As far as questions go, firstly, the language is coming pretty well. My vocabulary is still pretty small, as it's hard to memorize lots of words if I don't use them on a daily basis, but the grammar is coming along quite well. People are always way surprised when they learn that I've only been here in Madagasikara for like four and a half months, and always tell me I'm "mahay" or proficient/skilled. I'm trying not to get kamo (lazy) or complacent from it, and continue to push hard to progress my language skills. Gets a little hard sometimes, but it's all good. The hard things in life are the ones most worth doing.
Secondly, Mom, don't worry, laundry is going just fine. ;) I have had a lot of fleas as of late, but I started using my permethrin treated sheets instead of the normal mission ones, and it's been better since then.
Next, we've got two baptisms in Anjoma this Saturday, mostly from the members teaching them, because we only go out there once a week. But also, we have two people who passed baptismal interviews this past week here in Ambositra, so that's good. We have had to push their bap date back a little bit though, but they should get baptized in the early to middle of March, so that's good.
Next, as for things I want sent; no, there's really not anything I need or want. Also, if you just feel like sending something, instead of doing that, just put the money into a savings account for college so it can be of good use. :)
Lastly, the biggest thing before the mission that prepared me for it... That's a very hard question, because I felt so unprepared when I first got out here, even after the MTC. The honest thing is, knowing how to work hard was the thing that best prepared me for this, because I couldn't have been ready for everything that goes on in the mission. So, all in all, knowing how to work through the hardships, the trials, the feelings of being WAY out of your depth, and everything else along those lines is the thing that prepared me most for the mission. There's nothing else that can really prepare you for everything that happens. Of COURSE reading the Book of Mormon and studying Preach My Gospel is important, but knowing how to work hard is what has made the difference for me. So, for all of you preparing for a mission; WORK HARD. The mission has been the hardest thing I've ever done--and still am doing--so be ready. It's wonderful, but it's hard. God is there to help us make it through the hardships we have, but we have to show Him that we want it, and do our absolute best. After all, "It is only by grace that we are saved, AFTER all that we can do."
Anyway, now for story time. So, as you know, we go to work in the small town of Anjoma every Saturday from eight in the morning until about four in the evening. So, this last time we brought the Zone Leaders from Fianarantsoa to come with us so they could do the baptism interviews for some of the investigators who we felt were ready. So they stayed at the church building in Anjoma, and Elder Delbar and I went with the Branch President's wife and another member to another even smaller, even more ambonivolo (country) town called Ambohimahazo, and it turns out that we were the first missionaries to ever go there and teach people! So, that was cool! But anyway, we took a taxi brousse, and usually the drive is about ten to fifteen minutes from Anjoma to Ambohimahazo, according to the branch president's wife, but our trip actually took about two hours. Why? Fotika be dia be loatra... AKAIE (also known as, in English) mud. In certain parts of the road, there was mud about a good two to three feet deep, and taxi brousses were getting stuck left and right. Even some nicer dirt bikes that rode by got stuck in it. So, on our way to Ambohimahazo, we got stuck a good four/five times, and it took two hours to get there because Elder Delbar, a bunch of other Malagasy taxi brousse passengers, and I all had to get out, and either pull on a rope or push from behind to get the taxi brousse unstuck. Needless to say, by the time we got to Ambohimahazo, we were very tired, hungry, and VERY VERY dirty and covered in mud. Then, after teaching two lessons in Ambohimahazo, it was time for us to go back to Anjoma to eat at the branch president's house. But, there were no taxi brousses in Ambohimahazo, and none were stopping by for an hour. So, instead, we walked the six kilometers over a couple mountains to get back to Anjoma. But then, as we were a kilometer and a half out, a taxi brousse finally came by and picked us up. Then, after we got in, and were so close we could see the branch president's house, what happened? The taxi brousse got stuck. Again. In a lot of mud. And so we spent the next half hour to forty-five minutes trying to get the taxi brousse unstuck, because the rope that we were using kept snapping. So then, by the time we got to Anjoma, it was time to head back to Ambositra because there aren't many taxi brousses that go through Anjoma after three o'clock or so, and it was already two thirty. So we caught a taxi brousse back to Ambositra and sat in another crowded, hot, very muddy taxi brousse for another hour-long ride. But again, I had a very similar experience to last week's, except this time it lasted a space of six hours instead of thirty minutes. It was the most incredible thing. My family can attest that, if something like that had happened seven months ago at home in Utah, I would've been pretty ticked, to say the least. :P But instead, this last Saturday, I was literally laughing and smiling the entire day. I was so happy, even though I was tired, dirty, sweaty, muddy, and starving. That didn't matter at the time. I just kept laughing and smiling. The entire day. It was the most incredible thing, and I know that it was the help of the Atonement that I was feeling, especially due to some scriptures I've read recently.
In Ephesians 4, it says that Christ is He that "descended first into the lower parts of the earth". Whatever we feel, Christ already felt, plus infinitely more. And so, the fact being that He has gone below all of us, He knows what it's like, and can come from below us and bear us up, literally pushing us up, holding us, and helping us go farther than we thought we could on our own. I felt that feeling, and anyone who has had an experience similar to this will know that what I am saying is true. And those who haven't yet experienced this will experience the uplifting, glorious feeling of the help of Christ's Atonement, if they but do their best and ask for it. I promise to each and every one of you that that is the truth, for I have felt it, seen it, and experienced it; I cannot deny what I know and feel. The Atonement IS real, it is there for everyone, and if we but ask for the help is promises, and do our best--simply make our best effort--then the bounteous blessings that are already promised to us will be meted out to us, through the grace of God and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. I KNOW that to be true. It is no longer a feeling: once I have experienced the fruits of the Atonement, it has become a knowledge, and it is a knowledge I cherish above almost all other things. So this is my plea to each and every one of you: Trust me. Trust my testimony and knowledge. But of infinite more importance, TRUST HIM.
Am-pitiavana ho anareo aby,
Loholona (Elder) Hyrum Snell
Miala tsiny indrindra ireo Tompoko ho an'ny ity email lava loatra ity!
(I am VERY sorry for this excessively long email) Hopefully you all enjoy it, and feel the Spirit while reading it. If you don't feel the Spirit while reading this email, try reading it again. Maybe that'll do the trick. ;)
|A picture I got from Jean Paul.|
|Our living room|
|This is the swaggiest hat I've ever seen. I'm sure Hannah will be very jealous. :)|
|A hand-carved chess set|
|Four hand-carved letter openers (for Dad, Bumpa, Papa, and me).|