Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, June 29, 2015

06/29/15- Always Bring Christ's Name with Us

Manahoana e! Inona no vaovao aminareo? Tsisy vaovao aty aminay, fa ny mahazatra ihany. ("Hello! What's new with you all? There's nothing new with us, but it's just the usual" in Merina.) Manakory aby o! Eko ina ro ina! Tsa misy ina aty aminay, fa dia mangina. (The same exact thing, except in the Betsileo dialect, which is the one most similar to Merina, or the official Malagasy language.)
Anyway, this week has been filled with ups and downs and goods and bads, but that's just how the mission is. All in all, it's been pretty good. June 27, this last Friday, was the Madagascar Independence Day, which was quite interesting, and we had to go home earlier than usual as well. But I'll talk more about that later.

To answer my mom's questions, first off, the weather here is pretty unpredictable. It really just depends on the day. Some days are fairly chilly, so I will wear a sweater on those days. But then you've also got days like today, which are quite hot, and I've been sweating even with my P-day shorts and t-shirt. So, Madagascar is pretty crazy when it comes to weather. But, good thing is that it is the dry season right now, so now massive rain storms (knock on wood) yet.

Secondly, my new apartment is quite nice. It's pretty small, but I like it, and it's big enough for us two to live in. It has a GLORIOUSLY hot shower, that I have enjoyed time and time again, every single day. But yeah, I'll have to send pictures next week of our apartment, as I didn't take any this week.

For the third question, my mom asked about the VERY nice four to five-star restaurants that they have here in Tana. As for that, they are very expensive for the missionary allotment, and so we hardly ever go to those places. Only maybe once or twice a transfer. But then we can compare the price to American dollars and a good American restaurant of similar quality. For instance, the nicest and most expensive restaurant that I've heard of here in Tana is called Carnivore, which is a great meat place that does all-you-can-eat meat, somewhat similar to what they do at Rodizio Grill, without the limeade though. But, from what I've heard, Carnivore is very very good, and measures up to its four or five-star rating. That all-you-can-eat meal is about 44,000 Ariary, which sounds like a lot. But then, compare it to the American dollar. That's less than $15, and that will buy you an all-you-can-eat meal of five-star quality meat here in Madagascar. And that's the most expensive place I've heard of. But, the more usual restaurant that you'd go to that is still way nice would be around 12,000 to 15,000 Ariary for a great steak and fries, pizza, or something of the like. And that's less than $3. So, needless to say, Madagascar is the place to be as far as vacationing goes. The only problem is getting here... That $3,000 plane ticket does present a problem. Ah well.

Anyway, fourth and final question. My mom asked about standing as a witness of Jesus Christ in all times, places, situations, etc. etc, and what that means to us all as missionaries and members. As far as that goes, the biggest thing that comes to my mind is the baptismal covenant, where we all promise to bear Christ's name, to be examples of him. In Malagasy, it says that we must "mitondra ny anaran'i Jesoa Kristy" which literally translates to "bring the name of Jesus Christ." And that is what is really means to be His witness. We must bring His name with us, wherever we go, whatever the situation is, and whenever we may be presented with situations to leave that covenant. God has trusted us with His Son's name. It is still our choice though, whether or not we bring His name with us to certain places, situations, or events. We are members of Christ's Church. When we joined this church, we chose to bring Christ's name with us at all times. Those who see us may not know Christ, but they know us. Let them see Christ in us. Let us act and do what Christ would want us to do, because we always have His name with us. We might choose not to bring His name along with us to a party, but others there may still see His name branded into us, and therefore judge Him by OUR actions. This reminds me of a quote that I absolutely love which goes like this hoe "Live so that those that don't know Him will want to know Him, because they know YOU." People may not believe in God. They may not believe in Christ. But whether that is true or not, they will judge Them by the things we do. I have especially seen that here as a missionary. For instance, last Friday on the Malagasy Independence Day, Elder Walker and I were walking innocently along down some train tracks when a random Malagasy man just runs up to me, totally ignoring Elder Walker (as most people, like this guy, assume that he is Malagasy), and starts screaming and spitting in my face. And over the next couple of seconds, he let off some of the worst profanity known to the Malagasy language, calling me a dead dog (the worst insult possible in Malagasy culture), and commanding me to leave Madagascar, all of this just because of my skin being white. I could've responded. I easily could have laid the guy out, as I was at least a head taller than he was. Or I could've gone off at him, stringing together a long list of Malagasy profanity right back at him (probably a longer list of profanity than I should know :P). But I'm a messenger and example of Christ. Would Christ want me doing that? No. Would Christ want me wrecking this drunk guy right then and there and satisfying my natural man? No. What would that mean for Christ's name that I am always bringing with me? Definitely nothing good, that's for sure... Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect, as I am nowhere near so, but I try. And in this situation, my trying paid off. I didn't engage him; I didn't respond. I just said a respectful "I'm sorry" in Malagasy and continued walking. It was hard, but I can't betray Christ. I can't betray the trust that Him and His Father--OUR Father in Heaven--has placed in me. And to me, that is the real meaning of being a true witness of Christ in all times, places, and things. We need to always have Christ in mind: what He would do, say, or maybe not do, in the situations that we are presented with on a daily basis. The colloquial saying "What would Jesus do?" is actually very applicable. What would He do? Or maybe, rather, what should WE do to respect His name that we carry? Let us ALL think on that a bit.

Anyway, that's about all for this week. I invite you all to be a witness of Christ in everything you do, and that invitation is extended to myself as well. Let us all try a little harder to bring Christ's name with us wherever we may go.

Thank you all for the many emails this week and all the love, support, and encouragement that you send each and every week, without fail. You all are so wonderful, and I appreciate all you do.

Have a great week, and enjoy the summer!
Elder Snell

In a boat on our way to a recent convert's house.

Which shoes are old and which shoes are new? :)

President Philibert and his family from Anjoma made it onto the back of this month's Liahona (maybe Ensign as well)! He is the branch president. They're so awesome!

Me with some Malagasy kids.

Me in the background with some Malagasy kids after playing some soccer for a little break mixed in with contacting time.

A picture with some friends today (Elder Ralaivao and the one and only Elder Andrianaivo from Tamatave!).

President Adams and I

Monday, June 22, 2015

06/22/15- God Has Changed Me

Elder Walker and Elder Snell

Manahoana e, ry namako sy fianakaviako malalako! Ary koa, tratran'ny Fetin'ny Ray aminareo, fa nitranga tamin'ny omaly izany. Fankasitrahana ho an'ireo ray tena mahafinaritra, indrindra indrindra ny Papako. Ry Papako, mba fantaro fa tena tiako ianao, ary fenom-pisaorana izaho noho ny zava-drehetra nataonao tamiko mba hanampy ahy mivoatra mandrapahatonga ity fotoana ity fony mandeha irery, mifanalavitra anareo. Noho ny nataonao, dia vonona aho mba hanakitra izany fitsapana izany, ary maharesy azy. (Hello my beloved friends and family! Also, happy Father's Day, because that was yesterday for me. Thanks to all those amazing fathers, especially my own father.
Dear Dad, please know that I truly love you and am so full of thanks because of everything you did in order to help me progress up until this time where I go alone, far away from you all. Because of what you did, I was and am ready to face that trial, and overcome it.)

But anyway, I will get right into the meat of the email, as my mom asked wonderful questions, as always. First off, about who our most mazoto (diligent) investigators are and how their church attendance. As far as that goes, our most diligent investigators are definitely Tina and Noro and their family, as they are very converted, and come to church pretty much every single week. They are the ones who have already bought a bunch of books from the church's Distribution Center here in Tana. Next off, we've got Samuel, who is an older man, but is very diligent as well, and comes to church almost every single week. He reads the Book of Mormon and one of the Teachings of the Prophets of the Church books (called Enseignements de le Presidents des l'Eglise in the French copy used here). Other than that, we have another couple that we teach, named Hery and Isabell, who are very diligent at reading and learning from us, but have yet to really come to church, as well as they won't accept a goal for a baptismal date. If there could be some prayers sent their way as far as softening their hearts with regards to the baptismal date is concerned, that would be much appreciated.

Secondly, how the church goes here now that I'm working in a ward compared with a branch. And I am SO happy to say that the only real thing I have had to do since coming here is bear my testimony as (ny misionera vaovao or the new missionary) on the first Sunday, and that has been AWESOME. The ward members who come every week are quite diligent and are willing to step up and take callings and everything. It's been such a relief.

Thirdly, my mom asked about our selection of places to eat. And the answer to that is that there are MANY more places to eat here in Tanjombato than there were in Ambositra. It is very nice. Also, there are several really nice, high-class restaurants all over Tana that we can go to for P-Day or Zone Meetings and such. But, one problem is that we don't get a whole lot of money for allotment, so we usually eat at this one place called Snack Tigro, which has really good rice and laoka for just three thousand ariary, with a cup of juice included. So we can't really eat at all the way nice places all the time, because we would run out of money. For instance, we get about $140 each month, which comes down to a little over five dollars a day, and that's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and other expenses like toiletries and the like. But don't worry (Mom, I'm talking to you), because we aren't starving out here. I'm eating just fine. ;)

And now lastly, my mom asked about what blessings I've seen this past week, large or small. As far as that goes, it's not really anything big or grand that I've felt, but it's just the small fahita-pitia (tender mercies) that I see interspersed throughout my life here, especially with regards to myself. For instance, just yesterday on our way to church, there were some things that really made me quite mad. The moment I stepped outside our house, there were several people who immediately began ridiculing me, just because I'm white, and--according to their thoughts--I don't belong here. So here I am, just going to church to worship my God, and giving up my life to serve the Malagasy people by bringing them closer to their Father in Heaven, and here are a multiple of people just ridiculing me openly on the street, because they think I don't understand what they say. But I do. And it hurts. And it's hard. And yesterday isn't anything special. It's a daily occurrence. I'm lucky if an hour goes by without someone making fun of me, just for being white. But what does this have to do with the tender mercies of God? Through all of the ridiculing, the annoyances, the shaming, the rejection, I still somehow am able to find peace. Yes, I will get mad in the moment, but a few moments later I realize that the anger does not stay. I never stay mad, and I somehow find a way to see these people as God sees them: with love. It has been the most amazing thing I have ever experienced, and yet it is so small. I've never had an incredible investigator just come up to me and ask for us to help him and teach him (it's only drunks that ever do that). I've never had a massive, life-changing spiritual experience here on my mission. Yes, I've felt the Spirit very strongly, but it has very rarely been from a single powerful experience that I have seen God's hand in my life. Because I've been willing to accept God's will (remember last week's email?) then he has been able to even change my traits and my characteristics. I've become more loving, more caring, and less angry, stressed, or easily hurt by the comments and ridicule I receive from others on a daily basis. I have seen missionaries here in Madagascar who have become cold, jaded, and bitter because of the ridicule they receive from the Malagasy people. But I don't want that, and neither does God. And so I let His will guide mine, and I have seen incredible blessings because of it. God has changed the way i look at people, and given me a more loving, caring perspective. God has made me into a more loving person, and maybe that is my answer to my mom's question. The biggest blessing I've seen both this last week and my entire mission has been the change in myself that God has made. He's made me a better person. And I am forever grateful to Him for that.

Well, I'm out of time here, but I'm so grateful for the support you all send me each and every week. It really means a lot to me, and I truly feel your prayers in my behalf. I cannot express my gratitude for all of you and everything you do. It means the world to me. You all mean the world to me. So thank you.

Have a great week, and enjoy the summer! Make the most of the time you have, as it is all a precious gift from God.

Elder Snell

A Madagascar sunset

A picture of the collection of Lindt chocolate at the Jumbo Score that made me really happy to see. :)

Me with our investigator's kids.

This is a picture of the "toilet" I just used. And sadly, no, it was not just pee. In order to use this toilet, one must squat over the hole, with one foot on each of the little pieces of wood on the sides. I have not yet perfected the art of squatting, so I may or may not have just sat down... Hopefully no infections or tapeworms come from this... ;)

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Monday, June 15, 2015

06/15/15- Humility- The Ability to Give Your Will to God

Fantatro fa tsy azonareo na inona na inona teneniko amin'izao rehefa miresaka amin'teny gasy aho, ary izay no nahatonga ahy somary manoranoratra foana amin'ity taratasy ity. Fa tsy maninona, tohizako amin'ny tena taratasy amin'ny tenindrazako. Hey everyone! It's so great to hear from all of you, and to hear that you all are doing well. It's been a bit of a crazy week, trying to get used to a new area, and figure out how to get around and whatnot. But, my wonderful mother asked a bunch of questions this week, so I will get right into that, as the answers should cover just about everything.

First off,  my new companion is Elder Ethan Walker, who is from Texas. He is eighteen, and has been here in country for just over four and a half months. He came out the beginning of February. He is a good missionary, and is very good at Malagasy for his level in the mission.

Secondly, as far as traveling went, there isn't much to say. It went pretty smoothly overall, and was way fun because I got to travel with Elder Mack so it was actually decently fun being stuck in a taxi brousse for four hours or so. Some pictures are included from that trip. But nothing too big happened while traveling. We arrived safely, went to the mission office, picked up my other bags (because if you work in Tana then you must take all your stuff to your house), and then headed out to my new area.

This ties in with the third question, which is about the new area. My new area is called Tanjombato (pronounced tan-zoom-bah-too), and I'm now working in a ward for the first time! The work here in Tanjombato is going pretty well, though there are gaps in the schedule where we have to go tracting or do other forms of contacting, but that's how areas usually are, so that's not a problem. We have several extremely committed investigators who are pretty much just waiting on divorces/legal marriages in order to get baptized. The most diligent investigator that we have is Tina and his family. Tina is awesome, and quite well off for a Malagasy. Actually, after he had begun learning, he went to the Distribution Center in downtown Tana and actually bought several books, including a triple, gospel principles, and a few others. So when I first met him, I was way blown away. They are seriously simply waiting for his wife to get divorced from her old husband so they can get married officially and legally, and then they will get baptized. This is a very common problem here in Madagascar, as it is very hard to get married or divorced legally, and requires a lot of money, which most Malagasies don't have. But hopefully they will get that taken care of soon and can get baptized, because they would make incredible members. As far as differences in this new area goes though, it is about as different as an area can get from what Ambositra was like. Ambositra is the smallest city where missionaries work. Tana is easily the biggest. Ambositra was only two missionaries. Tana has about fifty or so. It's pretty ridiculous about how different it is. Also, traveling here is done by big buses called taxi be's. It's pretty fun to have a big change though, and I am really enjoying the new area.

As for the last question, my mom asked me about humility and its importance here on the mission and in life in general. And what I've come to see about humility is that it is not thinking less of yourself, or things along those lines. Humility is teachableness, and a willingness to put another's will above your own. This is the type of sacrifice God asks of us: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. That is to say, God asks us to give Him the only one thing that He does not have: yourself. He wants us to offer ourselves, our will, to Him and to give all that we can, so that He can help us become as good as we can be. Because He actually does know us better than we know ourselves. He knows the things that we need to learn and to grow, and obtain our highest possible potential. That is because He knows our potential, and knows what we can become. If we simply let Him make us into what we can become, then we will become what we can be. But He cannot make us anything that we don't want to become. He cannot take our agency, and our ability and right to choose. If He takes that right away, then He would cease to be God, for He cannot take away the very right He fought to give us in the premortal life. So, that truly is the one thing God does not have: our will. But, that is humility, and its true definition. Humility is the ability to give your will to God, and follow His will, not your own. If we can do that, then God will exalt us, and we will be able to become like Him. Because, in the end, that is the goal; to become like God. But He knows the way. We don't. Logical doesn't. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the way to exaltation. But God has already gone that way, followed that path, and completed what is required in order to gain godhood. And He wants that glory, that happiness, and that peace for each and every one of us. All we need to do is let our own, imperfect, mortal will go, and follow His divine, all-knowing, and perfect will. If we follow that will, then He can guide us and build us up to the point of exaltation. But, our following of His will is the only way we can ever get there. Our will falls short. But His never fails. If we follow His will, and are humble enough to do so constantly, then He can raise us up to exaltation.

So, in the end, let us all be humble, follow God's will, and keep the end goal in mind. If we do so, then we will receive eternal life.

I love you all and really appreciate your emails and letters! I hope you know that! But I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Snell

The following pictures are with our friends Sitraka and Tahiry in Antsirabe, as we had an FHE with them last Monday, as well as with Elder Lehr and Elder Razafindretsetra.






They thought it was funny that I was about the same height as Sitraka when I was kneeling down.

Pictures with Elder Mack while traveling on our way to Tana.

My new companion, Elder Walker.

Pictures from Tana (Antananarivo)

Jumbo Score, which is way crazy and just like Walmart. We definitely didn't have these in my last area!

Jumbo Score

Pictures from my new area.

Green water (way gross, but not uncommon in Tana).

A nice big view of my area.
TamiLani Mack's photo.
Group picture

Monday, June 8, 2015

06/15/15- Do Not Doubt, Only Believe!

Faly mirahaba antsika rehetra ny tenako androany, ary Elder Snell no anarako amin'ireo izay mbola tsy mahalala an'izay. It's so good, as always, to hear from all of you and hear how everything is going back in a first world country. Things here in a developing country do tend to be very different, to say the least.

As far as this past week went, there wasn't really anything of note that happened, other than Zone Conference last Friday with President Adams, which, I might add, is his last zone conference here in Madagascar, as next transfer he will be leaving. It's so crazy how fast the time flies here in Madagascar, and I can't wait to meet President Foote, which will be very cool to see how he runs things here. Zone Conference, though, was an incredible experience, and I learned a LOT as far as advice for the mission and for life is concerned. I certainly learned a lot.

But anyway, other than that, not a whole lot happened this past week. The house still isn't finished, so we got little to no work done the past week. That actually answers my mom's first question, which has to do with the house. The rest of the things that need to be finished are as follows: the hook-ups for the washer, PVC pipes replaced with metal, new doors, metal window guards, toilet seat, shower curtain, kitchen faucet, and sink faucet. After those things are done, then it should be pretty nice. But, as we are currently in Antsirabe, we have it locked up nice and tight, so no one will steal anything (hopefully).

Secondly, no, the exterminator has not come yet to kill the cockroaches in our kitchen, so they will just have to deal that for a while.

Thirdly, my use of "they" a second ago is in answer to my mom's question, which considers transfers. And I'm moving!!! I will be heading up to work in Antananarivo tomorrow morning, and will be working in the area called Tanjambato, which is actually a ward and not a branch. So, that will be awesome! I will be working with an Elder Walker from California, who just finished his third transfer here in country. Also, fun fact, I will be heading up to Antananarivo with Elder Mack, who is also leaving his area in Antsirabe and moving to Tana! So needless to say, that will be a fun bus ride.

For the fourth question, my mom asked if I have had to teach any lessons recently to in church. Which is funny, as I both bore my testimony (gave a talk, essentially) yesterday, as well as taught the Elder's Quorum lesson. So, in answer, yes, I have given a lesson pretty recently! My lesson was on the priesthood and our responsibilities as a holder of the priesthood. In other words, as a holder of the priesthood, we still need to do things, work hard, and keep the covenant. If not, then the authority is taken away, and those countless blessings that we receive from that priesthood power are lost as well.

And, for the last question, my mom asked me how we can see God's hand, presence, and love in our lives, even when we are going through hard times. And my answer for that is very simple: take a step back, take a deep breath, and simply look around you and ponder the situation. I will give an example. You may have cancer, and you may be an orphan. You may have just lost your job, and have your spouse leave you for another person. It may be your birthday, and no one but you knows or even cares. To add to it all, you just got thrown out of your house, because of your inability to pay the mortgage. And all of this has happened within the past month or less. It may seem that you have absolutely NOTHING. But let's take a step back, a deep breath, and "count your many blessings." You're still alive. God has given you a body that, though it is sick, still is working. And you have opportunities. You can find a new job, get a new house, find a new spouse, and many other things. Also, the biggest blessing of all is still waiting for you after death, which is eternal life, if you endure your trials well. As God promises us, "If ye endure it will, then I will exalt ye on high." Our trials may seem to drag on for forever, and yet God has blessed us with the opportunity to receive and lasting happiness and peace. If we endure our trials well, which may last our entire lives (let's say eighty years), then we will receive ETERNAL glory and happiness and peace and contentment. That is to say, those blessings will NEVER END. Because of some of the things that God has done for us--especially that of sending us His son to die for us--then we can receive that eternal life. That, in and of itself, in my opinion, overcomes any sort of problem we experience here on earth.

And this comes back to my thoughts last week on keeping an eternal perspective. If we do so, and always have eternity in mind, then we will endure our trials well here on earth, so that we may be exalted in the life to come. And that is the biggest example of God's love for us, not to mention this gloriously beautiful world that He has created for us. But that is truly God's greatest gift and blessing to us, which is eternal life. As it says in D&C 14, very short and succinctly, "And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." The GREATEST gift of all the gifts of God. And He offers it to us freely, with our obedience and endurance offered up unto Him. That right there is an expression of God's love for us. He chose to send His Beloved Son here to earth to suffer, be smitten, and to die for all of us, and then to rise again, so we could all receive eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe (and follow) in Him, should not perish but should have everlasting life." That is God's greatest example of His love for us, and I know for a fact that He did it for me, and for you, and for all of us. So whenever life gets you down, remember that Christ, God's example of love, has descended below all of us, so that He might bear us up and bring us to new heights, even to eternal life, through our obedience to His commandments and endurance to the end.

But that's all for this week, which I know might not be much, but I hope you all know that what I have said is true. I know that it is, because I see it every single day. Do not doubt, but only believe. 

But anyway, this is Elder Snell signing off until next week!

Love you all!
Elder Hyrum Snell

Views of Ambositra from our new house

Views of Ambositra from our new house

Me with the Branch President's family

Branch President's family

On splits with the Zone Leaders.

Me with the 2nd counselor and his family.

This is me with our bebe (grandma) neighbor.

Our investigator, Michael

Two adorable Malagasy children

Baby chick


Some omby (cows) walking down the path which is very common as there are more cows in Ambositra than people, I think.

Picture on the drive to Fianarantsoa

Picture on the drive to Fianarantsoa

Here we have got a gorgeous view of ambonivohitra Ambositra.