Thursday, 24 March 2016

March 22, 2016 ~ Marcel and Rapa Baptized

Hey guys!
What a crazy week! Sorry about not sending an email yesterday, I didn't have time. It's going to be a short one today. But here's the scoop.
We got a call on Friday that we needed to be in Tana on Monday again for me to renew my visa (sign some papers, get my fingerprints and a picture taken). That meant another 12 hours on a taxi be both ways. Ugh. We left on Sunday early in the morning, got to Tana in the evening (we got a sprinter!! Woohoo!) and ate dinner with the senior missionaries serving here. Hah! We thought that us Elders live like kings here! The senior missionaries' apartments are beautiful! I got to meet the Tanners (the ones from Alberta). Really cool people. This is their second mission, they've already served one in Ethiopia. There are few places poorer than Madagascar, but that's one of them. We slept at the AP's apartment and then left early in the morning for the government building. The stuff I had to do took about 10 minutes, but an Elder from Tahiti and an Elder from Rwanda had problems with their visas that took about 2 hours. So we waited. Then we headed to a shoprite, got some food and went to the bus station, where they bought us a taxi be back to Fianarantsoa (another sprinter!!!). The problem was that the taxi bes don't leave until they're pretty much packed with people, otherwise it isn't worth the gas money. We got to the station at 1 and left at about 7ish at night. A lot of waiting. Then we rode on the scariest pitch black taxi ride of my life. You thought the ride to the long-ji (China) rice terraces was bad? Hah! Anyways, we got home about an hour ago, dropped our stuff off, we're at the cyber now, then we're going to grab groceries, work out, plan and head out for another day of work. THIS COMPANIONSHIP DOES NOT REST. #HASTENINGTHEWORK #EMBARK #AINTNORESTFORTHERIGHTEOUS. Sorry I'm running on about two hours of sleep. Not easy to sleep on a taxi be. Sorry I don't want to be negative or complain. We're really doing pretty well.

Now for the important stuff. Marcel and Rapa were baptized on Saturday! They're some of the coolest people I know. I love them so much and am so glad for what they've overcome. It's so cool to watch people as they realize the blessings of living a life that's full of purpose. They realize now that there's a way to live their lives that makes them and their families happier, and I love that I got to play a part in that. It's interesting to think about the symbolism of baptism. Being reborn, being cleansed, beginning anew. What a hopeful and inspiring thing. How could one look at a family and say "they'd be better off if they were addicted to cigarettes" or "they'd be better off if they didn't believe they could see dead family members again" or "they'd be better off if they didn't believe that there exists a God who loves and cares about them"?

Easter is just around the corner here! It's a week long celebration in Madagascar. I'm so grateful for the atonement. "True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves." (Jeffrey R. Holland).
Our plan is to go to Rano Mafana not this upcoming Monday but the Monday after. This Monday we're going to see this event that they put on in the valley beside our house. Basically they put a man in a pen with a bull and the man wrestles the bull. Whaaaaa? It's pretty humane for the bull, but supposedly people die all the time doing it! Then they just drag them off and bring in the next contender. Welcome to Madagascar Elder.
I loved hearing about your week! I miss road trips in the RV haha. I'm sorry to everyone who I didn't write this week, I think I'm only going to get to my family. I love you!

Elder Schnoor

Big ol lulu

Luciana is possibly the most beautiful little girl I've ever seen

 Big Beetle

March 14, 2016 ~ Loving the Work

It is Monday once again! I've been here for FOUR WEEKS! ONE MONTH! That's 1/24th of my mission gone! NO WAIT... THE MTC!!? THAT'S ABOUT 1/12 OF MY MISSION GONE! I can't believe how time flies here... I need to get effective in my mission language ASAP.
Ugh, aside from mourning how fast this is already flying by, here are my thoughts.
First off, we went on a hike last PDay which I really enjoyed. We got 3 locals (Alain, Angelo and Rapa) to guide us to a great path too. I believe that's where a lot of my pictures will be from this week. I'm going to let the pictures do the talking. I love those three. So diligent, even though a couple of them have next to nothing. Angelo is a natural teacher especially for being a convert of less than a year and I've considered giving him my plaque and making him Elder Obioma's companion haha. Alain is a total crack-up. He has a girlfriend in Tana and on the day of the hike he told us he needed 200Ar to call her (remember that 3000Ar is about 1.00USD). We aren't allowed to give money to anyone so we looked around on the ground for a while. Never found any. It was so tempting to just give him the money. She's a member and a good influence so we try to encourage them haha.
We started teaching Rapa's mom (Doloris) as well. She's great and Rapa gets so excited when she accepts things. Really cool to watch. We brought over a member named Jaquelline to her lesson who is a total crack-up. She also went to school with Doloris and used to beat her up funnily enough.
We taught a Malagasy family who has a car and who aren't taxi drivers!! They have a house with 2 floors!!! The father is a banker and it was reeeaaaally weird to sit in their house. Almost felt like I was home again.
Okay I have to tell you something funny about our zone conference with Elder Hamilton. After the actual teaching and learning we were all mingling after lunch. Elder Obioma (who is black remember) was called over to Elder Hamilton and his wife. They started talking and then Sister Hamilton looked at him and said, "I am so amazed at how American you sound!". BAHAHA! What was she thinking!? I guess she just assumed he was Malagasy. He looked at her awkwardly and said, "Well... I am, so..." When he told me about it I think I laughed for an hour.
Remember how I mentioned Pierot last week? He came to church this week! Ugh I love that man. It's amazing how much you can come to care about someone in a month. It's beautiful to see his eyes light up when we talk about him being able to see his wife again someday. He has a baptismal date set for the 16th of April.
Rapa and Marcel are being baptized this Saturday! I'm so psyched for them.
We found some people while we were contacting who had been taught while they lived in Antsirabe but stopped when they moved here. They have a marked up BOM and everything haha. We were really focusing on being where God needed us that day too. Funny how that works.
We went to a wedding ceremony for Marcel (people need to be civilly married before baptism). The guy is amazing. He needed his birth certificate to be married so he hopped on his bike and rode to his town of birth. It was hours and hours of biking on awful roads, but he was perfectly happy to do it. Weddings are definitely different here. Four couples were being married at once and it's basically just signing a paper in front of a judge. Man I love it when Malagasies get dressed up though. The women typically look pretty put together, but the men seem to just go for whatever strikes them as "dressed up" that day. For example, Marcel wore a tie with pictures of mice and cheese on it to his wedding. HE HAS OTHER TIES TOO! He just felt like it I guess. I know poverty plays a part, but I still find it hilarious. I'll attach pictures.
Elder Obioma and I planned an activity where we got a whole bunch of members to line the street and talk to people and give them tours of the church. We also got President Foote to bring a whole bunch of BOM to the zone conference for us to give out. It's so cool to see members so enthusiastic. They are honestly so much more diligent here than we are at home. I'm determined to live like them my entire life.
Here's a message to my brothers and anyone soon to be a missionary. The happiest missionaries are the obedient ones. Don't let yourself be tricked into thinking that missionaries who go home earlier than you or wake up later or mess around all day have any more fun than you. The greatest feeling in the world is seeing one of the people you teach change their life for the better, or seeing their eyes light up when they realize that they can see their loved ones again. If anyone says anything otherwise then they shouldn't be on a mission. During our activity there were 2 men and a boy pushing a wooden cart loaded with stuff up the hill in front of the church. I jumped in and pushed the cart to the top and just doing that gave me a high. "The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired." (Hinckley)
Okay one last funny story. We were trying to get into this little community with a gate around it. There was a little Chinese woman guarding it. I don't know the family that we were trying to get in to teach, but Elder Obioma couldn't remember their name. So we knock on the gate and ask the lady to let us in. She asks what their name is (trying to make sure we actually know them I guess). So Elder Obioma tells them that he can't remember, but that they're Sinoa (Chinese). So then the lady says (and she's getting worked up and aggressive at this point) "Avy aiza ny Sinoa!?". This translates exactly to "Where is the Chinese family from!?" (she's quizzing us!) Elder Obioma's like "Where do you think the Sinoa is from!! If you're Malagasy you're from Madagascar, so if you're Chinese you're from...". There was a pause and then the lady refused to let us in. Oh man I laughed so hard after.
I'm so happy to hear about life at home. Keep plugging along. Make sure you're doing the little things. Have personal and family scripture study, family home evening, pray together often. You can't go wrong if you do those things, I promise. Lives improve in all ways when people know what they're purpose is.
I'm so psyched for Taylor. If you can, track down his email for me.
Let him (Danny) know that I love him. I'm so ready to be a better brother to him when I get home. I think I'm learning how to do that more and more everyday now. Encourage him to live the gospel. Everything else should be secondary to that.
Tell the boys (especially Ryan) that I love them and miss them. I didn't think I'd miss my brothers this much.

It's so cool that Dad is going to be YM president! He'll be great. Just put your heart into it and it'll go well.
Okay, in two weeks Elder Obioma and I are going to spend some personal money and go to a place called Rano Mafana (look it up, I'm sure there are some cool pictures). It's basically a rainforest with a hot springs (which we will not be using) and a whole bunch of wildlife (including lemurs!!!). The problem is that we won't be able to email that day. In order to catch a taxi be there and be back at 6pm in time to do some work, we won't have time to email. Figured I'd give you a heads up. Next Monday I'm going to send a postcard though!
Well I love and miss you all. Enjoy the pictures and stay awesome 'til I get back. (Remember that you can always send me pictures as well!)
Elder Schnoor
Old Fianarantsoa

My City

Alain, Angelo, Rapa
Alain, Angelo, Rapa
Some cool bugs
Some cool bugs

Some cool bugs

Found a snake!

Malagasies hate snakes, and they took of running as soon as I picked it up haha. Then I chased them.


Masina Maria



Found a friend! (love the Canada jacket)

Made a box of KD!!


The wedding crew

These little guys are everywhere

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

March 7, 2016 ~ First Zone Conference


Hey guys! So happy to get an email from you, I love hearing about life at home, even though it seems like a different world. Last week on PDay we took the guys that help us teach all the time out to pizza (which is not even close to American pizza haha but still tastes good). An awards show was playing on the tv (I think it might have been the oscars?) and I looked over at it, saw the gaudy stage with about a million lights on it and thought "that's disgusting, how wasteful". Then I remembered that that's the region of the world I'm from. It was the weirdest feeling. It was like in the Hunger Games watching the Capitol from District 12. Same thing with white people. I'll see a white person and be like "ugh another French guy here to get a girlfriend". And then I'll have to remind myself that I'm white. Reaaaaally weird being one of the only only vazahas here.

Okay I've figured out that the best way to write my weekly email to you is by going through my journal. So here goes.
One really difficult thing I've found here is the fact that men will control women's freedom. We've already spoken to two women who say that they would love to be baptized and come to church but that their husband won't allow it (in one case he beats her pretty bad). It's just one of those things that I didn't expect to have to deal with on my mission. All we can do is tell them to have faith and that God will provide a way in this life or somehow after.
Sooooo big news from this week: we had a zone conference! Haha they actually almost forgot to tell us in Fianarantsoa about it! We got a call about it the day before we had to leave haha! It was in Antsirabe, which is about an 8 hour "taxi-be" ride to the north (a taxi-be is basically halfway between a bus and a van). Ugh. Not a fan of the taxi be. Because Elder Obioma is basically a giant, I got stuck with the middle seat there and back. Hahaha there's literally no foot room so I had to put my feet basically up above my waist. Plus the roads are awful. We think we have bad potholes in Edmonton... Antsirabe is pretty cool. It's like Fianarantsoa except for lower population, flatter, a lot cleaner and more spread out. The zone conference was great. Awesome to hear from a general authority (Elder Hamilton of the Seventy is in charge of the southern african missions) and meet a bunch of the other guys in our general area (even though Fian isn't part of an actual zone).
What was the coolest was getting to meet some families who Elder Obioma taught when he worked in Antsirabe. He's so well-liked everywhere we go. President Foote definitely set me up for success when he made him my trainer. It was the most amazing thing. As we were walking (a long walk I might add) to one of the family's houses Elder Obioma told me about how one of the daughters in the family is his favourite girl in Madagascar. We snuck up to the house and surprised the family. This little girl instantly started bawling when she saw my companion and ran into his arms. She cried for a good part of the night and didn't leave his arms for our entire stay. WHO IS MY TRAINER!? It was so cool to see a perfect example of the type of missionary/person I want to be. I'll attach some pictures of that visit.
Haha so right before we left Antsirabe we ran to the Shoprite and grabbed some stuff we can't buy in Fianarantsoa. We brought 8 boxes of cereal back to our area. Bloody vazahas. The funny part is that milk is pretty much impossible to find in Mad so we have to mix condensed milk with water.
We came back to our area and worked really hard on applying the principles we learned at zone conference and instantly saw a difference. I've really started to care about the people we teach. For example there's this one ooooold man we teach named Pierot. He lives in a small shack that isn't much bigger than his cage for his rabbits (he's a rabbit farmer). He lives alone and is extremely poor. He keeps trying to come to church but his boss/landlord keeps telling him to stay home and work while they go to church. I wanted to march up to his boss's house and sock him honestly. But he has great faith so I'm sure it will all work out.
Native's keep telling me I'm mahay at Malagasy. I don't want to brag or anything cause I still have a reaaaally long way to go, but the other missionaries in Antsirabe complemented me and told me I'm doing better than they were when they started. I've calculated and I should be able to be functionally fluent by the end of my 12 weeks with Elder Obioma (who is very mahay by the way).
Yesterday it rained a ton. Hah. I thought those other storms were cyclones. That was a cyclone. We had to wade to get around (THE MISSIONARIES STOP FOR NOTHING)! It was funny, the natives were taking videos on their phones of the crazy missionaries who wouldn't just wait for the rain to stop. We got some good pictures of that.

I'm so glad to hear that Aunt Alethia is doing well, she'll stay in my prayers.

There are about 72 people who attend the south branch in Fianarantsoa. A really solid number for Mad, and still growing.

Guess what Joey, the hot sauce here is SO EXPENSIVE! They sell a little bottle of tobasco sauce at the supermarche and it costs 12 000 Ar! which is actually only 4 dollars but outrageously expensive for here. Good luck on your talk!
We're super blessed here and we have a washing machine in the appartment. That's basically unheard of in Madagascar. Most people wash stuff in rivers or basins of rain or other water. I feel kind of guilty for how well we live here in comparison sometimes. Like I haven't met a single person back home that is poorer than a single Malagasy I've met here. Okay maybe other than homeless people. Even still. 

I'm glad that Matthew's sugery went well. Send him my best. I love hearing about how activities are going.

Okay I think that's all for today, I hope you like the pictures I send. I love this place and I love this work. I've never felt more exhausted, fulfilled or proud of myself.

Remember that:

"The more you sweat in times of peace, 
the less you bleed in times of war." 
Mazatoa Fianakaviana!
Elder Schnoor
Found a praying mantis/walking stick thing!


Elder Obioma and the little girl

I made a friend!

How men settle things.

At least I wasn't on that taxi-be.


My signature "its raining face"

Crazy vazaha

Malagasy pothole
I got my scriptures, dictionary and Jesus the Christ bound by a kid who's raising money to serve a mission!

February 29, 2016 ~ So happy.

Ry Fianakaiana,
Hey guys! I'm excited to tell you a little more about what Fianarantsoa is like!

First off I'd like to say that this is the best mission in the world. Not the most fun, not the most comfortable, or the easiest, but the best. Nothing we do here is easy. Dinner appt? Alright, let's hike through the jungle in a cyclone to go eat some rice with a family. Oh look at that, I just bit into a rock. But man I love it.

Our mission is extremely unique, because we're basically doing the missionary work that was done in the first 100 years of the churches existence. There are four Elders in a city of millions (Elder Obioma and I take the Southern half) and we don't have anyone checking up on us. We could honestly go off and party all day and no one would ever know. We report stats to the APs and write a letter to the MP weekly but other than that, it's us in this city. We decide what work needs to be done and what needs we will meet during the day and I'm learning a lot from it. Our bikes are broken, so we walk until we can find someone to fix our bikes. Haha it's real life here. Most everyone here is Christian but when we ask about doctrine, a lot of people are very confused about what that actually means. When we go contacting, we hike into an area and just start talking to people. People are carrying drinking water up a hill from a well? We help them and we're on our way. I love how we aren't some organization here to build a school or something. We live here. We love the people, so we help the people. I love how singular our purpose is.

We have one investigator named Patrick (or Rapa in Malgasy) and he reminds me so much of Danny, haha it's great. He pokes fun at me and I poke fun at him. It's weird, it kind of makes me feel closer to home when we teach him.

The members here are amazing. Imagine the most committed member you know back home, well I've met a lot of those. Here, if you're a member you're a member and you help the missionaries. The YM are especially great. I'll attach a picture of the guys we work with. There's one named Alain, and he helps us everyday for hours. He wants to serve a mission so bad and honestly, I think his time is better spent with us, preparing to serve and learning English than at school. You're very valuable if you can speak fluent English or French (more than just "Bonjour vazahe!" because everyone seems to know that haha).

We had one pretty hard experience this week. A great member in our branch named Valolona called us and asked us to give a blessing to her brother (a non-member) in the hospital. Didn't look good when we got there. We blessed him and everyone thanked us. He died early the next morning. They think that someone poisoned his drink or something. Crazy. It's hard to have a person that you blessed die. We went to his "fahorina" which is a Malagasy tradition where everyone comes and talks to the family of the deceased with the body in the middle of the room. There are special phrases that are supposed to be said and stuff. I didn't catch a lot of it. You guys should look them up, they're pretty interesting. Death isn't as big of a deal here in Madagascar. There's just a lot more of it.

I still love English class. I wish I could send you a video. We teach them an English pop song every week and we all sing it. This week was Sam Smith haha. Ugh they're all crack-ups. There was this one guy who was asking us how to say all of these romantic things and we died laughing. I'm pretty sure his only goal for learning English is to find an American girlfriend.

Okay. One big culture thing I have to get used to fast. Breastfeeding. Like I can be teaching a woman and baby, and we're knee to knee because their house is about 6'x6' and with no warning she'll just start wipping stuff off. All of a sudden the book I'm reading from becomes really interesting and I just try to either make eye contact or no contact. Haha when I got up to bear my testimony on my first Sunday the first person I looked at in the congregation was a woman breastfeeding. Welcome to Madagascar Elder.

Yesterday Elder Obioma and I had "date night". We made these great sandwiches with homemade bread and potatoes and all this other good stuff and sat out on our balcony overlooking the hillside of Fianarantsoa and talked. It was great. I love him. He's the perfect trainer for me. He pushes me really hard and is really diligent about obedience. He's quite a bit older at 25 and very mature. We was converted to the church at 18. He wants to be a painter when he gets back and he's reeeaeaaaaally good at basketball. He's half native-american half african, 6 foot 3 and in wicked shape (he's also very diligent about working out). Honestly, I think I might be in the best shape of my life here. With all of the exercise we get plus the workouts it's a lot. Thank goodness Elder Obioma is also a good cook and is teaching me well.

I honestly am way less ill here than I was at the MTC. My companion doesn't trust the street food here and neither do I. Trust me. Mom you would be gagging constantly hahaha. We mostly make our own food with all of the Malagasy ingredients. It's worth that time spent preparing because we don't have to take time off to recover from eating street food. The Malagasy food is good, but very plain normally. Rice or pasta with some meet and a fruit or vegetable. OH THE FRUIT IS INCREDIBLE HERE

woops didn't mean to send that haha. But yeah the fruit is soooo good. The bananas are incredible, we eat them all the time and with everything. It's nice because we don't have to bleach them because they are inside of a peel and protected.

We see the other Malagasy Elders quite a bit because we share a kitchen (they live in the top floor of our apartment and we have the bottom) but we don't do tons with them. We work all the time.

Tell Danny that I'm proud of him and his good grades. Everything will be just fine, trust me. I love all of you so much. I pray for you, keep me in your prayers.
Elder Schnoor

"A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog."
-Jack London

Did someone order a strapping young shepherd who also teaches about the gospel?

Oh Madagascar did.(I love this boys sense of humour) 
Anjelo, Alain and Rapa. I love these guys.
The two on the left are preparing to serve 
and Rapa is an investigator.

Those same chameleons from last time. Or "tanala"

Tiny gecko I found in the appt

There are some big spiders here 💚

These same Malagasy kids come and 
dance for us every time we see them.

They are some of the most adorable little kids you've ever seen. Look at that girl's smile. Ugh.

Cute kid.

Okay I found this weird mole. It has porcupine quills. It stabbed me. Can you find out whether I'm going to die an awful painful death soon? What is it?

Of course I picked it up. (I checked and he won't die. Its a Lowland Streaked Tenrec)

The chapel
 The rain is crazy here.