Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, February 23, 2015

02/23/15- Best Mission Prep...Learn to WORK HARD!!!

Hello everyone!!! It's been so great to hear from all of you and hear that things are going well. Tena tiako ianareo aby!!! This past week has been pretty nuts (especially the weekend) so I'll go through the questions quickly and then tell all the stories. Well, one story in particular. But that is mbola ho avy (still to come).

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 bathroom
Our living room
Our bedroom
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).

Monday, February 16, 2015

02/16/15- "There's No Place I'd Rather Be!"

Faly miharaba antsika rehetra androany aho, ary miresaka aminareo, ireo namako be sy ny fianakaviako malalako. I'm glad to hear from all y'all, and to see that you are all doing well. It's good that life is still treating you all well, and hopefully that will continue.

As for me, this past week has been pretty good, but it went by fairly slowly. The work has really slowed down here in Ambositra for whatever reason, and a lot of our times with our investigators are falling through. It's a little disappointing to see that some people just aren't that interested, but izay ny fiainana (that's life).

Anyway, I will begin with addressing my mother's questions, araka ny maha-zatra (according to the usual pattern). First question, yes, I have been using my sweaters a bit, because it does sometimes get pretty chilly here. It's not actually very cold, but the humidity and the mist-like rain that is almost always falling makes it feel a lot colder than it really is. I'm not really sure the actual temperature that it hits, but it's really not too bad. The sweaters just take the edge off of it.

Secondly, as far as the appointments we teach a week, it kind of depends, but usually somewhere around twenty to twenty-five lessons a week, and that seems to be the usual amount. A little less than what we usually had in Tamatave, but that's not a big deal.

For the next question, the investigator whose story I know the most about would be Jean Paul. He's a student at the local university, is either eighteen or nineteen years old (I can't remember which), and is actually an orphan. His father died while his mother was pregnant with him, and his mother died when he was only three or four years old. Since then he has been living with his older cousin, who is currently keeping him fed, sheltered, and fully funded for his schooling. But, the problem is, his cousin isn't that great of a guy. His cousin won't let him come to church, discourages him from taking our lessons, and says that if Jean gets baptized, then he will kick him out onto the street, and he'll have nowhere to go. But Jean Paul actually might be able to come to church this next week because his (married) cousin is currently in prison awaiting trial for committing adultery with a sixteen or seventeen year old minor. Soooo yeah... His cousin is not the best guy. Hopefully some prison time will do him some good. But anyway, Jean Paul is probably our best progressing investigator, especially because he wrote us a note the other day saying that he knows the church is true, loves reading the Book of Mormon every day, and hopes to join the church some day. So that is Jean Paul's story. As you can plainly see, he can use some help from on high, so please pray for him, and pray for his cousin's heart to be softened towards the church, allowing him to be baptized.

Next question: cooking without Shoprite can sometimes be a little difficult without having a whole lot of specific things, like certain spices and whatnot, but we make do. We can actually get most of what we need (such as flour, produce, meat, things along those lines) from the tsena (marketplace) a little ways away from our house. We make sure to cook the food thoroughly so we don't get sick, and it actually ends up turning out pretty well. We made burritos last night with homemade tortillas and everything, and they were way good. I am not able to eat an apple a day, but I do try to eat other things--such as vegetables and such--that are just as healthy in order to keep myself in good health. The tsena is the main place we get most of the bigger things, but there are many little epiceries (roadside shops) that we stop by to get things, like yoghurt cups to start our homemade yoghurt, and fresh bread for breakfast.

And as for the last question hoe (a Malagasy word placed before any quotation and such) "When did [I] see the Lord's hand in [my] life...this week?" I have a fairly good experience for that. This last Saturday, we went to Anjoma for my first time. I think I already explained about Anjoma, but it's a small rural town in the middle of nowhere that has a very flourishing branch of the church, and we go and visit it every Saturday morning through four in the afternoon or so. FYI pictures of Anjoma will be included, so don't worry. It is absolutely gorgeous. But anyway, it's an hour taxi brousse ride one way, so two hours round trip. The ride there was pretty uneventful, and we got there safely and I didn't get carsick or anything. But then, the ride back turned out to be more interesting. This was the last taxi brousse heading back to Ambositra from Anjoma, so we had to either get on it or walk home (which would've taken until at least midnight or so), so we got on. The row that I sat on was already quite full, but then we added a six foot three vazaha to the mix (ME!), and it just got PACKED in the taxi brousse. There were three seats on my row, but five people, and I was packed in between one guy and a lady with a baby, who was breast-feeding the entire one-hour ride. So I was pretty much on the lap of this guy next to me to make sure that the breast-feeding lady next to me wasn't on mine. I felt bad for the five foot nothing guy, but hey, it was a good reason. Also, it was raining outside, so it got extremely stuffy in the car, and I started to get fairly carsick. So, about halfway through the ride, things came to kind of a culmination. I was feeling sick, I was cramped, I was uncomfortable, it was smelly, the taxi brousse driver was blaring really loud Malagasy music over the stereo system, and then to top it all off, the baby decides it's had enough to eat and starts wailing. As this all was going on, I felt like I should be angry or something. And yet, rather than anger, a calm, peaceful, joyful feeling came over me and seemed to wrap all around me. Instead of becoming angry, I just started to laugh and sing to myself the first song that came to mind, and happened to be the song "On My Way" from the movie Brother Bear. The lyrics go like this: "Tell everybody I'm on my way: new friends and new places to see. With blue skies ahead, I'm on my way, and there's no place that I'd rather be." And, as crazy as it may sound, those lyrics were true. I was happy, there were figurative blue skies ahead, and there really was no place I'd rather be than here in Madagascar, doing the work of the Lord, whether that's teaching a lesson or riding in a crowded taxi brousse with all those crazy things going on. And that, in and of itself, was a kind of miracle. I was able to remain peaceful, calm, and happy in one of the most crazy situations of my life. And that was the Lord's blessing; His Spirit is what made the difference for me. I know that I couldn't have done that without having the Lord's help. I truly felt the Lord's influence and blessing through that experience, and I know that He is there, watching over me.

I love you all very much, and hope that this week is a wonderful one!
Elder Hyrum Snell

"There's no place I'd rather be!"

Gifts for my sisters

Monday, February 9, 2015

02/09/15- Trust Him and Transfer Travels

Hello everyone!

Thanks for all the emails, as always, as I really appreciate and need the help and encouragement I receive from all of your words and thoughts and prayers. I pray for all of you everyday, and hopefully that makes some sort of a difference in your lives. It sounds like things are going well in all of your lives though, which is good to hear.

This past week has been a little crazy for me, but seeing as I was moving across Madagascar, that's understandable and expected. But, seeing as my mom has a TON of questions this week (understandably) then I should probably get down to answering them.

First off, transfers went well, and pretty seamlessly (relatively). I did not travel alone at any point of the trip. On my ride from Tamatave to Tana this past Tuesday, I was with Elder Ahlstrom, so that was fun to talk with him for a while. Then, I left Tana on Wednesday morning with Elders Fisher and Davis, both of whom were continuing on past Ambositra to Fianarantsoa. Total travel time in traxi brousse (our mode of travel): about sixteen hours. Wooo! Fun stuff... But it's all good. I didn't ever get really car sick, even though I didn't take any car sickness medicine, which was nice, and the drive was pretty smooth.

As for the next question, my companion is pretty great. His name is Elder Delbar, and he came in to Madagascar the transfer before me, so we have pretty much the same amount of experience. He is very nice, fun, and a good cook, so we cook a lot (also, because there is no Shoprite or any sort of food store, so we are kind of forced to). We've already made rice and laoka, homemade yoghurt, and other such things. Quite good. But anyway, he is from the San Diego area in California, went to a year of college in New Jersey while studying musical education, and is now serving a mission. He is a little bit taller than me, and fun fact: he has two different colors of eyes, one brown, one bright blue...way cool.

And now for details about our house: it's pretty small, but nice and cozy. Pretty nice finishes on the inside. Only downside is that the water heater doesn't work, so we either shower out of a pressure cooker (if we want a warm shower) or in precisely thirty-four degree water from the actual shower. But that's about it as for our house.

As for Ambositra, it's a very small, quaint little town that's kind of spread out. It's got the main downtown area, but then a couple outskirts areas that are across some rice paddies. Pictures are definitely in order, and will be included. It's very pretty here though, as it is completely in the mountainous countryside of Madagascar. I love it. But we also work in a small town called Anjoma that is an hour drive outside of Ambositra. We take a taxi brousse out to it every Saturday, teach the investigators, then go home. Fun fact about Anjoma: it's one of the best branches in Africa. One hundred percent attendance, one hundred percent tithe payers, and about ten to fifteen investigators at church every week. And yet we only work there once a week. It's kind of crazy, but just goes to show you that member missionary work can make miracles happen.

As far as the work goes in Ambositra, we do have a fair amount of investigators. The best ones thus far, and ones who could use some prayers, are Rauphin and Julie (getting baptized soon), Jean Paul (who very much needs some prayers in his behalf), Edward, Reny, Giby, and several others whose names I can't remember (cut me some slack, I'm still new here).

As far as differences between Ambositra and Tamatave, the list is endless. There are pretty much no similarities whatsoever, including weather, people, feel, and style of work. It can get fairly cold here, and I've actually had to break out a few of my sweaters a couple of times already, so yeah. It's weird. It's good that it's not that hot though, because now I don't sweat near as much. The weather here just depends on the day. Some days it's way dreary and drizzly and raining all day, but other days (like right now) it's pretty warm with clear skies. But it's a really nice place, and I know I'm going to love it here.

The biggest spiritual thoughts that I've had this past week have been with regards to improving myself as a person and as a missionary. And the way I do that is through the help of Christ. If I put forth my best personal effort, and try to work my hardest, then Christ's grace--the redeeming power of His Atonement--will qualify me for the things that I need to do. And that's the same as it is with all of us. No matter who we are, what we're doing, and what our situation is, Christ will help us. ALWAYS. I know that that is true, because I've experienced it. Trust me. Trust Him.

Elder Hyrum Snell

Ambositra. Very pretty, but quite rural.


Picture of a bull-fighting stadium in our area.

Picture of Elder Delbar and me with one of our best members in our church building.

Elder Bowler and me with a member family.

This picture is of Elder Bowler and Nohaingoinaina at a soiree with some members.

Elder Bowler and I got to visit a Mercy Ship before I left for Ambositra. It is like a floating hospital.

It was very weird seeing a Starbuck's.

It was strange seeing like an American convenience store. Look, there's even frosting... Mind blown.

Monday, February 2, 2015

02/02/14- A Baptism and Transfer News!

Ry fianakaviako sy ireo namako be! (Dear family of and good friends of mine!)

I'd hate to get redundant, but yet again, I appreciate the emails all of you sent to me and the encouraging words you all write. I am grateful beyond words for the kind things, encouraging words, and uplifting thoughts that I receive week in and week out because of you all.

This past week has been a little bit crazy, but pretty good. Last night we received our transfer news, and it turns out that I was right this time. I am leaving Tamatave, but I would not have guessed where I would be going. My main guess was Antananarivo, but I was pretty far off with that. I am going to (drumroll please).................... Ambositra!!! Now, I am 99% positive that all of you have no idea where that is, so a little explaining is in order: it is about a five hour drive south of Antananarivo, and is a small town known for it's skill in wood carving. Actually, it is probably one of the top five cities for wood carving in the entire world. So, let's just say I'll be getting some pretty awesome souvenirs over the next few months. Also, a little piece of information that would be interesting to know is that there are only two Elders who work in Ambositra. So it will be just me and my new companion, Elder Delbar, who came into Madagascar the transfer before I did. So, this will be much different than the past three transfers, as I will be working with someone who has just about the same amount of experience as I do. But I know for a fact that it will be a time of growing, and that I will have some great experiences to show for my service there.

Anyway, down to the questions. First the weather this week. It's been pretty good. A LOT less rain, so that's been nice. It hasn't flooded quite as much. But it's also been kind of cool, so I've really enjoyed not being super sweaty all the time. :)

Secondly, my mom asked for a background story on one or two of our investigators, so I will give details about our investigator Aldo (seeing as he is actually getting baptized this Saturday! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!). So Aldo is a twenty-one year old young man who is living here in Tamatave in order to go to school at the local university. He is originally from a place called Sambava, which is up north and speaks the Malagasy dialect called Tsimihety, which sounds very cool, but is oftentimes hard to understand. But we still manage. Anyway, his entire family still lives in Sambava and is quite poor. Due to that fact, Aldo is even more impoverished than they are, seeing as he is living away from home as a college student (seeing as college students are usually quite poor to begin with). So Aldo has a really hard time finding the money to pay for food a lot of the time, and lives off of straight rice most of the time. For instance, last week, he was still eating when we came to his house, and all he was eating was the straight rice with just some sugar for his loaka (toppings, which usually consist of beans, vegetables, and meat). And yet, despite the fact that he is literally living off of a single simple carbohydrate, he still walks the three or so miles from his house to the church every Sunday without fail, which is quite impressive, especially for college students who oftentimes don't care about anything (at least, American college students that is). But now, since October when I first started teaching Aldo, he has come all the way and now, like I said earlier, will be getting baptized on Saturday. I won't get to see him be baptized, as I will already be in Ambositra, but that's okay, as it's the fact that he's doing it that counts for me. I'll still see him in the Spirit World after this life, and I hope to spend some time with him in the Celestial Kingdom as well.

Another investigator we have that is very similar to Aldo is Franco, who is also a college student but thirty years old instead of twenty. He's awesome, and probably one of the smartest investigators we have. I don't know much about his backstory though, so that's about it for him. :)

Anyway, onto question three, which asks if there is a vatsim-panahy (spiritual thought) that I would like to share with all of you. So, I will use a scripture we use all the time in our missionary work that is very mazava tsara (clear). It is in Romans 8: 16-17. In Malagasy, it says "Ny Fanahy dia miara-milaza amin'ny fanahintsika fa zanak'Andriamanitra isika. Raha zanaka, dia mpandova;" It says that we are God's children, and if we are His children, then we are heirs. Heirs to His kingdom, His glory, everything. And that is the promise that we have in this life. If we do the things that we should do; follow God's commandments; keep our covenants and the promises we make: then, after we do those things, we can inherit the kingdom of God. That is such an incredible promise, and worth giving up all that we have in this life to obtain it. I know that is true, and that--if we follow the counsel we have been given, from God and the mouths of His prophets--then we will obtain the kingdom of God. And, seeing as God cannot lie, I think that we are pretty safe in putting our trust in His promises. It's my testimony that these things I've said are true.

Love you all so much, and hope that this week is absolutely wonderful for you all!!!

Elder Snell

This is a picture of Franco and me at his house, which is actually just twice the size of the bed we are sitting on... But he's a stud, and always comes to church.

This picture is of a little chicken that I picked up and thought was cute.

These are two of our investigators, Lariano and Jantelle. They are awesome, and I hope they get baptized. 

This is Landry.

This is Aldo.

This is Michelle.

This is Fabio.

Group Picture

Another group picture.

This is the District President and his wife. They have been so good to us!