Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Friday, July 31, 2015

07/27/15- A Few Thoughts as a New Trainer

Talofa Aiga ma Uo!

That means "Hello, family and friends!" in Samoan. I'm not exactly learning that, but that is where my new companion Elder Leo is from. Which I guess kind of starts answering my mom's first question already, so I figure I might as well finish it off. Elder William Leo is my companion and trainee, and he is from the island of American Samoa. He is an extremely loving person, which is great. He also loves to joke around, which I am enjoying. Also, fun thing to know is that Elder Leo absolutely loves rugby. He played rugby for the Samoan national 19 and under team, so obviously he's pretty mahay (good). We are already having a great time together, for instance with us singing Mulan and Tarzan songs around the house last night. Great times.

Anyway, on to the next question: this past week went pretty well, as far as first weeks for the transfer go. Elder Leo and I taught a bunch of lessons, including eleven different individual father-led families. We are still waiting on and inviting people to come unto Christ through keeping commitments, but we have yet to have any of them really be diligent in doing so. That is, except for two new investigators that we have recently started to teach, who are AWESOME. But I'll save their story for later. Overall though it was a good week, and I enjoyed the work that we got done.

Thirdly, my mom asked a more inspiration question about what type of things Elder Christiansen, my trainer, taught me that I will try and impress upon my new companion Elder Leo. As far as things go with that regards, I'll be honest that there isn't one particular thing that stands out to me more than other things. But there are a few things that I learned both from training and just from the rest of the mission in general that I would want Elder Leo to learn from me and his time with me...and that would be first and foremost to love. To love the people, the work, the mission, and everything in between. I don't want him to be one of the missionaries that just suffers through two years and then goes home. I want him to LOVE it. And that isn't just something that happens overnight. It's a process. I have yet to become perfect at it, and I probably won't be perfect at it until the end of the mission, to be honest. But I love more and more things about the mission almost every day. It happens little by little, but I want to give Elder Leo a head start. I want him to love everything about this place, the mission, and most importantly the work. So I guess in answer to the question, I want Elder Leo to be his loving self, and grow to love the mission, the work, and everything about it. I recently heard a quote that says "Love is the fulfillment of the law." But I would change it to "Love is the fulfillment of [fill in the blank]" because love is much more versatile than just fulfilling the law. It is the fulfillment of the mission, of life, of marriage, or of pretty much anything else we can possibly think of. So, all in all, that is what I would want him to learn. Skill at Malagasy will come if he works for it. Skills at teaching will come with practice and dedication. But love is much harder. And, if he has love for the mission, for teaching, and for the people, then he will teach better, and he will learn Malagasy, and he will do what he needs to do. So that's what I'm going to try and teach him: to have love for things that may not be easily loved.

Anyway, onto question four, which is the last one. My mom asked me if I had an experience that stands out this week. As far as that goes, there are two things i would like to share. First off is our experiences with our new investigators Patrick and Julie. They are a young couple who we tracted into about three weeks ago. When we tracted into them, they seemed interested enough and were very nice, and we had a nice talk with them about what we do as missionaries. When we asked if there was another time we could set up an appointment with them, they told us that they were too busy, and when we invited them to church, they said they couldn't that Sunday, but would come in two weeks. At this point, Elder Walker and I were like "Okay, yeah, sure, whatever..." But then, miraculously, last Sunday, they just randomly show up! And we're like "Whaaaaat?! This never happens!" But anyway, they had a great time and then we set up a time that we could stop by them at their house. When we went to that time, there they were, all ready to learn. And then as we had a nice long talk about the church and whatnot, both Julie and Patrick said that they had already decided that this was the church that they want to pray/worship at from now on, due to the way they felt when they were at church (by this time Elder Walker and I were screaming "YEEEESSSSS!" in our heads). They told us that as of late they hadn't been very active in any church, and when they came to our church they said it felt as if they were coming closer to God and Christ. And then, to top it all off, they came to church again this last Sunday, which was just the cherry on top. I am very, very excited with where they will go in their progression and their process in coming closer to Christ.

But now, as for the second experience, that has to do with my new feelings as being a trainer. This has to do with my shift of focus from my last companionship to this one. And that is because my new companion is..well...new. He doesn't know the language, he hasn't had practice teaching--especially in the language--and he needs my help. I'm the only one who can help him, other than God. I've realized how truly like having a child or being married training is. You completely forget everything about yourself and dedicate your thoughts, time, and energy to the someone else. I have started praying for Elder Leo more than I pray for myself. And honestly, I've never felt better on my mission. Like the scriptures say, "Those who lose their life in my service find it." And I've seen that even just in the past four days or so. I've never felt better than when I've been pouring my heart out to God for my new companion. And that is an incredible feeling that I won't soon forget. Service truly brings blessings, whether that service is big or small.

But anyway, that's about it for this week. Thank you all for being so awesome and amazing all the time. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Elder Snell

Elder Snell and Elder Leo

Colbert and his family

Our eveka or bishop

This is a video of some Malagasy kids playing a game with beer caps.

Monday, July 20, 2015

07/20/15- Birthday Dinner and It's All About Love

Salama aby o! I hope all of you are all still doing well. I know from those that emailed me that you are all doing well.

First of all, thank you all for emailing me. I really appreciate it and love getting all of your emails. You guys are so great. Seriously, thank you. But, lots of stuff happened this week, so I'll get right into both answering the questions and telling you all about my week.

First questions from my mom was about our trip to Carnivore last week. I will just say this: that was probably one of the most delicious meat meals I have had in my life (no offense to your homecooking, Mom). It was INCREDIBLE. The lamb that they had was particularly delicious. So,
as far as price goes, it came down to a total of 85,000 ariary for both me and Elder Walker, which is about $27 or so, for all-you-can-eat meat with a dessert included. SOOO good. I have many
pictures and will for sure be sending those over. Also, fun thing, I got to try crocodile and snake meat. Both tasted good, but the snake meat was FULL of bones, so not my favorite. But, all in all, it was very very good, and I'll send out a special thanks to my grandma and grandpa Snell for funding that. That was an awesome birthday present, so thank you so much for that.

Secondly, no Mom, I have not had the chance to play piano yet in this ward I'm currently in. We actually have several people who are better at piano than I am. So, nope, I don't play it. Sorry Mom. ;P

Third question: This is definitely a big one, which is regards to transfer news. As for that goes, Elder Walker is leaving and going to the Ambohimena area in Antsirabe, and I..... will be having a son! In
other words, I am going to be training one of the new missionaries coming in from the MTC in the next few days. I am WAY excited, but also very nervous. And, also, a little disappointed that I won't be training Elder Francom from my home ward, but there's lots of missionaries who are currently being set up to train next transfer (including ry namako be Elder Mack), so he'll have a great time and a great trainer. So, I still don't know who my new companion is, but I will be finding out in the next few days and will inform you all next week!

Fourth question: My mom asked about some of our strongest investigators and how our lessons went with them this past week. I'll be honest with this one: our investigators have somewhat become frozen in place, and are not progressing. Most prominently are our investigators Hery and Isabell, who are very diligent at learning. They are almost always at our lessons, they read the Book of Mormon
together daily, they pray about it, and they have said that they feel/know that it is true. The problem is this: they won't come to church, and they won't accept the concept of switching religions. So, they won't accept a baptismal commitment or date. At our appointment, we all knelt down on their floor, and each in turn prayed to God and asked Him if they should get baptized. We all prayed, and the Spirit was very strong. Elder Walker and I had committed not to talk after the prayers were over however, and wait for them to say something. So after the prayers, we waited. And waited. And waited... And waited some more. They just continued to pray in their minds and hearts afterwards, and the honest truth is this: we ended up kneeling there on their cement floor for 50 minutes or so. Yes, 50 minutes. My knees died. But then, after that was over, they got up and offered us food
(being Malagasy custom for guests), as if nothing had happened. So they brought out the food and then we asked them what the answer had been. Hery--the husband--answered and said that God told him, after he asked specifically about a date to be baptized, that he should continue to learn from the missionaries. That's it. But he also said that he felt very warm inside and he said that his continual receiving of the missionaries into his home was the only answer he got. So, needless to say, I felt a little disappointed. They were feeling the Spirit but didn't recognize it. Isabell--the wife-- told us about her answer. She said that, when she asked God whether she should get baptized, that she felt warm inside as well and that "I need to complete the marriage sacrament in the Catholic Church, and then I can do service for God." That answer threw me off a bit. I realized that we had more teaching to do. Was I frustrated? Yes. Am I still frustrated? Absolutely. But will we keep working with our investigators to try and get them to open their hearts and minds to the answer from God? No doubt about it.

But, on a lighter and slightly interesting note, one of our investigators (who is about seventy years old) told us that his parents are still working in their rice paddies and farm fields in the countryside of Toliara. They're over one hundred years old. Yeah... My jaw hit the floor too. So that's also how one of our other lessons went (kind of, but not really). He is progressing towards baptism though and comes to church every week, which is good.

Anyway, last and final question. My mom asked me what I learn and study during my personal daily study time. My answer to that does not cover a specific topic though. I am currently working my way through three books. I am reading the Book of Mormon, Gospel Principles, and the latest Ensign (or Liahona) which contains the general conference talks, all in Malagasy, to try and improve my ability to speak more accurately as a Malagasy would. But I also see many, many different topics throughout that time. So I'm not just reading to read, or to improve at Malagasy, but I am reading to apply the things I read to myself. For instance, with my reading of Gospel Principles (Ny Fitsipiky ny Filazantsara in Malagasy), I read a lot of the foundational principles of the gospel (big surprise there). My point being, I don't read a whole lot of deep doctrine contained in that book. But, every day I learn something that I can apply to myself, whether it is a new perspective or whatever. But also, throughout all my reading, I have noticed two trends, or topics, that are found in almost every single section of Gospel Principles, the Book of Mormon, and General Conference talks. And those two things are the first two laws of heaven: a love of God and a love of our fellow man. Love is talked about SO often in almost every single book that is considered scriptural or non-scriptural. Literally, if we have true love for God and those other people surrounding us, every single other part of the gospel will fall into place. If we truly love God, will we not go to great lengths to follow His desires for us, namely His commandments, no matter what they entail? If we love others, will we not sacrifice our time, talents, and efforts for them, again no matter what that entails? I recently read that "love is the fulfillment of the law" because of that very fact. If we have true, perfect love--which is charity--then we will fulfill every point, and every facet of the law. We won't steal from those we love. We won't kill or even hurt them. We will serve them will all our heart, might, mind and strength in all places, times, and things.

That, in short, is what I have learned from my studies. Love. I'm nowhere near perfect at it, and won't be for a LONG time. But I'm working at applying the principles I see daily in the things that I
study. I try to be more loving to those around me, even if they don't exactly return the favor. That's the important part. I try. I try to love those around me, and most importantly, love God. When it comes down to it, when I am surrounded by people who hate and despise me just for what I look like, I call upon God and ask for the love that I need. And sometimes it's not a love for those people that I gain, but an increased love for God. And due to my love for Him, I won't do anything to His children that He loves that He wouldn't want me to do, but instead do those things that He WOULD want me to do.

So, that's about all for this week. Transfers, Carnivore, frustrations with investigators: all in a day in the life (or would that be week?). Again, thank you all again for being so diligent at writing me and
strengthening me out here on the mission. I most definitely need it. I truly need you all. And I love you all so much for that. So thank you.

But, this is me signing off until next week! Mahereza sy mazotoa!
Am-pitiavana sy fahazotoana,

Elder Snell

My birthday dinner at the CARNIVORE Restaurant. WAY good food. Me with Elders (from left to right) Snell (obviously) Thompson, Mack, Iata (from Vanuatu), Razazarohavana (from Madagascar), and Walker.

Carnivore pics

Meat and more meat!


The ice cream dessert that I got (it was quite French, so not that good, no offense to any of you Frenchies!).

Cool hotel by Carnivore
My new scripture covers that I had made.

My new suit, which I love. It turned out WAY well.

Great views of Tana

This is me with our investigator Lala and his kids.

A Malagasy soccer game we passed by.

A soccer game with Tana and the Rova hill in the background.

"This is a kid that we met while waiting for an investigator to show up. He lives with his dad and his older brother and sister. His dad works all the time and his mom died. We gave him a cracker and he saved it until his brother showed up and then he shared it with him. He's the best!" (Story from Elder Snell's companion...Elder Walker)

A bunch of adorable kids who swarmed us as we waited for an investigator.

More cute kids!

One of our less actives boiling some milk the old fashioned way.

This is me hanging off the back of a taxi be, because there were too many people in it (don't worry Mom, it wasn't going TOO fast).

Elder Cartmill roasting marshmallows over the fire we made from all of his stuff, as he is going home this Wednesday.

Fun story: We were sitting in a hotely when all of a sudden the Oregon vs. Florida State game comes on the TV.  It was quite funny! You wouldn't expect that in Madagascar!

Monday, July 13, 2015

07/13/15- Unspotted from the World

Andriantsifoheritsolofoarijaona! Sorry, that's not a real word, but instead the first name (yes, first name only) of our High Priest Group Leader. It's so stinkin' long I thought I'd use that for my opener this week. :)

Anywho, to start and answer my mom's questions, the best part of my week will probably be today, actually, because first off I have hung out with other missionary friends, and secondly, I will be gong to Carnivore tonight with Elder Mack and some other Elders to celebrate my birthday and theirs, so that will be way fun. Don't worry, I will definitely send pictures next week!

That also leads into the next question, which is about what I did to celebrate my birthday, and honestly, all I did was make the cake my mom sent me, and then had some roman for dinner since that's all we could find at the local epicerie, and all the restaurants were closed. So my actual birthday was pretty normal, but today should be more fun and more of a celebration.

Thirdly, my mom asked about President Foote and how my interview with him went. All in all, I really like President Foote. He is awesome, very hard working, and very motivated to have an impact and make a difference here in Madagascar. He is very ambitious as well, and is driven to do lots here in Madagascar with regards to service and helping people out. I am very, very excited to see where the next few months go with regards to the work and everything. President Foote is also a very personable person and very easy to talk to. My interview with him went great, and I feel I will get along great with him in the future.

Now, lastly, my mom asked me about what it means to be "unspotted from the world." I'll admit, that that is a hard question to answer, as it's not just black and white, but the grey zone with relation to being unspotted from the world is quite large. If we look at this saying literally, then none of us qualify. All of us sin, and all of us fall short of perfection. None of us measure up to a perfect standard, and so that should never be the standard we judge ourselves by. Instead, I feel that the true meaning of being unspotted from the world means that, instead of being perfect and literally "unspotted," we are in a constant and consistent relationship with Jesus Christ through a continuous use of His Atonement. Our constant, daily usage of Christ's Atonement and an honest, complete repentance will combine to bring us to the point where we can be called "unspotted from the world." It is not a lack of sin, nor the quality of perfection that would classify us as unspotted from the world, but rather diligence and humility in constant and complete repentance, through a usage of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. If we do so, in humility, patience, and long-suffering, then "though [our] sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." That is the real meaning of being unspotted. It is not the fact that we were never spotted in the first place, but rather the fact that through diligence, prayer, fasting, tears, and endurance, we have BECOME unspotted and BECOME clean and pure THROUGH the cleansing power of the ATONEMENT. Yes, it's hard, and yes, it will probably take some time. But is it worth it? To quote every General Authority ever, "To this I answer with an unequivocal yes." It is absolutely worth it, especially since I have seen bits and pieces of that peace, comfort, and feeling of complete freedom that comes from repentance.

Anyway, that's about it for this week. I'm sorry my email is shorter than usual, but we don't have a whole ton of time, and this keyboard is Japanese and way mahasositra be (annoying).

So that is it for my email this week. But I would just like to thank everyone for being so great and diligent in writing me and sending their encouragement. It really means so much to me, and helps me so much out here. The mission isn't easy, but just like repentance, it is most definitely worth it.

Thank you everyone, love you and miss you lots, and we'll talk more next week!
Elder Snell

Pictures of me with some of our investigator's kids

The birthday cake I made.

View of Tana

This is the Rova, which is where the old king of Madagascar used to live, and has also been burned down about three times, and just finished being rebuilt last year from the last burning.

View of Tana

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

07/06/15- Our Motives Matter

Akory aby o! It was so good to hear from all of you this week, and I'm so glad that you all are doing so well. I'm very glad to hear it.

Here in Madagascar, things are going pretty well, nothing out of the ordinary, but still just doing missionary work and doing our best to do God's will here in Mada. There are a few stories, but I'll tell those along with the questions my mom asked.

First off, my mom asked about politics here in Madagascar. Things are going pretty rough, and have been all year, but it's nothing new, and it hasn't really affected our ability to work or anything like that. The judges of the country voted a few weeks ago to impeach President Hery, but then the president paid off the deputies of the country, so they didn't accept the verdict, thereby nullifying it. People weren't too happy about that, but no riots thus far (fingers crossed!).

Secondly, I will get to see lemurs eventually in my new area, as I can go to a zoo called Tsimbazaza for P-Day if I want to, which i will be doing sometime in the future (we will see when that actually happens).

Thirdly, my mom asked about one of my teaching appointments and how it went. I will talk a bit about that, but i will talk about that in accordance to the split I went on with Elder Cartmill from North Dakota (one of our Zone Leaders) this last Thursday. All in all the split went really well, and it was great to learn from a missionary who is about to go home, as Elder Cartmill heads back to America in just over two weeks. His biggest piece of advice was simply to progress. He told me to not let myself regress throughout the mission, but to push and work even harder the closer you get to the end of the mission. I found this to be very good advice, and feel like that's something I need to personally work on, as I need to continually progress and improve throughout my mission. Slacking off at the end won't do me any good, but working harder can make a world of difference. But also it was a great experience to teach with him, as each missionary has their own personal teaching style that makes them unique. But I will also talk about one of the teaching appointments that we went to that day, which was probably one of the most interesting appointments I've ever been in. We taught our investigator Norbert and his family, and we were reviewing the first lesson. They have great desires to learn, but are not very good at it. In other words, they are all not very naturally skilled at things with regards to education and intelligence. They haven't had opportunities like that. But anyway, when we were asking them how they can find out if this message is true (which was done simply by asking "What is the way you can know the truth of Book of Mormon?"). But, they got confused several times, and proceeded to respond with answers such as "Jesus!" or "The Holy Ghost!" or "Repentance!" or "Faith!"..... Needless to say, I got a little frustrated, but in the end we managed to bring it back to what we were really trying to ask, and they finally got it... "Ask God." Afterwards though, it was very eyeopening for me to see simply we had to teach the concept in order for them to understand. Honestly, I don't think any of them have an education beyond the American equivalent of second grade. Only Norbert can read, and even he reads very VERY slowly. But, I am very grateful for these simple people who are willing to learn, willing to change, and willing to follow Christ, despite their lack of opportunity, limitations, and weaknesses.

And now, lastly, my mom asked about obedience: partial versus exact. This is something that I have thought a lot about time and time again here on the mission, especially about what it truly means to be exactly obedient. And I have found that it has less to do with the outside appearance of what you do, but the inside, and your motives behind the things you do. The thing is, exact obedience is not perfect obedience. No one, ever, has ever been or ever will be perfect. We are all human, and all make mistakes. No one has ever been or ever will be "perfectly obedient." But we can all be "exactly obedient" in everything we do. And that does not mean that we simply read the book and follow its precepts, but it means that we DESIRE and DO our absolute best to follow and do what God wants us to do. His will is what's important, not some words on a page. The missionary handbook is a means to an end; it is to bring missionaries in accordance with doing and following God's will for us, and doing what He wants, not necessarily what we want. And that is when we see the blessings from that kind of exact obedience. When our will comes into alignment with God's, and we begin working hand in hand with Him, then we see innumerable blessings pour out upon us and upon those around us. The process of our will becoming God's will is truly what exact obedience is. We leave behind our own views of what "obedience" means, and God's opinion becomes ours. Then, and only then, can he truly open the windows of heaven and pour out so many blessings that we do not have room enough to receive them. And that is what I have seen over and over again here in the mission field. When I am trying my absolute and honest best to do God's will, then God blesses me. When I fall short and give in to temptations of laziness or other such things, then the blessings tend to stop. But then I repent, do my best to change myself, and then overcome that. Then, as my will once again becomes aligned with God's, the windows of heaven open again and I am simply flooded with blessings and an outpouring of God's love upon me. God's tender mercies and little miracles simply fill my life, and my testimony of the truthfulness of the work and the importance of obedience are again reinforced.

But anyway, that's my week, which was pretty good all in all. I'm glad that you all are doing so well, and I want you all to know that I love you and thank you so much for the things that you all do in my behalf (prayers especially) because they are most definitely felt, even though I am on the other side of the world.

Thanks for everything, have a great week, and I will see you all next week!
Am-pitiavana sy fahazotoana!

Elder Sifotra
P.S. Sifotra means "snail" in Malagasy. Close enough, maybe?

The following pictures are from my split with Elder Cartmill.

Elder Cartmill stole my camera in District Meeting and took this selfie.
Our kitchen

Our living room

Our bathroom
A picture of "Poop River" in the missionary area 67, which is the dirtiest place on the planet that missionaries are allowed to work in. But, that's where I got cloth for the suit I am having made,  as they have some great cloth sellers there.