Monday, September 18, 2017

Shadows Over Washington

The land grows darker each day. Smoke and ashes fill the air, filling the lungs of those who inhabit this shadowland. Thick clouds have rolled in, vowing that they shall envelope the land for many more months on end. The days of sunshine, merrymaking, and dead lawns are over. An almost palpable gloom seems to clutch the hearts of many and linger in the recesses of every home. My heart is still filled with faith, but tormented by lurking shadows. I fear my time is drawing nigh. I ignore the omens and focus on my calling, but dread still lingers behind me: softly chuckling like a delirious madman. The cold begins to set in.
The winters are back. This is unfortunate for me, as it means my time is ticking very quickly. I still have time, and there is always still hope, but I still feel tinges of melancholy at times.
I do love it out here. The work is wonderful. I love the people. I am so grateful for everyone I have been able to meet. Stacy came to church this week! We are so excited for her. She has been reading the scriptures and has a baptismal date approaching. We brought her and one of her member tenants, Carl, to a barbecue put on by the Elder's quorum. It was a lot of fun. We played some competitive "cornhole", which, for you Utahns out there, is like a more structured form of "bean bag toss" with only one hole in the board. Elder Robb and I played on a team against two of the members and we lost. The final score was a whopping 21 to 5. I'd like to say that it was a close game, but if I did I would be downright lying. They absolutely slaughtered us, processed us, and sold us to a local grocery store as fresh, human jerkey. It was a lot of fun, though, and I enjoyed the opportunity. Elder Robb is a great companion. I enjoy being with him. I love you all. There is nothing more satisfying in life than doing God's will. I can say that with certainty. It is easy to get distracted by Satan's artifices, but don't be fooled: Only by following Heavenly Father and His plan can we attain true happiness. I hope you all have a phenomenal week.

--
Elder Benge

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Inadequate

I'm sorry, I sped through that last letter so fast I forgot to mention our investigators. We are very excited about Nauss, one of the investigators who came to church a few weeks ago. When we taught him the first time, he just seemed sort of flaky. But just a few days ago we taught him again, and now he has read some of the Book of Mormon and he loves it. His whole demeanor changed. He was asking questions, he was commenting on the Plan of Salvation and very involved. This time he was willing to set a solid baptismal date. The spirit touched his heart. I am so excited for him. I love it when people really open their hearts to the message. The Spirit is so strong when that happens. We also found a potential investigator who didn't seem that solid, but when we came back and taught her the restoration on the return appointment, the Spirit was very strong and she became very interested. I told her she had been feeling the Spirit as we taught, and she agreed, and excitedly accepted a Book of Mormon from us and eagerly committed to come to church. Man, I love the work. I hope you all have a glorious week.

--
Elder Benge

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Beginning on Monday last week and ending Friday or Saturday, we had the strangest weather here in Washington. For behold, ashes did rain forth from the sky, covering the vehicles and making the air absolutely horrid. When I first walked outside and saw all of the ashes, I legitimately thought that some volcano had exploded somewhere. Alas, it was just the forest fires from Canada. Still, it made for a great week with a fantastic atmosphere (Not the physical atmosphere, that was awful, but the "pervading tone or mood of a place"). I felt like Elder Robb and I were in some strange, post-apocalyptic world, converting people the the gospel while running from nuclear waste zombies.
Also, if you are wondering why I am writing on Wednesday, it's because on Monday we had Mission Tour, which is when a member of the Seventy (In this case, Elder  Benjamin De Hoyos and his wife) comes and teaches us. It was a great opportunity and the spirit was certainly there. I am grateful that we have prophets and apostles to lead and to guide us today. I am grateful for that revelation, and that we can really be guided as a church by God, and not by man. Anyway, I have not much else to write. The church is true indeed, my fellow brethren and sistren. May you all stay strong in the faith, and remember to be humble and keep your eye single to the glory of God.
Adios.

--
Elder Benge

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Don't Take Cookies From Strangers

This week we had a very interesting experience. We were knocking along a dead end back-woodsy road, and we met a Native American lady who was baking. She said she was spiritual and not interested in our message, so we walked away. A little bit later as we were coming back the way we had come, she came out of her driveway with two small bags, with two cookies in them each. She said she had thought to give us some cookies and she thanked us for what we were doing. We thanked her profusely for the gift, and accepted happily. She then asked us, just for clarification, "Which church are you from again?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons if you've heard us called that before."
"Oh, good. Well, enjoy the cookies. They are organic." She replied. Then she left. As we departed, I opened my bag and took out the cook. Organic food items are always a risk, especially homemade ones, because sometimes they taste like straight fodder, while other times they taste normal. I picked up the cookie and took a bite. The moment it touched my tongue, I could taste a horrid skunky taste mingled with everything else. For some reason, it tasted like something familiar. I chewed it a little more, when I suddenly realized that the nasty flavor was familiar because it tasted exactly like weed smelled. 
I quickly spewed the poisoned food all over the side of the road. "Sweet guacamole!" I exclaimed (I'm paraphrasing now), "She gave us marijuana cookies! She tried to get us high!'
Anyway, we narrowly dodged that snare of the adversary. Fortunately, I can recognize the smell of weed after serving in Washington for so long.  Anyway, other than that, the week wasn't too interesting. We put two people on date for baptism that ward members found for us, so that was exciting.

Also, just a fun fact about Washington: It seems that very few living rooms have light fixtures built in to them. I guess they've decided that the darkness of Washington should be inside the houses as well as outside them. Most people end up putting a few lamps in the main room, but it doesn't usually do much to fill the dark space, and the room ends up looking gloomy.

Have a great week, tout le monde!
--
Elder Benge

Monday, August 28, 2017

Give Us This Week Our Weekly Week

Holy cardinals, Batman! This week was so stupendously... normal! WOWZA!
Okay, I don't really have much to write this week. Elder Robb and I worked really hard. We did our best to stay focused. We knocked, and we knocked. We visited potentials. We did our best to inspire the members as they graciously fed us dinners during the week. Nothing really interesting happened until Sunday. We had a less active show up who brought his non-member room mate. She is interested in learning. We also had another semi-less active member (who just barely got back from his summer job which doesn't allow him to come to church) come and bring his wife's cousin (also interested in learning) and his 9-year-old unbaptized daughter. He wants us to come teach them both and get them baptized. We are so excited! God definitely answered our prayers and blessed us for our hard work. I definitely do have a testimony that his is the Lord's work, not ours. It is not the work of man, it is the work of God, and he is in control. Whenever we try to take control and ignore his will it just causes problems. I also know that God hears prayers, and that he loves us. This doesn't mean he always gives us what we want, but it does mean that he will guide us to what is best (as long as we humbly seek), and that he will not upbraid us for asking (See James 1:5). I am very grateful for that. I love God, and I know that he loves each one of us.
I am sorry that this was boring weekly email, but hey? What can you do?
Have an astounding week, and may you never trip while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night in such a way that you break your nose.
--
Elder Benge

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Semi-Super Bowl (Missionary Style)

Here are some pictures from zone activity last week:


(From Left to Right)
Top Row: E. Jocelyn, E. Reynolds, E. Allen, E. Carr, E. Robb, E. Benge
Middle Row: E. Meik, E. Howell, S. York, E. Pisciotta, E. Rosquist
Bottom Row: S. Kreutz(I think that's how it's spelled), S. Baldwin, S. Fisher
--
Elder Benge

The Words Will Choke In Your Mouth

This week was really interesting. We had to drop a few people and that was sad. We found a couple more people and it will be exciting to teach them. By far the most exciting parts of this week were when my companion, dear Elder Robb, choked on his food. It actually happened two different times this week (once at a member meal). I want to preface this by saying that I am very grateful that he survived and that nothing bad happened... but I must also admit that what happened was way funny. It is going to make a good memory some day for him and for me. The only reason it was funny was because the food never clogged his throat all the way, which meant he could still breathe. So it was still really awkward and embarrassing, but at least he was doing fine. I have made sure I am up to date on "how to help your companion while he is choking" skills, so next it won't be as awkward. I am very grateful that everything ended well, though.
I will say that that was definitely one of the most exciting member meals I have ever been to.
Anyway, other than that I cannot think of a single interesting thing to share with you that will last more than a sentence, so here are some random, inspid things for your mind to munch on: I have a flat tire on my bike. Elder Robb is a really good artist and has made a lot of his own comic book superheros. I got my hair cut. I have been looking out the library window at the solar eclispe while I've been emailing (using solar eclipse viewing technology, of course.) [P.s. a rice krispy treat wrapper works remarkably well]{Don't worry, I also have an official viewer that meets the transmission requirements of EN 1836:2005 & AS/NZS 1338.1:1992 For Eclipse Filters. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds reliable #ethos}.
Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful day. Don't eat your mashed potatoes or your chicken too quick!

--
Elder Benge

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Whole 9-9 Yards

This week was actually interesting. That is good, because it means I have at least some semi-interesting morsel of information to share with you (at least, I found it interesting. You may still be bored, but you can just keep your cutting remarks to yourself, Fujong!).
Anyway, on Friday, our entire mission had a 9-9. This meant we knocked doors from 9 am to 9 pm without taking any breaks for lunch, dinner, or going to the bathroom (Just kidding, we'd use gas station facilities and such* when we needed.). Our zone made the day extra special by having every companionship knock in someone else's area in the zone. Elder Robb and I were assigned, alongside Elder Pisciotta and Elder Carr (another companionship in our district) to knock in the Lakewood ward. Contained within the Lakewood ward boundaries is a group of apartment complexes known to the missionaries as "Chocolate City" (for reasons I will only tell the avid seeker). This knocking spot is renowned throughout the mission as the best, sketchiest, most ghetto knocking spot in the entire mission. Suffice to say, it was a very fun knocking session. It was definitely very ghetto. I am very glad I had the opportunity to knock there. The day was long, but very rewarding. We packed many PB&J's into a bag and brought them with us all day. We found a lot of new people for the Lakewood missionaries to teach. (They found a few people for us to teach as well.)
The other most interesting part of the week was that I was asked to give a talk in church on Sunday. So, yesterday I got up and gave a talk on... how to overcome challenges in marriage. Yes. That is the topic I was given. So, I drew upon my years of wisdom as the Bachelor§ I am and told everyone how they ought to be married. 
It was pretty funny. I was replacing someone else who had had to cancel, but it was still really funny having a missionary give a talk on marriage.
We had another lesson with Eric this week. Elder Robb did well as we taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Eric admitted that the only thing keeping him from feeling ready to be baptized is that he still hasn't put a full honest effort into reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it. Lessons with Eric are always very spiritual, and I really enjoy teaching him. We invited him to redouble his efforts on reading the Book of Mormon. I pray that he will. I know he has felt the spirit and knows that what we teach is true, he is just too hesitant right now to take a baptismal date (we have invited him several times).
Anyway, I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is so simple. It is so profound. It is so powerful. Christ has changed my life, and he has changed me. He continues to change me as I allow him to. 
May we all allow Christ into our hearts, and allow him to continually change and mold us.
I hope you all have a beautiful week full of fresh raspberries, free food samples at the grocery store, happy infants, and bright rays of sunshine. I love you all. Please pray for the people out here in Washington, as well as the people around you so that you may have missionary opportunities as well.
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
                              - 1 Nephi 10:19
--
Elder Benge
*bushes, trees, obscured clearings, the houses of random strangers, roadside port-a-potties, empty water bottles, nearby unlocked missionary apartments, ditches, less-frequented roadsides, shopping centers, fast food restaurants, members' homes, etc.

§ I am the Bachelor.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Super Fly Pic


​This was a super spontaneous picture, but I thought it ended up looking really good. Something about the layout is just really pleasing to the eye (At least to my eye).

--
Elder Benge

Slow Week 'Til Fast Sunday

As the title of the email clearly illustrates, this week was a rather slow one. We found a few new. Nothing much exciting was happening. We were really praying that would start finding some more people. On Sunday, Ashley didn't come to church, and we were really disappointed. Then, right before dinner we biked up to the member we were eating at at the top of the area and decided to knock there before dinner (which was a slight change of plans). On about the 3rd door we knocked, someone opened the door and said "How did you know we needed you?"
I'm not going to lie, I honestly thought they were joking or just needed to move their couch or something. Nope, they had actually just been praying and trying to get a hold of the missionaries even going to the extent of just barely sending in a referral for themselves on lds.org so that their daughter could get a blessing before going in for ear surgery the next day. They were members, but they weren't from the ward and were just taking care of someone who had just had a stroke, so they didn't know how to get a hold of someone. So we gave the daughter a blessing, as well as the older gentleman who had just had a stroke. It was a small thing,  it was a small thing, but it was a relief to know that God was using us as angels to answer prayers. Sometimes it is nice to know that God really is using you for something. We then went to dinner and got a bunch of great referrals from the member, and then we knocked doors and found a less active very interested in coming to church and a solid new investigator. It was very nice. 

Now, for other miscellaneous moments of mystification for the week:
We met a weird Asian guy who explained to us how God was a single-celled organism started all alone and then made the universe out of circles. It was an interesting conversation. He would ask us really random questions and then compliment us if we got the answer right (of course, it was just a guessing game as we would try to figure out his the details of his obscure belief system.)
Here are  some excerpts from the conversation:
Him: What part of our body does God dwell in?
Me: The heart!
Him: Close...
Me: Um.... the sternum.
(He stares at me blankly)
Robb: The brain!
Him: Yes! What part of the brain?
Me: The cerebral cortex!
Him: You are very smart. That is very close.
(I am now at a loss for words because I don't know very many other parts of the brain and I have no idea how close they are to each other)
LATER IN THE CONVERSATION
Him: What is the most sacred part of the body?
Me: Ummm... The heart! No, wait! The tongue!
Him: Wow. You got it right on. It is the vein that goes directly from the heart to the tongue. 
ANOTHER PART OF THE CONVERSATION
Him: What do these circles look like?
Me: Er...  A flower?
Him: Yes, very close. A flower is part of it.
Me: The circle of life?
Him: Wow. You are 98% right. It is the flower... of life.
Me: Ahh, silly me! Of course.

Suffice to say, it was a very interesting conversation. I wonder how many crazy people I have talked to on my mission. Probably a good amount. Anyway, I will stop boring you with my life, and I will permit you to return to that which was previously keeping you occupied. Adios.
--
Elder Benge