Friday, January 22, 2010

Travel to Pamplona and Burgos

This is on our way. I took this picture because it reminded us of I 10 on the way to California.
Thousands of trucks. We didn't see any Knight Transportation or Swift Trucks. But heavy traffic and most of it was trucks. They are important here also.
The pictures were all taken from the car because we didn't have time to stop. Nothing exciting, but it is our trip to Pamplona and Burgos. This is a small farming community. Everything is so clean and well kept

A pretty picture of a farming area. See how nice everything is kept.

Just last week, this was covered with snow. I was glad it was clear today.

I think it is so pretty. Everything is so green here even in December after a freeze and snow storm.

Along side of the road was this steel statue of a bull. Interesting. The Elders said they are all over the place. I don't know what for, but I'm going to try and find out.

Here, they love to build tunnels. They don't go around the mountain, they go through it. Even in town here. When you go through the tunnels, you have to turn your lights on or you could get a ticket. The tunnels are even lit up and not very long.

More pretty communities. Danette thinks I like these because I am from Montana. The hills in Montana are mountains. These are just rolling hills.

Poor Elder Anderson. He was tired. We will be losing him next transfer. He has been a great help for Elder Belnap in the office. He has helped me, also. Great Elder. He will do well in the field.

This is Elder C. Hansen. He is one of our new Secretaries who just replaced Elder Strickland. We enjoy him. He has helped me a lot on the computer. Mucho patience. Which I need.

Picture of the strip farming here. I don't know what they call it hear.

Just a picture of the clouds. It rained really hard when we left at 7:00am in the morning and our windshield wipers didn't work well at all. But, Elder Anderson got us there safely. We didn't have rain the rest of the day. We were happy about that because of the wipers. Most of our trip was in the dark. We left in the dark and we got home in the dark.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 10, 2010 - Update from Delwyn

As with past weeks, this one has passed rapidly – a noteworthy experience for us has been the change in the weather. The entire week has been cold and rainy but Friday, Mother Nature got pretty serious with showing us what winter can be like. It was cold to be outside and it rained or hailed most of the day. We had to make a trip to the car dealership to pick up a car we had there for service (not the gas-infected van; we’d already gotten that). When we left the office it was not raining and appeared to be clearing but in the five minutes it took to get to the parking area, the hail blew in, we were caught without umbrellas and paid the price. It hailed enough in a very short time to cover the ground and make the roads a little slick. I’d already committed to one of the elders that he could drive so there was some pay-close-attention time for our short trip, he did a parallel parking job that looked more like he’d run off the road and left it there than actually tried to park it - I mentioned to him in a very tactful way that he might want to work on those skills. The forecast for Friday night was 0°C and, with the wind blowing, it very much felt like it’d freeze. Saturday morning we could again see the snow in the hills just off the river but hadn’t seen any snow in town where our piso is. On Saturday morning as we cleaned the piso we could see rain, hail and finally snow out the window. The snow, however, was a lot like Phoenix snow - it melted as soon as it hit the ground so we didn’t have any accumulation at all. This morning (Sunday), we got a call about 9:45 from Pte Clegg inviting us to come for dinner at their house this afternoon. They were scheduled to attend and speak in Gijón so they’d left about 6:00 this morning and within an hour the roads were so bad they could tell there was no way they’d reach Gijón in time for the meetings so they called the Elders to fill their speaking assignments, turned around and came home. A member of the stake presidency was in our branch to speak and told us that most of the members in Burgos and Logroño were snowed in so they couldn’t get to church today. Our branch president lives in mountains an hour away from here and his train was canceled for snow so he wasn’t in the branch today. Blair has asked about our elevation here – when we walk the 2-3 blocks from our piso to the waterfront, we’re 10-15 feet above the water level and the water level changes with the ocean tides. As the tide comes in, the water in the river runs upstream and as the tide goes out, so does the water in the river. The latitude here is just slightly north of Blackfoot so I guess it’s our low elevation and the effects the ocean has on the climate that keeps it from being even colder than it is. We went to a mall yesterday and did some shopping for sweaters, scarves and gloves – we’re determined to survive (maybe that’s why we had blizzards the last two winters we’ve been to Utah, sort of a prep schooling). We did a little ‘touring’ on our way home – I’d followed the tow truck on the road earlier this week and thought we’d taken a road that’d get us back to where we wanted to go but it didn’t (“…all these things shall give thee experience”).
Along with our usual office work we’ve been doing the things necessary to move to a new month and a new year. Virtually all the files I have for tracking convert baptisms, piso inspections, proselyting indicators and vehicle records are done on a monthly basis in files covering a year. So I’ve been making files for this year and have been changing some of them to try to make them easier to keep and use. As we were getting ready to leave the office Friday evening, I was extracting some data for Pte Clegg and the power went off leaving us in the dark – something had blown our main breaker. When we discovered and reset the breaker, things seemed to be back to normal and I finished getting the needed data. But yesterday, the elders reported that our wireless internet system at the office is down and I don’t know if there’s a relationship between the power outage and that problem – I’m hoping it is back up tomorrow.
We’ve done some planning this past week for Flo & I to make a scheduled visit to each of the pisos in the mission and work with the missionaries to get things cleaned up, repaired and in the condition we think the Lord expects. Our first stop is to be Tuesday at the piso for the missionaries here in Las Arenas – the secretaries and Assistants live there. As Elders arrive and leave the mission and as they come for conferences or other assignments, they usually stay at that piso so it’s big and has a lot of extra mattresses. The permanent missionaries don’t cook very much there and our sense has been that they don’t get very concerned about how well they keep up the piso. When we announced last week that they’d be our first visit, they immediately scheduled their Saturday P-day as a major cleaning day and are telling us today that they have the place looking good – we’ll see. But if the announcement has the affect of motivating missionaries to clean their pisos, that’s great – it’ll make our task a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Many of the things we do have now become quite routine – we still study a lot of Spanish (and I assure you we’re making progress, just not very fast), spend a lot of time reading scripture (we’re ahead of schedule with our BM reading) and the Lord may sigh when he sees us fall to our knees (he knows he’s in for a pretty lengthy session and may need to listen carefully to know what we’re thankful for and what we’re asking for – maybe that’s why Spaniards talk so fast). Although we greatly miss family and friends, we’re grateful to be here and considered worthy to serve missions. We sure hope things went well for Kason and Blair’s family as he entered the MTC. Send us his email address and we’ll plan to send a periodic note to him. We love and appreciate each of you and the many things you do for us – we could not have better families. May the Lord’s choicest blessings be with you always.
Love, E&H Belnap

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 3, 2010 - Weekly Update from Delwyn


It’s been another fast but good week for us here in Spain – we now have the holidays (at least those that we celebrate) behind us, we’ve have a couple more Skype conversations and had some accomplishments in our work as missionaries. When we’d finished last Sunday with our letter and card writing the weather was nice enough to take a walk so we walked for about 50 minutes along our usual paths – it’s cool enough outside to wake us up. Having finished reading the Book of Mormon we started the D&C thinking that’s be a little easier for us to cope with – it’s actually been harder for us. There’s an entirely new set of vocabulary words in the Spanish D&C so it’s going to push us for a while (at least) to learn that language and understand the meaning of the scripture as we read it.
Monday was a fairly typical day in the office and it’s often our busiest day of the week there. We do quite a bit of end-of-week stuff where Sunday in the last day of the week (even the calendars here are printed that way) so we try to get as much of that stuff done as we can. I’ve been working on a couple of things with church administrators in Madrid and it appears that they’re on an extended holiday vacation – I get either no response or an out-of-office response to my email messages. We’ve been told that the biggest holiday of the season occurs Wednesday of this week – I’m not sure what it’s called but think it’s a celebration of the visit of the 3 Wise Men to the young Jesus. If it turns out to be something spectacular, I’ll tell you about it next week.
On Tuesday, I went with three of the elders in the office to meet with the landlord of the piso we’d vacated in San Sebastián. We’re not officially out of the piso since we’re paying rent thru January but we had to try to resolve some concerns about the conditions in the apartment. I’d seen the apartment when we moved the elders last month but was trying to hurry and attributed most of the mess to the fact that they were still packing and moving but was shocked at the state of the piso after they supposedly moved all their stuff – it was a filthy mess. The combination of total neglect on the part of both landlord and missionaries had created a dreadful sight. We went thru the piso room by room trying to assess what had to be done to make it livable – he accepted responsibility for painting and possibly refinishing the floors (they appear to have had nothing done to them but sweeping for a very long time) and we agreed to clean and try to restore furniture and furnishings as they were when missionaries had moved in 5 years ago. With that understanding we returned to Las Arenas and began making plans to buy some things needing replacement and return to clean. On Friday, Flo & I and 3 elders from the office drove back to San Se, met the two missionaries there (they’d had four in San Se until 3 weeks ago) at 10:00 and went to work. Flo tackled the cleaning of the kitchen which she says was absolutely the filthiest place she’s ever tried to clean while the rest of us worked on the other tasks. One of the major problems was that elders had turned a wall unit from one wall to the opposite wall of the living room – the problem was that the wall unit is longer than the room is wide. We got the base turned by lifting one end enough to make the turn but the top of the unit was too tall to allow that. We took it to the stairwell outside the piso and tried to turn it there – too much unit for available space. We tried disassembly but couldn’t move some of the screws to do that. We finally took one end down a hall and were able, by removing a door, to turn the unit like we needed it – we had to have spent two hours getting that task done. Elders had removed light covers and replaced bulbs to provide more light so we had to disassemble light fixtures to get the covers back on. One of the elders rewired a light as we reassembled, hit the switch and power went out in the entire piso – we’d blown the main breaker. I worked on one of the lights, got side-tracked for a while and, when I resumed work on it, got buzzed because someone had come along and turned the switch on hoping for light – at least it worked when I was finished. We spent over 6 hours working straight thru the day – hauled uncounted bags of trash to the dumpster, swept & mopped over & over and Flo turned the kitchen into a place that you could prepare food without endangering life. We’ve still got a couple of repair problems to address but the place now looks like humans could inhabit it.
We’d planned with Chad & Trisha to do a Skype call on Wednesday – we didn’t have info about how he was going to do it but we finally made a guess and called Angela’s userid. That was a good guess and we got to talk with them, say hi to their kids, hear about their Christmas and have a very enjoyable visit with them. I’m hoping any others who might want to do a Skype call will read into this the need to exchange userid information before waiting to answer a call from our end.
Blair, Brian & Jackie had prepared for a Skype call with Mom on her birthday Saturday – that was very enjoyable for us because we got to talk to Mom, Brian & Jackie, Blair & Vicky and Lynda and say hi to most of the kids who were there. We were on for about an hour & 15 minutes and the time sure flew by for us – we had a great evening and thank all of you for taking the time to talk with us.
I think I’ve mentioned before the concern here about using our US drivers licenses for driving in Spain. The mission presidents have basically agreed to take the drivers-ed courses to obtain a Spanish license – since they’re here for 3 years and do a lot of traveling, they’ve agreed to pay the costs ($1000+; everyone fails the first time because the schools charge based on the time a student spends in school). But for those in our situation, it’s hard to swallow the time and expense of a driver’s license when we do so little driving and our mission would be half over before we got the license. So this week I applied for an International Driver Permit which is good for a year and am hoping that’s sufficient for my needs thru the remainder of our mission.
We didn’t have anything to do (one can only study so long before the brain is fried) or anyplace to go on New Year’s Eve so we had a quiet evening in the piso. That is until the fireworks started in earnest about 11:00. They went for about 2 hours, hitting a crescendo around midnight – I’ve never experienced anything like that. It really sounded like bombs were falling all around us and even with everything closed & shutters down, it was impossible to sleep. The next morning our street was lined with drunks, streamers, glitter and other trash and there were occasional explosions going off around us all thru the day. I don’t know whether it was private parties, individuals, governments or who actually provided the fireworks but next year we might plan our evening to be in a protected spot with a better view to see what we could only hear.
On Saturday when I’d finished my cleaning and had run a couple of errands, I got a call from the office Elders that started with “Elder Belnap, we’ve just done something awfully stupid”. I sat down and they rehearsed that they’d taken the office van to a store for groceries, gasoline and to find new windshield wiper blades. The problem was they’d filled the tank with regular gasoline and it’s a diesel engine. They hadn’t driven it far but it was far enough for them to recognize something was wrong in the way it ran so they shut it down. I told them we’d better leave it there, call the dealership for advice and deal with the problem Monday. I drove out to pick them up, delivered them at the office (that’s where they eat and keep their food) and had just parked the car when Pte Clegg called (from Vigo) to talk about the piso cleanup we’d done. After that we talked about gasoline & diesel engines and a few other things before I could go home and prepare for Fast Sunday. He mentioned how interesting it is that, while observing the missionaries working with investigators and members, how totally awesome they are and 30 minutes later you’re led to question whether or not they have a brain. I guess these missionaries are transformed from kids to awesome and back to kids until, for most of them, they reach a point of maturity that we see in them when they return home.
After reading each day in the D&C we’re starting to become more familiar with the Spanish there so that’s helping us to grow and we started an assignment this week to read the Book of Mormon (in English for all whose first language is English) by April 1st and mark all the references relating to Christ. For me it’s been an interesting exercise these first 2-3 days but it’s going to add a little more study time for us each day – we’ll report how things go.
Well, that wraps up the report for this week. We’ve sure enjoyed the opportunity to see and talk to many of you and appreciate your efforts to set it up and adjust to our schedule. We love all of you, thank you very much for your love and support and pray the Lord’s choicest blessings on each of you. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the missionary work here – we’re getting better at what we’re supposed to be doing – and bear witness of its divinity.
All our love, E&H Belnap

12-27-09 - Weekly Report from Delwyn

Well, it seems like the most important and exciting thing this week was Christmas and the opportunity to talk to nearly the entire family. We didn’t have a lot of gift-giving here – things are expensive and we’re pretty conscious of the need to send or carry with us anything that’s treasured. There was enough investigation done to let us get Skype set up on our computers so we could talk free for as long as we wanted to or could stand it. We’d had a couple of test runs earlier that gave us a working knowledge of what had to be done to connect to each other and we’d set up to talk to Heidi’s family first so, on Christmas day, we went to the office about 5:30, set up the laptop and made the call to Heidi. We have the ability to do a 1-to-1 video call so we got to talk to Sam, Heidi, Carlee & Preston for a few minutes then dropped that call and made a group call to all the other kids but Chad (no Skype at his place yet). It was apparent early that, with that many people, each wanting to talk and ask questions, that wouldn’t work very well so we decided on an order for calling each family based loosely on their schedules. We talked to Meyers then Collins then Thorntons and then a group at Needlers. Travis had his laptop set up there so we got to talk to him then Angela then all the Needlers and then with Travis again. It became apparent at the first call that we weren’t going to be able to stay within the 15-minutes we’d planned for each call so we got further and further behind the schedule as we went along. At the end we were asking callee A to telephone callee B to tell them to answer the computer call that was coming. For us it was a great experience and so good to see and talk to each of them and we’re grateful to Skype for coming up with the idea and technology to allow it to happen for us. We’re still exploring ideas to get hooked up with Chad & Trisha and hope it happens sooner than later.
Our Christmas activities started Wednesday evening with an open house at the mission offices. We’d invited the people of the branch, the missionaries had invited their investigators, the Hnas had decorated and prepared lots of food & goodies – only 2 sisters from the branch came. That was disappointing but, on the upside, there was plenty to snack on in the office for that evening and following day. On Christmas Eve we were invited to the mission home for dinner with Pte & Hna Clegg and the 5 Elders in the office – had an excellent roast beef dinner. The Cleggs had put a jigsaw puzzle on a coffee table that that occupied the Elders before and for a long time after dinner – we don’t know how long. After we’d done some clean up we excused ourselves, drove to Las Arenas and spent the obligatory 30-45 minutes looking for a place to park – it was even worse than usual. We declined a breakfast invitation for Christmas morning so we could sleep in and relax a little more. Flo roasted our gold-plated turkey, made dressing using a loaf of ‘pan’ she’d left out overnight and added some other traditional Christmas dinner dishes – it was absolutely great. It was a bright sunny day and while the turkey & dressing were in the oven we rode the transporter across the Bilbao River and walked for over an hour on that side of the river. It was an interesting walk for us and we saw other things we want to visit and explore in the future so we’ll go back. When we returned we both were hungry (don’t seem to get that way very often) so digging into Christmas dinner was great.
As for the rest of the week, last Sunday, after studying much of the afternoon, we got ready and per an invitation, took the Metro to Bilbao for their ward’s Christmas musical program. The chapel was full of people and that didn’t count the many people who depicted the birth and mission of the Savior thru narration, song and costumed portrayal – it really was well done. Before and as it started, some were taking pictures and Flo asked me to snap a picture of an early scene but no sooner had I taken the picture than someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that no flash photography was allowed – we put away the camera. They used the missionaries in the chorus and for special music and the wife of our branch president sang a medley of songs – she has a beautiful voice and performed very well. They gave each of us a small bag of sweets and we visited for a few minutes then came home
Monday morning we left our piso a few minutes earlier than normal, went next door to Marcelo’s store and bought tomatoes for the meal today, caught the Metro and went to the Bilbao chapel for our zone conference. From the windows of our train I could see snow covered hills close-by - it’s an interesting contrast of bright green grass just below the blanket of snow on the hills. We’d all been asked to come fasting with the objective of setting mission goals for next year. We got seats on the back row, Flo helped get the meat for the taco salad warming and the morning session (to 1:00) was devoted to teaching principles of goal setting, exercising faith and getting the Lord’s work done. Pte Clegg told us we’ll have 39 missionaries go home in the April – August period of 2010 and we’ll go from 72 to 60 in that time period. But we’re still going to try to do as well with teaching and baptizing as we’ve done with more missionaries and will need to keep doing it to get our work done. There was significant follow-up on principles taught by Elder Caussé and some musical talents displayed between segments; we had taco salad, cookies & pumpkin bread to eat, did a game to exchange white elephant gifts (we ended up with our own peanut butter and a different bag of candy), they distributed laminated pages of the mission theme and each got a gift bag with a card from the First Presidency, a Book of Mormon (read it by April 1 and mark all passages referencing the Savior), a cookbook and some treats - we finished about 3:15. I started trying to remember zone conferences in my Germany mission – I’m not sure we had them. We had a few mission conferences but there was much less contact between missionaries and our mission president in that mission. We had group pictures (I think Flo put one on her blog), Flo & I helped with dishes (I dropped & broke a plate), we gathered our stuff and returned to the piso. Flo hung up a load of laundry, we took some things and went to the office where I connected to the internet, processed some email, sent the family letter and we started Skype. We had some trial and error experiences but talked with Heidi, Danette & Monika and firmed up plans to try to talk with everyone together for a few minutes on Christmas day.
On Tuesday we had a busy day mostly trying to catch up our Monday work, Flo fixed fried chicken and the obligatory array of dishes that go with it to feed the secretaries and I think they got enough to eat. We’ve been trying to get our cars serviced at the dealership but the schedule has been hectic enough that we sometime have them there longer than necessary just because we don’t get an exchange made. Pte Clegg has asked me to get a system worked out on his laptop that allows the missionaries to send their weekly letter by email rather than snail mail so I spent several hours on Wednesday trying to get that done. All the missionaries email addresses are on Hna Clegg’s laptop but not on the president’s and the only way I knew to move them was to send an email to the missionaries, copy the president then add each of the addresses to his contact list. Then I tried to make a distribution list and use that in a rule definition that will segregate incoming letters into a folder for his use. I didn’t get all the set up work done yet so if any of you have advice for me on things to do or not do, please pass it along.
The rest of the week has been down-time for the holidays – we’ve had a chance to relax, do some reading and studying and reflect on the reason for the season. We’re thankful and excited to be here involved in share the message of His gospel with the people of Spain. We finished reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish lst night and will start reading the Doctrine & Covenants today (Sunday) – we’re understanding enough that it’s becoming more like reading scripture rather than just reading words. We’ve pondered and discussed things from the Book of Mormon that never occurred to us while reading it in English. We love you all very much and want especially to wish my dear Madre a very happy birthday. If you get your computer set up with Skype, let us know and we’ll make a video call to you. Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and we wish you a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Love from Spain, E&H Belnap

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Merry Christmas from Spain

Merry Christmas to all of you. We pray you had many blessing given to you. We sure did.
Our Christmas Eve dinner at the Mission Home. President and Hermana Clegg are always great hosts. They make every thing very nice and they are so loving and kind. Just before we dug in.
While they were waiting, Hermana Clegg got a puzzle. They were really having fun. They did get the border in before we ate. From top going left. Elders Anderson, Hansen, Dredge, President Clegg, Elder Strickland, and Elder Ashby.

Elder Dredge is looking up this time. Boy we have good looking Elders. They were really hard at the puzzle here.

Do we look ready to dig in. Everything was really good. Everything was supper good, as the Elders would say. We had a huge turkey that Hermana Clegg bought. But she paid a lot less then I did for our Christmas turkey. Live and learn. We are still eating from it. I plan on using every morsel of it.

No one went hungery. Plenty food and we eat just about everything. Hermana did send some stuff home with me and so the Elders came to our piso on Sunday and we finished it off. Elder Ashby in the back with the gravey.

Do we look like we are enjoying this or what. The salad was like our spinich salad but she also put some lettuce. Way good.

We took a picture of our Christmas tree and presents before we opened them. We had a great time. The white thing on the left is our Refrigerator. We got it early, and love it, but we say we got it for Christmas also.

This is another Christmas tree on our shelf. The lights were from a battery. They went out real soon and they use C batteries and we can't get them here. But it was really pretty.

I got a new table cloth for Christmas. I think it is really nice. It sure makes our table look better. How do you like our Christmas breakfast? I believe it is Special K. The Rio is our milk. Which we don't have to refrigerate until we open it. They last in the box for 3-4 months. The other box is Juice. That too doesn't need refrigeration until it is opened. Quite convenient. The milk isn't all that great. Not bad when you put it in things. And in the cereal it is ok too, porbably because of the sugar. I don't mind it. Not good just to drink though. So Delwyn always has juice instead of milk for breakfast.

On Christmas day, Dad and I went for our walk. This time we crossed the river. You can see the bridge at dads head. We got to ride the tram. First time. Now we are looking towards our piso instead of away from it. It was such a beautiful day. Many people were out, also.

This looks like the same picture with out Delwyn.

When we got back, our turkey was done. So we finished cooking and getting things ready. Doesn't look like much. But for 2 people, there was more than enough. 2 rolls, dressing, (Which I made out of their pan here, it was probably the best I've ever made) corn, gravey and turkey plus mashed potatoes. At the end of the day, we got to go to the office and talk to our kids on Skype. Ohhhhhh so fun. We were going to talk 20 min. a family. Ended up way longer than that. I loved every minute of it. Then, the next Wednesday, we got to talk to Chad and his family. On Saturday Jan, 2, we got to talk to Delwyns mom on her 92nd birthday. Also, Lynda Belnap, Gene was sick, Brian and Jackie, Rey and Deaun, and Blair and Vicky plus a few of the kids. Way fun. I love this Skype.

Here is a picture of our present Danette gave us. Two aprons. Mine says, "Boss of the Kitchen" and Delwyns says, "Assistant of the Kitchen". I think it is very appropriate. This picture was at the end of the day. I really look bad, it must have been a busy day or just a bad hair day. My hair is getting better. I still don't look great. I think this mission is making me old or something. I guess I can't blame the mission, it is great.