Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017

Dear Family/Friends, 

First off, thanks mom for sending all those pictures.  It makes me a little sad to see Grandpa at Grandma's grave, it's still not 100% real that she has passed.  I miss them both very much, and I'm excited to see Grandpa.  This week was really good, as I already told you over skype we got 2 new investigators, both really cool, and both willing to meet weekly.  One found the church through the internet and reached out to us, the other my companion, Elder DeVol had just talked to on the escalator. One of the things I've been really passionate about, is that for some reason or another, some people think that the worst call possible is to serve in Russia, especially since the change of the law.  I've heard people say, "It's hard, the people don't like you, it's cold all the time (that last one has proven to be true, our last snowfall was 5 days ago, and it was about an inch too), there's no one who wants to listen to us."  Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.  I think if there's one thing that I've really learned on my mission, it's to trust the Lord in all that we do.  I love D&C 122:10 which says something to the effect of, "Be thou humble and the Lord thy God will lead thee by the hand and give thee answers to your prayers."  The need to trust the Lord is just so vital in all that we do.  I love the attitude of Joseph Smith, when he was in Liberty Jail, beaten and malnourished, maltreated, he was wondering where God had gone, and then he received comfort.  At the end of that experience he writes to members of the church who were being persecuted during that time and driven from their homes: 
123: 17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
I love that we're supposed to first do all things that lie in our power, our actions show the Lord that he can trust us not to mess things up if he does pour out blessings.  I know that as we try to do all that we can, blessings come, not always in the way we expected or originally imagined, but they do.  The work in Russia is moving forward, it's hard, but every mission is hard, because as Elder Holland said when he was here, "salvation is not a cheap experience".  We had 2 baptisms this last week, and if everything goes to plan there will be 2 more this coming Saturday.  Sorry, I've just been really passionate as of late this last week, we've gotten to go on a couple of companion exchanges that have been a little eye opening.  This weekend we're going up to Petrozavodsk, it will be my last time up there on my mission, it's a beautiful city and I'm really excited.  Anyway, transfers are next week, and I'll let you know where I'm off to!  I'm pretty excited!  

I love you all so much, it was so fun talking to you.  I hope you have a great week!

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8, 2017

Dear Family and Friends, 

This week was good, like really good.  I don't think you understand, it was like really really good. Why was it so good?  It was one of the busiest weeks of my mission with missionary work.  Zone Conferences are done for the transfer, we did not have to travel with President this weekend, and we had 7 full days to do what the Lord needs us to do in our area.  This was one of the longest weeks of my mission just because it felt so packed with good activities.  We started meeting with a former investigator of 15 years whose wife is an active member of the church, and he seems ready to move past previous concerns and get baptized in the near future.  

We had several meetings come through, several meetings get cancelled at the last second, but we had backup plans and tried to just go out and talk to people if all else failed.  Every time we had a cancelled lesson, we just said "Well we're grateful that at least we have someone to care about and be disappointed that things didn't work out."  We have 4 lessons lined up already for this week for people that will be new investigators when we have our lessons with them.  To answer your question, we have one investigator who was a member referral, one meeting this week who was with a media referral, one from the sheet of former investigators, and about 15 people that we are trying to meet with and who have showed interest, that we've just meet by going out and talking to people. Not going up to people on the street, but just talking to people in transport and at stores, and a lot of people have shown personal interest and we have exchanged numbers with them.  It's helped me to strengthen my testimony of trusting the Lord so much.  He knows what he wants to get done, he really just needs us to give it our best and try to bring our will in line with his.  If we really do not know what to do we just go out and talk to people on transport and enjoy the opportunity to met people, and already several times they've shown interest in what we are doing here and have started to talk to us about religious topics.  It's also been really cool to see that talking to young people has led to a lot more success, just because a lot of them are looking into what direction they want to take in life.  The restrictions are still changing to this day, just as the law keeps getting interpreted, and yes we are still working with the members.  That last question I will need to think about some, but my approach to the work has changed working closely with President Childs.

Tomorrow is День Победы and today we get to go with President and Sister Childs to lay flowers at the statue of Mother Russia.  We will actually get to wear our tags today out in public (All the religious organizations in St. Petersburg are invited to go lay flowers).  I love the work, it's hard, and challenging, but so very rewarding.  I love the fact that living true to the Gospel of Christ helps us to want to serve more, be better, and do better, in all aspects of life.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a representative of Jesus Christ and serve others.  


Elder Belnap

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017

Dear Family and Friends!

Христос воскрес!  That's the greeting for Russians here on Easter, and it means "Christ is Risen".  What a wonderful, busy busy busy week.  I really enjoy conducting trainings, and we had several of those this week seeing that we got 7 new volunteers.  Tuesday was madness because we were at the airport for a while, we had volunteers coming both from the Spain MTC and the Provo MTC.  The 2 from Provo missed their flight, and the 5 from Spain came on time.  I got to take one of the new Elders around, and he was born in 1998!  It's weird that this next wave will be from 1999!  It's strange and I'd be lying if I said I like being one of the older ones in the mission.  Anyway, so while I got to take him around and talk to people, the Childs and Elder DeVol sat at the airport to wait for the next wave, we were supposed to have dinner at 6, but because of complications that started at 9, and короче it was one big mess.  The new volunteers are all so capable and ready, it's been inspiring to see.  On Thursday while they were without their passports for reasons very specific to missions in Russia, we got to do a training about language study and goal setting.  I love the opportunities to do trainings, because while I'm preparing for it I am able to see things that I would like to improve on and start doing better at them. It's always a great time for self evaluation to make sure that you're ready and doing all that you would like to teach people to do.  

We did have another meeting, it was rather short, and I was on a split at the time, so it was actually my companion who had the meeting, but the man we met on the streets will come to a special fireside tomorrow.  Speaking of which...ELDER HOLLAND will be in our mission tomorrow.  Yes, on of the Apostles will be here tomorrow, and I'm so excited to hear all that he will share with us.  I'm just so excited, and then there is a fireside at night and we have people who have agreed to come to it.  Anyway, I've kept that hidden, because we have known for 3 months and it's far more fun to share it right before it happens.  

We had several little miracles this week, my favorite of which was a conversation with an investigator, who has been kind of aloof.  She finally opened up on the phone and asked "Why do I need to get baptized?"  I explained what reasons there are, and that it is something that has been a tremendous blessing in my life.  She agreed to come to the fireside with Elder Holland and think about it.  

In the scriptures recently I read in Alma 1:25 which reads: Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.

This verse really testifies about life not always being easy, especially for those that "stand fast in the faith" but that if we are steadfast and immovable in keeping God's commandments, we can bear with patience anything that the world has to throw at us.  I know that it is thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven, and strengthened in our trials.  I know that He died for the world, and I am so grateful for this special time of year when we can remember him.  His resurrection happened, and because of Him we can continue to progress and grow until the perfect day.  

I love you all so much!  I'm sorry that I have no pictures to share, that will be some other time!  

Have a great week!

Elder Belnap

Pleasantly surprised this morning to receive from a friend in Russia a photo of our son, ElderChristopher Belnap, meeting Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, with the following message: "He asked, 'Are you the son of Brent Belnap who was the stake president in New York?'" 

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 10, 2017

What a week!  Plenty of things to share, but I don't really know where to begin.  First off, I'm fine after the terrorist attack, fortunately no one I know was injured, and there were several miracles that kept the volunteers out of the metro that day, and if it hadn't been bad weather that day, several were planning on gathering right by that metro for playing some outdoor basketball (funny how all the days before and all the days since have had uncharacteristically nice weather for Saint Petersburg).  Here's the short version that my mom asked me to write her: Well, this all happened on our Preparation Day, and we were at the рынок (marketplace), about a half mile from the metro station where the blast occurred, shopping for a new suit for my companion, and we got a call from one set of Elders that they saw a bunch of ambulances and police cars in that area, and that we should leave.  And as my companion and I were leaving we got another call from another set of Elders saying that they heard from an investigator that there was a terrorist attack.  We got in contact with President Childs, he confirmed that there was, and that we can't use transportation, and that we need to get an accounting for everyone in the mission.  So we started walking the 2 or 3 miles to the mission office. There was supposed to be a second blast in a different metro that we walked past on the way home, it was a bomb disguised as a fire extinguisher, but for some reason or another it didn't go off, and it was about 5 times the size, very grateful that it did not.  We got an accounting for everyone in the mission and everyone and we had to stay inside the night while we found out more information and got a better feel for what is going on. 

Anyway, that's all that happened with that this week.  We had to stay out of the metro for a while this week, the US embassy suggested that we stay off on the weekend as well because there were rallies, so it made it interesting doing our work without the metro.  We had a lot to get ready for transfers this upcoming week so that was really fun.  We also had a skype lesson with an investigator in a mission where a friend is serving that wants to know more, but speaks limited English, so that was really fun.  

The best thing this week was unequivocally General Conference.  So many answers received and just a joy to listen to a Prophet of God speak.  I was blown away when he got up and I felt in my heart that President Thomas S. Monson is a Prophet of God on the Earth today.  One of the overall themes for me from conference, was the blessing that it is to choose.  It didn't seem to me as if there was a talk on free agency, but I felt time and time again to write down thoughts pertaining to the wonderful blessing we have to choose, and particularly to choose what is right.  I love it when people here sometimes call us crazy for "losing" 2 years of our lives and that we've been brainwashed.  I love answering "no, I'm perfectly aware that our decision seems to be crazy to you, but it is my decision to do this, and no one else's. I want to be here and serve on a mission."  As we take responsibility for our choices, both good and bad, a sense of great peace comes over us.  

After the Sunday Afternoon Session of Conference, we felt the need just to get outside for a bit (to that point we had been inside all day), but we also had to weekly plan.  So we decided to take a "weekly planning walk" and discuss our plans for this week and what needs to get done.  We started talking about investigators, and I had just finished saying, "What needs to be done to grow our teaching pool?" When a man stopped us and in English said, "Are you the LDS?"  Well, we had a fantastic 30 minute conversation with him, exchanged numbers.  Turns out that in 1997 he worked in Moscow with members of the church and has always been impressed by the light in their eyes, and he told us that's how he told it was us, and that the suits confirmed it, the "LDS uniform" as he calls it.  After that I said, "well, I guess THAT is how we grow our teaching pool." to which Elder DeVol nodded and said, "Enough said."  Miracles are happening, and often we just need to do what feels right in order to see what the Lord has in store.

I love you all so much, you are in my prayers, and I hope you have a great week!  


Elder Belnap

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

Thank you mom for that beautiful letter, needless to say I'm just very grateful for all that you do, and for the inspiring letter you just left me with.  Dad also left me with a couple of great snippets, said that he ran into Chris Jeppson on the way to Ghana.  Wow, that is so exciting about President Buckner!  I love and miss NYC lots, it's strange to think of all that has changed in the last 10 years.  Sounds like it was just a fantastic week all the way around.  

This week on our end was honestly long.  I realized that I have been a little bit of a нытик (crybaby/whiner) this last week, we just had a lot of things to do in the office to prepare for transfers and a General Authority (leader in our church) visit we are going to be having in the near future, and I really do not like being in an office when we have the work of saving souls.  But, I had a great split with Elder Jensen my previous companion, up in Petrozavodsk, and he reminded me that Elder DeVol and I get to do that, so that everyone else can focus 100% on what they need to do.  I hadn't really verbalized any of my complaints, but I realized that I was not doing things with a willing mind.  (See D&C 64:34).  So I did what we all should be trying to do all the time, and tried to quickly repent that I was not content with the situation.  And what a difference that change of attitude makes!  If there are things that have to be done, then do it!  If there are things that do not need to be done, then do not waste your time with them!  Be willing to do what is required of you, but always be diligent about trying to make sure you are not doing anything that would waste time.  

This week I have been thinking about a verse in Acts 10:43.  It reads "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins".  At this time of the year is General Conference, and this General Conference is also very close to the time of year that we celebrate Easter.  I hope that as you listened to Conference, you were able to listen to what these spiritual giants shared, and that you tuned in especially to their witness of Christ.  They teach nothing, except for that which will help us to come closer to him and receive a remission of our sins.  I know that Christ lived and that He died, that He suffered on the cross, and that He is a resurrected being who knows us all by name.  I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to prophets (and apostles, and other church leaders) that witness of Christ.  My life is just so much better as I try to focus on what Christ would do, and I feel more purpose in my life, the more that I try to live in the way that he would have me live.  I'm grateful that it's no one's choice but my own to live that way, but that I can see the blessings of living according to Christ's Gospel every day, and that motivates me to keep changing, improve, serve and help others who are on, and not on that way right now.  

I love you all so much!


Elder Belnap

Later that day there was a terrorist bombing in the metro of St. Petersburg.  The mission office sent out the following email:

Dear Parents,
We know that each of you have been concerned about news reports of terrorist activity in St. Petersburg,-- we can assure you that all of our Volunteers are accounted for and safe. We have been in contact with each of your sons and daughters and they are more concerned about their parents than themselves.
We are disheartened that these events happen and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Please keep them in your prayers.
We have excellent support from experts on situations like this and have appreciated their advice. We will continue to do all in our power to keep our Volunteers safe.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

President and Sister Childs

And then Christopher wrote a short time later:

You've probably already gotten an email about the terrorist attack from the mission secretary. Everyone in the mission is safe, we were close by the attack, but everything is ok and we were not in the metro at the time.  

Love you and hear from you next week!

"and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear." (Moroni 8:16)

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017

Dear Family and Friends, 

What a week!  It was so good and flew by just so fast.  I really can not grasp entirely how it just flew by, and hear we are and it is almost April.  I'll start by wishing you с прошедшим днем рождения (a belated birthday)! I would have wished you a happy early birthday, but that's unlucky here :).  I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it and had a good time out and about with Aunt Carolee.  I'm also glad to hear about all the good things that are going on, and that you are enjoying your favorite thing--taxes.  Also, I never knew that you had a Native American "sister" who lived with you for a time.  Or maybe you did tell me, but I just didn't register that you actually had someone live with you for a time.  Can you fill me more in?  I'm interested.  Also, yes Dad I am interested in family history, I just don't know entirely how to do it, and you'll have to show me a bit when I get home.  If you want to come pick me up, you'll have to take care of that quickly, and I have a request to show you Kaliningrad if we do go :). 

Speaking of Kaliingrad, it was so much fun.  It feels like my home ward there.  Not many people knew that we were coming, and so it was a big surprise for many.  They really are my family down there.  I went on a split with Elder Ward, and we went to go running with the previous branch president (leader of the congregation in Kaliningrad), Президент Крот, and he had no idea I was coming.  He came up and gave me a big bear hug. We just talked about life, how he is doing, he is doing a lot better, we talked about some gospel topics, how the ward is doing and how we can help. It was just one of those experiences you live for, where you feel the Spirit, and see such wonderful people that you have come to love.  Our visit also coincided with the baptism of a younger man that came to the church about a week or 2 after I left on his own and completely of his own volition, he was just interested what was there.  I went to the Secretary's office and talked with Брат Кудряшов, he's the one who poked his head in during my skype call.  He finished up finances and we just talked a bit, how things are in his family.  He's the only active member of his whole family and just the biggest most lovable man I know, and he needs support.  At the end he said that he's always glad to see me and talk to me, and President Krot said that he's sure I'll be back at some point, I'm just not the type of person to fall away.  I really hope I can introduce you to all of them someday :).  

We also had a really good meeting with our investigator Tamara.  She came over to the bishops house and it was just a really good meeting.  I love being around the Childs, they are just so good, and I really do love both of them so much.  They inspire me to be better, do better, and really love people.  They are so concerned and in touch with individual people.  I know that they find the strength to remember names, really care, and truly love the people that they meet, because they pray to have charity and share that love with others.   It makes me think of this wonderful talk called the Character of Christ.  Christ never turned inward, but rather was always focused on others, and he was never selfish, but rather selfless.  What wonderful things we can learn about sincerity and love from the Savior of mankind.  As I try to study his example, my love for people grows, and as I pray the same thing happens.  

I love the opportunity to serve this people and the blessing it truly is to try and teach them about Christ, the example for us all, and if we learn from his example we can learn that, yes, we do make mistakes and that there is consequences for sin, but that we can repent quickly. I love this quote from Elder Holland: 

"If there is one lament I cannot abide, it is the poor, pitiful, withered cry, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” If you want to talk about discouraging attitudes, that is one that discourages me. Please spare me your speeches about “That’s just the way I am.” I’ve heard that from too many people who wanted to sin and call it psychology. And I use the word sin to cover a vast range of habits which bring discouragement and doubt and despair.

You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed, you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah."

As we focus on him, we can learn how to repent quickly, learn how to love, and learn how to be forgiven.  We can learn how to keep working on our personal growth while not getting upset when the said personal growth isn't as quick as we would like.  We can learn the blessings of obedience to God, and the true joy that it brings.  We can better understand the great responsibility we have to use our free agency to make correct decisions.  

I love you all, I love Russia, I'm so grateful for the people here, the language, all of it.  It's a beautiful, miraculous place.  I'll hear from you next week!


Elder Belnap

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017

Thanks for the update!  Before I start, this day was a little strange, and hence I am writing a little later, but for the most part I'll still be writing really early on.

I love that Nathan got to sing, and look his best, I love when he got his new suit and we all thought that he was the cutest little kid.  Thanks as well for sharing what Uncle Dave spoke about at the conference, I wish I could have listened to that, but I'm sure I will get to hear about everyone's experiences with Grandma and Grandpa at some later date.

This week had its highs and lows.  We had Zone Conferences, which went really well.  It was enjoyable to see how they were all planned with the same broad topic in mind, but how each one varied based off different ideas from different people, and different comments throughout that spurred conversation on one topic or another.  

We also received a media referral today and got a new investigator last week!  One step at a time!

Other than that, we were only able to have a couple of meetings this week, and I don't really know why, but my companion and I just had a little bit of tension between us, and when that happens, things just seem to stop.  I don't really know when it cropped up and how, I think it was just after a lesson with an investigator that left an unsavory taste in our mouths.  Anyway, we finally had the companionship inventory on Sunday that we really should have had on Friday (that's been one thing I've had a hard time with, I'm usually the one who talks a lot, and for the most part I have a pretty jovial attitude, so if there's a potential issue, I want them to bring it up so that I don't mistakenly ask if something is wrong if everything is ok).  Anyway, we realized that we had a hard time, because we had been traveling and the week before it was stake conference, and so it was hard to meet any one person in the ward. So, basically my companion hadn't even gotten to meet the ward that we were serving in yet, and we though that after he gets to meet them, then things would probably get a lot better.  It was incredible how night and day it felt, as soon as he could really see the people that we were serving, any and all tension disappeared and we refocused on what we are here to do.  

I got some thoughts today on remembrance from a friend serving in California (shout out to Sister Sorenson), and they were so beautifully put, and just reminded me a lot of the tension that left as quick as it came between my companion and I this week.  I love the Gospel and I am so grateful for the reminder to remember.  Remember the first time we received a testimony of Christ, remember the time that we felt a feeling that could only be described as the peace and comfort that comes from the Holy Ghost, remember all the pile of blessings that we have received in this life.  I know that as we look back in our lives and at our lives now, if we prayerfully think about how God has blessed us, we will be able to see and understand a little better all that he has done for us.  For me, the hardest thing that I have had to remember is that even though the success for us can be hard to see sometimes in our mission, that my success as a missionary or as a volunteer has nothing to do with outward results, but inward desire to do everything I can, and pray to God to bless my meager efforts, so that other people can be blessed.  

This next weekend we will be in Kaliningrad and a man will be baptized who walked into the building about a week or 2 after I left.  It will be an exciting week.  Here are my friends thoughts on remembrance:

The Book of Mormon uses the word "remember" 157 times, and the word "forget" just 20. One of our most important instructions to "remember" come in the sacramental prayer-- that we "always remember Him." I've compiled a list of 7 ideas via scripture that chronologically relate to what I want to remember and how I want to "always remember Him": 

Remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth  (Alma 37)
Remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer (Alma 29)
Remember that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water (3 Nephi 7)
I could remember my pains no more (Alma 36)
Remember that every good gift cometh of Christ (Moroni 10)
Remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true (Mosiah 1)
3 Nephi 27-- Remember the things that I have told you.

1. Remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth

I don't think my parents would have ever looked at me as a youth and thought, "she is... learning wisdom." Quite the opposite, in fact. But I mean I wasn't totally hopeless. I was still learning. Heavenly Father can teach us at whatever stage of our lives.

2. Remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer 

When I went off to college, I became more aware (obviously) of being an individual human independent of mom, dad, same home family ward as the former 18 years of my life. I talked to my YSA bishop, totally dumbfounded at how people my age had the capacity to claim they had a firm belief in God when they had only just stopped shopping in the "juniors" section at Target. I wanted to know two things-- 1) why wasn't that me? And 2) was there actually God? My bishop advised in a way I had heard but also not heard before because it felt more personal than previously: pray, ask God if He is there and if He loves you. Not a complicated thing, but as I prayed  there was this thing that started to grow inside of me: a little seed of faith. 

It grew as I prepared to serve a mission, and life started working out more than before. It's not even that my grades or musical performances of athletic endeavors worked out better-- I just felt more joy, and more at peace with not being everything I wanted to be  all at once. 

I felt that Heavenly Father heard my prayers, and got me and my family out of the rut that was all of high school. 

And then things fell somewhat apart at once at a very inconvenient time-- 3 months before my mission. Family went from smooth sailing to a little stormy, friends went from contactable to unreachable (partly cuz they became missionaries), working and school became more challenging and started earlier in the day. I kept preparing for a mission. 

Which is good. I loved the MTC, I was excited to serve a mission. Then I got here and my brother left the church. And then a few months later my family member passed away-- the one thing I asked Heavenly Father to not do, to take someone I loved from me before I got home. 

So I had to remember what the Lord had done for me, and how He had heard some of my first sincere prayers as a freshman in college. 

3. Remember that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water 

Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. Even through what my heart and mind were batting, Heavenly Father gave my companions and me people to love, teach, and help to be baptized. But none of them would have been baptized without repenting, and none would have repented without having faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Remembering my purpose was my lifeline, and even though I still felt like I was drowning I knew I could at least do what Elder M. Russell Ballard directed-- "stay in the boat and hold on." As I tried to stay afloat, I began to feel what Peter felt when seeing the Savior walk on water--

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Remembering the Savior gave me faith to teach, and reminded me to help others remember Him, too, through helping others through the path to Him. 

4. I could remember my pains no more... and oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain 

I still remember how I struggled and fought, but through the healing power of the Atonement I don't feel the darkness like I did. Through reaching for the Savior during my trials I was able to bear what was happening, and through helping others understand and apply the gospel and atonement of Jesus Christ I found conviction and strength. 

I remember the circumstances, I remember the challenges, but I also remember the equivalent joy and light that came with it.  

5. Remember that every good gift cometh of Christ 

Back to last night's "Miracle Drive". Looking back on my mission I'm not even going to try to count the gifts, blessings, and miracles. Whether it's serving at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site-- which, in itself, has been an incredible blessing-- having companions from all over the world, learning more about who I am and what I'm capable of accomplishing, or meeting soul after soul after soul and testifying of the Savior, His gospel, and the blessing it is to know and apply it. Every good thing has come because of Him and having His name so close to my heart. Every good gift cometh of Christ. 

6. Remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. 

Whether I was sitting on the floor of my freshman dorm room, the back of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, or the ancient desks in our ancient apartments doing everything I could to make up for lost time and really "treasure up the word" of the books of scripture, I want to remember that what I've been teaching others for 18 months is true. And that the records we have are true. 

7. And, finally, the Savior's words: "Remember the things that I have told you."

I will have a lifetime of learning, and the gospel in its simultaneous complexity and simplicity will be foundational in my decision making. The Savior taught anciently to the people in the Eastern Hemisphere, He taught anciently to the people in the Western Hemisphere, and as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father-- as disciples of Jesus Christ-- I can remember the things He has told me. 

 I can remember the parables, the stories. Most importantly, however, I can always remember Him. I can always remember His example, His love, His goodness. I can always remember His joy, and His pain. I can always remember His Atonement-- His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. He is more than a man, but He has descended below anything any other man so He can lift every other man and woman if they remember Him. 

My hope for myself is that I will always remember Him. My hope for you is that you will always remember Him-- that you'll remember your brothers and sisters and invite them to come to Christ. Whether by your example or your invitation, I hope you'll remember the things He has told us to love Him, love our neighbor, and love ourselves. 


 I love those thoughts so very much, and I pray that we all can remember all that God has done for us in our lives, and remember all the wonderful things that we have been given.  I know that as we do so, we will receive greater peace, knowing that as we pass through trials right now, we will be able to recognize and remember how God has supported us and that he still is.  I love you all so very much, and I hope you have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017*

Dear Family and Friends, 

What a great week!  We were really busy all week, but that's exactly what we are trying to do :). We had the opportunities to meet with a couple of members which was really fun, and get to know them a little better, and help them set plans for inviting others to learn more.  We also had MLC this week, which is just when different leaders in the mission gather together and discuss the affairs of the mission, what we can work on, and how we can improve things.  That's a once every 6 week meeting.  We had 2 wonderful lessons that really stick out to me in my mind.  One was with with Tamara, she's 18 and is from a different city, but her good family friend who is a member is also from that same city and we've started meeting with her and teaching her.  It's really cool to see what strikes a cord with different people, and for her the Plan of Salvation was something that she really perked up about.  She had lots of good questions, and we are excited to talk about it more with her.  Her progress has been slow, but she's very naturally in tune with things of a spiritual nature and willing to talk about them.  We are excited to see how she will open up some more.  I love being able to ask people to read and pray about it for themselves, and that the questions that she has can truly be answered through study and prayer.  

We also had one of the coolest experiences of my mission. I had a split with Elder Hallstrom this last week.  We had 2 lessons fall through for the my split with Elder Hallstrom during MLC, and we were not really sure what we would do, but the Lord gave us what we needed to do as we prayed humbly, and sought for what he needed to happen. We then got to see one of the biggest miracles of my mission with Edward. For the last month and a half he has not opened the door to us. We knocked and he told us to leave, so we prayed, and Elder Hallstrom and I both the need to stay. He is a drunk who is only capable of not drinking when he doesn't have anymore money to buy alcohol, and he was baptized about 20 years ago.  We felt the need to not leave even though he told us several times to do so, and the need to sing. So we sang outside his door to him and a miracle happened. I really got to see how, as one of the first Presidents of the Church Lorenzo Snow said, "There is no mortal man that is so much interested in the success of an elder when he is preaching the gospel as the Lord that sent him to preach to the people who are the Lord’s children”. 

We also got to go to Pskov this weekend, and I think that there might be more churches in Pskov than in Provo, Utah.  There are so many, and it's truly a beautiful city.  I would love to show the family that city some day :).  The church is very small there, but it was a great sacrament meeting.  I got to speak and I talked about a couple of verses in D&C 93:36-37 "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one." In my talk I really talked about how we come to church and read the scriptures not для галочки (for the check mark, can you say that?), but to learn and grow, and understand why what God wants for us is better than what the people in the world might be encouraging us to do.  I know that I receive so much joy and peace in my life being here and serving people, teaching the Gospel.  I love Russia, Russian, and everything to do with it.  I love you all so very much!  


Elder Belnap

Sunday, March 5, 2017

March 5, 2017*

This week has been a fun one!  We had transfers on Wednesday and I got my new companion Elder DeVol.  His mom is Ukrainian and his Grandpa is Armenian.  Sorry, that's just how he introduces himself to everyone, so I feel like that's the best way to introduce him.  He's really a good Elder, and I'm excited to work with him.  It's really funny, Elder DeVol just served with my trainee Elder Tribe, and when we all changed companions, Elder Tribe just came up and said "Look!  I just train assistants ok!  Elder Coleman, you're next!" 

Well, we had a fair amount of things to get done after that, but we have been able to get to work since then, and we have set plans for who we want to meet and when for this coming week.  We will be in Pskov on both Saturday and Sunday, so that will be exciting.  These last couple of days we have tried to meet with some of members in our ward, just so that both Elder DeVol and I can get to know them better.  We also had Stake Conference this last weekend which was so exciting, everyone gathered together.  There are so many cool, young families in our stake, and our investigator Tamara was so interested by the fact that there are so many young people here who believe all of this, she really enjoyed it.  

This week I studied a bit about the divinity of Christ, and his divine Sonship.  We had a conversation with a man that left me with not the best taste in my mouth.  Anyway, the man was going off about how he believes the scriptures, but does not believe that Christ is the Son of God.  I decided to go through the scriptures and see where someone testifies of Christ's relationship to God, including the testimony of Christ himself.  I really enjoyed the verses in Mark 14:61-62 which read: 61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

I love those verses, and to me, reading them my testimony of Christ being the Son of God was strengthened.  I do not understand everything, but I know that the scriptures are true and that my faith in Christ helps me on a daily basis.  I love the words of Nephi when he said: 10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

 11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

I know that the scriptures are true because I have prayed about them and studied them trying to understand whether or not they are true.  I love reading them and the comfort and knowledge that I am able to attain from reading them, they truly are the words inspired of God through chosen prophets, and more valuable than any other reading material on this Earth.  

I love you all so very much!  

Have a great week!  Pictures as promised!

The one of me looking good and then me making a fat face was on the 6 hour drive to Petrozavodsk, my companion and I decided that all of those lose weight fast ads are just the same person, but in one picture they're trying their best to look good, and in the other they are trying their best to look terrible.  I think I did pretty good one both ends :).  The others are pictures on the lake in Petro, and of the ice sculptures down there.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017*

Wow, what a fun week.  We have been with President more than usual this week, because it was the week of...transfer calls!  If that makes no sense, the low down is this, every 6 weeks, volunteers can either stay in a city/area, or leave a city/area.  Our mission president is inspired as to where people need to go in order to develop their skills and abilities better, and continue to grow.  So, we got to call people about that this week, and make the final decisions about where people will go.  That was a really cool experience, just seeing how President Childs prays to know where people need to go in order to grow, be happy and serve at maximum effectiveness.  

We also went to the most northern city in our mission this week (well, most northern where there are volunteers), and that was a blast, I'll have to send pictures as soon as I get them sent to me.  It is a beautiful city, and from there you can take a 3 hour boat ride to see Kizhi.  So, if dad really wants to see that place, there's about a day of travel involved to get there.  

This letter is going to be relatively short, because honestly, I am under the weather, and very tired, but I had a really cool experience up in Петрозаводск.  First off, little fun fact.  Петрозаводск was called that because it was a factory (завод) and it was Peter the Great's (Петр) and it was one of the richest sources for iron to be found in Russia.  The location of the city is right on the lake, and through several smaller rivers, a boat can travel directly to St. Petersburg.  I really enjoy being around President Childs, because he knows all these things.  It is like being around dad, but now I have grown up a little bit and I am actually interested in learning all of these things!  I promise dad, we will have some more interesting travels when the opportunity presents itself in the future.  

Anyway, up there we got to meet some of the church members, and it was really fun.  There was one 14 year old girl, who was really nice, the sister volunteers in Petro have been working with her, trying to support her.  Anyway, we got to play a couple of games with her and some other people on Saturday, and then on Sunday we saw her again.  The difference was Sunday she was rather subdued.  It turns out that her grandma had passed away that morning. She burst into tears, and I felt like I should show her the pictures of my grandma who had recently passed away. I was able to show her the pictures of grandma goff, and tell her that I also lost a beloved family member recently.  I was able to testify to her of the plan of salvation, and help her find comfort that she will see her grandma again, if she will obey the commandments and live as God has taught us to live through his prophets.  She was comforted, and I was struck that God knows his children so very well, he knows the intimate experiences of our lives, and he places us where we are needed, when we are needed, to help others, and to lift them up.  

I love serving a mission, each day is a new opportunity to do some good in the world, and help people that are in need.  

I love you all very much, have a great week!  I promise pictures will come next week!


Elder Belnap

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017*

This week flew by and it will be a very short email.  

So the Childs have been in Turkey for the last week, which means we have been able to do normal volunteer work for a week!  It has been really fun and we have really enjoyed going on exchanges with other volunteers in order to facilitate training and find out what things can be worked on in the mission.  We also had 2 meetings with people whom I met on transport, which was really cool!  As the church has become more familiar with how the law is interpreted in court here in Russia, we have been a little more free to talk to people and meet with those that are interested.  

The meetings went really well with those people, and it was so cool to met a young 19 year old (I at first wrote 189 year old...whoops) who just had one question that was eating at him.  It was "What is my purpose in life?"  It was so incredible for me to see that, this 19 year old kid, who was so sincere, was asking one of the questions that we know the Gospel answers.  When we shared Alma 34:32 with him, he thought about it for a while, and said "That is a far more simple answer than I was expecting, but I guess that truth should be simple."  I am very excited to work with this young man.  I know that the Gospel answers our questions and helps us find answers to some of the deepest questions that we might have, I know this because I have found those answers to mine.  

This email doesn't do justice to everything that happened, but I am honestly pulling a blank.  This coming week is transfers which will be really exciting and this weekend we are going to Petrozavodsk which is the northernmost city where there are volunteers currently.  One day I will make it to Murmansk :).

We also went on a tour of the city this week with a member and an investigator and a couple of other people, which was really, really cool.  I'll send pictures next week when I get them from the person who had the camera :).  This city is full of such a rich history, and learning about it more has really increased my love for the people.  

I love you all, have a great week!

Elder Belnap

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017

Well, here I am again, behind the computer, writing family and friends.  The days are still long and distinct, but I never had the understanding before my mission that weeks can go by faster than the days.  It honestly is a little too much for me to wrap my mind around.  

Anyway, week 1 for the millionth time is an appropriate title, because every week is entirely and completely it's own.  I always feel like I'm starting anew because there are so many things that I learn each and every week, and situations that we get ourselves into that aren't bad, but just different from anything I've before experienced.  For example, I'm in the ward young men's presidency, and so we work with the young men.  Young people talk very differently from old people aka they use so much slang.  So I've been working on my understanding them, and I've learned a lot about how youth speak/how I don't want to speak Russian.  It's really fun, and I just love falling into places that I've never been before because you learn so much that way.  My favorite word of the week that I learned was спеться which means "to click/to hit it off" but it literally means "to sing well together".  Anyway, it's been really fun being here as an assistant, because we get thrown into different situations a lot.  For example, being at the cemetery carrying a basket of flowers and listening to a loudspeaker recite the story of what happened here was far different from anything I've ever come across.

In terms of the work things are going great!  We had a kid randomly show up to church last week, and we still don't know how he found the church, he's not a member and is originally from Germany.  He's just studying here for a couple of years.  Anyway, he's 17 and has really hit it off with the other youth, came to church this last Sunday in a suit and tie, and we're excited to start working with him.  The other youth in the ward have really taken him under their wing, and have been inviting him to events.  It's been really cool to see them step up in a big way.  

We've also been working with one member named Erik, who's Russian but his roots are from somewhere else.  Anyway, he came to church on Sunday after we had a really powerful and good meeting with him at the Childs on Tuesday.  (Side note: the Childs take very good care of us, we were in the car the other day, and we had to all run from one meeting to the car to make it to a district meeting in a nearby city, and Sister Childs had thought ahead and realized we'd have no time for lunch, so she packed lunch ahead of time, it's like I'm in elementary school again and mom is packing me lunches, haha). He's really funny and speaks great English, so we just ask him any questions that he has, and he does the same for us.  Working with him though has shown me just how addictive being on your phone can be.  He's literally, ALWAYS on it, on Sunday I told him that it's like I have to be his parole officer and check up every few seconds if he's on his scriptures app or instagram.  He liked learning the word parole officer, and more often than not he was on instagram haha.  Anyway, I confess again mom, that you were right regarding phones being things that suck you in.  That doesn't mean I'm going to go Amish, but I'll be more aware of it ;) (for everyone that doesn't understand that, growing up we always teased mom that she just wanted to go Amish and completely unplug all the devices).  We've been working with several people, but those are the names that come to mind right now.   

I also got the package!  УРА!  Again, long story that I'm not going to get into.  But, we taught a lesson to our now investigator taxi driver on the way which was классно (cool)!  I put the dictaphone to good use and recorded the talk I gave on Sunday.  

I'll just wrap up with a couple of the thoughts I shared yesterday during my talk.  I was asked to chose my own topic and after thinking about it for a while, I decided that I just needed to read something, and I read a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer entitled, "The Unwritten Order of Things".  At the end of the talk he shares a part of D&C 84:85 where it says "treasure up in your minds continually the words of life".  I read that and felt that that was what I should speak on.  I love that idea of treasuring up in our mind.  It reminds me of what Christ said, when he said: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  When we really do all we can to not just read words on a page, but truly study the scriptures, our heart starts to change and we start to become people that are less focused on the hustle and bustle of this world, but more focused on what God would have us do, and I know that he would have us do only that, which will bring ourselves and other people benefit.  

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


Elder Belnap

Pics from my favorite place to eat out in Novgorod

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017*

This week was highlighted by Zone Conferences.  3 days of 6 hour conferences was long, I can only imagine what it's like to be Dad now, at one point on the 2nd day I was getting so tired (we had to translate for the Бабсковы) that I stood up and I клевал носом (nodding off, lit. pecking by means of my nose).  I guess some things will never change.  Anyway, the conferences were really good, a lot of good participation and thoughts shared.  We have a really good mission, and we had some changes in missionary procedure this last week, and so we had to spend a lot of time this week just implementing those changes and spending time on the computer typing up new documents.  It's fun to see the more administrative side of missionary work, but I can't tell you how glad I am that this week we just have meetings lined up and the only things that are extra this week are our staff meeting, our meeting with President, and a little 30 minute meeting with геннадий, one of the office workers in charge of visa trips, and hopefully it'll be short because we have no visa trips this week.  Anyway, we have a lot of meetings set up and we're just really excited to get things moving forward.  

We also had our second to last visa trip this week, and that was really fun, we were able to see a lot of how we had changed, we talked about goals for the next few months as well as goals that we want to set for after our missions in order to really stay strong.  We used to spend all our time just talking on these trips, and we did a fair amount of that, but we also had a scripture study together.  It was just really fun to hear their thoughts, listen to what helps them, and thereby we all helped one another grow and become better.  

I've been talking with my companion and thinking about revelation this week.  I love the verses in 2 Nephi 28:30 and D&C 59:4.  They talk about receiving line upon line and precept upon precept, as well as receiving our own personal revelation.  Elder Jensen and I were talking a lot about this, because over these last several months we have learned A LOT.  And we still have a lot to learn, but every time we see something that isn't quite right, our first impulse is to correct it, because we've learned it.  The trick is also realizing that other people have to learn line upon line and precept upon precept.  All in all, it's really strengthened our testimonies that God is loving, and oh so patient in relationship to us.  He wants the best for us, but he'll give us as we're ready, line upon line.  

Have a great week!


Elder Belnap

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 2017*

I'm sorry that I'm giving you such a title, but that I don't have pictures for you, just as a forewarning, I might have them next week as I gather some from other people. I was really touched mom by what you wrote about Grandma and the days leading to her passing, as well as the days following.  I'm glad that things seemed to go very smoothly, and that it was a very spiritual and family filled moment.  I miss her very much, as I'm sure you do, but I'm glad that her passing went well.  

In other news, this week absolutely flew by.  It was so much fun, and so busy.  On Monday we met with an American guy who has lived in Russia since about 6 months before the fall of the Soviet Union, and that was really fun.  He's a good man, who served a mission and has a strong testimony, but has stopped doing some of the basics.  He invited his friend over to participate in one a discussion, and it went really well.  We also got to give a very spirit filled blessing to Scott's (the American) mom, who is a wonderful lady who has stage 4 kidney failure and said she's somehow just plugging along.  She reminded me a lot of Grandma about 7 years ago or so, or whenever she had recovered from her first stroke, but before the second one.  

We also got to represent the church with stake leaders and President and Sister Childs this week at a memorial for the end of the Siege of Ленинград which was a very special experience.  We got to learn more about just the suffering these people experienced during 3 years of being completely shut off by the Nazis.  There was one way that they were able to get supplies, but it was very limited and it was done by driving trucks across in the dead of winter when the lakes had frozen over into a part of Finland not under Nazi control in order to get supplies.  The truck drivers would drive with the truck doors open just so that if the ice started to crack, they could jump on out and have a chance of surviving.  We carried a big bouquet of flowers through the cemetery, and there were all these huge mass graves from the time, and it was just sorted out by year.  It was a very touching experience.  

I also got to go back to Новгород this weekend!  We went with President Childs, and I absolutely love that city and being around the Childs.  Just getting to ask them questions and hear about their experiences.  I asked a question on the ride down about really pondering the scriptures and how they've tried to really think about things deeply and check for their own understanding, and really think about what they're reading, because sometimes I feel that I'm just surface level thinking about things.  Anyway, President Childs told us about a time where he really wanted to understand Isaiah better, and so he would write a 5 sentence synopsis of every chapter, and what it was actually about, and he said he had to do a lot of thinking in order to put it in his own words and have it really make sense, as well as a lot of background study.  It also just worked out that the family from the little city a few hours away was up visiting for that weekend, and so I got to see the 10 kids, as well as translate, say hello to денис for whose baptism I was serving in новгород.  It just reminded me how hard it will be to say goodbye, I love the people here in Russia, and don't ever want to say goodbye.  That's why I like the Russian saying, "Мы не будем прощаться, мы скажем до свидания."  It means "We won't say farewell, we'll say until we meet."  Anyway, it was such a tender mercy, and oh so fun.  I got to meet with my investigator саша who's doing really well, and translate for President Child's talk, everyone was shocked at my Russian speaking now, I guess that's what happens when you serve in a place for your second area and you come back almost 8 months later.  

Anyway, I love you all, sorry that it was a bit of a travelogue this week.  To wrap things up I'll send you a verse that I really liked from my scripture study.  It's Matthew 10:42 and it reads:

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

I was thinking about that verse a lot, and for me it meant that whosoever will serve those in the name of Christ, not for his own lot or sake, will in no wise lose the reward of eternal life.  I know that as we try to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, that we are blessed and happy, knowing that we are doing the will of God.  I've experienced that feeling many a time, and it always brings me great peace.  I love you all so very much!

Have a great week!

Elder Belnap