am into Acts. It has been a really powerful learning experience. I have been able to learn so much more then ever before. I've been reading the Book of Mormon heaps as well. I am loving it even more. And things that I never picked up on before have been jumping right out of the page. I have loved it. I never loved study so much! :)
I am really enjoying the mission. It has been a really incredible experience and I am really grateful to be able to experience it. Something that my companion and I are trying to do because of conference, is be more diligent. Just like President Monson said "Now is the time." He was referring to working with members, but I think it applies to all situations in Missionary work. Now is the time. We can't waste any more time. The Lord is hastening his work and we can either choose to be a part of it or not. I love this work and I just can't waste any precious moment of time that Heavenly Father has given me. 
Thank you for your incredible example to me. You all are amazing! 
Love you Heaps 
Sister Benjamin


Isn't Conference Great?

Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains

Mi Familia,
Well this week was just wonderful. And of course General Conference just made it perfect. Man I love General Conference. It is my favorite. Its like Christmas! :) I love hearing from the Prophets and Apostles, and the other leaders of the Church. It is just so amazing how personal revelation can really be so great at General Conference.
One of the talks I really enjoyed was by Elder Ulisses Soares. I loved how he talked about Meekness. I haven't always been really able to understand meekness on this level before, but it really helped me how he explained it. I love that he talked about that there needs to be a constant focus and desire to improve. And that it is our duty to be perfect. I loved that. I think a lot of times we just think that, oh we can't be perfect now, but we have to strive for perfection. If we don't strive for perfection, we won't be able to achieve in the next life either. That hit me really hard. I loved how he talked about controlling our tempers as well. I feel like I struggle with that sometimes, but how it is an act of faith to control our tempers. When we really rely on Heavenly Father to help us, he will help us to control our tempers. Elder Edward Dube’s talk was really good as well. I liked how he talked about each of us playing our parts and to hasten the work. And then how he talked about us maybe being too complacent. Are we too comfortable, are we sharing the Gospel? I love too how he talked about being excited for the future. I thought that was a pretty big theme from this conference as well. We need to be excited because we know it means the Savior is coming soon, because of how terrible the world is becoming.
I thought a really big theme from conference at least for me, was acting and changing my own circumstances instead of waiting for someone or something else to do so for me. We choose our reactions and actions, not someone else. Sometimes we can't always change the circumstances, but we change how we feel about them. Something Elder Bednar said really struck me too, that sometimes God won't change our circumstances, but he will give us increased faith and patience to pull through, or increased emotional, physical and mental stamina. We just have to be spiritually in tune to recognize his help.
I loved Elder Christofferson's talk about the moral role of women. I really enjoyed that because I feel the world has completely changed their views about women, and not how God views women. We really do need more women who are tender, kind, refined, full of faith and goodness, virtuous, and purified. I really thought of Mom when he was speaking. It really made me grateful to have grown up in a home where the Family Proclamation is lived and sought after.
I loved Elder S. Gifford Nielson's talk obviously, because he spoke about my school, and of course MY STADIUM. Ha :) But I really did like what he said about having a winning game plan and going for it. Do we all have a winning game plan? We need to plan our lives better to make sure we are on the right track.
I loved Elder Holland’s talk. I loved when he said "if the bitter cup doesn't leave, drink it and hope for better days." Just like the Savior we go through things that aren't easy and sometimes we just have to go through them, but there is always hope on the horizon. But I loved what he said about those with disabilities and how they will be made free. And how we don't know if it will be more glorious for them, or more glorious for us to have witnessed such an event. I just felt the spirit pour into my heart when he said that. The Resurrection really is real. We will all be made perfect from every infirmity we have and every problem. One of the Elders in our zone is deaf and I talked to him after and he just said he started crying when he heard that thinking that one day he will be able to hear perfectly. I really felt the spirit then too, really seeing that he knows it as well.
Elder Ballard’s talk was great. I love how it just was about missionary work, but I love missionary work so of course I would love the talk. But it was really cool because I hadn't read the talk yet, but on Wednesday night we had dinner with a member, and she had talked about how she had felt to share a video about the Church with her friend. But she said that she was scared. But I really felt strongly to tell her that it would be okay. That Heavenly Father would not let her fail. That he would give her the opportunity and the right moment to share it with her. Then I felt strongly to ask her to read Elder Ballard’s talk. I hadn't listened to it, and so I was like okay, hopefully it will help. So I asked her too. And she committed to sharing the gospel with her friend. So during General Conference she came up to us and she told us that she had shared the video with her friend. And she was like, don't get too excited nothing has happened yet. But I was just like, isn't it exciting to just be able to share it with her? Doesn't it just make you happy knowing that you shared the Gospel with another of Gods children? And she was like well when you put it that way, I guess it really is exciting. Ahh I loved it. But she said that talk really helped her, to just go out and do it. To share the gospel with her friend, because she knew she needed it. It was just great to see this all happen.
I felt like another huge theme was the power of God’s love for us and how we are supposed to have that same love for his children. It really made me think about how I love others and how much better I need to be about that. Too often I am so quick to judge that I never even give myself an opportunity to love them. And then I loved how Elder Oaks talked about our love for Heavenly Father. He compared it to the love that we have for our Earthly Parents, and how it needs to be much more then that. And that really struck me. I thought about how much I love my parents and how much I appreciate all the love they give me. And then I thought, do I love God that much and more. Do I thank him for all that he has given me? It really put it into perspective what I needed to change. I loved how he talked about the divine role of a mother is in the home. He talked about careers, and I just had this thought, that the reason I really couldn't decide the career I wanted because my career is to be a mother someday. And it’s what I've always wanted. And I just don't have to feel bad about that.
Elder Richard J. Mayne's talk was great as well. I loved when he said "You must become the rock that the river cannot wash away." I love that. It really is true. We can't let the others in the great and spacious buildings of our lives, pull us from the truth that we know we have. I loved how he talked about the price for spiritual endurance is dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline. I really liked that and it reminded me of something that Elder Holland always says "The Only Control we have is Self Control."
I loved what Elder Scott said, "God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance because he knows what it takes to become like him." Wow. Mind. Blown. I never understood that completely before. God knows what it takes to become like him so he can't justify any mistake we make, because any time we make a mistake it pulls us further from our goal to become like him.
I loved Elder Nelson’s talk. Our bodies really are amazing, and they have to be to house the incredible spirits created by God. I love the idea of self-mastery as well. We really can master the appetites that we have. Yes it is difficult, but our spirits are more powerful than the flesh. And with God's help all things are possible.
We really can do anything. I love what he said about our personal interview with Jesus Christ. And this made me think of what I did this week to teach more like Him. We had dinner with a family Saturday night, and while the men went to Priesthood, we had chocolate covered strawberries, and some girl talk. I felt prompted to ask her what she thought was the hardest thing about being a mother. And she talked about trying to keep her children strong in the Gospel. She was telling us of how her son, never wanted to go to Church, but she always had him come. She said it was a fight every week. But now he is on a mission serving the Lord. He even wrote her last week and thanked her for always keeping him going to Church. But what she said struck me, that when she has her personal interview with Savior she wants to be able to say that she did everything she could for her children. And she really has. She has gone through so much rubbish in her life, but she is still going strong. Every time we visit her I just feel so empowered to be a great mother one day. :) Ahh its just great.
But overall my core experience with God this week was receiving all the personal revelation from Conference. I learned so much and I am completely changed because of it. I don't think a general conference has ever struck me to the core before, or not at least at this same level. I learned that we all have a part to play in this play we call life. No one person is more important then another. God is the director and He should be the very center of our lives. We need to be personally converted and be strong. We have divine roles to play and we should never lose sight of that because of the critics in the great and spacious building. I know that as we seek the spirit God will bless us with what we need to play our part fully, in building up the Kingdom of God. I feel ready to go out and do my part. And I feel like I better know now how to follow the spirit and receive the guidance I need to really find those who are prepared at this time to receive the Gospel. I just need to be actively patient with faith, until God leads me to them. Yes its difficult, but with Heavenly Father’s help we can do ANYTHING. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church is true, its time to go forth and serve, and share the Gospel with all the world.
I would invite all of you to play your part as well. If I can do it then so can all of you. I love you all. Thank you for being great examples to me.
Love you Heaps
Sister Benjamin


What a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Dear Family,
Well another transfer has come and gone, and my companion and I are still in Emu Plains! :) Woot! I'm really excited about that. The members here are amazing, and they are exactly what I need right now. But of course Heavenly Father knows that and he kept me here. I feel like the time is just flying by. At the beginning of my mission, I had some struggles and time just seemed to crawl. It seemed to be taking ages. But now all of the sudden I blink and an entire 6 weeks are gone. My goodness. C-R-A-Z-Y. But I am so grateful to come and serve my Heavenly Father. I can't imagine my life any other way. I have never felt this spiritually uplifted before. I have never known this much about the Gospel and I love it. I consider it truly a gift to be able to serve the Master. It hasn't been an easy gift to have. I probably wouldn't have opened it had I known what would happen. But then again I look at this situation like pre earth life. Heavenly Father told us and probably even showed us what would happen. But we saw that the blessings far out weighed the price. I feel like that is how my mission is. It’s rather difficult, but the blessings and miracles far out weigh any price I pay to get there.

My core experience with God this week was Heavenly Father allowing me to see how much I have changed and improved. But the part I have really appreciated is how Heavenly Father is showing me little by little a vision of what I can become. I have been praying really fervently this week to be able to see that. It is amazing how he really does answer my prayers. My companion and I had a really interesting experience this week talking about Priesthood blessings and how we have both seen major things being fulfilled. Which is really cool. And so I went through my Patriarchal blessing and have been going through each point of it, and really seeing what I need to do to become what God wants me to become. It has been a major revelatory experience. I have learned so much about me and my future family and a whole host of other things. It is just really great :)

This week in my practice to become more like the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, I studied Joseph Smith History. I just felt like I needed to and that was what I needed. I studied the path that he took to receive the revelation that he needed to restore the Church on the Earth today. It was amazing to see the pattern of faith. From the very beginning he believed he would receive an answer. He never doubted, and even when Satan was trying to overtake him, he just prayed harder. And I loved what he said in vs 20 "It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me?" Then that led me to think about the Savior and how badly he was tempted by Satan. I would strongly encourage you to read Jesus the Christ, the section that talks about that and how He overcame the Devil. [Chap 10, pg-127-135] It completely changed my perspective. And I had a similar experience this week. I was telling my companion how hard Satan really works on me and how HARD he really tries to pull me down and stop me from doing this work. And I realized that I really never have a free moment from Satan. Every time I have a good thought there always seems to be a bad thought 2 seconds behind. But I got a blessing and I was told that Heavenly Father understood me and the challenges that I face. But that He knows the true desires of my heart. He doesn't look on my moments of weakness when I succumb, but on my true desires which really is to return to live with him again. He helps me through it. He never leaves me alone. Heavenly Father NEVER EVER leaves us alone. We just sometimes feel that way because we move from him. I'm so grateful that even though I am weak and I make mistakes that there is still ALWAYS the opportunity to improve and become better. It is always a constant battle. But it has already been won. Satan's fate is decided. He has already lost and he knows that so we can't let him in. Not even a little bit. As Elder Scott has said "Your great potential and ability could be limited or destroyed if you yield to the devil-inspired contamination around you. However Satan is no match for the Savior. Satan's fate is decided. He knows he has lost, but he wants to take as many with him as he can. He will try to ruin your goodness and abilities by exploiting your weaknesses. Stay on the Lord's side and you will win every time."

And in saying that I am really trying to overcome the natural man. And I've found one of my biggest issues is being selfish/not selfless enough. I seem to think, I want what I want and I want it now! But tha’ts not okay. This work is not about me, I don't receive the glory for the work done, Heavenly Father does. And the perfect example in all of this is Jesus Christ. He never wanted the glory. Satan tried to tempt him with that, but he never gave in. I love the stories of Jesus, when it talks about him going to serve his disciples or something, and he sees a multitude of people and he is moved with compassion. He stops and helps them. I know that I need to be more selfless. The times when I do give more of myself, I feel more compassionate, I feel happier, I feel closer to my Heavenly Father. I love that I have this opportunity to see what I need to improve on. Because each time I do, I am one step closer to my Heavenly Father. As Elder Holland said "Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don't hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith."

And just to add a few great experiences of the week. Once again Alecia is doing beautifully. Her daughters are magnificent and we just love them to pieces. I will really miss her when we leave. But something I loved, we gave her two older daughters Book of Mormons, and they were ecstatic. The one picked it up and Alecia told her she could have it and she just got this huge grin on her face. Its was so adorable. And then we all went around and shared what we were thankful for and her 3 year old, was like "I'm thankful for Jesus." It was adorable. And then right before we left, the 3 year old said the prayer. It was so cute. Alecia helped her through it. It looked like she had been a member for ages, not just a little over a week. It’s amazing to really watch the Lord bless his children with His Gospel.

Well I have never felt more of an outpouring of the spirit in my life then I have on my mission. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is TRUE with all the energy and passion I possess. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He lives. I know that the Atonement is real. I know that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and He Loves being our Father. I love him too!
I Love you all!
I hope you have a wonderful week!
Sister Benjamin