Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, April 27, 2015

04/27/15- Christ is the Way, the Light, and the Life

Hello everyone! It was really good to hear from all of you this week! It sounds like it has been a good week this week thus far for all of you. Keep up the good work, and keep up the faith!

My mom actually sent me questions this week, so I've got something to talk about now! Wooooo! So, let's get into the questions she asked, and then after that I will talk about General Conference, which I got to watch these past two days!

Anyway, first question about the fleas. The fleas have toned down a lot and are nowhere near as bad, but lately I've been getting a weird skin infection type of thing that I have no idea what it is. But I called the mission nurse and am now taking some antibiotics to hopefully get rid of it. I know you all want to see pictures of gross sores all over my arms and legs, so don't worry, pictures are most definitely on their way.  :)

Secondly, the things that I usually have to do during church services every Sunday. Well, let me tell you... Usually, sacrament meeting starts out fine, but we run the stereo speaker. Then all of a sudden they announce that we are giving a talk because the branch president's wife (who is currently there at the church meeting) was assigned to give a talk, but doesn't want to. :) So we whip up a quick talk and give that. Then the next hour we find out that the teacher of the investigator class didn't show up, and thus also making it so that we must give the lesson that we have had about fifteen seconds of time to prepare. Then in the third hour the branch surprises us by telling us that we are teaching a lesson to the Elder's Quorum about how to give blessings and consecrate oil, because absolutely none of the Melchizedek Priesthood holders in our branch know how to...So that is a classic Sunday here in Ambositra. Really quite a satisfying day of rest, am I right? Anyway, no one's bitter about that.

So, moving on to the third and final question posed by my mother this week, asking about times that I have been asked to give a priesthood blessing. Thus far I have only been asked on three occasions. Wait, no, make that four. The first two were in Tamatave, and we only gave one of the two, because the second one was a teenage girl that just wanted a "blessing" from some white men. :) And then there have been two times here in Ambositra: a lady asking us to bless her with money as she is on her way to the bank, which we didn't do and a diligent member of the church asked us to give his daughter a blessing of health, which we gave gladly. But, as you can see, the Malagasy perspective of a "blessing" is not really the same thing that we would think of.

Anyway, that is all for the questions this week, and now we can go into General Conference, because I finally had the opportunity to watch it these past two days (even though the opportunity happened only because Elder Delbar was bed-ridden due to sickness). But anyway, conference was absolutely incredible. I want to ask each and every one of you to please watch it if you have not yet seen it. That was probably one of the most emotional and powerful General Conferences that I have ever viewed in my life. Absolutely incredible. Among my favorite talks were those given by Elders Renlund, Christofferson, and Holland. My personal all-time favorite would have to be Elder Holland's. That is not just because of his powerful and incredible skill at speaking and conveying his message, but because of the wonderful brotherly imagery that he used when describing the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I love that because He truly is our big brother, who--not through compulsion, but through His own agency--chose to suffer, bleed, and die for each and every one of us. That is why it is said that only by God's grace are we saved. It is His grace, His love, that caused Him to send His only Begotten Son down to earth to suffer and die for us, so that we could all have the opportunity presented before us to return to Him again, and obtain eternal life. Christ is the Way, the Light, and the Life. He gives us the opportunity to receive eternal life. Of course we still need to work and act in accordance with His commands, but there is no other way that we can return, other than by and through Him.

It is my firm testimony that that is the absolute truth, that if it were not for Christ's choice, we would never be able to obtain the Kingdom of God. And we are all forever and eternally indebted to Him for that. Let us all show more appreciation to Him for His incomprehensible sacrifice through the things that we do each day in following His commandments.

I know that my email is short this week, but time is not on my side, and neither is the power company which keeps shutting off the power, so that is all for this week. I love you all, and hope you all know that. Also, please know that Christ loves each and every one of you as well, and wants to help us in any way that He can.

Elder Hyrum Snell

Trip to Antsirabe last week.

Four paintings I had done in Antsirabe, which turned out incredible!

Trip to Antsirabe last week. Me and my dad/trainer Elder Christiansen, who is currently on his way home to the states! Crazy...

Trip to Antsirabe last week. Elder Christiansen, Elder Delbar, and Elder Lehr.

These next pictures are from the split, at one of our investigators' houses, because Elder Hein (one of the Zone Leaders) actually was trained in Ambositra, so we went to some people he knew.

A picture of me with the Zone Leaders on the splits we did this last week.

These two pictures are of my lovely sores that have been bugging me the past five days or so. You are all so welcome. :)

This is a picture of our language packet for Malagasy, which has been compiled by past AP's. See all the little words around the island on the picture? Yeah, each name is a separate dialect that is almost completely different than the others. Some are even considered different languages that some Malagasies don't even understand unless they're a part of that tribe. Crazy...

Monday, April 20, 2015

04/20/15- The Importance of Going to Church

Salama aby! I hope you're all doing well in this wonderful spring time of the year. Things are going well out here in Ambositra on the opposite side of the world. From the sound of all your emails, it has been a fairly good week all around, which is good. I'm happy that life is still treating all of you well. Though, even when it's not so nice, we should still appreciate the fact that it is a precious gift from God, and should be enjoyed.

Anyway, I am at a loss of words right now, as my mom told me that she is restraining herself and not asking questions this week, because she just wants me to write according to my desires. So... I have nothing to say. So that's my email for the week. :)

Just kidding, that would be very lame and not very kind of me to send that kind of email to you all. You all are such great family and friends that you deserve better. So, I'll do my best to give you all what you deserve (which, by the way, is MUCH more than I can ever give).

But anyway, as for this past week, it has been a little rough, as we got stood up a lot by our investigators, and some of our most mazoto/diligent investigators still have not come to church. Right now the best investigators we have are two families: Nahary and Mirana, and Liva and Olga. The lessons that we teach them all go very well, and they are very diligent at completing their homework. They all are quite intelligent and really understand the doctrines and principles of the gospel quite well. But, the biggest problem thus far has definitely been church attendance. It is the single hardest thing of my mission thus far, to try and get investigators to come to church. We invite them, they commit to come, and then they don't come for one reason or another. It is very, very frustrating when that happens, week in and week out. Especially considering the fact that almost every single Malagasy I have met thus far has considered church attendance every week a very important part of life. I see countless Malagasy people going to other churches with their families, all dressed up and nice. The people are so diligent in going to church beforehand, but then the moment we start teaching them and inviting them to church, they all of a sudden stop. After that, church attendance becomes the single hardest thing of their lives.

This has definitely been the most frustrating thing here in the mission field. And yet, it has also been a testimony strengthening experience for me personally. That may seem odd, but let me explain. It wouldn't be hard for them to come to church if it wasn't important. Satan is obviously trying to stop them from coming to the one true church of God here on earth. He is trying to make it as hard as possible for them to come to church, because he knows how important it is. Church attendance isn't just a rote repetition of coming to a building every Sunday and listening to someone yell scriptures at you, which is common in many churches here in Madagascar. People become extremely lazy with regards to religion, and also never read the scriptures. For instance, I was teaching some people in Anjoma yesterday who profess to be devout members of another Christian church that believes in the Bible. I asked them if they knew who Moses was with relation to a lesson I was teaching on prophets. And they had no idea. They all said that they were very religious, and yet they had not read a single scripture in YEARS. All they did was come to church, listen to a preacher, and go home. That is it. That is NOT true religion. True religion is having a change take place in you personally and becoming more and more like the perfect example that we should all try to exemplify: that is to say, Jesus Christ. Complacent listening does nothing for you. There needs to be action. And that is one of the hardest things about our church time here in Ambositra/Madagascar. All other churches are fine with complacency. They encourage it. But, that is Satan's desire, that the people complacently waste away, having no idea what they actually need to do to obtain eternal life, which is the goal. It is hard, but if they push themselves, and actually work hard, then the blessings that will come are literally endless, limitless, and incomprehensible. Satan does not want them to have that, and will do his absolute best to coax them into a state of complacent ignorance. And I have seen that time and time again. Regular church attendance truly is crucial for our eternal salvation, not only because of the things we learn, and how we grow from it, but also the blessing of the sacrament as we partake of it and are cleansed from our sins. Church attendance, every Sunday, is just so important, and I see that every single week with the progress made with those who are consistently coming to church versus those who are lazy, "busy", or whatever their reasoning is for not coming to church. This church will change our lives, if we but put in the effort. Anyway, that's my little schpeel on church attendance. It's important. Remember that.

There isn't much else to say because not many things of note happened this week. I'm in Antsirabe again for P-Day, but other than that, nothing much. But, little comment: Elder Christiansen, my "dad" /trainer, is heading home a week from this Wednesday! That is absolutely crazy! Best of luck to him in the real world.

So, that's all for this week. I love you all, and hope that you all have an absolutely fantastic week!

Elder Snell

Cart ride in Anjoma.


Pictures of our branch at a branch activity.

This is me studying like a Malagasy, wearing a Malagasy traditional hat.

These next pictures are of cute little Malagasy kids wearing missionary name tags and being adorable, as usual.

Here we've got food, which costs less than two dollars.

Rice paddies in Ambositra.


A massive and gaudy gate that we found with Elder Delbar posing in front of it.

A couple of cool wood things for some other Elders.
This is a picture of a Malagasy silk scarf, which is for you Mom. :) Love you!

Me with a man on the street.

Monday, April 13, 2015

04/13/15- Trust God and Get to Work

Faly miharaba antiska ny tenako androany, ary ny anarako dia Elder Snell amin'ireo izay mbola tsy mahalala izany. Androany tiako ny hijoroako ho vavolombelona momba ny herin'andro vao lasa. I thought I'd begin this email with the way that every Malagasy uses to begin their testimony. The translation is as follows: "Myself is happy to greet all of us today, and my name is Elder Snell to those which are not knowledgeable of that. Today I would like to bear my testimony about the past week."

So, that is what I will do. But first, even before the questions, I'd like to make a shout out to Gunner Francom, called to serve in the best mission on the face of the planet, a.k.a. Antananarivo Madagascar, speaking Malagasy!!! Can't wait to see you out here in the field, Gunner! It'll be great.

And now, we've got some questions: firstly, the best part of this last week. That would have to be farming germanium with our investigators last Tuesday morning. That was very fun, and I also learned some important skills about farming germanium, in case I ever get interested in doing so later on in life. At this point, I'd consider myself quite mahay (good, proficient, etc.) at farming, seeing as Ambositra is mostly a farming town.

Secondly, the hardest part of the past week. That would probably be yesterday at church. Here on the mission--at least for me personally--church is very tiring. Firstly, we as the missionaries do a lot of the work for the church. And then secondly, it is the hardest thing in the world trying to get our investigators to come to church. Some of our most diligent investigators just never come. We ask them constantly, and it just never happens. We pray, we invite, we teach, and we bring the spirit of the importance of church. But sometimes our investigators (and members, for that matter) just don't want to come. So they don't. And that, thus far, has been the hardest thing for me on the mission. And as far as how I've been overcoming those feelings of disappointment goes, that would mainly just be keeping an eternal perspective. The church has only been here in Ambositra for five years. It literally is like a newborn child here, barely learning how to walk. I can't expect it to run before it can even walk right. God doesn't expect more than is possible, and so neither should I.

And that actually ties in with the last question, which asks about the one aspect of the gospel I've come to understand more fully on the mission. God will never expect of us more than we can give. He will always push us to our absolute maximum capacity, in order for us to grow and learn, but He never asks more of us than is possible. Of course this life is hard, and of course there is a lot that is asked of us, but that is because we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We can accomplish incredible things, especially with God's help, and those incredible things are what is asked of us to do. But that is the key aspect: God will always help us. And, after all, He is the creator and ruler of the entire universe and everything in existence. So, needless to say, nothing is impossible for us. If it is God's will, we can accomplish all things. He asks of us great things, because He knows that if we work with Him, they will be accomplished. That's one thing that I have seen on a daily basis here in the mission field. I would not be able to dedicate my mind, my time, my efforts, and everything I have, for two years, all for the work of salvation. I just wouldn't be able to do it on my own. BUT, God is there helping me. He has asked much of me, and with His eternal help, I will be able to accomplish all that He has asked.

I know without a doubt that God helps us with the things that He has asked of us. Let us all remember Nephi 3:7, and the fact that the Lord will not command us to do anything that is not possible, and that does not already have a path prepared for us to accomplish His commandments. So, let us put our trust in God and get to work. Anything and everything that we have been asked to do IS POSSIBLE, although it may be hard, challenging, and oftentimes outside our comfort zone. God will always help us with everything that we need to do. I know that is true. So, all in all, trust in God, and get to work. He will help you, and you will accomplish greater things than you ever thought possible, and change lives (yours included) in the process.

Thank you all for everything you do and the wonderful emails you send me everything. You are truly the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for!

Am-pitiavana be (with much love),
Elder Snell

My mamboly with our investigators Liva and Olga (farming that is). We farmed some pretty good germanium, and I'd like to say that I am now pro.

A picture of Laure (we call her Mama) who is the branch president's wife in Anjoma, singing some old Malagasy children's songs.

Selfie at the cyber

A picture of the cyber

Monday, April 6, 2015

04/05/15- True Happiness...Think of Others...Serve!

Manakory aby!! Tratran'ny fetin'ny Paka ary ny Lundi de Paques koa! TENA samy-hafa ny fankalazan'ny Paka aty' Madagasikara noho ny fankalazan'ny olona Amerikana any Etazonia, ary hohitanareo izany. Fa mbola tsara ny fanaovana, ary tena tiako ilay izy. :) I'll let my mom figure out the translation of that, and see if any of it makes sense. ;) Just kidding, the Google Translate Malagasy is terrible, so here you go, quote: Hello all! Happy Easter and Monday of Easter (a holiday in Madagascar as well)! The way Easter is celebrated here in Madagascar is extremely different than the way Americans in the U.S. celebrate it, and you all will see that. But the celebration is still good, and I really like it. End quote. And don't worry, there are pictures of the real way that Easter and the Monday of Easter is celebrated here in Madagascar. FYI people faint of heart should not watch the videos that will be thus attached.

Anyway, the questions this week are quite good (kudos to you, Mom!) so I will go right in to answer them, but begin with the second and less spiritual one, then move consecutively on to the first and third questions respectively. So, the second question asks about Easter and what we did here in Ambositra. Well, we worked like it was a normal day. As it is with all holidays. :P But then we made some homemade pizza for dinner, so that was nice! And then, today for P-Day, we went and attended a savika in a small town just outside of Ambositra. You will all soon see what a savika is, so keep reading. ;)

Now, for the first question: the time when I felt the Spirit most powerfully this week. As far as that goes, it depends on what type of spirit we are talking about. As far as a spiritual confirmation of truth, I got an incredibly strong feeling of truthfulness when we watched The Restoration video with our investigators Nahary and Mirina. When the part of the video came on that shows the First Vision, where Christ and God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith, the Spirit was so strong in the room that you could cut it with a knife (I know that's a cop-out, but bear with me; it's a good line). In all seriousness, I felt the Spirit so strongly that there was no doubt in my mind that the story is true, and that Joseph Smith truly saw God and Christ. Please watch that video sometime. It is absolutely incredible, and brings a very strong Spirit.

And now, lastly, the third and final question. My mom asked me about the true happiness that I have gained while here on the mission, because I always seem to be happy. My mom asked me to explain what I've learned about the relation between service and true happiness. And honestly, the answer is quite simple. We, as human beings, are in a natural fallen state because of the Fall of Adam and Eve. They fell from a perfect state of being to a state of imperfection, sin, and pain. We know that the Fall was needed, as if our first parents here on earth had never had children, then there would have been no mankind. If that was the case, we would not exist. And so we all are naturally sinful, narcissistic, and lust-driven. That is the man ara-nofo (according to the flesh).

Our job here on earth is to master those lusts and temptations and exercise the power of our spirit to overcome the flesh. So, being naturally narcissistic, we tend to focus on ourselves: our wants, our desires, our lusts, and--most especially--the things that we don't have but desire to attain. So, when we spend our times and efforts on pursuing our own lusts and desires (worldly fame, fortune, etc.), then we continue to turn more and more narcissistic, because that is the our natural tendency due to the Fall. However, that is where service comes in. When we turn away from our natural tendencies, lusts, and desires--such as when we perform service to others--then we begin to counteract the natural man. The natural man begins to miharesy (gradually be defeated/give in) and the spirit grows stronger. Rather than having our minds focused on our natural wants and desires, and everything that we don't have, it instead turns to focus on others and what we can all personally to do help others in their lives. I have seen that every single day that I have been here in Madagascar, that when I focus on the service of others rather than my own needs, I become happier. I become less focused on myself and the many things that I wish were better in my life, and instead my focus turns to those who are in need of my help, both spiritually and physically.

In the past I've had thoughts along the lines of "Wow, I am sick and tired of being called "vazaha" time and time again, stared at constantly (sometimes glared at), and having people thinking that I am a rich foreigner here to steal their women." but I have been working, praying, and fasting that I will change. And I've begun to see the change. Instead of having thoughts like the example previously written, I will have thoughts along the lines of "That was an incredible lesson just barely. But, the investigator we are going to now really needs help understanding that he is loved by his Father in Heaven, and that he really can return to Him and have an eternal family. We should focus on that during the lesson." It's been a very incredible change to see occur in my own mind, but that's the truth. I've also seen that with other people as well. When people spend time thinking about others, whether that is through service or some other form of selflessness, then they turn the spotlight of their thoughts away from themselves and towards the other people.

And so, in the spirit of selflessness that accompanies our celebration of Christ's Resurrection every Easter, I invite all of you to focus on someone else ankoatra ny tenanareo (besides yourselves). And I promise that you will see the change in your mind and heart, and that you will be happier because of it. Now, you can't just serve someone and expect it to change you, but you have to truly focus your thoughts, your time, and your energy on the other person. That is when the change will take place, and you will be so much happier because of it. And I can promise you all that that is the truth, as I have seen that in myself. So please, try it out. Serve someone. Love someone. Think of them before yourself. And be happier because of it.

That's all for this week. I hope that all of you have an incredible week over the next seven days, and we will talk again next week!

Elder Snell
Ambositra, Madagasikara, izao tontolo izao

Tracting in Anjoma. Literally, talking to whoever you see. When you actually see people, that is...

Tracting in Anjoma.

This is a picture of me at the savika.
You probably realize now that a savika is a bull fight (more like a rodeo) where the Malagasies try to wrestle the bull to the ground by grabbing onto the hump on the bull's back. Don't worry, we got permission from President Adams to go to this, so we weren't being naughty missionaries. :)

This is a picture with me and Rauphin, Julie, and some of their family after the savika.
Picture after the savika.
Where the savika was held.

Pictures from our time in Antsirabe.


 All of us together!


Beautiful Flower