Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nice long letter

Well today rather than giving a nice short update that I might have initially felt like giving I've now taken mom's line "write us a nice long letter tomorrow" as a good challenge. Sometimes I'm held back by questions of what might or might not be important, or by wondering who gets this letter and what they might think about what I say. Will they think I'm a lame missionary if I say anything about Mary or about work being hard or will they think I'm trunky if I talk about anything after the mission? Well this is p-day Ben writing. And to be honest Anziano Lehnardt work day Ben isn't perfect either. Anyways who knows what I may say in my ramblings, but I trust that whoever may read this knows me well enough to not think I'm lame or maybe they'll appreciate my honesty enough to forgive my shortcomings.

Gosh I worry a lot about keeping up the missionary look. Look at me I just wrote an entire paragraph about being worried about what people think about me because I'm a missionary. Lately I've found that I have a lot of good motivations that are sometimes turned against me and realizing my good intentions makes it easier for me to forgive myself for my worries. In this case I think it's because I really care about being a good missionary and working hard and making the most of this time that is so important and most of all not letting down the God that I serve.

Anyways...this morning I was studying when I came to Alma 62. Last week dad wrote me about it and I made a note to go read it, but then I forgot. Well this morning I got to it on my own and remembered Dad's email. Everybody goes home after the war is over. Pahoran goes back to judging, Helaman to preaching and the one that interests me the most Captain Moroni goes home. His whole life had been consumed by the business of war. He turned the army over to his son. He had a son so he must have had a wife. I wonder what kind of a reunion that was. Someday I'll go home too. The war will end- at least for me- and I'll go back to other things in life. It makes me enjoy my time a little more. I want to talk to more people and eat more gelato and more kebabs and get to know other missionaries while I can because someday it will all be over.

I think at this point in my letter I will turn a little less profound and get a little lighter. Missionary life is full of turns like this. I think it comes from dealing with such a profound work all the time while still being a 20 year old. I'm trying to think of a good example but I just don't have one right now.

Life with Anz. Rodriguez is really fun. I may have already mentioned his girlfriend and the following story but I'll repeat it just in case. A week or two ago her mom emailed him and said she was excited to hear that we were companions because someone showed her the blog and she has been hoping we would be companions for a while. Well we have lots of fun and we have to make the most of it because Anz. R will probably be leaving next week. At the beginning of the transfer President made a mysterious comment to me about how Anz. R will probably only stay in Torino for one transfer. Who knows why or if it will actually happen. You never know. In the mean time I've been learning Spanish which is actually surprisingly easy. The only problem is that seeing how easy Spanish is makes me daydream about learning french too and then by then I'll be such a master at learning languages that I might as well learn German. I've always wanted to learn German and still think I'll try someday.

Dad asked about the zone and well it's seen better days. Lately I've been sticking to the theory that sometimes things just go really well and other times not so well and we can learn from prosperity or struggles regardless of which one we have. I don't know why nothing is seeming to go well, but I'm sure things will change soon and we just need to stay on track even if the track isn't so smooth. I sure hope it's not my fault that the zone isn't doing so well but I don't think it is. I've been working hard and doing my best. I was reading about Jeremiah and the only people succeeding then were the Babylonians. I don't blame Jeremiah though. He was just called to be a prophet in a tough time.

I loved mom's blog post. Lately I've been thinking a lot about not worrying about what other people think and just doing what's right. It kind of reminded me of that. I wonder if I'm afraid of failing or not? I don't think I'm too afraid. I think it depends on the circumstances though.

Unfortunately my long letter must come to an end now. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope I get some pictures in the mail soon and maybe a new video sometime too. I love you very much. Have a good week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I am like a finely aged cheese

Oh dear family-

How are you this week? What news do I have for you?

Yesterday we had a conference in Milano and I took Stefan's advice and rather than eating the lollipop they gave each of us I put it aside to give to someone else. I forgot about it though so maybe I'll have to use it later. I got such a thrill not eating the lollipop even if I didn't actually give it away. The conference was really interesting because they already had a conference for all the sisters and for all the missionaries who had been here for six months or less. The conference yesterday was for everyone else. I and the rest of us at the conference are in a very different phase of our missions. I like to think of myself as a nice aged cheese or wine. No, it's not that I've been sitting around long enough for mold to grow on me or yeast to ferment in me, but that what I may lack in wonder and excitement that most new missionaries have I've gained a lot of skills which still make me useful. Maybe I'm just an acquired taste though.

I feel like my life is a constant battle to find balance between perfectionism and being relaxed. All the added rules and pressure of being a good person in missionary work just seems to make it harder. I've decided it's just who I am though and I can't really get rid of it so the best approach is to just learn how to handle it. Most of the time I just get myself so hyped up about all the things I should be doing better that it drives me crazy. One time when I was in Siena I was sick and Dad sent me some nice nasal spray. The instructions said to spray it up my nose and then take several deep breaths. Taking deep breaths made me feel so relaxed that even after I wasn't sick anymore I would just take a minute to sit and take some deep breaths. My companion thought I was crazy at first, but then he tried it and we both became deep breathers.

Lately the zone hasn't been doing as well and our own work is lacking too. I've thought a lot about what I've done during times of great success and also times where it seemed there was no success at all. I've been looking at other zones too and some seem to be doing really well, while other like us seem to be on a down swing. My conclusion is that success will come and go on its own and it's up to us to make the most of the circumstances whatever they may be. The thing is that I don't think some zones suffer just because they have bad missionaries who don't work while the successful zones have really great missionaries. Everyone has a pretty good mix of missionaries who are all pretty good. Then in my own work of course I have my own ups and downs but they don't really match up to the success I've seen. I guess the whole thing depends on what you define as success. I guess the success I've been talking about here is numbers as in baptisms and lessons taught etc. Anyways I've realized that true success in my mind is making the best of the situation. Whether there are lots of people who want to hear about the gospel or not a single one for miles, there's always something to be learned from the situation. C.S. Lewis wrote about it in The Screwtape Letters how life is always going through ups and downs. Both ups and downs can be used by Satan, but also by God. The downs can humble us or discourage us and make us lose hope. The ups can inspire us and make us happy or they can make us proud. Anyways those are my thoughts on the matter.

I hope I don't ever make you bored with my emails.

Anz. Rodriguez has a really nice girlfriend that is totally from our world of books and pictures and art. Last week her mom emailed him and already knew about me from the blog. She even said that she had been hoping for a while that we would be companions at some point.

Maybe I'll be a videographer. That would be fun. Last night after the conference we were at the office and took advantage of the computers and watched a bunch of you videos.

Well life is good. I really am happy. Have a good day.

Love, Ben

p.s. Gabe congratulations on reading the Narnia books. They're some of my favorite.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

an ode to the name of Lehnardt

How do you think I'm going to begin this letter?

If you guessed an ode to my wonderful family you guessed right. Every week I read your emails and I'm just amazed at how wonderful and smart you are. And I'm not just talking about things like sports and books but Gabe wrote his entire email in on breath. What a feat! In all seriousness though you have to be the most amazing group of people ever to walk the face of the planet. I just hope I'll be able to keep up when I get home.

This last week at consiglio (zone leader consel- much like jedi counsel) they made a big announcement about blogs. Apparently the church has gotten complaints about missionaries in our mission who have their letters on blogs and some of them are pretty open in talking about problems with their companions and investigators and members. Anyways I know that Mom puts my letters on a blog and although I'm pretty sure mine wouldn't be a problem because I just spend my emails praising you guys I just thought I would restate the need to make sure that anything I say is heavily censored.

It made me think a lot about what I do write because when they made the announcement I had to go back and do a mental check of what I've written recently. I've realized that most of my emails really are spent talking about you guys and funnily enough I really enjoy writing about things I've learned in the scriptures lately. The funny thing is that that's a lot of what I hear from you guys too. I loved Dad's email this week and I highly recommend it. Maybe someday we can write a book of the emails we exchange.

Today I read about Captain Moroni when it talks about if everyone were like him the very foundations of hell would be shaken. I was trying to figure out how he became such a great guy and then I thought about what his life must have been growing up. Right around the time he was born Alma the younger was converted and then right after that the sons of Mosiah went off to be missionaries among the Lamanites. Then Alma stepped down as chief judge and went to preach to everyone. A while after that seven converted Lamanite cities immigrated to the Nephite lands because they would rather die than risk losing their faith and Ammon and his brothers didn't want all their new converts to die. By the time Moroni was 25 he had seen 2 anti christs, Alma the younger, Amulek, the martyrdom at Ammonihah, Ammon and his brothers and Amilici attempting to make himself a king. He had had a pretty action packed life and I'm sure that he took advantage of all the great teachers and learning opportunities. Anyway, the idea is that the Lord prepared him because they needed a really good captain and Moroni took advantage of the preparation (or at least I assume he did.) Now go ahead Gabe and be ready to be a captain by the time you are 25. I would start by hanging around at home and hanging out with our brother Nephi when he's home from BYU.

I hate to say it Dad, but I'm counting it as a blessing that yore trip got canceled because I would have felt so bad having you so close and not seeing you, but I really wouldn't be able to handle seeing you. I think my little missionary head might explode if I saw you right now. You seem to understand pretty well what a mission is like at this point (what you said was pretty on point how at this point things get really focused and time just flies by.) I kind of can't believe lately how normal missionary life feels and a visit from the outside world might melt my brain.

I like what you said about influencing people so that they will have a positive influence on you. I feel like I learned the lesson of choosing good friends, but then when I came on my mission I felt like I had no choice but to be with people that whose influence I didn't always want. I've now noticed though that a reputation can work wonders. Missionaries who get a reputation for being really lazy normally let other missionaries feel like they can relax when they are with them. Missionaries who have a good reputation for working hard on the other hand have already won a battle before they even show up because their companion, whether it's for a transfer or for just a scambio, put on their best because they expect to work hard.

I love you lots. I'm doing well. Anz. Rodriguez is good and lots of fun. The work is going well and I'm just happy to be here. Have a good week .

Love, Ben