Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016

Thanks for the email Mom!  Would you mind passing on a reminder to Rebecca and Nate that their New Years Resolution's were writing me every week, and I only got an email from them at the beginning of the year :).  Also, a little shout out to David Belnap, 23 as of 4 days ago!  It's weird that he's an old man now, I heard about the suit and I told him that I can buy nice, 2 paint suits for less than $40 each.  I haven't gotten new suits because I'm trying to make these ones last as long as possible.  Love that everyone made it up to Ogden to celebrate.  Anyway, I have a lot of funny things that cropped up, so I'm going to share those all real quick, and then some brief thoughts.  

First off, I have a couple pictures attached, and one thing I've come to notice about Russia is that...THE BABIES ARE THE CUTEST THINGS EVER HERE.  They all get dressed up and can't even walk, they just look like big rolly pollys (I have no idea how to spell that).  And since things are so slick here, there are sled strollers that parents push the kids around on.  The kids just sort of lie there immobile while their parents just push them around on these little sleds.  It's too cute, it makes me laugh everytime.  Second, there's a Russian missionary thing we do called, "slamming."  Basically there are these cookies that you can use as straws, and when you suck tea or hot chocolate through them they get all melty on the inside and it tastes super good.  I have a picture attached of me and my companion doing that with some good Stephen's Hot Chocolate.  Third, since we have a lot of hot chocolate, my companion and I have been eating a lot of those cookies.  A little while ago I decided that I needed to cut them out because I was getting really tired throughout the day, and I was so tired in the mornings that I stopped doing real exercises.  I ended up buying a cheap jumprope, and since then I've been sold on jumproping.  It's super easy and gets your heart rate climbing pretty fast.  So basically, I've been trying really hard to cut out excuses to snack/not work out so that I can start making good, healthy habits that will carry me through my life.  Lastly, we got to go on a split in Pskov the other day, and I got to go on a split with my trainer! It was tons of fun, we had such a great time, just talking to literally everyone we passed by, and when there was no one (it was super cold that day) we'd hope inside a store and warm up for 5 minutes as well as catch up on the last couple of months.  That night we had our English Group and it was super funny.  We played hangman, and there were a couple of funny words that popped up, but I didn't get a picture of the funniest, so I'll explain it quickly.  My trainer, Elder Simonsen, chose the word, "Television" but he wrote it like it is in Russian, but in English letters, so "Televisor."  When we had guessed everything except for 3 of the letters we all said, "Are you sure you spelled that right?"  He just looked at it for a second and started laughing, and then we all started laughing, it was super funny.  We were out of it for about 5 minutes before we finally stopped laughing.  Also the next day, one of the other Elders told us a joke that had us laughing for 3.5 minutes straight, caused me to choke on my food and have 2 spit takes while trying to swallow water.  Remind me to tell it to you all when I'm home.

Anyway, that was a lot of the fun stuff that happened this week.  I'll go ahead and share some of the cool spiritual experiences we had this week.  First off, we had two people call US this week instead of the other way around, one of them we met tracting, and the other while buying groceries. We didn't have enough time to get their information so that we could reach them, but they got our information and said they'd call.  Well, they both did, and the really cool thing is, is that the one who was a cashier just quit that job a few days after we met him, and the other moved from the apartment that we met her at, a couple days after we met her!  When we found that out we were in shock, what a tender mercy!  The lady, Юля is currently being taught by the sisters, and Саша is being taught by us!  They're both super cool and happy that they met us, and it's been just an incredible and humbling experience!  We also met with a lady named Валентина the other day, who we have met with one time before.  It was the coolest Restoration lesson we had ever taught, and at the end she accepted an invitation to be baptized (no date yet) and told us that she just felt a warm happy feeling that reminded her of something she felt about 8 years ago.  She said we can come by anytime and teach her.  She also has the sweetest son who is 30, who has some mental problems.  It was just a super spiritually charged and powerful experience.  

Anyway, this week has been a lot of fun!  I've learned a lot about walking the tightrope between being not complacent in our growth and not beating myself up because I'm not perfect today.  I know that the Lord loves us so much and that when we kneel in prayer and ask what's the next step we need to take to become that much more like our Savior Jesus Christ, he'll answer with whatever our next step needs to be.  I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap 
Slamming hot chocolate

Sled stroller

Sketchy Dom

Sketchy Dom


English group

English group

Frost in Pskov

Elders Simonsen and Belnap--reunion in Pskov

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016

What a fun, crazy, crazy, CRAZY week!

First off, I'm proud of Spence for doing the pre-season workouts, I'm so excited to see how everything goes with that.  Also wind CHILL, now noted.  I was having this conversation with my previous companion Elder Simonsen a while ago, just how everyone seems to have some sort of obvious gap in knowledge, that never gets corrected.  For him, it was when you talked about something in the future like saying, "2 Saturdays for now."  His parents are deaf, and he speaks sign language, and apparently in sign you just say whatever date it will be.  Anyway, it always confused him whenever I would say that.  THe point is, that I guess I just found another one of my gaps :).  Jealous of the skiing, glad you enjoyed it though!  Also, thanks for the verses, those ones are a good reminder as always.  Anyway, this is going to be a relatively short letter, I'm already running out of time!

Funnies from this week were abundant.  We had a couple visits at a home where there is this awesome man named Yora.  His home is basically a place where any despondent individuals can come crash for a night, so it was no surprise that he let us in and wanted to talk to us.  There was one guy with him who was just completely GONE.  Like when we told him we don't drink alcohol he started listing off different types of alcohol brands and asking us if we drank them.  It was too funny.  Then when we were offered some black tea (we turned him down of course, but we always bring herbal tea with us just in case), the man answered loudly saying, "All I drink is vodka!"  At one point he arm wrestled me, and then stood up yelling at us about America and all that.  We were trying to get him to leave the room for a while, because there was no way we would be able to teach anything with him there, as funny as he was.  He finally left and at the end we had a little lesson with Yora.  Nothing has happened with him yet, but we have faith that it will.  At the end, the man came up to us and said "the most important thing, is pride of country," and proceeded to give us a big hug.  It was the funniest.  We also had another meeting where this grandma fed us blini and all this stuff.  We weren't expecting it at all, and we were kind of concerned that we wouldn't be able to teach anything.  It turned out that we were able to, and it was a really really cool lesson.  Probably won't talk about it this week, but next if I get to it.  Anyway, her husband is going senile, and he just loved us so much, and would stand up at random points and scream something, like, "Look at this picture of my grandson!" and then sit back down.  Anyway, my companion was sitting next to him the whole lesson, and this man was ripping some old man gas the whole time, and Elder Crookshank was trying to keep a straight face while his eyes were smarting.  It was too funny.  

Anyway, this next part is going to be a little deep.  This week had a bit of the same issues as last week.  I just found that I would go up and down, and up and down, until Friday I hit a low point.  I just wanted to be anywhere but Novgorod, anywhere but Russia.  For about 6 hours I was just another ребят (guy) walking on the street not wanting to do anything.  I called my Mission President that night and just told him some of my concerns.  He listened patiently, and quietly.  My biggest concern was, "if God really cares about finding his children who are ready to listen, then why does he want it to be so hard to find them?  At the end of the day what makes me different from any other missionary of any other church?"  When he responded he told me powerfully, and with conviction that what makes us different is the Holy Ghost that can testify to people and help them know that our message contains the full truth.  That's the difference, we don't claim anything of ourselves, we're not here to convince people to believe anything.  We're here to show them where the fullness of Christ's gospel is, and give them a strong enough nudge to be bold enough to test the waters themselves.  And when that sunk in, it just felt so good.  I know there are a lot of people who get this email who aren't members of our church, who are probably thinking, "who's this indoctrinated version of Christopher Belnap?  The fun, smiling, occassionally inappropriate kid I knew?"  I'm still that same fun and smiling Christopher Belnap, but for the first time I really know what it means to say I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When anyone used to ask me, "why don't you drink?  why don't you do this/why don't you do that?"  My answer used to always be, "well, it's because I'm a Mormon."  It was a kind of an easy way out, not having to answer the question, while also answering the question.  Now, I can say it's because that I believe that there are commandments from God that helps us live happier and more fulfilling lives, that we just can't do under certain influences, or when we are in certain circumstances.  I know that this got kinda deep and all that fun stuff, but I just felt like I had to set the record straight on why we do the things we do.  I wasn't always the best example of following what I claimed to believe, I actually was almost never a GOOD example of what we believed, and again, I just feel like I wanted to fix that a little bit.  Anyway, I think a good way to close up is just with a talk that I love.  Just because I'm different and have different beliefs/views doesn't mean that I don't love each and every one of my friends.  Aaron put it best one time when he told me that he told his friends up in Vermont when I came to visit him, "Christopher won't judge you, he loves everybody, he just asks that people love him too" or something to that effect. Anyway, sorry for the really long kind of rambling thought.  I hope something from it makes sense!  Also sorry that this letter wasn't really to you today mom, I'll do better next week, I got kinda sidetracked by other thoughts on my mind today :).  Here's the talk I mentioned:

Love you all so much!

Elder Belnap

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks for the wonderful thoughts mom!  I'm going to take a picture and try to implement that matrix as well!  Even on a mission when you really do have one focus, more so than at any other point in life, sometimes you get distracted by other things that jump in your face and they just feel like the most important thing for you to do right then and there. Also, thanks for all the pictures!  Nathan was too cute in those, Spencer looks like a MAN (seriously, anyone who gets this email with a 16 year old sister, there's a tan, 6'4", little David Belnap out there right now).  Hope Spencer reads this and blushes a little bit haha.  Anyway, couldn't help but feeling a little jealous seeing the shorts and t-shirts out in the warm weather.  It's been about -10 these last couple days, about -20 with the wind shield.  In other words, REALLY REALLY COLD.  I've found myself thinking these last couple of days, "why did I have to lose all my weight BEFORE the winter.  That would have been some really nice insulation right about now."  I've been wearing my sweats underneath my slacks too, and it's been funny to notice that only when I wear sweats under my slacks does my suit now fit me.  

Anyway, just a couple of stories to report!  First off, with all the ice, I've managed to fall a lot this last couple of weeks!  It's been pretty hard on my knee, so I've busted out my knee brace to try and keep it all safe which has helped a lot.  There was one really funny time however, when we were stuck in an elevator, and we tried opening it with our hands (the elevators here are super sketchy) and we managed to do so.  Anyway, on my way out the elevator sunk a little bit, so I tripped on my way out and completely ate it.  From what my companion told me I looked like Squidward from the "He's too beautiful!" episode of Spongebob.  Basically just flailing with my arms out in the air with a pretty stupid expression on my face.  It hurt my pride a little bit.  Also, we've been inside homes a lot as of late, just ringing doorbells to try and stay off the streets.  And it'll never cease to surprise me how comfortable Russians are with opening their doors, bellies hanging out, just in their boxers, and on the rare occassion, full on naked.  I haven't encountered that yet, but a lot of missionaries have.  Anyway, it's been fun trying to testify with a straight face to basically naked Russians in their doorways.  

Ok, on to some more spiritual thoughts!  This week I had a bit of a breakdown.  I was just thinking about how I always have to have a goal as a missionary, and when is the next time I'm going to be able to just go for a walk, just to talk a walk, be alone with my thoughts and relax.  When's the next time that me taking a little bit of time off to just relax and be alone with my thoughts be something I can do without feeling guilty that I'm not doing the work that I've willingly and voluntarily signed up for.  Anyway, I was to the point of tears, and my companion said, "You know what?  Let's gor for a walk!  20 minutes, no talking, just bring yourself together and we'll move on!" I really appreciated that time, and the sensitivity of Elder Crookshank to do that in that situation.  It was really helpful and right after, we listened to one of my favorite talks, "Come What May, And Love it" by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.  I invite you all to listen to that talk (members of our faith andthose who aren't) because it's such wise counsel from a wonderful man, on how we should accept whatever circumstances in which we might find ourselves, and love them.  

I love you all so much.  I love the Russian people, and I'm so incredibly grateful to be here, share my beliefs with people and try to help them feel the same peace that I do.


Elder Belnap

I got all the pictures this week fine, last week I only got one or two, so don't worry about sending them individually!

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 4, 2016

I remember reading the С Новым Годом signs all over the place in Moscow and thinking "Wow, I actually know what that means!"  Our New Year was nothing special, we had to stay inside for basically the whole day, we managed to make it outside for about an hour.  We CLEANED our apartment at night though, honestly I don't think I've ever wanted to clean as bad as I did that night, for some reason the idea of having a completely clean apartment for the New Year was super appealing.  So my companion and I spent 4 hours doing everything we could.  And the place looks amazing right now!  It was super satisfying, not my most fun New Years, but definitely my most satisfying when I woke up the next morning.  We also bought a lot of goodies and just enjoyed munching for a lot of the night.  We made a goal to finish off all our goodies that night, so that we could start the new year with no goodies in the house.  Felt kinda sick by the end of it (we had a lot of goodies from Christmas) but we managed.  This week has been pretty COLD.  Oh my goodness, I never thought I'd be able to breathe in through my nose and have my nose stop running because everything just freezes, but I did it!  It's been below 0 without the windshield, with the windshield I don't want to know what it's been.  But, I can't complain because I have a lot of layers on!  We've been tracting a lot just because it is so cold on the street, which is a lot of fun!  We have a new investigator named Pavel who we met the other day, taught him a lesson, and gave him a Book of Mormon who we met the other day.  We're going by for our 2nd meeting tonight!  Super excited!  Also, we met with a lady named Ekaterina (makes me think of our science teacher at Lower Lab School whenever I hear that name), who we met with.  She just really wanted to talk and serve us food (couldn't really complain) and she let us share our message, and she's really taken a liking to us.  Calls us her grandkids, and is really impressed with our desire to be here in Russia.  She felt the Spirit pretty strongly when we talked about why we're here and why we aren't upset that we only talk to our families once a week by email and twice a year by skype (she was incredulous when she found that out).  

Anyway, we're just spending a lot of time trying to find and help people wherever we go!  Also our mission president was here on Sunday and it was tons of fun!  President Childs is a wonderful man, and I wish I could pick his brain for days at a time (he served in Hamburg by the way).  Anyway, I just want to share with you all my thoughts about goals for the new year!  So this is the first time I've taken a lot of time to consider goals in my life.  I decided to take a different approach then I have in the past.  I'm actually still working on setting my goals.  But I started with a list of paper that said "What I was This Last Year" and wrote down EVERYTHING-both good and bad traits/characteristics/attributes.  Then I sat down and wrote down "What I Want To Become This Year" and sat down and listed everything that came to mind.  Now I'm in the process of making concrete plans to reach those things.  Anyway, just even to this point in the process, I realize just how much goals can help us stretch, and evaluate what we really want to become.  I've realized some things that I want to do, that I never realized I wanted to do, while doing this process, and I'm so grateful for that.  I'm a little more aware of who I want to become, and a little more sure of what steps I need to do to get there.  As Elder Russell M. Ballard says, "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."   
I'm starting to learn the truthfulness of that statement.  I hope you all take the time to set and make goals that will help you become a different, and better person by the time 2017 rolls around.  I love you all, hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Christopher as Дед Мороз at Veliky Novgorod branch Christmas party.