Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016

So this week was interesting!  We had Zone Conference and because we have to fly here and back we had some issues with flights and ended up being in Saint Petersburg for 4 days!  Too long, I was wanting to get back to my area the whole time.  Anyway, the title of my email is that because my poor little trainee took after my stomach problems issues, and our whole time in Saint Petersburg he besically couldn't eat anything and was always on the toilet.  Anyway, he lost 15 pounds in about 5 days, sounds about right.  Anyway, he's better now (none of the 12 day nightmare I went through) but he said it's annoying that his pants and collars are already loose.

Anyway, Elder Tribe is awesome, from Bountiful, Utah.  Has 2 siblings and really likes basketball. Which was fun because I really like basketball too, we had a fun time talking basketball for a bit. His best friend growing up was President Eyring's grandson, and so he actually got to meet President Eyring on several occasions and said that that was a big help for him and a real blessing. He also realizes that we're basically just as new at this volunteer thing and that he has stuff to contribute which makes me so happy, because a lot of time trainees don't speak up at all.  We were also staying with other Elders this week in St. Petes, and there was one night I laughed harder than I ever have before, it took me a long time to calm down after that.  

Zone Conferences were definitely the highlight of the week.  We talked about a lot of different things, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was about prayer.  My previous companion Elder Crookshank (now one of the Assistants to President Childs) pointed out the need to pray to know what to pray for.  I honestly hadn't really thought to much about that beforehand, but it really struck at that point the need to rely even more on God, and ask Him, to help us to know what we need.  If he really does know it all then doesn't it just make sense that we should be asking him for what we need to be asking for?  Sorry if that's confusing, it makes sense to me :).  Anyway, I've been applying that a lot as of late and that has been a huge help these last couple days.  The Lord knows what we need better than we know, and the more we rely on him, the more he can help us.  I love the example from Elder Mervyn B. Arnold's talk this last General Conference when he talked about his "angel mother" and that when she was sick and could no longer leave the house, she'd spend her days writing letters to the people she would used to visit, encouraging them, reassuring them, and strengthening them spiritually.  The rest of the day she was entertaining those people that she used to visit by welcoming them into her home when they stopped by.  To many, a little old lady who can't leave the house might not seem to be the ideal prospect for someone to make a lot of change in the world, but to the people that she made a difference for, she made all the change in the world. I love D&C 123:17 and D&C 97:8 which always give me comfort that if we are doing what we are meant to be doing, then the Lord is proud and oh so accepting of us.  

I'm super excited for General Conference this week!  I know I mentioned it 6 months ago, but that's the great thing about it is that there is a new one evey 6 months.  For people who get this that aren't of our faith, General Conference is what we call the worldwide broadcast where the leaders of our church counsel, give guidance, and support.  If you've ever been more curious about what "Mormons" are all about, it's an awesome resource to hear from the leaders of our Church about different things we believe in/try to do in whatever places we might find ourselves.

Love you all!  Have a great week!  Sorry mom, I don't have enough time, I'll answer the question about how much zoo service next week! 

Elder Belnap

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

First off, thanks mom for filling me in on everything that is going on at home right now.  I miss Grandma and Grandpa a lot and it's fun hearing about all the things they do, especially Grandma and her night wandering activities, that really cracked me up!  Also you almost got the чуть чуть right mom, but you forgot the мягкий знак there at the end.  I'm still impressed that the rest was correct though :).  I appreciate you sticking through and writing me a letter although I'm sure you were very tired.  I love hearing the updates on how things are going, and especially the pictures, because it gives me a scope for how high up I'll be looking at Spencer while he grabs the pickles from the top shelf that I can't reach (I've repented by the way and will be sending some today).  

Just a quick run down of the week, and then I'll answer your question about what we do know as volunteers because of the changes.  Well, I got my new volunteer, Elder Tribe, and he's a stud.  I really get along with him well, and we've had the opportunity to get good work done thus far.  We had a lot of time up in St. Petersburg because they had to stay up for a while just to get documents in order and so on, and I could tell by the end of that he was kindof tired, but he was a trooper and stuck it out.  We went up to St. Petersburg on Tuesday and finally got back Friday night.  We did his registration with the members who help us out with that.  It was funny because my ears hadn't popped and I could barely understand English, let alone Russian.  It reminded me of what I felt like once upon a time, and what Elder Tribe must be feeling like right now, which was something I was grateful for as a reminder of what it feels like to be new.  Anyway, the sister in our branch who helps with that was suffering from bad dizziness, and we offered to help her get home (she's a little older than dad, by just a couple of years).  So we helped her on either side be steadied, and slowly made our way to the bus stop, got on, and helped her get to the front steps of her home.  It was a wonderful opportunity to help out someone in need, and just another reminder that God works through us all, and that when we serve people, we're truly carrying out God's will.  That's one of my favorite things about being a volunteer, is the heightened awareness to all the service opportunities around us, it makes me want to make sure I don't miss a single one at home.  

On Saturday we also had a mutual activity with the youth, and helped one learn English.  It was fun, I just stepped back and let Elder Tribe and him take turns reading in English and Russian respectively, and although they couldn't understand one another super well, they immediately had that bonding moment.  We played soccer, had шашлык, and then after that I had a Presidency skype meeting with the other branch presidencies and President Childs just to discuss other things that are going on, and what we should be aware of in the near future, a lot of good information was learned.

On Sunday I conducted Ward Council and our Sacrament Meeting because our branch president is out of the city, he's had some medical problems as of late and had to go see a doctor.  It was a very spiritual day full of very spiritual moments, as well as I was just humbled by the fact that there I was with all these Russians leading a discussion about how we can grow in strength and numbers.  I never cease to be amazed that they understand me and I understand them, and that the Gift of Tongues is a true gift that we can receive as we pray and work hard to learn a language.  I love the people here so much, and it's been a very rewarding year (and some) in Russia thus far.

In answer to volunteer responsibilities, we study like normal, and then meet with people still who are interested in learning the Gospel, serve in the community (both planned and unplanned that we just do as we search for it), we help the members with whatever they need help in (tonight we're making dinner for someone who needs to undergo treatment soon at the hospital for a couple of weeks).  It's really fun because everything is inspired by what we can do to serve at any given time.  Sometimes that service takes the form of teaching people the missionary discussions, sometimes that comes as helping people with English, across the street, petting giraffes (joking).  

I really love being a volunteer and I love you all!  Zone Conferences are this week so I'll fill you in on how those go!


Elder Belnap
Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Soccer Game

At the Soccer Game

Калиниградский Оркестр "The Kaliningrad Orchestra"

Elder Tribe (Greenie) and Elder Belnap (Trainer)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 14, 2016 (received)

Dear Brother and Sister Belnap,
We are pleased to inform you that your son has received a new leadership position in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission.  We are very grateful for ElderBelnap’s  faithful and capable service.  Attached is a copy of the letter he received concerning this new position. 
Have a wonderful day.

Sister Hintze
Office Secretary


Pr. Malookhtinsky 16/1  POM 11-H, 12-H
Saint Petersburg, Russia 195112
Voice: +7 (812) 331-3502
Fax:    +7 (812) 331-3503

Российская Санкт-Петербургская Миссия
Россия 195112, Санкт-Петербург
Пр. Малоохтинский 16/1 ПОМ 11-Н, 12-Н
Тел: +7  (812) 331-3502
Факс: +7  (812) 331-3503

14 September 2016

Dear Elder Belnap,

You have been called to serve as a trainer for a new volunteer who will shortly be arriving in the Russia Saint Petersburg Mission.  Being a trainer is one of the greatest expressions of trust that the Lord and I can give a volunteer.  A volunteer’s first companion will have a profound, lasting influence on the development of the volunteer’s attitude and habits throughout his  service in the mission as well as throughout his life. The Lord has chosen you for this because the excellent example you have set.

As a trainer in this mission, it is important that you conduct yourself in such a way that the Spirit of the Lord will always be with you. Your example of loving the Lord and this people, of consecrated obedience, working diligently, and living the mission language will be the principle way you will train this new volunteer. It is vital that you understand and exemplify the standards, and principles outlined in the Missionary Handbook and Preach My Gospel. As you work together with your new companion to strengthen the Church and give Christlike service, you will be able to teach many the blessings of repentance and baptize true converts.

As you begin this new assignment, please thoroughly review the accompanying document, “Responsibilities of the Trainer in the Russia Saint Petersburg Mission.” Additionally, please spend sufficient time in companion study and daily planning to thoroughly introduce the new volunteer to the area, to the members of the ward or branch, to the various ways you are working with your ward or branch, and to current planned service activities.

Please know that I am here to help and support you in this new responsibility, and in all of your service in the mission, and of course, you should seek the guidance of the Spirit in all that you do.
May you find joy in this new assignment,

Larry G. Childs
Russia Saint Petersburg Mission

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

What a week!  I honestly don't know what to start with, maybe with the subject heading for this email!  So, being volunteers, we try to do lots of service, the more the better, and the other week we really got going on doing service at the local zoo! We've had various jobs, none of which involve us touching/working with animals (the Missionary Department of the Church would probably freak out over that), but thus far my favorite has absolutely been painting the gate for the giraffe cage!

The people at the zoo are so nice, and they've really taken a liking for us, there was one lady there who has started calling me саша because she said that I just look like one, and I speak well enough that I can pass for being named саша, what a compliment!  I've also been trying to help the Branch President a lot and not feel too overwhelmed, but this week I was able to arrange a Presidency Meeting before Ward Council which went super well.  It was the first time we had an agenda for Ward Council which went super well, and we were able to split up responsibilities among us so that we each know over which organization we're in charge of in order to find out if anyone in that organization needs particular help and what we can do to help.  For all my friends who aren't members of our Church, I apologize for the overload of church-related vocabulary, it's basically a bunch of meetings that we have to make sure that things are coordinated and so that individual people are watched out for and given the help that they need.  I was really happy that we were able to do that, because it really showed just how much organization helps.  It's still a talent I'm trying to develop, but it's coming along.  

We had a couple of cultural activites this week, one was a soccer game, which was super fun, and we went with a recently activated man who is very sweet. It was fun, but I enjoyed seeing the Калиниградский Оркестр "The Kaliningrad Orchestra" a lot more.  It's so interesting what good music does to the soul, and watching so many things coming together as one made it really cool.  We went with a member and her friend, and it was wonrderful.  They closed the concert with "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, just the instrumental, and it was awesome.  Reminded me a lot about what our work requires as volunteers, as contributing members of society, it 2 violinists were to go off on different notes, the rest would have sounded just as bad with them, but when it's all working together, it comes together beautifully.  It was actually a really spiritual moment, and I'll be sure to send pictures (the computer still isn't working!  I know, I'm sorry, I know all you want is pictures).

I saved the best news for last, I'm getting a trainee in 2 days!  I'm sad Elder Hawkins and I are ending our time as companions, it was a lot of fun, but I'm also super excited for a trainee.  One thing I've been doing this week is I've started writing out my testimony of each of the points of doctrine in Preach My Gospel.  I've loved it because it really helps me get my feelings out in a coherent way, and then I will be translating to Russian for language study just to make sure all my feelings about what is most dear to me are the things I can explain clearly.  I think it was Albert Einsten that said, "If you can't say it clearly, you don't know it well enough"!

I love you all, have a great week!


Elder Belnap

P.S.  Can you add to the list?  He was my RA freshman year.  Also, one story I forgot to mention, the lady that we helped walk only a few yards a couple of weeks ago and praised our family all the way back to Adam, well we ran into her again today.  She said pass on to мамичка and папичка (dimunitive forms for mom and dad) health and spiritual strength, she's such a sweet lady and I had to honor her request :)

Love you!

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 5, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

First off, thanks mom for the letter, it brought a smile to my face.  I actually got a lot of notes from friends this week that were very much appreciated, and a funny thing from dad last week that made me laugh when I noticed it again.  I want to just say thank you for sharing little thoughts/experiences/ramblings, I love them all and it brings a smile to my face without fail.

This week was crazy!  We had a lot of service opportunities, and it really has been super cool being able to see that people want to hear what we're about and what we are doing here when we've been serving them, and it brings more interest to them when we say that as of know we can't tell them anything, but if they want to come to the address of our building when we're there, they are more than free to do so. There's one lady we do service for that asked us this last week to just pray for her as she was looking for a new job, we prayed all week, and she got a better job (just found out last night).  Prayers work miracles, especially when those prayers are with others in mind.  We're really happy for her, and we're also really happy that we'll be able to continue to do service for her.

This week the Zone Leaders were in for another training, there were a lot of topics covered, but my most favorite was the fact that baptisms will still happen here in Russia.  That the service we are doing will soften hearts, and help people want to listen to why we are here, and what's cool is that we won't have to go to them, but that they'll come to us as they notice that behind our actions has to be some sort of motivation, which is true, we're trying to serve as Christ did.  It was a powerful meeting just as people shared that we'll still have the opportunity to teach people the Gospel, and help them feel the joy that it brings.

The members here are such wonderful examples of that joy, they sacrifice so much, and yet they always have a smile on their face.  Of course they have hard times, that's normal, but they've all found something that they can hold onto that get's them through the hard times, the Atonement of Christ.  It's been humbling working with and serving the people here.  I don't feel deserving of the outpouring of love and trust that I've been given here, and yet it keeps coming.  The people are amazing, and every day brings more humbling experiences.  There was one this week that particularly stuck out to me, that actually was with my companion.  So he and have little disagreements about things often, but for the most part, we sort them out quick, and we're both very willing to hear the other person's side of why they don't think that way, but at one point this week, I just really wanted to prove my point about something that was not even a big deal at all.  Anyway, I got home with my companion, and we just started talking about what had happened, he was pretty annoyed and I was too.  Anyway, at one point his voice got a little raised and he was starting to get flustered, and in that moment I realized that I had totally just let my own pride and my own desire to prove my point cloud my logically thinking.  So as soon as he finished, I just said, "I'm sorry, I was in the wrong, you are right."

And it went away!  The little argument that wasn't really a big deal, but to us at the time it was had just grown and grown until we were both frustrated and flustered, and then I finally realized that I WAS in the wrong, and that I WAS the one who needed to repent and humble myself.  So I said it, and "poof!" it was gone as quickly as it came.  You're right mom when you say, "I takes two to keep an argument going, it takes one to stop it."  The whole situation reminded me that I need to more quickly humble myself and admit when I'm wrong, as well as it reminded me of a talk from this last General Conference entitled, "Be Thou Humble", by Elder Steven E. Snow.  In it he says: "It is especially important to remember humility when you feel contention rising in your home. Think of all the heartache you can avoid by humbling yourself to say, “I’m sorry”; “That was inconsiderate of me”; “What would you like to do?”; “I just wasn’t thinking”; or “I’m very proud of you.” If these little phrases were humbly used, there would be less contention and more peace in our homes."

Humility is so very important because it allows us to be teachable!  Anyway, I've gone on long enough, President and Sister Childs were also here this last weekend (and yes mom, they do send us the stories, I love them too) which was super fun.  I was pretty wiped out on Sunday after about 4-5 hours of translating, but it was good practice and a lot of fun.  I love them both very much.  

Transfers are this coming week, I'll let you know if anything changes!  Also I'll send pictures (maybe) next week!  I try not to make promises I know I might not be able to keep :).

Love you all!

Elder Belnap