Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, October 26, 2015

10/26/15- If Truth is Spoken, the Spirit Will Be There

Manakory aby o! How are you all doing? It was good to hear from those who emailed me this week, and was good to hear how everyone is doing. I personally am doing pretty well out here in Fianarantsoa, and things are going pretty good as far as the work goes. Nothing really new or anything, but the new area is much different than any of my past areas, that's for sure. But anyway, I will go ahead and start in on the questions of the week.

First off, Elder Bednar was indeed in Madagascar this last week, and at first he was planning on meeting with all the missionaries in the mission, and everyone from far away would fly in. But, then his schedule changed, and we were unable to do that. So I will be honest that I am a bit bummed that I missed a chance to hear from Elder Bednar in person, but I guess that's life. Next time.

Secondly, as far as the best part of my week, that would be seeing the incredible recent converts that there are in this area. There are several people who are just incredibly converted to the gospel that have been baptized only in the past year, and they are already participating in church and helping make changes for the better.

Third question: We are cooking a ton more than we did in the last area. I have actually only eaten out once in the entire time that I've been here. I've been trying to get creative with what I make so I don't get tired of it all. There are several places where I can go out to eat, but my companions don't really like to, so we mostly just eat at home.

For the fourth question: I have been getting a lot more flea and mosquito bites in this area, even though I've been using repellent and everything. They just like me so much that they keep biting me and they don't even care about the repellent. So in short, I have been getting a lot more bug bites in this area than in the past areas.

Now for the last question: The time that I felt the Spirit strongest this week was just in teaching some lessons to our recent converts that I was talking about. First of all, they just get it. They get the gospel, and understand how it works. The lessons just went so well with them. We talked about families and God and how He loves us and how everything He does for us is out of His perfect love for us. It was just one of the best lessons I've ever been in, and the Spirit was so strong there. I wish all lessons went as good as that one did. It was absolutely incredible, and I know that my telling of it is does not do it justice. I know that if truth is spoken and paid attention to, then the Spirit will be there.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great week this week. I'm sorry that my emails have been short as of late, but I will write as best I can.

Love you all!
Elder Snell

A nice view of about a fifth of our area. Yeah, it's big!
A spider that Elder Obioma caught.
A picture/characature that Elder Obioma drew of me. :P They just can't get my nose right!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10/19/15- Much Work Ahead in Fianarantsoa!

Manakory aby o! Salama tsara fa misaotra e! Eko ina ro ina, fa tsa misy na ina na ina aty amin'ahy! Hey all, it was good as always to hear from all of you, and to know that you are all still doing well back at home. Keep it up! Anyway, it has been quite an eventful week, with the move to a new and completely different area and all. So I will be sure to tell you all how things have gone this week.

Anyway, to start off, with regards to my trip down to Fianarantsoa. All in all, things went pretty well. I was stuffed into a big Mercedes Sprinter with about thirty people or so, so that was fun. I was also completely alone and by myself, which was very very weird. But it turned out all right. Also, I remembered to take some of the travel sickness pills, and so I did not get carsick at all. I was even able to read and sleep a little bit on the way down, so that was way nice. The only crazy things that happened really was the driver. There was a point in the ride when he was pretty much racing another Sprinter, both full to the brim with people. So just imagine two large vans racing down Ogden canyon at about forty to fifty miles an hour, both crammed with people. And that lasted about an hour or so. So yes, I was scared, but no, I did not scream or anything of the like. But that is about it for the ride down.

Next off, this new area and city is very similar to Ambositra, other than the fact of it being much larger and spread out. We actually ride bikes in this area, which has been both fun and painful, due to the large quantity of hills in this city, as it is right in the middle of the mountains. Don't worry, I will be sure to send pictures. Also, as far as stores and the like go, there aren't really anything here like that. No Shoprite, no Score, nothing. Just epiceries and a few slightly larger stores, but nothing really other than that.

Our living quarters here in Fianarantsoa are VERY nice. It is a brand new house that the missionaries moved into just two transfers ago. I can't really describe it, so I will just send pictures next week for all of you to see.

Now last of all, as far as the work here in Fianarantsoa goes, things are going pretty well. We actually teach more investigators than I thought we would be teaching, so that is nice. But we are definitely focusing on reactivating less actives and strengthening the current members. Our main goal currently is to get the two branches that we work in to become self sufficient and self sustaining, because right now they depend WAY too much on the missionaries. Honestly, if there were no missionaries in our main branch, it would fall apart. So for instance, this last week, we taught over fifteen less active lessons, as well as some other active members who still are in need of some help. These branches are definitely in need of some help. For instance, in our Gospel Doctrine class that I sat in on yesterday, the class was supposed to be on families, but it quickly turned into another topic that was not suited for a church meeting. The members here don't really know doctrine at all. For example, I asked a less active member yesterday who our Father in Heaven is, and he said Jesus. Then when I said no, he told me that he has no idea who his Father in Heaven is. It is very discouraging to see the lack of knowledge here. Also, there are no leaders. No one is really willing (or able, for that matter) to stand up and make changes in the branch. For the past few years, the missionaries have literally done everything for these branches, and the branches have become dependent upon them, which is not okay. So our job here right now is to teach, train, and get the branches to the point where they don't need the missionaries anymore to run effectively. So we are currently trying to find ways to accomplish that goal. Any suggestions from all of you would be much appreciated. But I know that God calls us to certain places for a reason, and He has a work for me to do here in Fianarantsoa, so I just need to do my best to do His will over the next few months, and I know that there will be fruits of my labors, whether I see them or not.

Thanks again for all the support and concern, for your prayers and thoughts, as they truly strengthen me out here on my mission. I love you all, and hope that you all have a great week!

Elder Snell

Elder Ahlstrom and a member help walking through a rice paddy.

Picture of our Area Book, or rather, our four area books which are now all ours, as there used to be four missionary areas in this city, and now we are the only ones working here.

This is a giant statue of Mary Christ's mother which overlooks our house.
Elder Mack
Elder Monsen
Saying goodbye to these missionaries before I left Tana.

Pictures from our Mahamasina split

More pictures from our split dinner party with Mahamasina Elders Lehr and Morse.

A picture with our member Elyse and his family, who are way awesome.
The American mall in Ivandry in Tana which absolutely blew my mind! I had to take a picture. Don't judge me. I'm used to small town countryside stuff here.
Elyse and Johary, two of our members here in Tanjombato.
Our new investigator Andry who is great!
This is Jeremy and his family who dressed to impress.
English class
These are our investigators Feno and Jina.
This is me with Emille in Tanjombato.
Dictrict Meeting with the APs
This is a picture of when we went on splits in the Manakambahiny area.

Manakambahiny area
Our investigators Julie and Hasina back in Tanjombato.
A meal with members

A picture with some members

A meal with members

Monday, October 12, 2015

10/12/15- Transfer News and God's Grace

Hey all! It has been a crazy but a good week, and I am excited to tell you all about it, but I don't have too much time, so I'll just try and get right into the questions and whatnot.

First off, transfers. It's a crazy one this time. I am being transferred away from Tana to the southern city of Fianarantsoa. The previous eight missionaries who worked there are all getting removed, all but one, who will be my companion, along with one other missionary. So we three will be working to make the two branches down there into what they need to be. There has been some apostasy and misuse of the church's funds.  I'm going to know the handbooks down front and back. It will be fun, and most definitely a growing experience. I will be working with Elders Ahlstrom and Obioma, both of which are my seniors in age and missionary experience. I will be making about a ten hour taxi ride down to Fianarantsoa this Wednesday. Yeah, it takes a while. :P

Mom, to answer your question of how long it would take to drive from one end of Madagascar to the other, that would take several days, if not an entire week. Yeah, like I've said before, straight roads don't exist here, BUT apparently malls do, because we went to one today, and it was EXACTLY like an American mall, but a bit nicer. I had a Nutella milkshake which was the most delicious things I have ever tasted here in country. It was crazy.

Anyway, next off: as far as church meetings go, yesterday's church was AWESOME. Honestly, one of the best church meetings I've ever had. We had eleven investigators and eleven less actives come, as well as a great attendance. Then to top it all off, we had AWESOME lessons, both in the investigator class and in the third hour which was combined. SO so so cool. I really enjoyed that.

Now, for the fourth question. As far as certain lessons that I've taught this week that have stood out, the biggest thing has been on conversion and being changed. I have taught that lesson several times to several different less actives and investigators who we felt were in need of that message, and it's been incredible the spirit that it brought. In Madagascar, I have seen that many people get the feeling that we are saved by grace and don't need to do anything else. So, it has been good to clear up that misconception. Grace is meant to change us, not allow us to be lazy. The point of Christ's sacrifice is to allow us to change, to grow, and become what we need to be to return and dwell in God's presence, and actually want to be there. My mom sent me a talk this last week about grace, called "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox, and I'm being completely honest when I say that that talk has changed my life. It has completely changed my outlook on everything we do, and has helped me focus on what the real point is, and that is progression. Becoming like God is doesn't happen in the twinkling of an eye, but happens over a long time with diligent, applied effort and unity with God's grace.

I love you all, and I'm sorry that my email is shorter today. I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Snell

Soccer game on P-day

Monday, October 5, 2015

10/05/15- My Weakness is My Strength

Salama daholo e! This week was honestly one of the best weeks I've ever had as far as the missionary work goes. Not only did I enjoy it, but the work went so well. Hopefully we will start to see some fruits of that labor in the near future. I can definitely feel the prayers and fasts of those back at home, as they truly help out here in Madagascar. But we've got some good questions this week, so I'll go start with that.

First off, we should be watching General Conference towards the end of October, as that is when the DVD gets here. So I will tell you all when that happens and give some of my favorite thoughts from it. Also, weird thought that Elder Mack reminded me of today. Only one more General Conference session, and then I go home... Stinkin' Elder Mack, ;) ... But anyway, that's the update on General Conference.

Next: the transfer is getting close. We get transfer news this next Sunday, and I will most likely be leaving and moving to a new area. No idea where, but we will see. I won't keep Elder Leo for another transfer, but we will separating this next week. It's been a good three months or so. Training has been crazy though, that's for sure.

Third question: Vaovao mahakasika ny naman'ny fiangonana. (News with regards to the investigators). As far as that goes, nothing new really. We have some good progressing investigators, and they seem to becoming converted, but we are still working with them to prepare them for baptism, as they aren't quite there yet. They're getting there, and they are progressing, but it's just not quite there.

Fourthly, as far as more spiritual things, my mom asked me times I have seen God's hand in my life, as well as His direction and love. As far as this last week has gone, it has mostly been with regards to things that I say. There have been several times throughout this past week when people have told me that something I said really touched them, and helped them with something that was bothering them. Throughout my mission, I have had experiences that have helped me be able to say what God wants me to say, rather than what I want to say. I always felt that when missionaries said something that the Spirit was prompting them to say, it was a more solid prompting, like almost the Spirit was whispering it to them. And yet I've seen out here that as you begin to speak, the Spirit simply guides you in what God wants you to say. Sometimes I have felt absolutely stumped by what an investigator or less active member asks me. But then I simply open my mouth and start saying what I feel I should say. And then--I don't even know how it happens--but the words that come out of my mouth are not my own, but I start to feel the Spirit fill the room and change the entire feeling of the lesson. It's like the words are in my heart, and the Spirit just brings it out of me and turns it into a coherent, spiritual thought. It is almost impossible to describe it without feeling it, but that is the best I can do. So anyway, that is my answer. God has truly directed the things I say and do and share during lessons.

Lastly, my mom asked me what scripture has come to be one that I love out here on my mission. To answer that, I would have to say a pair of scriptures have truly become to mean so much to me and what it means to be a missionary. And that is the combination of Ether 12:27 and 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10. We all know the one from Ether about how when we are humble, God makes our weaknesses strengths. But what does that really mean? I've truly seen the relationship between weakness and strength due to the scripture written by Paul in 2 Corinthians:

Paul says that "lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 

But how can we literally be weak and be strong at the same time? That's not possible. Or is it? If we combine the two scriptures, it makes sense. According to Moroni in Ether, we must be humble and come unto God, acknowledging our weakness, and then He will make that become a strength unto us. But does God really take away our weakness? Sometimes, like with Moroni. But sometimes we are left with it, like with the case of Paul. Then what? We do what God asks us to: that is, come unto Him acknowledging our weaknesses and humbly asking for help. Then, if we do that, God strengthens us. I would make a slight change to Paul's words: "when I am weak, with God, then I am strong." And that is literally its meaning. I have come to see this especially in the Malagasy translation of the Bible, which says "ny fahalemeko no fahatanjahako" which literally means that "my weakness is my strength". For when we are with God, in humility, we are strong, no matter what our weaknesses or insufficiencies may be. Like Paul said to the Philippians: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Through Christ, our humility, and our coming unto Him, we can be cleansed, strengthened, and qualified for whatsoever thing He has called us to do. Am I, with all my faults, imperfections, and insufficiencies qualified to be God's mouthpiece and servant here on earth? Uh no. Obviously not. But I know that, and so I ask God everyday to make me into the missionary that He needs me to be. I know I am nothing, and so I ask Him for the help and strengthening that I need in order to perform my duty as a missionary. I have come to truly know the truthfulness of these scriptures on my mission. They mean a lot to me, and I know that because of the truths that are written in them, we can all be qualified for those callings that we are given throughout our lives. We don't need to be scared. Just humble. And patient. And then, if we ask for it, God will help us in our callings and our situations so that we can do what He needs us to do.

Anyway, that's all for this week. Thank you all for being so great and emailing me or praying for me or for just existing and being a great person. You all are so incredible, and I love you all. Have an absolutely fantastic week!

Elder Snell

Cooking food at Andry's house.


Me sitting on the coach with our investigators Tiana and Noro and their family, with our member help Frere sitting on the far left.

Hery and Isabel. And FYI I'm pointing at the Book of Mormon, not Isabell. :)

Here we've got a picture of me and our investigator Ghandi. Just kidding, that's Samuel, who is a stud.

Here we've got some less active members cleaning some cow faces to make food out of. They said they taste good. I dunno.

Cleaning cow faces

Anessey and his mom, who we helped move house this last Wednesday.

Then we've got a nice good view of Tana.

Went on splits with Elder Evans, which was AWESOME by the way. He's such a stud, way good at Malagasy, and is an awesome missionary.

Me and our member help Lalaina, who is super awesome and also way good at English. He served a mission in Uganda years ago.