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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

He bit me!

This was an awesome week! We had a lot of cool experiences and a lot of cool people that we are working with. We met an awesome family that is from Kinshasa. He spoke Kikongo so it was fun to speak Kikongo with him for a little bit. But their entire family is really interested in the church. They were a referral from someone that just got baptized on Saturday. They are all faithful people but hadn’t been able to decide on a church yet. So we basically said “We can help you with that!” haha Anyway we also got another referral for a girl named Flore. Her husband just died in December. But she met the missionaries for the first time three years ago but wasn’t really stable where she was living so it didn’t ever really progress. But her mom and brother are both members. So we went and saw her and she has already read the entire Book of Mormon, has a strong testimony of the Restoration, has studied all the missionary brochures, reads every Liahona, and wants to be baptized. I was at a loss of words. That was pretty incredible.
Anyway, we also had a lesson with Nana who has been progressing really well. He owns a bar but had agreed to live the Word of Wisdom and came to the decision that he needed to change his work. However, this week we taught the Law of Chastity. He was asking a lot of questions about polygamy and their situation before God. Then he said, “Let me tell you how I became a polygamist…” Yep. It turns out he was married legally to his first wife, then she just left him. So he went and remarried culturally. Then his first wife came back. So he just kept both of them. So that makes it difficult if he wants to be baptized. I guess we’ll see how that goes.
Sunday we had an awesome day at church. It has been incredible to see the progression of our sector. Our first week we had 5 investigators at church. This Sunday, we had 18 investigators at church! It was so cool! The second counselor in the district presidency came up to us afterwards and said congratulations because their branch had never been like that before. Our entire zone is exploding. It has really taught me a lot about obedience. As a zone (5 companionships) we had 60 investigators at church and 43 baptismal dates are set. That is incredible. Anyway, the work here is going incredibly. We have been working hard and we have done a lot of walking, but the work is worth it. The blessings are pouring out on our zone.
Also, funny story. After church, we were talking to members and investigators when I felt a sharp pain from behind. I looked behind me, and it was a child biting me! That was kind of weird. He’s a crazy kid and has way too much energy. And our entire zone is going to their family’s house for FHE tonight because he is in the district presidency. So I’ll let you know next week how that goes haha.
As far as ebola goes, everything will be fine. This last week our mission president told us all to be aware of it. We are forbidden to eat pork, goat, anything weird, and especially NOT MONKEY as Sister Monga said haha. We might be getting a large group of missionaries from those missions so that they can flee the virus. We’ll see how that goes. And Cameroon is being very cautious about letting people in. So we’ll be ok. Here, there are a lot of people that always claim to be sick. So we never know. I have had a nagging cough for the last couple weeks but it’s going away. I think that was because of the change in climate. It’s cold here!

Shoes are very important to missionaries haha. Even my hiking boots (as I call them) are getting pretty worn. I will be taking them in to get sewed up pretty soon. But many missionaries really like Keen’s sandals. They are lightweight, comfortable, and most of all, expensive. But 1 pair could probably last your entire mission. I would still take one pair of regular shoes to wear to church and other meetings, but for proselyting, sandals would be good. Here the problem is mud and dust. I don’t know how it is there, but it will probably be fine. One of the elders told me that he has seen contact solution here, but they must have been out last time. I will continue to look. I am being very judicious with how much I use…  Yaoundé is a much richer city. I will try to get some good pictures of the city this week when we are at church, but if not you should look up pictures of the city. There are a lot of big buildings. Buildings that are bigger than back home! It’s crazy! We do a lot of walking. Depending on the day, we can take quite a few taxis too. But we mostly just walk a lot because taxis only follow the main road.
Public toilet situation huh? Well… This will be fun. So there isn’t really such thing as public toilets. At church they have normal toilets. And at our apartment. But if you have to use the bathroom in public, that gets interesting. The public at large just go on the side of the road, but as missionaries that isn’t really kosher. So you have to ask people to use their bathroom. The bathroom is usually just a hole in the ground. Usually it is really gross. So we usually try not to do that. Luckily, we have regulated our bodies to the situation so we don’t have to use the bathroom in public very often.

Anyway, the work is going really well here. There is so much to do! We have so many people to see I don’t even know if we can see everyone. And they are all incredible people.  I love this branch. And I love our investigators. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Congrats to Braden! “The church doesn’t need great men. The church makes great men.”

Congratulations Braden! That is so cool! It was completely opposite of anything I guessed… haha But I know that is exactly what he needs. I am really happy that I will get to talk to him on Skype before he leaves. I hear that it is even hotter in Brazil than here though :p. He’s lucky though that he wasn’t there for the world cup. Missionaries there were locked in their apartment for over a week because of the stuff that happens. Hopefully the Olympics go ok haha. Wow, that is going to be an awesome experience. Especially the language thing. Don’t feel too bad though because even if you study for 4 years you understand almost nothing at the beginning of your mission. But we are definitely going to have a language filled family haha.
Anyway, I haven’t heard anything about Ebola, but Nigeria is really close and there is a lot of travel between the two countries. So I guess we’ll see what happens… But I’m sure we’ll be fine. The church is very inspired and they take very good care of their missionaries.

I’ve learned a lot of things on my mission. Studies, praying, and obedience are all essential. They sound difficult. But once you start you learn to love it and you feel a need to do it. It will make a huge impact on your lives.
This week has been a great week. It’s incredible to see how much our zone has improved this transfer. I was told that last transfer this was the most disobedient zone in the mission. And the numbers were really suffering. Since the beginning of this last transfer we have been putting an emphasis on obedience, and the blessings just started pouring out. It has been incredible. We are whitewashing a sector and we had 12 investigators at church, 23 lessons this week, and have several progressing investigators that have very high chances of reaching baptism. That has really been a testimony builder for me. Obedience is very important. Even just the little things. Sometimes we have as Elder Cook of the Seventy said “little pretties” that we hold onto that we aren’t willing to give up. We think that it isn’t a big deal. But it is and if you change it, it will change everything about your day.
We saw a ton of miracles this week. We had a lesson with Irene, whose husband died a couple months ago. Tuesday we went there, and it was incredible how much happier she had become. The Gospel truly brings joy into our lives.
 We also had a lesson with another Anglophone named Lisette. She is awesome. She came to church for the first time two Sundays ago. After that, her boyfriend told her that she had to pick between the church and him. She picked the church! The crazy thing is that she depends on him financially. So she was concerned about how she was going to live, but knew that she had to be faithful at church. So we talked to her about fasting because it happened to be fast Sunday, so we all fasted together for her. We’ll see how that goes. But it was incredible to see how much faith she already has. We hadn’t even taught the second lesson at this point! Then later in the week, we invited her to be baptized and she accepted. Her only fear was being in water haha. But I am really excited for her. The best part is it is a huge testimony to me about contacting. We had had an appointment fall through our first day, so we walked and just decided to go knock on some doors in a little parcel across the street. So we knocked on a couple without success so we were going to move on, then I was impressed to talk to the girl sitting down on the other side. It was Lisette. When she gets baptized, that will be the first convert that I have found from knocking on doors.
We also had a lesson with an old less-active man that used to live in America. But while he was there he was hit by a car and lost his memory. So they sent him back here and he just walks around all day trying to get his memories back. But his condition has been really improving lately. It was really fun to talk to him. He is an incredible guy.
Anyway, we had a lot of really cool experiences this week. There are so many crazy, incredible things that happen that I can’t even write them all down. I just wanted to add a quote from someone at church yesterday. He said, “The church doesn’t need great men. The church makes great men.” Just remember that. It is through the Gospel that we become great. It’s not about what we do that matters to the Lord. We can be great in the eyes of men, but we want to be great in the eyes of God.

Anyway, I am really happy about everything that has happened back home this week. I am really excited for Braden. The house is going to be pretty empty soon! Anyway, have a great week!

Pictures from Pointe Noire

Louzolo Family

Branch Presidency and me

Branch Missionaries

Padma, her son, and me

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hardships. "They'll put hair on your chest."

By the way. Just a bit of information I learned this week. So they have these things called hardship missions. Which are missions that are very stressful and have a lot of hardships. In those missions, senior couples only serve for 18 months, and mission presidents serve for 2 years. There are only 2 hardship missions in the world. DRC Lumumbashi, and yep, our mission! Well, the DRC Kinshasa mission. I don't know if it carried over when it split. But now you know that I was called to one of the 2 hardship missions in the world. And guess what, sometimes, there are actually a lot of hardships. But hardships are a good thing. They put hair on your chest, as Elder Brockbank would say haha. 

Back left to right: Elder Brockbank, Elder Niyonkuru, Elder Wright, Me, Elder Beutler, Elder Simmons, Elder Ntambwe, Elder Nzema, Elder Leavitt. Front: Elder Dimond, Sister Dimond, Sister Monga, Elder Tucker, President Monga.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Be Diligent, Bring others unto Christ

It’s really awesome to hear about Kenai! I definitely miss doing
things like that. Everyone here likes to hear stories about that
though. We are really blessed to have the opportunity to live in
Alaska. All the missionaries and senior couples have all said that
they want to come visit Alaska haha.
 I’m really proud of Conner and Aubrey. They have awesome testimonies. That will help them so much
throughout the rest of their lives. I’m glad you had the opportunity
to read that talk. I also was studying that talk this week. It is
incredible. It gives perspective for everything that we do. The
Atonement is central and everything else that we do is just an
appendage to that. I especially liked the last section. Missionary
work is not easy because Salvation is not a cheap experience. We can’t
say that we are followers of Christ if we don’t take up our cross and
walk at least a couple steps in his shoes. The Atonement wasn’t easy,
so why should our salvation be easy? It is hard to keep up with our
responsabilities and share the gospel and do everything that we are
commanded to do. But by doing these things we are becoming true
followers of Christ.
 I would like to share something that
I have found really interesting on my mission. In Africa, we have a
lot of baptisms. But it isn’t because every person we meet wants to be
baptized. I have learned that the percentage of people that we contact
and baptize is actually pretty similar to those of the United States.
That means that it’s not just cause we’re in Africa that we are
getting a lot of baptisms. But the difference between here and home is
that the people here are so willing to invite others to come to church
and meet the missionaries. Almost every baptism that I’ve had has been
from referrals. All of that to say, just because you are in America
doesn’t mean that you can’t have baptisms. There are still many
people that are searching for the truth. They are your friends. But
they don’t know where to find it.
 When we first got to this zone, there were a couple little obedience problems.
This city that used to be like a gold mine had fell in a rut. We
talked about it and made the resolution to be more obedient. This last
week we had incredible numbers as a zone and so many progressing
investigators. Between our 5 companionships, we had about 60
investigators at church! We went from 9 lessons in one week to 20. We
have found so many awesome people that were prepared by the Lord. So
remember to stay diligent in all that you do. Sometimes it’s hard.
Sometimes you say I can’t walk up one more hill or knock on one more
door. But if you do, you receive so many blessings.
Anyway, this week has been an incredible week. On Monday we went to
our branch president’s house and he also showed us a couple inactive
families. So we ended up having 3 lessons on a Pday! That was really
cool. Throughout the week we had a lot of help from members that were
showing us to where investigators live and to their friends that want
to meet us. We have been working a lot with the Obame Family. Yes, it
is pronounced Obama. So now I can say that I met the Obamas in Africa
Another funny story: So we were walking in the sector one day when we
received a text. It said something about if God shuts a door quit
banging on it and move on. It was a name that was registered in the
phone. It sounded really harsh like they were telling us to not come
back. But we didn’t know who it was. So what did we do? That night we
called and set an appointment for the next day! The other missionaries
just laughed at us. But we met with her and she is awesome and came to
church, and it turns out she is the branch president’s goddaughter! So
that was really cool.
Friday we got to meet our new mission president President Monga. He is
so cool. It will be really fun to work with him. However he can only
come every other transfer. Which means I will probably only see him 5
more times unless I go to Brazzaville haha. But they called Elder
Dimond, the senior couple elder, to be the first counselor in the
mission presidency. So now we won’t have to worry so much about the
problem of having our mission president so far away. Anyway, we had an
awesome zone conference. It was kind of weird for us to be conducting
the conference. It was really cool though. We set a lot of goals and
learned a lot. The Mongas are really fun too. They are really happy
people and I’m really excited to work with them.
So anyway this whole week was a really good week. We ended up with 8
investigators at church! And we were fed twice this week. African food
is really good. But it’s scary sometimes because they put weird things
in sometimes. For example, we had one meal that was really good, but
they cook it with pig skin. Luckily this was higher quality skin and
not the really hard thick hairy stuff hahaha. Anyway, I’ve really been
enjoying it. We had plantain foufou one time. That was really good
too. I’m loving it here in Yaounde. The people are so nice. It’s the
perfect temperature too. It isn’t even rainy either. The hills are a
little tiring, but that’s ok. I’m going to try to send some pictures
later, but next week I’ll have some more pictures of Yaounde. I mostly
just have pictures from goodbyes in Congo. But it is beautiful here. I
would suggest you look up pictures of the city. There are beautiful
HUGE buildings! It almost doesn’t feel like Africa sometimes. They
even have paved roads!

Monday, July 14, 2014

White Washed in Yaounde

So it's official! I'm in Yaoundé Cameroon. I am co-zone leader with Elder Brockbank. It's been a crazy week! We are whitewashing our sector, and the missionaries before us never wrote in the area book and didn't really have any investigators. So needless to say we have been doing a LOT of contacting. This week we spent hours doing door to door contacting. We only take numbers if it's legitimately a potential investigator but we managed to take 28 numbers! We only had 9 lessons. So it was a little rough this week. We did a lot of walking. And it just so happens that Yaounde has a TON of hills. And they are steep. So I will probably start losing a little bit of the weight that I've put on haha. But needless to say this week has been an incredible learning experience for me. Missionaries in our mission are kind of afraid to do contacting because it is hard work and we already have a lot of people to teach. This week I learned a lot about that. And we have seen a lot of miracles. Neither of us have ever even been in this city but we are already starting to figure out our sector. But we don't have the luxury of having addresses. It has been a really incredible experience. Exhausting, but incredible. If all of our appointments that we have planned for this next week go through we will have 21! And today we are going to FHE with the branch president, President Zang. So he is going to coordinate the efforts with the branch to help us out. The branch here is incredible. It works like a branch should. They really understand how this stuff works. I'm really excited to work here.

So I didn't send an email on monday because I was in an airplane going to Douala and taking a bus to Yaounde. So I didn't get a chance to write home. I sent one on Saturday, but apparently it didn't send. But because we got here on monday we had a whole week of being lost before we could coordinate effectively with the branch. But I think now things are going to work a lot better. 
The temperature here is really nice. It's cold season. It is really nice here. There are a lot of nice buildings here and nice stores. Including an American store, which apparently is supposed to have contact solution. So I'm going to check that out and see if I can get some. That would make things a lot easier. The apartment is really nice too. But it is on the third floor. So we walk up and down hills and stairs everyday haha. But it's all good. It will get me back into shape. 
Funny story by the way. You were talking about the chocolate game and that reminded me of something Elder Ralison told me. In Madagascar they play the same game! I was amazed! It was so funny! But they will use anything, even things like brownies and stuff haha. 
Well I'm really glad that everyone hasn't forgotten about me haha. It feels like I have been here for so long! 
Sorry I forgot my camera this week, but next week I will send pictures. I got a lot of goodbye pictures in Pointe Noire with recent converts and investigators. Unfortunately, because I left on Monday, I didn't really get to say goodbye to as many people as I would have liked to. 
Yeah the 4th of July was really fun. They were real hotdogs. It was 2 dollars for a package of 10. You'd be surprised the kinds of things you can find here. 
So this last week we had a lot of really cool experiences. We met a lot of incredible people, and we really saw the hand of the Lord in everything we were doing. 
This Friday President Monga is coming to do a zone conference. That will be really cool to meet him. We've already talked to him on the phone a couple times, but it'll be fun to meet him in person. We went to send in our numbers for the zone yesterday but because it's a new mission we didn't have the AP's number. So we had to call President and ask him haha. But this next week should be a really good week. There are a lot new missionaries here. The city needs a little bit of a kickstart. The missionaries kinda fell into a rut the last couple transfers but now we are going to dig it back out and bring it up to it's potential. It'll be a really good experience.
As far as things I need. I wouldn't mind if when you sent packages you slipped in some real deodorant or a white shirt or something like that. The deodorant here doesn't work very well. And my shirts are starting to get a little colorful haha. Other than that I think I'm ok. 
Anyway, this has been a crazy week! Sounds like things are staying nice and busy for you guys too. I'm glad to hear that everything is going good though. Have a great week!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Going to Yaounde!

So... I know this is a little abnormal, but we received information that everyone that is going to Cameroon this transfer is leaving Monday morning. So, that means I will be leaving Monday morning.. haha So we probably won't get a chance to write home on Monday because we will be traveling. So it's officially official. I am going to Yaounde, Cameroon. I will be serving as a zone leader working with Elder Brockbank. We will be whitewashing. Which means that we are both new to the sector. So we'll see how that goes haha. It should be a good experience though. It will be fun to see Elder Brockbank again. Luckily I knew in advance that I was leaving so I was able to say goodbye to just about everyone. And we are going to attend a marriage this afternoon, so I'll get to take pictures with everyone before I leave. I am sad to leave Pointe Noire. I am leaving my sector in very good condition. There are 11 people that are scheduled to be baptized next month. I just hope that the elders that were serving in my next sector kept a good area book haha. 
To say goodbye and celebrate a little bit we all celebrated the 4th of July at our apartment yesterday night. That was really fun. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and apple pie. So it was nice and American. It was lots of fun. It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone. Especially because I know almost no one in Cameroon. But it will be nice to have an English speaking companion for the first time in 4 1/2 months! haha And Elder Brockbank and I know each other really well already. But to make everything even better. This week they are also getting a new senior couple. So we are going to have 2 zone leaders and a senior couple (who usually lead things like that) that have no idea where anything is haha. But it will be a good experience. This last transfer we accomplished a lot of really good things. Elder Ralison is going to email to let me know when our investigators get baptized so that we can add them to the list. By the way, my next sector is called Ekounou C. It will be a little different than what I'm used to because they have a district there already! That will be really cool. Anyway, I don't have a lot of time to write today... So have a great week!
Apple Pie

Elder Gardner and Elder VanAusdal cooking for 4th of July

Home made hot dog buns! Impressive Elder VanAusdal!

Elder Garland cooking hamburgers. Elder VanAusdal making the caramel sauce for his apple pie.

Time to Eat!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Multi Branch Conference

Holy cow! When I come home I'm not going to recognize anything!
That tractor  is awesome! That's all I can say about that haha. 
If there is one thing I've learned on my mission it is the importance of things like scripture study, prayer, FHE, home and visiting teaching, and making the Gospel a daily lifestyle and not only a Sunday thing. I know that it is hard. But it has to be your first priority. I have seen the changes that it makes. Read Elder Hamilton's talk from the October 2013 conference. That talks a lot about that. If we make time for the Gospel, we always have enough time for everything else. But it we do everything else first, it seems like we never have time for the Gospel. I had an interview with President Cook and I talked to him a lot about that. I regret a lot of things. Like never doing home teaching, not even one time. I kick myself for not taking advantage of opportunities to share the Gospel. I would have been a lot more prepared if I had the habit of praying night and morning. I can't even explain the difference that it has made. Just because we are born in the church doesn't mean we are born with a testimony. We have to experience our own conversion as well. Unfortunately I waited until my mission for mine. Search for it earlier. It will make everything easier. I have seen miracles in my life that I never could have imagined. All my transfers up to this one prepared me for this transfer and the transfers ahead of me. This has been an incredible transfer. We took our sector where we pretty much started from scratch again because everyone we were teaching got baptized. Now, we have EIGHT incredible investigators that are going to be baptized next transfer. Plus 3 others that are ready and have their testimonies, but are waiting for something before they get baptized. That means 11 people will be drawn to Christ. I can't even explain how amazing that is. You also can have that effect. The reason missionary work isn't moving forward as fast in America is because the members aren't doing missionary work. 1 in 6 investigators that are given to missionaries by members join the church. So if all of you invite one, odds are that you will help at least one person to come to Christ. And as Doctrine and Covenants says, your joy will be great. But to be missionaries, we have to live the Gospel as well. I know this is kind of a chastisement, but sometimes it's necessary. Next week I will do a follow up. If you don't keep your commitments, like we do with our investigators, I'll find a scripture to chastise you again haha. As Christ says in Doctrine and Covenants, I chastise those I love, and I have loved you. So I hope you know that this whole soap box is motivated by my love for all of you. Anyway....
This week was crazy!
Monday we went to the beach. My stomach was hurting for a couple days but it didn't affect anything. I'm good now though. But we played volleyball and had a lot of fun there. I'm sure the Baileys' posted pictures. By the way, next week I'll try to send pictures.
We saw so many people this week. 23 lessons! And that's with having the mission president here this weekend, so we could have had even more! It was incredible. We taught the first lesson this week with a lot of people. And I have seen a lot of people gain a testimony of the Restoration. We are averaging 14-15 investigators at church every week!
Friday we had 8 lessons in one day! It was incredible. It is such an incredible feeling to have a successful week like that.
Saturday morning, the President wanted us to play basketball with him at 6 am. Which meant getting up at 5:00 haha. But it was really fun. Then we attended a baptism, and then had a couple lessons. We went to see one girl who hasn't been coming to church for awhile. One Sunday she came home late from a party with the choir at church, and her dad was really upset so he forbade her to go to church. That was 3 weeks ago. So we had an impression to go see her. She wasn't there, but when we walked in her mom said that her dad really wanted to talk to us about the situation. So we were afraid he was going to come chastise us for her coming home late. So he came out, and he explained the situation. He was concerned for her safety and things like that. So he vented a little bit, we said that we understood his concerns and we were talking to the leaders so it won't happen again. Then he gave her permission to come back to church! It was awesome!
Sunday was the big day! We had a multi-branch conference for all the branches in Pointe-Noire. It was in a conference center at a super fancy hotel. There were a ton of people there. We established a new branch, making 4 branches here! And when the new mission president comes, they are going to make a district! It is a huge milestone. We also performed Come thou fount of every Blessing. It was ok. The accompaniment was a little off, but it's ok. We got a lot of compliments, the singing was really good though. We sang it again for President and Sister Cook that evening to say goodbye. It was really good and super spiritual. It was the last time that we get to see them before the mission splits. It was really hard to say goodbye. Because there aren't a lot of missionaries over here, we all know them very well. But here is the big news. So I walked into my interview with President Cook and before we even sat down, he said "well elder, you have had a big impact here in Pointe-Noire. I've got your passport here, that's all I need to say. We'll be taking these to get visas." Yep. So the transfer letters are next week, but I already know that I'm going to Cameroon. He told me that he was going to put me in a leadership position and he expects me to welcome the new president to the mission. Then he showed me the paper where he wrote the transfers. I don't know which city I'm going to, but I will be a zone leader. Then he told me that he expects a lot from me. So, needless to say, my head kind of exploded... So today I'm planning to go look for another suitcase, and I'll be getting a couple things that I need. But next week I'll be leaving. It's going to be really hard to say goodbye to everyone, but at least I have a week's notice. 
Anyway, that is the big news for this week. It was a crazy week! Have a great week!
Love, Elder VanAusdal