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