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