Ry ireto namako sy ny fianakaviako (Dear friends and family of mine),
I'm so glad to have heard from all of you this past week; the emails I receive from all of you are very encouraging and helpful to me out here. So, to all of you who have sent anything to me, whether its an email, letter, package, or anything, I express my sincere gratitude to you all. I've been blessed with the best family and friends in the entire world.
Fa voalohany, aho dia tsy maintsy mamaly ny fanontanian'ny mamako (But first, I must answer my mother's questions). :) Firstly, thank you for the package. I loved it. I can't really use the spices much though, because we don't cook a lot of things that need spices, like rice, because rice takes forever and doesn't contain very many nutrients. But I will definitely use them when I can. But everything else that you sent is perfect, especially the instant oatmeal and Crystal Light packets. Those will be SUPER helpful. So, if you could maybe send some more of those, that would be fantastic. Also, some instant mac and cheese packages would be nice, but just the cheese is needed, because we can get noodles here just fine. Anyway, second question and answer, things are going well here and in our house. I haven't had any problems getting along with the other Elders. They're all super cool and I've been able to get along with them fairly well. There's been no real major issues or anything. So don't worry Mom. :)
Anyway, onto this week. It's been a pretty good week as far as most things go. We found some great new investigators and continued teaching some great past investigators as well. As far as interesting events go, this past week hasn't exactly been full of them. The most interesting things include watching General Conference on Saturday, finding a spider the size of my hand in our house this morning, and also getting my first Malagasy haircut this morning. I'll talk more about General Conference later, but I believe the spider story is pretty self-explanatory (though, for the sake of entertainment and possibly losing our mancards, I will provide details later on), and I will be including pictures of my haircut later on in the email.
But as for now, I will talk about General Conference. As always, it was uplifting, inspiring, and made me feel like I'm a super lazy chump schmuck who complains too much. ;) When I hear stories from General Conference--like the one of President Monson sitting on the airplane and shuffling through airport security in pajamas and slippers because he gave everything else away to those in need--I feel like there's so much more I could be doing. Yes, I'm here in Madagascar, and yes, I'm trying to work my hardest and do my best, but it doesn't always feel like I really am doing my best. I guess that's the perfectionist in me coming to the surface, though. Satan really likes to try his best and let that guy out of his cage and run around in my mind for a few days. I feel like we all have experiences with situations similar to this, where we feel like we aren't good enough and never will be, especially when we hear these incredible stories of courage, strength, and endurance from General Conference. But this past week, I learned something that opened my eyes about this. Firstly, those examples are given to us by the prophet and apostles because they are the best of the best, and are not where we should be now, but where we should be aiming to become in the future. But secondly--and much more importantly--the prophet and apostles are not telling us to be like them. God has not asked us to be like those people that we hear about in those stories. God has asked you to be YOU. Not anyone else, not someone different or someone with different capabilities: YOU. When I received this impression, it was like a burden was lifted off of my shoulders. I don't have to be like those people, sacrificing everything for others, and certainly not right now. God has asked me to be myself, and serve him in MY best capacity. If I simply do the best that I can--not what I see is the best of what others can do--then I am doing what God has asked me to do.
Anyway, that was a little lengthy tangent, but now I will return to the actual topics in General Conference. I loved the talks given, and those whose hit me the hardest are as follows: President Uchtdorf's (not the Priesthood Session), Elder Bednar's, and Elder Oakes. Of course there are others I loved, but those are my favorites (for now). Also, here are my top thirteen or so favorite thoughts and inspirations I received during General Conference that I wrote down in my spiritual journal:
-We may feel injustice as we see the wrongs in this world, and feel that someone needs to pay for the terrible crimes being committed. But don't worry: someone already did.
-"I fear no man." I fear only God.
-"Courage is the form of every virtue at the testing point."--C.S. Lewis
-"Christ died--not to save indiscriminately--but to offer the opportunity for repentance."
-Everyone can gain understanding, if they only but go to Him who is the source of all knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and light.
-"In order to gain a testimony of the gospel principles and commandments, you must first strive to live them."--Pres. Uchtdorf
-The church is not for perfect people, but for the perfecting of people. We're not asked to be perfect. We're asked to try.
-Our understanding can be broadened, and things once unimaginable to our minds will come into sharp focus through diligent effort on our part and the help of God's light.
-Why go to the informational equivalent of the tabloids in search of the truth when the source of all truth and knowledge is only a simple prayer away?
-"She hath done what she could." That is what Christ has called us to do. Yes, like Mother Teresa said about her service...it is only "a drop in the ocean." But the ocean would be "one drop less" if we didn't try.
-Continued revelation is essential. It lifts men above what they could do on their own, as we are only mortal and revelation is information straight from God. God has set a certain standard for us, which is (in the end, after this life) perfection. But all of us fall short of this standard, due to our mortal condition. It is only in and through God and the help He freely gives us that we can achieve this standard. We receive God's will and assistance through revelation. Thus, continued and modern revelation is essential.
-Remember the story of Elijah and the widow. She gave all she had to the prophet, believing she would now die. But it was only after she put her trust in God and His servants that she was able to live.
-None of us should complain about "bad things that happen to good people," such as ourselves. He that suffered the worst of things, and was the best of people, complained not once, all the while making our trials, and troubles, and all "bad things" not only possible to overcome, but also easier for us to do so.
On that note, I want to extend a challenge to a few of you. If you don't know why I'm here in Madagascar, read Elder David A. Bednar's Sunday Afternoon talk from this most recent LDS General Conference. (www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/come-and-see?lang=eng) The reasons he gives are exactly why I'm here. Yes, God has called me here. Yes, it is a spiritual duty. This is why I CHOSE to serve. I chose to serve these people because of what this gospel has done for me, and I want to share those blessings with all people.
Anyway, now on to the next few stories. About the spider, there's not too much to say. I wake up to hearing one of the Elders in my house yell "What the freak is that?!" I jump up and look across the room to see a massive brown spider about the size of my hand crawling up the wall. A few things happened, and as I got mad at my camera because it ran out of battery right when I wanted to take the picture of the spider, I look up and realize that we've lost the spider. Can't find it anymore. And a spider you know is there--but can't see--is MUCH worse than any other spider. Anyway, we eventually get one of the Malagasy Elders in our house to find the spider, and he takes one of our brooms, and spears the spider with the stiff fibers on the end of the broom, then casually brushes it into the garbage can. So yeah, it was a fun morning.
Now, for the humiliation of my haircut. Here's a picture of it. You can't tell in the picture, but it's very uneven and weird. But it's probably fine seeing as I'm not trying to impress anyone out here. :) As my camera is dead, this is from Elder Christiansen's camera, which takes bigger pictures, so I can only send one picture in this email. But seeing as my camera is dead and doesn't have any new pictures as it is, it's not a big loss.
Anyway, signing off for now, and until next week, this is Elder Snell, on the other side of the world.
Veloma ny rahalahiko malalako! (Goodbye my beloved brethren!)
|My first Malagasy haircut. Very uneven and weird...but so is the look on my face! :)|