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

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