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