Elder Hyrum Snell

Elder Hyrum Snell

Monday, April 25, 2016

04/25/16- Madagascar Has Changed My Perspective

Hey everyone! It's been a great week out here in Madagascar, and the mission life is going really well. I'm enjoying every minute of it. I hope you all had a great week as well though! And now for the questions of the week.

First off, my health is great. I honestly can't remember the last time I was sick. I still have yet to throw up during my entire mission, and I can't remember the last time I had diarrhea. So you have nothing to worry about, Mom. ;)

Secondly, the ways that living in Madagascar has changed me and my perspective. Now, if I were to fully answer this question, we'd be here ALL day. Seriously. But, to be more succinct, I would say that my entire perspective on life and needs vs. wants, etc. has completely changed since I have been here. Some people say that your average American single-story house is a modest home. Wrong. A single, six-foot by eight-foot room is a modest home. Also, I know people here in Madagascar who feed a family of eight off of about 5000 Ariary a day (that's like a buck fifty). THAT is what a humble, simple meal-plan looks like. There are some people I know who have never eaten out in their entire life, and sometimes they don't even have laoka with their rice, but their entire diet for a day is rice, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. THAT is humble. Some kids (teenagers especially) may think it's cool to skip school, and that it won't be a big deal. Well, I know that 100% of Malagasy people would kill to get an American education. Some of them, due to lack of money, never go to school. I know members, investigators, and other random people who don't know how to read. These are grown adults that cannot read a single book. Now, this is not because they weren't smart or good at school. No. They couldn't afford it. So you students out there, thank your lucky stars that you get a nice, quality education. Also, thank God that you can actually afford a quality education. Education is what gets people out of poverty, and some Malagasies can't afford it. So when you're skipping class to go "hang out" or something...well...just don't, actually. Don't do that. Why would you waste precious time where you could be learning precious information? So let's stop being stuck up Americans who are "too cool for school" and start being mature, intelligent people who make the most of the precious opportunities we have. Anyway, sorry about that little rant. Feels kind of good to get that off my chest. ;)

But, third question: experiences with investigators this past week. We had a pretty cool first lesson with our investigators Tiana and Laura, a young couple with two kids who we kind of street-contacted last week. We taught them on Saturday (I think?) and it was a great lesson. When I started telling the story of Joseph Smith, the Spirit just came into the room, and I could tell that they felt it as well. We ended with talking about the existence of living prophets and apostles, and continuing revelation, and they both were following it perfectly, nodding with interest. They told us that, during our lesson, they felt something different than from all the other missionaries that have come by their house. They accepted the commitment to pray and ask God about it, so hopefully they will do so. We didn't give them a pamphlet though, because we are out of pamphlets. The entire mission hasn't had any for like two or three months now. :P

Last question: what I have learned about God's personal love for me and for the people of Madagascar. What I have learned is very simple: God knows, loves, and cares for every single one of us. I have felt His love for me personally many times out here on the mission. Now, this feeling of His love didn't come from some miraculous experience, but from a simple, silent feeling that everything is going to be okay, and that He knows what I--and everyone else--are going through. I know that God loves us and cares about us. It's as simple as that. Don't ever doubt that. And, if you start to doubt that, ask Him. He will show you His love, and let you feel it. I've felt it. I've seen individuals here in the middle-of-nowhere Madagascar feel it. And I know that every one can feel that love.

Anyway, that's about all for this week. I love you all and hope you have an awesome week!
Elder Snell
Our investigators' adorable daughter, Herita.

A Madagascar Sunset

The tacos we made the other day. WAY good, by the way.

Some of our investigators washing clothes. Oh, and see that hole? Yeah, that's a well. And my planner fell down into it as I was helping them. Luckily, I got it out with the bucket. :P

Wet planner

This is a picture of my leg the other day. The fleas here in Antsirabe are pretty intense. They don't care about bug spray or anything. So I just have to deal with them. :P
The following pictures are of our house.

Monday, April 18, 2016

04/18/16- Forget Yourself and Get to Work!

Hey everyone! As always, great to hear from you all. It's been a pretty awesome week, we saw a lot of success as well as fruits of our labors. I hope everyone's week was just as good!

First off, we mostly eat out, because there are some really cheap, clean places nearby. So we're pretty kamo mahandro sakafo. :P But we do cook occasionally. Like we had some new investigators give us avocados yesterday, just because that's Malagasy fomba, and I'm going to use those tomorrow probably to make some guacamole for homemade tacos. Should be good!

Second: we do occasionally eat with members in this area. Maybe once or twice a week, at most, but that's it. For instance, we will be eating with one member tonight, and then one other member Friday night. But that's it.

Third question: one of the most unique things that the Malagasy people eat. Well, first off, let me explain. No matter what they eat, they always eat rice with something else on top, whether that's vegetables, meat, or whatever. That being said, the "toppings" they put on the rice is called laoka. So, some of the weirdest types of laoka are as follows: ravitoto sy henakisoa. That is cassava leaves with they pound into a pulp and then mix with oil, garlic, salt, and sometimes coconut oil, then eat it with pig fat. I actually kind of like it, apart from the pig fat. Another one is called trondro maina, which is literally rotten fish. They catch the fish, kill it, and then set it out in the sun to dry (and rot) for several days. Then they fry it in oil, put some salt on it, and eat it with rice. So that's some classic Malagasy cuisine.

Fourth: experiences from the week. As far as that goes, I would just say that we have seen some great miracles happening as of late. This last week, we did a decent amount of tracting, and it actually turned out to be quite effective. For instance, the week before, we taught eight Father-led Families (one of the extra key indicators we keep here in the Madagascar Mission). And that is pretty good, teaching eight different households led by a father. But then, this last week, we doubled that. We taught sixteen Father-led Families this last week, a fair amount of whom came from tracting. We have been praying to be led to who God has prepared and who have accepted that preparation, and we have truly been led into these wonderful people who are ready.

Fifth question: in this branch, we missionaries do not really have a lot of responsibilities, like playing piano or teaching, but the members take care of it. It's been nice. :P

Last question: what helps the most with the hard days and discouragement. Honestly, there's no little scripture or saying or anything that helps me a lot with discouragement, other than this, "Forget yourself and get to work." I've realized that when all I think about is the work and how I can find, teach, and prepare people for eternal life, then there's no room in my mind for worry, discouragement, or focus on the hard days. That really is the only thing I've found. You can't think your way out of discouragement, and you can't just read a scripture and be okay for the rest of the day, week, or mission. You've gotta get to work. And that's what I've noticed is that when I lose myself in the work, my worries, discouragement, or sadness gets lost as well.

Anyway, thank you all for being so great and supporting me. I hope you all have a fantastic week, and know that I love you all!

Elder Snell

Picture from P-Day

Picture from P-Day

This is one of our investigators and his daughter.

This is a church's sign that says "Bring your sick, afflicted, and impoverished. They will be healed."

This is a little kid in a rice paddy. I told him to smile for the picture, and look at his face. It cracks me up every time!
The following pictures are of the area...

Elder Cyusa holding a cat. His name is pronounced "chew-suh" by the way.
A cute kid I was giving a "dona" (fist bump.) I don't know why he looks so scared giving a dona to a six-foot-three white guy he's never seen before...

These are some kids that wanted a picture taken of themselves at one of our teaching appointments.

Monday, April 11, 2016

04/11/16- Come Unto Christ

Hey everyone! I hope that this last week has been a good and eventful week for all of you. It certainly was a pretty good one for me out here in Madagascar. I'm enjoying the work here in Antsirabe, though it is taking a bit to get used to the different feel of a different area. That's one thing about here in Madagascar. If you move to a different city, it's not like in America, where it's pretty much the same. But here it is almost completely different. I went from sand, palm trees, and tropical sunshine.
Now I come here to overcast weather, rice paddies, and chilly wind. Way different, and the people and even the culture is different as well.

First off, my shoes are doing fine, Mom. Don't worry. ;) The Keens are pretty much destroyed, but the Hush Puppies are holding up pretty well, and should carry me through to the finish line.

Second, we actually just watched General Conference yesterday and on Saturday. We didn't have any CD's in English yet though, so we watched it in Malagasy. It was a little rough because the translation was kinda spotty, so I'm actually going to download all of conference today and go over it in English on my own time.

Third: what I love most about my new area. I do like that I don't come home sweating like crazy anymore. That's always a plus. But, as always, I would have to say that the thing I love most about the area is just the people. There are some incredible people in this area, both member and non-member. I love interacting with them, laughing with them, and especially feeling the Spirit with them. It's great to see some of the changes that people have made in their lives out here, and I hope I can help continue that process as the come unto Christ and God.

Fourth question: investigators that we have and a certain lesson I enjoyed teaching this week. That would probably be with Ary and Joss, a couple and parents of some other investigators we teach (their children are working on getting legally married so they can be baptized). Elder Cyusa told me that they are pretty nice people (the parents), but they are very solidly in another church. So, with that in mind, we went into the lesson. What we had planned on doing was to review the Restoration and bring that powerful Spirit that is always present in that lesson. As we went into it though, I asked a question to the husband, Joss, and he responded that he would never change religions, because his brother, father, and grandfather had all been pastors in this church, and that meant that he could not change. At that point I felt inspired to share two scriptures and then bear testimony of the truthfulness of the message. I shared two scriptures, one from Matthew 5:10-12, which talks about how those that are persecuted for righteousness' sake are blessed, because that was one of their concerns, that their family would persecute them if they got baptized. And then I shared Matthew 10:37-39, which essentially says that we must deny everything and follow Christ. Then I bore testimony that I know that this church is how they can come unto Christ. I have seen that in my life over and over again. I told them that this testimony of mine does not come from other sources other than God Himself. He has made known unto me that this is His will for His children, and through the message that we bring, all His children can return unto Him. At that point, I asked them if they wanted to follow God, and come unto Christ. They said yes. And I told them that, if they prayed, they would come to know as well that what I said was true. They got really quiet right then, and the Spirit was so strong in the room. I told them that I felt the Spirit at that point, and said that I knew they felt it as well. Ary, the wife, nodded, and I could see her eyes tearing up. Leaving that lesson, I knew that they both felt the Spirit, and were beginning to know that this message was true, and is the way that they can come unto Christ. They committed to pray and ask God if this is true, and I know that if they do so, they will know as well.

Anyway, fifth question: my favorite section in Preach My Gospel. That would be the first section, "My Purpose." Because my purpose, personally, as a missionary is to "invite others to come unto Christ by inviting them to receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." If a missionary follows the guidelines in PMG and keeps that one purpose in mind, with the end goal being fiainana mandrakizay (eternal life), then all other things they do will fall into place, and they will be a successful, spiritually powerful missionary.

Last question: yes Mom, I know that you love me. ;) I hope you know that I love you too.

Anyway, thank you all for the support and love you send my way, and I hope you feel the reciprocation I try to send back from out here in Madagascar. I love you all and hope that you have a great week!

Elder Snell

Pictures of my study desk

 This is a W.C. that I used.





Some cute little kids carrying ducks for whatever reason.

This is a picture of some kids at one of our lessons the other day.



Saturday, April 9, 2016

04/04/16- Those We Serve...We Love

Akory aby o! I hope everyone is doing great and had an awesome general conference weekend. It is such a precious opportunity to be able to hear the words of a living prophet and living apostles. I hope you made the most of it!

First off, did not get the Easter package. I checked last Friday in the office in Tana but it was not there. Sorry!

Second: more about my companion. My companion is Elder Cyusa, a convert of about three years from the small African country of Rwanda. Before his baptism, he was Catholic, but then changed to Adventist, with the rest of his family all going to different churches. Then he learned from the missionaries, became converted, and got baptized, as the first member of his family. Almost exactly a year after his baptism, he entered the MTC in Provo to prepare to come out here to Madagascar on his mission. So that's the rundown on my new companion. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the next email!

Third: The trip to my new area wasn't too bad. I was all alone in a taxi brousse though sent from Tana down here to Antsirabe (about a three hour drive) and it went pretty smoothly. Kinda cool experience though, as I sat next to three nuns the entire ride down. We had some great conversations, and I found out that two of them were Malagasy, but one of them is from Columbia in South America, and has been here in Madagascar since before I was born. It was way cool to be able to talk to them about religion and everything, and I even had an opportunity to share some doctrine with them,  like eternal families and the existence of a living prophet in particular. Oh, by the way, that was all in Malagasy, since the Columbian nun did not know English or anything. She's pretty good at Malagasy, especially in the way she speaks, but you can tell that she's a vazaha by her accent. But all in all, way cool experience, and one that I'm going to remember for a long time, being able to talk with them.

Fourth question: My new area is the Ambohimena East area, and the Zone Leaders are in Ambohimena West, so there are four missionaries in the branch. As far as the running of the church here and everything, things are pretty smooth here in Antsirabe, as there are a lot of returned missionaries who mostly run the show. The quality of the church though is pretty much on the same level as it is in Tamatave. But that's probably the only similarity. Tamatave is tropical. Antsirabe is highland, with rice paddies, dirt, mud, and more rice paddies. And some cows. Tamatave is blistering hot. Antsirabe is pretty chilly, and will only get colder as it is now entering into the winter. But I should be fine. Not really a big deal compared to Utah winters.

And last question: personal thoughts that I've had in the past little while. That would probably be on the topic of charity and love. I've especially felt such an outpouring of love as I left my previous area of Ambolomadinika. I feel like the members and investigators there and I really loved and cared for each other. Several things in particular brought that feeling of love to my mind. First off, our member help Stephane really had become a great friend of mine, and the last day I worked in Tamatave, he asked me to give him a priesthood blessing of strength and comfort. Of course I was more than willing to do so, and when I gave him the blessing, I just felt an overwhelming feeling of love and care that I had for him and that he had for me. And I know that he felt that as well. It was a really special experience to be able to do so, and give him that comfort and strength that he needed. The second thing was a comment that Frere Jean Claude said to me as I was leaving their house after a soiree last Wednesday. I had just shared a vatsim-panahy (spiritual thought) and he just started to thank me for the work I had done there in Ambolomadinika. He said that, "If there was already a missionary who was first with regards to diligence, maturity, experience, and effectiveness, then you would be second." Then he paused for a bit, then said, "But I think you're the first." And right then I just felt such great love from those people, and what came to my mind is the reason for that love. The real true and lasting source of love is service. I served those people as best as I could, and that is what developed not only their love for me, but my love for them. Those that we serve, we love. They may not always reciprocate the love, though this was not the case with my experience in Tamatave. However, if we serve someone with our hearts, then we will love them. That is charity. That is the true, pure, unconditional love that God and Christ have for each and every one of us. And that comes through diligent, dedicated, self-less service of others.

Anyway, that's about it for this week. It was a great one, and I'm sure this next week will be just as good.

I love you all, and hope you have a fantastic week!
Elder Snell

My man Delphin from the Andranomadio branch.

This is a picture of me with the branch at their "New Year's Party". In March. Yeah... :P

Pictures of Tamatave

More kids in Tamatave

An investigator

Sidonie, who just got baptized last Saturday.

More investigators

The Last Supper at Don and Domoina's house, which was WAY good.

Patsa be sy henakisoa was the laoka.

I will miss them!

Elder Evans and Elder Francom

A member from Morarano

The Tamatave missionaries who  I may not see until America!

The ride from Tamatave to Tana. Rakotomalala drove us in their Toyota Hilux. Much better than taxi brousse.

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Tamatave to Tana

Sunset in Tana

Sunset in Tana

Tamatave to Tana

A picture of the pizza we had the other night for dinner. MASSIVE, and well-priced.

The next four pictures are of a trip we took to the branch of Andranomanelatra, which is about half an hour outside of Antsirabe. President went there and wanted us to come with him so I could have my interview with him then.

Me and Elder Cyusa

Tamatave to Tana

Another sunset in Tana

This is me chilling with my nun buddies in the taxi brousse on my way to Antsirabe. The one closest to me is the Columbian. The other two are Malagasy.

Here is the marriage and baptism of our incredible investigators last Friday and Saturday that I missed... Way bummed out about that, but that's life I guess. I' so happy for them though, that they got baptized. They'll be awesome members.