Monday, March 30, 2015

"Without the bitter, the sweet isn't as sweet"


I guess the phrase "Without the bitter, the sweet isn't as sweet" would be my only reaction to each of your emails about Aunt Joyce. I'm more in shock than anything that this occurred, but I think it was best that I found out through email rather than President Hobbs calling me. I'm sure he was going to call me tonight, and then realized you all would be sharing with me the news via email, but I'm glad it worked out that way. Each time he calls me late at night, I always expect the worst, and I don't think the news would have reached me so pleasantly this weekend.
I can hardly believe what kind of changes I've experienced out on the mission, this was quite a surprise to me. At first I was confused and then it turned to grief at the thought of Dad losing another sibling. I feel as though I didn't know Aunt Joyce well enough, but now what a treasure it is to me that I received a letter from her last summer that really 'tickled' her she said. I should've been smarter and less narcissistic before I left on my mission to take the time to thank her for her service to the Lord. I know the things she had to say could've helped me prepare better for this journey. Send my condolences to each of those struggling with the loss of Aunt Joyce, and remind them that earthly words can only do so much and to seek out the solace that comes from the prophets this upcoming weekend.

My good news would have to be that President Hobbs said in my email this week that he tried to move me to a different area this transfer, but he didn't feel right about it, and perhaps this was why. I would've been torn to have to bear this in a different area. Elder Brent H. Nielson visited our mission this weekend and he shared with us a different perspective to the Atonement of Jesus Christ that answered my prayers so immaculately, I was engulfed in the talks we were assigned to read and study prior to his visit. I've been having this paranoia that I'd forgotten what the Atonement feels like. I claimed to understand it, but I couldn't make sense of how to use it when I felt that I wasn't doing anything majorly incorrect. That's when I learned from Elder Bednar that the Atonement is to make bad people good, and good people better, to eventually become the best saints. I also learned this very important concept that will be helpful to those suffering. In all scriptural cases in the Book of Mormon, I learned that each character that understood the Atonement never asked the Lord to make their troubles vanish; but they asked Him to be given the strength to bear through whatever it was that they were troubled with, because if the Lord were to directly take those away from us, we wouldn't be able to be stretched to such capacities that enable us to become better people. In some cases, we pretty much have no other option than to rely, beg, or plead with the Savior for His strength that can be granted to us, and by so doing, we will find strength beyond our own. That revelation I received from this talk has helped me so much this past week and will continue to for the rest of my mortal existence, I am sure of it.

This week we had a really good balance of finding people to teach, and teaching the members/investigators in our ward. This week we also had a long meeting in Rancho and I survived a root canal! whoo! They're not as terrifying as they sound, but I definitely would avoid them at all costs. We started teaching a guy named Hema, who is Brother Moa's cousin. It's not very often we get new investigators in the ward who are actually Tongan, so this is a pretty big deal to us! He was raised catholic, but he has said that he wants to be LDS. He really loves when we come over and is excited to be taking the lessons that are preparing him for baptism. I'm hoping that by the end of this transfer, it will happen, because he's one of the 'dry Mormons', but not for long! The Lord blessed us with the growth of our teaching pool that involves Hema in it; we are very excited about it! We also had a really good lesson with one of our favorites, Ngalu Otuafi. He was in Sacramento for about a month, but is back and now has his Melchizedek priesthood! He will also be going to Utah for conference this weekend, which I myself am so stoked for. I love conference and I've been looking forward to it since October!
On Saturday, we had that meeting down in Rancho for most of the day, and then when we got back we went to dinner at Tui Aholelei's mom's birthday party. She turned 80, which is a big deal in their culture since a lot of Tongans don't make it to that age ha. Her family is mostly Methodist and there were SO MANY Polynesians, it was so great. There was food everywhere, I had some really good pig and octopus and Tongan cake. We took another set of elders because we went to the meeting together and they didn't want to eat any of the food, so we ended up going to Wendy's afterward too ha. The Tongan food is growing on me a lot actually! There was also a wedding on Friday for the Bishop's daughter and that was good too.

I may sound repetitive, but the Tongan ward is really great! There's never really a dull moment around him, they love to joke around, so I often have some type of smile on my face. The ward always takes such good care of us for dinner; it makes me sad to hear other misisonaries don't get fed every day ha. The Lord is still making our ward fruitful, I love seeing the progress in the members who want to make a change in their lives. I look forward to much more interaction with their culture while it still surrounds me. I've embraced so much of what the Tongans are like, maybe I've been around them a little too much (; just teasing, but I think you'd be surprised that when it comes to our punctuality with the Bennion family parties, we behave very similar to Polynesians; always late! haha. I love you all, and really hope everything's okay back home with the Lukers, and of course Dad and Grandma Bennion. I will pray for them and hope the Spirit will find a way to comfort you all at this given time. Take care everybody, have a great conference weekend, pay close attention to what the Lord is trying to tell you. We always need to be progressing in this life and He has the best counsel for us (:

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Round 5 with Pictures :)

GOOD NEWS! I survived another transfer and the Lord finds fit for me to be in the Tongan ward for another 6 weeks!!! (: WAHOO! to be honest, I was at ease all week that for some reason that I wasn't going anywhere. The Lord has been very unpredictable in our mission as of recent, but I just had a feeling I was staying. 7.5 months in a Polynesian ward, what a blessing!

So, this week was a weird one. For P day, we played a super fun glow in the dark dodge ball game, that was awesome. On Tuesday at our scripture study, I started feeling odd. We came home that night and right before I went to bed I was throwing up, and it was not fun. I forgot how unpleasant it is to be sick. I thought I'd be feeling better by the morning, but as soon as the alarm went off I knew that I was gonna have my first sick day in the field. I felt awful all day long. I didn't even touch my church clothes! the only time we left the apartment was when the Aholelei's dropped off our dinner. I was drinking gatorade all day long and just trying to sleep, it was very unfortunate, I felt like death. Apparently it was a stomach flu going around our mission, I hope to never have another sick day out here, cause it's not like I can watch movies all day long like I normally would back home ha! We had a really good day planned too so that was a bummer. But I was progressively getting better each day.

On Thursday, we went to see a family, but then this girl was moving out of her apartment and said we could help out! It's not very often that people agree to letting us help them, so it was pretty cool. I think it's a little surprising how easy the gospel can come up. Of course we wear the clothes that show right away what our passion is, but it makes me wonder what it's going to be like back home to share the gospel and how people will react. This lady was very accepting of the church and said we could even send missionaries to her home in Arizona. I'm so glad that we could catch her at that time, even if we don't get to see her progress in the gospel, it was a blessing to be able to make her burden light.

Saturday was the relief society dinner and it was good! The table we sat at had so much seafood, oh boy. I had a very tasty lobster though and a traditional puaka (pig). It's such a greasy good, it's hard to eat very much! We went around other tables and mooched, and I ended up getting some meatballs and kumala (sweet potato) as well, that was good. There were a lot of cultural dances that we didn't get to stay for because of our curfew which is a huge bummer, but apparently there were a lot of non members there, so that's good!

Yesterday was ward conference and that was pretty good! We had a big ward council which was good. Tongans whether they're very active or not, make sure to give respect where it is deserved, so we had more people than normal come to church since the Stake President was there. Then for dinner we went to the Wills for a birthday dinner and then saw a family and that was pretty much our Sunday! The Lord is blessing us for our efforts, because we are going to start teaching Brother Moa's cousin, Hema, because he said he wants to be baptized! I am very excited because since these 5 baptisms, the ward has been a bit dysfunctional with Satan trying to interfere, but things are getting settled. The ward has been very busy with birthdays, activities, and an upcoming wedding, so we'll get to see them more relaxed and happier ha.

I'm still loving the Tongan ward and am happy I'm here for even longer now! The Lord still has work for me here to do, and it looks like it may be Hema keeping me here, we will see! I got the Tongan flag in the mail, so now our apartment is Tongan-approved! I can't really think of much more to ask for, I've been very blessed in simply knowing the ward and been so well taken care of for 6 months now. I like to daydream of our family meeting the ward so you can get all giddy about them like myself ha. They just make me fiefia! (happy).

We've got a week ahead of us. We already gave two blessings today and this Friday is a wedding, and then Saturday is all day zone leader stuff, including a meeting in Rancho with a quorum of the 70! Good things are always happening, we just have to show our faith first and then they will follow more frequently (: Love you all, talk to you in a week!!!

- Elder Bennion

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Be Happy!


It seems as though many of you are living very busy lives, which I am very understanding of. Life never stops, that's for sure. Just as the Lord's work will always continue to prosper, especially as missionaries give up their lives for the Lord's will. I marvel at how Christ was able to do it for so long with such daunting tasks. I've never been harmed (unless you count the dog) and drastically mocked the same way he was (no one will of course), and the persecution he persevered for the opportunity for men to live with the Father once again is substantially astounding. Hopefully the joyful burden of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ will impact at least one person, but if not, our sacrifice to the Lord is what He is seeking after. I'm not sure as to why it's so comforting to know someone knows identically how I feel, but it really puts me at ease and I'm thankful our Savior is so reliable in times of need.

We had kind of an odd week. I'm not sure how, but it seems as though Satan is trying full-force to prevent our ward from progressing. Perhaps it's because 5 baptisms have happened since I've been here and there were a handful of people that were working to get their Melchizedek priesthood this weekend that he couldn't tolerate it, I'm not sure. Ever since this transfer, I've witnessed some odd things happen in the ward that haven't happened before and it stresses me out ha. There's been a lot of pressing time this transfer where I wanted to just take a break, but we watched an incredible video this Tuesday in zone meeting. Elder Eyring has a talk floating around about how diligent Christ was, and of course I agreed, but do you realize what he did after he was crucified? He didn't rest up from the crucifixion; he ministered and preached the gospel to those in the spirit world! He never stopped doing his Father's will, even after bearing every single pain, sin, burden, etc that's ever been felt! What a champion. I don't know about you all, but when I pass away, I expect that eternal bliss that Alma talks about ha! But of course our passion for the gospel won't fade in the spirit world unless that event happens on earth, so I imagine we'll be very, very busy there as well!

The ward has caught on that I've been serving here for a bit now, but it catches them by surprise when I say that I've been there for 5.5 months and I could and would love to stay another transfer if it were up to me. The Lord has been so unpredictable in our mission recently, so I hope and pray that He doesn't send me back to a Palangi ward just yet. Everywhere else just seems so dull compared to the Tongan ward "/ I've had such a great and unimaginable time serving in this ward and I'm filled with gratitude for the way things have been since I arrived here. 
I can tell that the Lord really wants His children to be happy, because His decision in sending me here has been the highlight to my entire mission, and undoubtedly will continue to be. I love the Tongan people and am able to detect that the Lord has sent me here to learn very valuable things that I will always cherish from them and the continuous way they have such a profound impact on my Spirit. I love you all very much and am delighted to hear from you, as always. Have a great week, miss you!

- Elder Bennion

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Highest Stress Level


I feel as though I've hit my highest stress level of the mission (next to the time you reach when you only have days till your departure home), so forgive me if I seem a little off, there's just so much going on, it's kind of hard to keep up with! Thank heavens we've been blessed with P day!

It's such a blessing to be serving in the Tongan ward, otherwise I think I'd be making this harder than needs be ha. They're just such delightful people to be around, and since we don't see them as often anymore, I look even more forward to our dinners, activities, and church. I'm not sure why this transfer feels so different, some days I do better with than others, but I should've seen this coming because President Hobbs really wants our mission to increase our faith, so the Lord must be doing just that! I understand He sees a bigger picture than I do, it's just too bad that we as mortals tend to be so narrow-minded when things may seem inconvenient or a burden to us. I love in Hebrews 11:6 it says that without faith, we cannot please God, and faith seems to be the beginning to many things. I do have faith in the Lord and I do know that as I lose myself in His work, that's when I'll stop worrying about all the minor details and changes and be able to be of better use for our Father. It's a privilege to be doing what I do and be surrounded by a plethora of our Father's finest children. Although I do miss you all back home lots!

For the first time in my mission, a dog bit me! As I was shaking someone's hand to leave, a stinkin' Chihuahua/Pomeranian bit me ha. It didn't hurt, it just kinda startled me. It's always the small dogs that are most vicious! However, A huge husky crawled from under a fence when we knocked on a door and it looked like it wanted to eat Elder Bartlik and I. He was smart enough to suggest we don't linger at the door for very much longer.

This transfer has just been so wacky! It can be summarized by tracting, meetings, dentist appointments, and illness (Elder Bartlik, not myself.) There's a guy named Noke in our ward who was baptized in Tonga, but he lost his records, so I've been teaching him for 5 months and then all the sudden the bishop says he wants to be baptized. I was excited, yet doubtful at the same time. I really don't think he's ready. He has to come to church 3 times and then we'll take it from there and see if his faith is sufficient for baptism. It's a really big commitment! 

I want to share something interesting that I realized in Gospel Principles: We were talking about prayer and then I thought about how it makes mom really angry when someone hangs up on her. I then thought about how real our communication with God is and that when I used to pray and get nearly furious and ended up stopping mid-sentence, to God it was almost as though I was hanging up on Him. It was humbling to me that if we have the decency to call upon Heavenly Father for His help, we should finish what we intended to mention.

We have 2 more meetings this week and stake conference this Sunday, I'm expecting good things from this week. I can't believe it's already March, it seems as though you all survived another Utah winter! I know it's not completely gone, it's probably still really cold there, but you're so close to the spring weather! it was really cold this week! All weekend it was in the 50's with wind as well. I don't handle the cold very well out here, it's actually pretty pathetic ha.

At this point, all I can do is thank Heavenly Father for blessing me with the opportunity of serving a full time mission. I really do enjoy what I do and I enjoy the trust our Father has placed in me to take upon us the name of His Son. I know that all of us as members of the church have to always be on our best behavior. We don't want to taint the name of Christ and missionaries are kind of like a dulled, flawed replica of the Savior (but not really, we're even less than that), but I know that the Lord will always continue hastening His work and continue to bless me as I try to remain obedient and diligent. I know that there is a time and a purpose to everything under the Heavens and we don't need to try figuring them out, we just need to get to work! I love you all and hope everything is splendid back home. 

- Elder Bennion