Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016

Dear Family and Friends!

What a week! This week has had its ups and downs for sure. We spent a lot of time preparing for the Mexi Fest event on Saturday, and at times we were wondering if we were putting in too much effort for it, and if there were better things we could be doing with our time in order to serve the people. We felt that since the responisibility fell to us to make the event, that we should give it our best, and it paid dividends. We had several Less Active members there with whom we set up meetings, about 4 or 5 children who enjoyed all the games, one person who came and the other Elders set up a return appointment with him, 2 investigators brought a total of 3 friends with them. It was a big sucess and exciting to see the reward of that.

This week we also sent off a lot of members yesterday for the temple trip, and I'm excited for them and the opportunity they have to go. I had the opportunity to give a lot of blessings this week which was very humbling, many people have had some trials this week and it's always a tender mercy to be able to be the person that the Lord places in their path in their time of need.  I also had to be in charge of conducting and presiding on my first sacrament meeting this last week which again, was very humbling.  There definitely seemed to be that pattern to this week at times.  I want to become a better and better volunteer and sometimes I feel that I hit a wall that wasn't there before because of the law.  It really is just an excuse though, and whenever I start having those thoughts I immediately try to push them away and focus on all the reasons that the Lord has us here at this time as volunteers.  And when I do I really do notice the wealth of miracles that we are blessed with in this work.  Since I've gotten here, upwards of 5 or 6 people have found the church of their own accord, taken a Book of Mormon from the shelf, and wanted to meet with us again.  That's just one of many things that, again, has been super humbling.  

In a couple weeks Elder Martino will be in our mission, and then a couple of weeks after that we will have the Christmas Conference's, so you can say I'm pretty excited for the next couple of weeks. We were asked to prepare a 3 minute talk on diligence, as well as study some talks.  I'm excited to give the report in a couple of weeks about what will happen.  It's so weird that honestly this will probably be the best birthday present ever getting to receive cousel from Elder Martino.  It'll be a little late, but I'll take it nonetheless.  

Right now, I'm just feeling the topic of humility in a big way.  Some of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon are Mosiah 2:22-24.  They read, " 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you .And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?"

Those are some of my favorite verses in the scriptures.  They speak to me of the need to be humble, to do what the Lord asks us to do with a willing heart and a willing mind (D&C 64:34), and that he truly has given us everything.  I've never experienced greater joy than as I try to follow all the commandments of God with a willing heart and a willing mind.  You all are such wonderful examples to me and I pray for you all by name.  I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be on a mission and I'm excited for the opportunity when I'll be home to share even more of my experiences with you, for right now though the weekly email will have to suffice.  

I love you all!  Have a great week!


Elder Belnap

MEXI FEST!  We made the pinata out of paper mache.  We're thinking of asking President Childs to put us in charge of all mission wide events.  Yes the sombreros were also made by paper mache.  Elder Tribe and I doing planning in our Russian шапки that we ordered from Elders up in Petro (the most northern city in the mission right now).  Real, authentic ones were on a huge sale up there, and President allowed us to order through them, it was super fun.  Also Elder Tribe playing chess with babushka ludmila.  She's a saint.

Love you!

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

Dear Family and Friends, 

Thanks for the scoop on everything going on and the pictures sent.  For ANYONE who gets this email and actually reads more than the first and last sentence (please take note that this is the 2nd sentence), if you feel that you don't have time to write me, that's normal, but feel free to send me pictures :).  There's nothing more fun to see on P-Days, than how much of a man Spencer has become or how good Nate is looking, or how awesome Rebecca looks on stage.  Or pictures of David and the height discrepancy between him and anyone else in this world.  Anyway, I just got a lot of great emails this week from friends and family members alike and I want to say thank you, and just repeat that you're all loved :).

This week has had highs and lows, we had a hard time getting meetings this week, as well as we're having another push to get all the materials that aren't marked with a 6+ tossed.  We've been scanning old Russian Church magazines that aren't on the internet/, just so that they can be preserved.  We've had a couple good meetings, made friends with our neighbors who are the most stereotypical Russian men you could meet, and I love them for it, did a lot of things for my calling (a building inspection, and a couple of other meetings, as well as studying up for a couple things that are coming up).  Being in a position of leadership right now has helped me realize how blessed we are to have things laid out for us in the scriptures that help us realize what the Lord expects of us. There's a good Russian saying that goes "соблюдай порядок, сон будет сладок!" which roughly translates to "Follow order, and your dreams will be sweet!" but it has a nice rhythym in Russian.  I love the scripture equivalent "inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land." (See Alma 50:20 for an example of such a verse).  I know that commandments are given to us by God to make us a happier people, not to put more pressure on us, or make us feel like we're bad people all the time when we make mistakes like everyone does, or that they're just too hard to follow and therefore are not worth our time to try to follow.  I know that all that God does is for the happiness and the benefit of all of us-His children, whom He loves very much and desires all the blessings that he has in store for us.  

Thanks mom for writing that funny little saying from Grandma, she cracks me up how full of little wisecracks she can be sometimes.  I was recently telling someone about my Grandma, and I was just saying how she's the most resilient woman I know.  I'm glad that the family gets to be so close to them right now.  I don't really know what else to write about specifics from the week, we did have one guy walk up to us on the street and say "Мормоны!  Как считаете, у Ромни будет пост в президенстве Трампа?"  Which is to say "Mormons!  What do you think, will Romney have any position in the Trump's presidency?"  I just said that we don't talk politics, and then we were able to have another conversation, turns out he has a Book of Mormon and he reads it from time to time! Sometimes it's so hard not being able to invite when we're not inside our building, but we told him about game night, and church and hopefully he'll come to one of those and we'll be able to talk more.  We're having Mexi Fest this week so I'll be sure to send pictures!  I love you all, have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016

Dear Family and Friends!

Wow, what a letter and what a week, thanks mom for the update, I'm so glad things are going well and that you got to have such a fun, jam-packed last week.  Tell Spencer to talk to Aaron if he has taken a liking to swing dancing.  At the senior year of prom Aaron killed it with the swing dancing, it was awesome.  Also, I'm a little jealous that dad is going to New Zealand, I remember forever ago when his friends from New Zealand invited us to go forever ago, I'm also excited to hear if the family will take off or not.  I'm of course all for the family going to Hong Kong, and given that last time when I really only wanted to be in Utah 1 year I got that wish, we'll see if I get 2 in a row.  Although it would be really nice to be close.  We'll see what happens, the Lord has a plan.  

I don't have too much time this week, so I'll keep it quick.  If you haven't watched President Uchtdor's talk from the President session of General Conference, please watch it.  In his talk he talks about the Book of Mormon missionaries "Alma and Amulek".  He talks about how there are "Amulek's" so to speak in our wards, who just need a chance and they'll become some of the strongest members we have, but they just need that chance.  Anyway, we found the "Amulek" so to speak in our ward, he received a calling last week, and he has taken off, and it's been super cool to witness.  This last Sunday was also so powerful, President Krot and I had planned to speak at the end, but he just leasned over to me after the rest hymn and told me to give the rest of the time to him.  Of course I did that, and he proceeded to ask several of the youth (many of him have only started coming again the last few weeks, and one who hadn't been for several years) to bear their testimonies.  It was so touching to hear of their trials and their spiritual experiences that brought them back.  One of my favorite things that was said was "Even when I had turned away from the Savior, he was never turned away from me."  I know that that is true, and it was just such a wonderful spiritual experience.

In other news, we're still going to seminary every day, I haven't been perfect on the no sugar, but I can count the number of times I've messed up on one hand which is good, and yesterday, we tried холодец. If you're curious what's inside, look it up, I was terrified at first, but it turned out not to be that bad.  Anyway, that's all for this week!  Oh, and a big hello from Patrick O'Leary to the family :)!

Love you all!

Elder Belnap


gelatin (they grind the pig bones themselves)
some horseradish on top (of course)

the trick was to have a bite, and then a bite of something normal (like bread or potatoes), that was I could handle it a bite at a time. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Today hasn't been super busy as the week before, but still a really good one.  Our investigator couldn't make it this last Sunday, but we're meeting with him on Wednesday, and he's still very much progressing and it is super exciting to see.  He's a really good man.  This week I also had a couple meetings with our branch president just discussing different things, and callings (responsibilities) in the branch, and so on.  It's been hard for me to get things going on that front for a while now, but we've had some good talks and things are looking really good.  One of the things that I love about being in the branch presidency is that I'm kind of in touch with everyone in the ward.  There are such amazing people here.  This Sunday we had 3 members who haven't come to church in a while, 2 that have now come a couple weeks in a row, and before that hadn't come for several years, and one who came for the first time this week.  It was so wonderful to see the love that they all felt coming into church, not only the love of their Savior, but the love emanating from one another as well.  They really reached out, and 2 of them were able to stay all 3 hours.  And the one who hadn't come for a long time, exchanged numbers with a lot of the members and was just in a really good mood.  

I don't have a lot to report on from this week, plus we are in St. Petersburg for my visa trip, and I'm also getting my flu shot today.  OH, weird bit of news.  We just had our last visa trip with the sister volunteer in our group.  How crazy is that?!?  I feel so old.  Translating last week and all that fun stuff, I just feel like it's all coming to an end faster than I can keep up with it.  Also, did you get the video from our friend Alla of us breaking the bananas?  Can you pass that on to me as well as to everyone else who gets this email?  It was really funny, she's a long time investigator and owns a language school, we got permission from President Childs to volunteer there and he's really excited about it.  Anyway, we recorded some dialogues for her students, and then we showed her how to snap bananas in half and she thought it was so funny that she took a video.  We're really excited for service at her place, plus she's already known the "Elders" and "Sisters" for so long that she is always inviting people to our events.  

Well, that's really all I can think of right now for the week.  I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be serving in Kaliningrad.  It's been so very fun, and I'm having a great time with Elder Tribe.  I'll wrap up with one of my favorite verses, Mosiah 2:41 which reads: " And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."

I know that's true and I love that promise :).  I love you all!


Elder Belnap

P.S. So today we had to stop emails early, we're up in St. Petersburg and have been busy getting other necessary stuff done, anyway, halfway through emails we had to go get flu shots, and then go to the center of the city to the bible shop (haha, I feel like such a missionary writing that, "have to go to the bible shop") and we got to see a quite a bit of the sights as our p-day activity, many pics to come!  Anyway, it was super cool, and we had a snow storm, and I loved it so much.  Here are the pics