Friday, March 30, 2012

Life in NC

So I have been getting a lot of questions about the ward and daily life.

Our ward technically has 600 members, but only 33% show up. We (the whole ward, us included) are working on cleaning up the records and contacting all the less active members to see what happened to them and why they don't come to church anymore. Our area is huge, we drove 30 minutes the other day and were still well within our boundary. There are a lot of amazing members and some that aren't so helpful, but it's like that in every ward. We have so much support from the leaders that the work moves along easily.

A typical day for me goes something like this. We get up each morning and run for 30 minutes. Sometimes, I feel like dad, running ahead and doing pushups or something since I run faster than Sister G., but she is totally getting faster. I'm not pushing her, but it is something she wouldn't mind being better at. Then we get ready and do personal study for an hour, and then companion study for two hours. Since I'm new, we have to do two hours of comp study, which drives me insane becasue I can't stand sitting for that long. But we always have good study. Then we make calls and get things ready, have some lunch and then we are out the door. Some days we have appointments, some days we don't. but we always have a list of people to visit. Either less active members, or referrals, or we pull names out of the "former investigator" book. Everyone deserves a second chance and we are careful to stay away from the people who said not to come back, but contact the ones that just dropped off the face of the planet. And while we are in the area, we knock doors. We have a giant map and every evening we highlight where we have been - our goal is to have an entirely yellow map.

Ashley also asked about our house-mate. Sister C. is probably in her 50s, *maybe* older. She is a CPA and is working non-stop right now, but always has time to talk with us. She knows everyone in the ward and who their family is and their life story. She comes out with us for lessons sometimes or takes us to dinner. She gives me PB. She also loves a good deal, so she has a lot of stuff that she just gives us because it was on sale or something. She is constantly giving to other people. She told us our first night something like "I'm wealthy, but I'm frugal." And it's true.

Something that has come to my attention is food storage and being prepared. I am just beginning to fully realize how bad everything is going to have to get before it gets better. When was the last time we even looked at all that wheat we have under the island? Do we even know how to cook with it? I was reading an Ensign article about how this woman learned how to make cheese with powdered milk.

For Mom and Dad: Thank you sooo much for the package. The apple rings taste like the ones we bought in Germany, though these are more chewey. The skirt is perfect, and it is so nice to have the GPS mount. Sister G. doesn't have to turn around as much when she can see the street coming up on the GPS - for some reason, my saying "turn at the next street" and Gary repeating it millions of times doesn't get into her head. But I love her. We have had a few experiences this week that have just led us to know that we were meant to be companions for each other. Not huge experiences, but just the little things. We work really well together and help each othe out in the best way.

I love my family!!!!! The Book of Mormon is true. READ IT! and then PRAY to ask if it is true.

Also, do you have your questions ready for conference next week? If you come with specific and relevant questions, it's amazing how they will be answered.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"I love being a missionary."

Editor's Note: The videos embedded in this post were added by me. :)
Every morning and multiple times throughout the day, this is what my companion says to me: "I love being a missionary." She is going home in about 10 weeks and I will miss her terribly. We had such a great bonding experience last night as we were teaching and on the drive home. I know that the Lord has put us together for a reason and put us in this area for a reason. I have only known this Sister for two weeks, but I have learned so much from her and just love her. Because she is so amazing, I haven't had any major breakdowns. I received a letter from my MTC companion and she mentioned the trouble she was having getting used to this whole thing. While I love and miss you all and think about you multiple times every day, I know that the work I am doing is so important and I know that you love me and will still be there when I return.

Now about that lesson last night. We have been teaching the father of one of the recent convert. He is probably in his 60s and loves his son, daughter-in-law and grandkids (we teach at their house and he lives right next door). But, he has had a lot of troubles in the past - I'm talking prison, drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc. He cannot believe that God is loving or that he is worth anything and therefore choses not to fully accept the atonement in his life. The first time we taught, Sister G. bore her powerful testimony about her experience coming to know the Gospel is true and last night I had that same opportunity. It was not me speaking, but the Lord telling me what to say through the Holy Ghost. I shared some things that I really hate to bring up but I knew that he needed to hear this particular story. He needed to hear how I came to know that I was worth something to God. We even got him to pray!!!! Before, he would only pray by himself, alone, but with some encouragement and a reminder that he is the patriarch of that family and that his son and grandkids want to hear him pray, we got him to lead us in prayer. After our lesson, he was so excited. He wanted to take us out to dinner when he gets paid on Friday. Luckily, his daughter-in-law is in charge of our meal calendar and she scheduled the whole family for a dinner at Golden Corral on Saturday.

We also had the opportunity to receive a taste of our own medicne this week. We contacted this older couple and they invited us back. The second lesson basically ended up being the same argument in circles for an hour and a half and ended with his praying for us to be converted from our ways and turn back to God and the bible, "the infallable word of God." It was so frusterating! He kept insisting that we don't know the bible even though we totally proved that we do and he was so sure that the seventh day is a Saturday, so that's the Sabbath.  We kept having to calm each other down and I had to remind myself multiple times to not use logic, but to listen to the spirit. We ended up just leaving our number and praying that they actually do read and pray and come to understand what the gift we were trying to give him is.

We contact a lot, but I kind of enjoy it. We get to walk around town and meet people and sometimes they are really prepared for us. We met a woman who said that she was just so glad we came to her house and that she was looking for a way to grow closer to God. And the promise of the Book of Mormon is that a man can draw closer to God by abiding it's precepts than by any other book - or something like that. Sister G. decided I was ready to go on splits so I had the opportunity to teach this woman again with a woman from our ward (who is soooo a rockstar. Marine, masters in diplomacy, three young boys, and a strong testimony).

I love this work, I love this place. I'm not a fan of the thin layer of yellow dust (pollen) that covers everything but luckily I am blessed that I don't have allergies too bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I had a boy in my bed...

His name is Clovis, he is a slightly overweight cat who loves to be around us. On our first night, I got in bed and he hopped right up and just decided to cuddle up under the covers. Now, he is my boyfriend. He likes to sit on our scriptures when we are studying and knock pens off the table.

 We are in the New Bern area - which is basically on the coast, but not quite, though the Neuse river runs right through our area. We are opening this area for sisters and wow do they love us. Apparently President just emailed two areas and said whoever can find housing first gets the sisters. New Bern acted fastest. We are staying with a member and she is so amazing. Her husband died like 8 years ago and she lives alone and loves the missionaries. She works all day long, so we don't see her much, but she knows everything about all the ward members, so she is a great resource. She takes great care of us :) We have a bedroom and bathroom (basically the whole second floor) to ourselves and then we share the rest of the house. Our room is really cute and we live on a golf course.

 The sister missionaries are celebrities out here. I keep thinking about Sister Waldman and hoping that she is getting the same treatment. They fight over us for meals and the young women have been wanting to talk to us. The ward is amazing. The leaders are really ramping up the Missionary effort and have been really helpful - especially since this is a new area for Sisters so we have to start from scratch. The Elders gave us a few referrals, but other than that, it's just us. We spend a lot of our time marking up maps and contacting, though we have already had quite a few lessons. When we called in our numbers last night, the District Leader was a little impressed (cuz we are amazing).

 My companion is Sister G. from Delano, CA and I LOVE HER!!! She is the perfect trainer for me and we have been getting along really well. This is her last 12 weeks though, so I will have to kill her off :(

 The weather has been lovely, which is great for contacting. The people here are really polite to us - even if they don't want to hear from us, they just say so and it's no big deal. We have some return appointments for people whose doors we knocked on.

 On Saturday night we taught this woman and we brought Sister C. with us (the woman we live with). This woman's daughter is convert of almost a year and she just wanted to hear about the church. I loved to teach her. Sister G. asked "if there were prophets before, did you ever wonder if there were today?" and this woman was like "hmm...I guess I never thought of that," and she loved talking with us. Then Sister C. took us to visit someone in an assisted living home. Unfortunately it was a scene that was very familiar to me and fresh in my mind from Grandma's passing away. I could tell that our visit was very welcome. Then Sister C. took us out for dinner. When I say she takes care of us, I mean she takes care of us. We got home last night and there was a giant jar of PB on the counter for me that she had taken out of her stock-pile (no she is not an extreme couponer, but she likes a deal. "I'm wealthy, but frugal" that's what she told us).

One last thing. I have been so impressed by this one family in the ward. They are converts on their way to the temple and the mother just has the best kind of Faith. She truly knows that God loves her and answers her prayers. She has seen true miracles. And they are also great because they are new converts and want to share the Gospel with everyone, so they set up a lot of appointments for us.

 Oh, wait, one last funny thought. At our district meeting last week, our leader said something about "time to hold the counting," talking about everyone sharing their numbers for the week and I started laughing thinking about Cold Comfort Farm.

I love NC, it's not LA, but it's amazing. I love this work and while I can't wait to get back to my family, I couldn't think of anyting else I want to be doing with my time. Love my family!

Love the letters! :)
Sister Benning

PS-I can't remember my exact address right now for mother's Google Maps purposes, but I can say that the church building is on Forest Drive in New Burn and we live like a minute away on West  Fairway drive by the golf course. You should be able to get the church address on and go from there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A letter from the Raleigh mission office

Dear families of missionaries in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission,
We are thrilled to have welcomed your missionary to our mission!  We received 12 new missionaries so it has been a very exciting time!

Their flight on Monday ended up arriving two and a half hours behind schedule, but they arrived safe and with all of their luggage.  After they arrived we took them to the mission home for dinner, interviews with President Cotterell, a testimony meeting and dessert.  After that everyone was ready for bed.  The elders all slept in the basement and the sisters slept upstairs here at the mission home.

After breakfast on Tuesday morning, all of the missionaries were taken to the mission office to meet the office staff and to be oriented in some of the things they need to know to be a missionary.  From there everyone traveled to the Raleigh Stake Center to meet their trainers.  This is a wonderful experience for them to meet the missionary who has been specially picked to train them and to set the course for them to have a successful mission.   Everyone had pictures taken with President Cotterell and I, and then with their trainer.  They learned about the new 12 week training for new missionaries and then I fed them lunch. 

Our transfer meeting was also held at the Stake Center.  At this meeting all of the missionaries in the mission who are being transferred (about 1/4 of the mission this time) come to find out where they are going.  They then leave for their new areas.  Many of our new missionaries asked me what they would be doing when they got to their area on Tuesday night.  I assured them that they would get right to work with either teaching appointments or contacting.

It is a pleasure to serve with your missionary.  We felt a great strength from each one of them and we look forward to get to know them individually, working and learning with them. 

These are the missionaries, their companions and the area they are assigned to:

Sister Benning is serving with Sister G. of Delano Ca in New Bern
Your missionary will fill in more details in her next email to you.  Our preparation days are on Monday. 

All mail should come through the US Postal system and be mailed to the mission office using this address:  

Missionary’s Full Name  (we have several with the same last name)
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
6508 Falls of Neuse
Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27615

The day the mail is received it is forwarded on to your missionary.  This can only be done if the mail is sent by First Class, Priority or Express mail.  If you choose to use UPS, Federal Express or parcel post mail it cannot be forwarded.  Those items will get to your missionary, but they must wait at the office until someone travels to your missionary, which could be several weeks.

Once again, it is a pleasure serving the Lord in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission with your missionary.

With love,
Sister Cotterell
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
With President Cotterell (the mission president) and Sister Cotterell

With Sister Gallege, Laura's new companion