Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, December 29, 2014

12/29/14- Riots, Christmas, and Drunks

Tena feno am-pitiavana aho noho ny fahafahako mahafanaritra indrindra mandritra ity herin-andro farany ity, sady noho ny fahafahana izay mananako mahafantatra anareo ary mizara izao fiainana an-tany izao aminareo. (I am full of much love because of my most incredible opportunities this last week, and also because of the opportunity which I have to know you all and share this life on earth with you all.) Fa tratra ny fetin'ny Krismasy tamin'Alakamisy, ary tratra ny taona vaovao! (But, Merry Christmas on Thursday and a Happy New Year!)

I hope you all have had a great holiday season, and enjoyed spending time with those you love most. I'm not going to lie, but it has been hard this Christmas season for me, being so far away from the people I love most here on earth (a.k.a all of you), but it is okay, because I am serving the One who loves me most, and other children who He loves. I don't yet love them as He does, but that is what I am working for, and I know that--if I continue to pray and work towards that perfect love--then I will receive the ability to love and serve and sacrifice the way that He would want me to love and serve and sacrifice for His beloved children here in Madagascar.

But anyway, to the questions posed by my mom in her last email: Firstly, I spent my Christmas Day walking around our entire working area, showing Elder Bowler (my new companion who doesn't know the area yet) where our investigators are, because none of them were home or willing to learn, due to Christmas parties (which go on for several days here). So that was a little rough, and long, but it's okay. Christmas Eve was great, as I got to Skype with my family. Next, I'm going to answer the third question; no, we did not teach Aldo, but he did get back from Antananarivo last week, so we will be teaching him tomorrow. And now thirdly, what I have learned about how the Lord communicates to us through the Spirit; the biggest thing that I have learned with regards to the Spirit over the past few months is that God sends us His feelings of love, comfort, direction, and guidance--through the Spirit--when we are in need of those feelings. If we are on top of the world, doing great things, following God's vision for us in this life, and are feeling His love, He's going to let us go on our own, and continue to find our own way. Think about it with regards to an earthly parent and child. If the child is learning how to walk, and is walking fine, do you grab their hand and try to guide them? No. You let them go and give them an opportunity to learn on their own. You may call out encouraging words, but you don't lead them step by step. This is the same with our Heavenly Father and the guidance, comfort, and help He sends our way. If we don't feel His Spirit constantly, it may be that we aren't in need of it at the moment, and should simply continue with what we are doing. I've felt that a lot on my mission (seeing as the mission is obviously the path God wants me to take), and I've come to realize that, while I will get small, loving confirmations as I continue to do the things God wants me to do, the majority of the time I will simply feel peaceful with what I am doing. On the flip-side of this, though, there have been times where I really do need help, when my faith, strength, diligence, and heart were wavering. In those hard times--those times when I've felt down on myself, or like I couldn't continue--I always have felt direction and love from God. In my need, God sent me His love, His guidance, and His Spirit. That's the glorious thing about the love of God: it always comes to us when we need it. It will always be there, if we only but look for it. I promise all of you that whenever you are feeling down, weak, inadequate, or anything else, God will send you the Spirit and a confirmation of His love for you and His confidence in you and your abilities. "No one is destined to fail"--God, through the mouth of one of His modern-day prophets. Why would God take the time to create you if you couldn't do the things that are asked of you? He is God: perfect, infinitely powerful, and all-knowing. He doesn't make mistakes. We are no exception. Why would we be? We are His greatest creation, after all. 

Anyway, that is what I have learned--and the testimony I have gained--about the characteristics of God's Spirit, and the way He works. Now that the Spirit has hopefully been brought into your lives (if it hasn't, read that last paragraph, you cheaters), I will tell the biggest story of the week. It actually occurred last Monday, though after I had already sent my email of the week. But, this story needs a little background. So, as most of you know from some of my previous letters, power outages are quite common here, and on this past Monday the power had been out for about two and a half to three days straight. On this last Monday evening, Elder Bowler, Godfrey, and I were sitting in a hotely waiting for our dinner when Elder Ahlstrom and his companion Elder Razafindretsetra come in from the nearby missionary house in the Mangarivotra. They then proceeded to tell us that the people were quite riled up about the power outages and were rioting a ways down the street. They had already thrown rocks through the windows of the power company's headquarter's building. They said that it would probably die down soon, but to just be on the lookout and be careful. So--a little on-edge--we proceeded to eat our dinner. Then, as we were in the middle of eating, we heard some yelling and screaming outside of the building we were in. As we look out the windows to see what is going on, the owners of the hotely quickly close the doors and windows, placing large bars on them to lock them in place. We talk to them and ask them what's going on, and they say that there is a big riot going on due to the power outages. After a while, the noises seemed to die down, so the owners opened the doors again. We quickly finished our food and looked out to see what was--or what had been--going on. As we go out, we see piles of tires the size of a car, all of which are on fire, set in about fifty yard intervals down the main road for about a kilometer, with lots of people who appeared to be quite angry and riled up standing around them. We decided we were not going home to our own house that night, and quickly slipped down a side path which led to the other missionary house. This was a good decision, because as soon as we got to the house, the police arrived to stop the riots. To make a long story short, let's just say that the gunshots and yelling continued until about one in the morning that night.

So yeah, that happened. Pretty crazy, pretty scary, but no one (at least no missionaries) got hurt. But we did have to head home early on Tuesday, due to rumors of more riots. Needless to say, our stats aren't too good this week due to riots, Christmas, and lots of drunk people who were not willing to learn about the gospel. Fa izay ny fiainana. But that's life. It's okay. And anyway, that's what my week has been like. Riots, Christmas, and drunks. :) There aren't really any stories about funny drunk people, but just a lot of people who were either unwilling to learn or passed out and therefore unABLE to learn. But it's not a big deal. Next week will hopefully be better.
But those are the things which took place this past week out here in good ol' Madagascar. I hope that this past week held much happiness, joy, and love for all of you.

Until next week,
Elder Hyrum Snell

Picture of a bed being moved by pousse pousse.

Picture of a cop directing two-way traffic. Nice use of the law enforcement, right? :)

Picture of our filter after we changed it. 

Elder Bowler taking a nice power-nap.

Elder Godfrey and a little Malagasy member.

An American guy we met who works on the mercy ship. He is an absolute stud, and I hope we can plant the seed of the gospel in him while here.

Picture of my new soap. Yes, it really is made of tobacco. And yes, it does a great job, smells good, and is WAY cheap (like five cents).

A little member boy wearing a tie and Elder Bowler's name-tag. So cute that they start missions so young nowadays.

Field of pretty flowers.

Picture of the guard at our church, who is looking very epic, looking off into the distance like that.

Picture of a truck in a very small path, which is the only exit from one of our times, so we ended up standing there for about twenty minutes, waiting for the truck to move.

The last picture is of my "hoho" or pinky fingernail which Malagasy men sometimes grow out to help scratch things. Yes, it is as attractive and handsome in real-life as it is in the picture. :) (Note from Mom: Maybe Hyrum has been in Madagascar too long! I did find it interesting that the Malagasy men all grow out their pinky nail for scratching. If you can't beat 'em join 'em! :)

12/24/14- Skype Call Home!!!

From Mom: This is information from our call with Hyrum. Because the cybers were closed on Christmas, he was told to call on Christmas Eve Day at 7a.m. our time (5p.m. his time.) It was so amazing to see Hyrum's face, to hear his voice, and feel his spirit, testimony, and great love for the people of Madagascar. The power went out twice while we were talking, but we were able to restore our connection soon after each outage. Hyrum was at a reliable cyber that had a back-up generator, so that was great! I tried to take notes, so keep in mind that this information below is coming from what I can remember about how Hyrum answered each of these questions. I thought it might be interesting and/or helpful for others heading to Madagascar:

Power outages? How often and how long? The longest I have gone without power is a few days, although typically the power goes out at some point every day. Because we live on the second floor, when the power goes out, the pump that brings water to our apartment doesn't work. Thus, no showers when the power is out.

What do you do about refrigeration of your food when power goes out for days? I just leave it in the fridge and it seems to be fine. :)

Do you store extra water? Do you have a 72 hour kit? We do store water in 5 liter bottles and various jugs to have on hand and we do have 72 hour kits.

Is your water filtered in your house? Shower water? Yes, we have filtered water in our house, but the shower water is not. Don't worry, Mom, I keep my mouth closed when I shower. :)

Showers- cold or hot? We could take warm showers, but I prefer cold because it is so hot and muggy here. The mission did install A/C units in the missionaries apartments a year or so ago which has been nice and cools off the smaller rooms and bedrooms nicely. It drops our house temperature from 95 to 80 degrees! :)

Do you use your filtered water bottle we sent? Not much, I just buy water bottles.

Have you been cooking at all? Using your cookbooks? We don't cook much because it is quicker and very cheap to buy meals. We have found restaurants that are 75% safe to eat in. No place here is 100% safe when it comes to food. :) I have made your granola and a great baked oatmeal recipe from Sister Adams. I have also found that if I eat one yogurt and one apple a day, I have stayed a lot healthier.

How are your shoes? They are doing great! I have only used the Rockports and the Keens. Haven't used the Hush Puppies yet, but so far both shoes are holding up!

Do you have a washer and dryer? How is your laundry going? The laundry is going fine. We do have a washer and dryer, but the water that comes into the washer is brown, so slowly my shirts and becoming a cantaloupe color. (Interesting side note, one of the native Malagasy Elders had never seen or used a washer and dryer or even a microwave. We have tried to teach him, but he keeps putting his dark blue pants in with his whites and all of his whites are now a nice light blue color. We have had a few close calls as he has tried to use the microwave, but he is learning.)

How are your feet? Any fungus? No fungus. I always put on clean dry socks each day. Believe it or not, I have only gotten one blister because my feet were super wet all day while we walked.

Are you using any of the essential oils or medicine I sent? I have used Digestzen, peppermint and lavender.
What about toilet paper? What was the Coke bottle for in that picture a few weeks ago? Malagasies don't buy toilet paper, although you can get it here. The Coke bottle was at the church building and they keep it full of water in a bucket by the toilet. They pour some water in their hands and wipe with their hands. Many find various other items to wipe on.
Bed bugs- any more problems? Nope and I haven't used my permethrin treated sheets yet because my area doesn't have a problem with fleas like other areas do.

What are you running out of? White clothes. :) What can I send that you need or want? We really can get most things here at Shoprite or Score stores.

Piano- Have you played much? No, they have a really good piano player in our branch.

How is the biking going? Our bikes are broken constantly and we have had to pay to get around by riding in pousse pousse. When we take our bikes to get repaired, sometimes they come back worse or with other new problems. There are lots of bike repair shops which consist of anyone with an umbrella and tools. :)
How are you sleeping? GREAT! The minute my head hits the pillow, I am out!
How's the language coming? Good. I still have a hard time understanding some of them, but I am able to speak pretty well.
Tell us about your area? It is massive because they had to combine two areas. The church is extremely young in Madagascar. The mission has only been around for 17ish years.
Interesting facts? The sun sets around 6:30p.m. and the sun rise is around 4:30 a.m. The Malagasy people go to bed SUPER early, around 7 or 7:30p.m. and get up around 4a.m. The Malagasy men grow out their pinky finger nail simply for scratching. I am growing mine out.
Would you prefer a backpack? President Adams prefers we use shoulder bags because it is harder for people to pick pocket you with a shoulder bag.

Are you wearing your retainers? Yes!

Can you print off emails? Yes, but I don't.

Packages and letters? Everything is sent to the Mission Office so we only get letters and packages about every six weeks when it is transfer time.
How have the rains been? Not too bad, but it is not really the rainy season in our area even though it is super rainy right now in other parts of Madagascar.

What’s the scariest thing that has happened to you so far where you have felt protected as a missionary? The recent riots that began against the power company because of the unreliable nature of our power. It sometimes goes out numerous times a day. (More info on the riots in the next post.)
Can you live within the budget you have been given? Yes, but things get tight when our bikes are broken because we have to pay to travel.

What was your favorite meal from members during the mission so far? Once a week our District President feeds all 11 or so missionaries in our District. I love the meals he makes! I have even started to really enjoy tomatoes! (Note: Hyrum has never been a picky eater. About the only thing he didn't like were fresh tomatoes.) When I first got here, I would try to find "normal" food, but I have to say that my favorite thing to eat now is rice with all the different toppings they put on it.

What has been your favorite P-day activity so far? I really just enjoy emailing all of you and reading all the emails and letters I receive. 
How much service do you do? Our main service each week is teaching English class for 2 hours.
How much do you work on retention in your area? When I came to this area, there were a lot of people in the area book, but we mostly just have their names and no other contact info. A lot of the people don't really have an address so it has been hard to find existing members that have gone inactive unless someone knows them. Are there a lot of less active members? We are encouraged to teach our investigators for a long time so that retention is higher. Some people we are teaching now have baptismal dates set for some time in February. 
What is your favorite smell in your area right now? I LOVE the smell of rice and loca (toppings). Least favorite? The Street Side Bizzarre. They sell a dried fish that is rotten and smells terrible. I also don't like the smell of rotten Jack fruit. 

What do most people do for work in your area or is it pretty mixed? Women sell goods by the road and many other Malagasies drive a pousse pousse.
What about exercising? We walk and ride our bikes a lot (until recently) so we get TONS of exercise! 
What about the children?They are so cute! Most of them don't wear shoes...just bare feet. 

Here is a link to a great article about the church in Madagascar, but keep in mind it is over two years old and some of the info is outdated:

Monday, December 22, 2014

12/22/14- A Spiritual Weight Room

Hey all! This email is going to have to be shorter than most, as I
don't have much time today. Not many stories to tell this week either,
so don't worry, you all aren't missing anything. :)

Anyway, into the questions: firstly, the lesson in which I felt the
Spirit the strongest would be in a lesson we gave on the Plan of
Salvation to one of our investigators. The Spirit is always there in
those lessons, confirming the fact that we all really can return to
Heavenly Father and live with Him again. Every single person on earth
has that promise and opportunity, and I think that that is absolutely

Second question; my thoughts about ny fetin'ny Krismasy
ary ny zavatra ao anatiny (Christmas and the things therein)... My
mind has been on the Savior and the topic of Christmas a lot lately,
especially the topic of the Atonement. What has come to mind about
those things is the fact that Christ is always there for us, with us,
and in us. What comes to mind is an example given in a book I recently
read entitled "Believing Christ", which I highly recommend. In the
book, the author gives the example of a weight room: we are all there,
working out, and trying to become stronger by lifting weights. We all
have a spotter/trainer too though, and that is Christ. While working
out, we push ourselves as far as we feel we can go. We start to
tremble and strain, and go to put back the weight; but then Christ
steps in. He tells us to go one more, then another, and another. Then,
just as our muscles give out with fatigue, He steps in and takes our
weight. And THAT is the grace of God: to give us that opportunity to
have Christ there by our side, helping us, and pushing us to go
farther; then, just as we give out, give up, or collapse, He steps in
and catches us, takes our burden, and carries us until we are once
again strong enough to continue. Of course, we must still accept His
help, and accept this new relationship with Him; but once we do so, He
will always be there for us when we fall.
Because that's the thing: we
all WILL fall at certain times in our lives. BUT, IF we accept that
help, that grace of God, then that mutual relationship with Christ
will be formed, and He will proceed to catch us when we fail, fall, or
collapse. These and other such thoughts have been running through my
mind over the past while, as I have been pushed to the limits of my
strength, will, and (in particular) my patience. I have been led on
the wildest emotional roller coaster ride of my life: up and down and
around, and (though I usually am fine with roller coasters :) I haven't
always kept my stomach on the inside of my body where it belongs, and
I feel like I am the quintessence of every negative attribute
imaginable, and Satan is kicking me while I am down. Kanefa, na dia
teo aza izany (BUT, even though that happens), I feel something--or
someone--buoying me up. I know that that feeling consists of two
things, both of which I am eternally grateful for, the first being all
of your prayers (speaking of which, I cannot tell you how grateful I
am for your prayers and the help I receive from them). And the second
is Christ. I know it is Him: no one else could know me as well or as
personally as the feelings of comfort I get from Him. Here on the
mission, I am lifting weights that are heavier than anything I have
lifted before. And so, it stands to reason that my will gives out a
lot more than normal as well. So, please believe me when I say this:
Christ is helping you. That is the purpose of His life here on earth:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son. That
whosoever shall believe in Him, should not perish, but have
everlasting life." God didn't send His son to this world to be
persecuted, spit upon, mocked, scorned, whipped, and crucified for
nothing. The reason as to why God would allow His Only Begotten Son to
suffer, to bleed
from every pore, and to die, is a simple, one-word
answer: YOU.
He loves each and every one of us, more than we can
possibly comprehend, and THAT is Christmas. Christmas is defined by
one word, and that word is love. So let us remember this Christmas the
real reason behind Christmas, the infinite love that God has for every
person who has lived, is living, and will live on this earth.
Obviously Christmas is about Christ, but rather than a holiday in
memory of His birth (especially seeing as He was born in like April or
something), it is more of a holiday celebrated in remembrance of God's
love, Christ's love, and what those things mean to us. Christmas is a
holiday where we should remember that, firstly, God loved us enough to
send His Beloved Son to this earth, full of pain and suffering, in
order to suffer more than any of us would ever suffer, just so we
could return to Him again; and secondly, we should remember the
infinite love that Christ had and still has for each and every one of
us. Christmas represents the fact that He came here to earth, knowing
the infinite pain and suffering it would bring Him: and yet HE CAME
And that, right there, is charity: the infinite love and grace
of God. Christmas is charity. That is what this season is all about:
not about presents, lights, trees, or even snow (that's been a hard
one for me, seeing as it is currently 95 degrees :P). But, what
Christmas is truly about is love. Love for one another, love for God,
and--most especially--love for the sacrifice that Christ made for each
and every one of us. That love, that charity, that willingness to put
others above oneself; now that is the Spirit of Christmas.
Now, I am pretty much out of time, but let me end with an invitation
for you all: Love. That's it. Love others in the way Christ has
already shown you He loves you. Serve, love, care, take time to help
others, to talk with them, or maybe just to listen. That is my
invitation for all of you this Christmas season.
Remember that love,
that charity, which is the true meaning of Christmas.

Sady te-hampiasaity fotoana ity aho mba hampahafantarana anareo momba ny fitiavako ho
anareo jiaby. Tena tiako ianareo, ary aho dia manantena fa fantatrareo
fa tena marina izany. (And also, I want to use this time to make known
my love for you all. I really do love you all; and I hope that you all
know that that is the truth.)

Am-pitiavana (with love),
Elder Hyrum Snell

P.S. The cyber today won’t let me send pictures, sorry! Next time though.

Monday, December 15, 2014

12/15/14- Thank You for Your Love and Support

Inona ny milaza, ireo namako sy fianakaviako tena mahafanaritra be?! (What is up, my amazing friends?!) Ataoko (ary ity ny hevitro) fa ianareo jiaby dia ny namana sy fianakaviana tsara indrindra amin'izao tontolo izao. Tena marina izangy. (I think--and this is my thought--that you all are the best family and friends in the whole world. That is the complete truth.) Anyway, as always, good to hear from you all, and good to be updated on the goings on in the real world, though I'm starting to doubt its existence. Madagascar seems to be a black hole for all things First World.  ;)

Anyway, question time: First off, tranfers. So, yes, I was transfered, but also, I was not. So, what's happening is more missionaries are going home than are coming in, so they have to combine a few areas. And seeing as Andranomadio (my area) is the newest area, that was the first to be combined with the neighboring area of Mangarivotra. So Elder Godfrey, from my MTC group, and I will be working together in the single combined area of Mangarivotra and Andranomadio, and also another Elder by the name of Elder Bowler will be coming in from Antsirabe to help us, forming a trio, rather than a normal companionship. So, pretty crazy. But, as for actually moving, no, I do not need to move. I will be staying in the same house for this next transfer. Anyway, second question: about my new companions, Elder Godfrey just turned 19 years old last week, has worked in Tamatave also for the past three months, and is from Cache Valley in Utah. He's a nice guy, and this'll be a fun opportunity to work with him. As for Elder Bowler, I don't know much about him, other than the fact that he's very good at the language, pretty nice, and from Las Vegas as well (no idea why I keep attracting the Elders from Las Vegas, but whatever). So hohitantsika foana raha mandeha tsara ity tranfera manaraka ity (So we will see if this next transfer goes well). As for the third question, about the Skyping on Christmas, still not so sure, but I will talk with my house this week and we will decide the schedule we want to set up for Christmas Day, and I will be sure to send out the details on next Monday. As for the last question, this is kind of a weird answer. No, I have not lost weight. I have actually gained weight. I have no idea how that has happened, seeing as I sweat out at least like five pounds of water everyday, and ride about five miles or more on my bike everyday as well. But whatever. I'm not getting fat, so that's good. But in contrast to the weight I was when I left (about 155 pounds) I am now about 180 pounds or so (I can't be sure though, because our scale kind of stinks. Malagasy-made. Figures.). But anyway, that's been kind of weird for me, as I'm not used to lugging around about thirty extra pounds all the time. But it's a good workout. Hopefully it's thirty pounds of muscle, though I kind of doubt that.

Anyway, this week has been pretty quiet as far as stories go. Nothing really has changed from last week, other than the transfers. Kind of a sad/frustrating story that happened was when Elder and Sister Rossiter (a missionary couple) came down to Tamatave for a few days to do some administrative things. They stopped by our house, with their car parked to the side, and talked with Elder Christiansen and I inside the house for a while. But, afterwards, come to find out, while we were talking someone had broken into their car and stolen about one thousand five hundred dollars worth of electronic equipment, including a brand-new iPad Air, an HD projector, a GPS, and some other things. Elder Rossiter thinks that when he meant to lock the car, he accidentally pressed the unlock button and didn't bother to check whether the car was actually locked or not. So, that was fun. More expenses piling up. As usual. Like I've said before, Madagascar is a black hole that sucks anything first world into an everlasting abyss of nothingness and complacence. :) Just for the record, I really don't hate Madagascar as much as that statement makes it seem. I actually love Madagascar! I really think it is one of the coolest places on earth, and I love the people sooo much (though the excess of drunks does make it difficult sometimes).

Anyway, that's about all I have to say in this email. There's not much of anything else, though the pictures this week should be fun, as there are some Christmas-themed pics (which are sure to bring joy, the Christmas spirit, and concern for my sanity into your lives). But anyway, thank you all for your support. It really has been such a big blessing to me to have all of your encouraging words flood in every week. You're all so wonderful, and it means the world to me that you take the time to email me every week and keep supporting me. I know that all of you are a blessing from God, and hope you all feel my love and appreciation for all of you. God was so kind to bless me with your acquaintance in this life, and I know that I am the person I am today because of all of you.
Amin'fitiavako, ny fahafenoan'ny fitiavan'Andriamanitra, ary ny fitiavanareo,
(With my love, the fullness of the love of God, and all of your love),

Elder Snell

This is a knock-off of last weeks picture with a little lizard on my name tag instead of a big one.

  A friend I made during personal study. Such a cute little guy, wanting to study in St. John.

This picture is of a Frozen billboard I saw the other day. The outside world really does exist!!! :O

This is a picture is of me and my favorite little kid here, by the name of Frankie. He's the son of one of our investigators, and is absolutely adorable.

This is a cool sort of Neo-Gothic style cathedral I saw the other day. I thought it looked pretty, so I decided to take a picture of it.

This is of an adorable Malagasy boy at church. He was looking pretty stylin', so I decided to snap a pic with him. He also had bright pink socks, which aren't included in the picture. Ah well, maybe next time.

Sunrise on the beach. Very pretty. They beat the sunrises in Utah, araka ny hevitro (according to my opinion).

Elder Andrianaivo wearing some traditional Malagasy clothing (just kidding, he just looks ridiculous).
This picture was going to constitute our Christmas card, but the software isn't working, so hopefully an attachment of them will suffice.

Picture of me posing with my mini-Christmas tree that my mom sent. I thought the Santa hat and sunglasses really set the whole thing off.

Elder Andrianaivo and me at the cyber.

Monday, December 8, 2014

12/08/14- Missions are Hard, but Worth It!

Efa ho avy ny fetin'i Kristmas! Kay ve! Somary adalladalla izany, sady adalladalla fa za dia efa mipetraka aketo any Madagasikara ho an'ny miakatra volana ananktelo! (Christmas is almost here! )

Wow/ahh! That is kinda crazy, and also crazy that I've already lived here in Madagascar for over three months! It's an interesting feeling being in ninety degree weather and having it be Christmas-time. It's messin' with my head! But it's all good, because I'm getting super tan, and that's good for the pictures I send home (just kidding, I'm not that shallow). Anyway, it was good to hear from you all! I'm glad things are going well for all of you, and that life is still treating you well. I'm glad to hear that the Christmas cheer is alive and well, and I hope you all have an amazing Christmas.
Now, as for questions: We don't really ever eat with members, except with Filoha Paul (the district president) every Sunday. And actually, just last night, one of the Elders threw up right after we finished eating there. So that was interesting. But as for me, not really many food stories (though I have made some granola this past week, which has been heavenly, thank you Mom!). Secondly, our investigators are progressing well. Most of them aren't that mazoto (diligent) but it's getting better. We actually take a while to baptize investigators here to try and up retention. For instance, some of the investigators we have found here and set baptism dates for aren't planning on getting baptized till February. That's just how this mission is. So usually you never baptize the people you find, but only those people which you inherit as you get transfered. Speaking of which, this is the last week of the transfer and I will probably be leaving Tamatave (I am 99% sure). So we will see where that takes me. Anyway, third question, about Skyping at Christmas. We will get to Skype, and it will be sometime around 6 o'clock p.m. here (not really sure what time it will be there, but you can find out easily enough). (Note from Mom: It will be 4 a.m. our time.) And it'll either be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or the day after. Not really sure right now, but more info will come next week or the week after. And for the last question, yes, I have already received the Brown's letters, but I forgot to mention it in my email. Sorry! But thank you very much to the Browns for their kind and encouraging words.

Now, for stories this week. I went on a couple of splits with different Elders in our zone: because Elder Christiansen is the Zone Leader, we go on a split with every companionship in the zone once a transfer (six weeks). I went with Elder Turner from Alpine, Utah in my area (Andranomadio), and then Elder Yeagley from Roy in his area (Morarano). Speaking of Elder Yeagley, turns out Grandma and Grandpa Snell hometeach his grandparents, who used to be less-active but were recently reactivated. Crazy! Anyway, those went well, and it's interesting leading an area like I did with Elder Turner. Since it's my area, I lead the lessons, discussions, and such. It gets hard sometimes because I still don't comprehend the language too well when spoken by natives, but that comes with time (or so I've heard :P). But if I get the ghist of the statement, I can usually answer or respond pretty well. That has definitely been heaven-sent help, and I know for a fact that the gift of tongues is true. When I need to be, I am better at Malagasy. When I don't need to be, I honestly still stink. But ah well. At least I get the things done that God wants done. But that's the real extent of that story. The splits went well, and that's about it. Taught some good lessons, but nothing special to report.

Now, the second story is more entertaining and crazy, but it needs a little background. Every Saturday at noon, we teach an English class for service and to sometimes get referrals. Also, on an important note, when there are baptisms, we use a portable font that is put up in the enclosed courtyard out in front of the church building (a picture will be attached). So, this last Saturday, there was a baptism, so it was up and still full while we were teaching English class. After the class finished, we come down the stairs and see quite the sight (or rather, avert our eyes from the sight). Turns out the Malagasies don't like the heat just as much as we Americans. Come to find out, the Young Women from our branch had been at the church at the same time as us preparing for a meeting or something, and got a little hot. So, the entire Young Womens group from our branch decided to go cool off. So, when we midina avy amin'ny fianarana teny Anglisy (come down from the English class), we find our Young Women skinny-dipping in the baptismal font, in the churchyard, in broad daylight... Just let that sink in for a bit... Yes, it was awkward. There's another big fat addition to the "Only in Madagascar" list. Let's just say we missionaries got out of the churchyard as fast as possible.

Also, yesterday, I crashed my bike in the middle of the road and slid for like fifteen feet. But nothing to worry about, I'm all good, no scratches, and my shirt I was wearing isn't even dirty. No idea how that is possible, but it happened. I crashed because a pousse pousse's handlebar got hooked on my sidebag and pulled my bike sideways. And any of you biking experts out there know that if a bike's tires are perpendicular to the direction of movement, bad things happen. But luckily, nothing terrible was bruised. Just my ego. :)

So that's my past week. Good things, bad things, crazy things, things that need censoring, karanga izangy (etc. in Betsimisaraka). Things are going quite well though. There aren't many special things to report this week. But, like I said, next week I will know the transfer news, and I can give you all the updates on that and where (and if) I am going for my next area.

Anyway, that's about all I can say about this week, so I'll just close. I do want you all to know that the mission is hard. If someone tells you it's not, they're either pulling your leg or trying to sell you something. But there's something key about the mission that needs to be mentioned: they're WORTH it. Honestly, I have never been pushed so hard in my entire life. I have never been stretched to my limits and then some like I have been here in the mission field. But I have also never had a more satisfying experience in my life. I may not even see the fruits of my labors, but I know that they will be there. And I know that I am doing God's work. How could I ever be wasting my time if I am serving God and His beloved children? That's just not possible. And so, in closing, I disclose the reality of missions. It will undoubtedly be the hardest thing you will have done up until that point in your life. But every single second will be worth it, if you put your all into it. And that is my promise to each and every one of you this week.

Tiako ianareo jiaby betsika be, ary manantena fa mitohy mandeha tsara ny fiainanareo! I love you all very much, and hope that your lives will continue to go well!

-Elder Snell

This is a cool view I took on my split with Elder Yeagley. I thought it looked like a little South American town or something.

Some kids who posed for a picture.

This is a picture of a path that got flooded after some rains. And, of course, that red gate at the end is our destination... Figures. :)

Elder Christiansen in the yard of one of our members, which is also flooded. He's so cute with his shoes off. XP

Landry, one of our members, with a little visitor in one of our lessons.

Landry and Elder Christiansen

This is a picture of a lizard I caught in our house on my nametag.

Picture of the aforementioned baptismal font.

Two of our cute investigator's kids who like my helmet and name tag.

Monday, December 1, 2014

12/01/14- He Loves Us Enough to Let Us Fall

Faly miaramiresaka aminareo ity androany mahafanaratra ity! Tena tiako be ianareo draby! (There aren't very good translations for what I said, so I'll just keep it a secret. [insert evil laugh here])

Anyway, it was really good to hear from you all. I actually got some paper letters this past week, which was a very nice surprise. I got some from what seemed to be my home ward's Relief Society members (unexpected, but very kind and appreciated nonetheless), the Povey family, the Nielson family, and one of my friends. All were very appreciated, so thank you to all of you who have sent me letters. They really help, and I appreciate the support they bring.

Anyway, I'll start off with answering questions, as usual. First off, some of our investigators whose names you can put in the temple are still Jean Pierre and Aldo, Faratina, Bruno and Patricia, Bruno and Claudine (different Bruno), Franco, Banetsy, Eddie, Filemona, and Fabrise. These are currently our best investigators who are the most diligent and best at keeping their commitments. They're all great, and I love them. I hope they feel the spirit of this message and choose to accept it into their hearts. Secondly, no, my Christmas packages had not been opened, and I have not opened the presents yet. Don't worry Mom, I do have some self-control. ;) As to the third question, we did our best to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. One of the Elders in our house (Elder Turner from Alpine, Utah) made some apple crisp which was amazing. I tried to make some homemade pizza, but the dough accidentally got cooked when it should've been rising. So that was a little disappointing, but there's always second chances. And for the fourth question, right now I am most grateful for the people I know in this life, whether they be friends, family, investigators, or whatever. I am grateful for the absolutely incredible people I have been blessed with in this life. I couldn't have asked for better people to spend time with in this life. And now, the last question, the thing I love most about Madagascar is the hospitality of the people. Most people, no matter what, will be kind to you and try to help you if they can. They're so kind when it comes to letting people into their lives. Just simple things like everyone saying hello to each other. It's something I've grown to love here.

So, as for stories of the week, there hasn't been much to say, especially compared to last week's chaos. By the way, with relation to that, even though the bubonic plague has broken out, don't worry, as our malaria pills are effective against the bacteria which causes the plague. Just thought I should mention that. So, for this week, there's only one real story, and that happened this last Wednesday, but began on Tuesday of last week. When Elder Christiansen and I were at Shoprite looking for some permethrin or pesticide for the bedbugs (yes, that is when we later bought the WWII neurotoxin) we actually met two Americans there. They work on this boat for an organization called Mercy Ships, and it's pretty much a floating hospital/operating room which goes around to third world countries and provides health care to those who are in need of it. It's a really incredible operation that they have going on there. Anyway, the Americans wanted to meet up and get some lunch sometime, so this last Wednesday we went out and met up with them at a nearby restaurant for some lunch. We got to talk to them a lot, and found out a lot more about what the Mercy Ships actually do and whatnot. It was very cool to hear about some of the things they do and the help they give. Also, it was nice to talk to another white person besides the other missionaries. But yeah, that was a really cool experience, and they want to get together again. I hope we can talk more about our missions and our church in the future, especially to possibly clear up any misconceptions they might have about our church. There are so many crazy stories and rumors flying around about our church it's ridiculous, so I'm glad for an opportunity to possibly help out with putting them to rest. Any opportunity to share the gospel is a wonderful one, and I hope we can share it with these two people. God loves all His children, and He wants all of them to have the fullness of His gospel. It is crazy the ways I have seen the truth of that here in Madagascar. When it says that the gospel will go to all the corners of the earth, it really means Madagascar. They say that outer space is the last frontier. But nope, the world has gone there already. But there are people in Madagascar who don't know the outside world even exists. For instance, Elder Andrianaivo had a friend from his hometown in Manadona (a small town close to Antsirabe, which is a bit south of Antananarivo) who didn't know there was a world other than Madagascar, and refused to believe so until he saw outsiders for the first time. And that is a person who is not even from ambonivolo be (WAY in the countryside) that had that belief. It has been a testimony builder to me to see these people, so far removed from society, that are still loved by God no less than you, me, or any of us. He knows and loves ALL of us. There is no disclaimer or little * sign next to that statement, with attached fine print that says only a few people are actually included. God does not discriminate between race, size, appearance, gender, or any other vondrona olona (group of people, etc.). He loves EVERYONE. He knows EVERYONE. That includes President Obama, Hitler, a Malagasy who doesn't believe in an outer world, and everyone in between. I have come to know more deeper than ever before, and I hope that my testimony stands for something to all of you about this fact that I have come to know.

And so I'd just like to close in thanksgiving for those things that I have previously stated. I am so grateful for the love of God. He is always there, watching over us, helping us when we fall. Sometimes we may feel like He's not there, but He is. Think about a father, teaching a child to walk. If he held your hand the entire time, would you ever learn? If he never let you fall, would you ever learn how to get back up? And so I am grateful for the love that God has for us, and the fact that He loves us enough to let us fall. It hurts, and it's hard, but He always helps us get back on our feet, and if we try our best, we will go farther each time we get back up. I don't have a challenge for this week, but only a hope, and that is that we will all acknowledge God's love for us, and the love that He has for those around us. I know He's there, and if you but only look for Him, you'll find Him there, waiting with outstretched arms. And if we reach out to Him, He will reach out to us. President Uchtdorf said that, "As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit." God's love touches us as we touch the lives of His, which is to say, everyone. I hope we can do this in gratitude to our Heavenly Father this next week, and help others feel God's love for them.

Amin'fitiavana foana (always with love),
Elder Hyrum Snell

The Mercy Ship I was talking about.

A funny picture on the beach with the Elders.

This is a pretty cool picture that I took on the beach of a typical Malagasy boat.

This is a little baby using a knife that's as big as he is. You've gotta love the bunch of beer bottles in the background. Another thing to add to the list of things that happen only in Madagascar. :)

This is an adorable little girl who is the daughter of our branch secretary.

 This is her with her brother.

This is me with this adorable little kid who always comes to our ward, but we have no idea who his parents are. But he's probably our most diligent member.

This is what happens to white people in Madagascar... Just kidding. Mostly. :)

This is a label on a USAID tarp that I saw (nice to see that they put the line "from the American people" in big letters so they can read...oh, wait, they can't read English. Duh.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

11/24/14- Bikes, Bedbugs, and Bubonic Plague :)

Note from Mom: I am soooo grateful Hyrum is being so open about his mission experience. Before he left, he told me he wouldn’t tell me anything he thought would make me worry. I told him that he HAD to be honest, because if I “sensed” something was wrong, my mind would make it much worse than it probably was. :) He has had an eventful week, but I know Hyrum is in better Hands than mine…God is caring for him in ways I cannot. I trust God to watch over my son while he is gone. I am grateful Hyrum has chosen to spend two years bringing a message of happiness, hope, and peace to these sweet and humble people of Madagascar. Also, thanks for your prayers of health for Hyrum! I am so glad he has felt well this week!

Hello everyone! Za dia salama tsara amin'izao, ary enga anie mbola salama tsara ianareo koa, ary mandeha tsara ny fiainanareo. (I am in good health now, and hopefully you all are in good health as well, and that your lives are going well.) As always, good to hear from you all. I got a few handwritten letters this week, and that was a nice, pleasant surprise. Thank you to all those who write me, I really appreciate it!

Anyway, got a few questions this week, which I will take time to answer right now. First off, Mom, I would enjoy some of my friends emails to read, and would appreciate it if you sent some of them occasionally. Secondly, yes, mom, I am taking my vitamins everyday and am trying to drink enough water. :) Also, I am trying to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to get the nutrients I need. No need to worry about that, Mom. ;) Next, yes, I have gotten your Christmas packages, and some of your letters too, as well as some letters from other people. I figure a written letter takes about a month to arrive, and packages about two. Next, as far as feeling the Spirit strongly, it was during my personal study time in the mornings. Just the feelings of comfort and peace and joy that I feel when reading the scriptures help confirm every day that what I am reading is true, and the church that I am serving for is truly God's kingdom here on earth once again, restored through the authority of God (the priesthood) to organize His church here on this world. I know that is true. There is no doubt in my mind about it. Now, that doesn't mean I never have doubts that come into my mind, or thoughts of "what if..." that bounce around in my head. No, that happens everyday. But the difference is that I know where those thoughts come from, and I will tell you: they're not from God. They are Satan's attempts to try and destroy the testimony that I have. The problem is, those thoughts only increase my testimony of this gospel, because why would Satan waste his time trying to direct me away from something if that thing wasn't of God, true, and right? He wouldn't. And so, because I feel doubts about this gospel, I know for a fact that it is true. The fact that Satan strives everyday to make me doubt it only confirms its truth more in my mind. Anyway, that was a long tangent. Sorry about that.

Now, onto the stories of the week. There are two big ones, both entertaining and the second being slightly unnerving. Before I begin, allow me to set forth this qualifier: Mom (and all other concerned family/friends), don't worry about me after hearing the second story. I'm fine, healthy, and everything is going well now.

On that note, here we go with the first story. Elder Christiansen and I had some extra time between lessons, so we went tracting (knocking on every door we see and spreading the message). Anyway, we get to this ladies house, and she just tells us to go away, because she says her husband is "marary" or sick. As we start walking away, her husband comes out. Turns out he's a middle-aged French man who is drunk out of his mind (hence the label of marary). As he comes out, he starts swearing like a sailor at us in French (for whatever reason, Elder Christiansen knows all the French curse words...weird...). So, we just start walking away from him, but he continues to follow us, and then grabs Elder Christiansen's bike's handlebars. We don't think much of it though, and just try to keep walking away. But, then he mounts Elder Christiansen's bike and says he won't get off until we give the bike to a couple of small Malagasy kids watching the exchange. So then, in Malagasy, we plan with the kids that if they take the bike, we'll leave and meet up with them in five minutes down the path so we can get it again. So we leave, they take the bike from the French guy, and we meet up down the path. And all's well that ends well.

Now, for the second and more interesting story of the week. First, I'll need to start of with some background information. One of the old elders who recently left our house was a Malagasy, and not very clean. He showered about twice a week, and for like ten seconds each time. Consequentially, he bred a colony of bed bugs in his mattress. So, when Elder Turner (the new elder in our house, who's been out about a year) came, he found a lot of roommates living with him, instead of just his companion. So, we started searching for permethrin, the usual chemical we use to kill bugs, because it's super dangerous for insects but does absolutely nothing to people once dry. But, sadly, we could not find it ANYWHERE. We looked all over Tamatave, to no avail. So, in desperation, we asked one of the workers at the store we were currently at if there was any sort of safe pesticide that we could buy. He quickly directed us to some small bottles on a nearby counter, which we found would kill the bed bugs. So we purchased a few bottles and went on our way back to the house. We diluted it in a spray bottle of water, and then continued to spray about every piece of fabric in our house (besides our clothes). Then we quickly leave, as we wanted to get out to work and teach some lessons. After our second or third time, we get a call from one of the elderly couples who work in the office, telling us to check what the chemical actually is before we spray it around our house. A little peeved at the interruption to our teaching schedule, we go to the cyber (internet cafe) to look up the chemical. Turns out, it was a good idea... We found out that the active chemical--named Dichlorvos--is a fairly dangerous pesticide that was banned by the EPA back in the 70's or so, and is actually derived from neurotoxins used in World War II... So, that came as a bit of a surprise. Long story short, we ran quickly back to our house, put on some towels over our faces, and--looking like members of Al Qaeda--ran back into the house to quickly open up the windows and air it out. Then, taking some essentials, we went over to the other missionary house in Tamatave to sleep there for the night. It was a bit of a restless night, but that's okay and fairly understandable considering the situation. Anyway, we headed back home the next morning to a home that was safer than the previous day, and proceeded to do our best to clean the house of all the chemical and clean all of our bedding and furniture. It took a while, but our house is now clean and back to normal. Now, after reading that story, my disclaimer previously given is probably now somewhat more understandable. But I would again reiterate what I said, that we are completely fine, and there are no long-term effects from the chemical, so I am completely fine. Mom, please do not get an ulcer over this. :) I am in absolutely no danger. But, I figure while I'm giving slightly alarming news, I might as well mention the fact that there has been a slight outbreak of the bubonic plague in Antananarivo. Nothing to worry about yet though, because that disease has actually been alive and well in 'Tana for quite some time. Anyway, Mom, this is specifically to you: DO NOT WORRY. I am telling you this against my better judgement, and the only reason I am mentioning these things is because you made me promise to do so. There really is nothing to worry about. I promise.

Anyway, quick update on our investigators: things are still going well, but we have had to let a few less-than-diligent investigators go, so we will be doing a fair amount of tracting the next while to try and find some new investigators. Our most solid investigators right now are Aldo and Jean Pierre. Aldo comes to church every week, we have yet to get Jean Pierre to church, but that's okay; we'll take what we can get.

So, that's been this past week. Pretty eventful, and kind of crazy, but everything is all okay now. At least I'm not sick anymore. :) This is Elder Snell, signing off until next week!

Veloma ny namako malalako!
Elder Snell

Here’s a picture of a chameleon I found.
This is a picture of me posing with another chameleon I found. He was feisty, and constantly trying to bite me. So that was fun!

This is my new proselyting outfit (compliments of Elder Mack.)

Elder Christiansen and I in a pousse-pousse.

This is a picture of a WC (water closet, aka bathroom) that I used the other day. Yes, that little hole in the wood in the middle is where you go. And no, there is no seat. You squat. Quite interesting and hard to use, but we make do… :)

This is my lunch yesterday, which consisted of a bag of litchis. Quite good, but also quite messy.

Anyway, that's all the pictures for this week! Thanks for tuning in, and I hope to hear from all of y'all again next week!