Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Monday, December 26, 2016

'Oku ou 'ofa 'ia koe, Elder Latu

Getting a phone call at 11 pm from your Mission President is never a good omen.  But the last thing I was expected was to hear the bitter news of the missionary that I guided and trained, Elder Latu, had tragically died in an accident while enroute to join us for Christmas.  Here's the memoriam from the mission that I've attached:

In Memoriam: Elder Nofo-I-Lelenga Latu (1997-2016) - The outpouring of love and prayers for our dear companion and friend, Elder Latu—who died in a tragic car accident on Thursday—has been overwhelming and so appreciated. It has also been a genuine godsend to our missionaries who have been understandably devastated by this tragedy. Elder Latu was a phenomenal, consecrated missionary who inspired and lifted all he came in contact with. Every day and in every way he was all about doing the work of the Lord. He truly gave "the last full measure of devotion." And his radiance and effervescent spirit will be sorely missed. His unflinching commitment to his God and his religion can be best stated with the words of another similarly committed young person, Joan of Arc: “Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and so they give their lives to little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it…and then it’s gone. But to surrender who you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.” Elder Latu certainly gave his life for what he believed in. And his stellar example will continue to inspire and lift us as we mourn together and work through this painful event. It will no doubt also help us as we collectively rise from our sadness and become even more committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ—which gives us the the clarity and certainty of knowing that Elder Latu's spirit indeed lives on. I will never forget the day we met Elder Latu and first saw his ever-present smile on a bright and beautiful morning this past August at the mission home in South Africa. Nor can I ever forget the stirring tribute to him yesterday morning, on Christmas Eve, where every missionary in Johannesburg gathered to reflect on Elder Latu's life, and on the 100-day reading of the Book of Mormon which culminated that same morning.... Elder Latu's last journal entry in this study book reads, "I am so grateful for the joy I find in this work." Please join us as we continue to pray for Elder Latu's family in New Zealand, and for the missionaries who mourn our loss yet celebrate his remarkable life here in South Africa. ‘Oku ou ‘ofa ‘ia koe, Elder Latu.

I took this photo during our first week together in KaNyamazane.  It really captures the energy and commitment he had to the work, holding his arms out ready to take on any challenge to come.  Serving with my 'son' and brother Elder Latu was an experience to be remembered and cherished for eternity.  However much I wish God hadn't called this mini-transfer for him to return to his Heavenly home, I know this is what God has in store for him.

"...Wherefore [Elder Latu] came forth [with Elder Benson]... and began to prophesy unto the people, for [they] could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord with was in [them].  For [they] did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled - Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."  -Ether 12:2-4 (adapted by President Dunn)

Our entire mission coincidentally ended our 100-Day Book of Mormon Challenge, and completed the Book of Mormon together on the 24th.  As Elder Higgs stated, the final verse of the Book of Mormon is as if Elder Latu spoke to us:

"And now I bid unto all, farewell.  I... go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead.  Amen."

Elder Latu: energetic, fun-loving, charitable, and Christ-like.  Your legacy will live on in the SAJM and in our hearts.  May God bless you in your journey onwards until we shall meet again.

Elder Zachary Benson

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Email from Sister Devra Kent


I am Devra Kent. Your missionary boy is currently serving in our ward. Thank you for raising such an outstanding son and letting him go for a while to serve the Lord.

We recently were planning for our ward Christmas programme when we heard in his testimony that he enjoys playing violin. We decided to 'sound him out'. 😁Well, we were blown at by his talent. News soon spread to the stake, and so with permission from his mission president,  he was invited to play with our stake choir at our Christmas fireside. It went so well that we were invited to present it again in another stake this past Sunday. Elder Golden of the Seventy was also there...it was a lovely programme.

I thought I would just send a photo of the evening. The one picture is of him and my boy Zachary. There is an article on our local South Africa Mormon Newsroom too. 

May you have a blessed Christmas.

Kind regards, 

Sister Devra Kent

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Sweet Reunion

Guess who i ran into this week?!  It was a sweet reunion. 

Elder Benson with Elder Golden of the Seventy

Monday, December 19, 2016

Email from Sister Larson

Here's your darling son Elder Benson! He performed beautifully at a devotional in Centurion last night. Him with his violin and the choir  with their voices were absolutely fabulous! It was one of the best Christmas devotionals I have ever attended. Thanks for giving your son to us for Christmas and allowing him to share his talents with us. Happy Holidays!

-Sister Larson

South Africa Johannesburg Mission

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Missionary Christmas

This Christmas in Johannesburg has been one for the books!  After Skyping home, I can honestly say, "I'm going home this year".  It's a pretty strange feeling to have 10 months left on my mission.  Time has ceased to exist in such a drastic sense that continues to amaze me.  The members in Springs and Selcourt do a magnificent job in making us feel at home (pictures would come if I hadn't sent home my SD Card.  There's no chance I'm risking my pics getting stolen😊)

Well, in the Spirit of Christmas, I've attached a wonderful poem dedicated to the Benson clan, especially to my beautiful Mother Jennifer.  It captures the feelings felt, the tears shed, and the joy captured in the sacrifice of the absence of a son in the service of the Lord.  I hope you may all enjoy the holidays with your families, whether they be near or far, and that CHRISTmas can take a whole new meaning for all of us as we commemorate the commencement of the coming of Christ into the world.

A Missionary Christmas:

I skipped the sales after Thanksgiving. The thrill just wasn’t there.
No pictures taken with Santa Claus. My decorating has no flair.
His presents are shoes, shirts, and ties, two suits and socks… no fun.
I’ve bought him all white clothes because this year I’m giving Christ my son.

I’ve spent more time in the temple, my testimony stirred.
I’ve re-read November’s Ensign, felt strength come from His words.
Our family prays more frequently. My tears are quick to run.
Abraham seems closer because this year I’m giving Christ my son.

I wonder how those Lamanite mothers gave their sons to war?
Or how the pioneers chose Zion—their sacrifice was so much more.
My loss will be his presence. I’ll miss his smile a ton.
For two years we will pray for him. I’m giving Christ my son.

I stare at his face when he’s not looking. I memorize his eyes, their shine.
He’s always hungered for the part of him, that makes his soul divine.
The stories and lessons he always heard. His choice and mine are one.
I’ll put my faith in God’s hand. This year, I’m giving Him my son.

Past gifts have lost their glitter. I think I finally understand
Christ’s birth should be celebrated by giving Him a hand.
It’s because I know Christ lives and reigns that all his packing’s done.
My gift has taken years to make. This year I’m giving Christ my son.

I know there’s One who understands the sacrifice I’m making.
Who knows the gift I willingly give, the toll it will be taking.
For He has done it all before. Greater love — there could be none.
For years ago God gave to me His only begotten son.

The hands I washed, the hands I held, the hands I taught to pray—
Now knock on doors to find the ones who will listen to what he’ll say.
Because I know Christ needs him until all the gathering’s done.
My gift has taken years to make. This year I’m giving Christ my son.
— Author Unknown

Love you all!  Stay safe, and stay well!

-Elder Benson

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Benoni Zone

Benoni Zone:

Back Row: Elder Benson, Elder Magesi, Elder Kwhela, Elder Mikhize, Elder Grame, Elder Shava, Elder Daki, Elder Lefthand, Elder West, Elder Chingomanje, Elder Engrom, Elder Reynolds, Elder Tima, Elder Shamanga

Front Row:  Elder Austin, Elder Randriananadrasana, Elder Figuereo, Elder Rouse, Sister and Elder Ellis, President and Sister Dunn, Elder Mkhize, Elder Turauskiis, Elder Jangao, Elder A'homohe

Monday, December 5, 2016

Benoni Stake Christmas Devotional

The past two weeks have been a journey for sure!  The adjustment to Zone Leader life was a less-than-smooth transition with acquiring parasites coupled with the ulcers and stress, but I feel like I'm back on my feet.  My strength and endurance will still be down for another week but the fire within is lit and it's growing.  I'm grateful that Elder Shamanga has been patient in my recovery.

The Benoni Stake had a devotional that was so amazing! The devotional was completely through music and the word, celebrating the Christmas Season.  They asked me to play the violin with the choir, and the experience was so spiritual and soul-changing that I can't even put it to words.  President and Sister Dunn also joined forces and gave some amazing talks.  I enjoy consecrating my talents to the building of the kingdom, especially when it comes to music.  I'm looking forward to the Mission Tour on Thursday as well.

Monday, November 14, 2016

No rest for us here.

Wow!  What an awesome week!  I'm glad Dad is home and is alive!  He's the talk of the whole mission, "Your Dad's powerful!" "You look like your Dad!"  It's pretty entertaining.  Everyone here in SA is devastated that Clinton didn't win the Presidency.  They keep thinking that it's the end of the world.  

News for me: I'm a ZL!  Eish, there's no rest for us here.  Only 1 night this week has involved retiring to bed before 12 am.  What excitement!  What's more, we had to drive some missionaries to Joburg for medical checkups so I have a super short time left to email!  I'll post you more next week about everything!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Update from KaNyamazane

Here's an investigator named Shadow. He's always willing to do epic photo shoots with us. He's currently preparing to be baptized on November 20th! We always get a kick out of reading the 'Incwadi kaMormoni" aka the Book of Mormon in Zulu. We're both getting to read it pretty fluently, since it's so close to siSwathi.

Again, with Shadow. We're currently looking down the Ntokozweni Valley, a part of our area. It's such a joy to fellowship and nurture such strong and noble youth in South Africa.

This is one of my favorites, taken by Shadow himself! I feel like this is such a symbolic photo as I'm overlooking the beginning of Lekazi, the main part of KaNyamazane. In my hand I clutch 'Incwadi kaMormoni', otherwise known as the Book of Mormon, translated into Zulu. Being a missionary in this land of many colors is such a privilege. As I stand as a witness of Christ, I stand on a sure foundation of Jesus Christ himself. This photo plucks my heart strings kakhulu!

Yes, what you see here is beef and fries. But can you guess what part of the cow?

Yes, ladies and gentleman, what we are eating here is COW TONGUE!! It's actually pretty delicious, believe it or not!! I highly recommend this dish to anyone who wants a good South African dine!

Here's a candid photo with one of my good friends here in KaNyamazane, Thabang. We've been on a lot of adventures together: teaching investigators, music producing (funny story for another day), eating kakhulu, too many to count! He's preparing to serve in the next year, so it's exciting to see his desire grow to share the gospel!

Another with Thabang!

This is one of my favorite acts of service we get to do in KaNyamazane: delivering water to families! Luckily we drive a truck/bokkie (as they call it here) so there's the opportunity to fill the bed with these 20 liter buckets. In the picture is my Zimbabwean brother, Peter. I had the privilege of giving him a copy of the Book of Mormon, and he finished it just last week! He's stuck in a common problem where he is too far away to afford transport to church, but he's recently acquired work, so he can save up to come to church and FINALLY be baptized! He's helped us teach many people already, and his gospel knowledge is so vast for someone who has just learned about the truth.

Another one of my favorites! This is Peter's family that he lives with. I love the dynamic nature of the photo, with the kids playing my violin, Elder Latu and Given checking out their selfies, Gilbert+More Blessing looking through the hymn book, and Peter doing who knows what! This is one family that will always have a place in my heart.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Dad's stop in Joburg (heading to Zimbabwe)

Elder Zach,

Dad had such a great experience with President and Sister Dunn this last week (Sister Dunn included it in her blog--dunnsinjoburg.blogspot.com). I bet it’s pretty strange to see your two worlds colliding into one. As Dad spoke with many of the missionaries, they were in awe at how similar you two look.  Another thing Dad shared was pretty cool. As he met with different groups of missionaries, one phrase kept getting repeated, “Elder Benson is legendary!” Son, you are loved by so many. In Dad’s “interview” with President Dunn, he shared with Dad how amazing you are. He said that you have more greatness in your little finger than many have in their whole body. Wowzas.

My hope is that you will begin to understand how amazing you truly are. You are a son of God! Think about that! We are so proud of you and who you are becoming. I know I say that every week, but that still doesn’t seem enough.

Love you! Mom

Monday, October 17, 2016

From Mission Mom, Sister Dunn

"On this first week of the transfer we headed to Nelspruit to conduct interview with our Elders there and also spend some time with them teaching in their respective areas."

"We met them in the Nelspruit church building on Saturday as they were watching conference.  We also joined them on Sunday for both sessions.  It was great to see Elder Carl B. Cook on the screen.  We were so blessed to have him as the SouthEast Africa Area President for two of our three years here."

"During the interviews we met as a district and discussed our impressions of the Book of Mormon.  I felt honored to get the insights fro these great Elders.  We had a really great discussion while President Dunn took them one by one and conducted interviews."

"Elder Hlophe and Elder Eatough serve in Nelspruit--after interviews they took President Dunn out with them."

"It was very impressive to see the love and rapport they have for their investigators and how powerful their teaching is."

"We split up and I went with Elder Benson and Latu to KaNymazane."

"These two great missionaries are on their second transfer together as Elder Benson is training Elder Latu."

"Welcome to KaNymazane.  This is the furthest outpost of our mission and a special place.  The church has purchased property up on this hill and is relocating the branch from the current location.  We all hope it happens soon.  This is a good neighborhood to have the church in and will help getting investigators to come."

"We met Clinton first, a recent convert."

"He has been sick lately and the Elders talked to him about prayer and scripture study and to ask for what you need when you pray...like returning to good health."

"Next, they were able to create a teaching opportunity with Thapo, who officially became a new investigator today.  He has known about the missionaries and his mother encouraged him to talk to them and go to their church. So, this was a special teaching situation, where Thapo was very receptive." 

"Next, we stopped in the home of Malibongwe. This young man is investigatinve the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has been to church and invites all his friends to listen and attend with him. He looks like a missionary to me. He has a spirit about him that is so positive and happy. HIs name means "thank you" in Zulu, so I am told."

"President Dunn met me back at the chapel and we shared about our exchange experiences. It was a great day to be together with the Nelspruit and KaNymazane Elders."

"View of the sunset from the Mpumalanga province is nice wherever you are.  Hope to come back soon!"

(Thank you, Sister Dunn, for taking such good care of Elder Benson. --From one mom to another)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Elephants, Cute kids, and Going to Church...

What better way to celebrate your year mark than to ride an elephant!! 

Eish! Kids are too cute!

"Let's go to church" -- Zionist edition:

Linda, the Golden Investigator


This week is the first highlight of one of our investigators.  In the mission field, there is a term 'golden investigator', meaning an investigator of the restored gospel who has truly been prepared to receive it.  This man is truly a golden investigator.

Meet Linda, the Mr. Golden himself!

How we met Linda was nothing less of a miracle.  I hope I can make it sound as epic as it truly was.

My companion and I had very little success one morning as we ventured through the streets of our area.  All of our scheduled appointments had dropped and canceled, one after another.  The African sun seemed as if it was mocking our fruitless efforts by sending relentless heat waves to overwhelm our physical frame.  In our weakened estate we were left to ourselves without plan and without hope.  In searching for how we could continue to magnify our callings as ambassadors of the Lord, the thought entered into our minds to make a trek to a home of a member by the name of Prince Mashego.

We began the journey in our Nissan Hardbody truck, riding over the familiar slopes of KaNyamazane, traveling by means of uneven dirt roads eroded by intense African rainstorms, sheltered from the sun by the overreaching mango trees with their outstretched limbs.  As we rounded the final corner to arrive at our desired destination, we were welcomed by a depressing scene.  Our dear friend Prince was sitting on the road with a distraught young men, obviously on the brim of losing control of his emotions.  We quickly parked our vehicle on the side of the street and returned to this sad scene.

As we listened in on the confessions of this young lad, an aura of hopelessness hung in the air, suffocating to the paradisaical feel of the environment surrounding us.  As the man concluded his epic of distress, the Spirit of the Lord extended the help of heaven as to open our utterances.  We told him of a similar tale of a young boy in the woods of New York, visited with divine assurances by the Father and the Son of a bright future to go before him.  We described to him the restored gospel, brought back through the gift and power of God through Joseph Smith, and of the hope that this miraculous gift from God could bring to his soul.

The result of such a visit lead our youthful friend to learn of this the Lord's gospel in full.  His life changed in the matter of weeks, with every visit bringing new vigor and courage into the frame of our friend.  His progression is leading to the waters of baptism, to enter into a divine covenant with his God.  His own words on his conversion are an ensign to those who seek for a fresh start, a blank page: "It is easy to change if you have the right reasons."

For Linda, what was the right reason?  I can only offer up one possible solution: Christ.  The Lord Jesus Christ is 'the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)', 'the beginning and the end (D+C 35:1)', 'Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8)'.  He is all-knowing, and his hand is all-reaching to those who seek him.  He is the reason for the remarkable changes for the better, and sometimes for the worse, but is always wroughts 'a mighty change of heart (Alma 5:23)' within us.  Truly Linda can sing the song of redeeming love, for he is now a devout saint in the Lord Jesus.

There's a few lessons I've taken away from Linda's story.  One: spiritual promptings always lead us to where we need to be.  Two, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us light and happiness, no matter the background or experiences.  Three, it is easy to change if you have the right reasons.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Through Small and Simple

Early last week, we wanted to get the Young Men in KaNyamazane to get fired up about missionary work.  With a little thought, and a LOT of planning, we put together a Young Men's Missionary Week!  It involved all of the young men taking turns with the missionaries through splits.  Each companionship was either in the truck or on bikes, and various activities from teaching lessons to door-to-door contacting was the strategy.  The result?  An amazing spiritual feast that benefited everyone therein.

An important moment which made it so successful was when we allowed the young men to make this week their own and allowed them to lead the area in the work.  They put their whole heart and soul into the work and it's they who deserve a lot of the credit.  Elder Latu's progress really shined through as he led the efforts in planning his day, finding new investigators and inviting people to be baptized.

Here's the statistics: combined we taught nearly 90 investigator lessons, introduced the gospel to nearly 100 people, and put 4 people on date for baptism.  It's pretty disappointing that we maintained our average Investigators at sacrament (6), mainly due to circumstances that were out of our control.

The highlight for me of this week was hearing the young men bear their testimony during fast and testimony meeting.  They shared miracle moments, spiritual experiences, and pure testimony of the work of salvation.  You've got to tip your hat to these stalwart young men who are preparing to give their time and talents to the Lord.

Putting aside the awesome numbers for the week, the split was an effective catalyst for introducing many to the gospel, improving relationships with the members, allowing Elder Latu to lead the area, and for the Lord Jesus Christ to enter into the heart of everyone involved.

I may share that I have a firm testimony of this work; that it is led by the Almighty through the small and simple; that the field is white, already to harvest; and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ.  I know he loves us all, and wants us to have peace in this life, and in the life to come.  I do bear witness of it!

I love you all!  Thank you for your continual support to me, which I am eternally grateful for.  Until next week!

-Elder Benson

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Filter Follow-up

Oh Mother!!  We installed the filters last week, so we're doing chap-chap.  I'm eating healthy, exercising daily, and feeling much better.

Sister Dunn reached out to me and asked if she could do anything, so be in mind that I'm in good hands.  Don't worry about me!  I'm in the Lord's hands.

-Elder Benson

Monday, September 19, 2016

Empty filters...eish!

From my side, I'm doing great!  This week, as we planned to replace the filters in the water filter (which I had never replaced...), we opened the container to find that they were empty; we had been drinking straight tap water.  No wonder my immune system has been so down the past two months! Haha be assured, I'm doing all in my power to drink FILTERED water and healthier food.  The area's doing great, many investigators to be put on date in the near future.

Monday, September 12, 2016

P-Day Fun: Kruger National Park

Transportation in Africa:

P-Day in Kruger National Park

The Rock

The Best View in KaNyamazane:

On the Lord's Errand:

"The Rock" - Where we teach a few lessons weekly: