Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Monday, December 28, 2015


Busy busy week!!  I thought I was going to get away from the craze of the holidays when I came here!

On Tuesday we had New Missionary Orientation for Elder Jorgensen.  It felt a little bit weird going back after only one transfer, but Sister Dunn made sweet rolls so I'm not complaining! 

Our district got hit pretty hard as one of our Elders went home this week.  He was in my group, and a good friend of mine.  I hope that he will figure things out and come back in six months like he says he will.

Zone Meeting on Wednesday!  It took us a good two hours to set our goals for this next year of 2016, but we feel confident that we can accomplish them.  Although I've never really like the concept of new years resolutions, it does give you time to contemplate on what you've accomplished, what you didn't accomplish, and what you wish to improve in the new year.    There's always room for improvement, no matter how awesome you think you are.

Later Wednesday, we had a Christmas party with our flat complex!! There's a lady who plays the organ beautifully, and we did a few duets with my violin throughout the night.  I was surprised to see some of the Afrikaaners crying.  It's probably the only time I ever will.

On Thursday we drove with the Charchenko's to an adjacent town called Parys (pronounced pa-RICE, not Parys) to visit a terminally ill Sister named Bobbi.  Out of all of the amazing things she spoke to us, this is probably  the coolest she said:

The first to apologize is the bravest.
The first to forgive is the strongest.
The first to forget is the happiest.

Sis. Bobbi was one of the first missionaries to serve in Soweto, the world's largest and most dangerous townships.  She's truly a pioneer in the Latter-Day church  in Africa.

Friday: CHRISTMAS!! We drove to Johannesburg to celebrate Christmas with the mission.  We had a big talent show!! I played my violin, the Poly's did the Haka, an African balanced 25 copies of the Book of Mormon on his head, and Pres Dunn did a dance (just to name a few).  We then drove home and Skyped with the family.  I love my family so much!! I can't believe how much they've grown, and it's only been two months!!

I wish I was home with all of you to celebrate the holidays, but rest assured: I am in the place where I need to be and where I want to be!  I may not have been born in Africa, but Africa was born in me.  I love you all, and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy (and safe) New Year!!

-Elder Benson

Monday, December 21, 2015

'Tis the Season

There's no better way to celebrate Christmas than in 104 degree C weather.  I can guarantee it.

Hearing about home is a little bit weird right now! Another Holy War (eish, what a wreck), BYU Basketball, STAR WARS, SNOW, it's all too good.

We went to see the lions this week!! I held Simba and almost got eaten by Mufasa!  Literally, he jumped up at the fence when Elder Bergman's umbrella opened up!

Liezl Robbins was baptized this week!! She's what you would consider a golden investigator.  She came prepared to every lesson, came to church, and was baptized in less than a month of her first lesson!  She is going to be a powerful member of the church.

This is a weird time for Potchefstroom!  The town has slowed down, the streets are empty, and the college is shut down for the holidays.  Ikageng though: you stay weary 24/7.  People are happy, drunk, and high and you don't want to mess with an old madala with a temper (rocks have been thrown, but it's all good).

Christmas is here!! It's given me a lot of time to think about why we are truly celebrating the 25th of December.  More than His birth, we remember the dedicated life He lived for each of us, and the work that was accomplished for our salvation.  May we all grow closer as we look up to Him who was born and who died for us: Jesus Christ.  May God be with you and have a merry Christmas!!

-Elder Benson

Monday, December 7, 2015

The 90 Degree Curve Ball

During the middle of District Meeting on Friday morning, I received a call from President Dunn.  I went out into the hallway and, after talking for a few minutes, he said:

"Well, Elder Benson, this is extremely unorthodox, especially at 6 weeks, but we'd like to call you to be a trainer this next transfer!"

So yeah, I'm going to be training this transfer!! It's like entering the mission field for the first time; you feel overjoyed, confused, happy, prepared, unprepared, everything!!  Keep me in your prayers please!

It's bitter sweet as well, since my trainer Elder Asay is leaving to be a Zone Leader.  We were already making plans for Christmas and New Years!! This was like a wicked 90 degree curve ball!

This is a weird time in Potchefstroom.  If you haven't read from earlier, Potch is a college town like Provo.  Like any college town, everyone goes home for the holidays, leaving it a ghost town.  That cuts the list of our progressing investigators in half!!  But like any trial, we climb over it and keep going.

This week we also had the privilege of having Elder Hamilton of the 70 address the mission.  He said so many amazing things, but the thing he said that really touched me was this: "Many say that this work depends on us.  But He has repeatedly told us 'I can do mine own work.'  He just lets us participate."  It made me really appreciate how amazing this work truly is, and that we are all part of it.  If you don't wear a name badge on your chest, you wear one in your heart.  Don't be afraid to be a missionary to everyone around, in word and deed! You'll be amazed at the blessings that will come with your diligent service to God.

The Christmas season is the perfect time to start!  In the spirit of Christmas, serve your fellow men!! We commemorate the birth of the One who loved us enough to pay the price for our imperfections and to die for us, the most selfless act in all of eternity.  The least we could do is join in on the spirit of Christmas and fill the world with charity and cheer.

I love you all!! Enjoy the holidays, the sweets, and the cheer.

-Elder Benson
Welcoming the new senior couple from Arizona (the Charchenkos) to
Potchefstroom.  (Sister Dunn, Brother and Sister Charchenko, President Dunn,
Elder Asay and Elder Benson)

"The Charchenko's are fortunate to have these two great missionaries waiting to
greet them and now serve together.  Elder Asay is training Elder Benson and they
are a powerful companionship." (dunnsinjoburg.blogspot.com)

"A new convert, Carlissa, was ready for us to come to her dorm where she is
studying engineering.  She is such an inspiring young woman. She was
recently baptized and has now become a powerful missionary herself. 
She plans to take a gap year with her education and serve a mission herself."

I love my family!
(Note from Mom: There's a store here (Woolsworths) that delivers from online
orders.  I can place an order and have it in Elder Benson's hands the next day. 
Happy mom!)

Clock Tower 

Dutch Church

Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Holidays from Africa


Things are good here in Potch.  The holidays are starting, which is both good and bad.

Good: It's the holidays!!  It's a time for everyone to appreciate the company of family and friends, to eat some good meals, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Bad: all of our college students that we've been teaching are now going home for the holidays.  That, coupled with the fact that everyone here is going to be getting drunk during these next couple of weeks, is going to make for some weird and possibly dangerous experiences.  I'm excited to see what happens.

There have already been some crazy experiences this week!  We saw a big fight on a street corner in the township.  Those guys get crazy, so don't start a fight in Ikageng.  Also, we passed a Zulu celebration while driving to an appointment in the evening.  That was really cool!! I would've snapped pictures, but my camera was at the flat.

This week we had zoning in with President and Sister Dunn!! They could only stay for an hour, so we decided to go to see Carlissia, our recent convert.  That hour was powerful.  Tears were shed, testimonies were born, times were good; we came, we saw, we conquered.

The Charchenko's are officially here!! They are the new senior couple here in Potch.  Me and Elder Asay have spent a lot of our week orienting them here in Potch/Ikageng, and it's been a blast!!

Love you all.  Enjoy this holiday season everyone!!

-Elder Benson
"I bless the rains down in Africa..."

I'm never going to get tired of these skies.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm Jesus

Let me explain.

This week I was on exchanges in Jouberton, a township north of Potch with Elder Khwela.  We visited a potential investigator and started/attempted to teach him the Restoration.  In the middle of the lesson, he starts going off on a tangent on preachers and black people.  Then out of nowhere, in his broken english, he says this:

"Us blacks, we're rotten.  You, Benson... you whites... you're Jesus!!"

Feel the marks in my hands and in my side, man.  There ain't any!

There are a lot of awesome quotes that I have from this week that are super awesome!!

The first one is from a prophetess we were teaching/ we were being preached to.  She's a really nice lady that we contacted on the street.  This is what she said:

"If you take upon yourself the name of Christ literally, if you absorb it into your bloodstream and into every cell of your body, you will look at yourself entirely different."

Please don't be as literal as this lady, who had her middle name changed to 'Christ'.  But her words are undeniably true.  Every week, as we all partake of the sacrament, we know the words from the prayer: "That they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember Him and keep His commandments which He hath given them; that they may always have His Spirit to be with them.'  As we take upon us the name of Christ, and are obedient to his commandments and be as Christ was, we are promised the constant companionship of His Spirit, the Holy Ghost.

None of us will ever be as perfect as Christ is.  But as we strive to do all we can to be like Him and partake of the sacrament every Sunday, there will be remarkable experiences in our lives that can only be explained as from the hand of God.

This next one is President Kwaikwai, our branch president, as he was talking to a neighbor's black pug:

"You only like me because we are the same colour."

I just thought it was funny, so I put it in here.

This one is from a Sis. Bobbi.  She's a widow that lives all alone.  She's an Afrikaaner.  She's served as a missionary, a seminary and institute instructor, and a mother.  She's a remarkable women.  She's experiencing major trials in her life at the moment, including children denouncing her and severe medical challenges.  But she never ceases to inspire me.  This is what she said:

"Our church is different from any other church because other churches wish to see God.  Our church is different because we want to believe and follow Him.  We wouldn't be here if we could see Him."

Too many people in Africa and around the world seek for signs to believe, or have to experience trials to believe in God.  We, as Latter-Day Saints, must believe+follow him at all times.  The way we do that: obedience.  It's something that I've gained a testimony of here in SA.

I experienced my first lighting storm!! Utah's are good.  But I haven't been more scared in a lightning storm than when I was teaching during one in a little scrap-metal shack!

A senior couple from Arizona are moving into Potch!! They are the Charchenkos'. I think I know where Elder Asay+Elder Benson are spending Christmas!

A quick lesson in Zulu:

Sawubona - Hello! (I just learned how to spell it right.)
Unjani (unJAni) - How are you?
Hamba (HOmba) - Go


Elder Benson

Vaal River
Sunsets in South Africa are bomb

Monday, November 16, 2015

One Month In

I can't believe it's already been a full month since I've left Utah!!  It already feels like an eternity.

It's weird have 100+ degree weather in November.  I heard that it's snowing in Utah! I wish it would snow here.  I've completely forgotten what it was like being cold.

I had the honour of confirming Carlissia this week! Man, she is already a powerful member of the church.  In the college campus she is staying on, she has already referred us to at least four students who are all progressing!  Every time I see her, she says how she is going to serve her mission in Utah.  I finally remembered my camera so I'll send pictures of her baptism and everything!

My legs have been healing nicely!  None of the dogs that attacked me have died yet, so I don't need to worry about contracting rabies.  The bites are still bruised and a little sore.  I became a legend at the Mission Summit for fighting off three dogs in my first month.  I was told I can take off my skirt because now I'm a true missionary!

Also had a remarkable experience this week.  After waking up one morning, Elder Asay and I saw that we missed call from a good friend of ours: Tinashe.  He's attending North-Western, the university in Potch, and often comes on splits with us.  I called him back and he told us he was in the hospital.  We dashed to the Potch Hospital with Brother David from the branch presidency.  Tinashe told us that he was attacked by an evil spirit.  To everyone at home, don't mistake this for some emotional problem.  Tinashe is the most spirital, humble, emotionally stable man.  While walking to his dorm, he had a terrible feeling overcome him.  Suicidal thoughts came into his mind, as well as other dark thoughts.  He couldn't walk, and he couldn't speak.  He finally mustered the strength to pray, and it went away.  He was too weak to do anything so he called us.  But because we were asleep, he called the hospital.

After telling us this through the bars to his cell (he was in the Psychiatric ward), the guard let us in and we gave him a blessing and gave him protection against the evil spirits.  The spirit was indeed felt there.  Since then, he's been permitted out of the hospital and he's come on splits with us.

This freaked me out a little because it's made me realize that there are indeed spirits out there, attacking us and trying to take us down.  But I feel all the more secure; for as there are demons, there are angels that protect us.  I know the elders in the field, as long as they are righteous, are protected from the fiery darts of the adversary.

So yeah.  I've experienced public breast feeding, dog attacks, helping cast out devils, baptisms, and ssooo many secret hand shakes that I'm struggling to remember.  This is such an amazing experience for me.  I've learned that trials are placed in our way so that we can overcome them, not to be overcome by them.  The mission is already changing me in so many ways, mostly spiritually but also physically (I'm getting a little soft from all of the pahp and sweets)!!

I'd love to hear advice from any past missionaries! Anything to help with my study, contacting, attitude, anything!!

Until next week!! Sharp sharp.

-Elder Benson

P.S.  Sharp sharp is pronounced 'shaup shaup'.  It's kind of a greeting/farewell/surprise word here.

 Sick pic

The kids



Joburg temple . . . the best!

Sunset . . . sharp, sharp

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sawubona everyone!!

Thank you everyone for  your emails!  I need to figure out how to manage my time better when writing you guys back.  I only have twenty minutes left for the group email so I'll do my best:

I was officially inducted into missionary work!! It was such an awesome experience.  The ritual includes going into a yard, three dogs, and band-aids.  Yep, I was attacked by three dogs a couple days ago.  I'm fine though! No need to come home for rabies shots.

There are a lot of churches down here! Me and Elder Asay refer to them as the 'happy clappy' churches.  During one of our lessons, we were teaching about ten people.  Throughout the whole lesson, these people were happy clappy.  When I was teaching, they would shout things like 'Yes!' or 'Amen!' or just clap and rejoice.  It was so hard to keep my cool!! I'm surprised I didn't laugh that much!! Afterwards, in the car, me and Elder Asay were tearing up from laughing!!

In another lesson this week, we walked into a man's house.  His name is Zanele Jack.  This man is intelligent! Elder Asay has been teaching him for about a month now an he's progressing so quickly!  That lesson was a different story.  The first thing that comes out of his mouth was, "Why did Joseph Smith have forty wives?"


Only my first week here, and I already get that question? Eish.

We did our best to answer him, but he couldn't wrap his head around the fact that God would command the church to practice polygamy at that time.  We're teaching him again this week.  Please pray for us with Zanele!

Yesteray was Carlissia's baptism!!! It was an amazing experience for everyone involved.  The baptismal font was pretty unique, but that didn't take away from the amazing experience it was.  The opening hymn of the baptismal program was 'Praise to the Man', and the Spirit was felt so strong.  I have some pictures from the baptism.  It was a special day.

For everyone wishing to serve a mission: this is a invaluable two years of your life.  I've only been out two weeks, but I've experienced more joy than I ever have before.  One of the days all of our appointments fell through, which was extremely frustrating for us.  With only an hour left, we decided to go contacting.

That hour has proven to be the best so far on my mission.  It was truly preaching the gospel!! We gave out most of our pass-along cards, and handed out 7 copies of the BoM!!!  From gas station attendants to grocery store baggers to normal people on the street.  It was a very fruitful night, involving souls that were prepared for us in that hour.

That's all the time I have this week.  I love you all so much!!  Until next week!

-Elder Benson

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hello from Potchefstroom!!

I'm extremely short on time so I'll fit in as much as I can!

For starters, I've been blessed with the best trainer in the world! His name's Elder Asay (A-C).  He's from Orme, UT and is such a stud!  He's one of the funniest, goofiest, most spiritually powerful guys I have ever met! You don't know what it's like to have fun until you've met him.

I've been assigned to the Potchefstroom/Ikageng area!! This is such a dynamic area! Potch is a university-town like Provo!  North-Western University is right in the middle of Potch, and it's an untapped gold mine! On my first day in the field, we taught a group of eight students! No role play in mission prep/the MTC could've prepared me for that!

On the other end of town is the township.  This is where you find the scrap-metal shacks and kids playing soccer in the streets. I have many, MANY photos to send to you.  It's too bad I goofed and left the camera at the flat.  I'll send them to you guys next week.

I only have time to talk about one investigator.  Her name is Carlissia (car-leash-ia).  Man, she is powerful!!  She's in her early twenties and attends a small-town college.  I came in  when she was still progressing towards baptism, but she's now going to be baptised next week! I don't think I've experienced so much joy than hearing that she passed her interview.

I'm so blessed to be among the people of Africa!! They are truly prepared to receive the gospel.  I'm sorry I didn't have more time to tell you everything that's going on.  You are all in my prayers.

-Elder Benson

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Letter from President Dunn (of South Africa Johannesburg Mission)

Dear Brother and Sister Benson:

I am happy to report that your son, Elder Benson has officially arrived in our mission! 

We are so delighted to have him safely here with us in Johannesburg. He seems happy, looks great and is excited for his service as a full-time missionary. Thank you so much for your part in helping him prepare for this sacred duty. Attached please find a couple of photos from our meeting earlier today.

This morning, after we greeted your son at the MTC, he was given an orientation that began with a panel discussion moderated by missionaries who are just completing their service here. It was a very candid, thorough and practical introduction to the realities of missionary life in South Africa. Breakfast followed and then your son was given an overview of all mission-related issues he needs to know about including instructions on flats, mission rules, hygiene, mission vehicles, allotment cards, health and safety. Because of the overwhelming amount of information, all content was then given to him as part of a Mission Policy Manual that he can refer to and review in the weeks and months ahead. I also had the wonderful opportunity to interview your son and get to know him as he begins his mission. Again, he appears ready and eager for service.

Our transfer day then concludes with a “transfer meeting” where your son, along with all the missionaries in the mission, receive news of where their assignment will be for the next six weeks, and who their companion will be. Your son also had the chance to bear his testimony in this meeting, and did a fine job.

Based on my impressions about your son he has been assigned Elder Asay to be his trainer and first companion, and his first area is Ikageng. Please look for an email from your son this coming Monday which is his preparation day, where he will no doubt be sharing his impressions of what is usually always a very hectic but exhilarating week. 

Again, on behalf of my wife and our entire mission we are so thrilled to have Elder Benson in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, and are committed to doing all we can to make his mission the incredible, life-changing experience it should be. To that end if I can ever be of assistance to you or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

With love and very best regards, 

Michael A. Dunn
South Africa Johannesburg Mission

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Week number two in the MTC and I'm still here!! What an amazing experience it's been!  So many things I wish I could talk about in so little time! I'll try to include everything I can.

First: I have the most amazing companion!! Elder Mohatli who lives in Pretoria, SA is a spiritual giant! He speaks three languages so he's helping me with Zulu in the moment.  We are teaching our investigators tomorrow so send us your prayers!!

We aren't allowed to send pictures in the MTC because the server is so slow but I'll send you them next week. So many thing I want to show you guys!

President Collins and his wife are amazing!! You couldn't find a more loving pair! They were mission presidents in Russia before this so they're seasoned veterans in the field !!  I also got to meet Sister Dunn yesterday! She's the sweetest lady! I haven't met President Dunn yet but that'll come next week.

I was made district leader! It's been such a humbling experience. The elders in my district are the funniest guys I have ever met! They may have a hard time focusing more than often, but when they buckle down they are unstoppable. There's Elder Reynolds from England; me, Elder Griffen, and Elder Nielsen from the States; Elder Mohatli, Elder Saiah, and Elder Ntsekwa from SA; and Elder Tikologo from Botswana. Good luck trying to say those names!!

Our teachers are Brother Sibeka in the morning.  What a stud!! He is such an inspiring teacher to me.  He has a way of having fun while also being able to bring the Spirit.  Then there's Sister Ramekguoe (ram-uh-gh-way).  She pushes you and makes you feel like a loser, but in the best way!! She's preparing us so well for the field.

The MTC grounds are so awesome!! The MTC, plus a huge soccer field, basketball court, bigger grass field, volleyball pit, and gardens galore! Pictures to come next week.  Plus, indoor ping pong, foosball, and gym.  When we're not learning, we're playing!!

The food is different! I've only had the cafeteria food which is basically American food with African twist.  It's delicious, but its taste is different.  That's the only way I can describe it! Finally had pahp!!!  If you don't know what it is: corn meal with some weird things done to it to resemble super sticky mashed potatoes. It's delicious!

Wow I finally realize why missionary emails are so long!!! Haha it's so hard to put to words the amazing experience this has been.

One of the highlights has been going to the temple.  We were blessed with the privilege of having a fireside with Elder Ellis of the area presidency and his wife.  The thoughts they shared were amazing.  The temple... oh my goodness.  I highly recommend everyone to visit the temple! The grounds are comparable to that of Salt Lake!! Smaller, but just as beautiful.  What we did inside the temple was more beautiful.  No matter if I'm in Bountiful, USA or Johannesburg, SA, I feel at home in the temple.  I'm so happy to have the privelage of having the temple in my mission.

I think it's worth mentioning that all of the Africans are amazing at soccer... and that I've scored two goals.  This American has got some sick handles.

Again, pictures next week.  Love you all so much!!

-Elder Benson

Monday, October 19, 2015

I'm Standing on South African Soil!

Hello everybody!!

I made it to South Africa in one piece!  I arrived here with nine other elders, six serving with me in Johannesburg!  We got our bags and met the bishop of the singles ward.  Can't remember his name, but his energy was unreal! He woke us up from our long flight and got us pumped to serve the Lord.  After a forty minute bus ride we arrived at the Johannesburg MTC.  We were greeted by President Collins, the MTC President, and his wife.  We had a five-star dinner (compared to the plane food) and we're now emailing home! Another group of elders are arriving tomorrow, who are either from Africa or Europe.  I'll send some pictures and write some more about today on P-day next Thursday!  Thank you all for your support!!

 -Elder Benson