Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 17, 2016

Dear Family and Friends!

Sorry that you didn't hear from me yesterday, I had a visa trip!  It was a lot of fun to see all of my MTC Group again, I love them all so much, and we always have a fun time catching up and exchanging ideas of what has been working for us.  I realized that I can be a lot more bold, and that I need to start prioritizing little things that occupy the few minutes of free time we have.  It's always a fun time having a visa trip, but it also makes me feel like dad on his birthday a little bit, I have a bit of a, "oh shoot, I've one visa trip closer to dying, and I still haven't done...(cue long list)" moment.  Sometimes I feel like my expectations are unrealistic, but that the unrealistic expectations are pushing me farther than I would have gone anyway to make sure I'm learning this language, always improving as a missionary, так далее.  Sorry that's a lot easier than writing etcetera, I always second guess myself on the spelling on that one.  I'm not going to bother checking, mom you can just correct me next week if I'm wrong :).

SO, NEW AREA!  I'm in Колпино which is a suburb of Saint Petersburg.  So I'm not in the city, but close enough that I can get there easily within an hour.  It's like traveling from Westchester to Manhattan to work.  My new companion is Elder Hallstrom, and we're kindof complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but we get along super well.  I'll give a few examples, I'm 6'4" (or 3" I don't know) and he's 5'6" on a good day.  I'm from Manhattan, and he's from Horseheads, New York and never been to the city.  He's a more awkward kid who doesn't warm up to people really quick, and I'm me.  Anyway, we had been on a couple of splits when our companions had visa trips and I had a feeling we would serve together.  It's been super fun thus far though, although we've been under the weather the last couple of days.  We're excited to meet lots of people and do good work while we are here in Kolpino together.  He struggles with the language a whole lot, and I've been trying to help him a lot which has been good.  It's been good practice for me as well, and has humbled me a lot as I realize how much I don't know.  I have a really hard time getting a language study plan together, so I just try to always be studying Russian at every free moment, but I can't help but feel that there's a better way.  I just try to use every opportunity as a study opportunity, and one cool thing that I've found is not only really hard, but really helps me focus on what is being said during church, is translating it under my breath into English and trying to keep up with it.  Anyone who gets this email who has learned a foreign language, feel free to give me tips on fun things you've done to learn the language that maybe I haven't come up with yet!  I like trying new things to just see what works best for me.  

Today, I was studying consecration a little bit, just trying to know what I can do to be a better missionary.  I read the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18.  If you haven't read that story, read it, it's super cool.  Elijah is probably the coolest prophet in the Old Testament, because he was so sassy (if you read the chapter you'll get what I'm saying).  Anyway, I read that and I thought about how the priests of Baal, were commited, not consecrated to their idolatrous gods. This thought came to mind because consecration is defined as "To dedicate, to make holy, or to become righteous." in the Guide to the Scriptures.  We can be as dedicated as we want to something, but if it's not in the pursuit of becoming more righteous (definition being:"Being just, holy, virtuous, upright; acting in obedience to God’s commands; avoiding sin.") then it's not consecration.  How often in life are we dedicated to responding to all the Facebook messages we get in one day, or dedicated to watching the news every night, or dedicated to making sure we sleep in until the last possible moment before we HAVE to get up.  Those might not be the best examples, especially because those aren't inherently bad things, but the point I'm trying to get at is that we have to make sure first things are first.  Because when first things are first (living the Gospel of Jesus Christ) then everything else seems to fall onto its own place.  As we make sacrifices to try to keep the commandments of God, we learn that they're actually from God, and that we are doing his will.  As mentioned a couple of times in the scriptures, we come to know, "after the trial of our faith."

I know that trials of our faith aren't fun, and taking steps into the unknown aren't fun, but that they are worth it, because they allow us to come to know about truth for ourselves.  That's probably my favorite part as a missionary, knowing that I'm telling people that this is something we're asking them to find out for themselves.  Not for us, not because we have something we are trying to sell, but because we know that what we're sharing has changed us as human beings (for the better) and it can do the same for them.

I love you all so much, I hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap

P.S. In Kolpino, there is a guy we help get to church every Sunday, he has no legs and is missing one pinky because he was strapped to train tracks by the Mafia about 30 years ago!  He was saved because a dog picked up his leg, took it into town, and then people followed the dog back to him and they were able to save him.  He's like 300 pounds and I'll be sure to send a picture soon, he's super cool.  Also, here are some pictures of Elder Coleman and I in Novgorod, with my favorite 6 year old girl in Russia.  She came up to us with her mom's phone and snapped a candid selfie that turned out perfect.  Here's also a picture of our district in Novgorod!  

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