Monday, January 4, 2016

For the last time

I have 40 minutes for the last time where I will need to email you to let you know I am alive and well. The convenience of doing it in person will be so bittersweet because the very thin distance emotionally between me and the Savior is not going to be the same in a short week. I know there's no such thing as being disconnected from Him, but I do know that this very well may be the last time I can serve Him with the power and authority to be his full time servant. 

I am currently listening to a hymn called "Beautiful Zion, Built Above" and thought that I would attach the 2nd verse lyrics.

Beautiful heav'n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior's feet.

If Zion is truly built above, I'm convinced that its closest coordinate is Rancho Cucamonga, California. I've grown up calling many places my 2nd home, but I've never had the courage to actually leave home (even for school in the same state) until I came here. Here; here is my 2nd home. Here is where the Savior abides closest with me. They say that each person shows their love differently and His way is so profound where it can be found around us each day, but the magnificence and beauty of His everlasting love is easiest to be seen when you are serving His children. Abinadi teaches us that if we are sinners and are going to need to rely on Christ's atonement in order to live again, then we are all of His seed. I know that our Savior has never ceased to worry about us and we can never do something so wretched that would cause Him to look away and pull back from the way that He loves us.

I'm actually getting kicked off in 4 minutes, yikes.

Family and friends, thank you for being so good to me and for watching me develop into a missionary in which I hope I will always be able to reflect. I am here to serve our Creator and our Father and am eager to return and offer that service to those whom the Lord needs me to. I love you all so so so much and can't express my love enough for our Heavenly Father for all of these spectacular experiences He has given to me on my mission. I will cherish it forever. I love you. See you next week.

For the last time,

Love,
Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 is ending.

I feel as though you are going to receive the most uneventful email yet ha! I am glad we got to talk on Christmas though. When the ward asked how it went, the word I came up with was refreshing. It's good to hear your voices and know that everyone is doing well. I'm glad to know that there was a lot of family time spent together, that always means a lot to me even if I am absent.

Basically here's what my week was like. We had a zone activity and did a white elephant thing, that was good. Trying to explain what that and a mistletoe is to Chinese people is actually very difficult. They do not understand the purpose of a mistletoe ha! Speaking of which, one of our English students had us over for dinner and it was so nice of her! Elder Hsu says she only comes to English class cause I'm there and when I leave she won't come anymore ha! I doubt that, but I basically just sat there and had Elder Hsu translate when I wanted to say something. It was a good dinner though! 

On Tuesday we did some caroling and then on Wednesday for Elder Hsu's birthday we went to Chili's, On Christmas Eve we just did regular missionary work, Christmas was hard because people were busy, with family, etc., actually this whole week was that way for the most part. I wish I had more miracles to share, but this time of year makes the work pretty challenging. If anyone had sparked an interest in the church, it was always "You can come back after the holidays", so as a missionary, I cannot wait for the holidays to be over ha! I've actually wanted them to be over for a couple of weeks now, so we have one more and then we're done! Yikes...

Things are going well though. We have a good week planned actually. Plus I've begun reading Mosiah and man, I just love reading King Benjamin's address. His address to me is all about our dependence upon God and His Son for literally everything we do. We are creatures made from the dust of the earth who are all beggars upon the same God, who's Atonement will reconcile us to the Father and no one, no name, no other way till do that except through His Son. How relieved and ecstatic King Benjamin must've felt to hear the angel say that all people will come to know Jesus Christ. Which reminds me of how we learned about the Millennium this Sunday, and I learned A LOT. What an exciting time that will be where Satan will be bound and we eventually won't even have to exert energy to avoid temptation. That to me sounds like bliss. 

Anyway, I'll talk to you once the new year comes around, how about that? Wow! 2015 is ending. Hmm. I think I'm just in denial about a lot of things or something because it doesn't seem real. Well, I love you all very much and hope you enjoy the last holiday of the year! We are supposed to be in by 6:00 p.m. that night, so I look forward to getting a good night's rest (: I love you, have a good week!

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion

Angel Chen

Christmas






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas

I'm not a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but I am carol-ed out already. I think it's because this year is the most Christmas-y I've ever celebrated before. Yesterday we had our final choir concert with St. Denis Catholic church and they did a wonderful job. It was one of two times I recall being encouraged to clap in the chapel, it was still then kind of odd, but their choir did excellent! This Christmas we will be having brunch at a member's house, skyping at 2:00 p.m., and having dinner at our Elders Quorum President's house and having Mexican food, which I am very excited about! It's going be a wonderful Christmas and no matter what form of communication I have related to you that day I will cry, so let me ponder what'll keep me focused but also let me feel like I've done Christmas its justice. I will inform you before I leave the library.

This week it's been pretty cold and it's been making our car battery act funny. We had to jump it so many times that now I feel like a professional at it. I figured I'd mention that to make dad proud. We got the battery replaced on Thursday in Rancho when we had the Christmas devotional at the mission office with the other missionaries. My brain just hasn't been thinking properly and I was literally the only elder to show up without a suit! I was embarrassed, but it's all good. I got to meet up with Elder Hancock which is always great! 

On Friday we went to the Chino Hills Boat Parade to pass out hot chocolate and Christmas cards, it was good. We tried really hard to find Chinese people, but Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese people all look so similar! And I discovered that not many people wanted to talk to missionaries during a parade anyway ha! We did our best though (:

I've got a wonderful story to share with you about those whom the Lord is so generously preparing for us to meet, I love this story, oh man. Brace yourself. 
We met a mom (Maria) and a son (Ricky) when we knocked on their door and they invited us back next week with a member of the ward who spoke Spanish for Maria. And no words will adequately describe how well the lesson went. After we taught the Restoration, he told us he really liked the message, and you should've just heard the sincerity in his voice! You could just tell he was ready to accept everything the gospel has so we invited him to be baptized and he said yes and his mom gave him permission and we are going back on Tuesday to establish a date for him to be baptized and hopefully Maria will feel inclined to do the same (:
Showing up to their door and the first and second time was so interesting because the first time she said that Ricky had seen missionaries in a nearby city and was curious about them, and then we end up knocking on their door. When we went back on Saturday for the actual lesson, Maria said they only had 20 or so minutes, but we ended up being there for an hour and a half! She definitely felt the Spirit while we were there. Ricky said the closing prayer and if there's one thing I love most in missionary work it's when investigators say a sincere prayer for the first time. In his prayer he said stuff like "thank you for the way you've made me feel, I wish every morning started out like this" and then he said something so neat. He said "Thank you for sending the missionaries... it feels like I've known them for a while." You can tell what's on a person's mind through what they mention in their prayers and you can tell when the Spirit is within them when they use a different tone than casual speaking. And then the rest of the day went really good as well and I just know wherever we are at, people are being prepared for the gospel. 

I'd say that about concludes my week. I wish every week was like this one, but it's all good, the Lord has everything under control. He'll supply us with the things that we need as well as the rest of the children. A sister reminded us in District meeting that the Lord loves His children more than we do, so of course He'll always try to do things to bring them closer to His Son. 

Lastly, I just want to say how much I love and appreciate our Savior. I understand Him best through that title because I think it defines His purpose and nature perfectly. I know His role in my life through experience and also by reading The Book of Mormon. I know that God loves us so much that He was willing to send His Son to us and I'm grateful for how patient He is and thankful that He has no resentment toward us even when we make mistakes. I know that Christ was harmed both physically and spiritually for the possibility of us regaining life again with our Father. I know Jesus Christ is indispensable, and the very thought of Him can remove any hedges of doubt or unwelcomed temptation. His name truly is Wonderful and His gift of life is enough for me this Christmas season. 

We will speak again next week and possibly on Friday. For now, be safe in the snow and despite the business of the year, keep Christ forever nestled closely to your heart. I love you, Merry Christmas! (: 

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion
Merry Christmas in Chinese




Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brother to Brother

After Reading Shawn's email my heart was heavy. I immediately text my husband, Ben (Shawn's brother in law) and told him he needed to write a letter or email to Shawn immediately. Ben typed a beautiful letter to Shawn and got it sent out to him yesterday. I hope he finds peace and comfort in his brothers words. This is sure a hard time for Shawn, but what great lessons and patience he is learning.



December 9, 2015
Dear Elder Bennion,


I hope you don’t mind a typed letter. It is so much easier to type than it is to write. But I hope you still feel the personal touch that you would get from a written letter. I know I haven’t written you in a while. There is really no excuse but I have always felt that a missionary needs to serve “their” mission. I could have given you advice along the way, but every time I started a letter or an email, I was always told to wait. By the next week, I would read your email and you figured it out, solved the problem or overcame the trial. That is why I never wrote because the Lord needed you to figure it out.


I know you don’t want to think about it, but it will always creep into your mind that you don’t have much time left in the mission field. Guess what? There is nothing you can do to stop it. There is no way around it. Every missionary has to go through it at some point. I was just like you, afraid to come home. I was afraid of the unknown. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life because I was so focused on the Lords work.


When I was 18 months out in the mission fields, my mission president concluded his 3 year service. Before they left, Sister Gilliland spoke to us at a zone conference and said this: “Make sure that when it’s your turn to leave the mission field, you leave with no regrets.” That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. At that time, I felt I was working as hard as I could but I wanted to make sure that I left nothing on the table. When the new mission president came in, the next transfer he called me to be a Zone Leader. When I talked to my new companion I told him all I want to do is work and he agreed to it.


Some of the missionaries in my district and my zone teased me because I was getting ready to come home. But my companion and I outworked every single companionship in the district and zone. We would cut our preparation days short because scheduled lessons on those days. We did not care about sleep, or food or ourselves. We simply cared about the message of the restoration and wanted to do everything in our power to make sure everyone in Western Hills, Ohio know that great message. We were also blessed for our efforts.


When I stepped off the plane and embraced my family, I knew I had given the Lord everything I had. I had no regrets. I had no clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but just like in the mission field, the Lord will provide a way. There were struggles and trials but I used the principled I learned in the mission field to solve them. You will never be alone. Think of it as the next chapter of your life.


I hope you still have those three guitar picks I gave you and the I Am of the Fellowship of the Unashamed card. Remember who you are Shawn. Remember who you represent. Be Bold. If  your mind in places where it should be, work hard. If that doesn’t work, then work even harder. Ask Heavenly Father for help and work even harder. You can’t change the last 23 months but you can change these last four weeks. Go out with a bang. Give it everything you got and then some. Make sure you are tired when you go to bed and tired when you wake up. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Talk to everyone you see. Let them know of your great message. DON’T STOP!!! Leave it all out on the field. Come home with nothing left give.


I should have given you this talk sooner. I had it all typed up and ready to send to you but the file got put somewhere when I moved offices at work. Read it, think about it and ponder about your mission. Then, pull up your bootstraps and get to work. You have a work to do. Read the 31st section of the Doctrine & Covenants. Then get back to work.


Love you brother,Ben

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

To my immediate family

To my immediate family,

Reading your emails has cheered me up a bit more than how I felt prior, because I just feel like I have no sense of balance these days. I feel like there are so many things out of my control and I simply don't know how to feel. I feel like I don't have permission to think about home, yet I have so many instances where it crosses my mind or missionaries or members bring it up and ask what my future holds, etc. It's all a very trying period of my life and it certainly doesn't help when you aren't having the most success in your very last area. Oi aue, I'm gonna ask some of the elders for a blessing tomorrow at our zone meeting. 

It's not that any of you are doing anything wrong, I just feel a type of resentment toward lots of things that deal with home right now. If anything, my love has grown deeper and healthier for you all since I've been out here. It may not appear that way right now, but I can assure you that God loves families and the most important and retained lessons will be through the Spirit in a home devoted to God and every family (including our own) needs that. I long to experience that feeling with you once again.

If anything, just keep me in your prayers and keep the faith. I'll be okay, I just need to man-up by humbling myself. The Lord chastens those He loves and when all is said and done, the scars in Christ's hands and feet will never close up, therefore His grace and forgiveness will always be accessible through His sacrifice. And because of my gratitude for that, I will pass out a card to someone in the library, that will make me feel better. 

Well everyone, I ought to sign out and get back to work! Stay safe and be warm! I love you.

- Elder Bennion

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wishing you all the best from my heart.

Family,

To make sure that I don't forget, let me confirm that I did get the cards you sent me, thank you for those, they are going to be a huge blessing to me for when I put them into use. 

It's so strange to be e-mailing you right this second. I'm used to transfer day being hectic and little to no spare time. Luckily, I'll be spending my last transfer in Diamond Bar with Elder Hsu, so today will be pretty relaxed. I'm grateful for the news I received on Saturday about staying. It took me a little bit to enjoy serving in Diamond Bar, but I've noticed how much the Atonement gives us strength to adjust and grow and enjoy the things that are challenging in our lives. I've been looking in the scriptures for the word 'remember' to see what happens when people do remember the Lord. It's so interesting to see how the Nephites and Lamanites behave when they do remember Him. I think that for us, it instantly fills us with gratitude and assurance that if He's done something good for us, it's bound to happen again. No wonder we promise to remember Christ throughout the week when we partake of the Sacrament. Because of this, it's caused me to ponder how many times the Lord has presented opportunities for me to share the gospel and how he'll continue to do that forever. I have this irrational fear that I'm going to leave feeling incomplete about my service. It's so hard to push that thought aside.

Which is why I've chosen to do this thing called The 40 day fast where you write down a couple of things that you either want to remove or cultivate that will help you to have the Spirit more and when you begin, you fast and attempt to edit these things in your life for the next 40 days. I've begun today and am looking mostly for further trust in the Lord from this experience. It'll be good for me. Elder Hsu says that I'm basically punishing myself ha, he's a funny elder. But in all seriousness, I'm determined to do this. One of the things I've put down is to only email for 45 minutes, I don't want to become pre-occupied or attached to things back home quite yet. I'm really not even sure that I want to Skype on Christmas, we will see as the time gets closer. 

Can you believe that we're one day shy of entering December? The holidays are great and all, but it can make missionary work challenging with all the family around and investigators going out of town. President Hobbs says this is the time where he gets the most homesick emails ha! Makes sense. I imagine at this point you want to hear about my Thanksgiving? It went well. We ate at a family's house named the Merrill's and they made some really good food! It was very nice of them to have us in their home that day. We still had English class, but only 2 people showed up. Then Sister Kilburn made these delicious rolls from Lion House? Is that a restaurant in Salt Lake or something? either way, they don't top Maddox, but boy they were delicious. It turned out to be a good day.

Our whole week was pretty good really. Week 6 of the transfer always tends to be a good one. No complaints here, just a lot of work to do (:

Well, I'm concluding this email and wishing you all the best from my heart. I pray for your safety each night and am so grateful for what you have all done for me while I've been in California. Thank you for everything. I love you.

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion

Monday, November 23, 2015

I love it here so much!

Family,

Do you think that the Lord has a sense of humor? I seem to think He does. I'm not sure why this makes me laugh, maybe it's just because of how it's spot-on of how He runs things in missionary work. On Friday, we were looking for people to teach and nothing special was happening, but we made our way over to see a potential investigator at 8:45 but he wasn't home. We had 15 minutes left and I thought to myself that it's okay if we went in a tiny bit early, but as we were passing the only lively house in the neighborhood, I put my pride aside and suggested we knock on it. It was a peculiar thing to do because it just sounded like a bunch of teenagers upstairs, but a very nice woman named Marie answered the door and we talked for about 15 minutes and we left her with a Book of Mormon and she initiated our return appointment. New Investigator!!! haha, so cool. It's always the last door that you don't want to do where something goes great. The Lord certainly answered our prayers with that one. It's a rare occasion we find an investigator by tracting, but it doesn't mean it doesn't work!

It was actually a pretty good week for us here. We taught 4 people this week, which is the best weekly report we've had so far. The weather is very warm here, it's been in the 80's all week (: I'm not really all that sad about there not being any snow here, to be honest. Often people ask if we'd ever move to California and it's too bad it's so expensive here, because the winters really are great here.

On Tuesday, the Hobbs and the assistants visited our zone and presented a new video the church is putting out for Christmas. It's exciting for us as missionaries because it gives us a way to connect to people easier since everyone's starting to feel the Christmas Spirit. The cashier today at Winco even told me to have a Merry Christmas, it was weird. And Pepboys was playing Christmas music. Either way, the church is so great with the audiovisual stuff. I'm never embarrassed to view or suggest a video for someone to watch.
Recently I watched a great bible video of when Christ healed a blind man, and He instructed the man to wash in a certain pool of water. What I noticed was that Christ wasn't even there to see the man regain his sight. Doesn't that just sound like Christ's character? He never acted compassionately for a reward or praise. I'm so grateful that we get to celebrate along with many others of different faiths the birth of the Savior and how He humbly entered our world. He truly has been refined through the Atonement, it goes to show that our trials results make us stronger and better than before. It's unreal what he experienced while He was on the earth. It'll be a special time of year. I started the Book of Mormon again and this time, I'm highlighting any reference I see to the Savior and from my reading, I picked out 58 times He was mentioned in the first 3 chapters. How could a wicked person write a book so inspiring? I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and that he helped millions find renewed faith in our Savior. Myself included.

Our English class went well this week. We had 10 people attend! It's such a fun class. It's a different form of service, but I really like it. We taught our class what kind of things to say when they go shopping. They were so relieved we taught it, they said it was very helpful to them. There's a guy that leaves our class each time in his struggling English saying: "I feel good!" haha, he's awesome. On Friday, we knocked on a guy's door and he was pretty drunk and gave us a hug, but he said if we knocked on his door any other time he wouldn't have answered, so that's kinda cool. And because Elder Hsu speaks Chinese, we got 100+ referrals for Chinese speakers in the Chino stake from missionaries in Arcadia, so we should be pretty busy till Christmas it seems like ha!

Well that's our week in a nutshell. We've got 2 Thanksgiving meal plans on Thursday, so that's good! I really hope we can find a new person to teach that day. Just because it's a holiday, doesn't mean the Lord's work ceases! Thank you all so for being wonderful people, I am truly thankful for the Lord in sending me to California. I love it here so much! I love you guys as well. Have a great Thanksgiving, talk to you next week!

- Elder Bennion