Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016

Thanks mom for the email, a lot of info jammed into it - I love it!  It's funny every year on the 29th of February I think of Emily Maluff, I haven't seen her since who knows how long, but she was the only person I knew for the longest time that had a birthday on Leap Day.  When I realized that today was Leap Day, she was the first person that popped into my mind, it just makes me laugh how the mind works that way.  Rebecca sent me an email about the basketball game, and I'm so proud of her! That's really cool that her coach gave you a call too, in order to let you know how she's improving so much.  She's going to be super good in any overseas school :).  I was also thinking about the beach house the other day too!  Miss that place tons, hope one day in the future I'll be able to go back and visit, we'll see what happens.  Anyway, not too much time, and a lot of funny stories!

So one of the pictures that is going to be attached, I'll just explain now.  So basically, when we need to go to St. Petersburg, we usually come back in on the train, which gets in at about midnight.  I had a super hard time the first 5 months of my mission just getting up and moving at 6:30, after having a full 8 hours of sleep, along with not napping during the day.  Even in the MTC I took about 4-5 naps a day (ask any of my teachers/companions at the MTC).  Anyway, we try to do workouts and everything in the morning, and while my companion can do it, I just can't.  Anyway, the last time this happened, I ended up going out to our living room, picking up the 5 kg plate that we have, grabbing a pillow, laying it on my chest and going back to sleep.  Elder Crookshank just said he came out of the bathroom and started cracking up and just took a whole bunch of pictures of it. Anyway, just a fun little story from this week.  Also, finally, about 3 weeks laterthe плов is all gone!  I couldn't eat the last of it, I had grown sick of it by the end, but hey it saved us a lot of money.  Also, we got permission to go the gym from our Mission President, and so today was the first day in about 8 or 9 months that I've gone to a gym!  I was feeling so squishy after losing weight and muscle, and anyway it felt so good!  I was sad to see that I felt like I had just started working out over again, but by the end I had warmed up a bit.  Anyway, it was probably my favorite P-Day activity yet.  

In other news, since our branch is really small, we have a lot of responsibilities in the branch, even if we don't have callings for it.  Anyway, our latest and most fun of these responsibilities is....3rd hour Primary Teachers!  So, we just went to a 3rd hour this last week, and the 3rd hour for the next several weeks will be a temple prep class, which basically everyone in our branch needs.  So we don't know if Elders will be the primary teachers for another couple months, or for quite a while.  We probably won't be here to find out.  Anyway, our mission president and everything approved it, and we had our first primary lesson yesterday.  It was tons of fun, little kids are the best.  One of them at the end showed me her picture that she had drawn, and I was honored to be included in a drawing of her and her family!  It was pretty funny.  Anyway, we're having a lot of fun with it, can't complain with the new "calling"!

This week had ups and downs just like any other week, but I'm happy to say it ended on a positive note.  Elder Crookshank and I have had a hard time these last couple weeks just talking with people.  Anyway, last night we had a meeting with an investigator that just left a sour feeling in our mouth, we basically had taken up a whole hour with him, and didn't manage to even get started on anything resembling a lesson.  We went out on the streets right after that, and sort of had an unspoken agreement that we were just going to talk to everyone we could, buses, on the streets you name it.  Anyway, it turned into a wonderful night, we might some wonderful people and just had some of the most sincere and awesome conversations of my mission.  I felt my love for the Russian people grow last night in a significant way, and I'm excited to see how much more my love will grow for them over the next 16 months.  Also I've started reading Our Search for Happiness during meals and I would suggest it for anyone getting these emails who isn't a member of our church, and wants to have a better idea about who Mormons are, and what sort of thing would drive us to sacrifice 2 years of our life to serve on missions.  

I love you all so much!


Elder Belnap 

Just some miscellaneous things, that don't need to be included in the big letter.  Have you managed to get those emails added to my list?  Also, would you mind sending me a picture of Grandma Belnap, Uncle Steve, and one of Grandpa Belnap too?  I realized that I don't have any pictures of them in my album and that I would love to if at all possible.  Also, I'm not expecting a package anytime soon (except for the garments of course).  I'm just curious though if I sent you a list of random things I've thought of over the last couple months that would be nice to have, would you lost track of the list, or would you rather I send it now?  Also, the camera, I'm looking into getting it taken care of, and if not, I'll let you know.  For now, my companion has his camera, and we're always together, so he sends me any pictures that are needed for me to send.

Love you, I'll get started on that big old letter!

Elder Belnap

Christopher in St. Petersburg

Post Visa trip early morning work out

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 22, 2016*

Dear family, (and friends)

No worries mom, it's probably going to be a short letter on my end too!  I'm glad that the celebrating at least happened!  Since I know Grandpa will be reading this I'll just give him a shout out here.  I love you tons Grandpa, thanks for being the man and the example you are!  I'm glad the 90th birthday celebration went well, and although I'm sad I wasn't there I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless!

Anyway, I just have a couple of things from this week that I want to share.  This week was my second visa trip!  Oh my goodness 8 months of my mission have already passed by.  I feel like the kid in the video when he comes back from the dentist and he says "is this real life?"  I have no idea what the video clip is called all I know is that it's popular and really funny and it's about a kid coming back from the dentist all drugged up.  Anyway, that was the first thought that popped into my mind when we were on our way to the border.  It was so much fun seeing everyone again, I love them all so much.  We had some good conversations just catching up on our areas, a couple of people are training right now, and we asked about that, one of my favorite people, Elder Prestwich, is serving with a native right now and so we asked about that.  We also had some good conversation about setting goals and in what way goals should work to push us, but not lead us to beat ourselves up.  All in all it was just so much fun!  I love them all so much, and it was just so much fun to see them all in one place again.  That's one of the benefits of serving in Russia is that every 3 months you see your MTC group again.  

We also got a native speaker in our district!  She's from Moscow, and she's the coolest!  I've asked her only a fraction of all the questions I have about Russian, but I still have some time.  I also asked her to correct me on every mistake I make, and she's held to that.  It's only been like that for a couple days, and already so helpful.  It was also really fun, I got to give a talk on Sunday, and I talked about Gifts of the Spirit.  After the meeting, she asked me how long I had been out on my mission, and when I told her two transfers less than her, she was shocked.  She told me that my based on my Russian she thought I had been out for over a year.  I also got the same compliment from one of our ward members!  Yay, I'm finally starting to get a hold of this language!  Not really, it'll take more than a lifetime to master, but it's super nice finally feeling comfortable with both understanding people, and explaining myself in the way I want to.  Anyway, I talked about Gifts of the Spirit, and I've been thinking about 1 Corinthians 13, and Moroni 7:45-48.  Those little sections of scripture are all about charity.  It says in Moroni 10 to pray for spiritual gifts, and then in 1 Corinthians 13 it talks about how the greatest of these is Charity.  So, we should all be praying to receive gifts of the Spirit, but first and foremost we should be praying for charity.  I've been trying to pray for charity a lot over the last couple of transfers, and it's improved my relationship with my companion, the ward members, our investigators, and even people I meet on the street.  Charity is something we should strive to obtain every day, in order to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ.  

I know that the Gospel changes lives and that as we try to be obedient to commandments and develop charity in our lives, that we feel greater love, peace, and freedom in this life.  I don't know exactly how that works, but all I know is that it works because I've experienced both being obedient to commandments, and not being obedient, and there's a tangible and very real difference between the two.  

I love you all so much, I pray for you and I appreciate your prayers on my behalf!


Elder Belnap

P.S.  I have some funny pictures for this week, but unfortunately my camera broke!  I have the pictures on my SD card (taken on my comps camera), but we're running out of time so I'll send them next week.  Let's just say that when we get in on the midnight train, I don't have the most effective morning workouts...HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

90th Birthday Letter for Grandpa Goff February 15, 2016

February 15, 2016

Dear Grandpa

I wish I could take a lot of time and sit down and come up with a poem, but unfortunately I don't have the time to do that.  If you could just attach the longest standing picture on the fridge to this little note as well I would appreciate that.  (If anyone is curious, the longest standing picture is indeed with me as a little baby and Grandpa wearing his straw hat).

I'm going to keep this short, but one character trait I admire about Grandpa is his devotion to family. It's incredible seeing how his loyalty to family has rubbed off on all his kids, and subsequently on all his grandkids. Hand in hand with his devotion to family is his ability to love others.  I remember when Aaron came to Utah to visit with us, Grandpa took the two of us down to the Cooper Mine together.  Anyway, ever since that time, Grandpa has almost always asked how Aaron is, and told me to pass on a hello.  Aaron was always really appreciative of that, and was just really impressed how Grandpa always asked about him.  That's just one of many examples of the love that Grandpa develops for others, quickly and without any expectation of something in return.

Grandpa, I love you!  I miss you, and I'm so grateful for your example in my life.  I miss just sitting and listening to you and Grandma fill me in on bits of your life.  Thank you for all that you do for me, and you're wonderful example of loving others and devotion to family. Have a wonderful 90th birthday!


Elder Belnap
February 15, 2016

Thanks for the letter!  Nathan and Rebecca have been better at filling me in, so no worries, I have a nice wide range of everything that's been happening.  That's a lot of fun being in San Diego, I have a good friend serving there right now!  Can't say I'm a little jealous, we were warming up, and then last night we got about 4 inches of snow, and I'm feeling not my greatest, but oh well, the work goes on!

This week has been PACKED.  We ran all over the place, and we got to go to a little town in the middle of nowhere to visit a family that skypes into sacrament meeting each week.  In the town there used to be a branch, but there is one no longer.  Anyway, they're super active and have such strong testimonies of the gospel, and the missionaries go down once a transfer to visit them for a day.  It was super fun, we basically just played a lot of games with the kids, helped them out, and did a Missionary Family Home Evening with them.  It was really funny, one of the games we played was a variant of "Do You Love Your Neighbor?" but the person in the middle just said "I love those with/who etc. etc."  It was really fun and all the little kids were just having a blast.  We're working in the branch on trying to get them to move up to Novgorod, but they have no money, and they would need to find a job first up here.  It's a sad situation, but we're working on it.  Also we got transfer calls this week and Elder Crookshank and I have one more transfer!  We're really excited, we've just been hitting our stride, and we thought it would be the end, so when we found out that we're staying together we set some pretty lofty goals for this transfer.  We're excited to reach them :).  We are also getting a Russian sister missionary in our district!  I'm so excited to ask her every question I've ever had, especially because she speaks incredible English.  Anyway, my companion and I also made плов this week which is an Uzbekistan dish that's super yummy and has a ton of oil.  It's really good, but if you're trying to not die, it's a once in a lifetime thing.  The Sister's also had a baptism this week!  She's the most sincere person and has such a sincere testimony of this church.  She's had a lot of trials leading up to this, but when she received the gift of the Holy Ghost this last Sunday, you could just see her light up.  It was just awesome, and the baptismal service was beautiful as well.  We're working a lot with Less-Actives here in this branch, and we're trying to do it more through the ward members. Understandably, it gets tiring just hearing from the missionaries all the time who don't really speak the language all that well.  So, we've started asking certain members to call certain people whenever there's an event in the ward, and we've already seen the fruits of that labor!  We had a less active lady come to the baptism, and a different one to church, and a different one to English Group!  Now just to get all 3 to come on Sundays!  We also have a super cool investigator named Саша who is one of the most sincere men I've ever met, and has such a sincere desire to be a better person.  

I just want to close with the importance of keeping the commandments.  I was reading in Mosiah 2:22-24, and it basically says that the Lord has promised to bless us by keeping his commandments, and that they might seem like big sacrifices, when in reality, we're about to get more in return for doing them.  Anyway, little things like reading in your scriptures daily, on your own and as a family, might seem hard with everything else going around, but as we take the time to make some time for what's most important, we'll find peace and assurance that in the mess of everything else that is going on around us, that it will all be ok.  Anyway, I love you all so much, thanks for your prayers and thoughts on my behalf.  Have a wonderful week!


Elder Belnap

here are pictures from the sister's baptism this last week!  Please don't post or publish, or send these pictures to anyone else!  (You can send this to the people on my list mom, that message was more for everyone else when they receive it). 

Monday, February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016

That's too much fun about seeing Suzy and the Doty's along with everyone else!  Pass on a hello please.  Before I start my letter, I just want to say that I understand why we as missionaries aren't supposed to watch stuff, and be worried about what's going on in the outside world.  When I saw that the Broncos beat the Panthers I had to read that again, because I was just shocked that the Panthers even made it to the Super Bowl.  Anyway, for about 5 minutes I was just in shock, it just sorta reminded me that I'm in for a bit of a surprise when I come home to a different world then the one I left (I mean, I'm still on this world, but you get what I mean. You're pretty isolated from that stuff on a mission).  

Anyway, I don't have a lot to report this week.  It's been pretty crazy, we've been doing a lot of miscellaneous dealings for the ward, because our branch president does everything, our 1st counselor is one of the Senior missionaries, and our 2nd counselor is a recent convert and is still trying to get both feet under him.  So my companion the secretary, and I (the companion of the secretary) have gotten tasked with a lot of running around this week.  We've been trying to improve with contacting on buses with all the running around.  There's a section in Preach My Gospel (for those of you who have no idea what that is, it's the handbook that contains the doctrines that people who want to be baptized need to learn and agree to live by before they are baptized) that talks about just Going About Doing Good.  We'll I've found out that I have a really hard time just jumping into gospel conversations on a bus, and having everyone looking at me like I'm some crazy J-Dub (we get told that about 10 times a day, so not my words, I love the J-Dubs).  Anyway, I was reading in that section and I realized that yes, we're here to share what we know to be true, but as we go about doing good, people will see that we're sincere, and they'll be more willing to listen.  So today on our way to email, I just tried to focus on really just trying to get to know the person, and it was super refreshing.  It's a fine line trying to let as many people we see know about what we're here to do, but it's so much easier to do that as we just go about doing good trying to make people happy.  So I challenge all of you, just go out there and try to see how you can make people happy, and I know that as you do that, you'll find more happiness and peace in life.  You'll be happier with yourself just knowing that you're worrying less and less about yourself.  That's one thing I'm still working on, is just not worrying about me, and the better and better I do at that the more and more often I find myself just smiling for no apparent reason.  Happiness becomes a bigger apart of your nature.  

Anyway, we also got to do a split in Nevsky this week, and it was so fun being back where I was born!  It was cool being in the same area, but feeling like a totally different person with a different focus.  We've also been working with a member of our branch on getting his mission papers done, and both my companion and I are less than 9 months in the field, and we just couldn't find the Russian mission papers for the life of us.  Anyway, it was really funny as we tried to translate the medical questions for him, with some Russian, some pointing at different parts of the body, and google translate.  Also, this last week we got back from our split on the night train, and I was just so tired in the morning.  I tried doing jump rope and it was a complete failure.  I'm going to recreate the moment and send a video to you, my companion was on the ground for a while when it happened.  Anyway, we got a new ping pong table here, and there are now two computers in the same room at our church, so we're doing some ping pong today!  Love you all have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Bright and I, he's the coolest African ever in our ward.  He's super skinny and so we switched suits, here's the result.  Our new ping pong table, the ugliest, but softest dog I've ever met, (he's our investigator's dog), and our monterrey chicken meal we made for breaking the fast yesterday!  Love you!

Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1, 2015

Thanks for the update!  You often say mom, "sorry for the dry letter," but honestly, don't apologize!  I love hearing about all the fun stuff that's going on, anyway, I don't have a lot of time left, so I'm going to make it a quick letter today!  Also, Nathan and Spencer sent me letter's this week, but so far Rebecca is the only one not keeping to that New Year's Resolution.  I'll give her a break though, it seems like she's giving it her all in basketball right now.  Just tell her whenever it's hard, that it'll be that much more fun when she's in another country and just wrecking all the competition.  Also good on Spencer for the only on Friday's Xbox, and reading the Bible.  Yeah not going to lie, I'm kindof glad I missed that stage of Seminary, I'm on a mission where we have an hour everyday to read, and I haven't gotten to read through the Old Testament.  I'm on my 3rd time through the Book of Mormon, and about 1/4 with D&C and not even close to the New Testament.  But one of my goals for this transfer is D&C, so we'll see.

Anyway, this week was insane and flew by soo fast, but was a tons of fun!  We had a member of the Area Presidency visit, Elder Kacher!  It was incredible, and so much fun.  He was super witty, but just spoke so strongly and with the Spirit, we had an awesome Zone Conference with him, and he picked on me a couple of times because when he was asking us questions and asking us to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 and everyone else was saying "7" or "8" I was there saying "5" for basically every one.  I realized that when there's a big discrepancy like that, either everyone else is wrong and I'm the only one who is right (the most likely of options of course), I'm not up to par and doing worse than other missionaries, or I'm not evaluating myself accurately.  It was a kindof light-hearted and fun experience, we were all just having a good laugh and Elder Kacher was too, but I learned from that, that I don't really know how to evaluate myself accurately.  I realized that I've had a big toll on myself for a while, because I have just been really hard on myself for not being perfect today.  I just wasted several opportunities before the mission and I don't want to do that here, but again that complacency tightrope just gets me everytime.  Anyway, I just learned that if I can learn how to accurately self-evaluate, than I'll be able to walk that tightrope much easier, it was a good lesson learned! 

He also visited us in Novgorod which was a lot of fun.  There was a fireside, and our Mission President, his wife, Elder Kacher, and his wife all spoke.  It was awesome, and such a cool experience to have a church meeting that made complete sense to me.  It was funny, my companion had to translate, and he's just a transfer older than I am.  He did really well though, shout out for Elder Crookshank.  (Also, as long as I'm doing shout-outs, shout out to Emily Watts and Maddie Giles, two of my friends from BYU who are leaving on their missions soon.  Emily all the way to Australia, and Maddie on the way up to Toronto, they're both awesome and super funny, and are going to have an amazing time).  Elder Kacher's focus was on the saving ordinances and why they are so important.  He had a member from the branch who had been recently baptized, recently confirmed, received the Melchezidek Priesthood, endowed, and sealed in the temple, all get up and just explain why they are so important.  It was super incredible and powerful just to hear his testimony of the importance of those ordinances, I wish I could do it justice through this email.  In another area, he met with an eternal investigator who has been coming to church, but refused to get baptized, and the man felt the spirit, and was baptized THE VERY NEXT DAY.  It was just so awesome having him here and getting to spend a little time with him.  I also got to talk to Sister Kacher a bit, and she said she'd pass on a hello to everyone in Moscow!  

Anyway, it's been an awesome and busy week trying to find people here in Novgorod.  One of the people who called us is still our most solid investigator and we're excited for what's in store for him.  ALso, Надя was up in St. Petersburg and she gave me a call from the mission office, it was so much fun talking to her in Russia and saying a quick hello!  Anyway, if you can pass on another hello to her from me, I'd really appreciate it!  I'm loving it her, it got super warm for a couple days, but it looks like it will dive back down below zero soon.

Love you all so very much, thanks for all you do and your thoughts and prayers on my behalf.


Elder Belnap

Please pass this on also mom!  I had more time left than I thought, and I forgot to share a quick spiritual thought!  There's a talk called, "Choose to Believe" by Elder Whitney L. Clayton.  Anyway, he talks a lot about how faith is a conscious choice, and that as we make that choice to believe in Christ and do the things that are required to grow one's faith in Christ, that we find that with time our testimony of him is unshakeable.  As we display our patience and hope that we have to come to know if he's really there and really our Savior, then as Alma talks about in Alma 32:27, that desire can grow and talk place in our hearts.  I love you all!  Have a great week!

Elder Belnap 

These are pictures that can't be shared because they are of Russian citizens.  Except for the food, that was just a super good Georgian restaurant we went to, IT WAS SO GOOD.  The other was of our game night at the Senior couple's house, with members of the ward and investigators.  The one with the girl on her phone is the sister of our recent convert Denis, who is now an investigator, because of the different man she's seen her brother become, it's pretty awesome!  The other has one of the young women in our branch, an investigator, and the young woman's older sister!  They were getting mad at me because I was too good at Jenga and they'd always set me up to lose on a turn, but they never managed to do it, it was really funny.  Anyway, going to get started on my letter to you and the rest of the family now!