Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29, 2016

Dear Mom/Dad/Family and Friends, 

Thanks for the updates and all the pictures!  That looks like such a fun trip, and I hope everyone enjoyed it and didn't bicker at all.  It's sad that I've yet to be to California.  I'm glad things are working well with Tambi caring for Grandma and Grandpa.  I love them so much, and I'm hoping that they are doing well.  I hope things are figured out with dad's dizziness and that it'll all work out soon.  Also, David said he was going to NYC, but since then hasn't filled me in on how that went!  That's so weird that the kids are starting school again, because I feel like my time as a volunteer is coming to an end super quick, but then it gives me peace that there's still a whole school year and some before I get back.  Weird that Spencer is starting his senior year!  Proud of him for biking to school, oh what I wouldn't do for a bike here in K-Grad, SO MUCH WALKING.  But a bike wouldn't be too helpful with all the potholes, weird roads, areas without stop lights, and cobblestone...maybe it's best to walk.

This week went a lot better than the previous week, because we finally found out some things that help us keep the focus a little more on our new responsibilities as volunteers here in Russia.  One of my favorite things about being a volunteer is that we get to do whatever we feel is best at the given moment.  Sometimes that's going to visit someone, sometimes that's doing things that need to get done to fulfill our callings in the branch at the church, sometimes that's making the cake that they asked us to make for the branch activity that we are going to have, sometimes it's sitting and talking to someone and just trying to make a true friendship and now how best we can help them, sometimes it's asking a little babushka if she needs help across the street after which she goes on to praise your parents and your parent's parents all the back to Adam, sometimes it's going on a run with your branch president to help him get into shape and blow of some steam.  Volunteer service is definitely far more diverse than what we were doing before, and it's a blast.  Sometimes I miss contacting and just being able to ask people if they're interested in learning more, you get a lot of no's but the people who say yes and who are open to possibly learning something new that will benefit their lives made it all worth it.  But now, we're able to more fully support the people in our little branch, really come to know them, and feel at the end of every day that we were able to strengthen them in some way or another, and that in some ways we're able to make more of a difference in the community.  People have been noticing our service and we definitely get kinder looks sometimes than what I was used to before.  

The other day I was reading a talk by Elder Per G. Malm who we got to know in Moscow and recently passed away.  He shared a quote by President Joseph F. Smith that I really liked and wanted to share.  It goes: "To my mind, it means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in his purpose and in his plan, to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else, we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive. We know of the doctrine that it is of God, and we do not ask any questions of anybody about it; they are welcome to their opinions, to their ideas and to their vagaries. The man who has reached that degree of faith in God that all doubt and fear have been cast from him, he has entered into ‘God’s rest’”“
This has lead me to ask the question of whether or not I have all doubt and fear cast away from me.  Honestly, I can't say that that's the case yet, but I know I'm in the right direction.  That with anything of a worthwhile nature, it takes practice and experience.  That every time I take a step of faith, I have a little more experience, a little more practice, and a little bit of a greater understanding.  I know it works that way for everyone, and that that level of faith is available to anyone who starts on the right direction and keeps going that way.  I'm excited for the day that I'll enter into "God's rest."

I love you all so much, and I hope you have a great week!  If you want to know about details feel free to ask me questions, otherwise I can't promise answering the questions you might have :).

Love you!

Elder Belnap

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