Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,
I hope you all had just the best week!  This week was just so wonderful!  We were blessed to have a meal with our mission president and his wife on Thanksgiving because we had a Mission Leadership Council that day.  It was a big old meal with stuffing, pumpkin pie, turkey, you name it!  It was so good!  We also had a meal with our Senior Couple in the ward too which was so much fun.  When we were at our Mission President's home we all went around the table and shared 2 things that we were grateful for.  The first two things that came to my mind were first that I was so grateful for this opportunity to be on a mission and learn how to become more humble, and number 2 was just all the family traditions that came back to my mind just sitting around the table having a big Thanksgiving feast.  Thank you mom and dad for having those traditions for us growing up, it just sent a flood of nice warm memories coming my way, and it just felt so good and happy.  Also I have to side with everyone else on the tree debate, sorry Mom. 
Anyway, I don't have too much to report from this week, just a couple of fun stories and a couple of spiritual ones.  Well really just one funny story.  So this week I started talking to this guy on the tram, our main mode of transportation, and he told me to show him his documents because he was a policeman.  It happens all the time, but very rarely are they the police, so you just say, "first prove to me that you're a police officer."  His response was that in Russia, "we're all the police."  I told him that wasn't a good enough answer and until he showed me his identification, I wasn't going to show anything to him.  It was just a really funny back and forth for about 5 minutes, until he finally got to his stop and just left.  Made me laugh, and made the little tramvai conductor lady next to me laugh which made for a nice little conversation between us.
Anyway, this last Sunday was awesome!  We also have 2 investigators, woohoo!  It's been so nice to actually teach someone what we believe, and just a lot of fun.  They're both really cool, and I'll keep you posted.  Also this Sunday, we had 3 less active families come to church which was awesome.  One of them we taught a lesson to recently, and invited them to prepare to go through the temple as a family, and they have officially come to church 3 weeks in a row which has been awesome!  They're more set now than they have ever been before to make it to the temple which has been so exciting to see.  I also got to go on splits with the Assisstants a couple weeks ago (don't think I mentioned it in last weeks letter) and it was just so much fun.  I'm blessed to be surrounded by amazing examples :).  Also, I read Elder Uchtdorf's "Grateful in ANy Circumstances" talk this week and it was awesome.  Last but not least, this Sunday was the first day really in my whole life, where the blessing of the sacrament just meant so much to me.  I got to renew the week and it felt incredibly amazing.  I was strengthened by the talks of the wonderful people of the church here in Russia.  They're incredible, and I've just been so blessed by my association with people that are better than me in this wonderful country.  Anyway, I really don't have that much more to add.  Love you all so very much and know that you're in my prayers!  Have a great week!

Elder Belnap

PS Mom: I had a kindof embarassing moment this garments are now gray!  It was my fault and I feel stupid, but I just threw everything into the wash at once, oops lesson learned.  They're not actually gray, just no longer super white haha.  ANyway, I just wanted to ask about the likelihood of being able to get new ones, please let me know next week and I'll send you my new measurements.  Also, would it be at all possible to send a package home?  I know elders do that sometimes with things that just take up space right now, but they really want at home.  Also, can you remind me the exact dates of Grandma and Grandpa's b-days, Matt Goff's, and Ryan (bro-in-law)?  I just want to make sure I can send them an email at the time of their bdays.  Anyway, I love you mom, thanks for all you do!

Elder Simonsen and I building and after building a pyramid of cans with just a noodle (a fun MLC activity) first visa trip to Estonia, Thanskgiving meal.  Love you have a great week!

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

Oh my goodness, where to begin.  Yeah, we're very safe with food preparation, it literally was just the mushrooms that got to me mom.  I'm fine I promise.  Ouch, let Uncle Doug and Rebecca know I'm praying for them.  As well as Grandma and Grandpa too :).  That's too funny about Nathan wanting some tap dance shoes.  When Aaron and I were younger, we wanted to buy tap dance shoes so that we could add a little more flair to our dance for America from West Side Story.  They had a board at the Shavitz's that we would use, but we both wanted to actually get tap dance shoes to try it out.  Even without them though, we had a pretty killer dance down to America, the finale was us running down the hallway, and then linking arms and spinning around in circles.  The first couple times we fell because I was so much heavier and we didn't have the balance right.  I haven't thought about that in forever, I'm just all smiles right now from thinking about it :).  Also that's too funny about Singin' in the Rain, I can't believe Ryan hadn't seen it.  I sing something from that movie at least once a week.  Also, I'm printing out Elder Uchtdorf's talk right now/downloading it on to our flashdrive so we can listen to it in the apartment.  Ugh, I love the letter mom, keep filling me in on those sorts of things, I love hearing about them.  Anyway, I'll go ahead and get started on how things are going here. 
This week has just been HARD.  I don't know how else to put it, appointments falling through, and I'm two transfers into my stay here in Nevsky and we've only had one investigator during this whole time.  We've been working hard to find people who are interested in knowing more, but it's starting to get cold and snow (I've been plenty warm though) and people just are giving us less time of day than they have before.  It's led to a lot of moments throughout the day of praying and asking, "What Lack I Yet?" like Elder Lawrence said in his talk this last Conference.  Sometimes, I don't like the answer, and I don't act, and then when I get the same answer the next time I ask I still don't act, and it's just been a very humbling process.  I'm really trying to do all that I can to serve these people and love them, and be ready to help teach them the message that I came here to share.  When I finally act and try to change something, I don't always immediately see results, but I'm just trying to keep moving forward in faith, and trusting in the fact that God has a plan personally tailored to me.  Even when I don't like a part of that plan, I'm still only ever aware of the smallest part, and I'm just trying to learn that he knows far better than me.  It's-as I've already said-been a very humbling experience to say the least.
This week we did service on a Dacha for a member of our ward all day.  It was tons of fun and I got to work with this guy who thought I was an American spy, and refused to tell me his real name.  I don't know what it is, but my one year in Ogden, there was a rumor about me being an undercover cop, even though I looked like the biggest (and fattest) teddy bear the world had ever seen that year.  People just get the wrong impression.  It was just tons of fun and a really Russian experience.  We also met this super cool guy on the street who plays basketball, and I had a little too much fun talking basketball with him (in Russian!).  He's about David's height and was telling me "You're from NYC, why the heck did you come here?!?"  It was a lot of fun.  Anyway, I'll just share a quick scripture and then I need to sign off, also no pictures this week sorry!  Anyway, I was reading in the Book of Mormon and I was really struck by Jarom 1:2.  He basically says that the prophets before him have already revealed the Plan of Salvation to us, and that what more would he need to add than to that what we've already received.  I immediately thought of all the cool talks and wisdom that Jarom probably gave while he was alive, and yet when it came to adding something to the scriptures that we would have in our day, the fact that we have already received knowledge about the Plan of Salvation was enough to him.  Anyway, just talk a moment to appreciate the docttrine of the Plan of Salvation, and the comfort that that gives us that there is life after death, and that we can live with those we love the most for the rest of eternity :).  Love you all so very much, and you're all in my prayers!  Have a great week!
Elder Belnap

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 16, 2015

Your right mom, another week passed by and I honestly can't believe it!  My time in Nevsky could be coming to a close soon, and it makes me sad, because things are finally starting to happen here!  I think as Elder Simonsen and I have started to work a lot harder that there have been substantial differences in our contacting with people on the streets, not only in terms of how many people we talkt to, but the quality of the conversations with these people.  Anyway, before I get started on my week, I'll just give a little commentary on your email.  First, that's tons of fun that you had Grandpa and Sharon up for dinner, I'm glad things went well and I was laughing pretty hard at Nathan's comment, what a little stinker.  He's got a sharp wit, he and Caroline probably the most of us 6 in my opinion.  That's too funny about Spencer with braces, how long will it take do you know?  Yeah, tell him it's not too bad and that if you can have confidence with braces, then there's nothing that can stop you.  Haha, when I got my braces off Freshman year one of my friends posted in the BYU class of 2018 page on FaceBook about how I got my braces off and it got a whole bunch of likes and one person randomly on campus even asked me if I was the kid from the post.  I was just thinking about that and laughing and thought why not share.  Anyway, that's too funny about Alex Angus, I love that too much.  I can't believe you haven't seen her in that long, she and I hung out every now and again Freshman year.  Anyway, don't apologize too much about a not too very interesting email, because I don't have too much to share either!  Because...
I was on the toilet again this week!  One night we went out contacting, and I wasn't feeling too well and Elder Simonsen asked me if we should just go home.  Right as I was about to answer "No, I'm fine" my stomach shifted really loudly and I changed my answer to "I think you just heard the answer."  Anyway, we waited super long for public transportation that wouldn't come and ended up taking the metro.  Elder Simonsen said I was sweating with concentration trying to keep it all in.  Waddled from the metro home, and barely made it in time.  The closest that I have ever been to pooping my pants.  Sorry if that's too much detail, but it was pretty funny.  Elder Simonsen couldn't help but laughing the whole time because I was just focusing so hard on not having to get a new suit for reasons other than dropping weight.  Anyway, we had to stay inside a couple of days because of that, but it's nothing compared to last time. 
Other than that we had interviews with President Childs this week which went really well.  It really helped me step up my contacting people on the street.  We actually had a really cool experience just last night.  We had just a lot of fun stopping and talking to people, and we met all sorts of cool people.  Anyway, we were about home and a guy comes walking by.  Elder Simonsen was already getting out the keys but I just go behind him and start talking to the man.  We had set a goal of getting one referral that night  (which almost never happens) and 4 lessons (we had only taught 2 up to that point).  Anyway, the man stopped, was interested in the English Group and almost passed on his wife's information.  We didn't get the referral we had stretched for, and we didn't have the opportunity to teach one more lesson, but we kept stretching.  I've learned a lot that goals aren't always set just for you to reach them, but so that you have to stretch for them.  We really tried to stretch for our goals and even though we didn't reach them, we talked with more people than usual and had far more quality conversations than usual because we were really trying to stretch ourselves.  I know that as we stretch ourselves that the Lord acknowledges that and helps us.  He wants us to grow and be better people than we are now in all aspects of life.  As we truly strive to be better than we are today and stretch for that, his hand is more easily apparent in our lives.  Anyway, I love all of you so very much and I hope you just have the best week!  I love you allso much and you are in my prayers as well!
Elder Belnap
CAB in Novgorod earlier in November

CAB in Novgorod

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,
Wow, the one year I'm gone and now you decide to go on a trip for the Holidays?  If I didn't know any better, I would think you just didn't want me around.  Just kidding, sounds like a lot of fun, although I'm sad I'm missing out on it.  Is it just me or do you seem to do more fun things in Utah this time around as opposed to last time?  Maybe I was just on my phone the whole time and missed it all when I lived there (now that I think about it I've answered my own question :) ).  That's fun cleaning through Grandma and Grandpa's basement, I've always known there were treasures down there but it's just been a matter of finding them.  Send Matt my love, and let him know he's in my prayers!  I hope they find out what's the issue soon and he's able to go on back, and even if he's not, he's been a really stellar example of enduring your trials and enduring them well throughout this whole process.  It's cool to see how we've both changed :).  Anyway, I feel really bad because I don't have a lot to report this week!  Just some fun pictures I'll send your way in a few minutes.  Basically this week has just been a lot of contacting and trying to hold one another accountable for talking with more people when we're on the streets-what's the point in trying to find people who are interested if we're not talking to as many people as we can!-Anyway, sometimes it's easy to get down on yourself when there's not a lot of success, and we've found that just having fun with each other on the street makes it so much easier.  The other night we met this awesome man, and Elder Simonsen and I were in the middle of a conversation, but we broke it off to talk with this man, and as soon as the conversation was over we picked up right where we left off until the next person came by.  That person cursed us out for being Americans, but hey we were just still glowing from the wonderful conversation we just had.  We also had a lot of fun with the members of the ward this week.  I think everyone on this email lists knows that I like to talk and I like to joke around, well I'm proud to report that although I still can't talk in Russian, I can joke!  Which might just be the most important thing for building a solid relationship with these members!  My area has a bit of a reputation for being hard, and so a lot of Elders who have come here before hand have just done there time until they got sent somewhere else, and so the members didn't have the best opinions of the Elders.  We've been trying really hard to change that reputation, and little by little it's been happening.  We also ran into one of our potential investigators who hadn't called us back while out contacting which was just a miracle and a lot of fun!  He was pretty shocked just running into us, but I think it might have been just the push he needed. 
Other than that I'll just close with a spiritual thought.  I was reading in the Book of Mormon today and I was reading in 2nd Nephi 25.  Anyway, it just strikes me how much the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ.  So many people call us a sect and that we're not Christians here and we whip out the Book of Mormon and show them the name of Christ on the cover.  And now I'm going to start opening to that page in the Book of Mormon because the name of Christ is invoked 4 times in that verse, and 13 times (I think ) on that page overall.  We are Christians because we believe in Christ, and we try to follow his example in our lives.  Anyway, that was something that just hit me kindof strongly today, I love you all and I hope you have a great week!  You're all in my prayers!
Elder Belnap
Nimbus 2000 in Novgorod

I'm breaking free


CAB's run in with the tree in Novgorod

Novgorod Kremlin

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015

Well, I do have time this week to send out a quick email!  And hopefully a couple pictures as well, but probably not!  We spent our P-day here in Novgorod, and it was so much fun!  We're starting our splits in a couple of hours, but we made it to the Kremlin, and out to this Wooden Village.  Elder Simonsen and I had a great time there, and we got some cool pictures of us jumping in the air with a brromstick that looked like a Nimbus 2000 (not really though, probably more similar to the brooms Fred and George would ride).  We also just had a great week, gave a blessing to a member, watched a regional broadcast which was just SO GOOD.  And I got to watch it in English too so I can actually say that it was so good!  We totally forgot it was Halloween until we stopped by a Less-Active Member's home and she wished us a Happy Halloween on our way out the door!  Oh well, it wouldn't have changed the plan for the night anyways.  I'll just share one really cool experience from this week and then I'll have to dip!  Also no pictures this week, but I have a lot of good ones for next!  Anyway, Elder Simonsen and I have been having our companionship unity issues for the last couple of weeks (sounding like an old married couple, which I guess we kinda are at this point) and we had Weekly Planning this last Saturday (had to move it around for Zone Training and MLC).  Anyway, we had just a lot of really good conversations and tried really hard to find out what the center of our issues were.  I got to close with a prayer, and usually we pray in Russian, but after saying the first couple of words in Russian, I just felt like I had to pray in English.  And it was awesome, easily the most powerful I've felt the Spirit while giving a prayer.  I know that the Lord is just waiting for a lot of us to really learn how to communicate and truly rely on him.  Praying in English was the best thing that could have happened because I was more able to accurately express the feelings I felt in my heart.  It was honestly just incredible.  We got on the streets that night and had what was easily our best contacting night, and we did the same yesterday, and we're planning on doing the same.  We've already found an awesome potential in that time who we're planning on reaching tonight.  Anyway, I love you all, and I love the opportunity I have to be here!  I hope you have a great week, and give dad a big hug and kiss from me for his birthday in just a couple days!  Glad you had a lot of fun, and I love the pictures of Nate and Rebecca by the way!  Anyway, have a great week, sorry I couldn't include more!  I'll say it again, love you tons!


Elder Belnap

P.S.  Send Matt my love and support please, he's such a trooper :).