Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Dumbfounding Remembrance

Funny story: the internet at the chapel mysteriously tinkered out in the past week, leading E Brumpton and I to email at a local internet shop.  Believing that these computers have more viruses than you could shake a stick at, I'm withholding pictures for one more week to protect my camera from complete annihilation.  But they will be here next week!

We have an investigator, Keolebogile, who has just received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true (and there was much rejoicing)!!  We're looking forward to continuing to work through hurdles preventing her from accepting a baptismal date, but we have complete faith that she'll be on date soon.

Her next door neighbor, who we've recently tracted into, is golden.  She read the entire Restoration pamphlet, took notes, and answered all the questions in the back before our second meeting.  She's soaking in the Living Waters of the Gospel like a sponge!  After she practically taught us about the Restoration, she committed to follow Moroni's promise:

"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read [the Book of Mormon], if it be wisdom in God that ye should read [it], that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:3-5)

Seeing this promise having been fulfilled for Keolebogile and being fulfilled by Ororeseng has been truly humbling for me, as their journey towards complete conversion is well underway.  There's a lot of power in these two verses if one applies unto them with faith like these two sisters.  

Whenever I've read Moroni exhorting me to 'remember', I've immediately looked back into history to remember the miracles of God's grace towards His people, which are nothing less than marvelous.  But as I've recently read about King Mosiah receiving the peoples of Zeniff and Alma, and reading their records to his people, I was totally caught off guard how his people remembered:

"And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.  For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy." (Mosiah 25:7-8)

Though the people proceeded to mentally think and ponder on the mercy of God in the verses following, I was taken back by the fact that they first beheld the people in front of them to remember the mercy of God; their first step of remembrance was to look to the present!  I found that so interesting as I read these verses.

Reflecting on my attempts at remembering God's mercy, I'll be the first to admit that I've rarely looked first to what was in front of me before looking to the corridors of history as I've been exhorted to remember God's mercy.  Yet as I pondered on how these people remembered by first beholding what lay in plain sight, I looked up from my copy of the 'Book of Mormon' and attempted to 'remember' by first 'beholding'.  Here's what I beheld in a few objects that were around me:
  • A loving companion, who's example continues to strengthen and support me in my final weeks of my mission
  • God's Word, strewn around me in abundance, for my pleasure and education during my morning studies
  • Warm sunlight, filtering through the window, filling the room with energy and light and testifying to me of the existence of my Father in Heaven
After beholding these few objects only, my heart ached with gratitude and love towards my God in His richly blessings towards me.  Like the people in Zarahemla, I was filled with exceedingly great joy!  These feelings of love and gratitude were indescribable.

I think overwhelming experiences such as these point to what Moroni describes for one to 'receive these things'.  I was dumbfounded at my receiving of so much joy my simply 'beholding'!  As I remembered by first beholding, I received these feelings that only God could provide with such power.

Through this experience, I've come to know that as we remember, by both examining the past and beholding the present, we open our hearts to the Spirit, filling our souls with feelings of gratitude and love, and testifying to us personally that what we are reading is true.

So, my friends, remember to remember.  Remember by beholding.  It works for me, Keolebogile, and Ororeseng, and it will work for you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Prophecy and My Song

Tumelong!  I hope this week's letter finds you happy and healthy.

The great land of Phokeng is lighting up like a wildfire.  The members are continuing to respond well to the social media initiative, and referrals are coming in quickly.  From the small handful of investigators we are currently seeing, they are growing rapidly in their desire to know the truth.  They are truly being taught repentance, and are transforming into true converts.  This little corner of South Africa is a goldmine for the gospel!

I love working with my companion, Elder Brumpton!  He has such a desire to be 100% committed to the work, and is willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to do so.  At the beginning of the transfer, we realized that we have different teaching styles that were difficult to configure, but we've since made leaps and bounds!  We're going to finish this transfer with a lot of momentum.

I totally forgot to bring my camera today!  Eish, I was going to give y'all the inside scoop of the magic happening down here in South Africa.  I guess next will be the great unveiling.

Yesterday we had the great privilege of receiving training from Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, General Young Women's President.  She's also a member of the Missionary Executive Commite (MEC).  Going into this missionary devotional, I had two questions: 'What more can I do to finish my mission on the best note possible?' and 'What must I do to prepare to return home?'  It was no surprise that I found what I was looking for.

As we first met her, it wasn't difficult to see her love for missionaries, as we had a great time with her and her husband.  All of her comments were so inspiring and uplifting.  She said,"You are blessed to be here when the work is exploding.  There is no other place in the work like South Africa."  She also related to us that, as she was preparing to come to South Africa, she had a conversation with Elder Bednar, who has stewardship over Africa as a whole.  These were his words to her: "I prophesy that when you're about to come home, you'll hear my voice saying 'I don't want to leave.' "

Both of these comments stuck with me, seeing that I am left with eight weeks in my mission.  I have been richly blessed to be here when the work is exploding.  There truly is no other place in the work like South Africa.  Elder Bednar previously declared,"This is the Kirtland Era for the Church in South Africa."  I have been so blessed to work with so many pioneers of the gospel in this great land of South Africa, from members, recent converts, and investigators alike.

I know the prophesy spoken by Elder Bednar is as true for Sister Oscarson as it is for me.  As my mission is coming to a close and as I'm about to depart for home, I'm hearing his voice saying 'I don't want to leave.'  Would I have the opportunity to extend for even a few more months, I would graciously and enthusiastically accept!!  There has never been more joy in my life as I've lost it for the Lord.  As Sis.  Oscarson said,"There will be few times in your life that you will serve the Lord for twenty-four hours a day.  Cherish this time."

I'll end this week's post with the words of the South African National Anthem.  It includes five of the eleven official languages in South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, English).  There's power in this prayer, which is probably why I so often find myself singing it in the shower and throughout the day.  "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (D&C 25:12)"

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, Setjhaba sa, South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.


God [Lord] bless Africa.
May her glory be lifted high.
Hear our petitions.
God bless us, Your children.

God we ask you to protect our nation.
Intervene and end all conflicts.
Protect us, protect our nation, our nation, South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just an Informal Update

The area is doing good, but it's approaching a better future. Elder Brumpton and I are looking forward to strengthening Rustenburg especially. This week we were able to come into contact with a majority of the investigators taught previously by Elders Ebite and Kagimba; all of them are incredibly humble. Besides on an exchange with Elder Mkwizu, we haven't been finding through our own efforts in Phokeng. We plan to condense our teaching in Phokeng only with current investigators on two days of the week, which we will probably achieve by next week.

Member work in this area is beginning to thrive! When I arrived in Rustenburg, many of the members had a casual relationship with the elders. Elder Brumpton told me that 2/3 of the work he and Elder Schnepf achieved together was through visiting members, and that he craved to do more missionary work rather than missionary things. We've since put a big emphasis on social media with the members both in Rustenburg and Phokeng, which is displaying fabulous results! Every family we've initiated with social media has displayed growing interest in becoming better member missionaries. They're not only asking for copies of the Book of Mormon to give away, but are striving to do so effectively (inviting them to read and pray about it, asking for their phone numbers, etc.). Referrals have been slowly building as they learn how to do quality missionary work.

Elder Brumpton and I are taking note of the patterns that we see with every family after we introduce social media. We've scheduled a meeting with the PEC and Relief Society in Rustenburg, where we can discuss how to hasten the work here. There is a lot of potential out here.

In many social media lessons and during sacrament meeting yesterday, I've played the violin. The members love hearing the music and it helps them to feel the Spirit.

I love being out here!  I've passed the 22-month mark this weekend, which is giving me butterflies just thinking that I only have two months left!  I'm planning on arriving home exhausted (both from working hard and from jet lag).

Good news: I found my camera charger!  Photos to come next week!

Love you all!

Elder Benson

Monday, August 7, 2017

Light Our Minds With Heaven's View

Hello all!  I hope you're having an awesome week thus far!

This week has been amazing.  You may have heard that we're in Rustenburg, but we're also a village called Phokeng!  We focus primarily on Rustenburg, but we often travel to Phokeng throughout our week.  Complete with dirt roads, fruit trees, and towering mountains, this corner of South Africa is a little slice of heaven.

This week, as we were traveling in Phokeng for an appointment, we had to slam on the brakes to avoid running over a kitten that had waddled into the middle of the road.  We quickly exited the car, ran to the wandering puss, and scooped it up in an attempt to save it from oncoming traffic.  After our daring rescue, we asked nearby homes whether or not the kitten belonged to them, but none claimed the poor creature.

So here we were, standing on the side of the road, cuddling a lost kitten no older than a month, with no idea of how to help our newfound friend.

We quickly traveled to the home of a nearby member, explained the situation, and ran off to buy a carton of milk for the poor little kitty as the member watched over it.  Together, with the help of the member's children, we managed to give the kitten some much needed nourishment.  We also discovered that it was a she!

The members happily agreed to look after Simba, the newly-named kitten, for the weekend until we could return on Monday and give Simba a home at the SCPA, a local animal shelter.  Elder Brumpton and I visited the members on Sunday after attending church, and I had the chance to hold Simba again.  By this point, Simba had become quite comfortable with me and she quickly snuggled up in my arms for an afternoon nap.  I've never been much of a cat guy, but I found that my heart was melting for this cute little fella.

This Monday morning we drove to the member's house to pick up Simba for the last time.  What we found shocked everyone: little Simba had passed on during the night.

After saying one last goodbye to our little friend, we began our journey back to Rustenburg.  While driving I caught myself pondering about life, in all its variety and shapes.  Like Christ of old, I have on occasion considered the birds and the lilies, and how God so graciously provides for them.  Yet, in crossing paths with little Simba, I've developed a even greater appreciation for the gift of life.  I'm grateful that I had the chance to know Simba and to provide a shelter for her as she entered into her rest.

As Simba has run her course, so will we all.  But we don't have to be uncertain of what lies ahead!  God has revealed his plan for our salvation.  From this Plan of Salvation, we discover that we lived with Heavenly Father before this life, that we came to Earth to inhabit a mortal body and to learn to apply the Atonement of Christ, and that we have the chance to inherent eternal life in the mansions eternity.  This knowledge is disclosed from billions of God's children upon the Earth. This is a reason why I'm serving as a missionary of God because, like tens of thousands of full-time missionaries like me, I desire for all to feel the deep peace that comes from this plan.  For those of us who have a knowledge of these things, we can take it a step higher.

Bonnie L. Oscarson once said of the truths of the gospel such as this plan,"We have a knowledge of these things, but do we believe them? If these things are true, then we have the greatest message of hope and help that the world has ever known. Believing them is a matter of eternal significance for us and for those we love.  To believe, we need to get the gospel from our heads into our hearts!"  To illustrate how one takes the gospel from the head to the heart, we need to go to the beginning of my missionary experience.

At the beginning of my mission, I learned how to testify of what I knew to be true in the restored gospel.  Yet, as the weeks continued and as I continued to testify to strangers about simple truths of eternity, I often found myself questioning if I really knew if all these things were true.  Yes, I had been raised to sing songs about following God's Plan of Salvation and to read the word of God since my earliest days, yet I was uncertain if I knew if I had a bone-deep conviction of it all.

One night, long after sleep had escaped from my mind, I knelt in prayer and expressed to my Father in Heaven that I believed everything to be true, yet desired a deep spiritual witness of its truthfulness from the Holy Ghost so that I could be more bold in declaring to others the truthfulness of the gospel.  Immediately after closing my prayer in the name of Christ, I heard a voice speaking to my heart.  The simple phrase it communicated to me transported everything I had ever learned about the gospel deep into the sinews of my being: "You know it's true."

And it is true. All along I had known that the truths taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true.  All that was missing in my conversion was a witness from the Holy Ghost that it was the complete truth, perfect and without spot.  This experience redefined my testimony.  From that point onward, I have had no fear to testify of the gospel because I know, from a power beyond myself, that it is true.  In testifying to others of my witness of the gospel, I've discovered that a testimony of the restored gospel that is shared with others allows them the opportunity to feel for themselves the divine testimony of the gospel.  Yet a testimony from another isn't enough to gain a bone-deep conviction of the truth.

Bonnie L. Oscarson also said about conversion,"True conversion is a process that takes place over a period of time and involves a willingness to exercise faith.  It comes when we search the scriptures instead of the Internet. It comes when we are obedient to the commandments of God. Conversion comes when we serve those around us. It comes from earnest prayer, regular temple attendance, and faithful fulfillment of our God-given responsibilities. It takes consistency and daily effort."
Keolebogile (Lebo for short) is going through this process currently.  She's investigating the gospel at fifteen years old, and she is such an amazing girl!  When we first met her, we taught her about the Plan of Salvation.  She found so much joy in knowing where she came from before mortality, what her purpose was for living on Earth, and who she could return to live with after death.  Her desire to return to God had never been greater to that point.

This week we taught Lebo how she can gain a deep, abiding testimony of the Plan of Salvation and other truths in the restored gospel: by reading and praying about the Book of Mormon.  After discussing with her this process, we asked her what she was feeling.  She sat in silence for a brief moment, analyzing how she felt.  Eventually she looked us in the eye and said, with simple conviction and quiet enthusiasm,"I need to know it's true."

She has accepted the invitation to read, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon.  For if it is truly more of God's word revealed to man in these days, that means that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's kingdom upon the Earth, preparatory to his Second Coming.

Conversion isn't easy.  It requires daily, consistent effort.  But, after a period of time and an experiment of faith, it can be achieved.  I am converted every day to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and I know, with a power beyond myself, that it is true.  Let us all gain this conviction so that we can wake up with determination and go to be with peace and assurance, regardless of what may come our way.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Find Yourself

A destination can be a place where we're going.  Bright lights and the fast lane, crashing waves on the coasts of Cali, tropical jungles near the equator--vacations, dreams, adventures, all of these have an overarching sense of excitement and adrenaline.


A destination can be a place where we're being sent.  Discerning the difference between the two is often the quest that we are all subconsciously striving to discover. Will our destination reward us with accomplishment or joy? Will our destination allow us relaxation or nirvana?

We've heard over and over again that 'Joy is in the journey.'  We've heard over and over again that we need to take a step back from focusing on the end result and enjoying the way we get there.  In reality, however, we need to know if our destination a place that we're going or a place where we're being sent.

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

This message sounds confusing, doesn't it it?  To stop looking, searching, and losing only to start looking, searching, and losing all over again.  What in the world does this message mean?

The key to figuring out this message is found deep inside the question:  'Is my destination a place where I am going or being sent?'  Differentiating between the two takes a lot of pondering and internalizing.

A destination could be where we purchase a plane ticket and hotel room; or could be found on one of our Pinterest boards blanketed with sandy beaches or snowy mountains; or could be riding a board either on a wave or down a slope.  But are these the destinations we should really be searching for? Are these temporary, short-lived destinations where our focus should be? It's time for us to get off of the internet, search engines, and social media in our quest to find the ultimate destination. It's time for us to...
Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

The words of a world-wide famous rapper may get us closer to arriving to the answer: "You've got to lose yourself...  you've only got one shot, do not miss this chance...  this opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

You might be thinking,"How in the world do we lose ourselves?" or "Why in the world is it only once in a lifetime?"  To the wisest of people, it's the easiest question in the world! They have spent their life entertaining the quest of looking, searching, and losing. They've mastered the very meaning of losing yourself.  They don't own a nice car, they don't vacation every other week in the year, and they don't spoil their children with a personal debit card. Yet they travel 24/7 around the world, they hold massive conferences tuned into by millions, and they motivate every soul they come into contact with.  Who are these people? They are those who have lost themselves. They have absolutely mastered it and, because they are the best in their field, they have found the ultimate destination.

No need to fear: you are about to find out the secret to their success. Surprisingly, the secret has been known for millenia.  It's found in the best-selling book, which just happens to be the oldest book in the world. To unlock the secret, turn to the Bible. The best-kept secret is found in Matthew 16:25.  It reads as follows:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

This verse is taken from when the man named Jesus of Nazareth is speaking to twelve of his most avid followers.  They followed him, witnessing many miraculous events and awe-inspiring words of wisdom every day in every location that they were with him. This Jesus is renowned in the world's most popular religions as either a great teacher, an inspired prophet, or a Messiah. Even now, thousands of years after his death, he is still quoted by millions of preachers, teachers, and leaders for his wisdom-saturated words.

In this short verse, we find the answer to the riddle that has been repeated again and again:

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

Jesus acclaimed himself as the Son of God, the leader of God's forces for justice and mercy. The twelve men, the apostles, who followed him had received a divine witness that Jesus was the Christ that had been prophesied by the prophets of old. They earnestly gave heed to his words. When he spake to them yet again on this occasion, they gave strict attention to what he said.  Let's look again at the verse:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Simply put, whoever loses their life for the sake of Jesus Christ shall find it. To the rest of the world, it may take a bit of time to understand his saying. For myself I've finally understood what that remarkable man meant. And I've found myself! After 20 years of searching for my ultimate destination, I've discovered the location of my destination!

This destination wasn't just where I was going. Plane tickets, hotels rooms, and transport was a big part of it. The way I found the destination was because I was, quite literally, sent there. Here's a picture that shows where I was sent:

Looks exotic, right?  Complete with a chain-linked fence, tin shack, and limited yard space, this is where I found the ultimate destination.  If I had seen five years ago that this would be where I'd find myself, I honestly would have laughed out loud.

This little spot of ground is found in South Africa, where I've been serving as a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I received a call by one of his designated representatives that I would embark on a full-time voluntary mission for the space of twenty four months.  After thousands of dollars spent, hundreds of miles traveled, and a few moments of rest, I arrived in this beautiful country.  To some, what is imagined in South Africa are giraffes, lions, and monkeys.  To others, what is found is poverty, corruption, and danger.  For myself, I have found the meaning of what Jesus Christ meant all those years ago.

I now know what is meant by the words:

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.
Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.

All my life I was looking for where I could find myself. I was searching myself for what I desired to accomplish out of life.  Through that painful process, I lost a lot of valuable time that I could have spent in wiser pursuits. I lost my sense of direction in life. I lost what it meant to lose myself.

As I answered the call of Jesus Christ and embarked in his service, I didn't have all the answers. To be honest, I had no idea how the end results would appear as. But as I started looking for ways to serve others, as I searched for those who I could help in some way, I lost myself. I discovered that, in saving my life in an attempt to make the most out of it, I completely lost its meaning. Yet as I closed my eyes and stepped forward in faith, believing that I could make a difference, I found a greater purpose in life. I found souls that needed divine help. I found myself.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Stop looking for purpose. Stop searching for meaning. Stop losing hope. Start looking for ways to serve. Start searching for charity. Start losing yourself. You'll be surprised about how much you'll accomplish.

So, returning to the question 'Is my destination a place where I am going or being sent?'  Well, it's both!  If you wish for the ultimate destination, eternal life, your destination is a place where you're going.  But more importantly, it's where you're being sent and who is sending you. If the one sending you is Jesus Christ and you're are being sent for His sake, you'll find yourself and the ultimate destination.

Stop looking.  Stop searching.  Stop losing.

Start looking.  Start searching.  Start losing.