Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, November 30, 2015

11/30/15- I Am Thankful!

As a new youth song that Elder Obioma loves says, "It's good to be alive." That is definitely the case. I am so grateful for my opportunity to be alive right now and to have so many wonderful opportunities, as well as so many incredible friends and family (that's you, FYI) that support me in my mission. I am very thankful for you all. Thank you all for everything you do. I hope you feel my love for all of you.

This last week has been quite good. We got a lot of good work and improvement done as we have focused on leaders and teaching them how to be leaders (as that is what this area needs), and that has been going quite successfully.

I'm also grateful for getting into better shape physically, as I've been continuing to work out with Elder Obioma. It's pretty intense though, I will say that. For example, last Tuesday we did one thousand squats in half an hour. I may or may not have had to hobble to all of our times that day, but it's probably fine... :P Anyway, with that I'll go into my mom's questions.

First off, the weather here is pretty great in the mornings and evenings, but gets a little hot in the middle of the day. But it's great, I like it. It also rains very hard here pretty often, as we are getting into the rainy season.

Secondly, our Thanksgiving ventures. Again, Madagascar does not celebrate Thanksgiving, but it's okay. Elder Ahlstrom, Obioma, and I celebrated Thanksgiving on our own by having a homemade dinner of chili, fry bread (similar to scones), and little cups of ice cream we got from a gas station down the road. It may not have been turkey with stuffing and gravy, but it was pretty good.

Now lastly: what am I thankful for? Better question: what am I not thankful for? I'll take out the time now to list off the things that I am most grateful for in my life.

I am grateful for:
  • My life
  • My health
  • My mission, which continues to change my life every day
  • My companions, who help me daily to become a better person and a more effective servant of the Lord who is willing to be obedient
  • My mission president, who leads by an example of love
  • An incredible family who loves and cares about me, and shows that with diligence
  • An amazing mother who has sacrificed her time and efforts to help me get to where I am now
  • An awesome dad who showed me what it means to be a worthy, humble priesthood holder
  • Great sisters who taught me how to love
  • Incredible aunts, uncles, and cousins who all have helped me in countless ways throughout my life
  • Wonderful grandparents who have made sure that I know their love for me, and have shown me what it means to have charity
  • Spectacular friends and neighbors who have been there to help me every step of the way, through all the thick and thin of it
  • My greatest friend and ally, who is Jesus Christ, My Savior, who lived for me, suffered for me, and laid down His life for me, so that I (and ALL other people) may live once again. I am most grateful to Him for what He does for me on a day to day basis though, that I might be qualified, changed, and supported in all that I do because of His grace and love for me.
  • I am grateful for the gospel that gives me the opportunity to grow, change, and progress to become someone better than I have been, so that I might one day return and live with my Father in Heaven once more.
Those are a few of the things I am most grateful for, though the list could go on and on. I hope you all know that I truly am grateful for those things, and I know that what I have said is true.

Thank you all for being wonderful, and I hope you have an amazing week!
Am-pitiavana sy fisaorana,
Elder Snell

Service on P-day

Before the big game with Pres. Foote

The game!

After the big game

P-day Picture with Pres. and Sister Foote

Me with my companions Elder Ahlstrom and Elder Obioma

Fianarantsoa skyline

Fianarantsoa skyline
Super cute member kids

Monday, November 23, 2015

11/23/15- Tender Mercies..."Seeing Love"

Hello everyone! It's been a great, busy, jam-packed week throughout the last seven days, and we were constantly working and going around doing something. I'll admit that most of the time it was not teaching lessons, as we would have liked, but mostly preparing for different branch things that were happening throughout the week. But anyway, we've got two good questions this week that I will answer.

First off, transfer news. Drumroll please... Nothing's changing! Yeah, it's still going to be Elder Ahlstrom, Elder Obioma and me knocking about in Fianarantsoa all by ourselves. It will be awesome though, as we are doing really well and have been doing great work and accomplishing a lot of really good things here in Fianarantsoa. So I'm way excited for another transfer in the same companionship! It will be really fun to keep working with them.

Anyway, before I delve into more spiritual matters and answer my mom's second question, I just wanted to fill you all in on our week, besides transfer news. This last week we had what's called an audit, which is when a person who works for the regional headquarters comes down and reviews all the financial things in the branches. There are many reasons for it, including trying to catch any theft, embezzlement, or misuse of church funds. So we had that happen this last week, and luckily everything went smoothly, but it was pretty stressful trying to get everything ready for that. But now it's all done, so that's good.

Oh, also, fun to know that I have started working out with Elder Obioma, who's very good at it. He's played basketball for his entire life, and actually could have gone into the NBA. So yeah. Anyway, needless to say, we worked out legs during two days this past week, and I will say that I have been dying as we've been walking or biking up all these hills. :P

Anyway, enough of that. Last question: What tender mercies have I seen in my life over the past while? As far as that goes, it has mostly just been little blessings and opportunities that I've found in my day-to-day life here. For example, I am now helping out with a project to translate a lot of the church's applications into Malagasy to make it more easy and accessible for the members here in Madagascar. Also, I am learning so many things with regards to how the church runs in my current situation with the work that we're doing. Everything, literally anywhere from those things to smaller things like finding a good, fitting scripture for one of our lessons that day are all tender mercies. In Malagasy, tender mercy is "fahita-pitia" which literally means "seeing love," which is a translation that I love, because it really is what a tender mercy is; a way for us to see God's love for us in our everyday lives. Sometimes they're so small that they will just pass us by, but we need to focus on them, and realize that God gives them to us for a reason: He loves us and wants us to be happy. If we try our best to see and focus on the things that we are blessed with, then we will be overwhelmed by the amount of tender mercies that the Lord showers down upon us on a daily basis. It is truly incredible.

Anyway, not a whole lot of time this week, but I hope you all have a great week. Also, special thanks to everyone who participated in writing notes to me on the ornaments for the Christmas tree. I read every single one and want you all to know that I appreciate them and the time you took to write that.

Love you all!
Elder Snell

A chameleon we found on the path.

A gorgeous picture of Fianarantsoa

Another picture of Fianarantsoa
The Christmas stuff you sent arrived. Now our house is all festive!

Christmas in Mada!
Elder Obioma and I with our new bike helmets (they were the only ones we could find in the entire city).

Our new converts Ony and Vololona, who are wearing the helmets.

Me and Elder Obioma hanging out in a train car

Monday, November 16, 2015

11/16/15- We Don't Teach to Baptize...We Teach to Convert

Salama daholo e! This week has been pretty awesome. This is not due to the amount of lessons that we taught, or how many proselyting hours we accomplished. However, it was due to the quality of the lessons that we taught, and also the changes in this city that we are making. It's nothing that we have come up with though, but all things that have come from the spirit that will work in this area and make it into a center of strength for the island of Madagascar. But anyway, let me get into how this week has gone.

So, for a good portion of this past week we cleaned the old missionary house that is now unoccupied. And that was one heck of a project. But we now have that all taken care of and we have been starting to impliment some of our ideas and the inspiration we have received for this area. One of those inspirations is with regards to the kind of commitments that we extend to those we teach, both members and non-members, less-actives and leaders. We've now been able to come up with a program to give assignments to those that we teach, rather than simply asking them "Will you read the Book of Mormon?" or "Will you live this commandments?" Instead, we give them a piece of paper of varying types with an assignment on it, usually consisting of a thought provoking question as well as a few scriptures that relate to the topic. And then we ask them to do something, such as apply those scriptures in their life and make a change, or visit someone in need, or invite someone to church, or something along those lines. Not only does this prompt the people to continue to search the scriptures and actually create a habit of doing so, but it teaches them the importance of applying what they learn in their personal lives, something that does not happen a whole lot here in Madagascar. A great example of the miracles this new program works in the lives of those we teach is our investigators Nivo, Ranja, and Anjara. They are the non-member wife and children of a new convert named Edouard. When Edouard first was baptized, his wife and kids then said that they wanted to get baptized, but we saw that it was solely because of the fomba gasy (Malagasy culture) wherein the wife and kids follow the husband. But we didn't want that to be the reason for their baptism. We don't teach to baptize. We teach to convert. Baptism is just an outward expression of an inward conversion; an inward change of heart that brings a person to desire that demonstration of faith and repentance which is baptism.

So, we started teaching them. At first, it was a little slow. They saw bapism as ust a step that they needed to check off their list of things to do. And it was like that for quite some time starting out. But then we were inspired to use the new way of extending commitments. And so they were our first "guinea pigs." And can I say: since we started that, they are different people, especially Nivo (Edouard's wife). She just wanted to get the baptism done and over with. But now, she understands that it is an important step in her salvation, and she has born her testimony to us that she knows that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. She told us that she knows this, not because it's the same as the Bible or it teaches good things (common Malagasy answers), but instead she said that she has felt the Spirit while she reads and studies it, and she said that it has changed her.
I've seen a lot of big changes on my mission, in people and in places. But the change that comes from a diligent person committing themself to following God's will is indescribable. I've seen this family truly change over the past few weeks, simply due to their diligence in completing a small assignment written on a piece of paper. Is that because of me? No. Is it because of our skill as missionaries? No. It is because diligent effort in the right direction makes changes. Diligent effort in the right direction brings people unto God, and He in turn blesses them, and changes them. That is a recurring theme that I have seen throughout my mission. When someone commits to give their heart to God, He does incredible things with them. The biggest and more personal one of these experiences has been myself. I'm not saying I'm perfect or I'm the best at giving my heart and will to God, but I try my best. And that best that I have done has changed me for the better. God cannot change us on our own. But if we come unto Him, then He in turn will come unto us.

Anyway, that's about all I really have to say for this week. I would just want to thank you all and tell you that I love you and appreciate everything you do.

Elder Snell

P.S. The meaning of my subject is this: "The crazies pretend to be full, but those who are wise push forward (spiritually, that is). It's a Malagasy proverb that I really like, with regards to spirituality. Hope y'all enjoy it!

Some adorable kids that followed us around a bit, and actually gave me some flowers.

Picture of the church

The surrounding countryside
Pictures of a FJKM church (Fiangonan'i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara). It is one of the first churches here in Madagasikara, and was founded in the mid-1800's.

This is a picture of the inside of a quaint hotel we took a look through

More pictures of the area and the gorgeous city I work in.

We hiked to a place called Tananambony today for P-Day, and it was gorgeous. It also had lots of churches, which we kind of explored.

A picture of Elder Obioma trying to talk to President Foote while the phone is charging, but the problem is, the charger is like three inches long.

Adorable Member Kids

Pictures from our "Crusty Crab Pizza Week" where we made three pizzas every single night from pre-made dough. It was DELICIOUS. Literally American-quality pizza which I haven't had in over a year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

11/09/15- Stay Inside the Barrier

Manakory aby o! It's good to hear from you all and to hear how all of you are doing out there in the real world. I really enjoy hearing from you all, and hope things go well for you all this next week. I found a GREAT computer where I could type fast and download my pictures fast, so that's the reason for the good length of the email. Most of the computers at the cybers don't work that well.

So, my lazy mom didn't ask me any questions this week (just kidding Mom, you know I love you and know that you are the exact opposite of lazy). But, the point is, there were no questions posted this week, so I have to think up stuff myself. But that's okay, because this has been a pretty busy week.

First off, we have been trying to carry out a plan to fix up the current church building, because as of right now, the quality of the church building does not bring the Spirit, but does the exact opposite. So we have been working with headquarters in South Africa as well as coming up with some numbers with regards to expenses of the cost of fixing the building. So that was fun, obviously. Then also, we have been trying to clean out the old missionary home which is now unoccupied, as there used to be eight missionaries working here, but now it's just us three. And, no offense to the previous missionaries, but they didn't do a really good job of cleaning. Sooo, we spent all day last Friday cleaning it. And we're not even halfway done. Also, fun story: the previous missionaries left a TON of stuff with nothing we can do to get rid of it all. But some of the stuff could be useful, like nice blankets and such. So, as missionaries, what do we do? We go out onto the street and grab a handful of people who looked like they could be in need, and brought them back to the house. So, first off, we talked to like six people, to have them come grab stuff from our house. But Malagasies love to gather in groups, even if they have no idea why. So, by the time we got to the house, there are about fifty people following us. Yeah, fifty. At least. So anyway, we bring them to the gate of the house and tell them that only ten or so could go into the house and grab stuff, because it wouldn't be big enough for all of them. They didn't like that. A little bit later, we had the gate locked shut and many Malagasy people banging on it and trying to climb over the gate and into the yard area to try and raid our house of its stuff. Yeah, you could say that we kind of started a mini-riot outside the old missionary house. We had to get the "mayor" who is in charge of the area to go out and talk to them and tell the people to go away and stop trying to break down the wall and gate. So yeah that was pretty crazy.

Anyway, other new stuff... Ummm oh yeah, I've been kind of called to be the unofficial branch pianist. For both branches. So I attend both branches' sacrament meeting and play in both (don't be too happy, Mom, I know you're ecstatic about that). So that's been fun! NOTE FROM MOM: The whole time Hyrum was a young boy, I would tell him that one of the main reasons he needed to stick with piano was so he could be of service on his mission. I have periodically asked throughout his mission and Hyrum hasn't had to play until now! YES, I am thrilled!

But now for some more spiritual things. Like you may see in the pictures, we had the opportunity to watch general conference (finally!) this last weekend. I had many thoughts and insights I gained from it, but the biggest thing that stood out to me was the emphasis on obedience. The prophet and many others all gave talks focused on obedience to the commandments, as well as the blessings that come from our obedience. I particularly liked the talk where the speaker (I cannot remember who it was, sorry) gave the example of the barrier out in the bay. In life, we see massive, incredible waves crashing down just outside the barrier of the gospel commandments. We long to go out there sometimes. We see how fun they would be to ride, which, in all reality, they would be fun. But only for a moment. Quickly after we go over the barrier, the sharks close in (that's Satan, for all of you not following the analogy). They close in, and we quickly realize the reason for the barrier. And then we regret ever crossing it. So, is crossing the barrier and enjoying a few moments of fun worth it? Is it worth the death that will come upon our spirituality if we do so? I don't know about you all, but my personal feeling is that it is a very blatantly obvious "no!" No, it is not worth it to go across the barrier, to break the commandments. I will be honest and say that I have done so in the past, and I have never regretted anything so much in my life. It is not worth it to cross the barrier. So, my counsel for this week is this: STAY INSIDE IT. Stay inside the barrier, and make the most of the many opportunities and liberty and life you get to enjoy if you stay inside. You will still have fun, you will still make memories, you will still have great experiences, but most importantly of all, you won't die. It's very, very simple. So, that's my advice for this week. Stay inside. And stay far away from the boundary. Don't even get close.

Anyway, I hope you all have an awesome week and enjoy the opportunities that come from staying inside the barrier and the protection of the church. I know that it is where we need to be.
I love you all, and thank you for everything you all do. I really appreciate it, and appreciate your emails and concern you send my way.

Am-pitiavana, ary mandra-pihaontsika indray!
Elder Snell

These are all pictures of a hike we went on to the massive Mary statue on the side of the mountain last P-Day.

The stairs leading to our hike.

More pictures of a hike we went on to the massive Mary statue for P-day.

This is our area, and yeah, it's that gorgeous.

The Fianarantsoa area

Pictures from last week's Zone Conference
Elder Razafimandimby and Elder Ralaivao

Elder Rigby and Horspool

This is me and Elder Horspool with his trainee Elder Lake (because Elder Horspool is my mission brother, being trained by Elder Christiansen as well)

Teaching kids how to play duck duck goose.
Jumping rope with the cute Malagasy kids.

This is a picture of a little kid giving me a "dona kely" or fist bump, which every single kid in Madagascar knows how to do.
Pictures of our house which is VERY nice!

Picture of the old missionary house we had to clean.
My great companions who have worn themselves out serving the Lord.