Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

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!

Monday, November 17, 2014

11/17/14- Open the Door and Let Him In

Dear Family and Friends,

(How's it going everyone?) As always, it is good to hear from you all, and I'm glad things have still been going well. This past week has been a bit of a rough one, but nothing that can't be overcome (seeing as there is nothing that can't be overcome). The reason it's been a harder week is mostly because I was sick this past week, and wasn't able to go out and work for two days (Thursday and Friday). That was a little rough on me, and made me upset that I wasn't able to get out and teach all these amazing people that need to hear the gospel, but now that I'm better, it was probably for the best. Also this past week, we had a lot of dropped appointments from apparently diligent investigators who turned out to not be as solid as we thought. So that was very frustrating. We also had to stop going to one of our investigators named Alex, as he turned out not to be diligent. It was a fairly interesting drop, though, as he was drunk out of his mind during the entirety of it. So yeah, that was pretty much our last week. Not a lot of cool stories to tell, seeing as I was out of commission for a good portion of it. Again, frustrating, but I've heard it happens just about every transfer due to all the sicknesses flying around over here. Speaking of which, I've gotten some questions about ebola. As of now, there is no real problem. Madagascar is isolated enough that it's not in any real danger. But, if by some chance ebola does get here, all the missionaries will immediately return to Antanananarivo and be flown out to South Africa, and from there be reassigned to other countries to serve the remainder of their missions (yes, more than a little disappointing if that happens). The problem is, with how close quarters it is here in Madagascar and how consistently hot and sweaty it is, ebola would spread like wildfire. And, seeing as Madagascar is in the top ten of the world's poorest countries (yeah, crazy, I learned that this week), it's not like they have the medical ability to stop an epidemic or a disease as strong as ebola either. So, pretty much, if ebola got here it would wipe out about as many people as it infected, which would be almost everyone. So, suffice it to say, the missionaries will all be rushed out pronto if there is any signal that ebola has come to Madagascar.

But anyway, on a more positive note, this past week I came up with an "Only in Madagascar" list, which consists of things that I have seen here that are unique to either the area or the culture. And seeing as there is no real stories this week, I'm going to share this list with all of you.
#1 We found out this past week that several members have gone to prison, including one of our best recent converts, our assistant branch missionary, and one of the bishops in Antananarivo. Apparently this happens a lot, due to a corrupt government. Go figure.
#2 Random observation: yesterday at church a lady walked in with longer and thicker sideburns than I could ever grow. Thought that was worth mentioning.
#3 The primary mode of transporting goods is the pousse-pousse, which, if you all remember one of my past pictures, is a bike with a small carraige-type contraption on the back. And often times, just randomly, I will see live pigs strapped into the carriage portion. Yes, it's as weird as it sounds.
#4 Finally, after ten years of being a branch, our branch started working on creating a home teaching program (where members go teach other members on a monthly basis). It's a great improvement, but I had the thought that it might've been good it is occurred a little earlier. But maybe that's just me being picky. Ah well.
#5 Malagasies are as stubborn as...well...Malagasies. For instance, sometimes when some of our investigators aren't progressing, we ask them why. They tell us it's because they're already in a church and "Andriamanitra iray ihany" which means God is only one, and it doesn't matter what church you go to. Quite frustrating. Then--if we're at our wit's end, which happens more than it should--we ask them "If God appeared to you, and told you your church is false, and our church is true, would you leave your church and join ours?" Seems like common sense, right? But no, they still refuse to leave their church. They flat-out say that they would not follow God's commandment to them because they're already a member of this other church. So yeah, that's fun... But very, VERY typical of Madagascar.
#6 Lastly (for today), there's the breastfeeding. Newly-made mothers here are very open and bold, and have absolutely no shame. And it's not just nonmembers, it's everyone. They breastfeed in sacrament meetings, lessons, on the side of the street, in that question and answer session with a member of the Quorum of the Seventy... It doesn't matter where they are. And I think that's enough said about that.
So those are the funny, frustrating, and weird quirks of Madagascar and Malagasy life. I'll continue looking for more, and hopefully I can find some good new things to talk about.

As far as spiritual things go, this past week I have begun to study the New Testament, going through chronologically and reading about the life of Christ. It has been an incredible blessing to read the actual stories and go through The New Testament, as--embarrassingly--I have not yet read it all the way through. But the Spirit that the teachings of Christ bring to the lives of those he taught has also come into my life as I have begun a study of His life, ministry, and sacrifice for all of us. As I find spiritual insights, I will be sure to share them with all of you in the hope that it will bring that same Spirit into all of your lives, and hopefully the lives of those around you. I know that Joseph Smith said that "The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion" and that holds true. But Christ is the keystone of our eternal salvation, our lives, and even our existence. Without Christ, we "must have become like unto [Satan], and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself." (2 Nephi Chapter 9). That is a pretty bleak future, if there had been no Savior, no Redeemer, no Christ. But He is there--here--with us, reaching out to us, helping us through our trials and troubles. Because He is the one that "descended first into the lowe[st] parts of the earth' He can go beneath us: beneath our sorrows, pains, afflictions, and troubles, and bear us up. He can push us up, out of our troubles, and out of the pits we sometimes fall into. And He can also push us higher than would be possible on our own. I know this to be true, because I have felt it; and I know if you will look for Christ in your lives, bearing you up, that you will see Him there, and feel His presence, His love, and His empathy for the things, the trials, and the troubles you are going through. If you search for Him, you will find Him, because He was always there, waiting for you to open the door. My challenge for all of you this week is to open that door, and let Him into your life. Like the famous picture of Christ knocking on the door: He is always there, but can't come in without our help. Help Him out, and in turn He will help you.

Anyway, time's running out here, and there's other things that I must attend to (namely, an important meeting code-named LUNCH). So, this is all for now, and I look forward to hearing from you all again next week!

With love,
Elder Hyrum Snell

This is a visitor we had in one of our lessons. Tortoises are pretty common pets here.

This is a little path we went down a while ago that I thought looked cool, and was made cooler by the fact that the only way to get there was to cross a bridge made of trash. Another fun fact: Madagascar is not very clean. Surprise!

This is of the progression of missionaries. On the far right, the missionaries have a clean, white shirt. In the middle, something happens to their shirts to make it change colors (in this instance, a nice shade of blue). And on the far left, their shirts are completely sweated through, and brown. For names, I'm on the right, Elder Andrianaivo is in the middle, and Elder Christiansen is on the left.

The fifth picture is of my "bedroom" which is actually in the living room of our house, seeing as (now in the sixth picture) our room is quite small and does not have space for two twin beds. So we sleep in the living room. No biggie.

This is a stereotypical Malagasy bathroom (a nice one, at that). You got the toilet, you got the window, you've got the perfect sound amplification tiles, and you've got the toilet paper (which is actually the bucket of water with a half of a Coke bottle floating in it on the bottom left; yes, that is what they actually use to wipe)
A Zone P-day

Monday, November 10, 2014

11/10/14- "Remember whose Hand is doing the stretching..."

A Note from Mom: Well, I have had a few tears this morning. I sent Hyrum an email with lots of pictures from our activities this week and I think that he did not receive it because I attached too many pictures. My first clue was when he says below that he didn’t get any questions from his mom. :( Of course I sent questions! :) Well, my heart has felt so sad that he did not get anything from me this week even though I sent him an email. It made me think of how sad the Lord must be when we don’t hear the messages or answers He sends us. His heart must break when we think that maybe He somehow just forgot us, when in reality, He will NEVER forget us. It may just be that the answers from Him are not getting through…

Another week has come and gone to who knows where, and I'm back to emailing all of you again! As always, it's been really good to hear from all of you and hear how everyone's been doing. And just so you know, I take time to write everyone who writes me, so please, feel free to send me an email. I’d love you hear from everyone! It sounds like the weather has been cooling down in a big way back home in Utah, and the opposite has been happening here in Tamatave. As of late it has been consistently in the nineties, and always humid. It's all good though, as that means my shirts get steamed for free every day I go outside to work (which is, to say, every single day of the week). But it also means my shirts progressively get closer and closer to the color of cantaloupe, and farther and farther from the white they used to be, as the brown stains simply do not come out. No matter how many times I wash them or how much bleach I use, it doesn't do much good. I've attributed this to the fact that the water is the same color as the sweat stains in my shirt. So now, my best hope is for the brown color to blend together, so the entire shirt is that color, rather than stained that color in a few choice places. So, hohitantsika (we will see) where this all goes in weeks to come.

Anyway, I did not receive any questions from my mom this week, so I will dive right in on the two main stories I'm going to share in this email. The first is more of an overall experience than a specific story, and is with regards to Brother Pierre. First of all, Brother Pierre was baptized about five years ago, and has been faithful ever since. He is currently serving as the first counselor in our branch presidency, and is doing a great job at it. His job is loading sand into boats and moving it down the river, but he also has ten cows that he milks and then sells the milk for extra income. Just with those characteristics in mind, he already seems like a great guy. But, there is still more. The first time he ever came to church as an investigator, his bike was stolen--by a member--from the church courtyard. And yet he still came. After he got baptized, he worked night and day to save enough money to attend the temple and be sealed to his family for eternity. Finally, he saved enough, and about two or so years ago he went. But then, as he was in the process of going through the temple, someone stole his street clothes and normal dress clothes out of his locker INSIDE the temple. Most Malagasies, who are a very superstitious people, would have immediately left the church if those two incidences of theft had happened to them with relation to the same church. But not Brother Pierre. He remained faithful and is still faithful to this day. What makes that even more amazing is that he lives a good eight miles OUTSIDE of Toamasina, which is a good forty-five minute to an hour bike ride. Now, we as missionaries have a hard time getting people to come to church if they live five minutes down the road. But this man faithfully road his beat-up, single gear bike for that entire hour to church every single Sunday. And still does (though now he has saved up enough money to purchase a moto a.k.a. vespa). He is the perfect example of being truly converted to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyway, the point of me explaining about this man is because Elder Christiansen and I had the incredible opportunity of biking out to his house last Wednesday, visiting with him and his wife, and sharing a little vatsim-panahy (spiritual thought). That was such an awesome opportunity, and his testimony of the gospel really helped strengthen my own. But even besides the fact of it being an opportunity of spiritual upliftment it was a cool experience. The most enjoyable part was most definitely the spiritual strength received from the experience, but it was also kind of a fun new experience as we got to try fresh milk from his cows. And when I say fresh milk, I don't mean like in reserve. I mean as we sat there, Brother Pierre's wife walked out the door, milked the cow, boiled the milk over a fire, and then served it to us. Kind of pretty darn cool, I thought. And it was super good too: VERY creamy (my mom, however would not have liked it, as she thinks skim/1% milk is the best level of creaminess, which I do not understand at all). But that was a nice little cherry on top of the whole incredible experience.

So that was the first big story of the week (and I apologize for it being so lengthy). But here is the second story of the week: first off, sometimes as missionaries we go on splits with other missionaries in our zone/district. The missionaries in our district are Elders Alex Ahlstrom (sorry I haven't said this until now, Mom), Godfrey, Wootan, Elder Ahlstrom's trainee (whose name we do not know yet), and Elder Christiansen and I. Anyway, on this last Friday, Elder Wootan (our District's Leader) went on a split with Elder Christiansen, which left Elder Godfrey (Elder Wootan's companion) to work in my area by ourselves. This may not seem like a problem, until I reveal the key information that Elder Godfrey was in my MTC group. He has been here only six weeks, just like me, and we were out, alone, working in a strange land among strange people who speak a strange language that neither of us really understand very well. So. That was the most interesting day of my entire mission, as we were still expected to work the entire day, teaching all the lessons that we had planned. I don't think I've ever said so many prayers in one day... But that's about all I could do. I said some prayers, and went to work. And then a miracle happened. In every single lesson, I was able to understand about 90% of what everyone said, which was sufficient enough for me to answer their questions, resolve their concerns, and pull the lesson together fairly well (which, in and of itself, is a miracle all its own). I only had problems understanding one of our investigators, but that was understandable, seeing as he has progressed the farthest and the fact that even Elder Christiansen has a hard time understanding him. So, all things being considered, I was pretty much (by most definitions) fluent in the Malagasy language for a day. And I can promise each and every one of you that there was no way I could have done all that I did this last Friday without help from On High. It simply would not have been possible without some influence from the Spirit of God and the Gift of Tongues that accompanies it. This experience built my testimony in a huge way, and I know even more than before that the Lord is on my side--and by my side--as I am out here working in Madagascar. I am doing what God wants me to be doing, and He will always be there helping me along the way as I continue to do those things that He would have me do.

So, those are the two big stories of this week. Other than that, it has been another great, lesson-filled, sweaty, hard (but fulfilling) week. That is how it is on the mission. It really is the hardest thing I have ever done, and will remain so for the rest of my life. It is not just a vacation for two years in some cool place where you get to teach a few churchy lessons every once in a while. It is hard work, because as the Lord says through Isaiah, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." The Lord asks us to do more than we are used to, and that is because we are asked to follow Him. And, seeing as His ways are higher than ours, there will be some stretching involved. But, as stated by God in very reliable source, "There will be times when you will be stretched to your limit, and your heartstrings will cry out for assistance. In those times I would counsel you to stand still and remember whose hand is doing the stretching..." The reason God stretches us is because He needs us to improve, to grow, to learn. And no sort of growth is possible without hardships and trials. In how many instances do we hear from popular culture, movies, and other media about people who accomplished great feats that they did not think were possible at first? Countless times is this same situation repeated throughout the world. But those aren't just stories. That is real. That is what God does. He asks us to do incredible things, and then as we try our best, we are stretched, and through His help, assistance, and loving guidance, we are made more than we were before. That is the point of life: to repeat that process again and again, and constantly grow and learn and overcome challenges, then consequently become better because of what we have done. As we do so, we are following Christ's admonition to become more like Him. For because He was perfect, He is our goal. And as we do those things that God has asked us to do, we will come closer to accomplishing that goal: our goal to be like Him. The comforting thing about this goal, though, is that we are not asked to accomplish it. We are asked to try: to do our best and give our all. If we do that, then through the grace of Christ (which was discussed in the last email) we can be made perfect, God-like, and whole. For "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if it so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:16-17). So yes, we suffer in this life: but only for a time. And then, after the suffering, comes the event of being "glorified" with God and Christ at our side. I know that if we work hard--allowing ourselves to be stretched--then God will glorify us, and we will inherit His kingdom.

Again, I apologize for how lengthy (and possibly boring, depending on the perspective) my ramblings were in this email, but I felt impressed to write down these thoughts. I miss you all, but I know I'm where God needs me. I pray everyday that life will continue to treat you all well, so I hope things are still going well for you all. So, as always, until next week!

Elder Hyrum Snell

P.S. I'm sorry to talk about challenges and growth a lot again, but it's kind of a topic that's on my mind a lot lately, seeing as everyday brings with it a new set of challenges.

Elder C. and I after a member family played a joke on us at one of our soiree's (activities with members). They rubbed this black paint stuff all over our faces. I thought we looked pretty funny, so I decided to send it. FYI sorry it's blurry, it was taken by a Malagasy; 'nuff said.

Elder C. and I with one of our investigators named Aldo (he's the one who is really hard to understand). Also taken by a Malagasy, it was premature, so I was not yet smiling. So don't judge my slightly-dazed look.

This picture is of us with Aldo and Farantina, who we teach together. I was feeling slightly Polynesian at the time (for whatever reason), so I decided to throw up a hang-loose sign (Elder Mack, you should be proud of me, carrying on the tradition in Tamatave). And for those of you who are judging me and calling me a vazaha (derogative Malagasy term for a foreigner/not native) for doing a hang loose sign, hey, at least I'm smiling in this one. :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

10/03/14- Challenges=Growth...and I'm growing! :)

Mankory amin'ny na iza na iza dia mamaky ity hafatra ity! (Hello to whoever is reading this message!) I know that's a vague header, but I thought I'd mix it up a bit. You can only say "Hello friends and family!" so many times before it gets a little redundant.

Anyway, it's good to hear from you all, and I'm glad to hear that life still continues on outside of the mission field. It's good to know that things are still going well for all y'all, and I hope that life will continue to treat all of you well.

As is customary (not really, it's just what's easiest), I will begin with answering my mother's questions. Firstly, yes, I did have time to check the blog you made, and it looks awesome. You did a great job at creating it Mom, it's really good! Also, it's good to know that every single thing I say is instantly posted to the internet for the world to see. No pressure, right? J Secondly, I've decided that's what's easiest is to wear one pair of shoes until they die, as when I wear shoes here they get SUPER dusty and dirty, and I'd rather have just one pair of disgusting shoes at a time, rather than have to cycle through three separate pairs. I am currently using the Keens, and they seem to be holding up very nicely, and they are quite comfortable to walk in. Good call on buying them! And lastly, the peanut butter M&M's held up perfectly fine, and I am sorry to say that they have already been voraciously consumed. There's nothing like them here in Madagascar, so they were a wonderful treat, and made me very very happy. So, thank you very much for them. :)

Now, onto the past week. Things have been going quite well as far as the work is concerned (well, "quite well" being a relative term). Several of our investigators have been progressing (in particular Aldo and Jean Pierre), and we even had six at church yesterday, which is a record. But, the mission field isn't exactly "the primrose path" paved with baptismal dates and success. There are lots of problems, and lots of trials that we go through. For instance, the problem about getting investigators to church is that 1) they don't want to come and 2) I wouldn't want to come either. The fitom-bavaka (church meetings) here are not anywhere near the quality of the church meetings in America. It's not even the fact that I understand maybe five percent of what is said. It's the fact that everything else that is said is not of much worth anyway. I already mentioned how the Malagasies like to go off on random tangents about very unimportant doctrines, but they also like to use fairly inappropriate examples for seemingly harmless topics. For instance, in Sunday School today (we attend the Gospel Principles Class) two of our investigators were in there with us and we were learning about Sacrifice, so I thought it was a pretty good topic. But then about halfway through the class it was like a switch went off in the rest of the class members' heads and they started giving really weird comments and examples. Not exactly golden lesson material for new investigators present in the lesson. Luckily for us missionaries though, our two investigators were looking at Elder Christiansen's pictures he keeps in his Bible during the comment, so we dodged that bullet. But that's only Sunday morning, and there was still much left in store for us. After biking to our first appointment, Elder Christiansen's bike's pedal fell off, so we went to this guy to get that fixed. And as we were about to leave the bike place (not even a place, just an umbrella on the side of the road with a guy and a toolbox sitting under it), I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up at the same time. The combination of ninety-five degree weather and the fact of it being Fast Sunday (not having anything to eat for awhile) got to me somehow. Consequently we took a bit of a break before heading off to our next lesson time. Then, at that lesson time--which is a less active member--we found out that Simon (that's the father's name) and his family had decided they were going to join a different church because it seemed easier than being a part of our church because being an active member in our church meant having to pay tithing, etc. We tried to reason with him, but he was not going to change his mind. That was more than a little disappointing.

So that was pretty much my day yesterday. Probably one of the roughest days of the mission thus far. But you know what? It's okay. No one ever got anywhere in life without challenges pushing them to work harder than they thought they could. That's something that I've come to realize here in the mission field. The challenges we face in this life often seem to blindside us, and that's because they come at us from behind. If we let them, they will push us around in circles. But, if we do our best and do the things that we know we should, they will push us harder and faster than we originally thought possible. We just have to do our part.

And that last bit reminds me of a last little spiritual thought I'd like to share from my personal gospel studies. As of late, I've been studying more about the Atonement, as that is the central principle to the gospel. For the past few days I've been studying the topic of grace in particular. I've really come to understand that it really is only in and through the grace of God and His son Jesus Christ that we can be saved. It's about this fact that the Apostle Paul was talking about when he says in Ephesians 2:8-9; "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." We can't work our way to heaven. We NEED God and His grace. But, it is only through our faith that we can obtain the grace of God. The Apostle James elaborates on this in Chapter 2 of his general epistle: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" No, it can't. Only grace AND faith can save a man (or any of us, for that matter). "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." The way we have that faith, that key to obtaining the grace of God, is our works. It is through the things we do that we show what we truly believe and have faith in. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." So, we are then justified--or brought back into a positive standing with the Lord through His grace--by our works and our faith. So, in review: works+faith+grace=sanctification, justification, and perfection through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And THAT is the good news of the gospel.

My challenge to you all this week is to show your faith by the works you perform and do on a daily basis. It's not that hard. Just do those good things that you feel you should be doing. Your faith defines you. Let it show in what you do. That's one reason I've chosen to serve a mission. It's who I am, so this is what I should do.

I hope this week is a great one for all of you. Anyway, mazotoa! See y'all again next week! (Not really, but whatever. It's probably fine. I can still talk to you all, so it's not like I'm dead or something.) I love you all!

Elder Snell

This is a picture of a kid with a hilarious t-shirt that I just had to get a picture of.

 Elder Christiansen and I at the beach.

This is a picture of me doing a GQ shoot at a place near the beach. FYI, the fact that you can all now see my botched haircut does not give you the permission to heckle me about it. I'm very sensitive. ;)

This is our lunch today, which was lobster and shrimp. It looked pretty masculine, :) so I took a picture.