Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 7

Last Monday we didn't get to go to waterfront like we had planned because a guy in our ward called us to give his fiance’s sister a blessing. She was supposed to be in town for only a day but ended up getting appendicitis and had to go to the hospital. It kind of ruined our P-day but he took us out to the waterfront Saturday night and bought us milkshakes and dessert. We're hopefully going to go today to do some shopping. I think if I buy you guys stuff that I'll just keep it in a safe at the mission office instead of sending it home because I know a guy who sent a cheap little ring home and it ended up costing him $30 to send it.

It's crazy that Ryan is driving. I'm sure he'll get used to it soon though. It was weird driving on the wrong side of the road the first time I drove here but I got used to it pretty quickly. That's cool about the man at your work pointing out on the picture where I live. We are in a flat complex called Rhodesview in Rosebank next to the Rondebosch Common which is just a giant park. I'm sure if you Google Earth it or something you could find it.

I haven't gotten a new camera yet because this week is the other Elder’s last week. I've still been able to take pictures with mine just not see them until I get on a computer. I'm waiting until we clean our flat to send a picture of it. We clean it for burrito night where our District comes over and we have burritos but it's always a mess by the time we’re finished. I'll send pictures soon though.

I didn't really see any celebration for Nelson Mandela's birthday but I did see some posters about it. That's awesome that you guys will probably be able to come pick me up! There are a lot of cool places that I can show you. The thing is if I don't spend most of my mission in Cape Town then my other areas could be far outstretched along the whole country and it would be hard to visit them. Mtata is the farthest away area and that's a 10 hour drive.

Honestly, I don't know what I would want for Christmas. The things I miss most are you guys, your cooking, and Dr. Pepper. You can find DP here but it's very rare and doesn't taste the exact same. I love hearing from you and hearing about what’s going on in your lives. I haven't been very trunky (homesick) yet. I'm loving Africa though. I definitely have realized that this is where I'm supposed to be. I love everything about it and I'm having such a good time here.

This week has been a very good but very rough week. Don't freak out when I tell you this but last Monday our flat was broken into. We left at 10:30 a.m. and didn't get back till 8:30 p.m. When we got back we noticed that the place was messier than it usually is and that things were not where we left them. They took our DVD player that the mission supplies to watch training videos on, they took Elder Sombke's iPod, my Kanga pouch that had my 16gb SD card that I hadn't opened yet, some headphones I found in the pocket of my jacket that I didn't mean to bring and some batteries. I also had my olive oil in there but they left it on my desk.

They also took our corn flakes which we got for a one day only price, a jar of peanut butter, a bottle of honey, and a container of sugar. I don't really care about any of the stuff that was taken. I luckily had my camera and money and important stuff on me. It just stinks for Elder Sombke because his iPod had some pictures of his family on it.

The rest of the week was good for the most part. Pinky is an investigator who they had before I got here but was on holiday because she is a UCT student. She's back and we taught her a lesson. She's still very interested and will hopefully be baptized soon. We taught Sister Zita and Jean Jacque the rest of the Plan of Salvation and they really liked it. Jean Jacque has a lot of questions and we answered them the best we could. It's also hard for them to come to church because of work. South Africa has 30% unemployment so it's hard to tell people to quit their jobs but we're trying to work through that.

We asked Jean Jacque if he would be baptized and he said yes, if he receives his answer. So we'll hopefully baptize them soon but Jean Jacque probably can't come to church this whole month so that will make it difficult. We had some good lessons this week and I am getting much more comfortable teaching people.

I went on exchanges with my District leader and we taught Grace who is from the DRC. I had just met the guy and then had to teach him the Law of Chastity. I thought it was going to be awkward but it turned out not to be. He said that he's going to talk to his girlfriend and probably end up breaking up with her because he doesn't think she'll be too excited by the idea. It was cool to see his willingness to live the commandments though. He's not even my investigator and I was still so happy to see him accept it.

Our next lesson was cut short however because I threw up a few times in his bathroom and then about ten more times on the way back home. I don't know why I was throwing up but I think I might be allergic to something in the food here; but I don't really know. I think some people would be discouraged by getting robbed and throwing up a ton in the same week. For me though, I thought this was one of the greatest weeks on the mission so far because of all of the teaching we did and the way that I've been able to positively influence people.

So please don't worry about me even though I tell you these things that are going wrong because I truly am loving it here and loving the work. It's made me so happy and I don't think anything can take that away from me. I'm apparently in one of the hardest areas to work in and we don't have a car but I've loved every minute of it and am so glad that I'm here doing the Lord's work. I love you all and love hearing from you.

Elder Kupka

                                                        Rondebosch Common from Google Earth

Monday, July 22, 2013

Week 6

To answer your questions about my day to day life --- I am going to send postcards as thank you notes to people. I found a place that sells them last week and they cost about 45 cents. The postal system here is kinda sketchy. We went to one in Joburg and they had one of those doors where you have to open them one at a time because apparently people break into post offices all of the time and steal packages and stuff. Most of the time it takes a couple of weeks for mail to arrive but sometimes it doesn't work out.

My companion is Elder Sombke. He was born in Idaho but his dad works for the government so he's lived in Virginia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, and New Mexico. He's a really cool guy. Our personalities are pretty much exact opposites. I like sports and he likes baking and anime. He wants to own his own bakery after the mission. We get along really well though and he's an awesome guy. The first time I met him he made a joke about me being from Provo and calling it The Factory. This was before I knew we would be companions and I thought to myself I hope this guy isn't my companion and then lo and behold he's my trainer. I really do love him though, and I'm glad he's my trainer; it's just funny that he was the only one I didn't really want to have be my companion at the first meeting.

Walking down the street here is a lot different because the combis (taxis) honk at everyone on the streets and yell out the windows trying to get people into their taxi. We mostly walk down Main Road which is the road that connects to the campus and now that the students are back there are people everywhere. There are stores on either side of the street and KFC is the most popular fast food chain down here. There is only one Burger King on the whole African continent and it's really close to our area but I haven't had a chance to go yet.

There are so many salons and barbers here on the road too. There are like 5 or 6 in a row then you keep walking and there's even more. Our Ward is super awesome. There are about 125 people every Sunday and everyone is super nice and friendly. It's been such a great Ward to start off in. I don't know if I already mentioned this but it was the first Ward in all of Africa and is celebrating its 160th year this year. The Bishop is super great and he is pushing the members to get more involved in missionary work because now really is the time.

For groceries we go to a store called Pick n Pay. It's nothing too fancy. We bought a ton of food last week for 400 Rand. Things are cheaper here but not by a whole lot. This last week Brother Mike offered to cook us food every day for 35 Rand a plate. It's worth at least twice that. He is really such an awesome guy and he loves the missionaries. He's a convert of about a year and half and he is so great. I cannot say enough nice things about him. His food is so delicious too! He makes sure to heap on the vegetables. I don't think I'd eat vegetables if it weren't for him. This last week we had Ostrich Neck stew which was delicious and that came with butternut squash and other stuff. But it is so much food and it's all super healthy for you. I am so glad I'm in this area if for no other reason than Brother Mike.

We do have a cell phone but it’s a brick phone that doesn't have color or anything. We go to an email shop to email and across the street is an apartment building called Trump Towers; I find that funny. They play music while we email and it’s the only time I get to hear music so I'm not complaining. They love Mondays though because that is when tons of missionaries come to email home.

This week has been a bit of tough one for missionary work. Last Monday we had to cancel an appointment with our best investigator because there was a new Elders training. At the training I got to see a bunch of guys from the MTC and it was so great to see them again and see how they're doing. Every appointment for the rest of the week had to cancel on us though. So it was really frustrating, not to mention Elder Sombke has been sick for a couple of days.

There were some good points too though.  We had Zone training on Wednesday where we learned about some new policies. One of the policies is that all walking Elders have to wear orange vests at night because some numb nut got hit by a car while he was riding his bike in the middle of the road at night without a helmet on.  All of the other Elders make fun of us and our investigators ask us what we're wearing and everyone driving by stares. It's ok though because we're being obedient and we'll be blessed for it.

At the Zone training I was looking around as we were talking about grace and watching a video from Brad Wilcox and I thought to myself that there's no other place that I would rather be. Where else could I be sitting with 20 other guys and the mission president and his wife and the senior couples discussing things of such importance.  It just made me so grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve and I’m really loving it here even though it has been a hard week.

I got to go on my first exchange this week. I went with Elder Khoni who is one of our Zone leaders and a super nice guy. He got to his area at the same time as me though and his area is much larger than mine because he has a car. So we pretty much got lost everywhere we were going. We had three appointments and all of them were cut short because we were late to all of them. It's alright though because we still had some good spiritual lessons.

I'm also now certified to drive in South Africa. I already was but now I'm mission approved too. Driving on the left hand side is a little weird but I've gotten used to it over the last month just riding around with other missionaries so it wasn't bad when I did it for the first time. 

Our investigators are great, I just want them to stop being too busy for us.  One investigator with a baptismal date is back from holiday because she's a student. Her name is Pinky and hopefully she'll be baptized soon so I can get my first baptism. I don't have much else to report on. I love the work and I got 15 emails this week so I'm feeling the love as well. I miss you guys but I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve and two years really isn't that long. These first six weeks have flown by.  

Love you all,
 Elder Kupka

Fish Hoek

Monday, July 15, 2013

Week 5

To answer some of your questions.  The Elder who is giving me his camera is okay with it because this is his 4th camera. He's been mugged twice and his broke once too. It's a South African camera so he would have to buy an adapter to use it in the States. He said it's totally fine for me to have it. I wish I could send you more pictures but it takes five minutes for one picture and I pay per minute here to use the computer.

I get emails from friends who are on their missions all around the world. It's great to hear how everyone is doing.  And some Elders from my MTC group send an email out to everyone and it has a long conversation from everyone.  Elder Ojok my MTC companion wrote me. He already has had two baptisms.

Our mission isn't a high baptizing mission and our area is even tougher but our mission has incredible retention and that's what we really focus on. Everything's been going great so far. We only get $78 U.S. to live off of for two weeks and stuff isn't a whole lot cheaper here so I've been dipping into my home account a little more than I would like but I'm sure I'll get better as I get used to it.

I finished the Book of Mormon the day before I turned one month on the mission. It was awesome to finally say I've finished. The whole time I was getting the yeah it could be true thing but then when I was reading the very last page I teared up a bit because I just had this overwhelming feeling of how true it really is. I always knew it was true but it was great to finally have the confirmation and it was my fault for not getting it sooner.

As for this last week it's crazy to think it's already been a week since I last emailed but then I look back and it seems like forever ago. We played some football after I finished emailing and it was great to play it again. I haven't played since November. I think I had about as many catches as everyone else playing by the end of the game. None of them really knew how to play though.

We had a lesson that night with Sister Zita and her husband Jean-Jacque was able to come. Sister Zita has a baptismal date but if we can get her husband too it will be that much better for building the kingdom and Ward up here in Mowbray. Jean-Jacque seemed really interested in the church and we got him a French BOM because English is his 3rd language. We taught them again on Thursday and he loved it and said that it really cleared some things up for him. It's hard for him to get to Church because of his job but we're going to do our best to teach them and pray that the Lord will provide a way because they are such an awesome family.

This week’s miracle came with them. We were talking about the Book of Mormon with Jean-Jacque and we asked sister Zita how her reading had been going. She said she's trying her best and that she is starting to receive her answer that it's true! This was the very next week after I had felt prompted to tell her to pray before and after reading. It was so awesome to see that I really do have an influence in these people’s lives and that I can help them out. It was hopefully the first of many.

We've had two investigators who have been ignoring us this week. Richie, who is the first person I ever taught, hung up on us a couple times and then told us to meet him at his flat and when we got there and called him, he said he wasn't there and hung up. We also have Mluleki who just started college this week so that could be why he's been busy and not answering. We haven't given up on either of them yet. It's tough when they don't answer but we just keep praying and hoping for the best.

One thing that was told to us by Brother Mocke in the MTC is that it takes someone an average of seven encounters with missionaries before they can finally accept it. So I just look at it as us planting the seeds in them so that they can one day accept the gospel.

I've been forgetting to tell you guys about Brother Mike. Brother Mike is the coolest guy in the Ward. He used to be a professional chef but he's retired. He has the missionaries over every Friday after District meeting for a meal. Its only 35 Rand and it's so much food and it's all really healthy. Speaking of healthy, I've lost 25 pounds so far. Brother Mike is just the sweetest guy and we love going over there and talking to him.  He has pictures on his wall of all the missionaries he's fed. He also hooks us up with haircuts from a professional guy who does it for cheap. I love Brother Mike and he is one of the best benefits of serving in this area. The guys in my district are awesome and we're getting along so well and having fun and doing work along the way. Our motto is Work Hard, Play Hard. I'm so glad that I'm out here serving a mission.

One cool thing is that an investigator named Pinky is getting back this week and she has a baptismal date so I'll hopefully be having my first baptism soon. We've kind of had a rough week because of the lack of investigators but we're doing our best and this week should be busier because we have a training meeting tonight at the mission home, we're going on exchanges tomorrow with the AP's, Wednesday is Zone Conference, Thursday we're going to an all-you-can-eat pizza place, and Friday is exchanges with the ZL's. It's going to be a crazy, awesome, long, fun week and I can't wait.

This last Sunday the Bishop issued a challenge for everyone in the Ward to go out with the missionaries to help teach lessons so I'm excited for that to pick up too. We already have one guy setting up an appointment and going with us this week. I still haven't had any super crazy experiences in South Africa but I'm sure they will come. We did have a guy come up to us late at night crying and asking for money but as soon as Elder Sombke told him we don't have any money he stopped crying, glared at us and walked away. He was Coloured and they have a super weird accent that I can't even understand. They said this was an English speaking mission but between Afrikaans, Xhosa and all of the accents from people all over Africa, plus South Africans have different words for things (like flat for apartment);  I really feel like I'm learning a new language.

I've also learned this week that washing your clothes in a bucket really stinks. It's not like we're in a poor area or anything it's just that we don't have a washer. When we're done washing, we have to hang our clothes around our flat because although we have a dryer it's broken. We've been trying to get it fixed but nothing yet. It just makes me more grateful for all the stuff I had at home. 

We also did some online training for family search which was awesome. I learned that a great-great-grandfather on Dad’s side died on April 12 -- my birthday! I thought that was pretty cool. Just kind of like a circle of life thing. I think that's about everything I have for this week.

Until next week -
Love, Elder Kupka

Monday, July 8, 2013


Week 4

This week has been a pretty good one.  My District contains eight Elders and six of them are in our Ward. They are all really cool and we're becoming better friends every day. We're playing sports today which should be fun. I washed my clothes in a bucket for the first time in my life. It's not my favorite experience but hey, they got clean. Our dryer is broken so we have to hang our clothes around the flat for them to dry. They should be fixing the dryer this week though for which I am grateful.

We went over to our Bishop’s house twice this week. Last Monday they wanted us to give them an FHE lesson so we read the first 6 verses of Alma 50 and talked about how we can compare the defenses of that city with the defenses we need in our lives today. Then on Friday it was their daughter’s 20th birthday so they invited us over for dinner along with the District leaders. After dinner we sang hymns and shared our favorite scriptures. 

Last Sunday a guy showed up at Church and his name was Mluleki.  We taught him two lessons this week and he seems really interested and committed. He's been dating a girl for three years and she's a member and he wants to find out more about the Church because he wants to marry her. So we've been doing our best with him. He was supposed to come to Church yesterday and we were going to meet with him afterwards but he ended up being busy which totally bummed me out. He's a really powerful guy and already has a strong belief in God and prayer so he just needs to learn the whole truth and he can't do that if he doesn't come to our appointments. We'll hopefully meet with him sometime this week.

Our other investigators seem to be progressing. There's a women named Zita who we've been teaching and has a baptismal date but we're going to push it back a bit because she doesn't seem fully ready.  We are trying to get her husband to start coming to the lessons too so we're going over there tonight later at night so he can be there. If we can baptize the whole family that would be awesome.

One thing that happened in our last lesson with her is we were talking about her relationship with God and how she feels when she reads the Book of Mormon. She said she feels that her relationship with God is growing but she doesn't really feel anything when she reads. I told her that I had a similar problem when I first started reading. I would easily get distracted and then not really learn a whole lot so I started praying before I read and that really helped me to focus and to learn and grow. She seemed to really like that idea and she said the closing prayer and mentioned that in her prayer. It was so awesome to me that what I was telling her was already making a difference in her life and I hope it will continue to bless her as she reads and learns about the gospel. It was such a cool experience.

The rest of the week was a little slow. We had four appointments one day but three of them fell through which was sad. We're still doing our best though. University is about to start up again which should mean a lot more students and a lot more people to teach which is what I am excited for.

This last Sunday was a super spiritual and powerful one. It was awesome to hear all of the people’s testimonies. Our Ward here is a lot smaller than the one back home but there weren't any pauses in between people because everyone wanted to go up and share. I didn't go up because I had just introduced myself the week before and bore my testimony then.

That night we had a hymn-a-long, where everyone was invited to come and sing hymns for an hour. It was so awesome, I loved it. Most everyone sang but then we had a duet by two eight year old boys who sang Families Can Be Together Forever. Then we as missionaries sang the South Africa Cape Town Mission Anthem which everyone loved. After the hymn-a-long a women asked me and three other Elders to sing I Believe in Christ for her.  We did and by the time we were done she was in tears. It was such a spiritual moment and I was so glad that we were able to do that for her.

I know that I've only been out for a month but I've already learned so much and I've been able to help other people. This mission has truly been an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve. I love you all.

Until next week,

Elder Kupka

Monday, July 1, 2013

Week 3

We didn't get a chance to e-mail last week because it was our last day in the MTC and we were flying out the next day to Cape Town. I'll try and say everything that’s happened in the last week and a half but it will be hard.

On our last Saturday in Jo-burg we played soccer during our sports time with some members from the local branch. There were some little kids that were pretty good. They wanted me to play goal keeper and I didn't do a half bad job; I blocked 5 shots and only let 2 in. Then Sunday was super awesome. We sang How Firm a Foundation as a farewell song to all three branches that met in the building and it was so cool. Then that night the missionaries had a testimony meeting and sang hymns for a long time. Our last hymn together as an MTC group was Come Thou Fount and we gave everyone a chance to have a solo and everyone was crying and laughing and having a good time.

We got so close as an MTC group. I honestly feel bad for people who don't go to the SA MTC because it was the greatest thing in the world. Everyone was so awesome and we got along super well. President and Sister Reber were amazing too. In Provo you would never meet the President and get to know them like we did. Sister Reber was seriously like everyone’s Mom; she is the sweetest lady and truly cared for each of us. She rubbed Vicks on my feet because I had a cough and apparently that helps. That’s just an example of how loving she is.

We did get to see the Mission President’s fireside. We woke up at 5:30 in the morning to be able to watch it and it was super awesome so I'm glad we did. Missionary work is really getting going. The Bishop is stressing that fireside a lot and he gave everyone in our ward a copy of it to watch. It's a great time to be on a mission.

On Tuesday we left for the airport to fly to Cape Town. It was only a two hour flight which is a lot less than all of the other flights I've been on recently.  There were seven of us going to Cape Town even though originally it was only going to be five, but the two Elders going to Zimbabwe are now going to Cape Town.  There is some major political stuff going on there and all of the non-local missionaries are getting kicked out and the Mission President might soon be kicked out too.

We were picked up at the airport by President and Sister Wood and the AP's. They gave us chocolate and drove us to the mission home which is beautiful.  They took us up to Signal Hill and we were able to take pictures of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, The City, Robin’s Island and the ocean. It was such a great experience as they read to us an entry from the first missionary in Cape Town in 1853. We then drove back for orientation and slept, which was much needed by then.

The next day was transfer day and there were 50 missionaries roaming around the house by Noon. I am serving with Elder Sompke in Mowbray, which is a walking area. It's one of the few walking areas in the mission. Elder Sompke is awesome. My first impression of him wasn't the greatest but I've really come to like him and he is a great trainer. Our area includes the University of Cape Town which is cool but they are on holiday right now so it's kind of slow. We do have a few investigators and two with a baptismal date which is very exciting. I've only taught two lessons so far but we have four scheduled for tomorrow and I can't wait to start teaching people.

One cool thing that happened this week is that we were going to check on a less active member and on our way there we saw a woman doing yard work outside of her flat so we asked her if we could help. She had just moved in and thought it looked gross and she was a little perplexed when we offered to help but she finally said we could. Afterward, she was so happy to have us work with her and for free. She said the world needs more people like us and she was so grateful.  It was cool though because the Lord always has a plan for us and we just need to listen to His promptings.

Random Fact: a Justin Bieber song is being played on the street outside our building right now.

My first church meeting here was cool. The Ward is super awesome and everyone came up to introduce themselves to me. I also blessed the Sacrament, gave an introduction in Sacrament meeting, helped my companion teach the 7 year olds in Primary and handed out the fireside DVD's after church. So they keep us busy. I also get to give the Bishops family a FHE lesson tonight. Things are going good out here.

It is so beautiful here that I wish I had my camera cord so I could send you pictures but next week I promise there will be a lot. Even the pictures can't do this place justice though. Today was a good first P-day because we hiked to Boomslang Caves in Fish Hoek. We had to crawl our way through in some parts and walk on some stones across the water but the view when we got out on the other side was amazing.

It's been a good first week in Cape Town and I'm glad I'm here and glad to be doing the Lord's work.

Love you all,

Elder Kupka