Saturday, July 22, 2017

Now Lettuce Rejoice!

An actual head of lettuce!
It's funny how we react when the small things that you don't think you miss suddenly appear unexpectedly.  Normally, the lettuce here has been pretty sparse and what there is has been just a leafy version of iceberg lettuce .... until today!  You can imagine our joy and rejoicing when much to our surprise, we found an actual head of lettuce.  Oh happy day! (at least for Lepeka).  Now if we could just find two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun.

It's been an eventful week of service and we have learned much about ourselves and our testimonies.  We continue to love the people and our testimonies are continually strengthened by each of our experiences here.  I don't always handle things well but Lepeka keeps me focused and grounded.  I am so grateful for my relationship with her.  I really enjoy spending time with her, she is so gentle and kind with the missionaries while at the same time telling it like it is.  I have a lot to learn from her.

We think the missionary education system Lepeka has been working on in orientation and zone conferences, is starting to pay dividends with the missionaries.  The cooler weather here in the Winter may also be having an impact but in any case, we are receiving fewer calls and have noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of boils and infections.

She continually espouses the benefits of personal hygiene, missionary quarters cleanliness, healthy habits, drinking enough water (bottled or from a healthy source), and selective eating (by the Spirit of discernment).  We have definitely seen a drop in the number of and the severity of the calls we get to serve the missionaries.  We know that sometimes things will happen but in general, these are the best ways to avoid many headaches, boils, muscle soreness, heat exhaustion and various other maladies.  We pass out anti-bacterial soap (dial), wash-cloths and occasionally toothbrushes and toothpaste when needed (occasionally food and bottled water as well).

Some of our departing missionaries.
L>R, Elder Christensen (Utah), Elder
Nonu (Utah), Elder Teh (Malaysia),
 Elder Robinson (Utah)
Our relationship with the missionaries is by far the biggest blessing we feel each day.  We get to feel of their wonderful Spirit and enjoy their personalities as we get to know them on a much deeper level.  They treat us so well and always seem genuinely happy to see us.  I know it's Lepeka and her mystical healing powers but I pretend that the lollies I pass out are the real medicine.

We had a group of twelve missionaries leave this week and are expecting the new group to arrive early next week.  They have blessed our lives and we have established lifelong friendships.  We truly miss each of them as they depart and we sincerely hope that our paths cross in the future. 

Notice line two.
We have noticed that signs have been popping up everywhere (for the past month or so) along the main roads with directions and distances to some of the local landmarks and attractions (we are even seeing some street signs and house numbers in some areas).  We thought you might get a kick out of the Fishing Pigs sign (notice the second line on the sign to the left).  We have posted a photo of the pigs in the past but we'll continue to try to get a really good shot of them.  It may need to be a short video to capture the experience.

Tsunami Rock
We also were able to visit Tsunami Rock this week as we noted a sign had been posted for the correct turn-off (we tried to go there in the past but could never find the right dirt road).   Tsunami Rock is believed to be the largest tsunami rock in the world.  It is believed that this rock was carried 100 meters inland from the surrounding reefs by a massive tsunami that hit Tonga thousands of years ago (the sign below says approximately - hehe).

For the past six weeks we have run across various groups of youth performing ngaue 'ofa here in Tonga.  Ngaue 'ofa in Tongan, means service ... literally translated it means "work of love".    We love how some of the words or phrases are broken down when translated literally (i.e. fale lotu - house of prayer or church house).  It often helps give us a new perspective and insight (it also helps as we learn the language).

Three of the HEFY youth  - Luke Hughes (center)
(if you have the other two names I will edit and add as my
short-term memory strikes again.  They are from L>R,
Colorado, Bountiful, Utah and Farmington Utah)
There have been several LDS youth working on humanitarian projects building houses for locals.  The group that sponsors them is called Humanitarian Experience for Youth or HEFY.  Each group of approximately 12 youth (young women and men ages 16 - 19) along with the program sponsors, and some parental supervision, spend approximately two weeks building simple homes for some of the locals in dire need.  They worked so hard but seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.  What great young men and women! Luke Hughes took a couple of items home for us and is planning on serving a mission in the near future (he is 17 years old now). 

They are very organized and it takes each group about two weeks to build each home.  The last group arrived on Friday and will visit Sam's island (one of the local islands) on Saturday, then attend Church on Sunday and start building their home on Monday.  These youth are amazing to be around and they really catch the vision of hard work and service.  They do truly perform nague 'ofa ... a work of love for the people of Tonga.  We have been impressed at how organized they are and how much they pack into their tight schedule.  I've provided a link (click here) for anyone who wants more information.  There is not much out there for 2018 but it is worth looking into as it is a great experience for any youth.  You can also donate to help fund others.

One of the houses built by the HEFY organization.  This home is in
Puke (pronounced Poo-kay).  They are just arriving to finish the home and
clean up before going to the beach on their last day here.
We continue to have a great experience here and feel of your love and support and the impact of your prayers in our behalf.  For that we are so grateful.  We want you to know that we also pray for you and would love the opportunity to pray for any members of your friends and families or specific blessings in your lives if you will let us know.   God does hear and answer prayers.

Ofa lahi 'atu!

We met the previous Mission President who know's Aunt Netti (Annette Kapp Andersen)
from her time in Sitka Alaska.  We enjoy making any connection to someone at home
and this one was especially great as he talked about her incredible musical talents.

We threw this photo in for our own Chicken lover (you're welcome Lindsay)
If you want to give this one a name we'll let the owners know but there
is a real possibility it won't be there the next time we visit.

Last paragraph in English (in case you missed it).

Staircase on home in Houma
I particularly like the safety features on the stairs leading to
he roof or future third floor.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bats in the Belfry

View from the balcony of our Hotel room at the Paradise
International Hotel  Taken at dusk the Fruit Bats started to
fly.  You can also see them hanging in the tree.
We ended up with a last minute trip to Ha'apai and then on to Vava'u for zone conferences.  Lepeka was presenting her health information and checking on the health of the missionaries.  We flew out early Tuesday morning headed to Vava'u with a two hour layover in Ha'apai.  We would then come back to Ha'apai for their zone conference on Friday. Our first leg was earlier than the others we were going with but we met up with them in Ha'apai for the last leg to Vava'u.  Clear as mud?

Fruit Bat photos taken with amazing
finger pinch zoom option on iPhone 7+
Photos taken by Lepeka and I provided
these two photos to highlight the bats!

Boarding the boat to pick up the Elders
for zone conference.

Anyway, we made it to Vava'u and dropped our bags off at the VIP quarters on the Liahona High School campus, then hopped on a boat headed to Otea on the nearby Kapa island to pick up some of the Elders to bring them back to the main island prior to the meeting scheduled for the next day.

The island was about a 20 minute ride on a pretty fast boat and we also stopped to see some coastline caves that are open in some places from above which many use to dive into the water (a pretty good drop from what I saw).  After our boat ride, we picked up our bags (once we found someone who had keys to get us back in the room) and took them to the hotel where we would be staying.  We made it back and drove around a bit before heading to dinner a 'Ene'io resort (translated: tickle me until I say yes) a botanical garden and beach restaurant on the South East end of Vava'u.

Typical Tongan dinner items include
pork, curry chicken, lu and canned
corned beef, 
We had a typical Tongan dinner that we enjoyed along with some birthday cake for Sister Ramsay who just happened to be turning 22 (she is one of the main Sister Trainers).  Sister Ramsay is Tongan and pretty compact at somewhere around 5' tall.  The host for the evening shared with the group his religious views (Weslayan Methodist) but stated how he didn't dislike other religions and thought we should all get along together.  He told how some of his family (who were LDS) had tried to convert him but he wouldn't convert.

At the end of the evening when our host was still there Sister Ramsay stood to say thank you for the wonderful birthday but then shared her testimony in a most powerful way directed to our host as she maintained eye contact with him and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  I have heard her share her testimony on a few occasions and marvel at her ability to reach out and teach through her sincerity.

Paradise International Hotel
Parking for 3 cars.
We then headed back to the hotel to turn in for the evening.  I had gathered a few seashells as we had walked along the beach earlier and when I came out from brushing my teeth Lepeka said that something was moving on the carpet.  It turns out that one of the shells still had it's inhabitant and had worked its way off the bench to the floor and was slowly trying to make it's way through the orange shag carpet back to the ocean.  We were close enough that I could throw it from our room balcony back into the water so I hope it survived the impact.

We had a great zone conference with 40 missionaries.  After the meeting we had the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through Neiafu (the capital city of Vava'u) before going to our room for the evening.   Vava'u is a beautiful island with many more hills and lush green vegetation.

Boarding our charter flight back to Nuku'alofa
All luggage and passengers were weighed and assigned
specific seats to balance the plane.
The next day we were scheduled to fly back to Ha'api but learned our plane had broken down so there would be no flight.  President Tui'one spent much of the day on the phone trying to find a way back to either Ha'apai or Nuku'alofa but had no luck.  He finally chartered a plane to fly us all back to Nuku'alofa leaving at 9:00 P.M. (the Church does not allow missionaries to use the large plane that flies in and out of Vava'u because it doesn't meet safety requirements).  Since we had five missionaries that are leaving this week he had them join us on the flight.

Our cramped plane coming home.
We filled 15 of the 17 seats.  It was a small cramped plane but the flight was only about 1:30 minutes so we survived.  If my knees were cramped you can just imagine how some of the taller people felt.  We had one missionary who is around 6'6" on the flight with us and President Tui'one is quite tall as well.  We made it back safely around 10:30 P.M. and then had a 30 minute ride home to Liahona.

I have included several photos as the trip was very scenic and memorable.

Catholic church in Neiafu.  They seem to keep things pretty clean and clutter free
her in Tonga.  It seems strange as they just drop paper and garbage but it always
gets cleaned up by someone pretty quickly.

This is a small building for a branch in 'Utungake

View from a chapel on a hill.  This is the area in the harbor
where Cruise ships will anchor 

This is behind Liahona High School the plateau at the top
is where many believe a Temple will be built someday.  We
talked to one individual who said that during President Hinkley's
visit to Tonga (and Vava'u) in 1998's he was up there alone looking
around for quite a while. 

The sign to our harbor front hotel in Neiafu.  It had shag carpet
from the 70's but the rooms were clean and adequate ... even
without WiFi.  I guess my expectations have gone down since
arriving here as WiFi used to be the primary factor in determining
the rating for a hotel.

This is a Missionary Quarter by an open field in Koloa where
a chapel will be built one day.  Currently, they set up chairs in
the open field for about 25 attendees.  If it rains they put up a
tarp to protect them as much as possible and still hold Church
services.  If you look at a large version of the photo you can see
the chairs in the back of the field near the MQ.

Beautiful island setting for the Oteau chapel on the island of Kapa.
It would be hard to concentrate on the meeting here.  Elder Chou
and Elder Rosales are working this area thoroughly as they find
people to baptize.  The island is shared by Wesleyans and Mormons

Life is good!  We found some cottage cheese
for the first time here and Lepeka made me some
good ol' American Lasagne.  She had to use
beef instead of sausage but it was still very good!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Winter Break!

Lepeka and Elder Pakalani (one of the APs)
Zone conferences were held this week in Tongatapu and we attended each one and spoke for a few minutes.  They are held in each zone during the 2nd or 3rd week after transfers. 

Lepeka spoke on exact obedience especially as it relates to health (cleanliness and nutrition).  She used a few different methods to illustrate her point.  You can see Elder Pakalani holding scripture bags in outstretched arms during one of her demonstrations.  

Lepeka stresses the need for proper hydration, nutrition and cleanliness as talks about the blessings that can come from talongofua kakapo (exact obedience). She does a really good job of keeping it on point, brief and interesting.  She references D&C 130:20-21 (see if you can remember what the scripture is about prior to clicking on the link).

I think she has made lots of progress as we definitely see fewer issues with the missionaries.  She is so responsive to their needs and always follows up to make sure things are better and not just dropped.  I know how much they appreciate her concern and willingness to address whatever comes up.  We have become quite good at getting around and know most of the back-streets and shortcuts to every MQ on the main island now.  Lepeka also does a good job of bringing in some of her best Tongan into her lessons.  She studies every day to learn and helps teach me when we're driving around by looking up words.  It can be a little bit hard as words can mean different things depending on how they are used in a sentence.  We learn a little bit more each week.

Elder Takelo and Elder Enos 
(zone leaders in Hihifo zone
West end of the island).
I try really hard to keep my part short and to the point ... basically, follow the rules and repent if you need to to get back on track.  My focus is with internet and telephone use.  I told a story from my youth that relates to following the plan that is there for us and not thinking we can do as we want.  You can read that story by clicking here or by selecting "Stories of Faith" from the top menu, then "Herding Bulls".  It is a simple true story from my youth that has meant more to me through the years as I have tried harder to learn and live its lessons.  I love looking back on my life at some of the things that stand out as vivid memories and try to learn the lessons they teach (I guess I'm a slow learner).

The eight elders that were in attendance from 'Eua sang for us and I captured it on video and uploaded it to YouTube (click here to view).  I did share this on FaceBook as well so no need to revisit if you saw it there (unless you just can't help yourself).  It's so much fun to see and interact with the missionaries as we get to know each of them on a very personal level.  We love hearing their stories.  We have some missionaries on other islands we won't get to see this time around but we do hear from them when the need arises. 

Sister Trainers, Sister Ramsay and
Sister Matakaiongo both from Tonga
The zone leaders set up the meeting and prepare and teach as well as President and Sister Tui'one, the Assistants to the President and the Sister Trainers.  Lepeka and I took a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting as well).

The weather remains extremely pleasant with an occasional patches of perfect (67-74 deg F)!  We get the occasional rain but they are pretty light for the most part this time of the year.  Most of the locals are complaining about the cold temperature or are all bundled up in coats and scarves.

We also had a couple of training sessions as we installed new computers and moved a Family History Center.  we find people extremely willing to help and they all seem to want to learn.  I can be a little bit challenging to communicate with some as cell phone use is expensive for them and some of them don't have the means to travel much (even to the next town).  If they have to, they will walk.  It is a little bit disappointing to some that we don't have community classes.  We have done a few but we could easily get swept up into teaching the public full time is we started.  We are careful not to let that become an expectation.

This represents about 1/3 of the young men that attended the
American Football camp.  We didn't get to see them scrimmage
but we did see them during warm-ups and several of the training
They also had a mini "American Football" camp this week featuring two-a-day work-outs and training.  They did it here on the large field behind Liahona High School during a school break (no High School this week).  Lepeka and I took some time to go watch and boy were they enthusiastic and they just soaked in every word the coaches told them.  The boys came early and stayed late as if they couldn't get enough of it.  It will not surpass the popularity of Rugby here anytime soon but there were certainly smiles all around even though it was hard physically.  It started out pretty well on Monday and by the end of the week they had over 100 local kids attending and really enjoying themselves.

We picked up Elder Jacob Lundskog at the airport on Saturday, July 8th (yes we're a day ahead).  He is just finishing up his mission and his father is coming to join him to visit some of the areas where he served.  He is related to our good friends Gary and Cheryl Lundskog (now in Hooper - again).  As I understand it, Gary and Elder Lundskog's father are cousins.  We have talked to him on the phone several times for one reason or another but it would have been fun to get to know him better as he has quite a personality.  He has not served on this island since we have been here but has been in some pretty remote and interesting places.  He told us about some of the living conditions he experienced on his last assignment and it seems like not too much has changed there since Elder Kolipoki  (Groberg) was here some 50 years ago.  We provided him with a loaf of bread and some water on the way back from the airport and he was so excited since it had been a long time since he had tasted bread.  He said he has really enjoyed his mission.

Some photos from zone conference and around the island.

Just prior to starting the meeting.  Elder Teh and Elder Mafi
(Center two)

A room full of missionaries (one of the eight zone meetings)
We currently have 193 total missionaries serving in Tonga
(Elders, Sisters and Seniors)

Sister Kapp and I eating lunch with President and Sister Tui'one.
The four Elders in the foreground from L>R are: Elder Pakalani (Tonga),
Elder Kau (Tonga), Elder Soaki (Florida) and Elder Malimali (Tonga)

Elder Mafi (Washington State)
We love this guy and were happy we got
to see him again as he is now serving on
the island of "Eua.  It's a short ride on a
fast boat but a couple of hours on the ferry.
Elder Mafi is one of the soloists in the
YouTube video linked above.  He also plays
the Ukulele quite well.

Sister Taumoepenu (Tonga) and Sister Pupunu (Draper, Utah)

One of the beautiful homes and settings across from the
Stake Center in Mu'a (taken from just outside the door).  

Liahona Stake Center across the street from the High School campus.

A couple of sows ... just in case you're weary
of all the photos of the piglets.  These two weren't
even spooked as I walked over to take their photo

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pliz and Than Q!

We had occasion to visit the hospital several times one week and when we told President and Sister Tui'one that we never have problems even after hours, the president said, "It's probably because they don't speak English very well so they can't tell you not to come".

This is one of the signs on the isolation ward at the hospital.  It make me realize how difficult English can be with our multiple ways to pronounce vowels.  Always remember to say "Pliz and Than Q".

Our new ride (the SUV in the front) It is a Hyundai Tuscon
Our old ride (the van in the back).  We drove it approximately
15,000 Km in the five months we used it.  It was much harder
to maneuver than the Tucson but kind of nice to sit up higher.
We were assigned a van to drive around for the first 5 months of our mission.  It was handy as we carried a short step ladder with us as we surveyed the Stake Center Technology.  The data cabinets are hung up on the wall so it is difficult to see what is in them or to work on them without the step ladder.  We can fit it in the new ride (seen below) but will have to plan better as we need to fold down a back seat to get it in.  It will be nice to get better gas mileage and it is much more maneuverable.  Parking here can be difficult especially in a full size van.

For those of you who are wondering what it is like to have the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car, here is a photo so you can imagine slipping behind the wheel ... then driving on the left side of the road.  It actually isn't as hard as I thought it would be.  The hardest part is actually the turn indicators (on the right side of the steering wheel).  It is not uncommon to switch on the windshield wipers instead of the turn indicators.  We call it the "senior missionary wave".

L->R Back row, Sister and Elder Hafoka, Elder and Sister Kapp, Sister and Elder
Elder Tautua'a.  Front row, Elder Mortenson (Washington St) Elder Purdy (Utah)
Note the safety rope.  You may need
to click on the image to see a larger view.
See the lunch and the boots
We were working at one of the chapels while they were cleaning the roof (pressure washing it).  Lunch was hung in a nearby tree where his boots also sat so they wouldn't get wet or eaten by animals or bugs while he pressure wash the roof of the Church house in Longolongo.

Safety is not an issue as he has a rope which is held by someone on the ground on the other side of the building.

We do love and miss our family and friends but we are grateful for this opportunity to serve and strengthen our own testimonies.  I love serving with Lepeka, she is my best friend and so much fun to be around 24x7.  Our hope is that you feel of our love for the Lord and know that we are committed to doing our best to follow our Savior's example.  We invite all to come unto Christ as there is no other means by which man can be saved.

We love the people of Tonga and are so appreciative of their kindness and generosity.  We have learned a lot from them.  Our challenge for the week is to look for ways to be kind and polite and loving to all who cross your path each day ... then perhaps you can get a glimpse of life in Tonga too!

Bonus Section for the sports enthusiast!

We had the opportunity today to attend a Rugby game between Tonga and Samoa.  It was the Pacific Nations cup opener today and there will be another game next week against Fiji that we're hoping to get better seats for.  We took several photos so you will see many posted below.  This was a real national event and was standing room only everywhere (it got much more crowded than show in the panorama photo).  They have berms on the end of the field to make it easier to accommodate lots of people.

Panorama view of Teufaiva Stadium in downtown Tofoa ... a suburb
of Nuku'alofa (hehe).
Don't I make Sione look small???
He was listed at 6'3" and 325 during his playing days.
While we were at the Rugby game we met Sione and Keiti Po'uha and two of their children, sons Viliami and Sonasi.  They saw us (not sure how he recognized two palingi missionaries in Tonga) and came over and introduced themselves asking if we were the Kapp Perry missionaries serving in Tonga (we'll link up with the Perry name anytime).  
Sione is a Bishop in the Bountiful 6th ward (Tongan) that meets in Woods Cross, Utah.  We attended this ward just prior to entering the mission field but did not meet him at that time as he was out of town.  He also had a career with the NY Jets playing Defensive End and Nose tackle from 2005 - 2012 (click here to read more about Sione Po'uha).  They are a delightful family here on vacation for 2 weeks visiting family.  The 2 boys have never been to Tonga before.  Sione is also going to do a mini American Football camp at Liahona on Monday morning.  I think we may sneak over for a peek.

Now, for some Rugby photos and a pre-game Haka video!

(Tonga wins 30-26 ... Tonga is in Red and Samoa in Blue)

click here for the Haka video  (the file was too large for the blog)

Outside the gate waiting to get in.  The ticket lines were pretty
long so they were selling tickets through the fence.

Pre-game photo of stadium seating
Pre-game impromptu Rugby match for some of the youth

Seating on the bleacher side and the berm

Let's call this Sweet suite seats across the street (just behind us)

The kickoff
The first try scored by Tonga!

Kick-after ... nice action shot, see the ball between the uprights?