Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 2013 Strengthening the Mission

5 August 2013
What a great week it has been for me here in Melbourne!
We spent a lot of time with President  including a few dinners with him in his home.  Two new missionaries came into the mission this week, one being with Sister Foster.
Like usual, we were able to go out on lots of short miracle exchanges across the mission which was very satisfying.  The mission is doing really well at the moment, we had 21 baptisms this past week and are right on track to reach our goal of 163.

The big highlight of the week was Wednesday night. I got a call a few days earlier from Dallin, who told me he was recieving his endowments Wednesday night and asked if I would be able to come.  After being granted permission, Elder Bellon and I were able to go to the 8:15 session.  It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the Temple.  I was among so many of my close friends and the session was packed!  I was in a euphoric state as revelation flowed to my
very alert mind.  It was such a choice moment to be in the Celestial room with Dallin.  I love the Temple!

Transfers are a week away, but we have spent countless hours this week with President sorting it all out.  We're really organised which is great.  Elder Bellon and I were blessed as we played a very big role in the transfer process; the confirming peace of the spirit we felt after several hours was humbling.  We have 24 missionaries coming in, which means it’s going to be a very big transfer.  By the end of September we will be over 270 missionaries!

The baptism of Mercedes didn’t end up happening this past week.  The ward council isn’t completely on board so we held off.  Although the keys don’t lie with the ward members, a recent lesson I have learnt is the importance of aligning with ward leaders.  As a missionary we are only guests to a ward, so it is key that the ward council is behind an investigator being baptised. Otherwise there isn’t that ownership to help them to the Temple after you leave as a missionary.
We were happy to delay the baptism until the ward council is happy. If we are to work with the members we need to be on the same page, I’m confident that the baptism will happen in a few weeks.

I’m really looking forward to the coming week. I’m not sure if you know Brad Wilcox? I love his talks, he has written many books and published many talks through Deseret Books. He is a former Mission President, a professor at BYU and on the General Sunday School Board.  He is a great friend with President Maxwell through some of the things listed above. He is in Australia for the ‘Time Out for Women’ in Sydney this past weekend.  He offered to come down and see President so, he is flying down to Melbourne Tuesday to do a few firesides and a MLC with the leaders of the mission.  We will be going out with President to pick him up from the airport on Tuesday and then we have been asked to be the driver and tour guides for Wednesday during the day, between the firesides, to take the Maxwell's and Wilcox's out to the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road. We have a hard life don’t we! It’s going to be great to get to know him.

Elder Bennallack

12 August 2013 
Weeks seem to be getting shorter and shorter, where do I start?
Well, Monday was full of dramas. Every Monday for the past 6 months we have been playing an AFL match the second half of P-day with all the surrounding missionaries. A lot of missionaries have developed quite a love for the game and everyone loves the weekly game. Because we are missionaries we only play touch though so it is quite modified to comply with the white handbook we abide by.  Regardless, it’s a lot of fun to have a run around and kick the footy.

Well last Monday wasn’t so much fun. All the missionaries have purchased boots and so we were having a really fun game in the pouring rain and all was well until the end. Right near the end of the game there were three people running for a ground ball. Elder Williams from Adelaide was one of those missionaries. Two missionaries running from opposite directions cracked heads really hard; you could hear it loud and clear across the oval.  After about 5 seconds Elder Williams fell onto the ground and started having a violent seizure! His eyes rolled to the back of his head and he started frothing from the mouth and nose. Straight away we were on the phone to the ambulance, we protected his head and put him in the emergency side position. His seizure continued for 15 minutes until the ambulance got there. He stopped breathing for 10 to 20 seconds at a time which was quite scary, but the lady on the other line of 000 assured us that it was his brain resetting.

After the ambulance arrived and gave him a few shots and hooked him up to a machine he became conscious again. Even in hospital he would randomly stop breathing but luckily he had a machine hooked up to him measuring his oxygen levels. It was not a good experience at all, but after a night in hospital and a quiet week he is doing ok now. He still has to go in to see the results of his brain scans and what not later this week but were praying for him. Although this could of happened in any sport I think sadly that’s the end of our footy matches!
Elder Bennallack & Elder Bellon

Well on a more positive note, it was such a choice experience being with the Wilcox's this past week! We went down to the airport to pick them up with President, escorted him to all three firesides and went to the Twelve Apostles with them.

The famous 'Twelve Apostles' in the background.

We really do have the best life, who normally gets to even associate with these type of people. I was so grateful to be able to develop a friendship with him and his wife Debbie. Before he left he gave me his new book called ‘The Continuous Atonement’ and wrote me a really nice note inside. (I sent it home because I can’t read it until after the mission.)

Debbie & Brad Wilcox, Elders Bennallack & Bellon

I was able to learn so much from him. Just the love he radiates as he gives 100% attention to those he is speaking to.  I was so impressed with his one on one interactions. He also spent an afternoon with the MLC where he spoke all about the gathering of Israel, the spirit taught me a lot.

One tender miracle I saw this week was in regards to another missionary. Doing transfers with President was a rich experience. As we were looking at whom we would like as trainers, the Spirit collectively touched all our hearts with an impression that a certain missionary should train. We knew this missionary was not the most hardworking, but we felt strongly that training would be that opportunity he needs to step up to the next level. Because we wanting this individual to train, as assistants we went and spent just an hour and a half with that companionship. I was able to exchange with this missionary. I really felt the spirit guiding my works as we spoke. We were able to really talk opening about a lot of things. After breaking the news to him that we would like him to train I left him with a prayer. The spirit was so strong during that prayer, tears filled his eyes. I have complete faith that this missionary will be an amazing trainer. It was just a really fulfilling and humbling experience for me being able to see the Lord work through me.

Elder Bellon only has one transfer left, but President spoke to us both and asked us both if we would finish our missions being his Assistants. We are both more than happy to.  President is such a good man! That will man that I will be with Elder Bellon for 6 months, I have learnt so much from him!  I continue to learn so much in the unique position I am in, I am grateful.

Well Tuesday and Wednesday are big days with the majority of the mission being transferred and then picking up 25 new missionaries on Wednesday.  I am looking forward to it though!

On a side note, you would be proud to know that Sister Foster is doing such a great job on her mission. (Sister Maxwell is always raving about sister Foster.)  Come Tuesday she will be a Sister Trainer Leader over the sisters on the east side of Melbourne with a great companion, she will do great!
Elder Bennallack

Perfect Dream! 'Benallack's Sports'
PS. In my travels I found a sports store near Bendigo called 'Benallack’s Sports' !! It was spelt wrong but I took a picture, I wonder what the relation is?

19 August 2013
 We put a bit of extra effort into planning transfers this past week just because we wanted it to run extra smoothly as it was President Maxwell’s first transfer. We were forced to have a huge transfer as we had to come up with 27 trainers.  Regardless of the huge numbers that came in, it actually ran really smoothly which we were grateful for.

The rest of the week we have spent looking over the Zone Conference agenda that will be kicking off next week and exchanges across the mission.  I’m still loving life doing these mini exchanges. I guess another success was that I have converted the Maxwell's to the ‘Tim-Tam slam’!  haha!

I’m looking forward to zone conference, we're going to be training on working with the Ward Mission Leader, which is a super hard and controversial topic. It's black and white in the handbook what the relationship is between the full-time missionaries, the Ward Mission Leader and the Bishop, but in reality, for some of our Ward Mission leaders, the water isn’t getting to the end of the row… it's that fine line between assuring you have a great relationship with the Ward Council and not treading on the Ward Mission Leaders toes.. Good fun!

Elder Bennallack

26 August 2013
We have had zone conferences every day and after the meetings we have had more meetings with President planning our upcoming meetings.
We are half way through zone conferences; we will be finished by the end of this week.  Friday night we stayed overnight in a really nice hotel in Shepparton, which was nice, then this Friday we fly to Devonport for zone conference in Tasmania.

            We have been able to think a lot about where the mission is over the past few weeks. We really wanted to have a big council this week at our Mission Leader Council (MLC) meeting on where the mission is at.  We have talked a lot about the mission’s strengths and weaknesses and how we can capitalise on our strengths and minimise our weaknesses. We have a great vision on where we can see the mission a year from now.    

The strengths of the mission are the quality of the zone leaders we have at the moment, but also obedience.  There has been such a huge swing happen in the mission over the past 7 months.  During the first year of my mission I could easily say that 70-80% of the missionaries in the mission were disobedient. Now I could easily say that 80+% of the missionaries are obedient with the other 20% only struggling on minor things like sleeping in and unapproved music.  Our mission is really obedient at the moment. That has been our huge focus for a long time. We have strategically done a lot of things to promote this change, one of which has been isolating disobedient missionaries in the ‘bush’ areas to minimise their impact on other missionaries and flood other zones with very obedient missionaries. We have trained all of the new missionaries over the past 7 months in these obedient zones. We have had a lot of young missionaries train new missionaries just because they are very obedient.

Because we have had younger missionaries training and what not, we now have a lack of skill in the mission. 70% of our mission is under a year.  We have been doing a lot to build the skill of the mission but something else we are going to do this next transfer is to get every Zone Leader to train. We need to capitalise on our strengths. The Zone Leaders are obedient and have a lot of skill. We are going to have every Zone Leader work in a threesome with a new missionary. There are a few logistics we need to work through, even though we would have a maximum amount of companionships working in the mission it will be so beneficial. We are hoping to do this just for a few transfers with the desired outcome of increasing the skill levels across the mission. These skills will naturally spread as transfers occur over the coming year. We are excited!

Well the dust surrounding my release date is starting to settle. It's locked in that my intake is now going home on the 30th of October… It will be likely that I will be coming home then. President is still deciding if I should extend or go home with the rest of my intake. Although I a more then happy to stay, I don’t feel a need to. I would feel very comfortable accounting to the Lord on the mission I have served. I have worked hard my whole mission, striving to be exactly obedient.  I have not slept in past 6:30am once my whole mission. It has been my goal to be able to say that at the end of my mission. 

I still have a few months left yet though. President is just a little worried to leave the mission in the hands of a young and brand new Assistant while he is in New Zealand for a week for a Mission President Seminar at the start of November. The new assistants will be fine though. There wont be a need for me to third wheel the new assistants for that week, I'll be more than happy to though if that’s what he would like me to do. We'll see, I will keep you posted.

My role as an assistant has changed dramatically with the transition of Mission Presidents. I am spending a lot more time in the office now, my area is really non-existent but that’s ok. There are many things I am learning with the responsibilities I carry at the moment.

 Elder Bennallack

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