Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015

Well first I'll start by saying thank you to EVERYONE for the wonderful emails.  I'm trying to respond to all of them, but I can only get so much done in the hour and a half that we have.  I'm really just feeling so loved right now and I'm so grateful to all of you for the examples that you all are to me.  I've been thinking about the wonderful association I have been able to have with so many wonderful people all over the years (all 19 of #old) a lot over the last couple days and I'm just feeling so blessed.  I love you all so very much.  Thank you very much for the birthday wishes and love I'm feeling right now!  Also, thanks mom for all these wonderful stories and loving thoughts from the family.  I cried at the story you shared of Grandpa, they're both so incredible and wonderful examples to me.  I have A LOT of stories from this week, so I'll try and get through them with a satisfactory amount of detail. 
First off:  I talked to someone on the street the other day, and he was so confused about a minute into the conversation and he said "'re not Russian."  And I was like, "No, was it not obvious when I started talking with you?"  And he said, "No, I thought you were Russian."  So TAKE THAT MISS OLGA (for those of you who don't know, she was the piano teacher for my little siblings in Moscow, and looking at our family pictures, she claimed that I look "Very American" (#andproud)).  It was really funny because right after that I undid my scarf and showed him my tie and said "And now?"  And he just laughed and said, "I didn't see the tie, if I had seen that I would've known you weren't Russian from the beginning!"  It was really funny and it was a really fun and good conversation with a cool person.  Said he's interested in knowing more about our message, but unfortunately I won't be around for that because...
I'M GOING TO NOVGOROD!!  We got transfer calls this week, and I'm out of Nevsky!  I'm really sad but also really excited.  I've gotten to go to Novgorod a few times already and it's a super cool and nice area.  I'm sorta scared though, because I'm with a companion just one transfer (6 weeks) out of training and I'm just out of training.  So we're both kinda fish out of water, but it'll be really good for our Russian, and although I'm pretty terrified, I'm also pretty excited.  In answer to your question about how much I understand, that depends on the conversation we're having and who's talking to me.  There have been conversations where I've understood every word, others where I missed a word which was the focus of what the person was talking about and therefore don't understand, and others where what they're talking about is above my paygrade (like telling us that we have to replace the lock in the church door).  My companion explained that last one to me, because that was too much for me.  Anyway, I'm really excited to go to Novgorod!
My birthday was a lot of fun!  The Sisters in our district brought me cake, the Senior Couple assigned to help our ward gave me a present, my Mission President and his wife gave me a call, and we had to stay at the mission home with a whole bunch of Elders that night because my companion had a visa trip the next day.  So I just brought the cake, some ice cream that I had bought beforehand and we celebrated together.  And yes I remembered to take a couple of pictures.  Also my companion made a delicious meal for me (chicken parmesan yumm).  It was just so nice, PLUS it was fast Sunday.  I just got to feel the love from so many people, and I've just been listening to Christmas music too, which has just helped me feel more and more the love that Jesus Christ has for everyone, and also for me personally. 
We also got to go to a really posh event this week.  We volunteer at the Hermitage every couple of weeks for a couple of hours (all in-city missionaries) and they had an event thanking their volunteers and our Mission President wanted us all to come.  We all went to it, and they took us on a tour through their extra storage facility.  We saw a lot of paintings and sculptures that aren't on the internet or anything like that and it was just tons of fun!  Felt like a tourist for the first time in a while :).  We ate in this dining hall with live music playing and it was just so funny and weird.  It felt a lot more comfortable to be on the streets in the cold talking with people than in that sort of setting :).
Anyway, I'm going to wrap things up!  Just wanted to share a scripture that I read this week! This is Alma 7:10-13 (in the Book of Mormon for those of you who would otherwise have no idea what I'm talking about).

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
 11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
 13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
I love these verses so much!  I know that Jesus Christ loves all of us, and I wouldn't give up the wonderful opportunity I have to be here in St. Petersburg with the wonderful Russian people sharing that.  A knowledge of him lifts my spirit more than I can explain, it just makes me feel so warm and happy :).  I love this wonderful opportunity I have to be here, and I love all of you!  Have a great week, and if I wasn't able to get to you this week, I'll try to next week!  Sorry for the long email, love you all!
С любовью,

Старейшина Бэлнап


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