Monday, September 7, 2015

Septmeber 7, 2015

Dear Family, 

Wow what and absolute whirlwind of a week!  I just want to say that it was so much fun talking with so many on the phone the other day!  It was a little overwhelming after having such a small amount of contact for such a long time and then just a huge wave of calling people, but it was 100% worth it!  Plus it was so much fun to see Dad at the airport and just talk for a little bit.  There seriously couldn't have been anything more awesome than that moment, but just talking to everyone else just added to the joy of that moment.  So you already got my email about being stuck in Germany for a few extra hours, but as I said it actually worked out for the best.  When we got in, we went with either one of the AP's or one of the Office Elders and took the metro to the mission office which is right next to the mission home, and we got to have our first experience contacting on the way over there which was so much fun.  After that we had some food, and they let us go right to sleep.  The next morning we woke up and had breakfast at the mission home, and we got to meet our companions there!  My companion is Elder Simonsen, and he's been out for a year.  We're in Nevsky which is the South-Eastern part of the city.  Also, we're Zone Leaders, which has been a little crazy right out of the gate, but it also means I'm kind of spoiled, because I get to go to Novgorod for 2 days this upcoming week to help with a Zone Training.  It's kinda awesome.  The area we're in is as I said, kinda ghetto, but so awesome.  Our apartment is really nice and right next to the church building, the library from which I am writing this email right now, grocery store, the tram that takes us into the center, the metro, you name it! 
The people in the ward here are super awesome and just so much fun!  The ward is mostly бабушкы, but they're all adorable.  The ward does have a lot of issues though, about 20% of the members show up, the bishop hasn't even shown up in 6 weeks, there hasn't been anyone who's converted since 2013, and for a ward they are a little too reliant on the missionaries to do work that is supposed to be done by members of ward to begin with.  It's been a lot of fun, and Elder Simonsen are just off to a really good start right off the bat.  He's from Orem, has been out for a year, and we're both just ready to work and do our part to help the people in this area grow closer to Christ, as well as helping the organization of the church here.  We've had a couple instances of getting yelled at thus far, but nothing more than that.  All though a couple of Jehovah Witness ladies stopped us and tried to convert us right then and there.  It was pretty funny.  Anyway, one funny experience I had this week was after being asked to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting, I sat back down for the rest of the meeting.  A few of the members of the ward complimented me on how good my Russian is, but it's all thanks to the wonderful teachers I had in the MTC, not the actual year I had spent living in the country.  My companion says he has me pegged to be one of the best Russian speakers in the mission by the end, but I don't know, my guess would have to be Elder Mehr, the most random words just stick in his head.  Anyway, not important, no matter what we've all got our work cut out for us in terms of learning the language :).  Anyway this one babyshka Sister Diana was teasing me at the end and telling me to not fall asleep because I had fallen asleep when we first met here at the church building my second day here, and I told here I wasn't falling asleep I just had a slight headache so I was closing my eyes and rubbing my head.  As soon as I said this she sat me down and just started going through exactly what I needed to do to get rid of my headache, but in mostly rapid Russian that I couldn't understand, but I was able to understand all the hand signals she made to try and demonstrate to me exactly what I needed to do.  She wanted me to press on my eyebrow a little bit, then breathe in deep and exhale 3 times and then pinch between my forefinger and thumb.  It was just so funny and she probably spent 5 or so minutes just explaining this to me.  She's the sweetest old lady, I love her so much. 
The work here is pretty slow, but we've already started to pick it up a little bit.  We taught one lesson on a tramvi to a lady named Tatianya and gave her a Book of Mormon.  We're hoping to meet with her sometime tomorrow, but she was just so awesome and receptive to what we had to say.  It was so awesome.
Anyway I'm going to get started on sending pictures your way!  I love you so much family and friends, you're the absolute best.  I'll keep Grandma and Grandpa in my prayers, I too marvel at what they are still capable of doing.  It was so much fun talking to many of you, and I'm excited to be here finally!

Love you mom, dad, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.
покой, любовь, и благословления,

Elder Belnap
P.S.  I have a lot of people that I need to add to my email list, so I'll send you an email with all those as well :).  Thanks!
At the airport -- SLC?

New missionaries In St. Petersburg with companions

Our Apartment
Our Apartment

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