Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Missionary Training Center - Provo

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Elder Bennallack was met at the Salt Lake Airport by his cousin Ben, who took care of him and delivered him to the MTC!  Many thanks Ben!

Outside the MTC - Provo (no snow here!)
Elder T. Bennallack
Provo MTC
MTC Mailbox # 257
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604

The remainder of this blog will be excerpts from his emails, telling of his experiences and testimonies.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Eustiu ca Isus Hristos traieste!!
What an amazing time I'm having here at the MTC!!!!
This is the one week mark of me out on the mission! As you can see above, I'm learning quite a bit of ROMANIAN! I have two companions.. I'm in a threesome, with Elder Janke from Ohio and he's off to ADELAIDE!!! It's sooo awesome, he's like my long lost brother... with a really strong testimony, and my other companion is Elder Hasson from here in Utah, about 20 mins away from the MTC, he is off to Melbourne with me...

We have an amazing District Leader called Elder Kryton. He is a spiritual giant! He's 23, and he's a convert to the church and has been a member for 2 years now... He's off to  Melbs with us! I'm soo excited to have him in our mission!

We had been in the MTC three days and the Branch President called us into his office... he then extended the call to my companion Elder Janke to be a District Leader over another district.. The Romanian Sisters.. So now we have two districts.. We have to be with our District Leader and help him out wherever we can.  It's an amazing chance to learn from the sisters and to grow. It's also helping us become more organised trying to balance two districts.. I'm loving learning a little Romanian, it's a combo of Russian and Italian... above I said that 'I know Jesus Christ Lives...'

(I'm also learning alot of ASL (American Sign LAnguage) from the sisters.

Off to Australia!!
I have been here a week and feel so close to my Saviour! I really recognise the importance of Him in my life! Without the Spirit, I am nothing.. The main lesson we have been learning is to teach by the Spirit and listen!  Instead of just teaching ABC as you prepare your lesson plan, you need that balance of asking questions, teaching and testifing... We have been practicing truly listening to our investigators and then knowing the principles so well that we can personalise a principle to what the investigator is asking and needs..  We still need to remember that we're there with a purpose though, and that is to 'Invite others unto Christ by helping them recieve the restored gospel through Faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, recieving the gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End!' 

This is my purpose as a missionary! What amazing words! Everytime we are tired, we do pushups to our purpose...
It is amazing how powerful the spirit is, when your simply listen and the spirit works through you and the words come out of your mouth!

Sharing time in the MTC with cousin Elder Herrick (centre)
We have really been trying to focus on unity. Unity is so important when you teach..  but it's amazing as we listen to the Spirit we are all on the same wave length and we were all going to say the exact same thing, it's super cool... We have learned that unity is not yielding to your companion but yielding to the Spirit.. and when the Spirit wants you to speak, you open your mouth! We have had such amazing sacred experiences as we strive to follow this!

I've learnt soo much! 
I'm so happy!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011
My birthday was amazing!!! It was so much fun!! Everyone was singing me Happy Birthday and then I got sung to in Sign Language.. loved it!

Also on flight details... I do fly out on the 14th.. so not even three weeks.. I think this is my last P-Day and email day until I'm in Australia? (so if you want to send me anything, makes sure I get it before the 14th :P) I fly out at 5pm and have a 5 hour layover with Elder Herrick and other Elders before I fly direct to Melbs at midnight.. I'll get there at 10:30am on the 16th... local time.  I'm flying with the 4 others going to Melbs..including my DL.

I've just learnt sooo much all week..
I'm just like a sponge trying to take it all in.. but taking alot of notes because I know I won't be able to remember it all, so I can continue to study outside after the MTC.
I've learnt all about meekness. Meekness is the ability to act, but not acting unless it is pleasing to God... just like Nephi in 3rd Nephi. The Lord gave him power to do anything, but that's because the Lord trusted him because he had amazing meekness!

Spiritual power is evident of your call!!  I've been doing alot of study on the Holy Ghost this week.  That's been my focus, because the Spirit is everything when it comes to missionary work.  We learn by the Spirit, teach by the Spirit and convert by the Spirit.  We're guided by the Spirit.. Everything is done by the Spirit.
I've really been trying to learn 'the language of the Spirit' which Elder Bednar said, "if you can master, then you will be successful in life, pretty much... in church, in your proffession and family life..."

In practicing this principle of really listening to our investigators and listening to the Spirit, I had a really cool experience this week!!!  We were role playing with the other Elders in the District, but we had to be serious.  I was a teacher and I was to commit the mock investigator to baptism. They were to say "not now.."  and then when I ask about concerns, they were to tell us that they 'didn't want to do this anymore and that they're over it....'  We then weren't allowed to say anything until prompted by the Spirit and the words are put into our mouths...
We had to pause, and really listen to the Spirit...

The Spirit in the room was amazing!! Sooooo strong as I paused... A few minutes went by, and then the words were put into my mouth.. Out of nowhere, I was asking my investigator about the Word of Wisdom..  if he had issues with the Word of Wisdom?!  It turned out, that's exactly what my mock investigators concerns were!! The Word of Wisdom!! It was amazing to see the Spirit work through me to discern thoughts!!! It was amazing!

I really try to put this principle into all my teaching now, to listen, really listen to the Spirit.  Pausing is OK, the investigator dosn't mind, and then really listening to the Spirit as the words are put in my mouth that will soften the heart of the investigator to resolve their own concerns...
I've been doing this all week and I love it! I love the Spirit!!

I'm finally getting used to the missionary schedule and I love that too!
Time is up, but I want you all to know I love you all!!  Not sure when I'll talk next, but I think it might be in Australia?

9 November 2011 - Letter (and photo's):
There was some bad news tonight.  Four Elders in our District of nine, including both of my companions, were re-assigned missions.  Two to Salt Lake and two to Alabama.  They were devastated, but it's because of visa issues though.  When they get their visas, they will leave the next day for Australia, but if they are in their new missions longer than six months, it will become permenant.
On a brighter note, I'm really excited to go back home and really teach 'real' investigators.  I feel like this has been the perfect amount of time here in the MTC..

Monday, 14 November 2011
Today is my P-day.  Because I leave the MTC later today, they let me email and do laundry etc. today.
I feel soo blessed for my experience here! The Spirit is so strong and I love the Lord on my side!
Two people can do anything... as long as that second person is God...
I had what they call 'infield orentation' the other day, it was a full day thing just taking us through things in the field.. I loved it! I was nervous.. but after that, I'm just excited! Excited to talk to people on the aeroplane... haha, really excited!
It turns out that they have set up this new program called 'the first 12 weeks', and it's for when I get to the field. I know I'll have my trainer for at least 12 weeks.  Hopefully we get along... haha!
Ok, so I can call family in the airport, so I'm going to get a phone card today and call you guys when I get to LAX... looking foward to talking to you all! love you lots! xxx  B2
Travelling cousins: Layover at LAX. 
Elder Herrick enroute to the Auckland Tongan Mission,
& Elder Bennallack to Australia Melbourne Mission

Elder Bennallack did call us from LAX.  It was sweet time spent talking to him.  He related to us how on the flight from Salt Lake to Los Angeles he was seated next to a young lady of about 19yrs.  She had just been visiting a member friend in Salt Lake but was not a member of our church.  Elder Bennallack then proceeded to teach her the first lesson to which she commented: "Why have I never heard this before?"  She gladly accepted a Book of Mormon.  Elder commented how he is amazed how the Lord has prepared people to hear the gospel and places them in our paths...

Farewell Elder!

The time rapidly came when departure became imminent.  All shopping has been completed with Tom & I having spent some great time together to get this accomplished, not to mention the lunches and Temple time shared together.

Last Sunday evening, our friends the Hansen's, kindly opened their home so we could hold a Farewell Open House for Tom, so he could thank members from our congregation and say goodbye.  Many of our good friends came and we were able to spend a lovely evening wishing Tom the best for the next two years.

Some of the members from our ward: Clement Park Ward, Columbine Stake

The last couple of days have been spent trying to pack bags to the exact weightage of 50 lbs each.  There seemed to be this elusive amount of 6 lbs that had trouble getting into Tom's luggage!  However, with a bit of arranging and rearranging, the task was accomplished and everything was ready for departure.

Medium steak and shrimp! Nice..
Last evening we had a really nice dinner out at the Texas Steakhouse and enjoyed amazing steak, followed by a quick goodbye skype call between Tom and his brother Mike in Brisbane.

A quick skype with Mike
Then it was time to meet together with a few friends at the Stake President's home.  President LeDuc spent some time interviewing Tom for one last time and then he was set apart as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to serve in the Australian Melbourne Mission, or whatever area he might otherwise be assigned to, for the next two years.  It was a powerful, personal experience that only helps to bring a great peace and assurance that Elder Bennallack is now in the Lord's hands.  All will be well with him. Congratulations Tom, we are very proud of you.

Elder Bennallack with President LeDuc..

...and Bishop Smith..

...Kelland Hansen..

... 'besties' Sarah & Tom..

....and Mum
5.00am Wednesday (this morning) came all too soon.  And the beautiful, balmy 'Fall' or Autumn we have been experiencing for the past few days was contrasted with about 4inches of snow that had fallen overnight.  Gone are the golden leaves, replaced by a chilled world of white.

Elder Bennallack leaving 'home'.
We made sure we left early, unsure of the road and traffic conditions to the airport.  Denver International Airport (DIA) usually takes about an hour to get there, but we still managed to arrive in good time and all bags were checked in OK.  The problem was not so much the missionary requirements, but the American condiments and goodies that were deemed very necessary for survival in the coming future!!

Once checked in, the security area was before us all too soon, and this is where we needed to part ways.  It was suddenly heart wrenching as realisation hit, that although this is a wonderful, important step in Tom's life, we won't see him again for two years. 

Bye..Take Care... Love you...
Elder Bennallack however, was happy and excited to enter this next phase in his life.  All the very best Tom, you will be in our prayers every day and you know that we love you deeply..  This for you, will surely be the 'Best Two Years!'

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Call to Serve

Tom had a personal goal to submit his papers to serve a mission, at the earliest time which is four months prior to his nineteenth birthday.  And so it happened, he was able to submit them to his Bishop, three days after receiving the Melchizadek Priesthood, and four months exactly before his birthday.  This also coincided with our much planned road trip to Southern California.  As anticipated, Bishop received notice that a call to serve had left Salt Lake City early on the second week of our travels.  By the Thursday, Tom & Sarah flew back to Denver while Rick & I started the long drive back, stopping overnight in St George, Utah with our good friends the Jensen's.  By mid afternoon, Tom called to say it had arrived at Bishop Smith's!!  We arranged to all meet there, family and friends, when Bishop was home to enjoy this experience together.  Rick & I made good time and arrived back in Denver with a couple of hours to spare, and were able to organise for his sister Karlie and her family in Adelaide to be on the phone, and his brother Mike in Brisbane to be on skype!!

This is another most choice experience we have been able to share as a family! The opening of a letter from the Prophet with a call to serve as a full time missionary! 

"Elder Bennallack, you are hereby called to serve in the AUSTRALIA MELBOURNE MISSION!"

Tom reading his call out, with Karlie on the phone and Mike on skype!

The gathering at Bishop Smith's to share the moment!
L-R Back: Kelsey Mercer, Rick, Donna Mercer, Conlan Reardon, Kelland Hansen & Bishop Smith
Middle: Caden Mercer, Paige Mercer, Michelle & Sarah
Front: Tom and Taylor (Skippy) Tripp.
How wonderful, how exciting, and how right it felt for Tom to be called from America back to Australia.  Congratulations Tom! 

Tom's date to report at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, is the 7th of December, 2011.  Rick and I were glad this was before we leave Denver, which is the 11th December, but immediately saw a problem regarding his current visa status.  In short, because myself, Sarah and Tom are dependants of Rick, we cannot stay in the USA if Rick leaves the country.  So Tom would either need to attend another MTC or enter on a different date.  Rick phoned the missionary department who understood completely, and due to the six week transfer process, Tom now needs to report a transfer earlier on the 26 October 2011.  This means he will have his birthday in the MTC, but there are no visa issues at all..  WOW!

Meanwhile, we were able to travel to Upstate New York, visit the Sacred Grove and Palmyra and then explore New York City itself.  What a wonderful opportunity it was to visit these places. Missionary shopping commenced in New York City, with the purchase of a suit from Macy's! 

During this time of preparation, the Denver Temple closed for two months for some major renovations and updates.  Tom's cousin Elder Mitchell Herrick was arriving in Utah with his dad to also attend the Provo MTC, so early September, Rick & I drove with Tom to Utah, stayed with our kind friends the Welch's, so Tom could receive his endowment in the Temple and share this time with extended family!  Again, we were blessed with a rich experience together as we attended first the Salt Lake Temple, then in the following days, the Jordan River Temple, the Oquirrh Mountain Temple and the Mount Timpanogas Temple.  What a wonderful time spent in the temple along with his cousins and Uncle Jamie.

Viewing the SL Temple from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building
L-R: Ben, Tom, Jamie, Elder Herrick, Michelle & Rick

Outside the Mt Timpanogas Temple
L-R: Tom, Philip, Mitchell, Jamie
Front: Kaylee & Michelle
This time of preparation has gone be very quickly.  Missionary shopping that took place in Utah continued here in Littleton, and finally, I am satisfied  Tom has all he needs.  Looking good!

According to our now family tradition, we were able to spend time together in the Baptistry of the Denver Temple, the four of us.  This was another lovely time.  And in the final week before departing, Tom was able to work in the Denver Temple participating in all the areas available to patrons.  What a wonderful week it has been. 
In Sacrament Meeting at church, Tom gave a wonderful talk on faith and shared a beautiful testimony of Jesus Christ and shared his strong desire to serve Him as a missionary.  I'm afraid there was alot there with misty eyes, (especially me!) We are proud of you Tom, and wish you all the very best as you serve in the Australia Melbourne Mission.  You are a great example to us and we love you deeply.