Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26,1016

This one I'll keep relatively short given that you got 40 full minutes of face time with me yesterday! The rest of Sunday was really fun, I got to conduct our Christmas sacrament meeting, and it went very well.  The talks were well done, and the Spirit was strong.  After my companion talked to his family we went to visit one of the бабушки because no one should be alone on Christmas.  It was a very nice meeting, and we've been working with her for a while, trying to help her and answer her questions, so whereas we had a Christmas message prepared, we ended up talking about the fact that God is Our Loving Heavenly Father, because that is what she needed to hear.  It was really fun.  Also, as an update from the Christmas party, that was really fun.  I can know say that I was Дед Мороз two years running on the mission.  I have the big, jolly nature, but unfortunately (or fortunately) I've lost the пузо so we've had a pretty potbelly-less Дед Мороз.  It was really fun, and as I told you, there were about 12 kids, when usually only about 2 come on a regular basis, it was so much fun seeing the spiritual atmosphere that the children bring with them.  

I'll just wrap it up with a couple of thoughts about the reason for the season.  My favorite account of the Christmas story is in Luke 2.  This is the record of the angels visit to the shepherds and their subsequent visit to see the newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  When the angel came to visit the shepherds, he said the following: "10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

The good tidings of great joy is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Without Christmas, or in other words, the birth of Christ, there would be no Easter, or the Resurrection of Christ.  Christ came to save all people, and to share these good tidings of great joy.  The Gospel is such a blessing in my life, and I'm grateful for this special time in my life, to share this message which shall be unto all people.  In Russia, the only difference is that we don't stop people on the street to share a message about Christ, but that's the only difference.  The opportunities to testify of Christ and the peace that knowledge of his Gospel are still many.  I encourage all of you to think about how you can adopt the Russian way of sharing the Gospel into your lives, because I'm sure none of you want to start stopping random people on the streets.  As you look for opportunities to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15) you can find those oppportunities, and help others find the same hope.  

I love you all so much, I hope you have a great Christmas Season!  And a Happy New Year!  I'll talk to you all next year!


Elder Belnap 

A couple of pictures Caroline took of me while we skyped.  Love you!

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

Dear Family and Friends!

Wow this week has been all over the place.  These last few days haven't been that fun, I've been pretty sick and sleeping about 24 hours a day.  I think as with every other sickness thus far on my mission it all started with eating something, and just went downhill from there.  I'm doing a lot better now, the only real remaining issues is a sniffle and tiredness.  BUT, the days before all that were awesome!  We had Zone Conference this last week, and we're having Zone Conference again this coming week, and this is probably the only time in the history of missions that this has happened, but it was because Elder Martino of the Seventy was in St. Petersburg to train us and help us lift our visions of what the Lord can accomplish in our mission through our diligence and hard work. The Conference was really just what a lot of us needed at this time, because there is still A LOT of confusion about what we can and can't do.  He taught us a lot of things, and a couple of the ones that stuck out to me the most were that we don't EVER just fill time, but rather all things we do should be focused on helping others come unto Christ.  Since becoming volunteers, a lot of times we have been trying to find activities that will just keep us busy, but it was a very needed reminder that we of course still help with renovations if someone asks us to help with renovations, but that's not the only thing that we will be trying to accomplish.  Anyone can renovate, not everyone can help people come unto Christ. 

This week's email will be relatively short!  I'm still in the recovery process and I'm a little out of it. Thanks for having Adam send the poem, that was too funny.  The fact that as an in-law he knows the family so well is a testament to what an awesome person he is.  To wrap up I'll share a couple of verse I read today.  We've been asked to prepare for Zone Conferences by reading 3rd Nephi 9-28, and since I've been sleeping 24 hours a day that last little while, I've fallen a little behind.  But, while reading chapter 17 the following verse stuck out to me  

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

I love the idea that their faith was sufficient that he should heal them.  

I hope that your Christmas preparations are going well and that you remember whose birth we are celebrating at this wonderful time of year!  Everyone have a Merry Christmas, and family I'll see you in skype in a few short days, I love you all very very much!


Elder Belnap

I forgot to tell you that I'll be using Google chats like last time. will be the way to get in touch, see you soon!


Elder Belnap

Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

Dear Family and Friends!

This week went by really fast and it was a really good week! Thank you for many a birthday wish, and a special thank you to Terri who shares the same birthday as me and wrote a really nice note.  And Emily Watts who took a screenshot of a snapchat taken in honor for my birthday.  

The birthday was really, really, really good.  And I'm sorry, but it's not possibly something that I can share over the email.  I've been getting teary eyed all week thinking about the experiences of that day, and the love that God has for me and all His children.  I had one of the most tender moments of my mission where I just felt that God loves all of us, and that we are children of God.  I also, for various reasons involving my responsibilities here in Kaliningrad, as well as the fact that it was my birthday, had to talk to President Childs 6 times.  I can only imagine if he had to talk to each volunteer here in our mission (about 60) 6 times a day, and how he would have no time for anything else.  He's such a good man, and I'm glad he doesn't go home until I go home.  It's comforting :).  In other news, we found a store that gets all incredible American projects, including DOUBLE STUFFED OREOS!!!  Don't EVER take the extra little stuff for granted, it makes all the difference in the world. Anyway, I celebrated with a couple of Oreo sleeves shared with my companion and the other Elders in the district.  We actually did the celebrating on P-Day, so the day before my birthday, and we got some nice шашлык from a butcher shop as well as eating those Oreos.  By the way, the no sugar thing fell off for a while, but I'm back on the horse.  

I also got to go on a couple day split with Elder Houston, because Elder Larson was getting transfered, and Elder Tribe had a visa trip, so I arranged for us to stay instead of flying into Peter and being up there for a couple of days without a lot to do.  It was really fun, he's on his 2nd transfer, and his Russian is killing it.  I've made it my personal goal to help him speak better than me by the time I leave the mission. I love this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson,"We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are." This was said in his conference talk, "Beware of Pride" in April of 1989.  I don't fully understand how to lift people higher than we are if we''re not also lifting ourselves up, but as I've thought about it it's made me think about what the Savior said in Matthew 6:28, 30-32 when he said:
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

As we exemplify the Savior and try to focus on lifting others, our Heavenly Father knows our needs and will bless us for our desire to serve and help others. I love that promise in these scriptures, and the challenge to think less about "Me, me, me" and "I, I, I" but to truly try to help and serve our friends, those in our families, and anyone that we might meet.  I'm grateful for this Christmas season to remember the Savior and the peace that his Gospel brings.  I've felt that peace in my life as I try to help others understand that peace, and my understanding has been strengthened and deepened as I try to help others.  Try and think about Him at this time of the year where we remember His birth. Share some of the peace that only Christ can bring into our lives, and it will strengthen your understanding of that very same peace.  I love you all very much and I hope you have a great week!  Thanks again for the birthday wishes!


Elder Belnap

Pictures are with the Бабсковы and with my covered oreo...yum!

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

Mexi Fest подробнее 
Light the World
Nathan's quote
Childs and interpretations
Powerful spiritual meetings

Wow, what a week!  So we got transfer calls, President wants me to stay in Kaliningrad and continue to support, but unfortunately Elder Larson is on his way out.  He's one of my favorite Elders in the mission and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have had him in my district for a long time.  So, Elder Ward (my other trainee) will be coming here, Sister Brown will be training here, the Бабсковы will be coming back, and Elder Tribe and I will stay together.  I'm also the District Leader now.  I hate feeling like I'm very old on the mission, I still feel like I just got off the plan and still have so much to learn!  I was interpreting for the Childs on a lesson the other day (I'll fill you in on that later) and the word for gooseberries came up.  How I am I supposed to know the word for gooseberries when I don't even know what they are in English?  But now I know what they are in English, and I haven't quite committed to memory what they are called in Russian.  Essentially they are green with little lines and kind of look like little watermelons.  I was talking with President Childs about it this weekend when they were in Kaliningrad, and it made him laugh when I said that I love it when I need to interpret for people, because you are always humbled by it and your desire to learn just increases always. You just have no idea what to expect and the most random things crop up that you're never prepared for at the time.  But then you learn that and if that word will every come up in the next 50 years, hopefully I'll still remember it and it'll come in handy! President was laughing for a while about that because he translated General Conference talks to German for several years, and he said it was always gut-wrenching when people went off what they had written earlier and started quoting some poem.  We also had two return missionaries here, one that I missed by 2 weeks, and another who I knew for 2 or 3 months before she left home, which was weird realizing that as things stand right now, I'm in the 3rd oldest group of missionaries in the mission currently.  I have a not-so-good trait that inherently I don't like responsibility, and that's one thing that the Lord is trying to teach me here, lots of new missionaries, plus 2 native russian-speaking missionaries (breeding ground for misunderstandings), as well as other assignments.  I'm sure the lessons on humility will continue to flow this coming transfer :).

While the Childs were here we had the powerful spiritual opportunity to meet with a Less Active branch president who still believes very strongly but for various reasons stopped coming.  Mostly it was painful for him to see as people didn't do things the right way after he was released.  Anyway, it was a sweet meeting and we had a wonderful time.  The power of listening to people is real.  I have a strong testimony that as we listen to people, and show them that they can trust us, we can be ready to help them.  When we listen and the whole time are just thinking about how we can take what they are saying to prove our point, we don't show them love and it shows in our response.  Every time I'm on a meeting with President Childs that opportunity presents itself and it's truly an honor to see as he listens with his ears, mind, and heart, and that people open up to him.  Then, when he needs to say something, it's truly given to him the words that he needs in order to help the person in front of him.  The promise of D&C 100:6 which reads "For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say." is true.  

In other news, you asked for a little more detail on Mexi Fest.  Well, Elder Larson's mom loves making Cafe Rio, and so we did that.  We bought pork from a super nice butcher shop, and went around the city in order to get everything we needed (fortunately, there are tortillas in Russia, you just have to search).  We made the hats and pinata out of paper mache.  It took quite a bit of time, but it paid off in the turn out.  Usually we don't do that much of the events in our ward, but when it comes to Mexican food, for some reason they trust the Americans more than themselves (probably a good idea).  

To wrap up, I'll pass on a little part from an email that Nathan sent that I got this week that got me a little teary eyed as I read it.  He said, "Our family has made our house shine with Christmas, and our tree is beautiful. I'm glad that we could have a holiday about Jesus and the importance that he is, does, and says. And I am also glad for my family to celebrate with me this year."  First off, I love you Nate, you said it far better than I ever could, and second, I want to reiterate what he just shared.  That this holiday is to celebrate the birth of Christ for which I am so grateful.  For those of you that don't know what he did/want to know more, as well as for those born and raised Christian/Mormon, that we can learn from the Savior of the World.  I receive peace and joy as I read the scriptures, and I love reading the words that Christ himself spoke.  We're studying Luke right now in the early morning seminary class and I'm loving the opportunity to read the New Testament in Russian.  Christ was born, and He is risen, and thanks to him I'm truly at peace in this life.  There's a really cool video on that I watched a couple weeks ago that shows how we can try to follow his example better in our day to day lives better.  Go ahead and watch it :).

Love you all so very much!

Elder Belnap

Dima who went off to sea recently, he's the funniest man I know
There's a member who loves plates from the different countries/cities she's traveled too and her birthday was last week...I'll let you put the rest together :)