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

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Lost My Phone!

It sounds like home is a completely different world than when I left!

Lots of crazy and exciting things happening. I'm glad Braden is
getting some good preparation in. Just make sure he remembers that the
Spiritual preparation is the most important part. I'm really excited
for him to get his call! Thanks for the email address and the recipe!
So anyway, this week was an interesting week. Last Sunday we lost our
phone... We got in a taxi and it fell out of my pocket and we didn't
realize it until after. And of course someone took it, removed the SIM
and probably thought it was a blessing from God haha. But the Baileys
were in Kinshasa for a week so we didn't have a replacement. So we
borrowed the other Elders' phone to do our planning, but the rest of
the day we were phoneless. Which naturally makes it difficult. We had
a lot of appointments fall through, and we did a lot of walking, but I
think we learned our lesson! haha We're buying a new phone today
though. So next week should be ok.
Tuesday was the first day of no phone. So naturally when all our
appointments fell through, we had nothing left to do but first
contacts. So we had 3 first contacts! It was really cool.
Wednesday was less cool. We left the apartment at 10:30, came home at
6:30, had 3 40 minute lessons, and I'll let you guess what we did for
the rest of the time haha. Yes, a lot of walking.But it was still
good. We ended the day knocking on a door and finding a family to
So the next day we came back and had our first lesson with them. They
are already married culturally which is the hard part. They have some
interesting beliefs. But I think we can make a lot of progress with
them. They seemed very willing to listen.
Friday we had a zone meeting. That went really good. We talked about
teaching with members and working with members. Missionary work really
depends on the members. The majority of our investigators that we have
are referrals from members. So it is very important to be active in
participating in missionary work.
Saturday was another day of a lot of walking. We walked for 2 1/2
hours straight before we had our first appointment. But we still
managed to have 2 good appointments before going to the church to
attend the wedding. That was really fun. It was supposed to start at
4:00 but started closer to 6:30ish... haha but there was lots of good
food and it was really fun.
Sunday we had a good day at church. We had 14 investigators at church!
It was really cool. But we had scheduled an appointment with someone
for after church, but he wasn't there. But a little after church
ended, he came because he wanted to talk to us. We had an awesome
lesson and committed him to be baptized. It was a really cool
experience. Then after that we all got together to practice the song
we are going to sing for the city-wide conference next week. That was
really fun. We're singing "Come thou Fount." I think Sister Bailey is
going to record it so that everyone can see it. But it sounds pretty
good! We have Elder Etherington who is a vocal performance major to
direct us, so it should be pretty good.
By the way, after 2 transfers in the same appartment with Elder
Rakotonindriana, I found out that his dad is a 2 time world champion
in French boxing! And his mom was a professional ballerina! I don't
know how it took me so long to find that out, but it's pretty cool!
Today we are going to go to the beach to play volleyball! That should
be really fun. Unfortunately, this morning I don't feel very good. I
have an upset stomach. But Elder Bailey is a pharmacist so maybe he
can help me out haha. Anyway, sorry if the email isn't super exciting.
I don't feel very good so I'm not super motivated to write... But have
a great week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Church is Growing Quickly!

Wow, there are lots of cool things happening!
That's awesome that Braden is starting his papers! What would be cool is if he left the beginning of January, because then they normally send them home just before Christmas. That way he would only miss one Christmas! I'm glad to hear about dad's promotion. I prayed this week that that would be able to work out soon. And it did! Conner, you are awesome, and you have a lot of faith. It's incredible how much of a difference little things can make.
 In Doctrine and Covenants it says that through little things I accomplish great things. Little things like scripture study, prayer, FHE, visiting and home teaching can make all the difference in the world. I have seen that here. As those things begin to stop, our lives slowly deteriorate, in a way that we don't even recognize it. But when we begin to do those things again, we see how much of a difference that makes. As a missionary would say: "Will you do daily scripture study and prayer, weekly FHE, and do your visiting and home teaching? I promise that if you do, your quality of life will increase. You will start to see miracles in your life. You will be more in tune with the spirit, and your house will be more like a home." I've seen how much these things help. Remember, God gives us all things. He only asks a little in return. We will always be unprofitable servants. Because even if we try to pay him back, He will pour even more blessings upon us. Ok, anyway, that's enough of my soapbox haha. 
We had an incredible week. Time is going by so fast! I've already been with Elder Ralison for almost half a transfer! We're hoping that we'll get one more together. If for nothing else because we have a huge sector and it's really hard to figure out all the neighborhoods. 
Tuesday we had an awesome lesson with Rocia, who was supposed to be baptized last week. We had an incredible lesson. The Spirit was really strong. It prompted me to say, "The idea isn't to be perfect so you can be baptized, but to be baptized so you can be perfect." After I said that, I didn't know what to say. I had never even thought of that before. But it was an awesome example of following the Spirit. And it really helped her. Now she is going to pray about a date to decide when she will be baptized.
Wednesday we had district meeting. And big news! On the 29th of June, there will be a city-wide conference for all the members in Pointe-Noire to divide a branch! And we are also going to organize a district!! That is big news! A huge step in the right direction! And we're waiting on the papers to divide another branch! That will put us at five!!! We are coming very close to a stake. It's really exciting. All the members are really excited. A district means a district president which takes the responsability off of the mission president and allows real training programs and a more functional church here in Pointe Noire! Later that day we had a lesson with the Louzolo family. They told stories about the war between the two Congos in the 90's. At one point his whole family was put on their knees and they were going to kill them, but miraculously because he is a doctor they put him on a train to come to Pointe Noire. Another member said that his family had followed the prophet's counsel to have a food storage. So they were able to live for a couple weeks before they decided where they were going to flee to. They prayed and ended up going the direction opposite of what common sense said. And instead of following the road, they followed the rails, even though everyone thought they were crazy for doing that. They found out later that there was military waiting on that road killing all the young men that came by. You couldn't go 10 feet without stepping over a dead body. Crazy stories. Just more examples of the importance of following the Spirit.
Friday we had another awesome day. We got 7 lessons in again! One of which was with someone named Vekache. We met him about 2 weeks ago. We went to teach him the second lesson and said he wanted to be baptized. We asked when he thought he would be ready and he said next saturday! He said even if you have to come every day next week I'll do it so I can get baptized. It might be closer to 3 weeks, but it's going to be really awesome! 
This last week members were giving us lots of food. We got a total of 3 papayas, 6 massive avocados, a pineapple, kwanga (cassava stuff), some sort of yams, and a whole frozen chicken! It was really cool. The people here are very kind and generous. 
Sunday we had an awesome day at church. We had 15 investigators from our sector at church! There was a couple that came for the first time that came up to me after church and said "What do I have to do to be baptized in this church." I responded "We can help you with that." haha So cool! The people here are incredible. And best of all, it's a family!
All in all this week we had 22 lessons! Not bad :) Even though we had a couple rough days of having a lot of lessons fall through, we ended up having a productive week. We're hoping that next week will be even better!
Anyway, have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Relax....Go with the flow.

One thing I have learned on my mission is to just relax and go with the flow. There are a lot of factors that go into what we do every day. I have learned to just make a list of our priorities, and we start with number one, and work our way down. If we don't have time for 3 or 4, that's ok. We'll figure it out later. I've learned that sometimes we panic because we have so much to do and so many things going on that we don't know what to do. Just relax, go with the flow, and let the Spirit guide you. If you are doing your best and you know what you're doing is right, don't worry about the rest. It will all work out. I've learned  we can't let what others do influence our duties.
 Read 1 Nephi 16:18-25. That talks about Nephi breaking his bow. Notice that Lehi was murmuring against the Lord. That would be sufficient reason to lose confidence in him, but what did Nephi do? He exercised his faith first, did his duty, then recognized his father as the prophet and asked him where to go. Afterward, because of Nephi's example, Lehi repented. Read the passage yourself and see what you take pull from it. It really helped us with a less-active family yesterday.
So this week went by so fast! It was awesome though. On Monday we had a FHE with a inactive family. We talked about setting goals to go to the temple and putting it on the wall so they can see it every day. It was a really cool experience. 
Tuesday was a crazy day! We had three appointments fall through but we still managed to get 7 rendez-vous in one day! It was pretty cool. We got a referral from a member for a family. There was only one of the girls there, maybe 17 or 18 years old. She will not say a word! It makes it difficult to teach, but she came to church and progresses! So that is helping us to develop new teaching styles. I'm loving working with Elder Ralison. We have a lot in common and our teaching meshes hand in hand. He's really funny too. This will be an awesome transfer together. 
Wednesday we had a lesson with Rocia and then later had her baptism interview on Friday. She passed and was good to go! Buuuut.... her entire family are members. And they don't think she is ready. So I think they discouraged her cause she didn't come to the baptism. It was really sad. But we're going to try to help her overcome that. 
Thursday we were in Ngoyo which is about 20 minutes of walking and a 20-30 minute bus ride away from our apartment. We had a first contact with someone named Desh. He lived another 30 minutes into the middle of nowhere! But it was an awesome lesson. Afterwards we walked to our next appointment and it took an hour! So we did a lot of walking that day. And because of the baptism interview, we only got 2 lessons in. But it was still a really good productive day. 
Friday we had a rattez-vous, which means an appointment fell through. So we were just walking, and we were going to say hi to some members. But we were stopped by someone on the street. He said he was available so we sat down and had a lesson with him. It was really cool! He has some interesting ideas from his other church though. He believes he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost when he fell in the shower because after that he started speaking in tongues and no one could understand him... We'll help him with that though haha. He's awesome though. He called us at 8 a.m. on Sunday to say he was at the church! We hadn't even left home yet! haha So I think he has a lot of potential. 
Saturday we had a baptismal service. I baptized Juldas. It was a really cool experience. It was unfortunate that Rocia couldn't come though. But we still had a good experience. Then afterwards we were talking to Barthou about "les weis." It's a made up word that people in Kinshasa say to say "things" or "stuff." So she was laughing her head off because she had no idea what the "weis" were. It was cool though because usually she's not very open and doesn't talk very much. So we've been helping her to feel more comfortable and open. It was really fun. 
Then Sunday we had a great day at church. We had 13 investigators at church! Not bad! Attendance has been great lately. Two of the branches are going to divide soon. That will make 5! That's almost a stake! We're really excited. 
So our little stint of 6 elders in our district ended today. Our zone leaders moved into an apartment in the same parcel as the Baileys. So the two elders that came here are going back to the apartment in Foucks. Yes that is the name of the quartier. I mean neighborhood? haha It's pronounced Fooks. Don't worry haha. 
Anyway, everything is going reall well here. Everything is looking great! Have a great week!

Monday, June 2, 2014

6th Transfer. I'm Staying Here!

Finally he sends pictures!

Grocery Day!

Of course there is pictures of  food! Cereal? Boring :)

Hey everybody!
So we had transfer letters today! Guess what! I'm staying here for a 6th transfer! haha But Elder Ndayizeye is going back to Kinshasa to train. So I will be getting a new companion named Elder Ralison. He is from Madagascar. I'm really excited. I love working with the malagash. Things really shook up this transfer. Everyone in our zone got a letter. There will now be 6 elders in our apartment. So I'm going to have to start adjusting my recipes... haha Elder Hatch is going back to his last sector to work with his last companion... So I guess you never know what's going to happen!
This week we had a really good week. Wednesday we had a really cool experience. We planned to go see Papy in the morning, but we couldn't get a hold of him. So we decided to go anyway. So we get in the taxi that will take us to where he lives. We were waiting for it to fill up when someone asked us where the chauffeur was. We said we didn't know, so he went and looked for him. Then the chauffeur came and the guy came, gave him some money then he looked at us and said "I paid your 2 places" and he left! It was so cool! We didn't hardly even have time to say thank you! Then we get to Papy's house and he told us that we were really lucky that we found him. Apparently he was supposed to be gone all day but ended up being at the house for a couple hours in the morning. So we had a lesson about trials and forgiveness because he's going through a tough time lately. Afterwards he told us that we must have been inspired because we said exactly what he needed to hear. His girlfriend had cheated on him and got pregnant, then had him sent to jail for a week cause he wouldn't pay for an abortion. He said after the lesson that now he's going to go talk to her, but now the way he had planned on. Just a cool story about following the promptings of the Spirit. 
Later that day we talked to a family for the first time. That was really cool. They all seem really interested and really happy when we are there. 
Thursday we got to say goodbye to David before he went to boarding school for a month. That was really cool. He bore a really strong testimony. He followed the spirit and refused to participate when his friends offered him a way to get money illegally. It was really a really cool testimony. 
Friday President Cook was here for zone conference. We learned a lot about following the spirit, hastening the work, and using the Book of Mormon. He showed us a hastening the work video. It doesn't have any words, but it is incredible. I would recommend looking it up. Sorry I don't know what it is called. Probably just hastening the work. By the way, I sincerely hope that you are all keeping up with your spiritual responsibilities. Home and visiting teaching, for example. If not, do. It is very important. And FHE and family prayer. I've seen what all of these things do, and I have learned how important they are. So if you're not, you better start haha. 
Then Saturday we got to watch General Conference. It was incredible. I particularly liked Elder Holland's talk, and Elder Oaks talk from the Priesthood Session. It was a really cool experience. It's different when it's translated, but the message is the same. If you didn't watch the Saturday sessions, I recommend you read them in the Ensign. 
Sunday we watched the morning session of conference. Don't ask me why they didn't show the second... We were a little disappointed to say the least.. haha. But it was still a really good session. I particularly liked Elder Bednar's and President Monson's talks. Then we went and saw some people afterward. We had a first contact with another family. That was a really cool experience.
Then today we got transfer letters. So things are definitely changing. In this transfer the mission will split! So we decided to have a going away party for Elder Ndayizeye. He loves pizza, so all the elders are coming to our apartment and we're going to make a bunch of pizzas. It'll be lots of fun. I'm excited. By the way, I got lots of cool pictures this week. I'm going to try to send them in a couple minutes.
 I particularly like the one with me and Elder Hatch in our boubous. It is traditional Muslim clothing, but everyone wears them. SO COOL! It was 35,000 FCFA, which is 70 dollars. But it was a really good deal. You usually can't get them for under 100 dollars. We made sure to ask around first so we wouldn't get ripped off haha. 
Elder VanAusdal and Elder Hatch in their boubous

Anyway, sounds like things are getting busy there! Just remember to not let temporal things cause you to forget the spiritual things. Elder Hamilton gave a good talk last conference about good things and better things. Remember to always do the best things. Anyway, have a great week!
Love, Elder VanAusdal