Monday, June 27, 2016

June 27, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

First off, my prayers are with Grandpa.  Grandpa, I love and miss you, thank you for the little note.  You're a wonderful example to me of 1 Peter 2:20-25.  I invite everyone who gets this email to read those verses of scripture that have really helped me a lot in coming to know that these seemingly unfair times and trials we experience in our lives truly have eternal purpose in helping us understand the live of Jesus Christ better.  

This week has been a bit of a fun adjustment!  I went from Kolpino where things were starting to pick up after having to start from scratch for the most part, to Sestroretsk where things are pretty slow right now and we get to start picking things up.  All my mission I've really wanted to teach people, and I can count on one hand people that have progressed and accepted our invitation to learn the Gospel.  It's been humbling, and I think that's the whole point.  I'm excited that we do have one couple who are working their way towards baptism right now!  They've yet to agree on a specific date, but they are well on their way.  Other than that though, we have the whole city to ourselves, as well as several little cities around us.  We have a lot of area to cover, and we're right out in a really nice part of the suburbs.  It's very green here, from our apartment we see the Finnish Gulf, and it's a beautiful area.  I'll need to send pictures of our apartment at some point, it's wayyyyyy to nice.  I thought coming on a mission that things would be gross all the times in our apartments, but I've only had one apartment that wasn't super nice, and it only wasn't super nice in comparison to the other apartments I had been in.  The rest of them are too nice for missionaries.  This one has 14 or so foot ceilings, and it's fantastic.  

Anyway, I've yet to meet the people who are working towards baptism, but we're meeting with them tomorrow, and I'm excited to tell you next week about everything that is going on!  The branch here is really tiny, but it's full of five wonderful families with kids.  There are about 15 members, and 10 kids, so sacrament meeting was a lot of fun.  There's a good feeling of love in this little place amongst the members, and we're helping a recent convert of 2 years prepare to go to the temple.

Lastly, Elder Ward is awesome!  He's from Oregon, and is just the sweetest person I've met.  He's got this big old smile on his face all the time, always just doing his best, and that's all I can ask for.  His Russian is also coming along really well, he's a little молодец!

Anyway, that's really all I have on this front.  Anyone who gets this email, feel free to write me, I can't promise that I'll always respond right away, but I'll definitely read your email and I'll be very glad to hear from you.

This week I celebrate my year mark!  WEIRD.  That's crazy to hear that Ryan is home, give him a big hug from me next time you get.  Did he lose a lot of weight or is he still pretty big?  I just remember Aunt Tricia being concerned that he was going to shrink up like a raisan.  Anyway, I love you all have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Monday, June 20, 2016

June 20, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

Wow what a week!  Seriously, I don't really know where to begin.  First off, SUPER COOl, that you saw Сестра Рикс, she was one of the hardest working sisters in our mission before she left, and her testimony at the transfer meeting when she left is still clearly in my mind.  Glad she made the connection between me and Spence (it's the nose).  Glad my email last week could do some good, and that everyone is taking off to do things.  It makes me laugh that you wrote "CJB is taking off for girls camp"...I think you're stuck about 5 or more years in the past with that slip up mom.  I know Caroline is glad to be done with anything that has the word camp in it.  Speaking of Caroline, I know I gave her a shout out last week, but since her birthday was 2 days ago I can't help but giving her another shout out!  Love you sista, hope Hawaii was nice, but I'm kinda jealous.  Wearing suits all the time can get very sweaty, that's probably why Elders always drop weight in our mission.  

So big news this week.  I'm training!.....but not in Kolpino.  I was supposed to stay here, but the day before transfer calls I ran into the same drunk man that had given us a hard time a while ago, and this time he threatened me.  So, after I reported everything to President Childs, he called during transfers and relayed that he felt good about leaving me there after receiving my call, but then prayed and said he received the prompting that I need to go somewhere else.  I'm super sad because I only got the 1 transfer here, and it's a wonderful place and a really good ward.  I've managed to get close to a lot of the Young Men, and one of the less active young men came to church on Sunday who hadn't been for more than a year just to say goodbye!  Anyway, I'll be finishing the training of Elder Ward (which was started by my old companion Elder Crookshank) and Elder Crookshank will be taking my spot here in Kolpino!  So that's all been a big surprise, it's a shame that I just got all settled into routines and everything and that I'm taking off again, but oh well, I'll take off to wherever I need to!  I'm also really excited to have the opportunity to train and be district leader in сестрорецк, a little city North of St. Petersburg, still in stake boundaries, which is a branch with a lot of primary-aged kids and cute young families.  

Along with that, I couldn't leave Kolpino without going to Pushkin, where the great Catherine's Palace is.  And it. Is. BEAUTIFUL.  I'll send a couple pictures, but it doesn't even do it justice.  We went there today, and it was the best P-Day activity ever.  It was also fun meeting tourists and being reminded how much our Russian has come along.  Anyway, we listened to this Russian quartet in this little palace next to the main one, and the acoustics were amazing, they accepted dollars, so Elder hallstrom and I pooled our cash to buy their 3 discs, because if you pay in dollars or euros, the third disc is free.  

Little spiritual thought for the week is just about looking into how we can use our time better even when we think we're doing well enough!  These last couple weeks Elder Hallstrom and I have been trying to figure out how to study the scriptures better and remember where things are in order to better use the scriptures on lessons.  We ended up making flashcards and we have been quizzing eachother when on our way to meetings when we used to try and do some russian study together or just try to not waste our time talking about non-important things (but of course we're not perfect and we'd get off on tangents every once and a while.  Elder Hallstrom and different types of wood...(it's a funny sight to see him naming different types of wood just by looking at it, it's like David telling what type of bird by it's flight pattern).  Anyway, we've memorized where scriptures are better and it's already helped us a lot on lessons!  When I was teaching the youth this Sunday some of those scriptures came to mind a couple of times and helped a lot!  So the lesson was two-fold, even if we're doing something like walking from one place to another quickly, we can find a way to use our time more effectively.  The second part was that the Spirit can help us call all things to our remembrance as promised, but we need to have something to call to remembrance first!  If our brains are empty, there's not really anything the Spirit can do to help us.  But, if we fill our minds with good ideas, goals, and try our hardest to study, it can, and will, help us in those times of need.  I love you all very much and I hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap
Palace of Catherine the Great at Pushkin

Christopher at Palace of Catherie the Great at Pushkin

Monday, June 13, 2016

June 13, 2016

Dear Everyone, 

Sorry I wanted to try and shake up how I start my emails.  First off, thanks for the pictures!  I'm excited to see all the other pictures, and hear from the kids themselves about what they did (hint hint).  Also, David's looking mighty fine in that picture, as well as Caroline and Ryan.  What good looking family members I have :).  I love the story about you being in St. Petersburg a year ago, that's just surreal to think about.  Time really is flying and slipping through my fingers it seems at times.  Also, shout out to my big sis!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROLINE.  You already got a nice email from me so that's all the shout out you'll get :). 

This will be a pretty short email, but this week was awesome!  We finally got an investigator to church!  His name is саша (go figure) and he is just looking to change his life.  He's had several problems with addictions and even prison time, and he's just looking for whatever it will take to get him free once and for all.  It's been a true miracle and it was super cool how he recognized when we first talked with him that his pride was his downfall.  If only it was that easy for all of us to recognize that :).  We're really excited to help him be free from the weight that he's carrying around, it truly has been a miracle, no other words for it.

This past week we also had Zone Conference.  It started with a scripture study with our mission president, and he shared a story about a woman named Betsy and her sister (I can't remember her name) who were in Nazi concentration camps (it's some autobiagraphy, I can't remember the name).  Anyway, they worked on helping Jews escape Germany and eventually got caught and thrown into these camps.  When they were taken into the camps they were forced to to strip in front of the guards to make sure that they "weren't bringing anything with them".  She had a little Bible on a necklace that miraculously none of the guards noticed.  Anyway, in the camp they slept in these terrible barracks with fleas everywhere.  At nights they held a little Bible study group and one night they read the verse in 1 Thessalonians5:18 which reads: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  Betsy said "I can't do it, I can't give thanks for these fleas." To which her sister replied "Betsy, be grateful for the fleas.  Why do you think the guards don't stop our Bible study group?  It's because they don't want to be eaten by the fleas like us." 

Anyway, that was a very powerful story that brought the Spirit so strongly.  We are so blessed in our lives, so very very blessed.  So be thankful in all things, because as Christ said to the prophet Joseph Smith in D&C 121: 
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity andthine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee onhigh; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

I love you all and hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Monday, June 6, 2016

June 6, 2016.

Well, I'll get your letter soon, but I'll go ahead and get started on my end.  First off, loved all the pictures you sent.  Tristan is SOOOO TALL.  My goodness, I was also laughing a bit at Trevor's goatee.  I'm glad you got to see them and have a good time.  Also, I started laughing at the picture of Grandma resting on the kleenex box, oh how I miss seeing that after dinner :).

This last week has been one of the more interesting ones.  We were probably home late every night this week except for one, all of which for reasons outside of our control.  One of which is that we had to help transport a 300 pound man with no legs home twice, another was that our washing machine wasn't working and we had done laundry at the apartment of the other missionaries, and on our way home Elder Hallstrom asked if we could be home late because he desperately needed a fresh change of clothes.  I won't say how long he had to wear the same pair of garments.  Ok I will, it would have been his 4th day in a row!  Yuck!  We had hoped that our landlady would fix things, and so we hadn't yet thrown a load of laundry in at the other Elder's, but then things weren't fixed, anyway, there was literally nothing that we could do.  This week by the way we had no hot water and no washing machine and a broken oven which made things interesting.  

Anyway, all temporal things aside it was an awesome week!  I'll focus on yesterday and today though, because it has been two awesome days.  For those of you that are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints you won't understand who these people are, they're just members of the leadership of our church, but Bishop Davies (of the Presiding Bishopric) and Elder Klebingot (Memmber of the Quorom of the Seventy) were here in St. Petersburg!  We had a Stake Conference yesterday, and as if that wasn't surprise enough, I saw the Fitzgerald's at the Conference!  That was a big shock, but a lot of fun.  Anyway, the conference was powerful and spirit-filled.  I got to see a lot of members from Nevsky which was awesome, and I got to sit with a young family from the Kolpino ward and help keep their 2 crazy kids entertained while their parents got to listen.  It felt good to help them get a little respite.  If that's one thing I've learned being in a family of 6 kids is that you're a lot more interested in doing what the family friend has for you at times, then what your parents are trying to do ;).  Sorry mom and dad that it's like that a lot of the time/all the time.

Anyway, this morning, we got to have a mission conference with Bishop Davies and Elder Klebingot!  It was awesome and I took a lot from it.  Elder Klebingot talked a lot about a myriad of differnet subjects, but he gave us 3 pointers that he said will serve us well in life if we really apply them.  *Disclaimer* He also said he wasn't afraid to offend us because he's German and that it's our choice to be offended by someone else :).
1) Don't whine.  When you get something that you don't deserve because you've been doing a good job, think of the Savior who deserved none of the pain, torture, and humiliation which he received, but who still took it all.
2) Being a little scared is good, don't let it stop you from acting!  Those butterflies in our stomach are good!  They keep us humble and dependent on the Lord.  I forgot his name, but he was the Dean of Religious Education at BYU and he told Elder Klebingot on his first day of teaching that "I've been teaching for 50 years and every time before I'm about to have a class I get those butterflies in my stomach.  The day I stop having those feelings is the day I stop teaching."  He was just illustrating how it's ok to be afraid but that we have to act.  Like Moses and the Red Sea, the Sea didn't depart until someone took a step of faith forward.
3) Be Gospel Scholars.  Study the Gospel, love the Gospel.  Make goals now that you will stick to on your missions and the rest of your lives.  Our missions don't have to be our spiritual peaks, but that as we keep growing and deepening our understanding of the scriptures and that everything God has given us, our gratefulness for him will grow, and our ability to serve will grow.

Anyway, hope you can glean something out of that.  Mom and Dad, The Fitzgerald's, Elder Klebingot, and Bishop Davies pass on their regards!  Bishop Davies asked if my dad just so happened to be Stake President in NYC a number of years ago, and Elder Klebingot said he remembered hearing about my call.  Those both came as a little bit of a shock :).  I love you all very much and I hope you have a great week!  


Elder Belnap

A beautiful view on the way to an appointment

We were stuck in an elevator and Elder Hallstrom got so excited.  It was super funny, the rest of the night he was saying, "I've always wanted to get stuck in an elevator!  But I've always imagined the whole scene from "You Got Mail" in it when they say, 'when I get out, I'm gonna do...' ".  It was super funny