Monday, April 27, 2015



After a very unexpected and spontaneous call from President Hobbs, he has requested that he move me to Rancho Cucamonga a week before the transfer ends and then most likely keep me here while he figures out some other changes within the mission. I really wish that I could've prepared better for it. I knew I was getting transfered this transfer, but I sure didn't think it was going to be a week early!

I'm doing okay, fairly good actually. It's so odd being back in the valley where things are a lot less ghetto and up-to-date and fancy. Rancho is a very wealthy city. The good news is that there is a Tongan ward in Rancho, so hopefully I will continue running into the Tongans and being influenced by their genuine love for the Lord.

I had such a FANTASTIC experience in the Jeraldo Tongan ward and would give so much to be back there, it was such a quick 7 months and my heart misses them so much already. I adapted so well to their culture and fell in love with so many aspects of it. The great thing about Polynesians are they are lifelong friends, which makes me very happy to think about. I had a very irrational fear of losing my connection with them, but as I got to say my goodbyes, I realized how I will always have their support and that they'll forever be in my heart. As I type, I'm still a little sad, but I'm going to try not to show it. It was bound to happen, and I know that life moves on.

That's my news. I'm sure it's a shock to you as well, I still can hardly believe it. That's what the mission is all about though, changes, changes, and even more changes! Which is a good thing, because President Hobbs keeps saying "Too much of a good thing is too much" which I agree with completely. I know the Lord will continue to watch over the Tongan ward and grant me another chance to see them again. It was hardest saying goodbye to Siaosi and Latu. I love those kids so much and since I got here, we saw them every Tuesday and we got to see them be baptized and grew a fantastic relationship with Agnes. I know I was meant to be apart of their life and I look forward to when I get to see them again. I actually only got to say goodbye to them over the phone, but I didn't cry once that day until I talked to them. It was rough, but Agnes goes "I'm not even giving you a hug because I know I'll see you again" ha, she's great. Man, they're the greatest people. 

For my last week there, we got to do a service project with the whole Victorville stake. We did a lot of painting, which is always fun. (Siope Moa painted the handicapped sign) It was kinda cold. That weekend I pulled out my coat, the desert is very unpredictable. Of course there was a lot more that happened, but we're only emailing for an hour today and I have a lot of pictures to attach. I'll be just fine, Proverbs taught me to trust in the Lord and I'm gonna do just that! I love you all and hope everything is going great back home! 2 more weeks and I will get to see your lovely faces! Have a good week everyone! Nofua!

- Elder Bennion
This is the Felila family! 

Na Felila was the one who passed away 2 weeks ago. As you can see, they have a very large family and they normally aren't all there when we come by, so it was perfect timing to get a picture with them. Sione is the one who took us golfing and Sister Felila is one of the BEST cooks in the ward. Their family is very special to me (:

Me and Rich! thankfully dad sent me that flag, Rich was pumped I had one. He is our EQP. He is a very well known rapper in Tonga!

Me and Bishop! 

This was the service project with all the missionaries. Sister Otuafi is from Tonga! 

The Moa family (: Their daughter Ofa is probably going to SUU! I believe Madi is going there next semester, so they will definitely have to meet up sometime!

The Nau's! (:

Oh man, Mele had us over for dinner almost every Sunday! She's so sweet. You would LOVE their family. I miss them!

The painting from Siope Moa ha!

This is Menelik and DJ. DJ was recently called as our ward mission leader. 

This is Oni Fotofili (Jack is his Palangi name). He lives in Salt Lake nowadays and is an RM, he served in West Virginia. He's awesome! 

This is the Taufelele's. Noke was baptized in Tonga, but his records were lost, so we've been teaching him since I got here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This week flew by


I'm not sure what my emails were like in my previous areas, but I can't help but rave about the Tongans each time I email you. I just want everyone to know how special they are and how great of humans they are. I know each race has their flaws, but they're so insignificant to me when it comes to the Polynesians. I really don't know what it is, I just love them!

This week flew by because of all the things we had to do, it was insane. I swear we never had time to catch a breath! I'm normally caught up on my journal at all times, but this week has not had enough time between 6:30-10:30 for me to catch up on all that has happened. Last Monday, we had a little activity with the missionaries in our zone, and when you've played volleyball with the Tongans, playing with Palangi's (Puh-long-ee's, White people), it's nowhere near as fun. They're so skilled at that sport, it's great. Our zone has been getting a little casual though, so we're trying to play less sports together. For some reason, as soon we put on normal clothes, our minds tend to ease off the rules, especially when we're around each other. It's hard not to get distracted around other missionaries since we encounter similar problems and frustrations on the mission. I've found out a cure for it though: Reading the Book of Mormon!

President Hobbs said that our mission would be happier and brighter if we were to pick up the Book of Mormon more often. I then made it a goal to read the B of M 20 minutes a day outside of our personal and companion studies. All day long I tell people "Read you scriptures to resolve your problems... turn to the scriptures, they'll help you!" But I don't think missionaries often take their own advice, so I'm experimenting with that and I believe it to be so true, I don't even need to hesitate to know that it will help so significantly in our lives. I love that book so much. Yesterday at church, a speaker got called to work in the Silverlakes ward and Brother Moa (Mo-uh) is the high councilman and asked us to speak in their ward with him. We had 20 minutes to prayer and I felt the need to share the Book of Mormon. I love that book in the way it helped me make Christ more of a reality in my life. I felt as though he was a stranger when I was 18, but then I noticed my relationship with him evolved and slowly I was able to recognize his power that was evident in my life in my study of the Book of Mormon. I know we need that book to confirm spiritual truth and to manifest the reality of living prophets on the earth today. What a monumental and inspired book for our dispensation! 

The hola and the wake for Na started this week and I'm honestly not sure what the difference is in those two things, perhaps you can look them up and inform me. But we were there every day this week at 7:00 and then were there till 9:00 for our curfew. Our dinner was there everyday and that Tongan food really grows on you, that's for sure! They had some really good crab and sop suey as they call it. No rice, but they did have kumala (koo-ma-la, which is a sweet potato) which was great! In the picture I have attached, their is a big tent over the driveway where they laid down the blue straw carpet stuff and then the orange is where the garage starts. We all sat in a circle (indian style cause that's how their culture is) and here's how it works (I'll try to explain this as best I can). The Felila's have a spokesperson as well as someone from our ward. The ward brings in a bunch of quilts, blankets, and a ton of food for the family and places it in the middle. The Felila spokesman then denies all the gifts and then the ward takes it back and from then on I'm not sure where it goes. That happens at every Tongan funeral, but I haven't asked why. Nonetheless, it's still really cool to observe! See how giving the Tongans are? So great! Then the viewing came around and they do it much different and much longer. It lasted about 4 hours (but we only went to an hour) and there was a lot of music and a lot of speakers. The next day she was buried in Ontario where her father is, so no, I was not able to go. I wish I could've though. It was a neat experience and so different but fascinating to see how it works. I'd say the Polynesians (the LDS ones at least) are more focused on making it a celebration of her life, rather than a time to weep and mourn. They're so understanding of her position now in the spirit world. They did such a great job with everything this week and I am very happy I was able to experience it all. Na was always one to build people up and everytime she was at the house, she would be singing Let it go on her ukelele. That's my memory of Na. She was a very talented woman with a beautiful singing voice.

Thursday was our big zone conference and that was a very long meeting ha. Our training went really well though and apparently, we're the companionship that sends in the most referrals in the mission. We have a lot of time on our hands to tract and find people, so we're more than happy to do it! 

On Friday, we helped a family named the Moala's move and for some reason, the person who built the house built the laundry room upstairs and the moving truck they had did not have a ramp ha! Vita (Vee-ta) was so mad. He kept saying "Elders, when you get a house, don't ever move!" I'm sure Koriann and Ben feel the same way. Moving does seem very stressful. Luckily all I have to lug around is 3 suitcases. However, I think I've collected a lot of stuff these past 7 months, so that'll be interesting trying to pack it all in when the time comes. 

Hema is doing really really good! We taught him the Plan of Salvation and he isn't married so he was a little concerned about the kingdoms, but Brother Lousiale (Lu-see-all-eh) explained it very well. Hema has a son who is 17 named Sefo (which is Joseph in English) and he was saying how he's lazy and will only listen to his friends. Sefo is the most well-mannered kid in the youth, so I assured him that he's just a teenager and that he will grow out of that. Right then, Elder Bartlik and I at the exact same time thought about the scripture 1st Corinthians 13:11 and boy is that scripture accurate to my life. I feel as though I am in that process, but I love that I've matured past the point where my friends were everything to me, and I can look back on my life and feel minorly embarrassed that I became so negligent to the things that mattered most. The gospel and the mission especially has opened my eyes to the most precious things and the most valuable things that are worth holding on to. And that's another reason why I love the Tongans; Their life is revolved around the family and I love it. They are so loyal! 

On Saturday, we were on an all day exchange with the AP's and I was with Elder Sudol, who once was my district leader in Upland. I missed that elder, it was good to be working with him again. We had a really good day and we had lunch with Agnes Liava'a. She is such a good cook, it's awesome! I'm so happy to see how we've built such a good relationship with her. I have a true testimony of fasting, because I saw how it opened the door to letting Siaosi and Latu get baptized. We continue to see them every Tuesday and they are doing great. Siaosi turns 12 in May and will be receiving his Aaronic priesthood (: Agnes really enjoys having us over. She gets excited when we have lunch appointments ha! This Saturday, we're going to Mimi's cafe, which is one of her personal favorites. She introduces us to all the good food places. It wasn't until this week that it was pointed out to me how much I talk about food ha, this ward has given me a much deeper appreciation for food! Yet, I haven't gained any weight! whoo! The rest of the day we tracted and met some cool people and then had dinner at the Fotu's and had a really good lesson there. Their family is awesome. 

Sunday was pretty good. We had dinner at the Bishop's (which we normally do every Sunday) and his daughter Mele (Mel-eh) is so sweet, and a fantastic cook as well! We then heard that one of our members is in the hospital so we went to Apple Valley to give her a blessing. Her name is Nesi and we're trying to work with her husband, so we get to see her normally every week, she's awesome! We're praying for a speedy recovery for her! Then we got to see a lady named Pam in our ward who is Palangi but married to a Tongan. She's so funny. 

I'd say that's a good summary of our week. 1 year ago today was my last day in Hesperia and then I went to Alta Loma. I didn't think I'd love a ward more than that one, but I was surprised to see that change so quickly (: It is very true that missionaries (especially in the Tongan wards) are so well taken care of, you really don't need to worry about us. Some days we are a little sensitive and homesick and frustrated, but it's a learning process. In Hesperia, I really felt as though I was just sticking it out, but it's amazing to be able to say that I LOVE serving a mission and that it's far better than what I had expected. My mission has been so surreal and so quick-paced, there's so much good that goes on and so many times the Spirit teaches me that this is the true and real church of Jesus Christ. I love being Elder Bennion with all my heart and am confident in the fact that the Lord has an individual plan for His children and though I'm sure He himself is very busy, He always makes time for us and is so willing to help us when we need Him. I love my Father and know our relationship will never falter as long as I'm obedient to my maker and faithful to my covenants. He has blessed me so richly and inspired me and empowered me through His Son, and that is how I'm able to do hard things. He is how we can find strength beyond our own. I love you all and am very happy to hear from you. Have a fantastic week!

- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion
Lunch with Agnes!

The Moala's

Last picture with Elder Thompson before he goes home! 

Victorville A zone

The hola setup.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"you can't do that, I'm a missionary!"


I am happy to hear the vacation went well and that Mason received his Melchizedek priesthood, how exciting that was for me to have all of your there and have Dad bestow it upon me. Not that it's about me though; I am so proud of him! As I am out here and have many more opportunities to use it out here, I am able to see how real it is and the effect it has on families and even strangers in the world. We had 2 people stop us at Winco today and they expressed how different we were than all of the world, and not just because of the way we dress. In stake conference last month, someone spoke about how in public, you can tell when members are faithful to their covenants, because they have a light in and around them, especially in California. That must be why people were so drawn to the Savior and similarly how Ammon was able to make such a good impression upon King Lamoni. Obedience to the commandments creates such a happy demeanor within us and it shows in a lot of our daily pursuits. People can seem so unhappy with the way their life is in California, it's kinda sad, especially when they reject the antidote to their issues. Thankfully we know where to turn to when we need heavenly help.

We had a pretty good week this week and I am glad to report! On Wednesday we had exchanges so I went to Barstow and throughout the day, the Lord blessed us their area with 3 new investigators! It's a very humble part of our mission, if you know what I mean. We should be going to Calico ghost town next week in Barstow for a P day activity, it's not a real ghost town, but a tourist kinda place, but we hear it's pretty fun! We have a senior couple serving in Barstow and they spoil us missionaries, good grief. The person who signed up to feed us moved and so the Mower's took us to Pizza Hut for dinner, they are awesome! I learned that Elder Mower is the maker of the company "lifetime". They make the folding chairs/tables/fitness stuff! super cool, right?

We've been pretty busy this week between a lot of tracting, teaching, and preparing a training for zone conference this Thursday. Zone conference is when we get together with 2 other zones and President and Sister Hobbs and the AP's have the zone leaders give trainings on what we feel like our zones are struggling with. It's a pretty cool meeting, and we're pretty excited to give ours. We fasted for help with it because we want it to come out perfect. For some reason, fasting is much easier on a mission. It's probably because we're just busy all the time or something!

The highlight to my week was actually yesterday when we got to see a family named the 'Iongi's. It's Bishop's nephew's family and they are a really funny family. It was definitely the Spirit that brought us there because it's been a struggle trying to set something up with them, and it worked out great. Before we left, we took a picture with them and I was on the end next to Janet and then she put her arm around my waist and I squirmed and was like "you can't do that, I'm a missionary!" I got really red apparently. It was super funny, we were all busting up.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Conference was good


I'm sure it's the same for you all back home, but I have just been swayed back and forth and back and forth when it comes to my emotions. Joyce has dwelled in the back of my head all this week and then something else has been bothering me all weekend, it mad
e me a bit distracted for conference which is a bummer. With that being said, I don't want it to set the tone of this email, so I will try to snap out of it for the time being.

There's a family named the Fotu's in the ward that are moving, thank goodness they're still staying in the ward. I bring them up because they're moving in with their nephew Peter and I just think it is so cool that no matter how full a Tongan's home may be, they always will have room for their family. Also, Tuku (John) is moving to Hawaii and I'm really gonna miss that guy! I'm excited he has an opportunity to be there though. He's gonna love life even more now!

We visit a family regularly named the Otuafi's and I love them SO much. I can't pick favorites in the ward, but I really enjoy being over there. When Po, Lini, and Ngalu are all together, oh man, they're a riot. They had us over for dinner and lunch this week and I tried Musepi. It's rice and spam wrapped in seaweed.  It was very nice of them. For the last p day of the transfer, we may have a luau and Po offered to cook Tongan food for the luau, they're just so great! They all went to Rancho High which is the Poly school and they said that when there was any bullying problems, they would call on the Tongans for help ha! They would also hide the school security guards bikes in the girls bathroom haha, man, they're just so funny. Ngalu got to go to conference in Utah and said he was gonna try really hard to meet the prophet ha, I don't think he succeeded, but that would be super cool!

I believe I told you about Hema; He is a relative of Sione Moa, and we recently started teaching him and he is progressing so well! He will get baptized for sure, I just don't know if I'll be there for it. He made it to conference though and he said we are welcome over anytime. He's a very kind person who has very righteous desires to be baptized. We'll need a miracle to happen in order for him to get baptized this transfer, but the Lord hasn't let me down in the Tongan ward, so at this point I believe anything is possible!

Conference was good. I was very excited to be watching 10 hours of conference,
it's so refreshing to hear from our prophet and apostles. They did things a little differently this year, but everyone did great as expected. I don't ever grow tired of hearing President Uchtdorf and when Elder Holland told us that story of those 2 boys hiking, my palms got super sweaty ha! I for some reason really love M. Ballard, so I was excited to hear him talk. (I just hit a weird button on the keyboard, so if the text comes out weird, it's not my fault. Boo this is annoying.) 

Either way, I'm happy to be in the Tongan ward still. They invited us to the park after conference to have an Easter egg hunt and a barbeque. We stayed as long as it felt productive, so we didn't get to stay for long unfortunately. I would've loved to participate in the activites. I love that in their culture they always include their families and are always looking for a reason to be together. We need that more in the American culture! Hence why this whole conference was geared toward the family. I love things in the work and the ward and am looking forward to all the great experiences that await me this week. It's hard to think that sooner or later I will have to leave these wonderful people. Elder Bartlik keeps telling me to prepare for it and I just have to brush it off each time ha. They've become so largely apart of my life in such a way that I had not anticipated. I've been so blessed to know them and am so happy for all the ways they've taught me to be a better person. I know that from the beginning of my life, the Lord has been so merciful to me and I know that He'll never cease. I think we contemplate how in the world we can pay Him back for all the ways He's shown us He loves us, so we try serving others, and then we just get even more blessings for doing so, which makes us even more indebted to Him! It's so interesting. Sometimes they say missionary work is 'missionary fun' and though I don't care to use that term, it actually describes pretty well how I feel about the ward ha. So that's my week, the Lord will bless all of us in the ways we need it if we are faithful to Him and His commandments, I know that to be 100% true. Happy Easter!

- Elder Bennion