Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, October 27, 2014

10/27/14- I Don't Have to be Them, I Just Have to Be Me

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! :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

10/20/14- When I Do My Best, God Does the Rest

October 20, 2014
Manakory aby ("Hello you all" in Betsimisaraka, the Tamatave dialect),
It's been good to hear from you all! Thank you for your prayers and your uplifting comments, they have really helped me and lifted me when I needed it most. Also, mom, I finally got your letter and I believe your package is at the mission home. Problem is, here in Tamatave, we don't get mail until someone comes out for a conference or interviews or something. Which is like every other month or so. So.....we don't get mail a lot out here.
But anywho, first of all, I'll start out by answering my mom's questions. I am feeling better, yes. My bowels are not acting according to the writings located in Jeremiah 4:19-21 anymore (please read that scripture, or you won't understand what I'm getting at). Also, I cleaned the bathroom this morning, and I would like to say that I did an excellent job. Anyway, as for putting names into the temple, the full names are VERY long, so I hope just first names will suffice: the primary people would be Jean Pierre, Patrick and Herisoa, Narciss and Teksina, Aleksandara and Sesina, and Ricardo, as those are the people who are--at this time--most critical in our minds. As far as tender mercies, there's been a few, most involving us having a super hard day but then ending up finding a really awesome person near the end of it. I'll tell one of these stories later in the email.
Anyway, this past week has been a roller coaster. To start off, our bikes have been acting up, with the chains falling off and teeth on the gear wheel have been breaking off. So we'll see how well they continue to work. Also, it's getting hotter everyday. It's about ninety degrees by the middle of the day, and with the one hundred percent humidity mixed in makes for a cocktail of drenched clothes (but not with water) and BO. So that's been fun. Also, with that in mind, the power has been going off in the mornings and evenings as of late. And seeing as our shower is on the second floor of the building, and needs to have water pumped up to it (by a pump that uses electricity) there have been a few instances that I have gone without showers for a few days straight. Not sanitary, I know, but also not possible to avoid. So hopefully the power straightens up in the future. So yes, things have been hard here, but nothing impossible to overcome. I've been working on looking at the humor of the situations and just laughing at how crazy this all is. It makes it a lot easier.
Anyway, two stories to tell this week, both from last night (Sunday evening), one which is humorous and the other that is more spiritually up-lifting. So anyway, Sundays are always hard here. We go to church--which in and of itself is interesting, as the Malagasies like to focus on the questions they have rather than the doctrines they need to learn, and end up talking for like an hour about forcing people to fast and other such topics--and then after church we have to go and get back to working hard. So it's a little rough getting back into the groove again. Anyway, for the spiritual one first. We had about five lessons lined up for Sunday evening, some as backups for our primary lessons. Turns out we get dogged (or stood up, played, hung out to dry, etc.) by all five of these lessons. Just a little bit of a let down. But the we go contacting people, and then decide to hit up one of our contacts from a few days back. When we get there, she isn't there with her family, but we end up talking to this guy who is in his early twenties. We talk to him for a bit and find out he's named Ricardo (yes, the same one I mentioned as one of the names that should be put into the temple). He takes us around back to his "house," which consists of a room about ten feet by ten feet with two beds and a table for "cooking." Anyway, turns out he's already a member, but is recently inactive. But then we come to find out that he wants to be reactivated and actually expressed a sincere desire to serve a mission as soon as he could. We were blown away. I know that God's hand was in that. It was by complete chance that we found him, so I know God had prepared him for us. Plus it was a good end to an overall rough day, which I feel was God's way of saying "Don't worry. Do your work, and I'll do the rest." It was a real comfort to me personally, knowing that a higher power is on my side, if I "press forward" (2 Nephi 31:20) and keep my trust in my Father in Heaven.
Anyway, second story of the night. After that, we decide to go hit up one last contact. And as we go into the house, this old Malagasy man wearing a yamaka, holding a guitar, and smelling of alcohol follows us into the house. We get in there and he sits down with us, takes off his yamaka, and starts speaking in French. We have no idea what he's saying. So we tell him we only speak Malagasy, and then he starts speaking Malagasy with a lot of French mixed in. Still super hard to understand, but we got the message of what he was saying. Turns out he considers himself to be the "Malagasy Jewish philosopher of Tamatave" or something along those lines. Then he tells us that he took his yamaka off because "we are the teachers now." But then he goes off on a thirty-minute monologue about some of his "philosophies" and things he's been working on. And so Elder Christiansen and I just sit there laughing to ourselves. It was quite entertaining, especially when even his wife (our contact that we went to talk to) started laughing at him. It was probably the most interesting situation I've ever been in. It sounds like the opening line for a weird joke; "So two white American missionaries and a drunk Jewish Malagasy philosopher walk into a wooden shack..." You all can add whatever punch line feels appropriate.
Also, I just remembered another cool and funny thing that happened this week. We had the Area Seventy, Elder Van Reenen, come to Madagascar and talk to us and the district. He's a super cool guy, and the missionaries got to talk with him pretty much one on one and just get to know him. He's super awesome, and I loved his passion for the gospel. But also he ran a meeting with the entire district invited, as kind of a "leadership meeting." I thought it would be super cool to listen to him talk, but it turned out to be pretty funny instead. So like I said earlier, the Malagasies like to go off on tangents on things that they feel are important, rather than the actual important doctrines. For the majority of the meeting, Elder Van Reenen did a Q&A session with the audience, which I thought would be cool. As an example, he started out talking about tithing and it's importance, to open it up to questions. But then the audience just went off and started asking all these weird questions about tithing, which morphed into fasting (which I kind of already addressed earlier, as they talked about stuff such as forcing people to fast or not paying the fast offering if they didn't want to). It was weird, and I was kind of disappointed that the people didn't make the most of this awesome opportunity, but I ended up just finding it funny and inevitable that the Malagasies would end up acting like Malagasies. Figures.
Anyway, that is pretty much it for this week. It's been good, it's been bad, it's been hard, but it's never been easy. Then again, I didn't expect it to be easy. That's not God's way. He asks us to do hard things, to push ourselves, to try our best. Once we do that, and when we fall short (WHEN not IF), He steps in and with ny fahasoavany (His grace) He does what we ourselves are not able to. We are fallen, we are mortal, and we're "only human." But we have a Father who created us and this universe, and He has made us a promise. He is "bound when {we} do what {He} says, but when {we} do not what {He} says, {we} have no promise." And that promise is that when we obey Him, and when we do our best, then He will do the rest. I know that is true, because I have seen it here in Madagascar. I try my best, I work my hardest, and I do all that I can, but it's never going to be good enough. But it doesn't have to be. Because after I have done my best, worked my hardest, and done all that I can, God does the rest. He makes up the difference. He IS the difference. He has the ability to change our lives, but only if we LET Him do so. Here is my challenge of the week, for all of you and myself included: Let God help you. Do all you can, obey His words, and HE WILL HELP YOU. He will do the rest. I know He will. It may not be obvious or a big miracle in your life, but He will do what needs to be done, if you have done your part.
Anyway, I'd better get going. So, until next week! Mazotoa, tiako ianareo, ary veloma hatramin'ny amin'manaraka! (Be diligent, I love you all, and goodbye until next time!
--Elder Hyrum Snell

P.T. (It's not P.S. cuz it's Picture Time, not some other acronym)

I took this picture on P-day and decided to let out my creative side on the beach. :)

This is one of my favorite little kids, and one of the cutest.

A selfie with some kids chilling in the corner of the church lot next to some mo-peds (the premiere method of transportation in Tamatave, next to the pousepouse)

This is a picture of our church, located in Mangarivetra (a faratra, or small community, in Tamatave).
This is a picture of a meal we had at a member's house, which consisted of rice and trondro (fish). The fish actually wasn't as gross as it looks.

This is also of the meal, but is of the head of the fish right before I ate it. One thing about Malagasies is they're very hospitable, but when they give you food to eat, you are REQUIRED to eat it. If you don't, it is extremely disrespectful. And so, I choked it all down (thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Wait...no...I'll be here for the next two years... Oh yeah...)

This is of a picture I made about the Plan of Salvation, or Ny Drafitry ny Famonjena.

"Time to take my pills..." (I hope at least some of you get that movie reference.) And no, it's not mental health pills, as may be suggested by the photo. It's doxycycline, my malaria pill that I am required to take everyday. So anyway, that's fun. It tastes like chlorine, but at least it's small and keeps me alive and healthy.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

10/13/14- God Is There For Me Every Step of the Way

Hello, family and friends!!!

I hope everything is going well for all of you still, and hope that life is still treating you all well. Things are continuing to go well here in Madagascar. I have really enjoyed a lot of the things we've done here.
Now, to answer my mom's questions she sent me. :) About my companion: His name is Elder Christiansen, he's from Las Vegas, and he's twenty (I think). He is a hard worker, obedient, and is very good at the language. It's been a huge blessing to have him be my trainer, as he's helped me out a lot with learning and developing my skills at the language.
Next, in our house there are four other Elders. There is Elder Ahlstrom (from California) Elder Pinson (from South Carolina), and Elders Ratsimbarison and Andrianaivo (from Madagascar).
No, the Malaria medicine is not making me sick, but the country kind of is. I'll talk more about that later.
Next, I am not using the permethrin treated sheets because there isn't a really big problem with fleas in this area. When I start having an issue, I'll start using them. But until then, I will just use the sheets they gave us at the mission home.
I have not gotten my package and letter yet from you, mom, but I'll mention it when I do. It's hard to get stuff in Tamatave because we're like a nine hour drive away from the mission home. FYI for those of you looking for Tamatave on a map, it's actually named Toamasina, and is on the middle eastern coast of the island.
My typical day for eating is eating breakfast at the apartment, lunch at a restaurant (hotely) and dinner at either a member's house, the apartment, or a restaurant (it depends on our mood).
Now, next question, and on to the topic of being sick. This past week, I had my first run-in with the not-so-silent killer of Madagascar. Now, this isn't ebola, or giardia, or rabid lemurs, or anything like that. Nope, it is diarrhea. I'm not going to go into too much detail, for fear of giving small and innocent children nightmares tonight, so I will abstain from dispensing too much detail. Suffice it to say that a particular scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber comes to mind as being quite accurate, except in a dinkier, dingier bathroom with less soundproofing. Let's just say it's been an interesting week.
Anyway, next question. My favorite thing about Madagascar is the people. They are so kind and receptive, and I love how they just let us into their homes and listen to our message so easily and often.
For the last question, my least favorite thing about Madagascar is either the diarrhea (obviously) or the people. That seems contradictory, and it kind of is, but hear me out. As kind and humble as they are, they can be very frustrating at times. They do not enjoy making commitments or taking an active role in participating in our message. Also, they listen to their preachers here (mostly Catholic and Protestant) and consider every single thing their preachers say to be doctrine. Sometimes it gets pretty ridiculous. For instance, just the other day we had a big group of people listening to our message, and we asked them how you can know if a church was the true church of God. Their answers consisted of "If the preacher is good," "If the preacher is a good speaker," and "If there are lots of people who pray there." Yeah, we're not really going back there. They are so indoctrinated with what their preacher has said, and simply believe everything he says, that it's hard to bring the Spirit into the lesson. But we have had success with a few other people. We love finding young couples and teaching them, for several reasons: they have been less indoctrinated with what their preachers have said; they have a longer time to progress in the gospel; and they can bring up their children in the gospel. We have found several of these such young couples, and it's such a joy to see them progress, and a disappointment if they don't take action in a progression and at least try to become converted.
Anyway, that just about wraps things up. This past week has been a roller coaster, going from finding awesome people to spending an hour in the bathroom. But I know that God is there for me every step of the way. It's hard to feel that way when I'm spending some quality time in a one hundred degree bathroom that's four feet by four feet in size, but somehow I've been able to simply laugh about all of that and not let it get me down. I know God has had a hand in that. Also, I have already seen much growth in my development and skill at the Malagasy language. I can now do almost twice as much as I could in the MTC. And it's only been a week and a half. I could not have done that without the help of God. My testimony has already grown so much out here, seeing the help that I have received from God. I could not have done all of this without God's help, and so I continue to build my testimony that God is here for me and is helping me when I need it most.
Anyway, I don't want to ramble on for too long, so this is me signing off until next week. Mazotoa ianareo! (Remain dilligent!) God has great things in store for all of us.
Elder Hyrum Snell

P.S. Also, to my friends, please send or keep sending me pictures! I love seeing how things are going back at home! Thanks!

Tamatave Beach

A cool church I saw

A building we passed on P-day that I thought looked really cool because it shows the extreme poverty here in Madagascar. It looks like something out of a documentary.

Spiders about the size of my hand

A view we pass everyday on the way to our area on a bridge we cross. So pretty!

Me with some cute kids!

A random place in our area

I saw this cool house just standing alone, so I decided to take a picture of it, but then one of our Malagasy member friends wanted in, :) so he decided to pose in front of it. Pretty funny, but still a beautiful scenery.

A room in one of the houses we teach at. This is an actually decently nice house, so...Yeah. It's pretty impoverished out here. The nicest house I have yet to see probably wouldn't pass an inspection in America. :) It's very sad to see how bad it is here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10/06/14- My First Hello From Mada!

October 6, 2014 
Salama fianakaviana sy ireo namako ireo!
Firstly, thank you all so much for your support and prayers. They all mean so much to me, and please believe me when I say that I have felt their help. You all are the best friends anyone could ever ask for, hands down.
Secondly, Madagascar now has a new missionary by the name of Elder Snell! I arrived in Madagascar safely and soundly this last Wednesday, and have now begun to work our new area (called Andranamadio). This is in Tamatave, one of the provinces outside of Antananarivo, and a port city on the middle-eastern coast of Madagascar. Apparently this is the second hottest place that missionaries go in Madagascar, so we will see how this works out. It is super awesome here though. It is SUPER poor, as you will soon see in some of my pictures. I have already been so humbled to see the abject impoverishment that these humble people live in. The nicest house I have seen thus far is a two story house made solely from cement, and with the furnishings that we would associate with an extremely lower class person living in a shack on the side of the road. And this person is considered filthy rich out here. It is absolutely mind boggling, the kind of poverty that is present everywhere you look out here. 
Anyway, things are going quite well out here though. The people are so humble and receptive to the gospel. I mean, just the other day Elder Christiansen (my trainer/companion) and I went tracting, knocking on every door we came across. And to my surprise, all of the doors but two let us in to share our message. I was blown away. I thought maybe like one or two would let us in, but almost all of them??? Wow... What an incredible blessing to the Lord to have these wonderful people here, simply waiting to receive the gospel. 
Anyway, I had better wrap it up here. My mom told me that she already sent out my testimony in a previous email, so I wont burden you all with a long thing that you have already heard. :)  Hopefully it will suffice to say that I simply now know without a doubt that I am doing the Lords work. I am where he wants me to be. And I know that he is there helping me every step of the way.

Elder Snell
This our plane from London to Johannesburg, which was a MASSIVE Airbus A380.

View from the mission home in Antananarivo.

This is a picture of me, my trainer Elder Christiansen, and two other missionaries.

Picture of our kitchen (which is as dinky as it looks, but whatever, it is probably fine)

Picture of a cute little lizard I found in our apartment, and now I see several daily (yes, mom, in our house)

Picture of our district eating out at one of the nicest restaurants (called hotelys) in the city.

This is one part of our area in Tamatave.

This is another portion of our area.

10/01/14- Safely Arrived in Madagascar!

Dear Snell Family,

We want you to know that Elder Snell and all of the missionaries from the Provo MTC arrived in Madagascar safely yesterday afternoon.  All of their luggage arrived with them!  They are all doing well.  They had a good night sleep and are ready for training, to meet their new companions today, and go to the areas where they will be serving.

Elder Snell will be serving in Andranomadio in the Toamasina District and his trainer will be Elder Christiansen.

Elder Snell is going to be a great missionary!  We are excited that he is here to serve the wonderful people of Madagascar.

President and Sister Adams with Elder Hyrum Christopher Snell