Monday, October 31, 2016

Mission Culture & Standards of Excellence
Russia St. Petersburg Mission
10 October 2016
Mission Culture

In this mission we:
Love the Lord
Love the people
Are obedient
Work hard
Live the language
Strengthen the Church
Give Christlike service
Teach Repentance
Baptize Converts

Standards of Excellence

Mission Goals:
Reactivations: 70 less-actives reactivated in 2016
Baptisms: 30 baptisms in 2016

Companionship Goals:
Church Attendance: 2 less actives each week
2 investigators at church each week
Total Service Hours: 12 total service hours each week
Total Lessons: 10 total lessons each week

Personal Standards of Excellence:
Read from the Book of Mormon daily.
Follow your gospel and language study plan daily.
Do role-plays daily.
Greet the members of your ward or branch on Sundays before church.
Speak Russian from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Native Russian speakers learn English.
Pray daily that the hearts of the people in Russia will be softened.
“Go about doing good.” (see Acts 10:38)
October 31, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

What a week!  I'm really glad that you enjoyed the message I passed on from Sister Childs last week, I might just forward to you President's letter from this week as well mom :). Actually, I just did :).  I loved hearing about going for a drive with grandma, I showed the picture to my companion, and just started sharing a couple of funny grandma stories, I love her a lot.  She and grandpa have always just been so good to us.  I'm also glad you got to go see Grandpa Belnap, I love him too and I'm shocked at how good he's looking (Don't let him know I said that :) ).  Nathan really is just such a bright kid, he never fails to make me laugh, I loved his letter he sent me, I was super impressed.  Yeah there is no reason why I wouldn't be able to share with you the letter that President Childs gave us just detailing more about some of the confusion that we've been experiencing.  

This week was a truly wonderful week, and I was feeling super blessed last night.  So, President and Sister Childs were in town, and their assistants came too!  The assistants right now happen to be someone from my MTC group, Elder Jensen, and my previous companion Elder Crookshank!  So it was just super fun to see them and spend time with them.  Elder Crookshank got a picture and as soon as he sends that one on to me, I'll pass it on to you.  Anyway, it was just super fun to have them.  I got to translate for a lot of the interviews that President Childs had lined up with many people and those were all special experiences.  After one I was feeling particularly weighed down by a question on my mind, and so I just asked President Childs the question.  I don't feel the need to share what I asked, but I learned a lot about myself in his answer and a lot about how I can continue to improve and become the person that the Lord needs me to be, and the example to all my friends that I need to be.  I'll treasure those 15 minutes where we just sat down and talked, informally and both of us fairly tired, for a long time to come.  He's a wonderful man, and he acts by the Spirit in all that he does, and it's always a pleasure to spend time with him.  

On Sunday we had one of the most spiritually powerful meetings that I've ever been able to participate in.  All in all, there were 2 investigators, 4 (or so) Less Actives at church, 2 of whom are former branch presidents, 1 of whom hasn't been in a couple years and served in several other positions of leadership (counselor in the mission presidency, district president, and so on.), and that the ward has been praying and fasting for.  We've been trying to meet with him for a while, but he came on his own!  He really enjoyed the meeting, and it was a miracle.  The Spirit was strong and we had a wonderful experience.  

Especially after my informal conversation with President Childs I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice.  It just so happens that the day before this all, I read D&C 117:13 which reads: "Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord."

Sometimes what why we're going through what we're going through doesn't make sense.  We feel that we are doing what we are supposed to, trying our best, and we're hit by any number of challenges.  We might wonder what the Lord has in plan, and what is he trying to do with me.  I think this verse is a perfect answer.  Sometimes it is our SACRIFICE that is more important than what we actually get done.  And why?  Because that sacrifice helps us to change, become better, and rely more fully on the Lord.  

This truly has been a miraculous week.  Our investigator came to church, and was touched.  He's progressing very quickly.  It's weeks like this last one where you just feel ready to take flight a little bit, and it's been super fun.  We said goodbye to the Babskovi the other day, they'll be gone for about 3 weeks.  At the end we sang a native russian song that we had memorized and they joined in with us.  The Childs loved it and they said if we ever serve in Saint Petersburg again, they'll have us go to the one of the centers where volunteers are doing service by singing songs to elderly russian people in a nursing home.  I'm excited for that (although, I can honestly say I could stay here in K-grad until the end of my mission).

Love you all, have a great week!

Elder Belnap

Eating at a place called "Obama pizza" the slogan is "yes we eat!"

My comp finally got a lucky ticket

Pictures from our halloween party (I'm on the far right)

Double rainbow!

Letter from President Childs that Christopher translated into Russian for his Branch:

17 October 2017

Dear St. Petersburg Volunteers,

New-law Reminders
Even though we have talked a lot about the new “Yarovaya” laws recently, I can still see that there is confusion about them--some confusion with the volunteers, and massive confusion with the members.  And no wonder really.  The police are just now stepping up their enforcement, and are bringing charges of violations to the courts.  The courts in each oblast are deciding how they will interpret the law for their own oblast. In the past few weeks, law enforcement officials have made over 26 visits to LDS meeting houses around Russia, and have visited many other denominations, as well. In some cases, the police seem to be specifically looking for small things that could be considered a violation of the law.
Because violating the law can have serious consequences, namely fines, deportations, and even the closing of some church buildings, please pay careful attention as I review what we know about the law and how it is being interpreted so far.  Also, please find ways to help our members understand what the law means for them.  Please ask for time in ward and branch councils to plan ways to help members understand the law.

Principle #1:  Don’t proselyte strangers;  Do make friends.
The Yarovaya laws (named after the lawmaker who drafted the laws) are anti-terrorism laws.  Because terrorist organizations often try to recruit members by getting people to convert to their beliefs, the laws forbid anyone from doing any kind of public proselyting.   You cannot initiate a conversation about your religion with a stranger.  This prohibits such things as street contacting,  door-to-door tracting, handing out church literature to people you do not know, and putting up posters which advertise your religious services.  
On the other hand, this law does not prevent you from talking to strangers as long as you do not bring up religion.  In fact, we highly encourage you to have normal, natural conversations with shopkeepers,  to compliment strangers on their handsome dog, or their beautiful children, and especially to offer to help strangers who are obviously in need.  Having as many natural conversations as possible each day will help you improve your language skills, and more importantly, will let people see the light in your eyes.
They will naturally be curious and want to know where you are from and why you are in Russia.  If they ask, you may tell them that you are a follower of Jesus Christ and that you are in Russia as a volunteer to help the local members of your church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notice that your brief testimony was not aimed at converting them or teaching them about the various things that you believe--it was simply offered as an explanation for why you are here.  If they have more questions about the Church, you may tell them that if they are interested, they may visit the local LDS meetinghouse, and that someone will be there every Sunday at 11  a.m. (Or whenever you have people at the church), who can answer their questions    You may write down the address of the Church and the times of church meetings for strangers, but you may not make a specific appointment to teach them.  You may answer a few informational questions about the church, but you need to keep such conversations brief.

Principle #2:  Teach investigators only at church; Teach members at home or at church.
Members of the Church, including the volunteers, may perform any religious activities, such as teaching and baptizing, on church property.  Volunteers may also teach members in their homes.  Nonmembers (such as family member or friends) may be present, but you must direct your teaching to the members.

Principle #3:  Foreign volunteers are treated with more suspicion than local members.
Local members may talk about religion with nonmembers in their own homes.  They may also invite their friends to learn more about the Gospel and give them church literature, including the Book of Mormon. Members should be the greatest source of referrals for the volunteers.
Most people in Russia associate foreign missionaries with public proselyting.  After all, the Mormons have been doing that for twenty-five years.  In order to change our image, we have changed our title from missionary to volunteer.  
Some people who would like to get rid of the Church altogether don’t believe that missionaries will really abandon their proselyting ways.  They approach volunteers on the street asking to know more about the Church to see if they can entrap us by getting us to say more than we should about the Church to a stranger or by getting us to give them church literature, which they then can take to the police as evidence that we are still proselyting.
We even need to be cautious about media referrals or referrals from people we do not know. It is best to have members make the initial contact with all referrals.  If they are interested, you can teach them in the Church.  

Principle #4:  When the police come visiting, call Oleg!
When the police show up at Church be helpful and kind, but DO NOT answer any questions or sign any police documents until Oleg or one of his assistants tells you it is OK. Call Oleg (or one of his assistants if you cannot reach him) as soon as the police come.  You volunteers know to do this, but the members mostly do not.  Oleg Rumyantsev - +7 (985) 231-0582 | Vladimir Mochalov - +7 (916) 642-8240 | Yuri Kozhokin - +7 (926) 377-6992

Principle #5:  Data-privacy laws have gotten broader
You already know that you should never publish photos or other personally identifiable information about Russian citizens on public websites, such as Facebook. The Yarovaya laws apparently now extend this to “public” bulletin boards, such as those found in Church buildings (at least in some oblasts)! It may also now be illegal to leave a ward list of any kind out in a church building where the public could see it.  Area books are also of concern. They should be kept in a locked cabinet if you keep them at your meetinghouse, or put away in a cupboard, if you have taken your area book home.  The Church is still investigating to see exactly how these new data laws will be interpreted in court. As a precaution in the meantime, the Church has advised us to take down all photos and other personally identifiable information from Church bulletin boards (including building cleaning schedules with people’s names in the assigned slots).  We should also keep all lists of names in locked cabinets.  Follow your bishop’s or branch president’s lead on when and how to do this.

Principle #6:  Get rid of old Church literature.
Church literature that does not have a “6+”-type label should be destroyed.  This includes pamphlets, and magazines. It may also include some books (manuals, scriptures, etc.), but this is still being determined.  It is legal to have “6+” literature, which you can hand out to people at Church or to members in their homes, but nowhere else.  The police check this sort of thing when they come visiting.

Members & Volunteers Must Work Together
The most important thing that members need to know about the Yarovaya laws is that the referrals they generate are the primary source of investigators for the volunteers to teach. If they do not rise to the task of asking friends and family to learn more about the Church, we will not have very many baptisms!
We must also find ways to teach members that finding people is a matter of faith.  If they pray sincerely and without ceasing to find someone for the volunteers to teach, the Lord will answer their prayers!  
Will you please find ways to review Elder Neal A. Anderson’s General Conference talk from this month, “A Witness of God” with the members.  This is perfect talk to use as a lesson when you teach members.  The talk is available on in both English and Russian. His words will encourage and inspire members in their missionary efforts, and should not make them feel guilty.   I will close this letter with a few quotes from the talk:

“President Thomas S. Monson has said: ‘Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together … to bring souls unto Him. … He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.’ The divinely appointed responsibility that once rested primarily upon the shoulders of full-time missionaries now rests upon us all.“
“I suggest that you stop feeling guilty about any insufficiency you think you have in sharing the gospel. Rather, pray, like Alma taught, for opportunities ‘to stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … that [others] may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, [and] have eternal life.’ This is a much stronger motivation than guilt.”
“I promise you that as you pray often and sincerely for opportunities to ‘stand as a witness of God,’ those opportunities will come, and those who seek more light and knowledge will be put before you.”
“Some governments have restricted the work of missionaries, leading our noble members to show even greater courage in being ‘witnesses of God at all times and in all … places.’ Nadezhda from Moscow often gives others a copy of the Book of Mormon in a gift box with lots of candy packed around it. ‘I tell them,’ she said, ‘that it is the sweetest gift I could possibly give them.’”

With great appreciation for all you do,
President Childs

Weekly letter from Sister Childs:

Sister Childs’ letter

Dearest Elders and Sisters,
Possibly a good title for today’s letter would be, Stay Healthy. I have a just few reminders for you that are meant to help you avoid some common mission miseries.

  • Flu Shots! Yes, that’s right, it’s that time of year to get your yearly flu shot. The Mission Department strongly encourages each volunteer to have this vaccination. They stop at saying that it is mandatory only because there are some individuals that should not receive this vaccination, for the rest of us, we should bite the bullet and get shot.
    • Where to get shot: I have arranged with the Euromed Clinic to have enough vaccine for each volunteer in our mission. To lessen confusion, I want to emphasize that it is at the Euromed Clinic. We have often recommended using the Medem clinic for health needs in the mission, but have also used Euromed quite often and for the vaccinations they have been a bit more efficient and reliable. Medem often required a complete physical exam in order to give the vaccination, which is generally not necessary. Euromed is about a 20+ minute walk from the Mission office. The address is Suvorovskiy Prospekt 60; head west across the Peter the Great bridge and continue straight (relatively) on ул. Тульская until you reach пр. Суворовский. The clinic is a corner building with a large, visible sign.
    • When to get shot:  Please plan to receive your flu vaccination the next time you need come to St. Petersburg or the mission office. If for some reason you need to delay getting the shot, have it done no later than December 1st. The earlier in the season you get vaccinated, the better protection you receive.  
    • Arranging a shooting: The procedure is the same as for any time you need medical care. Call the insurance company, (use the Russian number on the back of your insurance card), tell them you need to schedule a flu shot at the Euro Med Clinic in St. Petersburg and they will work with you to arrange the best time.

  • Stomach Distress. Unfortunately, we have had several reports of stomach problems recently. It’s often difficult to determine if stomach ailments are caused by a food-borne problem or a viral infection. Generally, the symptoms are treated the same in either case. Here are some reminders about treating problems of stomach pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

  • Prevention! Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Often. Always before preparing or eating food. Obviously after going to the bathroom, but also after being in public places (transport, church, shopping…). Also be careful about touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. This is a great way to invite germs inside.

  • If you do get sick.  Please remember to call me. We do like to track illness in the mission. Sometimes it can help determine a cause. Plus, I can direct you to the great health resources we have in the mission.

  • The BRAT Diet. If you have stomach problems, it does help to give your digestive system a rest by eating foods that are easy to digest. Modify your diet as follows for 24-48  hours:
    • Drink clear liquids such as water, soda pop, apple juice, gator aide, herbal tea, clear broth. Peppermint and ginger teas both have helpful properties for stomach problems. Drinking frequent, small sips may be better than a lot at once if vomiting is a problem. Drinking something other than plain water often stays down better and offers some nutrients and electrolytes. It is very important to avoid becoming dehydrated!
    • Eat food on the BRAT Diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast
    • Make sure to call me again if problems of diarrhea or vomiting persist for more than three days, or sooner if the severity increases dramatically.

·               Осторожно!  Do not try to boil a can of sweetened condensed milk to caramelize it!!  Elder Taylor, our wonderful Area Medical Advisor recently sent a message throughout the Europe East Area warning against what seems to be a fairly common thing volunteers in the Area have tried. I hesitated to share this, for fear that if you haven’t heard of doing this it may entice you to try it, but I can’t stress enough that it is not worth it. I could send you the pictures Elder Taylor sent of the volunteer who ended up with severe burns to his face and hands after trying it and you would see that it’s not worth it! The can exploded. You can easily buy caramelized sweetened condensed milk. It’s right next to the regular kind. Please help me keep my word to Elder Taylor that nothing from our mission would end up on his list of “Stupid Things Volunteers Do.”
In all this discussion about health, I don’t want to focus solely on physical health. I was recently reviewing the wonderful resources in Adjusting to Missionary Life and came across the following quote in the section titled Resources for Managing Intellectual Demands:
“Just as we should not lower the standards that the Lord has established for the conduct of His servants, we are also not authorized to raise them… Be sure that you do not have higher standards for yourself or others than the Lord has established.” (--Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. Provo MTC devotional address: “Perfection, Perceptions, Pressures, and Principles.” Given March 19, 2002)
With all my love, and prayers for health in every way,
Sister Childs

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016*

Dear Family and Friends, 

First off, thanks for all the pictures mom!  My takeaways from all your pictures: 1. Tristan takes after his dad 100%.  I was laughing to myself about that 2. Your accidental pictures are some of the greatest archaelogical finds we've had in this century, your coffee table one had me laughing a fair amount. 3. Spencer has gone from boy to man. Rebecca has gone from my little sister, to a woman. 4.  I miss sitting in that family room with Grandma and Grandpa, I love them very much, and they look so cute all huddled up.

This week has been interesting at times, but definitely one of my favorites to date.  Because of new things with the law in Russia, we had to spend a couple days this week making sure that all documents, everything, was in order, as well as going through our church building and doing the same things.  So that took up about 2 days and was a part of the not as fun parts of this week, but still had to get done, and is worth doing to make sure that we're in complaince with the law on all levels.  We've had several people come randomly to the church which has been really cool.  Our Branch President asked us to be in the ward building on certain days, and we have up on a bulletin board the times when we'll be in the building, and those are times where the members know they can come to practice the piano, let their kids play in the primary room, prepare for talks, you name it.  We've already had several experiences where especially at those times when we're scheduled to be in the building, people coming up and asking about our English Group (which we don't have anymore), but then we tell them about the Game Night, and in that way we've found 4 new people who are really cool!  

We have one investigator working towards being baptized, he's really incredible.  He says he's always trying to get his family interested, was talking to his nephew about it, loves reading the Book of Mormon, and his dream is to get an article published in the Liahona.  We've had trouble setting a baptismal date with him, but last week I think I already mentioned that after a session of conference he said that he became richer spiritually and that he'll tell us what day he'll chose to get baptized soon.  We've been concerned that he has some misunderstandings of what is expected of him, and we've been working on that, just so that he is aware entirely of the standards that are expected to keep before he gets baptized (keeping the Sabbath Day holy, the Word of Wisdom, and other commandments).  I'm praying that I'll be able to share with you what day he will be getting baptized in next week's email :).  

We also had 2 awesome meetings in one day this week with members of the church who have stopped coming to church.  They were both very powerful spiritually, and we just came home laughing and smiling the whole way home just because of the great feelings that we were experiencing.  In one of the meetings the senior couple from Ukraine was with us (they are my favorite people in the world, always teaching us funny things, Russian sayings, songs, or nursery rhymes.  My favorite one is "танцы на завтрак, танцы на обед, танцы на ужин, вот и весь секрет" it's a little song and it translates literally to "dances at breakfast, dances at lunch, and dances at dinner, that's the whole secret" and it was used in the context of "if all you do all three meals is dance, then you'll get skinny real quick".  It makes me laugh everytime. Also, Sister B. is so funny and knows a bit of English, and she came up with a district meeting which goes, "Peace, Friendship, and Pies" (she came up with it on her own and was super proud).  Anyway, they're my Ukrainian grandparents, and who knows, when you're off in whatever place you get sent off to next, I might need to put them up in the house in Ogden for a time :).  Anyway, they were there for one lesson, just testifying of the strength of following and keeping God's commandments.  Before they were refugees from Ukraine, Elder B. had a very successful and respected business, but no matter how big they got, and how much his workers asked him to work another day so they could grow their business, he would always tell them, "5 days we work, the 6th day you spend with your family, go on a date with your wife, whatever you want, but on the 7th day, we give that to the Lord."  I love hearing members testify of truths they have come to know through experience and testing of the word :).  After that we went to another man's home, and we just broke the ice real quick.  We ended up showing him how to download the Gospel Library on his tablet and he was so excited and grateful.  We're working with him on taking the necessary steps to start coming back to church and repent on whatever he feels he needs to repent of that he mentioned with us at our meeting.  He's someone who is ready to come back :).

All in all, a great week!  Plus, I had to be on the phone with a lawyer in Moscow, (Олег Румянцев) don't know if he worked with dad or not, but next thing I know he said that there was someone who wanted to say hi!  Next thing I know I'm talking to Nadya!  It was so much fun talking to her in Russian, she told me that she still has a recording on her phone of David and I singing a song about New York when we were in the car, and that she'll listen to it from time to time to make her laugh.  We've gotten to know many a great person :).  This week I was especially struck by the verse in 3 Nephi 18:32.  Go give that one a read, I just love that we really have no idea when someone is ready or willing to receive the Gospel, or live in accordance with it, all that we can do is trust God, continue to be good friends and examples of our belief, and love all those who are around us.  Isn't that just such a nice comforting message?  Things really are in the Lord's hands, and we just need to trust him enough in order to do what we are asked to do and use our free agency wisely in order to bless the lives of those who surround us.  

Love you!

Elder Belnap

Food from our ward picnic, and my companion dancing with Sister B. to a traditional Russian folk song

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016

Well, this has been an interesting, but really good week!  I'm glad the boys all got to see the temple and that Rebecca gave an awesome talk, I'm excited to read it :).

This week was really interesting, we had one of the coolest spiritual experiences this last Monday. We had planned on having a meeting with one of our recent converts, which is always really fun, it's been cool to see him progress in his understanding of the Gospel.  Anyway, just a little bit before our lesson was planned for with our recent convert, an investigator who usually comes to Game Night just "randomly" showed up at the building, because he saw the light on and wanted to know who was there.  Anyway, the member hadn't showed up yet, but we thought it would be cool to have him sit in on the lesson, but we can't teach, so we offered him to wait for the lesson and in the meantime play ping pong with us.  After a few minutes the member came, and we had our planned lesson.  We watched the conference talk by President Monson about the Plan of Salvation, where President Monson, testified with power and authority about the Plan of Salvation and the joy it brings into our lives.  That whole time our investigator was fascinated, and was really feeling the Spirit.  We then went through the steps of the Plan of Salvation, and what each meant, and he was just eating everything up 100%.  We asked him if he knows that these things are true, to which he said yes, and we asked him if he'll be baptized, after which his doubts got to him a bit, and he wouldn't commit.  Anyway, he had just been someone who had come to our Game Night for several years, never really been taught because in the past at some point he had said no.  But then, a miracle happened and he was able to feel the truth of the words of President Monson. It was awesome and strengthened my testimony that if we're ready to even to accept a little bit (as stated in Alma 32:28) and we won't throw out the seed, then it will grow in our hearts.  

The rest of the week was full of various meetings, President Childs came, and I translated for a couple of interviews (they were so bad, it made me realize that President Childs speaks very well and eloquently in English, and that given that I don't speak that way, I was no where near ready to translate for that.  It all worked out though in the end :).)  Conference was awesome!  We watched in English already some sessions just here and there as time permitted, and then in Russian to be there for our other investigator  Э. and a member of the church who comes less often.  I just wanted to make sure my companion could understand everything, otherwise he would get nothing out of it.  I wish we had had more time to just sit down and peacefully listen, (we watched one session on P-Day and that was probably the one I got the most out of) but we are making discs so that we can listen/watch them at home during meal times/evening hours.  

Sunday was a fairly normal day, we actually had a few more investigators than we would have thought come to church on Sunday!  We actually haven't been able to finish conference yet, in our Russian branches they Area Presidency asked us to just watch one on Sunday and the other people can watch at their own time.  Anyway, we haven't finished it yet, and we were told to "on our own tme" watch the second.  After a bit of a hold-up on Sunday, we finally got out of the church around 4 or so.  

I think my favorite talk of this conference was Elder Christofferson's, when he just testified of the love of the Savior for us.  I loved the fact that he pointed out that God's love is perfect, infinite and that sometimes the word "unconditional" can sometimes be misconstrued. I know that God's love IS perfect, but that doesn't mean he condones our bad actions.  He wants us to repent, and come unto him with full purpose of heart.  

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

Pics below:
 Elder Larson (another Elder and I in the district) are on a sugar fast, he's on it for the full mission, and I'm on it for as long as he goes until he cracks.  Just kidding, he won't crack, he played Bingham football, was a super athlete, rugby, he has all his sports discipline, hopefully it'll wear off on me :).  Anyway, I wanted to take a play by play picture, of how what I mean when I say "we slammed contiki (the name of the cookies)

 It was SUPER cold in the apartment, we had a really cold windy day, and the heaters haven't turned on yet, so I found the coziest place I could find during studies.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 3, 2016

Dear Mom/Dad/Family/Friends, 

Another great week in Kaliningrad!  The people here are awesome and each day brings something new.  I forgot to mention that last week one of the counselors in the mission presidency came, who was also the mission president 10 years ago in Rostov.  He and his wife are amazing people and it was so much fun to meet them and to get to know them.  

This week we've done lots of service!  For members and in the community.  We've actually had really fun service as you'll see in the picture I sent to you.  That day we had to run from District Meeting to make it on time for service, but we ddin't know that we would be climbing apple trees and collecting apples, anyway, at one point I unintentionally started doing the splits reaching for an apple and my companion told me to hold it while he grabbed his camera.  Anyway, that's how #AirBelnap was born and Sister Larisa agreed to come to Conference this coming week.  Service softens hearts!

We still haven't been able to meet with our investigator, he's been out of town, but hopefully this Friday will work out for him.  Anyway, one of the things we are doing is going to Early Morning Seminary at 6:15 in the morning a few times a week to support our 3 awesome young men in the ward.  They weren't forced to do Early Morning, they chose to do it, they have been coming on their own (with a couple of exceptions).  Two of them are from a family where the parents aren't members, but the parents have supported them going and have encouraged it because they have said that they have been so much more pleasant getting up in the mornings after choosing to go to seminary.  Anyway, they've inspired me and have helped me become a better volunteer here.  Plus, I've been learning more and more about the New Testament that I didn't know.  

Watching them and being with them has caused me to think about how often in our lives we choose not to do things because it's easier to choose the other way out.  These incredible мальчишки (boys) have left a lasting desire on my mind always to not take the easy way out.  They could have told their teacher, "no" and she wouldn't really be in any position to say "yes" because the parents would have gone with the kids either way.  No, they know what choice is the right to make, and although it's been hard for them, they come, and they make that sacrifice.  Oh sometimes how I wish I could be the example that they are to their friends right now of living according to what they believe when I was their age.  They don't quiet down when people do things that they don't think are right, they share their opinions respectfully and walk away from things that they don't want to partake in, and what's awesome, if they have respect from so many people for it.  Anyway, I love all them so very much, and thinking about them reminds me of what President Thomas S. Monson said (now two) conferences ago:
 "May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.
As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice."

I kow that that is a doctrine of truth taught by a prophet, and it gives me guidance in my life each and every day.  I love you all so much and I hope that you have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Some more pictures!  

After zoo service, one of the workers gave us a ride on the little kids train that goes around the zoo, it was a little too much fun.

This picture we have dubbed #AirBelnap for obvious reasons

In Russia if you get a bus ticket where the first three numbers add up and equal the last 3 you have to eat it and it's called a lucky ticket!  So here you go!

Elder and Sister Babskov, the coolest Ukrainian refugee senior couple the world has ever known.  I absolutely love them. 

 Also one member had us all over for a spiritual thought and dinner the other night, her son is serving in Chicago right now, and I actually met him at the MTC!  Fun, right?