Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, September 28, 2015

09/28/15- What Once Was Hard, I've Now Grown to Love!

Salama anareo! This past week has been quite a good one, with the usual ups and downs, twists and turns, excitements and disappointments. But overall it went well. Nothing very special to report, but just an all in all good week. Since I don't have a whole lot of things that I personally would talk about, I'm just going to start answering my mom's questions.

First off, there are not a whole lot of big bugs or spiders here in the main city. I don't think they can stand the smog. Just to give you an idea of what the smog and gunk in the air is like, when I blow my nose, the tissue is black. Yup.

Anyway, as far as things that I can't really get here in Madagascar that can be sent in my Christmas package, I would say send me some spices. I've started cooking more often as of late, and I have been feeling the lack of spices that are here in Madagascar. Especially nutmeg. Please send some nutmeg, so I can make a homemade eggnog recipe that I found. It would make Christmas so much better. So yeah, that would be much appreciated. But other than that, I can't really think of anything else. Except peanut butter m&m's. I have been craving some of those for some time now, so that would be fantastic. But yeah, other than that I can't really think of anything. Anything you would like to send though would be appreciated!

Now, with regards to reactivation efforts going in the ward, near the beginning of my work here, it wasn't going very well. Only about four or three less-actives were coming to church that we visited. But now, this past month (September), we have had thirteen less-active members who have come and are now considered active. So we are way excited about that. This ward needs help. I believe I mentioned in the last email that there are four hundred and ninety people listed in MLS and only one hundred coming to church, so we are seriously working hard on that. It needs help. So we are trying to work with members to find all of those people. Also, home teaching is currently nonexistent. So we will be working our tails off for the next while to get that going.

Now lastly, something that seemed hard at the beginning of my mission, and has now become easier... That's a hard question. But I would say that enjoying the mission would be the biggest thing. When I first got here, I will admit: I didn't like it too much. How could I? I was hot, sweaty, dead tired, and also sick and tired of being rejected, dogged, made fun of, and all of the above. But I have had an experience similar to that which happened to the men of the "Lift" video on lds.org. They started out helping a neighbor, which was fine. But then, as time went on, it began to feel like a burden. They had "better things to do" other than lift their neighbor into bed each night because she couldn't do it herself. But, the more they were willing to commit themselves to the job and to helping someone who needed it, then the more they began to enjoy the work. They put themselves into the job, rather than doing it simply because it was their duty. That's how it has been here for me on the mission. I didn't enjoy the missionary work right there at the start. I didn't enjoy being heckled, rejected, cursed at, or judged. But you know what? I have come to love it. I want to do the work now, because I know how important it is. And I actually do truly enjoy it. Of course I still don't enjoy the heckling and the rejection, but I have found reasons to love it. I love meeting new people, making friends, helping them see the truth in the gospel, and all sorts of other such things. I have found the silver lining, the diamond in the rough, as you might say. I have found what makes this work wonderful. But the biggest fact that makes it worth it is the fact that I get to teach people how they can become exalted. I teach people the way to their salvation. And that is incredible. Seeing the Spirit working in them, changing them, helping them come closer to God and to Jesus Christ... There's nothing like it. And the way I have been able to get to this point on my mission is dedicating myself to the work. If I put myself in the work, and place all my focus upon that--which I have tried my hardest to do--then I am able to see the maha tsara an'azy (what makes it good).

There are many things that follow this pattern. A testimony is found in the bearing of it. And the love for the work is found in the doing of it. Those who work, who focus on it, and who dedicate their hearts to it will most definitely find a love for it. There is a talk that a certain mission president gave called "The Fourth Missionary" which is absolutely incredible. The third missionary is the one who does everything he is supposed to, but for the wrong reason. The fourth missionary however, completes his mission out of a love of God and out of a desire to serve Him. The fourth missionary gives not only his actions to God, but also his heart, his will, and his all. And that is the missionary that I am trying to become. I am trying my best to give God my heart, my will, and my whole self in this work. It's not easy, but I have found that it is worth it. God has blessed me with the Spirit and with a love for the work. I know that blessings come from our turning our whole selves over to God. I have seen that on the mission time and time again, and it is true. This truly has been the hardest thing for me on the mission, but it has also been the thing most worth doing. I know it's hard to give up our pride and everything, but when we do, God blesses us.

Anyway, thank you all for being so great and always being willing to support me through emails and through prayers. You're all incredible, and I love you all!

Elder Snell

Here we've got a family of less actives that we are trying to reactivate that haven't come to church since 2007.

This is a quiche that I made yesterday for our lunch, which turned out really good. :)

Here is the link to the video Elder Snell references:


Monday, September 21, 2015

09/21/15- How Do We Spend Our Time?

Hey everyone! Sorry for the somewhat rushed email last week. We went to the croc farm in an area called Ivato which was by the airport, on the other side of Tana. We spent about seven hours in a bus... Yeah. But anyway, it was still way fun, though I was disappointed that we didn't get to see lemurs like we were promised, but we did see some great crocodiles. Pictures will be on their way, don't worry (Mom, I'm talking to you). :)

Anyway, these last few weeks have been busy, good, and decently uneventful as far as big events go. But this P-Day has been much more relaxing. We cleaned the house, played basketball, went out to lunch with a bunch of missionaries, and now we are emailing. And that, usually, is the P-Day schedule, as far as most weeks go. Occasionally we do fun stuff like go to the croc farm or to the zoo and whatnot.

But that answers my mom's first question, so now for the next one: the weather here in Tana is pretty nice. About low eighties, slightly humid, and no rain. But that will change soon, with the rainy season coming in quick. I'm sure you all will get plenty of pictures of that.

Next off, my last interview with President Foote was actually last Saturday, and lasted about an hour. We just talked about the training program, my future in the mission, what I can do to be a better trainer/missionary, as well as ways to be a good parent (moa ve mampatahotra be? uh, scary, right?). But it was really good, and I enjoyed talking with him. We have interviews about every three months or so, and I always look forward to them. This last time, he shared some really great thoughts on both training and parenting, how each person is different and cannot be treated the same. Everyone has their own pace, their own rhythm, and their own willpower. And my job as a trainer is to find those things out about my trainee, in order to teach him according to what he needs. That was very helpful, as well as some scriptures that he pointed out to me that help guide me in the right direction.

Recently we've seen some good improvements in our investigators John and his wife Sela, as well as Hery and Isabell, especially since yesterday John and Hery both came. I was very excited when they came, and they said that their entire family will be coming to church. So that's awesome! We are praying for them to come and to begin being more diligent in keeping their commitments. But as of late, we have been working more with the ward to find less-actives. I'm not sure if I've given this statistic before, but we currently have 490 people listed in our MLS as members, a large amount of which are Melkizedek Priesthood holders. Now let's take a guess at how many people come each week to church. Yeah, 100 people come... That's about 20% activity. Can someone say "TERRIBLE!"? Yeah. So needless to say, we are doing that rather than searching for new investigators. But last week we taught fifteen separate less-actives, and we had a fair amount come to church yesterday, so I'm feeling that we can turn over a new leaf and work to get the ward back on track. If there are any prayers that could be sent our way with regard to that, then we would appreciate it.

The last question my mom asked was about time usage, and how we can spend time more wisely here on earth (or on the mission). As far as that goes, there are many many lessons I have learned about time usage here. Before the mission, I will admit that I was not the best at time usage. I would spend chunks of time just listening to music, watching tv, or playing video games or something. And honestly, I've just had a change of heart here on the mission. And that's the great thing about what God does when we're doing something right. The more you do something, the more you grow to love it. The more I do things that are beneficial and a good use of my time here on the mission, then the more I learn to love it and actually enjoy it. For instance, before the mission (my family can attest) I did enjoy studying. But now, here on the mission, I absolutely love our study times each morning. My mom would probably consider that a miracle, to be honest. :) And, actually, I'll say the same. It is a miracle. God is a god of miracles, and He works wonders in the lives of those who follow His counsel and teachings. Now, honestly, I do not really have the desire to come home and spend countless hours in front of the television. That doesn't bring happiness or anything positive. It only brings on laziness.

Also, just another thought, I had to teach the lesson to the investigator class yesterday in church, and it was on the section about work in Gospel Principles. God has commanded us to work. How could we ever progress to the point where we can become like Him if we never put in a little effort. But the thing about the section in Gospel Principles is that it doesn't just talk about gospel related work, but also just good, productive work. For instance, learning a new language, learning how to fix a car, or lawn mower, or anything. Those are all good, productive pursuits of time and effort. And that is God's desire for us here on earth. We need to work hard, learn hard, and progress. Then, if we do that, coupled with diligent repentance and humility, we will be exalted in the end. As Elder Holland has said, "Salvation is not a cheap experience!...How can we imagine, how can we even think, that it would be easy for us when it was never easy for Him?" Christ had to work, suffer, and die for salvation. And so, we must work as well. We must push ourselves, and not be a couch potato. And so this is one thing that I pray to God, that I might not come home from the mission and just crash, but instead use the mission as a launch pad, pushing me to greater heights. Anyone who is truly successful in life will tell you, that hard work and effort are what lead to success, not apathy and laziness. I know that if we endure, working hard the entire way, and follow God's desires and will for us, then we will obtain eternal life. It will be hard, of course. But since when were the best things in this life (or the next) easy? Uh, never. Let us be diligent in working for those things that are of most worth in life, and find great blessings and a love for that work and effort along the way.

I love you all and thank you all again for being so great in emailing me. Have a great week, and make your time worth it!

Elder Snell

Lunch on p-day
Me with my neighbor, Elder Francom, who was called to serve in Madagascar, too!

Croc Farm pictures

The Malagasies in the pictures are some investigators of the Mahamasina missionaries (Elder Lehr and Elder Morse). They were way cool.

This is the meatloaf I made for lunch yesterday (Sunday). It was very good, and I am quite proud of it.
B-ball game on p-day

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

09/15/15- This Mission is Hard, but It's Worth It...Because God is Worth It!!!

Hey, thank you all so much for the emails and the love that you all continually send to me each and every week. I'm very sorry to say that this week I have literally no time to email, as I am heading out on a split in a few minutes and was also not able to email last night due to a P-Day activity that (while being fun) went wayyy long. And it was also on the opposite side of town. So, needless to say, I have about five minutes or less at this point in time to email.

So, I will answer questions as quickly as possible. Firstly, I saw Elder Francom on Tuesday, Thursday, and yesterday! Yes I got the book and the letters, and Andry was EXTREMELY grateful for the book, as that will help him teach a more effective English class. Also, I will send pictures next week, many of which are of him and me.

Anyway, secondly, I have not really learned anything new to cook as of late. We mostly eat at a cheap hotely near our house because it works much better with our work schedule, as we do not have barely any time to cook at our house, as that takes much longer.

Thirdly, Zone Meeting was good, and we had great discussions on training and how to be more effective trainers and trainees and missionaries in general. Elder Delbar and Kelsch (our Zone Leaders) did a great job.

And lastly, my mom asked about things that we have discussed as a companionship recently that I would like to share. The other day, I had a great discussion with Elder Leo about change. I have seen time and time again here on the mission where God has been changing me. I have truly become a different person here on the mission; one who is more converted, more driven, and more motivated to follow Him. And that is our purpose here on life: to change, and to become more like God. And we can only do that by allowing Him to change us. We, as imperfect beings, cannot change ourselves to become like Him, but only a being of His power and perfection has the ability to lift us higher and above what we normally are.

I know that what I am doing is God's work. I know this, not because others tell me that it is, but because God tells me so. He is constantly giving me impressions and blessings of spiritual promptings throughout each week that what I am doing is His will for me. If it weren't for that, I couldn't do this. I'll be honest. The mission is hard. But it's worth it because GOD is worth it. His work is worth it. And I know that what I am doing is His work here on earth. I know the church is His kingdom on earth, and that Christ's gospel is truly the way and the path that we can return to Him and obtain glory, salvation, and exaltation, together with all the people that we love and care for the most. I know this is true and hope you all feel the spirit of my testimony. But don't take my word for it: take His. Ask Him. Pray. And come to know for yourself whether or not God truly does love you enough to have sent His Son to die for YOU. I know that God did that for us all so that we all can return to Him in the end and become glorified beings in one, big, eternal family.

Love you all. Stay strong. Don't give up, and don't ever ever quit. The reward that awaits us at the end is worth it. 

Am-pitiavana sy fahazotoana,
Elder Snell

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

01/07/15- The Atonement is Not Just an Eraser

Salama anareo daholo e! How are you all doing? I hope it's been a great past week for you all, and hope that you are all enjoying life. Things continue to go well out here in Antananarivo, and I look forward to the experiences that the future will bring. This past week for us has been a pretty good one, not amazing, but not terrible. I'm just enjoying the mission out here, and loving the opportunity to bring light into people's lives. It's truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. But anyway, I will start right into the questions of the week.

First off, I have yet to see a big locust infestation or storm come through here, though I do know that they do happen occasionally. I will for sure update y'all when I have something like that happen though, as that would be a very interesting experience, to say the least.

Second question: I have not yet seen Elder Francom from the good ol' Kays Ward, but I will be seeing him this Thursday at the latest because he is in my zone, and we are having a zone meeting this Thursday. One fun note though is the fact that he is being trained by the one and only: Elder Delbar!! Yep, one of my favorite companions thus far on the mission and one of my best friends here is Elder Francom's trainer. They will have a BLAST and Elder Francom is in for a great training experience, that is for sure. I am very excited to see how they do and the great work they accomplish. Also, don't worry, I will definitely take a picture with Elder Francom when I see him (I'm talking to you, Mom and Sister Francom). :)

As for the third question, our investigators are doing pretty well. Nothing special really, but we are still pushing to get investigators to come to church, as they have been struggling with keeping that commitment. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery (yeah, that's you) would be MUCH appreciated, as I have tried many different things to try and get our investigators to come to church, but they just don't seem to understand its importance, even if we emphasize it every single time we teach them. Our investigators Julie and Hasina (Patrick) are always diligent at coming to church, but as far as our other investigators, they tend to not be too diligent at coming... It's sad, and honestly kind of depressing for us. We try to get them to come, they commit to come, and then they don't. Then when we go back to their house for our time with them, they give some sort of excuse that actually seems legitimate, and then promise to come next week. And it repeats all over again... So, any suggestions from all of you would be nice.

But anyway, moving on to something a little bit happier and less depressing. My mom asked me anything funny that happened this week, and we did have one funny thing happen. We went to this one lesson with a guy named Jocelyn. When we got there, it was obvious that he was pretty drunk, but sometimes people are just like that, so I didn't want to outright ask him if he was drunk and offend him, so I tried to get him to say it himself. Turns out that he had been drinking, as well as chewing a bunch of tobacco. So we talked to him about that for a bit, and then he told us that he had wanted to overcome his addiction to those things for a long time, but he just hadn't been able to up to that point. So that was normal and we told him to just make more of an effort to overcome that as well as depend more upon God to help him become free. But then he asked us to help him, and right in the middle of the conversation he got up, then knelt down on the floor right in front of me, grabbed my hands, and placed my hands on top of his head, asking me to, as he said, "mandroaka ny demonia ao anatiko" (cast out the devil within him). So yeah, we left fairly quickly after that...but an interesting story for sure.

Anyway, last question, which is about the things I have learned on my mission about Christ's role in our lives and the importance of His Atonement. And honestly, the biggest thing I have learned throughout my entire mission about Christ is how the Atonement is not just for our sins, but for our weaknesses, our struggles, and our trials as well. I always thought of the Atonement as the eraser for our sins, the way that we can be forgiven, and that is true, as that is one of its purposes. However, the Atonement covers all of our weaknesses as well as our sins. Christ not only suffered so we could be forgiven, but he suffered so we can receive the help that we need. There's a scripture that I saw in Ephesians how "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" That is to say, Christ has descended below us all, Christ has gone below everyone. God emphasizes that in his revelation to Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty Jail, which is also one of my favorite scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants, which says that "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" Christ, the Son of Man, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, has already descended below us all, below everyone and has been lower than anyone in history. Sometimes we are allowed to hit rock bottom so that we can find out that Christ IS the rock at the bottom. And then, if we follow Him and accept His teachings, and rely upon Him, He can lift us to greater heights than we could ever have otherwise reached on our own. I know this is true, because there have been times here on the mission where I have hit rock bottom, and have found that Christ is there, waiting for me, and ready to lift me higher.

Anyway, sorry for the short-ish email this week. We are kind of crammed for time. Next week will most likely be more open, so I will for sure take lots of time next week.

Have a great week, rely upon Christ, and let Him raise you up, as the popular Josh Groban song says. I love you all, and hope you all know that!

Thanks for everything!
Elder Snell
Me with our recent convert, Anessey

Elder Leo with some cute kids
Hanging on!

(Not sure what this is. Elder Snell didn't send a note about it.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

09/01/15- Meekness, Obedience and "The Book of Blessings"

Manahoana anareo ry sakaizako!

Hey everyone, I am so happy to have heard from all of you this past week and to have been able to get a glimpse of how things are going back in America right now. I hope you all are doing well, and are all following the counsel I gave last week with regards to faith. It was truly important to me, so I hope you will read it.

Anyway, this last week was pretty great. It was the last week of the transfer, and transfer news is...I'm staying! No surprise there, I've still got a transfer left of training Elder Leo. Anyway, we also had Zone Conference yesterday, which is why I am emailing today, as we didn't have enough time to do so yesterday. But that Zone Conference was absolutely amazing, as we had the opportunity to listen to Elder Cook, who is in the Presidency of the Area Seventy, and that was an incredible experience. Their lesson was so incredible. But I'll talk more about it later.

As for questions, the first one is a stereotypical "Mom" question. :) So yes, Mom, I am taking my malaria pills AND daily vitamins on a daily basis (when I remember to do so). Don't worry, I take them pretty consistently.

Secondly, again, yes Mom, my toe is healing up just fine after the African flea was taken out. No infections or anything. So it's all done, and there's nothing to worry about.

For the third question, my mom asked for about the average family size here in Madagascar. And the answer to that would actually depend on the area. If we go to the countryside and take a look at the the family sizes out there, they will be HUGE. I would say about eight or nine kids on average. I've heard of some as big as twenty kids, where the mother got married when she was about fifteen and had kids every year until she was almost forty. Yeah I was way surprised when I heard that. But then here in Tana, the average family size would be about two, maybe three kids. So it really just depends on where you go, because the different areas and tribes here in Madagascar all have different cultures and ways of living. It's been very interesting to see three different cultures thus far: the Betsimisaraka (Tamatave), Betsileo (Ambositra), and Merina (Antananarivo; it's in order of first to most recent).

Fourth question starts to get more spiritual now, as my mom asked me what spiritual impressions I've gotten during the past week. As far as that goes, I got some very distinct impressions yesterday at the Zone Conference. I got the impression that I need to be a better missionary, and follow the White Handbook more completely. It's not that I'm being crazy and disobedient, but just that I can do better to live the handbook and allow God to bless me. Because that was the topic of our Zone Conference yesterday. Elder Cook told the story of an Elder in New Zealand who called the White Handbook "The Book of Blessings" rather than a rule book. This really hit me as a different perspective than I was used to, because God truly can bless me immensely on this mission, but it is contingent upon my obedience to His will and the rules He has set. If I need blessings, I can simply turn to the White Handbook and take a look at the rules and see what rules I can follow more fully and completely. And if I do so, and show God my willingness to follow Him and turn my will over to Him, then He will truly pour out blessings that I cannot comprehend.

And now, lastly, my wonderful mom asked me about the things I have learned on the mission with regards to the importance of the attributes of humility and meekness. As far as this goes, I have learned a lot. I'll be honest that starting out on the mission, I wasn't too humble. But that quickly changed when I had to completely depend upon my trainer, Elder Christiansen. I couldn't talk to people, I couldn't understand them, and I didn't know how to be a missionary. So I quickly had to learn humility and teachability (meekness). If I didn't, then I couldn't learn or grow. I soon realized that this was very similar to our situation with God. If we aren't willing to learn and to be humble, and give our will over to Him, then we can't accomplish anything. We may find a little bit of success and learn a bit, but none of it will be lasting. The only lasting learning and growth comes from God, and our turning our will over to Him. I mean, what is the only thing that God doesn't have that He desires of us? I'll give you a hint: our will. Our will is the only thing that He does not have that He desires to have, in order for Him to make us into the best person we can possibly be. But that requires humility and meekness, and a willingness to follow God's will, rather than focusing on our own fallen will. This was another topic focused on at Zone Conference yesterday. Elder Cook drew a chart up on the whiteboard that had two lists, one of which had a list of traits of the natural man, and the other with traits of a saint. The natural man is our will. The saint is God's will. When we give up our will to Him and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ, following the steps of having faith in Him, repenting, being baptized by water and by fire and renewing those covenants through our reception of the Sacrament, and following that path--those steps--to the end, then God will have the ability to change us, and cause us to become a saint, as it says in Mosiah 3:19. So let us not be "an enemy to God" as the natural man is, but let us give in to the enticings of His Holy Spirit and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the end, applying that process again and again until we become perfected through Christ and His Atonement.

As always, I thank everyone for their diligence in being great friends and family, in their supporting me every day, as it really does make a difference. I feel your help, and I hope you know how much I appreciate it.

I love you all, and hope you have a great week!
Elder Snell
Going on splits with Elder Evans
Lunch with our district

A kitten
The view out of the church in Ampefiloha, which is MASSIVE. It's five stories tall and even has an elevator. First one I've seen in a year. :P That's sad, but whatever. Tsy raharahako.
This is the new church in Manakambahiny which is also GIGANTIC!
Zone picture going left to right: Elder Cyusa (Rwanda), Elder Razafimandimby (Mada), Elder Te'e (Tonga), Elder Ralaivao (Mada), Elder Tshuma (South Africa), Elder McCrary (Detroit), Soeur Ramiaramanana (Mada), me, Elder Evans, Souer Matsaba (South Africa), Elder Hammer (Orem), Elder Lehr (Orem), Elder Delbar, Elder Leo (Samoa, kneeling), Elder Kissi (either California or Ghana, take your pick), Elder Nelson (Provo), Elder Morse (Florida), and Elder Tangarasi (Vanuatu kneeling).
Riding a posiposy
Dinner after the Stake Conference we had at Manakambahiny last Sunday and Saturday.