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)