Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

08/25/15- Faith...Make the Jump and God Will Catch You!

Talofa all of you, sady manahoana e! I thought I should mix in three languages there, so that is actually Samoan, English, and Malagasy. No, I'm not showing off. I just thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit. ;) Anyway, it was an awesome week this past week as far as the work went, but I will talk more about that later. But for now I will miroso (go) onto the questions of the week.

First off, I didn't do much of anything exciting for my half way point on my mission, but I will probably do something fun this Thursday on my split with my District Leader Elder Evans, who is also from the same MTC group. But we will see. Sorry to be so boring, but the half way point just didn't seem like anything special. Just another day in the life of a missionary.

Secondly, all of my stuff is holding up quite well, and is still going strong. As far as best brands goes, the Keen shoes are great, and way comfy. No blisters or anything. The tread is way worn down and the sole is starting to come off, but it's okay. The Darn Tough socks are way good, and have yet to get a hole except for when they get caught on stuff and rip, which hasn't happened too much. They are also still quite comfortable, despite being put through the ringer day in and day out.

Thirdly, the highlight of the week would have to be either our Sunday turn out at church or our zone trip to Tsimbazaza, the zoo here in Tana. Yesterday at church, we had a massive turnout of one hundred and forty people, included in that were eleven investigators and several less actives. So needless to say, we were WAY happy. Well, we would be even happier if all the people who said they would come to church would actually come, in which case we would have twenty-five plus investigators at church along with a good fifteen less actives... Ah well.

Anyway, fourthly, I will start into the more spiritual side of things. My mom asked me what I have learned the past year with regards to faith. All I can say before is to get ready and hold onto your hats, because I've learned a LOT. Please read all of this, because I feel that this is a very important topic for all of us.

Faith is honestly the biggest thing we deal with out here: faith of both members and investigators. First off, I have learned that faith is, as Alma says, "not a perfect knowledge" but rather a BELIEF coupled with ACTION regarding a certain thing that is not seen, yet believed to be true. A wonderfully accurate example that I have heard a few times from either apostles or others is that of a misty morning (you all in Utah might not understand that, because real misty mornings don't really exist there, but here they are abundant). But it applies greatly to the concept of faith. Walking out on a misty morning, you can't see any further than about five feet in front of you. You have no idea what is right in front of you. You feel that if you take a few steps in front of you that you will become lost in the mist. And yet, as you move forward in faith, the mist seems to be moving away from you, and you are able to see just enough to press forward. Then, as you continue to do so, your faith increases the more you go. That faith, at that point, never becomes a perfect knowledge of what lies ahead, but it is enough for you to push forward. But as you press forward in faith, the sun begins to come out, and the mist begins to lift. That represents God. As we show evidence of our faith that we are willing to follow Him, God will slowly but surely begin to clear the way before us and enlighten our understanding. However, we MUST show our faith in Him. If we do nothing and expect Him to simply lighten our path, He cannot do so. This is what caused John to write that 'faith without works is dead." Returning to my example I just gave, what would happen if we just stood still in the mist and did nothing, expecting our view to be improved no its own? What would happen if we did so, and the sun coming out was dependent upon our moving forward, as it is in this case? The answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing would happen and we would just sit there in the misty darkness, not knowing anything more than we did before. No, we must take that first step and leap of faith, out into the mist and darkness of uncertainty. If we make that jump, God will catch us. We still will not have a perfect knowledge, but--as with the mist--the uncertainty will be pushed back just enough for us to see that we are on the right path and need to continue forward, continually putting our faith in God. If we do so, we WILL be blessed, for God is "bound when [we] do what [He says], but when [we] do not what [He says, we] have no promise."

My mom also asked me what my personal definition of faith would be. As far as that goes, I would say that faith is a willingness to put your trust in God, despite a lack of knowledge and certainty. There are many great stories of people showing this kind of true, pure faith in God, but the one I will share is more personal and one I have seen in person, I have already shared his story, but this is about a recent convert named Anessey, who, before, was Muslim. I already told the story, but it profits for me to tell it again. Starting in 2001, Anessey and his family learned from the missionaries, and continued to be taught from them for the next THIRTEEN YEARS, during which time none of Anessey's family (including him) ever thought they would join the church, but they continued to have the missionaries over because they simply enjoyed the company. But, in 2014, last year, Anessey finally took that first step of faith and actually began to read the Book of Mormon, and he felt that it was true. The mist of confusion and darkness slowly moved away from him as he pushed forward. And then, despite the fact of him being a Muslim his entire life, he decided to change and follow the path he felt was right, and get baptized. Now, about a year later, he is still trying to overcome his past ways and his Muslim habits, but his faith is there. He sees that he is on the right path, whether he sees the end of it or not. And I have seen that his life has truly been blessed due to his willingness to follow God, despite his lacking a perfect knowledge or seeing a great sign show him that this is the right path. That is to say, he has true faith. He tries to follow God, he falls short sometimes, but then he picks himself back up again and tries harder to follow the path in front of him, which is the path he feels is right for him. It is the path that he feels (but doesn't know perfectly) is God's will for him. Also, an interesting fact to note is that none of the rest of his family converted, but are still Muslim to this day. Anessey was the only one to truly put his faith and trust in God and move forward, despite not seeing everything that the future held, or even seeing the path that was in front of him clearly. And yet he CHOSE to make that leap of faith, and take that step into the uncertainty. He could have been content with staying Muslim and sticking with what he already knew. That would have been the easier option. But, as Elder Holland said, "Salvation is not a cheap experience!...How could we even think that it would be easy for us when it was never easy for Him?" And so, Anessey followed the example of His Savior, Jesus Christ, and decided to get baptized into His church.

Now, I know we all live in different situations, with different problems, concerns, and uncertainties. But the fact remains the same that we must press forward through whatever kinds of mist there be that surround us, whether that be hesitating to get baptized or any other situation there may be. And so my invitation to YOU (yes, I'm talking to you), is to make that decision, put your faith in God, and show your willingness to follow Him, despite your uncertainty. I know that you will be blessed because of it. The mists of darkness which surround you will begin to disappear and fade away, but only as you take the steps to follow God's path for you. So I will say it again, please make the decision to follow God and His plan for you, despite your uncertainty, your lack of knowledge, or any other causes for hesitation you might have, and JUMP. Leap into the mist, and you will see it move away from you, thus throwing the path into a greater light so you may see more fully the way that you are to go. That is my promise to you, that these are things that will happen as you put your faith and trust in God, and He will bless you beyond your comprehension.

I thank you all again for your wonderful support and love you send every week. You all are so wonderful, and I want the absolute best for you.

Until next week!
Elder Snell

Monday, August 24, 2015

08/24/15- P-day Pictures and Lemurs!

We did not get a written email today, but did get LOTS of pictures!

Just a side note: When Hyrum was about two years old, he became fascinated with lemurs. This interest continued for MANY years. (Kind of a unique fascination for a child.)  I was always looking for anything to do with lemurs. I even bought him a stuffed lemur that he just loved. Imagine our surprised when his mission call came and he was called to the "Land of the Lemurs!" I think that Hyrum has had a love for the land and people of Madagascar long before this life. These pictures warmed my heart. I never dreamed Hyrum would ever be able to hold a real one!
(Video at the bottom.)

Our District

Heading to a member's house to eat lunch


Eating lunch at a member's house
Elder Leo

English Class

Elder Snell and the lemurs...a dream come true!

Elder Leo and I

Our Zone P-day at the zoo

Me and Elder Delbar having a nice singing session on a bridge.
A wood carving I had made in Ambrositra of a stripling warrior.
Elder Snell and Elder Leo

Picture with President and Sister Foote


Video with Elder Snell and the lemurs!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

08/18/15- Turn Outward and Lift- ONE YEAR MARK!

Manakory ianareo! Inona no vaovao any aminareo? Aty aminay, tsy dia misy na inona na inona, fa ohatra omaly ihany. As always, I am thankful to all of you for your wonderful emails and diligence in writing me and sending love and support. I couldn't ask for better friends and family, as all of you have endured an entire year! Congratulations! It seems very weird to me that I am now at my year mark, and am halfway finished with the mission. My mind is blown every time I think about it. The past year has at times flown by, and at other times crawled. It changes day to day, but overall it has been a very quick year.

Fun little story for the week is the fact that yesterday morning I found an African flea on one of my left toes. It wasn't even painful or anything though, but we went into the mission office and dug it out, so everything is all good now (nothing to worry about, Mom). But that was just interesting to me because missionaries in Tana don't usually get them, but only those in a beach province. Ah well, I guess I'm just lucky!

But anyway, I guess I"ll start into my mom's questions, araka ny mahazatra (as usual).
First off, as far as church went this week, things were pretty good. We had a fair amount of less actives come, as well as a few investigators, including Tiana, Samuel, and a couple other new ones. The attendance was 104, which is pretty good. All in all, the missionaries aren't required to do much, other than make comments and help explain things in lessons, as well as take attendance and whatnot. Nothing to big out of the ordinary, and nothing like Ambositra, where we did almost everything. It's a feeling of relief when I don't have to take the load of an entire branch, even though we still had help, that is how it sometimes felt like down there in Ambositra. But, now, things are much smoother and easier as far as the ward goes.

Secondly, my mom asked me what my thoughts and feelings are about me hitting me year mark (as of this Thursday). I'll be honest, that the biggest feeling is just that of wonder. How the heck has it already been a year?! I mean, I just got here! But then I think about some of the older experiences, like the MTC, and that seems like a couple lifetimes ago. All in all, time is just really weird here in the mission field. It flies at the same time as it crawls. I just can't believe that I'm halfway. That is honestly the biggest feeling I have, is just that of wonder and awe. But also, it has caused me to reflect on the quality of work that I did during the past year of my mission, and what I want to change and what I don't. Do I want to change the way I do something? And up until now, how has the quality of my work been? Am I proud of what I've done, or do I need to change and work harder? All these questions and more are those flying through my mind as I try to figure out where the time went, as well as what I need to do better. What do I need to do to improve my mission, and use the year mark as a point marking increase and progression, rather than a gradual decline that ends with my mission. The mission, for me, has been and needs to continue to be a time of rapid and exponential growth, which growth will continue on past my mission and throughout my life. I can't start giving up right now, especially since I need to carry this growth throughout the rest of my life as well. That's my goal for the next year: continue to exponentially progress and grow, both personally and in the quality of work that I do. It's time to step it up, not slow down.

Now for the third and final question: my mom asked me about any thoughts and impressions that I've had this week that I would like to share, other than those which are about my hitting the year mark, which consists of the paragraph just above. As far as that goes, there's a story that actually happened last night that I'd like to share. For our bit of proselyting done on P-Day, we usually stop by our less-active member Andry, which is what we did yesterday. And in our lesson, Andry asked us a few questions, firstly about our favorite scripture, which was great and really brought the Spirit. But then he asked me another question that really made me think. He asked me "What is the biggest thing you have learned thus far on the mission?" The question caught me off-guard; I wasn't ready for it. And so I had to think for a few minutes about that, and it really made me ponder "what IS the biggest thing I have learned on my mission?" And then it came to me after a few minutes of pondering, which coming I credit to the Spirit. And my answer was this: "The biggest thing I have learned on my mission is that the way to true happiness is through turning outward. In the times that I have focused on myself and how hard the mission is--like I did at the beginning of my mission--then I am miserable. But however, when I turn outwards and focus on others' needs and others' problems, rather than my own, then that is when I truly am happy." These are the words that the Spirit put into my mouth, and as I said them, I knew they were true. When we are focused on ourselves and our own selfish needs, then we are miserable, sad, depressed, and stressed out of our minds. I know this is true because I will honestly say that that describes me about ten months ago. But now, as I have consciously made efforts to turn outwards toward others, I have found a greater sense of peace and happiness. The work goes better, the mission goes more smoothly, and everything is just better all around. One thing that has really solidified this concept in my mind is the Mormon Message "Lift". (Attached below.) If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It consists of a true story of several men who, each night, lift their neighbor with Multiple Sclerosis into her bed, as she is unable to. They say that when they first began the assignment, it was just a burden, and almost all the men said that they "had better things to do." But as they all consciously make the decision to focus on their neighbor's needs, rather than their own, all of a sudden they are happier and more willing to fulfill the assignment. They are no longer selfishly turned inward, but turning outward in service and in love. And all of them say that because of that, they feel like their souls have been healed, their lives blessed, and their faith strengthened. It is a very inspiring video, but the more I do that in my own life, the more I see how truly inspired it is. And that is because it is true. The more I follow those great men's examples, the happier I am. The more I turn outward, the more the Lord blesses me inside. So let us all turn outward and all do our best to love and focus on others, rather than ourselves. And the Lord, in turn, will bless us all.

Thanks again for everything you all do. Hopefully you have felt a bit of the Spirit from my email, as I tried to put the Spirit into it. I know what I've said is true, and I know that the work I am doing now is God's work, not mine. I love you all so much, and hope you all have a wonderful rest of the summer!

Elder Snell

Beautiful Malagasy Sunset


The gun is not loaded, just FYI. Please don't freak out, Mom! It's the one that our house's guards use, but they took out all the bullets.

Here I am with the guards as well.

The hole in my toe from the African flea.

Elder Leo's first Malagasy haircut
On splits with our awesome Zone Leader Elder Lehr!

A Mormon Message


Monday, August 10, 2015

08/10/15- Be Still and Know

Manahoana ianareo! Inona no kabary? Tsisy na inona na inona aty aminay, fa ohatra omaly ihany. I'm glad as always to hear from so many of you all, and it is good to know that you are all doing well. Thank you all for the great diligence and love that you all show week in and week out.

This week, I don't have all that much time to email, due to power outages over all of the city due to the power company rioting, so I'll keep it shorter and simpler (maybe).

Quick little story to tell that I think you all might enjoy. Last Thursday we were heading to a less active member's house, and Elder Leo had been saying that he needed to use the restroom, so we were hoping that the less active had a decent bathroom and not a hole in the ground. Turns out they did, but we would not be able to stay for our time because our member help hadn't showed up and the less actives were just a mother and two daughters. But, Elder Leo said his bathroom need had turned into an emergency, so we decided to let him use their bathroom and then we would go. After we left the house, Elder Leo said to me "Those were some demons in my digestive system that I had to get out." This comment, in and of itself, made me crack up pretty hard. But then he told me that when he reached to flush the toilet, to his dismay, the water was cut. He couldn't flush the toilet. And so he had to leave his "demons" in our less active's toilet, as we quickly and promptly left their house. Needless to say, I was dying of laughter as we walked away.

But anyway, as far as questions go for this week, my mom (being a mom) asked me if I ever feel unsafe in this new area. And honestly, I have NEVER felt unsafe or scared on my entire mission. I always have felt comforted and protected from on high, even in the more dangerous situations I've been in. (Note from Mom: I am sure I will not hear about the "dangerous situations" he has been in until he returns home. :) He is so funny! I love details, but I guess generalities are better right now. On a serious note, I am so grateful that he has ALWAYS felt safe. I want to publicly express how thankful I am for the Lord's loving care of our son while he is a world away. I am so appreciative that has been "protected from on high.")

Secondly, our main mode of transportation would be taxi be, which are big buses (mostly Mercedes Sprinters) that can carry about fifteen to twenty people. But, other than that, we do a lot of walking. On of these days I'll take out my iPod and use the Nike+ feature to try and calculate how much we walk in a single day on average.

Thirdly, this area actually is the dialect called Merina, which is the "official" Malagasy. It is also the easiest to understand, so I'm happy to say that I very rarely have problems understanding what people say (thanks to the gift of tongues). I honestly couldn't have gotten to this point without God's help, and I know that I will continue to get better due to the help of God's Spirit that I have.

Fourthly, our investigators Patrick and Julie are awesome. They came to church again last week, and we now have a solid program with them every Wednesday at the coiffure (hair salon) Julie owns. Hery and Isabell, as of late, have been a bit frustrating. They showed great signs of progression by first accepting a baptismal date and then Hery also came to a baptism we had last Saturday (just a child of record, not an investigator). But then they did not come to church yesterday, even though they said that they would. So, needless to say, that was a bit frustrating. But we will continue to work with them and help them progress and come closer to God.

For the fifth question and final question, the importance of being able to "Be still and know that [God] is God." I'll be honest that I have had many of these moments on my mission, and I didn't always react in the best way. There were times when tears were shed, or when voices were raised, or other things of the like. But the biggest and most recent experience that I have seen with regards to this is my training. It is hard for me to see my companion Elder Leo trying so hard to talk with Malagasies and learn the language, but he just can't say what he wants to. I can see the struggle in his eyes. He is dying to say something, anything! But he can hardly manage a word sometimes. But what he doesn't see is the fact that I was exactly like that about ten months ago. I couldn't say anything. I couldn't teach. I couldn't even tract. But Elder Leo doesn't see that. He doesn't see the process. All he sees is right now, where I can go off and talk about anything from the rioting power company to our investigator's textile business, and he struggles bearing his testimony. It is a serious testimony builder for me and for any missionary learning a language to go from that point to the point of fluency. But no missionary can do it without God's help. It's just not possible. And I think Elder Leo is just starting to figure that out. In order to become good at the language, one must "stand still and know that [God] is God." One must completely and absolutely rely on His help, because that is the only way. Any other way is not possible. It just doesn't work. One cannot progress without giving it all to God. It's interesting how it works, but I have seen that many times out here in the mission field; when investigators depend upon God and rely on Him, they progress. When they don't, then they don't. It's really quite simple. But it's also very hard. We, as people, tend to have a very hard time giving up our will and our power to God. But, if we do, the blessings that come from that giving up of our will are immense and incomprehensible. If we "stand still" take a deep breath, and depend upon God in all that we do, then He will bless us. With regards to learning the language; I depended upon God for everything I did, both then and now, regarding my learning of the Malagasy language. And now I have seen where that has taken me, and the incredible blessings I have seen because of it. The scripture "be still and know that I am God" does not mean that we just wait around for God to figure everything out, but we follow another wonderful quote; "Pray like it all depends on God, then work like it all depends on you." And that is the way we are blessed, helped, and strengthened through all of our trials, struggles, and afflictions. I know this to be true.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful week, and that, if you are faced with trials and troubles, that you will all "stand still" and give a small yet sincere prayer, and then go out and work on overcoming that. Thank you all again for everything that you do! You are all so wonderful. That is one of the biggest blessings I have in life here on earth: my family and my friends.

Mazotoa anareo!
Elder Snell

NOTE: Because of the power outages, Elder Snell only had time to upload pictures and no time to write captions. I asked Elder Snell about the power outages and he replied,  "It's mostly been just this last week. Apparently America bought out part of Jirama (the company) and has been laying the law down on some of the corruption that has been present in the company, and they didn't like that. So what do they do? Stop working and cut the power." Thus, the candles in the picture below.

Zone Meeting