Sunday, January 29, 2017

Shoveling Sunshine here

Well, today (Saturday) was our P-day and it finally happened.  Becky convinced me to get up with her at “Oh, how lovely was the morning o’clock” and go walking to watch the sun come up.  I have to admit that it is pretty pleasant out at that time of the day here in Tonga.  I must have been quite a sight as the birds all kept whistling at me.  The roosters were also crowing at every turn.  We have about a one-mile lap to walk around the campus and it’s very clean, weeded and neat.  Some other couples got up and started walking around 6:00 am just as we were finishing our walk so Becky did an extra lap without me (3 was enough for me).

I was able to send out a few email and text messages today and it is strange to get a reply marked “yesterday” to an email I just sent out.

Today was also our first day driving ourselves around.  Driving on the left side of the road is strange but not as strange as being a passenger in the left seat (no brake pedal).  I did most of the driving today but Becky did get behind the wheel a couple of times and we both seemed to live through it.  We did take one scenic tour (not on purpose) but quickly found our way back to something we recognized.  There’s not too many places to actually get lost on an island this size.

Finding some of the MQ’s (missionary quarters) can be challenging as there are no street signs or addresses here.  Most directions are something like … turn right down the second lane past the building with the blue roof.  I am trying to document with GPS coordinates and photos in the contacts but most missionaries don’t have smart phone.  I couldn’t do without one so we paid for our own.  We are having a great time and I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off of my face.  I actually chuckled out-loud as I was praying yesterday morning (maybe a bit irreverent but I think God understands my joy).

Our apartment is the right side of this duplex.  The driveway is
shared by three families as there is a small home behind ours.
The place is beautiful and our apartment has all the comforts of home (at least for the most part).  We are right behind the Temple on Liahona campus, just as we thought.  The mission office is across the street as well as a Church distribution center (limited material).  Still working on internet connectivity at our apartment but we should have it in the next few days.

We do have cell phones now, a car, and our Tongan driver’s licenses.  There was only one question on the drivers license test, “Do you have 60. Pa’anga?”  (About $30 each) …  We both passed  We have a fridge, stove and microwave (we’re still working on a toaster).  Our office is right across the street so it’s very convenient.

Becky is already taking care of her nursing responsibilities and has treated several minor injuries and illnesses.  I wouldn’t expect anything less of her.  My training will start next week when the person I report to gets here.  He is located in Auckland New Zealand.  It may take us a little while to figure out how we can best fulfil our individual responsibilities while working together but we are confident we can do it.

Our ward just prior to sacrament meeting. Probably 75% HS students, on-time,
and very quiet and reverent.  The singing is amazing!  Everyone sings and the
room fills with music and the Spirit.  Not extremely loud but just very full.

Kumala and long beans are two food staples here.

The beans are cut to desired length and cooked as normal.

Kumala is like a potato (in flavor) with just a hint of sweetness.
They are kind of dark purple  when peeled and cooked
(see next photo) and a little bit drier than a potato.

Two coconuts (with straws)
Uncooked kumala (top right)
Kumala peeled and cooked (bottom)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Eagle Has Landed

Monday we traveled to Tonga (and Tuesday … and Wednesday).  In the interest of full disclosure, I need to include that we crossed the international dateline.  In all, from the time we left our home, it took 29 hours until we were at the Mission home in Liahona, Tonga.

Our journey was mostly uneventful (mostly that is).  The agent helping us check our bags at the SLC airport just happened to be Tongan and our baggage was right on the maximum allowed.  We made it to our gate a few hours early, ate some lunch and waited for our flight.  We used light duffle type bags for our carry-ons to minimize the weight as they were weight restricted to 15 lbs. as well as our backpacks which included our laptops and iPads.  Our backpacks were actually a little overweight but we thought nothing of it at the time.

Our departure out of Salt Lake City was delayed due to the storm.  Our plane arrived late and we had to de-ice prior to take-off.  In all we were delayed about1 hour and 15 minutes.  This made our layover in Houston a bit dicey (yes, we connected to Air New Zealand in Houston).  We had 20 minutes to scurry through the airport and catch the tram to another concourse.  We also had another senior missionary sister who was traveling to Australia with us.

We arrived at the gate just as they were paging us overhead to check our passports, load our luggage, and board.  It just so happened that the agent helping us recognized our missionary badges and she said that helps!  So we sailed through and made our flight without delaying the take-off.

We flew from Houston to Auckland on a roomy 777.  It was full but had more leg room than other aircraft so even though it was a 13+ hour flight we were about as comfortable as possible.

We had a 4-hour layover in Auckland prior to our last leg to Tonga.  We had lunch and waited as our gate assignment was listed as “relax”.  About an hour prior to our flight our gate assignment was posted and we proceeded to the gate.  The agent at the gate immediately told us to weigh our luggage as there was a zero tolerance for overweight bags.  

We must have looked funny as we scrambled to put out jackets on and start trying to figure out what we could do without.  Switching things back and forth in bags to get us to the magic number (7kg).  For some reason the agent took pity on us and said you’re okay.  Just put it all back in and go!  He said they are mostly looking for the people that load up with 20kg of chocolate.  We felt blessed again.  It’s amazing to overlook the small things but we know the Lord put people in our paths to help us.

We arrived in Tonga to the cheers of about 15 -16 senior missionaries.  What a warm welcome feeling we had.  We must have been grinning from ear-to-ear as we walked across the yard into the terminal.  We zipped right through customs and started waiting for our luggage.  I wasn’t sure that it had made it due to the short time we had in Houston but Becky was confident it would be there.  As we got towards the end of the luggage, our bags showed up … every one of them.

There was a missionary couple assigned to show us around and by the end of the day, we had shopped for food, found a blow dryer, received our car, and obtained our Tongan driver’s licenses.  The test was difficult … do you have 120 pa’anga? (about $30 US each).  We passed.

Everyone we have met is so friendly and welcoming.  Our apartment is very nice and comfy.  We both slept very well last night and are ready to serve!  Thanks for all the prayers and loving sentiment.  We are safe and sound.

Here are a couple of photos ... I’ll add more once we more settled in.

View from our front door Thursday morning Jan.26th

Doo Doo Doo lookin' out my back door.  LDS Temple is behind the tree and to the right.
The white van is ours to drive ... at least for now.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trained and Drained!

We have learned so much over the past two weeks, week one at the MTC and week two (Monday - Thursday) was spent at the Hyatt House in Salt Lake City in medical orientation.  What a wonderful week working with the Church missionary medical group.  The church has so many great tools and resources.  We also met some other great missionary couples that will be serving in various medical callings throughout the world.

Friday and Saturday we finished up our packing and cleaning the house.  We will attend Stake conference tomorrow and see who's in the new Stake presidency.  We have so much love and appreciation for President Martin, President Wuthrich and President Ferrell.  These good men love the Lord and our testimonies and faith have grown greatly under their leadership.  We will continue to pray for them and the new presidency (whomever the may be) and hope they feel of our love and appreciation.  We hope to say a few more goodbyes at Stake conference tomorrow.

It already seems like a lifetime since we first received our call in September.  We have been able to spend time with most of our immediate family over the past month and weeks and we know they will be blessed while we are away serving the Lord.

L-R, Skyler, Lindsay, Cory, Jersey, Jewels, Paige
Due to inclement weather we cancelled our dinner with Lindsay and Cory and their family tonight but decided it was a good time to test Skype.  This is a photo of our iPad Skype session (Skyler, Lindsay, Cory, Jersey -the brown neck-collar, Jewels the white doggy and toothless Paige (only one photo this week).

We are so happy that we will be able to video chat with family while we are in Tonga.  Somehow, it seems like seeing faces makes things better.

We shed a few tears and probably have a few more to go as we finally leave on Monday headed for Tonga.

Packing for two years into a few suitcases due to the strict guidelines of Air New Zealand has been a bit challenging for us but we think we're ready to go now.  Others have managed before us so we had some good guidance and communications from others already serving in Tonga.  We appreciate all the words of encouragement and prayers from our family and friends.

God Bless you all!

Monday, January 16, 2017

MTC Week in Provo

Please excuse the length of this week’s posts (there are two of them).  We wanted to share our past week as well as the week we had at our immersion experience at BYU the last week of November and first two days of December.

Our week at the MTC in Provo was Spiritually packed, full of emotion and very draining.  We were busy each day  from 7:00 am until late in the evening.

We arrived Monday morning about 30 minutes early.  We were worried about the weather since the forecast was for rain, snow and ice.  We did get the rain but had pretty smooth sailing all the way (it rained constantly the first two days).  The check-in process was very organized and well communicated and it didn’t take long until we were sitting in a group of 99 Senior Missionaries ready to learn and experience the beginning our our journey.

We made our MTC connection as our first instructor was Sister Whitten (Daughter of Michael Whitten from our ward).  She is a sweetheart and was so well prepared.  She definitely had the Spirit with her as she taught us each morning.  Brother Whitten should be so proud of her.  Our zone consisted of 4 couples, the Cook's, Westenskows, Flynn's and Kapp's (photo below).

The first two days of training went well but the highlight was a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar on the Character of Christ.  This isn’t the exact talk he gave but it is very similar.  The message is about turning outward to help others instead of turning in, thinking only of our self.  It’s definitely worth a listen and I highly recommend you find the time to listen to it.  It's about 36 minutes.

On Tuesday night we were privileged to hear from Elder Neil A. Andersen at a missionary devotional.  He spoke about the focus of missionary work.  It was specifically addressed to the young missionaries but was a good message for us as well.  He had several people share their testimonies with us on the spur of the moment.  There was also a choir of several hundred missionaries that sang.  They were behind us and only had one practice but were amazing!

The next two days were full of teaching and role playing using real situations and the Spirit was manifest so strongly that we were often in tears.  It is amazing to me that even tough situations, when focused on our Savior, can be so powerful.  It all made me want to make sure I am doing what I can to share the many blessing I have been provided in my life.  I became so much more appreciative of others, especially my family.

On Wednesday night Becky and I took the opportunity to attend a session at the Provo City Center Temple.  What a beautiful building!  Becky’s brother and his wife, David and Diana came down from Kaysville to join us.  I had a very special experience in the Temple and I may find a way to share that in a separate post.  I can tell you that it is very humbling to feel the presence of those who have passed on.  Especially those who have had a huge impact on my life.

President Lloyd and Peggy Owen

Thursday morning we met the new Mission President and his wife President David C. and Barbara “Deanie” Martino (just changed that day).  They are so excited to be there and will bless the lives of so many.  We visited with them for about 5 minutes while we waited for the cafeteria doors to open for breakfast (yes, we were early - it’s a Kapp thing).  We also found the photo of Brother and Sister Owen hanging on the wall.  We have grown to love them in the relatively short period of time they have been our neighbors.

Review and wrap up on Friday along with photos and contact information exchange and we were headed back home for the weekend.  Next week we will be at Medical orientation in Salt Lake City learning Church policies and procedures as well as available resources.

We got home, unpacked, and crashed!  On Saturday we started our final packing carefully weighing our luggage to make sure we were within limits.  Overweight bags can run into the hundreds of dollars on international flights.  It is a little bit difficult deciding what is most important to take as we’ll be there for the next two years but we have been given good guidance by our assigned zone leaders in Tonga.  We also met with Becky's sib's (minus Phil and Vanessa) Saturday evening at the Black Bear Diner in Provo.  Sam and Barbara got home from their mission to Chile the same day we entered the MTC so this was our only opportunity to see them before we left. (photo below)

Today we attended Sacrament meeting in a Tongan ward in American Fork, Paki and Sepi Ngatuvai’s home ward.  The Tongan people and culture are so loving and accepting.  They make you feel like you are a long lost friend the moment you meet them.  I hope that is something I can learn and internalize in my life.  The feeling is so uplifting and spiritually powerful!

I have included a few pictures below.

God Bless!

L-R, Elder and Sister Cook, Elder and Sister Westenskow, Sister Whitten, Sister and Elder Kapp, Sister and Elder Flynn

L-R, David and Diana, Dale and JoAnn, Becky and Kenny, Barbara and Sam
L-R, Douglas C. and Janice Kapp Perry, Sepi Ngatuvai, Becky and Kenny Kapp

Immersion Week (by Becky)

Monday started with a lot of trepidation on what we had signed up for.  Kenny and I knew our limitations and were hoping that Sister Pulupuna understood them as well.  We should not have worried - what an amazing week!

Our week was packed with not only language training but also cultural education.  We had the most amazing volunteers who spent their week helping us fall more in love with not only the Tongan people but the culture.  Here is a list of some of the things we did:
  • We studied the language - Thank you to all of our volunteers for helping us figure out sentence structure and correct pronunciation. (Lupe, Alex, Sister Pulupuna, Sepi and Paki Ngatuvai.)  
  • We learned the finer points of Rugby so now I can watch a game and have an idea of what they are doing.  We can even tell you the names of all the positions - Thank you Le’o
We learned about the dances and the costumes. Notice the ‘head-tic’?  It is a part of the dance and is either choreographed in to the dance, or the dancer just feels when it is appropriate. Absolutely beautiful - Thank you Alex (see the video below).

We learned about the generational differences and came to appreciate what a wonderful, compassionate and respectful people the Tongans are - Thank you Sepi and Paki.   We met with Bishop Tavanā who has the most amazing life story. He took time out of his busy schedule to help us learn etiquette.  He also gave us the best advice we received all week - if you want a coconut, get one of the young boys to climb the tree, pick and open it for us.  That way, we will be sure and come home with both of our arms.  Hopefully we will remember all that he said.

On Tuesday, we attended a Tongan language class at the Y.  We thought it would be easy, we would sit in the back and just watch and listen.  Seems the teacher had a different idea.  We ended up participating in the class.  That was a stretch.  But, it was also a lot of fun.  Found out the teacher is a cousin to our mission president and he took a picture and sent it to him letting him have a glimpse of the ‘greenies’ he was going to have to work with.

We had a field trip every day.  One day, we went to a Tongan store and found out we really like the cookies. (Tim Tams - you can see them on the table in the photo of lunch below)  They are shipped in from Australia, but that doesn’t matter - they are really good.  So are the twisties, which are a lot like our Cheetos, but just a bit better.  They also make food there on Thurs., Fri., and Sat. and planned on eating there on Friday, but the schedules didn’t work out.

At the end of the week, we went home exhausted, but with amazing memories and an education that really started us out on the right foot. 

A week later, because schedules didn’t work out the week of our immersion we went back down to Orem, invited all of our new friends to join us for lunch. We got some of everything that they cooked.  We ate:
  • ‘Ota - raw fish with coconut cream and chopped vegetables
  • Lu sipi - mutton cooked with coconut cream and taro leaves
  • Sapasui - clear noodles with chicken
  • Lu kapulu  - corned beef with coconut cream and taro leaves
  • Siaine - banana cooked in coconut milk
  • Taro - cooked in coconut milk
The one thing I wanted to try, but didn’t get to was the ‘Otai, which is a drink made with coconut milk, pineapple and mango or watermelon.  They only make that in the summer, so I guess I will have to wait a few more days.  Seems there is a trend here - everything has coconut cream or milk as an ingredient.  We feel in love with everything.  When we got home, Kenny purchased a couple of tools that will help us get the coconut out of the shells (not sharp ones).  We may even try making our own coconut cream.  

We are not sure how we can ever repay Sister Pulupuna for the week she put together for us.  She was over the top and raised the bar for the rest of the language instructors!  We both feel that we have made friends that will be a part of our lives forever.   

L-R, Sister Kapp, Sister Pulupuna (our language instructor), Elder Kapp

L-R, Sister Pulupuna, Sepi Ngatuvai (holding her granddaughter), Paki Ngatuvai, Alex Finau, Lupe Toa

Monday, January 9, 2017

Today We Were Set Apart

Today was a day full of emotions as we were set-apart as Full-time Missionaries by President Wuthrich (President Martin was out of town).  President Ferrell and Bishop Jones also stood in the circle.  President Wuthrich gave us each a wonderful blessing full of instructions related to our specific calls as well as many rich blessings for our family and friends while we are away serving.  We are truly blessed to have such great men as our local leaders.  We will miss our association with them as well.

Since today was fast Sunday, we were also able to bear testimony of the Gospel and thank our Father-in-Heaven for all that we have been blessed with.  We will miss our family and friends and the thought of leaving for such an extended period of time brought us to tears, however, we know that we will be doing the Lord's work and that makes it easier to go.

We are packed for the MTC and are anxious for our experience to begin.  We have not started our count-down but did notice that our projected length of service is 700 days (23 months).

We are humbled at the beginning of this journey.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

(T-minus 8 days to the MTC)

We attended the Bountiful Tongan ward today and found out that we certainly have a long way to go with the language.  It was such a great experience and the people we met are so loving and accepting and outwardly friendly.  We can't help but be excited to actually get to Tonga.

I have attached a copy of the Sacrament meeting program.  The words to the Naaghi Himi (Hymns) are on the right side.  The English title is listed as well so you can try to fit the words to the music.  They do love to sing.

A few Tongan words you might find:

Pisope = Bishop
Fua    = First (or initial)
Lotu   = Prayer
Hiva   = Sing (or Song)
Lea    = Language (or speaker)
Tuku   = To quit (or stop)

(You may be able to figure a few others out on your own.  You can post any questions and we'll try to answer.)