Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

05/26/15- Teaching As the Savior Taught

Akory aby! Ahoana ny fandehana aminareo? Tsa misy ina aty amiko ety amin'ny tanindrazana na ny hoe Madagasikara. Magingina daholo ny fandehana atsy. Hey, it was really good to hear from you all this week! There were a lot of emails I got, so that was awesome to hear from some other people this week as well. Thanks for the emails, and I'd love to hear from any of you that wants to shoot me an email. Also, shout out today to my wonderful father whose birthday it is this week! I hope it's a great one, Dad! You're the best! I miss you a lot, and miss the great times we've had. Hopefully there will be many great times to come in the future. You all are the best family and friends that anyone could ever ask for! I really appreciate the support and kindness and help that you all constantly send out here to me in Madagascar. Please know that your support and your emails are appreciated.

Anyway, it's been a bit of a crazy week. Two major stories stick out: firstly, our shower broke and flooded parts of our house, so that was fun. But now it's all fixed and whatnot, so no losses. Secondly, we got a call from Tana on Thursday that our current house's contract ends at the end of this month, so we had to find a new house in about eight days. But luckily we have a new house that we've found and will move in as soon as possible. So that's all good now.

Now, as for my mother's questions. Firstly, about the kids begging for food that a lot of you probably saw on the CNN special the other day. As for that, let me just say that we are lucky to go a one or two hours without having someone ask us for money or food. Usually it is little kids who will just call us out from the sides of the roads and command us to give them money. It's very sad to see that they feel entitled to us giving them money. But I will say that that is one of the hardest things of this mission, is seeing the poverty and knowing that I am not allowed to do anything about it. It is very hard. But I know that what I am bringing them is much more important than money or food, and will help them so much more than any amount of food or money could.

Second question, about our time usage here on earth, and how important it is that we use our time wisely. Literally, our time here on earth is a blink of the eye in comparison to eternity, and our entire life after this one, which will continue for eternity, all depends on what we do here on earth during this short time period. Don't waste this precious time. Life is a gift from God. Use it to its fullest potential. Of course we won't be perfect in using our time right now, but the goal is to build up to that point where we are using our time here on earth as we should, and THAT is using our time here to its fullest potential: learning and continuing to progress until the end.

The third question is about teaching as the Savior taught, and as far as that goes, I have tried to use two tactics in lessons in my attempts to emulate the Savior's style of teaching. The first one is asking as many deep, thought-provoking questions as I can. In the Bible, the Savior often taught an incredibly potent lesson by asking a single question or a series of questions that cause the learner to discover the answer for himself. Secondly, the Savior also followed up his questions with simple statements of truth that prompt the learner in the right direction, or cause him to see the true message that Christ was trying to convey. For example, with the instance of the woman taken in adultery, the only answer Christ gave to the people was that of "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." It was a very simple, straight-forward statement that taught an entire lesson simply through the single statement. And that is the way that I have come to try and teach. Involve the learner or investigator by asking questions that cause him to think more deeply about the topic at hand, and then follow the question and their answer up with a simple statement of truth relating to the doctrine and topic that will prompt their thoughts in the right direction, as well as help them understand more fully the true doctrine they are trying to learn. Of course I am nowhere near perfect at it: not even close. But I have noticed that lessons go so much better when I follow those two simple steps, as did the Savior. He was the ultimate and perfect teacher/missionary, so I try to follow His example in everything that I do.When I do so, then I find that the missionary work goes visibly better than it does if I simply recite line-by-line the lessons from Preach My Gospel. That's not good teaching. Real teaching is asking the questions that the Spirit prompts you to ask, which will help the investigator more than anything else.

I know this email is shorter than my usual ones, but I don't want to waste too much time, as it is a Tuesday and not a Monday, because yesterday was a Malagasy holiday called Lundi de Pentecote which is simply the Monday of Pentecost. So yesterday all the cybers were closed. But, the point being, the thought of my email is the same: keep up the faith, keep up the hard work, and don't give up. We're all doing a great work, not just us missionaries. But I know that God will bless us if we continue to do His will for us here on earth.

Amim-pitiavana, ary mandrapahatonga ny herin'andor ambony,
Elder Snell

Pictures from the savika (bull wrestling) thing that we went to yesterday for Lundi de Pentecote.

The savika
The savika
Pictures when we went on splits with Elder Lehr and Razafindretsetra last week. And yes, that is this Malagasy family's entire house that you can see in the background.

An adorable little girl and me.

A Malagasy man on the street.

The branch president's wife in Anjoma.

A creepy spider in the bathroom.

A little boy with my nametag, which is adorable.

Monday, May 18, 2015

05/18/15- God Has My Back

Akory aby o! Manao ahoana ianareo? Enga anie ka ianareo dia salama tsara daholo, ary ny fiainanareo dia mandeha ho azy amin'izao fotoana tena mahafinaritra izao. It was really good to hear from you all, and see how you all are doing. Keep up the good work that you're all doing back in the states. I'll do my best to keep it up here on my end!

This past week has been pretty good, and things are still going as they normally do. Investigators are still learning well, but won't come to church. Nothing much has changed there. If any of you incredibly smart people have ideas of what I can do to help change that, please let me know. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, Elder Anderson has been sick this past week, so we took one day off from work so he could get better, but he's still a little under the weather. So we'll see if he gets better soon.

But anyway, I will now get on to my wonderful mother's questions. Firstly, just a normal question, is about bugs and spiders I have seen in Ambositra. As to the answer to that, I haven't really seen anything special or out of the ordinary here in Ambositra. There's a certain type of spider that is very common and we see them in our house all the time, that are very flat, dark brown, about the size of a silver dollar (if not a bit bigger) and are very fast. But don't worry, I have yet to get bitten by one. That is, as far as I know... :P But yeah, the answer is not really. Nothing too special here in Ambositra (little comment: it is pronounced Ahhm-boo-see-cha. This is for you Mom ;P). NOTE FROM MOM: I don't even come close to pronoucing all the cities and villages in Madagascar correctly. That became evident in our last skype call at Mother's Day. We had a good laugh! I am glad Elder Snell is helping me out with a pronunciation guide. ;)

Secondly, I will answer the third question, which asks about an experience where I have seen an answer to a prayer. As far as that goes, the answer is more personal than anything. I have yet to see a time when we pray to find someone and then they jump out of a bush after the prayer and yell "teach me!" or anything like that, though we do get a lot of drunk people asking for bibles, because that's apparently what missionaries do here in Madagascar: they don't teach, but simply hand out free bibles (which makes since, as most people think we are Jehovah's Witnesses, and that's what they do). But no, the answer to prayers that I have really seen have just been the small, quiet, comforting moments where I realize that God has answered my prayer for strength, for the will to keep pushing forward, even when it feels like I have no strength left. Also, my prayers for help with the language have most assuredly been answered time and time again. I have only been here in country for about seven and a half months, but I have yet to have a problem understanding a question, comment, or concern that our investigators or less-actives have. And I have also yet to see a situation where I cannot express the thought that I am trying to convey, and not be understood by the investigator. That's simply never happened. I am nowhere near where I would like to be in my skill at the language, and yet I still am able to effectively and completely convey my thoughts, as well as understand the thoughts of the investigator. Seeing as I have prayed every morning and night for the past seven months for the gift of tongues, I would most definitely consider this an answer to my prayers. God has truly blessed me, and answered my prayers for help with the language, as well as a simple blessing of strength and  endurance in general. I know God has my back, because I have seen Him time and time again answer my simple prayers for help and strength. He always blesses me in my times of need.

Now, lastly, my mom asked about someone whose attributes and actions have inspired me to be better. Now, I will talk about two people. First, in my studies, I have been studying more about Jesus Christ, and so He is definitely my number one pick. But, since I know that's not what my mom was asking, I will talk about one of our investigators. Our investigator Nahary has been a perfect example to me of diligently seeking the truth. No, he has not really come to church yet, and no, he is not baptized, but he is still an example to me, because of his diligence in seeking to find out if what we teach him is true. His situation is hard, and is made even harder as of late by his wife who used to learn with us but lately has been going back to her old church, which happens to be the Adventist church, and she has not learned with us for about three weeks now. But even though all of that has been going on, Nahary has still been reading the Book of Mormon every day, and praying about it after he reads it. I have seen big changes in him, and in his entire person. The Book of Mormon is changing him for the better, and I can tell he is starting to know that it is true. The other day, we asked him if he was ready for baptism, and he said that the only thing holding him back at this point is his lack of church attendance (which he promises to change), and the fact that he wants to get baptized with his wife, because he knows that they must work together in order to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. He doesn't want to have eternal life alone. He told us that he has been teaching his wife on their own time, and been trying to convince her of the truth. That in and of itself is a miracle, as just a few months ago he was seeing the Book of Mormon for the first time. That book can change lives, if people will just follow the guide set out for them: read it, ponder it, and pray to God, the source of all truth and knowledge, to find out if it is true. Nahary has been the perfect example of following that guidance. He reads it, ponders it, and prays about it every day, and I am a personal witness of the changes I have seen in his life because of that. This experience has strengthened my testimony with regards to following the counsel we receive, especially from prophets of God. If we follow their counsel, then we will receive the promises that they extend to us. Nahary has followed their counsel, and his life is changing for the better. So let us follow the counsel we already have, and I know that we will receive the promises that are extended to us by those who are called of God. I add my witness to theirs, that God is just waiting to extend to us the promises and blessings that He can give, and all we need to do is follow His counsel. I truly have seen "the windows of heaven open" and have blessings poured out upon those people who will follow the counsel and guidance God has given us. I personally want to be better and being obedient because of this, as I know that I will be blessed of God if I do so. So, ask yourself: do you want God to bless you beyond what you can comprehend, and with blessings more than you have room to receive? If you're not absolutely out of your mind, then the answer is yes. :) So, if that is the case, then what do we need to do? Follow His directions. So, I guess that is my lohahevitra androany (topic today); let us all follow Him, and if we do so, I promise each and every one of you that He will bless you, and you will be happy because of it. So, obey Him and be blessed.

In closing, I will just thank you all again for everything that you do for me, the prayers, fasting, and encouraging words that you send constantly this way. I may be on the other side of the world, but I feel it. I feel the love, help, and strength that you all send this way, and my words cannot truly express how grateful I am to all of you for everything. It does not suffice to just say "thank you" but that's all I can do. So, thank you. Truly. I appreciate everything you all do, and the encouragement and strength that is sent my way because of you all.

Mahereza ary mazotoa! Be strong and be diligent!
Amim-pitiavana tsisy fetra,
Elder Snell

All of the following pictures were taken on our P-Day in Antsirabe. We went to Lake Tritriva (pronounced chee chee vuh) with some other Elders after emailing time. :) All very pretty pictures.

My poor Malagasy food that I made while Elder Anderson was sick, so I used what we had. Yes, it is simply rice with cooked eggs on top.

Your classic Malagasy sidewalk, including trash and litter.

The next three pictures are of adorable little kids, included in which is Stephanie (the pink shirt who is our investigator Nahary's daughter) and also our member Ary's daughter in the white shirt with a blue-ish vest, who is actually Nahary's brother.

A pretty picture in Anjoma of the rice paddies.
Another Anjoma picture

Monday, May 11, 2015

05/11/15- Happy Mother's Day!

Tratran'ny fetin'ny reny amin'ireo reny tena mahafinaritra izay misy eran'izao tontolo izao!! Enga anie ka niala sasatra kely ianareo tamin'ny Alahady teo, satria tena ilainareo izany indraindray. Fandikanteny: "Happy Mother's Day to all of those absolutely amazing mothers that there are all over the world!! Hopefully you all took a little break on this last Sunday, as you all really need that every once in a while."

I say that because I know how hard mothers all work, so, from me personally to you all, being the product of an incredibly wonderful mother, I say that all you mothers are and should be appreciated for everything that you do. So, whether you feel it every day (as you should) or not, know that you are loved and appreciated. I say this especially to my wonderful and astoundingly fantastic mother who has taught me everything that I know. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for her, and that is a fact. Every one needs a great example in life; someone to follow, to learn from, and to model your own goals after. For me, it would be my mom (and my dad too, but this is a mother's day email, so, sorry dad, you'll have to wait a bit for your email). But in all seriousness, thank you Mom, for everything you do. I hope you know that I love you, appreciate you, and am indebted to you more than I can ever possibly repay, as it is because of you that I am where I am in life today, because at the moment, there is no place I'd rather be. So, all in all, this is what I am trying to say: thank you Mom. I love you. And thank you to all other mothers who are truly what makes this world go round.
I know that the thanks I gave isn't even close to enough to adequate to the thanks that mothers deserve, but I hope that it means something to all mothers out there, because the work they do means a lot to me, especially the work of my mother, who is the best mother in the world (though I may or may not be a little biased).

But, speaking of my wonderful mother, she posed a few short questions that I will now take the time to answer. Firstly, in reference to the church district meetings I had yesterday and on Saturday, she asked what we actually do. As far as that goes, it depends on the meeting. Last Saturday was more of a training meeting, and so most of it was a question and answer session that President Adams led with branch presidencies. Then on Sunday, we had a district conference that was very much like any other stake conference I've been to, and even had a choir that sang the hymns, though the choir was made up of mostly missionaries who had never practiced any of the hymns and had no idea what the hymns were saying, as most of them were in French (I'm talking about myself here, in case you all didn't get my drift). But, regardless, it was an incredible experience and the closest I've gotten to an American church meeting, even though the attendance was about the same as my normal home ward's regular sacrament meeting. But whatever, you take what you can get. :)

Secondly, the question asks what things stood out to me in the district meetings this past weekend. As far as that goes, most of the talks were addressed towards one thing in particular, and that is half-hearted effort in callings and in the church. This was good, because that is something that is seen a lot here in Madagascar--and all over the world--all throughout the church. People will go through the motions over and over and over, and will still do good things, but will not magnify their calling, as they should. If every one in the church would magnify their calling and do their absolute best, then we would see miracles come to pass that we cannot imagine, doors being opened that some believe will never open. If everyone in the church magnified their callings as they should, then it is my belief that the church would already have reached every nation. But we need to step up our game, so to speak, and do our jobs the way the Lord would want us to.

And, as for the third question, my mom asked about which section of Preach my Gospel would be best for people to study to become better member missionaries. Elder Lehr's answer is, "All of it. Read it." My first thought would obviously be chapter 13 which talks about how missionaries should work with members and the ward or branch in which they work. But also, another chapter that came to mind is chapter 6 which talks about how we develop Christlike attributes. Because Christ is always our example. He was the ultimate missionary, example, teacher, and friend. And honestly, that's the best way to be a good member missionary. Just be a good friend. If you are a good friend, and simply help in the way that Christ, being the perfect friend and teacher that He was, would help, then we will be the member missionaries (or full-time missionaries, in my case) that the Lord would want us to be.

But anyway, that's about it for this week. I'm sorry for the shorter email than usual, but the core of the email is to give thanks for mothers. Also, most of what is usually said over email was said last Saturday over Skype, so you all can ask my mom if you have any questions. ;)

But, thank you all for everything you do, especially those mothers out there. The world would be nothing without mothers. So, if there are those of you out there who are mothers: feel appreciated this week. Those of you out there who are not mothers: MAKE those mothers around you FEEL appreciated.

I love you all, and look forward to hearing from you all again next week!
Mandra-pihaona indray!
Elder Hyrum Snell

This is a bunch of Malagasies with the caption "how many Malagasies does it take to fix a motor? At least three with one on the phone doing nothing." :)

On the bus to Antsirabe with members Aro and Tantely.

This is me with Elder Razafindretsetra (Elder Lehr's companion) and member named Tahiry who lives in Antsirabe.

This me, Tahiry, Elder Lehr, and a girl named Sitraka.

This is the missionaries being missionaries (that is to say, crazy).

This is the district president Mampiona with his family after district conference yesterday.

This is a picture of me with Tahiry and Sitraka again (both members who obviously love pictures).

This is Elder Razafindretsetra in his way bezesta (fancy) pajamas.

This is me with Elder Mack as he skypes his family.

05/10/15- Mother's Day Call Home

Here are a few questions we asked Elder Snell:

What conveniences do you have in your apartment? We have everything. We have a microwave, washer, dryer, and a stove.

Is the shower still cold? Yes!

Any fungus or feet problems? Nope, not at all.

What is your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For breakfast we eat a lot of homemade yogurt and fried bananas. Lunch we normally grab something from a Malagasy restaurant because it is cheap and quick. For dinner we make Gyros or spaghetti. Most of the Malagasy things have no preservatives so things don't stay good for long.

Are you still consistently taking your malaria pill? Yes! :)

How are your pants, shoes, and socks holding up? They are all doing well. The only hole I have in a pair of pants is from a small bike crash. Other than that, things are holding up great!

Do you exercise? Yes, I try to do sit-ups, Russian twists, and lift groups of water bottles for weights. We also do a lot of walking.

How long is the Malagasy Book of Mormon? Much longer! It is 700ish pages.

Do you have a 72 hour kit? Yes!

How many missionaries in your mission? I think around 100.

What type of work do most natives do in Ambositra? Farming.

What is an interesting fact? If a young man talks to a young woman more than a few minutes then it is assumed you are dating. You have to be careful to direct the conversations to various people so that this problem does not occur. :)

What about water quality? We have filtered water in our apartment.

Monday, May 4, 2015

05/04/15- The True Meaning of Repentance is Change

Salama lesy! Ahoana ny fandehana? Inona no paika? Eko ina ro ina? Tsa misy ina aty aminay, fa magina daholo, ary ny maha zatra ro tena fitranga.
I'm not going to even try and translate that. It's a bunch of slang and deep Betsileo (the current dialect in Malagasy that we use in the area) that honestly has no real translation to English. So, just do your best to imagine what it means, and you may be somewhat accurate. :)

Anyway, things are all going well out here in the 'Bositra. That is to say, not much is different and we still have the same problems going on, but at least things aren't getting worse, right? It is very frustrating to have to deal with all the problems that go on here, but that's just life in general, so we might as well deal with it and press on, doing the best we can. It's better than the alternative, which is to just lay down and give up, which I personally don't want to do. :)

Anyway, we've got a few questions this week, so I will begin with those. First question, about transfers: Transfers were this last week, and Elder Delbar has now left Ambositra to work in the Mahamasina area in Antananarivo as a Zone Leader. And my new companion came in to Ambositra this last Wednesday from his former area in Ambohimanarana in Antananarivo as well. His name is Elder Benjamin Anderson, and he is pretty new to the mission, just one transfer out of the training program. He's a nice guy, and is from Logan, Utah. He came into the mission when I finished the training program, so that's still pretty recent (back in late December). Thus far things are going well, and we will see where the next few weeks lead us!

Second question, which is about our investigators. Thus far, things are going not as good as we'd like. Our best progressing investigators before (i.e. Jean Paul, Nahary and Mirana, and Liva and Olga) are not progressing anymore. Jean Paul and Nahary and Mirana all say they will come to church, but then never do. And then Liva and Olga haven't been taught by us for the past two weeks or so because they keep cancelling our appointments right before we head over there, for one reason or another. So, needless to say, we are a bit frustrated by that, but will continue to do our best to teach them, bring the Spirit, and help them help themselves receive eternal salvation.

Thirdly, to my mom specifically, no I have not yet received your Easter package, but will look for it to be coming down soon, probably with President Adams when he comes down in a few weeks for interviews.

And lastly, my mom asked me about what I've been studying on my personal time lately. And, as of late, I have been studying the topic of true and complete repentance. In fact, this seems to have been a trend throughout my entire mission, that I see in lessons as well as my personal studies, that repentance is more than what we usually make it out to be. The biggest thing that I have learned about repentance from my studies and from experiences on the mission as well, is that the true meaning of repentance is change. As it says in the Malagasy version of the Index: "Fibebahana dia fiovantsaina sy fiovampo izay miteraka fihetsika vaovao ao amin'ny fiainana." Translation: Repentance is a change of heart and mind which brings about new actions in life. It is not--as it is sometimes presented in other faiths--a confession, or sometimes even a payment of money in order to compensate for a sin. No, repentance is truly becoming a new person. That is why the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are the way they are. It begins with faith, which is the foundation of all things with regards to religion. If there is no faith, there will be no actions. But, when there IS faith, then there will be actions in accordance with that faith and belief. Central to those actions is repentance, which is a leaving behind of all things bad and the effort we make to begin a new life in God and in Christ. We first must realize that what we have done is not okay in the sight of God. Then we begin to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to leave the bad things that we do and become closer to what God wants us and needs us to be in order to return to Him. Then, once we have made those necessary changes in our lives, we show our willingness to follow God and Christ, as well as our faith in Him, and take part in the ordinance of baptism performed by someone with authority from God, which is truly the gate that leads to the path we must follow in order to enter God's kingdom. If we don't follow His path, then we won't make it to the final destination. And repentance is key to that process, because "tsy misy zavatra tsy madio izay mahazo miditra amin'ny Fanjakan'Andriamanitra." In other words, that all of you all will actually understand, "no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of God." And, due to our fallen state, we all are unclean. Not one of us is worthy to enter into the Kingdom of God.

And in this last General Conference, in words much more eloquent than I could ever hope to write, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
"Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever? The answer to those questions is an unequivocal and eternal no!...Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life."

So, that is what I have come to understand of repentance. It is a two-way effort. But the other part--the most difficult part--has already been completed, and was completed around two thousand years ago, when Christ stepped out from the tomb, resurrected, glorified, and the One who overcame the sins, pains and death of the world. But, miankina amintsika ny tena famelan-kelontsika tanteraka (the complete forgiveness of our sins depends on us). Christ presents us with the opportunity to be forgiven, but will not forgive us of our sins if we do not show that we truly want His gift and His help. We must, as King Benjamin directs, "[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father." There is nowhere in that scripture that mentions a payment of money for forgiveness, or a simple confession, and then we are perfectly clean. That is not repentance. True and complete repentance is putting our faith in God and His Son's Atonement, and then making the changes in our lives as are accordance to "the enticings of the Holy Spirit", which we find in the scriptures and in the personal impressions we receive on a day to day basis. Those changes, those efforts we make, and those actions we take as a result of our righteous desires constitute the true meaning of repentance.

Wow, that was a long schpeel on repentance. I hope you will all forgive me for that. :) But, I hope that someone will need that message, and that my email will help them. If you are reading this, that means you probably read the entire message, and I thank you for that. For those of you that skipped to the end and are now reading this, I kindly invite you to go back and read the entire thing. ;)  I put a lot of thought and effort into the email, and those of you who didn't read it will make me cry (not really, but you get the picture).

Anyway, thanks to everyone who emailed me this week! It was good to hear from you as always. Keep up the work, and keep up the faith!


Elder Snell

Here we've got the Ambositra skyline. Not exactly the same as the New York skyline, but I personally prefer this one.

This is the Artisan Hotel. Very, very nice, and you see those little bungalow buildings? Yeah, they are only twenty dollars a night. Mom, Dad, we will be coming back here sometime, and we will stay there at the Artisan Hotel.

This is my sad depressed face after not working for five days because Elder Delbar was sick.

This is a picture of a man I found wearing an Ashley Furniture hat. Apparently they've branched out to even Madagascar.

Ambositra, still as beautiful as ever.

Here we've got my desk, complete with inlaid wood, mpanjakabentany, and painting of Jesus Christ.

This is Elder Anderson, my new comp.

This is one of the actual little wood shop's where they make the inlaid wood and other such things.