Monday, September 29, 2014

Busy as Always

Yeah I know how you feel with the lots of things to do. We plan our days out every night and every time we have to be kinda tentative because things never go as planned and we can never get everything done that we need to. It's stressful but it always works out. Yeah I usually try to write emails to other people that didn't write to me. Sometimes the problem is I just don't know what to write about. I write one email that talks about everything I did, and then I don't know what else to say hahaha But I have been trying. President Monga's email is ...... I don't know if he will respond though. He has been really busy cause they don't have any senior couples at the mission home right now. I don't even get a lot of responses from his emails and I'm a zone leader hahaha But he usually does a good job of fixing the problems even if he doesn't respond. 
It's crazy how much things have changed since I left. I can't believe it's already been 13 months. I feel like I just hit my year mark and I already finished another month. Time goes by so fast. And every month goes by faster than the last. I'm at the point where I am one of the oldest missionaries, and I feel like I just started! I feel like we are going to be getting a lot of young missionaries soon. But that would be cool. We have so much work to do. Our branch is moving into a new building within the next month and we are hoping to divide the branch in the district conference in November. That would be really cool. Anyways, lots of cool things are happening here! 

Love, Elder VanAusdal

Monday, September 22, 2014

Many Baptisms

Hey everybody!
Sounds like things are staying nice and busy back home. But that is a good thing. One thing I've learned on my mission is I hate just sitting around and doing nothing. So even though it's hard to be busy all the time, it truly is a blessing to be busy. The majority of people here don't have jobs. There are literally people that just sit around all day because they have nothing to do. So even in the busy parts of life, we can find blessings. That story reminds me of something I heard somewhere. Think of who is telling this story. "I left Jerusalem with my father, and left all of my possessions so that we could go into the wilderness. After travelling for a few days, I came back to get the brass plates. We were chased away and lost all of our possessions, but eventually we got the plates. I traveled 8 years in the wilderness. My wife had children in the desert and we had many difficulties. I built a boat and crossed the ocean." Most people would say Nephi. But we forget that the whole family went. Even Laman and Lemuel did all of those things. There is a difference between obedience and willful obedience. We can be obedient and still not learn or receive blessings if we don't do it with the right intentions.

So today Elder Brockbank and I went to the market to buy vegetables and stuff. We ended up with two giant marché bags like the ones in the picture I sent awhile ago full of tomatoes, peppers. onions, potatoes, bananas, beans, plantains, carrots, and herbs all for the equivalent of 18 dollars For 1 dollar we can buy 5 bundles of bananas. I'm going to miss that when I get home haha. We also bought for 5 dollars a 6 pack of 1-liter apple flavored sodas which are incredible. Does that even exist back home? Or pomegranate flavored soda? Or pineapple? There are lots of good flavors here haha. Anyway, when we got home, everyone else had already left to cyber and we forgot keys, so we had to leave everything outside the door and come here. I also wasn't able to get my planner, so I might forget some of the things that happened this week. But we got a ride here from one of the branch presidents who happens to be a taxi driver.
Anyway, this week was an incredible week. The whole week was basically preparations, lessons, and interviews to prepare for the bapism service on Saturday! We had an incredible service. All three branches in our building had baptisms, and we had over 100 people attend the service! We had 5 convert baptisms plus 2 8 year olds from our branch. We baptized Gladys, Mike, Justine, Cassia, and William. Our branch was so excited Our branch hasn't had baptisms for 4 or 5 months. So they were really happy to see baptims. And there are more to come! One of our investigators needs a special case interview, so she has to wait another month for an interview with our mission president. It was really sad to tell her. She started learning 3 years ago but moved to the village. She has read the entire Book of Mormon and every Liahona that has come out since then. She lost her husband in December. Her 2 children were taken by her in-laws. And all she wanted was to be baptized. We called everyone we could, including our mission president. We wanted to try and do it by Skype, but they didn't get a response from the area authorities. So we finally had to tell her on Friday that she couldn't be baptized. Her mom, who is already a member, said that she cried all night and was really sad. It was probably the hardest thing I've had to do on my mission. But I know that she will get baptized on the 18th of October. 
William and Cassia were batized. Parents were baptized in Japan.

Gladys, Loveline, Elder Brockbank, and Me

Elder Brockbank, Huguette, Justine, Pre. Zang, and Me


We also have a bunch of new investigators that are progressing really well. Including 2 families! And we just received another BIG family that came to church and is related to members. So we have a lot of work to do. 
On Sunday we had a miracle. We baptized 5 investigators so we thought our investigators at church number would go down. But somehow we had 17 investigators come to church! At least 8 of them were there for the first time! Our members are a lot more willing to give us referrals now because they have seen baptisms. The blessings are being poured upon us. I hope that I will still be here when that happens. Transfer letters are next week!
So to answer your questions, things in Africa are going really well. The weather is nice. It's not too hot. We have 6 elders in our apartment. We get along really well. The only difficulties we have sometimes are cultural barriers. But other than that we get along really well. We are all really good friends. It's funny what a mission does. You meet and become friends with people you never would have met before. To give some context, Elder Brockbank is a hard-core wrestler and football player who looks really scary if you don't know him because he looks like he could kill you but is actually really nice, Elder Leavitt who is a homeschooled Canadian that is really quirky but has a filthy rich dad who is a doctor for celebrities and grew up on a little island, and Elder Simmons who is the kind of person who seems like he could never leave high school. So we have the whole spectrum. And we are all best friends. Funny how that works.

They stopped reporting on Ebola because people were freaking out about it. Everyone thinks that Africa is one place. It is very big. Ebola is not everywhere. We are perfectly fine for the moment. The church is watching very closely. Cameroon has taken many measures to prevent it from entering. Travel is restricted, and they have basically barred off the Northern part of the country because of ebola and a tribal dispute that is going on in the extreme north. But we are totally fine here. I guess someone wrote to President Monga because they were afraid their son was going to die. Don't do that. We aren't going to die haha. We aren't aloud to eat any food in the sector. We are suffering to stay safe. So stop worrying hahaha
We have a washer. But every once in a while we wash by hand to whiten our shirts up. They get pretty gross. We found if you soak it in bleach water over night and then soak it in this stuff called blue-ing that gives it that bluish tint that new shirts have, after having washed it by hand, that gets them pretty white. But it is a process haha.

Anyway, all in all, everything is going good here. Have a great week!

Love, Elder VanAusdal

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hump Day!

Hey everybody!
Holy cow it has only been a year but everything has changed! That would be cool if you could buy that property. Would that mean that I would come home to a different home? That'd be weird... Sounds like everything is going really well and you guys are keeping yourselves really busy.
Hump Day pancakes

The work is going forward incredibly here. This Saturday we are planning to have 6 baptisms! I am so excited! Plus the other branches are having baptisms too so there should be 12 people being baptized on Saturday! One step towards a stake here in Yaoundé. By the way. Our branch president informed us that our branch will be getting a new building in the next couple of months, and when they do, they are planning to split the branch! That will make 6 branches in Yaoundé! That also means I have a good chance of staying here for a little while because they will probably just split our companionship in half and give each of us a new companion and take half of the sector. The work is truly going forward. It's awesome to see. I am loving it here. The other elders are awesome. This city is awesome. We have a lot of fun. We are all really enjoying it. I can't believe it's been over a year since I left. 
So this week in general was really good. The weather is great. It is the beginning of rainy season, which I love. We've been rained on a few times, but that's ok. Mid 70's to low 80's. Not too bad :) It's been hard having to refuse food these last couple weeks. People get really offended when we don't accept their food. But we do the best we can to explain why. I know it's for the better, but it's really hard. It's also taken some getting used to having a sidebag. The backpack was nice. The side bag is convenient for brochures and everything, but it's a lot harder on my shoulders and back. Elder Brockbank pops my back for me every night, but the last week or so, it doesn't pop any more.. So headaches have been bothering me lately, but I'll figure something out. 
Last night we got home and the water was out. It was still out when we left this morning. So we got to bucket shower this morning. I found out it isn't so bad if you boil some water and dump it into a bucket of cold water. Then you have a warm shower :) The things you learn on your mission.... 
This week we did a lot of cool things. We met a less-active member that was baptized in France. He is a rapper and released an album in France. Then he came here to perform for the president of Cameroon But it took a turn for the worst and now he doesn't have anything. But he is working on a new album. He rapped a couple songs for us haha. He is really cool. If you get on iTunes, maybe you can find him. His name is Aribot. 
Wednesday we got rained on. And of course we forgot umbrellas. So we were soaked. All the gel that was in my hair went away and we were soaked. But it was really cool. It is funny being the only people on the roads because everyone else is afraid of the rain. It also really touches people that we come see them even in the rain. It is also ironic that you talked about Elder Lundberg last week and his problems. But I think there was a little bit of karma going on, because on Wednesday I had some "problems" too. I'll tell you about that another time.... hahaha 
Anyway, Thursday we did splits. Elder Beutler came over and worked with me. We had a great day. We went to see a less-active sister, but when we got there she had a little girl that was really sick. She asked us to give her a blessing. That was an incredible experience. She told the little girl to say hello to the white people. The little girl was half asleep and said "bonjour les blancs" which means "hello the whites." It was really cute. But when we stopped by on Sunday, she was up and playing and getting ready for school. 
Friday we met a really cool new family. Her name is Fortune. She used to go to a different church. A couple months ago she broke her ankle She called the people in her church to come help her, and no one ever came. So one day she was talking to a friend, and her friend said that she should go see the Mormons because they are really nice and loving. So she came to church and loved the teachings. She said she is tired of switching churches and could stay here for the rest of her life. It was an awesome lesson!
In contrast, I will quote Elder Brockbank. "Today we saw Satan on Earth." hahaha we were walking down the road and these guys came up to us and listed a bunch of churches including our church and said that they are all of the devil because there is only one prophet on the earth at a time and they have a prophet. We tried to give them a brochure and told them to pray about it. They said that after Jesus fasted for 40 days the first person that came to him was the devil. So when we prayed to know that our message was true apparently it was the devil that told us that. So they said that you can't pray because the devil will trick you... Anyway, that was really interesting.
Saturday we were invited to go to a branch activity. It was really fun. We got to see someone cut the throat of some chickens. Then they talked about how to lead the church and how we should help the work go forward It was a really cool meeting. Then they ate, but we had to say no...
Sunday we did a bunch of baptism interviews. We're getting excited about Saturday!

Cameroon from the top of  Mt Febe where elder Holland gave the dedicatory prayer.

Noce neighborhoods in Yaounde

Today we went up to Mount Febe, where Elder Holland dedicated Cameroon. We read the dedicatory prayer and had lunch. It was a really cool experience. We could see all of Yaoundé, which is HUGE! It is basically as far as the eye can see. The pictures don't really do it justice, but I'll send some anyways. 
Anyway, everything is going good here. Have a great week!
Love, Elder VanAusdal

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sometimes you do what ya gotta do

So Elder Leavitt has a bad problem with ingrown toenails. President Cook operated on him 2 times before. But he's gone now. But it's an easy procedure, so we just did it! Elder Leavitt's dad is a doctor so naturally he sent him with a bunch of needles, xylocaine, and everything you need to do a procedure like that. So we did it! Turned out pretty good! We got to see his toe bone and everything! That was kind of weird haha When we told Sister Dimond, she said "What?? You should have invited me over to watch!" haha

Keeping Busy

Sounds like things are staying nice and busy back home huh? Lots of things are changing. It’s hard to keep up with it all! It’s going to be really weird when I get home and everything is different! Haha
So ebola is still spreading. It is now currently in both of the congos. It’s not bad yet there but we’ll see what happens. They haven’t evacuated missionaries there yet. Cameroon is still free. They are taking a lot of measures to protect themselves. But there are some things going on up North with the Nigerians, so we’ll see haha. I’ll be fine though.
This week has been a great week! Lots of cool stuff going on. It’s been really crazy lately too. We had to do splits twice this week again. That is kind of stressful but that’s ok.
On Tuesday Elder Beutler came into my sector with me. He hadn’t eaten lunch so we stopped at a little restaurant on the side of the road. We sat down next to two other guys and started talking to them. It was the funniest thing. They were both drinking, and they were both asking the funniest questions. But in the end they seemed really interested and we took their numbers. Unfortunately they don’t live in our sector.
On Thursday I went into Elder Nzema’s sector to do baptism interviews. That was really cool. Interviews are a really cool experience. It is really cool to talk to someone in that setting where you basically just ask them to bear their testimony the whole time.
On Friday we worked with Brother Olama. He is a return missionary that just got home last week. It’s stressful working with return missionaries. They tend to try to dominate the conversation cause they still think they are the missionary. But that’s ok. We ended up walking a lot that day, but it was still a really cool day. We got two mangez-vous back to back! First Gladys fed us these really good fish and potatoes that were kind of like meat and potatoes we’d eat back home! Then we went to see Theodore and his family and we ate saka-saka (a Congolese dish) and cow intestines. It was pretty good! It brought back memories of Pointe-Noire!
Saturday was a really long day. We started with a lesson with Nana and Elder Dimond so that we could try to figure out a solution to his polygamist situation. Turns out that he won’t be able to be baptized. It was really sad to have to tell him that. But luckily Elder Dimond was there to say it and not us. Then we went to attend the baptism for the other district because Elder Brockbank did their interviews. But it started late so we just got some spaghetti omelet sandwiches and then went back to our building for the baptism. But it turns out that there was really bad traffic so it ended up starting an hour late. Then it went for 2 hours. Then we had coordination. So needless to say, it was a really busy day with almost no lessons. But we made up for it on Sunday when we managed to get 5 lessons in after church. We went and saw Sister Flore. She is having a hard time cause her husband died a few months ago and now the parents of her husband want her two children. So she has to send them to them this week. So she was really stressed and having a hard time. So she asked for a blessing for her and her children. That was a really cool experience. The spirit was really strong.
Thank you so much for the package stuff! It really is much appreciated. If possible, do you think you could try to send another SD card with music? That would be cool. And Old Spice deodorant. Deodorant here is expensive and doesn’t work well… Also, I still haven’t found contact solution. I don’t know if you could try to send it by itself through DHL or something? Maybe you could even ask them how likely it would be to get here.
No I don’t really get a lot of letters… But that’s ok. I’ll get over it haha

Anyway, have a great day!
This is a pic of a sugar cane that was a gift from a member family

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Day in the Life of a missionary in Yaounde

This week I actually get to email on Pday. The internet is back and is working fine. It was really weird cause the internet was out in all of Cameroon, so even the elders in Douala didn't get to email home. Anyway, everything is going really well over here. Time is going by SO fast. I can't believe I've already done 7 weeks here! Transfer number 2 starts today. It should be a good transfer. 
This week we had a lot of really cool things happen. On Tuesday I went on splits with Elder Leavitt so I could do some baptismal interviews. It was a 63 year old man and his 9 and 11 year old sons. It was a really cool experience. It also meant that I was in a room at the church for  2 1/2 hours. But it was perfect timing because it started pouring rain just as we got there. So we missed getting all wet :) On wednesday we had a lady that we teach ask if we could take her 16 year old daughter and send her to some sort of nun home in America. That was kind of weird haha. At least she didn't ask us to marry her. We had a cool lesson with Joseph this week too. He is an investigator that has been investigating for over a year. But he's had some problems with commandments. But he picked a baptismal date and has decided that he really does need to keep the commandments. So I'm really looking forward to seeing him be baptized. We also started teaching a family that is Congolese. They are really nice and they are very interested. He is a reporter. He got kicked out of Congo for his reporting, but now he is here. They are really nice, and they said next time they are going to make trois pièces, which is a really good congolese dish. Saturday we planned to attend the baptismal service for the family that was being baptized. We planned one appointment in the morning before, but it fell through. So we ended up doing service with the Obame twins. I'll get a picture one day, but you seriously can't tell them apart. It's hilarious. Anyway, we went and pulled water out of a well and carried it up a big hill for a lady that lives by them. That was really cool cause we also got a bunch of contacts from that. 
Sunday was the craziest day. We went to church in the morning. It went well. Then we taught two lessons after church at the church. We had a mini coordination meeting with our branch president. Then we went to see Marie-Sylvie, a recent convert. That we went to see a lady that we've been teaching in a restaurant. But apparently she didn't have permission to because the owner came out and told us we had to leave halfway through the lesson... hahaha That was kinda weird. So then we went to Francky's house and they fed us. We ate some sort of wild mango sauce over rice. It was really good. We saw some weird things that day though. I'll share some of the things. We saw a man with bleach blond hair walking down the middle of the road in diaper (we saw him again today), people were saying the the Red Cross is a sect, we were stopped by a crazy old man that told us not to follow him home or ask him questions but then said God bless you, we were stopped by a handicapped man in a wheelchair that knew the missionaries really well before, has read the entire Book of Mormon, and is going to America in a month. That's just a sneak peak into the daily life of a missionary in Yaoundé haha. Lots of crazy things.
So to try and answer some of your questions that I missed last time... I would recommend everything that I bought except the socks and belts. Handkerchiefs are much needed. Bring more shirts and stuff than your call packet says. At least 15. The pants are incredible. I would recommend buying the tailored fit though. By the way, if you send me more, could you get the tailored fit? If not I can get them tailored here for a dollar... But these are really poofy haha. Anyway, I'll reread your other email and answer the other questions haha. 
Anyway, ebola is fine. Our mission president did let us know that there is a cholera outbreak here, so he told us to take some precautionary measures, but it's fine. It's not usually fatal and the symptoms are very distinct haha. We have a huge medical book in our apartment that tells you about all kinds of diseases and stuff and everything about what they do and how to treat them. So we'll be good ;)
 I'm glad that I got that email last week cause I was able to participate in the fast for Gene as well. I hope that she'll be ok. That fast was one of the greatest experiences I've had from fasting. I started my fast and in my study sunday morning I read Elder Bednar's talk from last conference. It said "There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of the soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first." The Lord loves each and every one of us. I hope that during this difficult time that her and her family will be comforted and they will be able to feel His love for them. The Lord is watching over them and will take care of them. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Monkey Park

Sorry we got to email late this week. The internet was out
country-wide for a couple days. But now it's back.

 It's cool to hear about everyone leaving on missions!
Remember when I wouldn't let you cut my hair? Today I let Elder Brockbank cut my hair. He has never cut hair with scissors before. But not bad huh? That's him with me in the picture.

This was an awesome week! We did so many cool things and we had so
many awesome experiences. On Monday we went over to President Olinga’s
house for a FHE as a zone. So all 10 of us and the couple missionaries
went over there. They are a very wealthy family and are a lot of fun.
They fed us fish, rice, and fried plantains. They also had some Pima
on the side, which is a sort of African hot sauce. Unfortunately, I
didn’t realize that it was super concentrated. So I put a bunch on my
rice and my mouth basically lit on fire. It was SO hot! But it was
still good haha.
This week we did splits 2 times. It is getting down to the end of the
transfer and there were a bunch of baptismal interviews, so naturally
we are really busy. I got to work with Elder Tucker who is finishing
up his second transfer in the field. It was fun to work with someone
that doesn’t speak French yet. It was a really fun day. It was
convenient for him though because we saw two Anglophones so I feel
like we cheated a little bit haha. Thursday was an interesting day
too. I went an entire day without having a lesson with someone that I
know! We had 3 first contacts and a recent convert that just moved in.
So it was full of new faces! Then Friday, we did splits again! I
worked with Elder Nzema, who is also in his second transfer and
doesn’t speak a lot of French. So that was another cool experience.
For the first time in my mission I had to teach the law of chastity to
3 women in their mid 20’s in English. It’s a lot
more awkward in English. But we got through it. Luckily they already
believed in following the law of chastity haha. We also had a lesson
with Lisette, who is another Anglophone. She shared an awesome
testimony with us. She left her boyfriend who was supporting her
financially because he didn’t want her to go to church. So now she has
almost no money. But she said that even though she never has money,
she has never gone hungry because neighbors always are nice and bring
her food. And every week she saves up the 30 cents it takes to get a
taxi to the church and plans to just walk home. But every week some
miracle happens, and she always gets a ride home. So that showed her
that the Lord truly is watching over her.
Saturday we had a Helping Hands service project. Everyone in our three
branches got together to clean out the gutters on the sides of the
road. It was really gross and we pulled out a lot of nasty things. But
it was really fun and there were a lot of people that were curious
about our church. It was really fun. It did kill my back though… But
it will be fine. Also, Padma got baptized on Saturday! I called her to
congratulate her. She sounded really excited. I am really happy for
her. She has worked so hard for the last 2 years to get baptized, and
now she is!
Sunday we had an interesting day at church. Our Priesthood meeting was
about eternal marriage. Which is usually a good topic. But of course
it had to go in the weeds. People started talking about all kinds of
ridiculous stuff and sharing false doctrines. But luckily here they
treat the missionaries as a sort of doctrinal authority, so whatever
the missionaries say they agree with haha. So we were able to help
clear it up a little. But then we had the same topic in our
investigators class. But this time it was much more spiritual.
Especially for Irene and Flore who are both really young women that
have lost there husbands within the last couple years. It was an
awesome experience. Then after church we were walking to go see
someone, but someone we contacted last week came out of her restaurant
and invited us to come have a lesson. It turned out that she had
actually read the brochure and was really interested! Then after that
we went back to the church to do interviews for some other
missionaries. I interviewed the wife of the family. We had an
incredible discussion. She is incredibly humble and shared an
incredible testimony. It was a great edifying experience. However, the
husband used to be a “prophet.” He renounced his church that he had,
but he was still not quite ready, and there was a little confusion
about whether or not they were legally married. But it’ll all work
itself out in time.
Then there was today. Today was AWESOME! Our zone went with the Olinga
family to a monkey park outside of Yaoundé. It was SO cool! And I took
a ton of pictures! They had a cool park. The guy that was in charge
was an American from California. He was really cool. Then we went and
saw all the different monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas. The
chimpanzees were my favorite. I will try to send a video of it, but
they were hilarious. One of them through a rock at us! And the other
ones were banging sticks on the ground and clapping like crazy! It was
so cool! We also got to see some giant silverback gorillas! It was
such a cool experience. We saw a lot of cool things. Including the
BIGGEST tree I have ever seen in my entire life. Anyway, we did a lot
of really fun things.

Elder Beutler, elder Simmons and the American guy at the monkey park

Biggest Stinkin tree I have ever seen.

This monkey has great fashion sense

Just chillin

So all in all, we had a great week. It was really productive too. We
ended up with 27 lessons this week! That’s a new record for me! It’s
incredible to see all the incredible people here that are so willing
to follow the gospel. We also have a good amount of investigators
progressing towards their baptisms next transfer. But luckily, no one
is getting transferred this transfer, so I get to see them!
Also, I got 5 new pairs of garments. But I found out that at the end
of this year, the subsidization for all of that stuff in Africa will
stop, so they will be full price. So we were encouraged to buy all
that stuff before the end of the year. Which reminds me, the ATM was
out of order, but in case you weren’t able to add money to my account,
that would be nice if you could add some this week.
Update on the Ebola outbreak: Today I heard that the death count is up
to 1140 people. It is in Nigeria, and as of last week there had been
about 15 cases in the extreme north of Cameroon. Someone also told me
that 1 person had it in Douala. But I don’t think that one was true.
The stuff in northern Cameroon is probably just because there is a
little bit of contention going on between the Nigerian Muslims and the
Cameroonians near the border. But other than that, the countries are
being very cautious about it. And the church is watching it very
closely. If it becomes a problem, they will take care of us. So don’t
J I wanted you guys to read Alma 19: 22-23. It was really cool.
That will make you feel better.