Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Empty Cupboards Filled!

Sanibonani, and top of the morning!

For all of you Americans, I must confess: american football needs to rethink its life and join the rugby club.  Like wow!  Rugby is such a fun sport to play and to watch, especially when your companion is a boss at the game. We played an epic game of rugby this morning, and beloved companion Elder Zitumane was the match MVP [fist bump]. Elder Z is an awesome guy.

Speaking of rugby, we were given a special assignment by President Leavitt. A pair of elders were entering into a foreign environment to do some proselyting, which had the possibility of yielding much fruit. The four of us gathered together a few hours before we commenced our labors and held a devotional, sharing scriptures and and experiences to define and refine our approach towards the challenging environment in which we would be entering.  We eventually arrived at the location where we would, as fishers of men, 'dip our rods in the water'.  Instead of attempting to describe the experience from that point, I'll just tell it in pictures:

The method in which the elders acquired the tickets was quite honorable, believe it or not!  A few weeks ago, their car was in need of servicing. They took their car to the car dealership to service their vehicle. As they waited, they felt that they needed to speak to the owner of the dealership. They asked if they could see him, and as they were lead to the owner's office, they described that they felt like Nephi, "not knowing beforehand the things that [he should do]." Upon meeting him, they began to share the message of the restored gospel with him. At the end of the conversation, the owner expressed that he had no interest in learning more, but was truly impressed with them in entering into the service of Christ at such a young age. He mentioned that he sponsored the Johannesburg Lions (one of the best professional ruby teams in Africa), and asked if they and their 'higher elders' would join him at the next match, thus securing the four of us tickets to the game with VIP Access. I should include that the game was much enjoyed, but the highlight of the night was in contacting another professional coach and making an appointment to teach his entire team. You never know where and hows you may find such awesome opportunities to share the light of the gospel.


The entire experience was an interesting and very unorthodox testimony-builder in trusting the Spirit's guidance. I'm also grateful for the Lord allowing me the experience whilst in His service, because it gave me a new perspective on the word 'joy'.  In the stands sat thousands of spectators, many of whom were consuming alcoholic drinks (adding a wide variety of comedy to the match), who were cheering on their countrymen to victory. I took moments throughout the game to pause and survey the scene. In these moments, it hit me that the happiness of these devout supporters was in the success of their team and in the thrill of the game. Although I shared the desire for the success of our Lions, a feeling of emptiness prevailed in the electrifying atmosphere.

For many people, money and the praise of the world are the most sought after achievements to be attained. The quest for fame and success has a numbing effect on the soul to the things of God, dragging many to a friendless and miserable fate. There's truly no security in material wealth. Exhibit A:  in the past week, my allotment card has been identified with many fraudulent transactions, ultimately leading to the termination of my card (meaning someone hacked my card and stole money, so the company closed my card to protect the remaining money). It's an unfortunate circumstance that occurs much too often in this country. Food has since become scarce in that regard. Although my new card won't arrive in a while, I'm not so worried. I'll share the reason for being so towards the end of this letter.

Amidst the search for security and happiness, many will spend good dollar to find the key to joy and peace. A less-active member of the church did so in purchasing many tickets to hear experienced motivational speakers. As he attended each of their conferences and lectures, he came to realize that all of the sermons and speeches were encompassed by the principles of the restored gospel. He said, "I was basically paying people to teach me the gospel."

The restored gospel truly does encompass all truth and joy that many are searching for, a fact that leaves me so humbled and honored to share with these searching souls the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that in this Church, all goodness and truth that God has revealed to man since the beginning of mankind itself is found. I was instructed beautifully pertaining to this topic by the Spirit through Elder Ronald A. Rasband as he visited our mission yesterday.  In this missionary devotional presided over by Elder Rasband, he spoke with power and with the Spirit. I forgot my study journal at the office, so I can't share what was taught. There's one quote that touched me profoundly enough for me to remember, which I'll share now: "Our church can't reserve the word 'goodness'. All churches have truth and goodness within. But we invite them to bring all the goodness they have, and to let us add to it."

I've met many good, saintly people here in South Africa. In our interactions, many express gratitude to the churches they have been reared in because it has lead them to revere God and to live good, honorable lives. Yet in those people who accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, a light enters into their lives that leaves them speechless, unable to express the all-encompassing joy found only in the illuminating gospel.

A saintly woman who I call 'Mother' has helped me see this in a new light.  She lives in a distant land called the USA, leaving her disabled in sending me packages. Yet her desire to express love to her son knows no bounds. She has since developed a lovely system in which she orders food from a local grocery store and has them deliver it to my door.

Like a son who has lost the ability to buy food, leaving his cupboards empty, God blesses us with the restored gospel to fill our souls with nourishment for the soul. He fills our spirit's cupboards with the light of His Son Jesus Christ. I graciously thank my mother for her gift from afar, and my Heavenly Father for His gifts from on high: His Son Jesus Christ and the goodness of the gospel.

Elder Benson

Monday, May 15, 2017

Transferred to Florida!!


To start off: I've been transferred to Florida!! But luckily I'm still in South Africa! For those of you who were thinking Florida USA, sorry neh?  Florida is a lovely ward here in the  Gauteng province.  I'm looking forward with a lot of excitement towards serving the Lord in this little corner of heaven.

We're so lucky to live in our area.  Here in South Africa, it's quite common to live a good solid twenty minutes away from your area, occasionally making it a challenge to begin the morning with a bang.  What's more is that the Mission Office is in the middle of Florida, making the transition from work in the office to proselyting in the area so much easier.  We've been in a tri-companionship (aka tripanionship) in the past week with an awesome elder we sent home today.  For various reasons we weren't allowed to do any proselyting in this past week.  We are nonetheless looking forward to hitting the ground running this week in our area.

I love my darling Mother!  I can't lie when I think she's the prettiest, most loving woman I know to be on planet earth.  I'm sure everyone thinks the same of their mother, but I'm biased in saying that mine is #1! Ngiyakuthanda Mama!!

Well, there's nothing to include in this week's email that would be of interest. So I'll just attach a lot of really fun pictures for everyone to see. I claim all epic photo creds. The first bunch include our adventure in Johannesburg City with our beloved Elder Ete, who flies home to Samoa as we speak.  We went to Olive and Plates, one of the best restaurants in Joburg. We got pretty drenched by the rain as we ran inside, so Elder Z needed to dry of in the bathroom.

Otherwise these pictures show a little of the life as an Assistant.  Included are Oko and Lisa, our beloved cars. Also in the mix shows the Bunker, where we store most everything in the mission (reminds me of the tunnels underneath WXHS).  My favorite photos are with President Leavitt, my amazing Mission President. There was a companionship who forgot to report that they were home, so President and I paid them a visit.  The gate was locked, but that didn't keep President from his beloved missionaries (not the best angle of President, but captures the moment beautifully).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Another 90 Degree Curve Ball

There's so much to tell and so little time to tell it!  You'll understand why just a few spaces down.  I'll do my best to fit everything in.

It was nearing the end of the sixth week of the transfer in Protea Glen as Elder Mkhize and I were driving toward the chapel early Saturday morning.  I would be lying if I said it wasn't difficult getting out of from my warm bed to exercise in the cold of winter.  (Yes, winters in South Africa can chill you... pretty epic, neh?)  Nevertheless, we went forward to exercise with the YSA's in the Protea Glen Branch, after which we would clean the baptismal font for Khanyisile's baptism the following day.

During our half-time break, I was refreshing my senses with a cold cup of water when I heard a squeel from my companion as he was checking our phone.  He updated me that we had missed a call from our mission president, President Leavitt!  We sent him an SMS to let him know we were ready to talk as soon as he was.  It was no surprise that he had called us, as President Leavitt usually calls on the Saturday before transfers to extend leadership assignments.  What was so surprising was the fact that he had called so early in the morning.  The suspense and suspicion grew with every second we awaited for his phone call.

Within two minutes the phone was wailing its ringtone to alert us that President was returning our SMS.  We immediately answered, putting him on speaker phone.  After exchanging greetings, President cut to the chase: "Elder Benson, we have full confidence in your next assignment.  We'd like to call you as our next Assistant."


I don't remember much of what he said after that.  Maybe I blacked out, or maybe I was hit my a soccer ball to the head, or maybe I just wandered into my own little world for a few seconds.  Eventually I came to and had enough time to say goodbye to President Leavitt before the call ended.

Flash forward to the present:  I'm sitting in an office chair in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission Office, first day on the job, preparing for transfers tomorrow.  Luckily we had the chance to play some epic games of ping pong with the departing elders at the mission home, then we zipped back to the Mission office to make final preparations for take-off.

The amazing feeling over the past weekend since that fateful phone call is peace, the emotion so sweet above any other that is helping me to keep me level and balanced.  I'm grateful for this support from my Father in Heaven, though I'm not completely sure why He'd select me to fill this responsibility.  But it's no surprise to me, seeing what he's done in the past.

The Lord has blessed me with a plethora of ninety degree curve balls such as this throughout the course of my mission.  When He first pitched them my way, I was completely caught unawares to these surprises.  The first wave of these surprise curve balls were first followed by worry or stress.  However, I'm come to love the Lord for giving me these unexpected events in the space of my eighteen months as a missionary, because, with all of the curve balls he's thrown my way, I've been able to handle them better and better, no doubt that He was preparing me for more to come.

If anyone reading has had experience as an Assistant to the President, I'd love any advice or comments to help me prepare for this assignment that might carry me through to the end of my missionary experience.

Thank you all for your support up to this point in my mission!  I feel of your prayers on the daily.  God bless you all!

My new companion, Elder Zitumane!

The view from the Cumorah Crest aka the mission home:

My first official assignment as an AP: