Monday, March 25, 2013

Hey mom and family!

How are you guys??? That's great to hear about all that by the way I am pumped about Jared doing well in school. I hope you can find some good recipes and stuff because sometimes I just get stuck eating celery and eggs...haha speaking of which I only weigh 175 because we don't get to eat a lot down here. But, that'll change soon because we have a lot of members feeding us this week for Easter! Also, I haven't gotten your package yet so I will look for it.

Next, tell Grandma, Shanette, Kellene, and Michelle sorry I didn't email them or write them. Sometimes we get kicked out of the library because there are classes here and I don't get a lot of time to email.

Well, this week was a miracle week for sure. My companionship fasted to find some more people and prayed really hard. My area hasn't had a baptism for almost 3 years now so it hasn't been succesful. Anyway, we were in a complex called "Westward Square" (where a guy got shot in the head a couple weeks ago) trying to get a hold of one of our investigators. A lady, named Elsa, walked up to us and starting talking to us. It was obvious that she needed someone to just talk to. We didn't have anything better to do so we listened. She ended up telling us her dad died a couple days ago, and she was very upset. She told us to come by again when we had the chance. So, the next day we stopped by and talked to her about the blessings the church could bring her. She quickly accepted it and believed everything we said. I then invited her to be baptized and she is going to be baptized on the 13th of April and asked me to do it! So I am going to at least stay in Houston until then because I really care for this lady even though I hardly know her and I am so honored to baptize her.

Then, after that appointment, we left to one of our investigators named Sonia. She has been taking lessons for awhile and is progressing very well lately. Well, being "in the zone" I just decided to invite her to be baptized on the same date. We had just read 2 Nephi 31 where it talks about Jesus being baptized. She teared up and told us she knows she needs to and accepted the date too. I will also be baptizing her on the 13th. She has 6 kids, and 2 of them are over 8 and will be baptized soon too, but I probably won't be doing that. Anyway I am completley pumped about it. I can't even wait!

Then a couple days later we were at a less active member and her friend walked in and told us about how dumb she thinks the Catholic church is because they baptize babies. We told her what we believed and she accepted it very fast. She is pumped to know more about our church and we are going to teach her and extend a baptismal date tonight for the 13th or the 20th.

Then, we had a teenage member give us his friend as a referral who is taking lessons and loves to read the Book of Mormon. He soaks it all in like a sponge and on Wednesday we are going to invite him to be baptized too.

Which brings me to the spiritual message of this message. The miracle of prayer and fasting. We were reading in 3rd Nephi where the disciples of Christ are fasting and praying together. After they fasted and prayed Jesus showed himself to them and asked what they needed. We took that message to heart and gave it a try. I testify that this can happen to anyone because it happened to us. We could feel Christ asking us what we needed and as soon as we asked for it we were given it. Anything that you ask for in faith will be given to you. I am pumped, and everything is going great here now.

Well, I don't have too much else to talk about. I am going to try and email everyone back today. I am excited for the package;) haha love you guys! keep me posted!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hey family!
It's probably a good thing that you didn't send me a package because there are a couple more things that I was hoping you could send...I was wondering if dad or grandpa would be willing to send their mission journal so I could read it. I think it could help me. Also, I was wondering if you could send a box of Ancient Grains fromCostco, I had a craving for it all the sudden. Next is our recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. And lastly, I keep forgetting to ask for this, but I need some bed sheets. The ones grandma gave me just have two thin blankets. I need the thing that goes over the mattress. Then anything HEALTHY you want to send would be great. If you can, I would love it if you could look up some tips or buy a health nurtition book to help me eat well here, just anything with tips, healthy snacks or whatever. Anything extra would be great.
Next, why in the world has Rachel not written me back? I haven't heard anything from Jared either! Tell them to get writing. We were in a store the other day and I heard the song "Payphone" by Maroon 5 come one and it made me miss you guys a lot....haha Also, I was wondering if you could check to see how much money is on my card. As for everyone writing me emails, that is great, but I have one hour to write you, my mission president and all my friends and family. So, I would rather you just gave it to the Apgoods, Halversons, Reynolds, and the Peterson's are of course fine. Just close people...cuz I won't have time to write everyone every week. Once I'm out in Argentina though, it'll definitely be ok to give it to everyone.
Sorry I wasn't more clear. There was a chance of me leaving today for Argentina, but I just got news that I will finish the transfer here unless told otherwise. So no worries. Also, thank you so much for the stories that you told me. I loved reading about Morty for sure. He still hasn't written me by the way. See if you can get his email for me.
Well, let me tell you about the week I had now...First, I have witnessed some crazy things in Houston. I totally just watched a gang fight just about to start and then about 10 minutes later there were cops and ambulances everywhere and a couple people were killed. My area is sketch haha
But, I grew more this week than I have in a long time. We had exchanges on Tuesday. (Where you do a companion swap for the full day). I got put with an Elder that didn't speak Spanish and I had 2 Spanish lessons to teach today and my Spanish is WAY below par still. I seriously prayed so hard that I would be able to teach the lesson I wanted to. I was supposed to teach a guy named Ernesto, (which is our "atheist"). He is our harest investigator because he wants to see things before he believes them. I went in their feeling a little nervous. I came in and his friend/roomate was getting pretty drunk. I started in the lesson and he stopped and started asking questions. For some reason, I understood everything he said. I answered back without thinking and realized it was exactly what he wanted to hear. My confidence grew and we went into a deep conversation while my temoporary companion stared at the drunk guy in the room. At the end of the lesson the Spirit was so strong and I beared my testimony that if he would just act on his desires that he would be able to recieve faith and be baptized. He finally agreed to come to church and he is heading in the right direction now. After words, he told my trainers that he couldn't believe that I learned to speak that fast. It was so awesome.
Next, after we left to go teach another lesson. We knocked on the door and they weren't there. The apartment next door opened his door because he thought we knocked on his door. He tried to close it again when he saw who we were but I quickly started talking to him. As I started a conversation and found out that his name is William, and he came straight from Honduras and spoke no English yet. He has been here a month and was looking for a Church to attend. He was a little hesitant but he agreed to let us come back on Sunday. So we came yesterday, and taught him the Restoration. He absolutely loved it. He asked tons of questions and said it made tons of sense. At the end of the lesson I decided to invite him to be baptized and he is set up for the 13th of April! What...??!! First baptism! Hopefully he'll keep progressing and that date will stay the same.
There's some other stories that I would love to tell you but I don't quite have time. We got 2 new families to teach too that are great. Then we went to an old investigators door after feeling inspired to do so, and we found a new guy living there who we taught too. He is awesome.
Well, if you couldn't guess I want to talk a little bit about obtaining faith. I think the first thing we need to relize is that faith is a gift. It isn't something that we should take lightly. We look back in the scriptures and see prophets that have it. One, that really sticks out to me is Abinadi. He knew that no matter what he would be protected. I don't think there were too many men in the history of this world that had more faith than Abinadi. So, how did he obtain so much faith? First, he knew the Will of the Lord. He knew it so well that he could say every word that came out of his mouth with 100% confidence. How do you get to know the Will of the Lord that well? That simply comes from knowing the Lord. So, develop your realtionship with the Lord. How can you do that? Well, in Jacob it says that they followed the words of the prophets so they would have their hearts turned to the Lord. Then after they were able to obtain a hope, or desire. Then in Alma 32 it says that if you just act on the tiny desire in you heart that you could start to grow your faith. But, it doesn't grow unless you act on it. When you act on it, it grows stronger and stronger.
Eventually you're faith in the Lord will be strong and your relationship as well. Once, you know the Lord well enough you can know His Will. Then you'll be able to say things like Abinadi did, and have 100% confidence in everything that you do. That's when power comes, and with power comes miracles. If you want miracles, it starts by developing your relationship with the Lord.
Well, thank you so much for everything you guys are doing for me. I love you bunches. Time is going by fast and before you know it I will be on my way home. It's already been over 2 months and it feels like I just left. Everyone says that it just starts going faster too. Love you bunches, tell me if I can do something for you!.
Elder Benson

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hey guys!
So I actually got the package on Saturday night, but I couldn't pick it up til this morning but I did get it. Thank you very much! I starve out here sometimes...Before I get started though a new announcement just came out from the missionary department. It says that we are now allowed to email all family and even friends, and we are allowed to email for a longer amount of time too! So...if any of the family or Jordan wants to email me they can now! If they want just handwritten letters that is just fine too. I love getting hand written things too. Also, that discus is the High School's...I meant to give it back before I left but I totally spaced it, and same with the lifting belt. So...sorry about that.
I just read your handwritten letters. First off, that is awesome that Jared is doing so well in shot put! I'm very excited to hear about that. I hope he sticks with it and gets really good. That was definitely farther than I threw! I'm expecting him to win Alpine Days too. That's so cool. Keep me updated on it, I am really excited to hear about that!
Ok, next. My spanish is going really well. I can effectively communicate with a Spanish person now. My understanding isn't that great, but it gets better fast because that's the only language the people speak here. I have already taken the lead in lessons and I can pretty well get through basic conversations, but my vocabulary isn't that extraordinary yet...haha. A lot of the members in our ward recognize that and like to mess with me. It's really fun.
The weather down here is great by the way. Last night, we walked outside after a devotional and I was freezing. I thought for sure it must have been 30 degrees, but we checked the thermometer and it was 58...I've already gotten spoiled with warm weather. I then starting thinking about it and realized that when I come home from Argentina it'll be hitting the 100's for their summer, and then I'll come home to our winter...that'll be fun.
As for my companions, they are still good. They are fun and are helping me a lot. One leaves in August and the other in November. They are both from Utah.
I'm glad to hear you got the pictures of me and my mission president. I like him he's really nice but he has 7 kids and seems very busy. He did go to Harvard for Graduate school.
Oh! As for the pictures, I don't have a SD Card Reader. I need one in order to send pictures. Printing them off at Wal-Mart might work though. I'll see if I can do that soon. Sorry I haven't been able to get anymore pictures to you guys, I will try to do better!
Umm...lets see my cold and flus are gone. The nice humid air seemed to do the trick, so that's nice. It's the first time in 8 weeks that I haven't been sick! Can you believe it has been 8 weeks since you dropped me off at the MTC? It doesn't seem that long, but then sometimes it does. Also, my back is doing better now that I'm up and moving a lot. Like dad said in his letter, it's nice to be up and doing real missionary work.
Also, I have no idea when I will leave. I have to call on every other Wednesday to check for my Visa. So I will call this Wednesday and they will check, but even if it is ready I won't leave for another week after. So you can definitely fit in another package and no I didn't get the chance to get locks on my luggage, so if you want to send those to me too that'd be great. I can't think of anything else that I need so I think that is it.
Ok, now for experiences I've had this week. Lets start with food; first, if you ever somehow end up in Houston, go to a place called Taco La Bala. It has the best food in the world. We got to go their for our last P-Day and it was legit. Second, I've also had the worst food I've ever had. We went to a members house to eat. One thing to keep in mind, is ever since I was set apart, I've been able to eat anything. I eat tomatoes plain, celery by the stick and even raddishes. All sorts of things I wouldn't eat before. But, this was horrible. Someone served us something called "Chichiron" (don't know if it's spelled right), but basically they kill a pig cut off the skin and put it in the oven for a couple mins and serve it to you. Luckily, I got the good kind that still had some pig hair attached onto the skin. It's pure fat too, so it's nice and healthy. I gained a strong testimony of prayer that night, as I prayed with all my heart, might, mind and strength that I would be able to eat it. I got it down, but right after we all left and gagged the rest of the night. It was not good. Yuck.
One of our family investigators, Luby and Juan, (who are actually from Nicaragua by the way, I got them mixed up) have been doing really well. Luby loves us and made us some covers they make in Nicaragua to send home to you guys. They are for microwaves, bread boxes and all these other things. We don't really use them in America, but you can have them as decorations/souveniers. She is very sweet. They've been helping me with my Spanish a lot too.
Also, as we went on splits on Friday. Elder Howell and I went tracting/OYMing. All of our lessons fell through and we were discouraged. We decided to pray and ask for someone to teach. As we finished a Cuban dude just walked past us and asked what we were doing. We were kind of surprised. He took us in his apartment, taught him about the Restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon. He talked to us about how he had always believed in God but never felt good about any church that he has gone to. He was extremely friendly and invited us back. We read a little of the Book of Mormon before we left and he was so excited. He can't wait to read and study it, and we are gonna see him again this week. It was incredidble. His name was Asercis. (Ah-seer-sees)
Our "Atheist" investigator, Ernesto, made strides and bounds. We decided to have a barbecue for all our investigators in the district and they got to come together and talk and eat Fajita. He was really impressed with the people in the church and was really excited. He came to the church the next day and kept asking to see the baptismal font. We opened the doors for him and then he asked to step down into it. He got down there and the Spirit was just amazingly strong. He went home feeling very happy and peaceful. I think he isn't Atheist anymore.
Well, I also wanted to leave you a quick spiritual message about tempations. I don't have a ton of time but I will make it the best I can. I was reading In 1 Nephi 12:17 (I think haha) it talked about tempatations blind our eyes and hardening our hearts which eventually bring us to perish and be lost. I started thinking about it, and initially it seems so obvious. Temptations our bad, right? But, I don't think we realize how often it really is around us. Even things that don't seem bad: video games, tv, computer, etc...blind our eyes. Then the next question is, how do we overcome them? The answer given in the scriptures are wactchfulness and constant prayer. Also, in D&C 23:1 (or somewhere around there) it says we can't have pride or we won't have power. In Galatians 6:1-2 It talks about accepting others. 1 Ne 15:23-25 it tells us how we need to follow the word of God and in Thessolonians 3:5-7 it tells us we need to do good works and by doing all these things we can hopefully change our perspective on things and overcome temptation. There's a talk a was reading that said that it is possible to overcome nearly all tempation. In the Book of Mormon the prophets are so powerful that Satan basically doesn't even try. How awesome would it be to get to that point? We just need to always be striving to do better than we did before so we can. Also, in Peter 1:6-9 it says we need to view temptation as an oppurtunity, because when we overcome it we shall be blessed. Changing your perspective can be the difference.
Well, I don't have time for too much more. Thanks so much for the package, I'm so glad. I hope everything else is good. Tell me if you guys need something. I pray for you individually every night, and I miss you guys a ton. Love you bunches.
Elder Benson

Monday, March 4, 2013

                                                            Jake in Houston
Hey guys! It's great to hear from you! My P-Day just happened to be the same day as it was before!
Also, here is my new address:
Elder Benson
#180 6666 Chetwood
Houston, TX 77081
I'm super pumped about Denise. I wrote down her number and I will definitely give her a call as soon as possible! Hopefully we can talk to her a little bit before I leave here. Every two weeks they give me travel plans to Argentina, but I obviously can't leave until I get my Visa. But that means when I get it I won't have to wait for a full transfer to leave here too.
So far, I love it here. It is at least 60,000x better than the MTC. There still are ups and downs though. First though, I'm actually in a trio companionship with the Zone Leaders. They put me with them so I could be a "Zone Leader in Training" for when I go down to Argentina. They want me to be prepared to be a Zone Leader as soon as 6 months in my mission which is completely unheard of, but we will see what happens. My companions are Elder Barker and Elder Howell. They are LEGIT too. Elder Barker was raised in a tiny town in Utah, which I can't remember the name of right now....but he went to Box Elder High School. He was a farm boy with 70 acres of land. He is super nice and really smart too. Then Elder Howell is from North Ogden and I can't remember which school he went to right now...but I think it was just Ogden High School. He ran track and cross country in high school. We get along just fine haha. They were looking for better workouts to do in the morning and so now they do my workouts. They love it. We have tons of fun all the time too. As soon as I can I will get some pictures and send them to you.
Next, the area I got put into is crazy. There has been 2 baptisms in the last 3 years. We cover a bunch of very "sketchy" apartment complexes. One of them called "Las Americas" just had a guy shot and killed on Thursday. Another is called "Westward Square" and there was a person knived nearly to death. They are filled with drunk illegal Mexicans all the time. It's pretty sweet. Before you freak out though, it's actually not that dangerous somehow. We go proselyte after dark in those complexes and the Spanish people love us. On Friday we went on splits, and Elder Howell and I went after dark to a complex called "PeachTree" and there were a bunch of drunk illegals having a beer/barbecue party. We went over to talk to them and they kept giving us fajitas and barbecued chicken as we told them about our church. They stopped drinking, changed their music and invited us to next week's fiesta. It's crazy. I've definitely talked to more drunk people this week than the rest of my life combined. The people are very respectful to missionaries though. They seem to realized that we are different than the rest of them.
So our area covers places like that, but it also covers the Houston Astrodome to the East. There's a hospital there that is in our area too. When we are on that side we start seeing some really expensive cars. My first day here I saw a convertible Audi R8. I didn't even know they made those. We also go by a Ferrari, Porsche, and Maserati dealerships most days. So we have some very diverse people in my area.
Let me tell you about some of the investigators and members in our area too. We have this older couple we call "Papa Juan" and "Mama Luby". They are from Honduras and they are some of the nicest people ever. They have been investigating for awhile and Luby wants to be baptized but Juan isn't sure. They are not marrried but living together. So we are trying to get them married first. Luby is all in, but Juan isn't quite sure yet, but they love when we come by so we visit them a lot.
Next, is a lady named Carol. She is married with two kids. I have yet to see her husband, because he works a lot. She has a girl named Fredi who is slightly autistic so she goes crazy when we come over sometimes. Her other baby girl is only 5 months old. She is very interested, and I think we will probably get her baptized soon if everything goes well, which would be awesome becasue we haven't baptized in a long time.
Also, there is a man named Ernesto, who at first told us he was Atheist but he wanted to hear what we were gonna say just in case. He's had us over 3 times since then (we met him Wednesday night) and loves talking to us about the Gospel. He is making giant steps, but we still have a lot to teach him.
The most complicated and frustrating right now is a man Adrian. He told us that he believes that the Book of Mormon is the word of God but doesn't understand why he needs to be baptized and join the Church...? We try to explain things to him but he isn't a very educated man.
The thing that is giving us the most problems is the Pentiscostal (I have 0 idea how to spell it) Churches here. They are ridiculous too. I'm sure dad has heard of them. In church their pastor gets up and screams and they play tons of loud music and then they all scream and they believe that is what the "gift of tongues" is. Because only God can understand whatt they were screaming or something like that. It makes almost sense but the people down here love it.
Also, we have a member named Hermano Sanchez. He is a recent convert and he loves having missionaries over for dinner. It was our turn on Thursday and he makes the best dang Mexican food I have ever had. His salsa was so good, I don't think I can eat other salsa again. It was LEGIT>
Last thing, (I think) if you want to send jerky or protein bars you are more than welcome. We don't get a ton of money for food, and we don't get members to feed us harldy ever. So we don't really get a chance to eat very much most days. I'm usually starving haha so if you want to you totally can.
My goal this week as I was reading my scriptures is to develop charity in my heart. All the prophets that had charity were able to do some mircaculous things. Also, I read in the scriptures (I think it was Mormon 9:10-11, I don't have my scriptures with me at the second) that God is still a God of miracles. I know we say that a lot, but do we actually believe that he will provide miracles for us? We need to develop and exercise our faith. If you do everything in your power don't be afraid to ask and expect for miracles. Somtimes that's what we need.
Any way, that's all I have time for right now. Thank you so much for fasting for me, I appreciate it soo much!:) My back hurts, but it's definitely improving. And tell Jordan and Meagan that I am writing them back and tell them sorry I haven't had time to so far but their letters will come soon!! Ummm...can't think of anything else. But, I bet it's a lot warmer and nicer here than it is there;) haha! Tell me if you need anything. Hopefully I hear from someone throughout the week!
Elder Benson