Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, January 25, 2016

01/25/16- Scripture Power!

Hey everyone! I'm glad, as always, to hear from you this last week and see how you all are doing. I hope things continue going well for y'all! Anyway, this last week has been a good, yet crazy one. I will be sure to tell you all about it.

First off, new progress with our investigators: we have some new-ish investigators who have accepted baptismal dates. Two families who are both friends, one named Njaka and Tsiory, and then Mamy and his wife. They also all committed to come to church this next Sunday, so I am way excited about that. That's one thing I've really been trying to focus on this past week, is being willing to be straightforward and give baptismal goals and dates out in the first or second lesson at the latest. We also did that with another investigator, who kind of has an interesting story. Her name is Antoinette, and she has an online boyfriend in Cote d'Ivoire who is a member and told her to learn from us. So she is. Yeah, a little weird, but she and her family accepted a baptismal date as of yesterday, so we will see how they progress.

Secondly, the thing I love most about people in Madagascar is their acceptance and kindness. Even though they don't know you, most people will let you in, even if they don't progress later on. They are so kind and considerate, even if you are a complete stranger. Of course, those are general statements, and there are people who are unkind here, however the majority of people are very kind, open, friendly, and willing to just let you in and have a talk.

Third, about my week: this week has been one of the craziest of my mission, I'll be honest. Last Tuesday, Elder Smithson started feeling weird in his chest, so we talked with the mission nurse, and as of Thursday he has been in South Africa doing tests on his heart. And I am currently there with him.

No, just kidding! I'm still here in Tamatave, and have actually been able to work in my area of Ambolomadinika every day this last week, despite my lack of having a companion. I have been going on member splits like crazy though. But it has truly been a blessing and testimony strengthener for me, because despite the odds I have been able find a member that can go out with me every single day, for the entire day, so I can teach our investigators and help them continue to progress. So that has probably been the best experience of this week. And I still don't know what's going to happen, so I still have more member splits planned all the way through Thursday. Definitely a huge blessing from God.

And now, last of all: my mom asked me what's the true importance of scripture study and how does it help us? I will put it very simply: those members who study their scriptures help in the progression of God's church. Those who don't do nothing to progress it. It's very simple. Those who are diligent in studying scriptures improve in their spirituality and come closer to God. Those who don't...well...don't. It's very simple.  I have seen that on the days when I read the Book of Mormon and study the scriptures, I have the Spirit. When I don't, then I don't. So, to be very short and concise, those who study the scriptures and apply them WILL progress, come closer to God, help progress the work, become better people, and in the end obtain eternal life. Those who don't will not. Simple as that. I've seen it time and time again here in Madagascar, as well as back in America. So, to make it clear, read your scriptures! Apply them daily, and you will see changes in your life.

Anyway, thank you all for being such great friends and family, and for supporting me in this work. I love you all! Until next week!

Elder Snell

Baobab fruit

A crab

  A member family

A rainbow

Monday, January 18, 2016

01/18/16- In Forgetting Yourself, You Find Yourself

Dia ahoana e! What's up everyone? Things are going swimmingly (not really, we're not allowed to swim, but you get my drift) out here in Madagascar. I'm really enjoying the mission life, and am feeling like I keep improving and getting better on a consistent basis with regards to how I am as a missionary. All in all, the mission is great! This past week went pretty well at times, and not quite as well at others. So, I'll tell you all about it as well as answer my mother's questions, araka ny mahazatra (as usual).

First off, no, the ocean was not cold. It actually felt incredible for the baptism last week. Perfect temperature.

Secondly, teaching went pretty well this week. We taught a decent amount of lessons, but not as much as we had hoped. This was due to some extenuating circumstances that were out of our control. For instance, on Thursday night, someone got shot in our area by kidnappers who were looking for people with lots of money to hold for ransom, so we had to stay home that night. Also, Elder Smithson my companion had heart surgery last year to fix a quarter-sized hole in his heart that was found unexpectedly. Since then he has had no problems, but as he has been doing push ups in the morning as of late he started getting some chest pain. So the mission doctors decided to put him on house arrest (pretty much) for two days, Saturday night, yesterday and today, along with taking a bunch of medications. But, other than that, the week was good. We had some really good lessons with some of our most diligent investigators, and also had some great programs we've set up with the members in our branch, so we can get to know them better and also get them more excited about the work.

One experience that stands out for me this last week was our teaching of a couple named Michelle and Sharlene. Michelle is Catholic, and Sharlene is Muslim, which makes it stand out for me, as I have never really taught a Muslim here before. But, following the Spirit, we taught a great first lesson but in a different way than normal, focusing more on the fact that the goal of everything we taught was to bring us closer to God. And by the end of the first lesson, the Spirit was incredibly strong in the room and we felt impressed to extend a baptismal invitation, and both of them accepted. So that was way awesome, due to the fact that she isn't even Christian. But she was willing to accept the fact that if she felt that this was what God wanted her to do, then she would follow that. So that was a great experience for me personally to see how that works.

Lastly, with regards to making prayers more meaningful and effective: honestly, this is something that I have struggled with my entire mission. I get up early in the morning and feel like I fall back asleep every time, and then at night I do the same. It's just been hard for me to make my prayers meaningful. So as of late, I have just been focusing on others. That's what I have found to be most effective in making my prayers more meaningful. I try and ask myself: "Who all needs help right now?" When I do that, it automatically engages my mind in the prayer that I am saying, as I am praying for people I truly care about and am doing my best to help them in any way that I can. I've found that this is the universal answer for life's spiritual questions: turn outward. If you focus inwards on yourself, you are bound to damage your spirituality and continue down the path towards increased selfishness. But like I said, I have found that the there is a stark dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical. In order to increase in spirituality, one must turn outwards, and focus upon others. I have seen that again and again on my mission, as I have tried my best to forget myself and focus on what others' needs are. In forgetting myself, I have found myself. And that goes the same for prayer. Forget yourself in prayer, and without even knowing, you will find yourself.

Anyway, that's about all for this week. Thank you all for being so awesome, and for being wonderfully supportive friends and family. I love you all! Have an awesome week!

Elder Snell

A new friend

Stephen, a recent convert in our branch.
Malagasy kids are the cutest!
A new helper

Monday, January 11, 2016

01/11/15- Baptism in an Ocean and "Reflect" Christ

Kara kory! Tsara be fangotsafa! Ina paika? Tsisy ambara foagna aty. Hey everyone, what's up with you all? How is everything? As always, it was way great to hear from you all and hear how everyone is doing on the other side of the planet. Hopefully everyone's holiday season was great and is now vita soa aman-tsara. But anyway, got a lot of great things happening out here in our area of Ambolomadinika, Tamatave. I'm really enjoying it, and the work is going great!

First off, this area is doing awesome. The missionary work is going pretty fantastic. We have some really great families that we are working with, and that are really progressing. Some of our best investigators are Don and Domoina, with their two kids Dylan and Darrell. Don works for a cruise ship company and have been all over the world. He's been to Miami, Thailand, London, Cape Town South Africa, and many more places. So, long story short, way cool people. Also, we have some other investigators that are doing really well, which we are way excited for. Also, we had a baptism this last Saturday, which I will tell you all more about in a bit.

Second question: I am working in a branch, not a ward, because Tamatave is currently a district, so it's all branches as of now. But the goal is to be a stake in the near future. But our branch of Ambolomadinka is actually kind of struggling as of right now. We only get about sixty people or so at sacrament meeting, and the branch president is missing in action a lot of the time, because he works a TON (apparently). So that is causing some problems in our branch, but we are trying to work it out and work more with the members to help them get excited about missionary work and help them participate more in the work.

Third: happiest part of the week was probably seeing one of our investigators, Randrianasolo Raymond, commit himself and be baptized this last Saturday. Starting off though, it was kind of a crazy experience. Here's how it went: We get to the church at noon to start preparing the baptism at two, and we find that there is another branch party going on in the building. Come to find out, our branch president didn't contact anyone and tell them the fact that we were having a baptism, like he should have, and so the scheduled got all messed up. Also, no one had started filling the font, and the water pressure was terrible, so the font wasn't going to be full until about six or seven at night. So I'm there running around the church building, pulling my hair out and trying to figure out some way to get this baptism on track. Then, my wonderful companion Elder Smithson makes a comment intended as a joke but in reality was revelation: "Hey, let's do it at the ocean!" I laugh for a second, until I realize that that is a perfectly acceptable and probable course of action. So, I call President Foote and ask him for permission, which permission was given. And also, little side note, for whatever reason even though I hardly know the guy, he chose me to baptize him. So, to condense the rest of the story, I baptized him in the ocean this last Saturday at about three o'clock in the afternoon, and it turned out to be an overall great experience for everyone. Also, the testimony he bore after he was baptized is truly what made it the happiest experience of my week. He just bore a simple, sincere testimony, that he knows the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and he knows that this church is God's true church on the earth, because of what the church has done for his life. He is a changed man because of this church, and he has seen countless blessings in his life due to this church.

And now, lastly, my mom asked me my thoughts about the attributes of a true disciple of Jesus Christ and how we can develop them in our life. And honestly, that's a pretty simple question. I feel like the simplicity of Malagasy conveys my feelings pretty effectively: Ny mpianatr'i Jesoa Kristy marina dia mitaratra Azy. Translated: The true disciple of Jesus Christ reflects Him. What that word "mitaratra" means in Malagasy is to reflect, but in every possible sense. In other words, a true disciple of Christ acts like Christ, follows Christ, does what Christ did, and tries to emulate Christ in every possible way. A true disciple of Christ brings Christ's name with him wherever he goes, and always acts in accordance to the knowledge that he is a follower of Jesus Christ, and should not or cannot do anything that will desecrate or degrade the sacred, holy name that he brings with him. The true disciple of Christ keeps in mind the fact that He is a follower and "reflector" of Christ, and acts in accordance to that. He never checks his discipleship at the door, and never leaves it behind, because it is truly a part of him. And there are only two things we can do to gain that: ask God for those attributes, then go get to work and try your best to be the disciple of Christ you want to be. Of course you'll fall short from time to time, but God will help you. And if you're willing to give him your heart, then He has the power to change it. Then, as you strive to be that person, you will become the person and disciple that you can be. So just work your hardest, try your best, and ask God for the help you need.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today and that is how this week has been. Thank you all again for being so great to me and helping me every step of the way out here. I hope you all know that you are awesome and I love you all!

Elder Snell

Here are pictures from the baptism on Saturday. Yes, Raymond is VERY short, and yes, I look like a giant standing next to him.

A picture with Raymond's family, who are not members.

Saw this kid with a U of U shirt and had to get a picture of it, just because I'm from there. :P Weird to see that in Madagascar!

More adorable Malagasy kids!

This cute little boy just came up and randomly hugged me around the legs.

My companion, Elder Smithson

Super strange what I saw on the top of the door the other day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

01/05/16- The Biggest Blessing of 2015...My Mission!

Hey everyone! Tratry ny taom-baovao o, ary samy tratry ny ho avy isika jiaby e! It's been so good to hear from all of you this past week and to see how good everyone is doing. I hope that everyone is doing as well as they seem, because everyone looks great. As far as things out here in good ol' Madagascar, I'm doing well. The work is good, and I'm really enjoying everything at the moment. Some crazy things have happened this last week though, so I will be sure to fill you in with regards to that news. I'll do that at the same time as answering my mom's questions though, as those are very important. Obviously. :)

So, first off: transfer news. I am staying here in Tamatave! But, as far as my companion goes, that's where things get complicated. You see, for the past week or so, my good friend Elder Monsen--who is here training Elder Smithson--has been very sick. Like can't get out of bed without getting lightheaded sick. So, President Foote decided that there should be a change made and Elder Monsen will be taken up to Antananarivo this afternoon, and I will be taking over for him in training Elder Smithson. So he is my new companion; Elder Smithson, from southern California. It'll be a great, fun opportunity. I'm definitely looking forward to the wonderful experiences that will surely come.
So that's transfers.

Secondly, one experience that was so awesome this last week was the progression of two of our investigators; Larry and Chantal. Elder Christiansen and I found them back in October 2014, and they have been learning on and off since then. But since I've been working in Andranomadio, we've taught them pretty consistently, and they sincerely desire to be baptized at this point in time. They also are doing better at showing their diligence and both came to church this last Sunday with their little kid, all dressed up. I was so happy when I saw them walk in the door. All other missionaries can attest to the fact that there's not a better feeling than seeing people come closer to God by their own actions. So, as I am moving areas, I will be handing off the teaching responsibility to the Zone Leaders, to progress them to baptism.

For the third question, the things we did for New Year's are as follows: Elder Randrianavalona and I went out and tracted all day, caught a couple of times, tracted into a less active that hasn't com to church in five years, and then went home at about 9:00. Then we planned, showered, and went to bed. And that was our day. I know, very anti-climactic, but you asked Mom. ;) Missionaries don't really celebrate New Years. No reason to. :)

Fourth question: my thoughts on 2015 and what I've been most grateful for. And as far as that goes, this is what I will say: This last year my biggest blessing has been... 60 minutes per hour, about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days in total just thinking and doing God's work. And that is what I am most grateful for during this past year. I got to consecrate my time and my life for God's work during the entire year of 2015, and do nothing but that work. And that is the most incredible experience of my life until this point. And I'm sure not many things will surpass it. Of course there were lots of great little experiences here and there, bad days and good, hard times and good. But in the long term, those things don't matter much. In truth, what matters most is the fact that I've done my best to do God's work during the entirety of 2015.

And now, last question: 2016. This year. The last year of my mission. The first year of college. Lots of big changes. So my mom asked what one goal is that I have for this year. But I set too many, so I will instead just send all that I can remember. They go somewhat like this:

Read the Book of Mormon twice; once in English, and once in Malagasy
Work out five days a week
Write in my journal at least once a week
Meet a new person every day
Get out of my comfort zone daily
Learn something new daily
And there were several more that I don't remember but I have written in my journal, so I will have to look at those again.

But that is the gist of what I am trying to work for this year. I want to push myself more than I ever have before so that I can become a better, more effective servant of God, whether that is on the mission or back at home. I want to be the best that I can be. 
But anyway, those are my goals and plans for this year. And that is how this week has been. I thank you all for being so great and supporting me in all that I do out here. You all are wonderful. I hope this year of 2016 is full of change and growth and blessings for all of you. Make it great!

Elder Snell

This is Aldo, an investigator that I taught last year


A bunch of spiders by our house
Elder Monsen and me

More of Elder Monsen
Taxi brousse ride on p-day
P-day with Pres. and Sister Foote at Foulpointe

It's a beautiful place!

Elder Monsen and me

More P-day pics

Me and my new companion, Elder Smithson