Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

No worries, I make mistakes in English all the time now too mom :).  I need to see the family portraits and be the final judge on clashing costumes mom :).  I love Grandma and how get's such a kick out of somethings, I miss hearing that little laugh of hers :). I'm glad that everything went well, I was included in a little group email where the battle of who brings the chips cropped up and it just made me laugh, we sure are blessed with an awesome family.  Glad that the Goff Family Reunion went well, If you need to put into perspective how long I've been out now, I've missed both Goff Reunions that I'm going to miss on my mission.  Granted I'll be coming back just in time for the next one, but still, it's weird how fast the time is flying by.  I remember someone telling Nathan, that when he feels like the time is going slowly, just to count all the fast sundays, and that 24 fast sundays doesn't seem too long.  (For those of you who don't understand what that means, the first sunday in our church is a day set aside to fast and pray for guidance and direction, as well as in our church meetings members of the congregation are allowed to come up and share a brief message about their faith as well as what has strengthened their faith in their recent experience).  Anyway, she told Nathan that before he knows it, I'll be in the teens, then single digits, and then home! She's proved to be prophetic on all accounts, after this August, only 10 left!  It's weird how fast the time is flying by and I'm trying to stay focused on using the time that seems to be running through my fingers like sand, instead of focusing on the fact that it's running through my fingers.  

This week was one of those weeks where we didn't know what to do with ourselves.  With the new law, we have a lot of time to fill that used to be filled with contacting, and now we are planning on doing a lot of service, but we're supposed to be lying low for a couple of weeks before we go out and search for service opportunities.  So, we've tried doing service for members, both active and less active, cleaning our ward building, doing indexing, practicing piano, translating our record to Russian so that the members can start fulfilling their new responsibility of helping teach investigators.  What's been really cool is throughout it all, our investigators (a man and a woman who are married and about middle aged) have a baptismal date!  We're going to have to push it back a little bit, because they'll be out of town for a little bit and won't have been able to come to church before the current date, but they're so excited.  Missionaries found them 6 months ago, and at first they were more interested in English, but just with time their intentions, and hearts, have changed.  I'll keep you posted :).

This week I was reading in D&C 84:106 which reads: " 106 And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also."

I love that verse!  Go out and look for someone who needs help this week, and help them become strong also.  And if you feel like you're weak, pray for help from the Lord, and try and see who He puts in your path in order to help you.  I know the Lord answers our prayers and that He wants us to help others until we all become strong.  As Sister Linda K. Burton in a recent General Conference address said "Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together."

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

пока пока!

Elder Belnap

Christopher in St. Petersburg sight seeing with Elder Ward on Nevsky Prospekt.  Church of Spilled Blood in background.

Christopher at Church of Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

This week was tons of fun!  We were just on the streets for a large portion of the week, just being bold and talking to everyone.  President Childs told us that we should put things off to the 20th that can wait, so that's what we did.  It was scary every day when we first got out that we were literally going to go to everyone and talk to them, but after talking to the first person each time it was a lot of fun.  We just made it really fun for us, and when people saw that we were actually having a fun time doing this, they stopped and talked to us and we had a fun time.  Yeah, you're right mom, the people here aren't really aware of the law and it doesn't really effect them too much.  It makes me laugh, for the most part as soon as they find out that we are "Mormons" they either laugh and keep talking to us, or they'll say "до свидания".  Anyway, we'll have a different experience this week and I'm really excited for our conference tomorrow when we'll get everything answered for us.  

Today is also kindof weird, because we're going to be lying low so to say, and all missionaries got permission for a full day P-Day today, because we're not allowed to contact, so we're going into the city and I'm showing Elder Ward the sights.  He's pretty excited to see all the sights :).  It's weird wanting to talk to someone, and not being allowed to now, it'll definitely be an adjustment, but it also helps me see how much I've changed from the time that I didn't want to open my mouth and now I'm sad that I'm not allowed to.  I'm really excited though for the members and the opportunity we have to focus our service on them pretty much in its entirety :), as well as to help them feel comfortable reaching out to their friends, because now it all will happen through them.

This week I was studying about a lot of things, and I finished my loooooong study of the 4 Gospels in the New Testament, and now I'm on to reading Acts in the Bible.  It was really amazing just reading and becoming aware of the acts of Jesus that I wasn't aware of beforehand.  I really appreciated just gaining a stronger testimony that Jesus really did perform all those acts and that he is the perfect example of going about doing good.  That's something that we're going to need to learn how to do here in our mission now giving the changes, but given the wonderful example we have in the scriptures of the Savior, I'm confident that the work will press forward here in Russia and that people will be interested in what we have to offer.  

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!  I'll send pictures from our adventures today!  Love you all so very much. 


Elder Belnap

This is for you for Grandma and Grandpa: 

Also for you and for Dad for FHE:
Sit down with the family and you can watch this.  Ask questions about what can be done better in the family.  For example, "Is the TV on when family scripture study has yet to happen?"  

Just as a little sidenote, I was watching this talk the other day and just realized how much I would have appreciated Family Councils, especially the 1 on 1 and 2 on 1, especially in helping me overcome watching pornography.  Doing the little things at home will ensure that Nathan, Spencer, and Rebecca are all a little better prepared for the challenges at home.  Tell all the kiddos that I endorse having a place to charge the phones at the end of the night and that no matter what we're not allowed to bring them into the room with us, that we can go out and buy alarm clocks if the excuse for having them in the room is "I need and alarm."  Maybe it'll stike them a little differently coming from me :).  I love you both and I hope that you can have a good FHE discussion on this.  Also, Every 6 weeks, I can give a suggestion for a FHE discussion if you want, that way I can still kindof be a part of the wheel :) (have you made a new one yet?)  I love you both very much and I hope you have a great week!  

Here's some insights as to what will be happening now!  We'll have a mission conference tuesday where things will be discussed and where we will come up with answers :)!

Dear Leaders of the Russia St. Petersburg Mission,
President and Sister Childs have drafted the following letter to be read in an emergency district meeting to be held on the 14th or 15th of July. Please read and discuss it with your district! We are excited to see the miracles that these changes bring to our volunteers, the members of the Church, and others! We know that everything is in the Lord's hands. These changes will strengthen our members and help His work move powerfully forward!
Inspire the volunteers in your districts with the same spirit of optimism that we and the General Authorities share! Isn't it wonderful to be a part of the Lord's team? We literally cannot lose! The game is soccer, and angels are the players, with the Lord as the star forward. Our streak is 1,000,000,000,000,000 to zero, in our favor. We haven't lost a game and never will.
Thank you for your diligence and beautiful faces, we can't wait to see you all on Tuesday.
With love,
The Assistants

Dear Russia St Petersburg Volunteers,
We are writing to give you a brief overview of the changes in the way we will do our work because of the new law recently passed by the Russian government. With the new law that goes into effect on July 20, 2016, our work in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will change substantially. We feel a sense of great peace that the changes in the way we do our work will bring significant blessings to the Saints here in Russia as well as more firmly establish the Church in this great land.
On Tuesday, July 19th at 1:00 p.m. in the St Petersburg Stake Center, we will hold a special Mission Conference to discuss these changes in more detail.
Below is an outline of the most substantial changes to our work here.
 1) From now on, our young elders and sisters, as well as senior couples will be referred to as “volunteers.” The term “missionary” is associated with proselyting which the volunteers in our mission no longer do because of the new law. Therefore, please cease using the term “missionary” when referring to yourselves or others serving in Russia, especially when writing home. We are stilled called the “Russia St. Petersburg Mission,” but individuals serving here are called volunteers.
As a reminder, we strongly discourage posting any correspondence or information on public blogs or sites. Please remember that it is against Russian law to post photos which include Russian citizens.
2) The fundamental manner in which volunteers perform their service in Russia will be to engage in activities aimed at developing the Church and supporting Church members. They will serve in Church callings and will build closer bonds with members. They will build and strengthen the faith and testimony of members by visiting them in their homes, and also by supporting church activities and programs such as Family History, Self-reliance, Humanitarian efforts, and Seminary and Institute studies. They will support daily activity in the church buildings and give tours of the church meeting houses.
3) Volunteers in our mission will engage in a variety of community service projects and activities.
4) Volunteers will be encouraged to enhance their knowledge of Russian culture and language, with the intent of helping maintain a lifelong appreciation for Russia’s rich cultural heritage and fostering positive intercultural understanding.
5) The volunteers in our mission may no longer engage in any type of proselyting activities, such as street or transportation contacting, distribution of religious literature, or offering any form of invitation. In their daily activities, they may engage in casual conversation, and when asked, they may explain that they are volunteers for a Church. If the person shows further interest, they may give the  name of the Church and a brief explanation without discussing doctrine or teachings. They may also give the addresses of church buildings.
6) Importantly, our volunteers will build a deeper, more dedicated discipleship to our Savior through their unique service. The maturity and discipline required by these changes will bless them throughout their lives to be powerful instruments in the Lord’s hands to build His Church and Kingdom in any capacity.
We know that this important work is most assuredly in the Lord’s hands. Last week you received the initial statement from our Church leaders concerning this law. We reiterate the important doctrine of the Church that, “we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” In the instructions we have received on this new law from our Europe East Area presidency they emphatically stated, “We are confident that the Lord will continue to pour forth His blessings on His Saints and upon the Church in  Russia. We will see miracles take place and the hand of the Lord made manifest in prospering His Church in this beautiful land.”
The necessary changes will require time and adjustment for us all. Facing these changes with faith and positivity will bring the Lord’s help and strength to the work we have come here to do. We would ask that your correspondence with your families, and with anyone else concerning the new law and these changes stay positive. Our leaders have stressed that this new law is part of a larger anti-terrorism law and is not aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have had good relations with the national government leaders in Russia for twenty-five years. We know that by staying positive, we can continue to build on this relationship and lift the esteem of the Church in the eyes of all Russian people.
We know that you will have many questions about these changes. Please come to the special Mission Conference with these and with your inspired ideas for moving this work forward in new and exciting ways. We feel strongly that you are some of our Heavenly Father’s choicest servants. Particularly at this time, we are grateful for your willing obedience and desire to fully follow the Lord’s direction while doing His important work.
With great love and appreciation,
President and Sister Childs

Monday, July 11, 2016

July 11, 2016

I'm feeling a lot better, every now and again I cough and it feels like I can't breathe, but I'm on meds and I'm getting better.  Story of my mission to date is get going doing well and then, completely wiped out with a sickness.  Oh well, it's taught me some humility!

Hey, question.  How's family scripture study/prayer?  I know I asked a while ago, but I've yet to follow up :).  I hope it's happening, and if you meet resistance from the kids about doing it, please tell them that I'm for it too!

Not asthma, not entirely sure.  It's just like twice a day now where I cough and it takes some shallow breathing and water to be able to breathe again, no worries the doctor is aware.  And yeah you're right, you do :).  No worries, I never really understood why it was important before coming on my mission.  I apologize for the grief it must have caused you mom.  It might be a good idea to watch Elder Ballard's talk from last conference.  He just mentions that there are things that we can do that can keep our home safe from the influence of the adversary.  My mission president likes to say, "People complain that we always hear the same things at General Conference.  Well, if everyone actually started trusting the leaders of the church and applying what they said then maybe we would hear something new next conference!"  I love you mom, thanks for the pics of grandma and grandpa, they are too cute.

Dear Family and Friends, 

First off, want to start off my letter with a statement from the church this week: The Church recognizes a new law will take effect in Russia on July 20, 2016 that will have an impact on missionary work. The Church will honor, sustain and obey the law. Missionaries will remain in Russia and will work within the requirements of these changes. The Church will further study and analyze the law and its impact as it goes into effect.

So, if any of you had any questions about that, there's your answer!  We're staying, we'll be legal, and the work will go forward.  Until the 20th of July though, we're going to be out talking to people for about 8 hours each day, my companion and I have actually tried to see if we can hit 9 hours in one day, but because he's still in training we're supposed to do extra studies and so we won't be able to do that.  But, yesterday we just went out and tried random things that we hadn't tried before just to start talking to people normally about this message which we have to share.  It was so fun to see just as people saw that we were doing this, and having fun doing it, they stopped and they talked with us.  We probably handing out over 50+ church materials over the course of a couple of hours, and had several fun, spiritual conversations with people.  It was just fun to see that people could see that we weren't robots, but that we do believe we have something to share and we'll be outside talking to people for 8 hours if need be.  

We also had a really fun conversation on a little маршрутка bus this week.  Elder Ward and I were talking and he asked me about how a word is pornounced and so I just told him in Russian, "there are Russians all around you, ask them!" And then about 6 different people started paying attention to us and he asked his question and we had the most natural and fun conversation with about 6 or so people on a bus that you could imagine.  

I'd like to wrap up my email with a verse that our Mission President shared with us given all the uncertainty from D&C 90:24 which reads, " 24 Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another."

Things are going to be just fine here in Russia, I'm (relatively) back to health again and I'm excited to see what this week has in store for us!  One last verse that wraps it up nicely is D&C 123:17 which reads, " 17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

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


Elder Belnap

1. my companion is short
2. Next 5 pictures are all of our's nice
In the last picture it's from when I was very sick and we couldn't leave the apartment.  I promise sleeping is something I've gotten better at, but when I'm sick I think I'll always be out of it :).

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

Well, this week doesn't have a lot of substance to it, because I was sick...again.  I've always been the companion who has been sick on the mission, never the one who has to care for and help his companion.  Somehow I got bronchitis 2 saturdays ago, and ended up spending most of the week trying to rest and stop coughing.  I'm doing a lot better now, so I'm excited and think that we'll have a good week :).  I think when I come home, I'll wear the original black suit and the original shirts that I came into the MTC with, I can go swimming in my collars now.  I'm going to buy another suit from a missionary soon, who was the size I currently am when he started his mission, but has since lost 40 pounds, because one of the suits that I bought has pants that are too small.  It'll be a good present for Spencer when I get home :).  While I'm on the topic...HAPPY BIRTHDAY SPENCER!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA! HAPPY BIRTHDAY REBECCA!  Woo, hope your 4th of July celebrations are fun, glad to hear that Spencer's celebrations were fun, and hope that Rebecca's soon-to-be birthday celebrations are fun!

Again, there really is nothing to report this week, but we were able to go to church on Sunday and a less active member that we've been working with managed to make iton Sunday!  Our investigators have a baptismal date, but don't understand the Sabbath Day and it's importance, so we will be talking about that with them soon, and the blessings we are promised by following the probably most often-forgotten of the 10 commandments.  

Just a little thought this week while reading in the Book of Mormon.  I love Jacob 2:8 which says: 8 And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.

A lot of times in the church we get caught up in the menial, losing the forest for the trees, President Uchtdorf gave a great analogy of that when talking about a woman who had to make a quilt for her lesson on Sunday, gave a lot of time and effort into making this quilt, hung it up behind her and started her lesson and told the class the topic of today's lesson written on the quilt which said "Simplify".  At the end of the day, we all need the grace that only Christ can give, and when we gather in the church, it's to grow and hear the pleasing word of God, which heals the wounded soul.  I know that that is true, I've seen how I've changed and how the people around me have changed, just by reading the scriptures, coming to church, and trying our best to live the way the Savior did.  There's a quote by President Packer that says: "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” 

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!  You're all in my prayers, but especially Grandma and Grandpa this week, I love you both so very much!


Elder Belnap

A couple of pictures of the church building in Vyborg!  It's one of 2 actual chapels in Russia and it's beautiful!