Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 37

Hello again!

For my talk on reverence outside of the Church I spoke about how we need to maintain our reverence during the week so that we are examples to people outside of the Church as well as inside.

The people in the township are super poor. Lots of them are domestic workers or construction workers and they have really low paying jobs. It's kind of sad but people’s houses aren't very big so they don't cost a lot so the money is enough for them to get by. They usually don't have a lot of clothes and most of their money goes to buy their food.

I feel pretty safe most of the time. We always leave by sunset and nothing sketchy has happened during the day. We talk to lots of drunk people but they’re usually pretty friendly. One of them asked me what my name was and I said Elder Kupka and his response was, “Kupka? What the *&%# is that?” I almost socked him but I controlled myself. He wants us to change his friend’s life who owns a hair salon but he doesn't want to meet with us.

Part two of Monday:
Nothing exciting happened after we saw the lions and tigers but we did go to the Chimuti's for FHE. They had forgotten about us so it took them a while to round up their kids and we kept saying we could reschedule but they didn't want to. We ended up being at their house for two hours but we were able to have a nice lesson with them, play a game, and eat some pap, boerwoers and cabbage with our fingers. My stomach is starting to feel not so good. I think I'm getting a second round of diarrhea which sucks. I haven't been healthy since I got to Port Elizabeth but it hasn't slowed down the work so that's good.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Zone Leaders went to Cape Town which means that we got the car today. It was lovely. We had an appointment with Thembelani teaching the law of chastity. We were a bit nervous for this one but he said that he has no problems. This guy is golden and will hopefully be baptized in March. The only problem could be that he plays soccer for a club and the games are often on Sundays.

We had a lesson with a woman named Monica who we just started teaching last week but today we introduced the Book of Mormon and she feels our message is true. We prayed to give her the strength to read and pray and go to church. Hopefully she'll start coming. She struggles a bit with English and we don't always know how much she understands.

After her lesson we went to see Simon and Reward and their six month old son. They're a less active family but only because of work. It was our first time seeing them and they want us to start having FHE with them which I'm very excited for. We finished the day with a taco night. Elder Cobabe had some taco seasoning sent to him and we made our own tortillas. Another successful District dinner to cap off an awesome day.

Not much happened today. We had to go pick up the ZLs from the airport and give them the car back, unfortunately.  Then we went out to our area and all of our appointments dropped except for the one we had with Thobile. He's an awesome guy. We watched the first half of the Restoration DVD with him because he wants to know more about Joseph smith. He wanted to keep the DVD and keep watching it so we let him. I hope he and his family get baptized.

Nothing special today. It was super windy and it made biking all the more difficult. We saw a less active guy that wants to serve a mission but he works four days on and then two days off so it's hard for him to come to Church. Other than that we had dropped appointments all day.

Today was amazing! I was on exchanges with Elder Mahoney and we had a blast! We had District meeting in the morning and then District lunch. We went to McDonalds and Elder Cobabe and I split a party box. It has 2 big burgers, 2 little burgers, 2 medium drinks, 2 small drinks, 2 medium fries and 2 small fries. We split it in half and it was only 60 Rand.

Elder Mahoney and I went to the boardwalk to give a Book of Mormon to a lady who Elder Mahoney had talked to. She wasn't there and when we went back to the car a guy was washing it for us so we went and walked around a bit. We were taking a picture and a girl walked up and offered to take it for us. After she took it we started talking to her and she's a 23 year old girl from England who's taking a trip around the world just for fun. I'm super jealous. She's going to lots of cool places.

We then went to pick up a member named Luthando Makanda to come fellowshipping with us. He's from Queenstown so we we're having lots of fun together and we taught some powerful lessons. Our last appointment was with Sister Appoloniah. She's a wonderful woman from Zimbabwe. She usually cooks for the missionaries when they come but she'd forgotten about us so she only made cupcakes and maputi which is Zimbabwean popcorn. Then she promised that next time the missionaries come she's going to send a plate of food home with them for me. She's one of the nicest, most giving people I've ever met. That appointment ended our exchange. Elder Mahoney has been my only six week companion so far if I do kill Elder Carlson next transfer. We have such a connection that I wish we could be together longer.

I was on exchanges with Elder Cobabe again, this time in my area. We helped clean the chapel in the morning. We didn't really do much because we didn't know that we were supposed to be there so we were an hour late but we did what we could. Then the Clearly Elders called and said that there is a guy there named Brother Wayne and he wanted to see me. So they came and picked us up and I got to see Brother Wayne from Queenstown again! I was pumped because he's such an awesome guy and I was glad to see that he's still doing well.

We then went back to our area and met with a guy who is less active because he's in a wheelchair. His name is Petross Johnson. He's been to the Temple and he wants to come to Church but his right leg doesn't work for some reason. We gave him a Book of Mormon because he had lost his. Then we went over to Sister Margrettes to pray with her for her leg to be better so she could come to Church. She's missing Church a lot because she has an ulcer in her leg and it makes it very difficult for her to walk.

Our last thing today was to go to a baptism for the other two missionaries in our area. His name is Davrin Hunter and he's a super powerful guy and a giant! He's 6' 7" and built like a rock. I'm jealous of his biceps. His baptism went well and that ended our exchange.

Another good Sunday at Church. The talks were on forgiveness and repentance and the speakers did a really good job. Thembelani also made it to Church too. He just missed the Sacrament but he was there for everything else. Things are looking good for him to be baptized next month.

After Church we were fed by the Fouries who are the people whose flat we live in. It was an amazing meal. We had home cooked meat pies with pasta, potato, and regular salads, followed by two rounds of dessert. Davrin and his fiancé Candice, who is a recent convert, joined us as well. It was lovely.

We went to our area but our appointment dropped so we went around trying to set appointments for the week. We had a bit of success. We weren't in the area too long because the Van Theils wanted us over for pancake (crepe) dinner. They are an awesome family with four crazy kids. It was a lot of fun.

After dinner we had to go to the chapel because the George and Knysna Elders are here for a training that we have tomorrow with Elder Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy. We are going to sing a musical piece during the training. Our Zone is pretty tone deaf but we'll be alright. All in all it was a good week; lots of dropped appointments but we still did alright.

We started off today by going bowling with the Zone. It was pretty fun but it's been forever since I bowled and I only got in the 90s. The other weird part is that instead of giving us shoes they made us bowl bare foot. I didn't really like that either. We went to Spur for lunch and then made our way over to the Chapel for the training by Elder Maynes and it was very good.

His wife spoke for about ten minutes and then we sang our musical piece which sounded a lot better than when we practiced it. Elder Maynes spoke for two and a half hours straight. For about an hour he was behind the pulpit and then he got a portable microphone and speaker and walked around having discussions with us.

He talked about the importance of the spirit. He said that we need to plan for baptisms and that if people aren't progressing instead of babysitting them we should just put their name in the area book and find new people to teach and hopefully our younger brothers will get them. It sounds pretty harsh because you develop a love for these people even if they don't progress like they should but I guess it makes sense that we should use our time to focus on those people who really want to learn about the gospel.  We've got some work to do. After the training we went to Brother Chimuti's for FHE and dinner and it was a pretty solid day.

Until next week,
Elder Kupka

Monday, February 24, 2014

No email today

I won't be able to email until tomorrow. We have a training by Elder Maynes of the Seventy today. So, we're going bowling as a Zone and then I'll send you a big email tomorrow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Week 36


I'm going to start typing my emails everyday so I don't forget anything. So today, Monday, after we emailed we went to play sports at the chapel. We started by playing dodgeball with some rolls of toilet paper covered in tape that we found in our flat. It was going well until I accidentally hit Elder Roelofeze in the face. After that more missionaries showed up and we started playing rugby outside. Luckily no one got hurt.

After sports we came back to the flat and Elder Carlson and I went over to the Fouries and played ping pong. I didn't know we could use their table but now you guys aren't the only ones with a table. We had two separate Family Home Evenings tonight. One with a less active member and his investigator wife. They really liked it and we played crazy eights afterwards.

We then went over to the Chimuti's house for our second FHE. We talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave them pamphlets to give to their friends. They fed us pap beans and spinach afterwards and it was really good. You're supposed to eat it with your hands but I started with a spoon and then by the end I was just using my hands. I'm going to have terrible manners when I get home.

This morning we started working at the Lorraine Frail Care Centre. We're going to go there every Tuesday to do some gardening and once a month we'll actually interact with the patients. Today we gardened. They have a really big garden that has not been tended to in a long time. They told us that they would hose it down before we got there but they didn't so there wasn't much we could do. We pulled out what we could and then hosed it down ourselves.

We taught some good lessons today but nothing too special. One guy was asking us advice on this girl that told him she likes him. Sometimes I feel more like a therapist than a missionary. Luckily we were able to pull the conversation back to the Restoration and ended up having a good lesson. We also found a less active family that we're going to start seeing. We then made a large dinner with Elders Cobabe and Roelofeze. We deep fried some chicken and stuck it in a roll with some chips. Delicioso! It was a good end to a good day.

Lots of service this week. We started today by cutting down bamboo branches for the Fouries around where they park their cars. It was nice and cloudy when we started and then it was blazing hot by the time we finished. We got most of it done but we filled the bakkie (truck) full so we'll have to wait to finish it another day.

We ate some lunch and headed out to our area. We found a lot of people who are on the Ward list but are less active. They all get home late from work so it makes it hard to see them. Work is the major reason why most people are less active. We also had a very awesome lesson with a guy named Thobile. He's a father of three and is married but so far we've just taught him. We finished teaching him the Restoration today but he basically taught us back with his answers to our questions.

We tried to give him a Book of Mormon but he said he already had one that he had inherited from his father's cousin's brother. He's flipped through it a bit but he wants to learn more about Joseph Smith before he starts reading it steadily. We plan on watching the Restoration dvd with him next time we see him. He's a solid guy and would be an awesome addition to the Ward. Just another hot day of work; I'm getting very tan.

Today was a rainy, rainy day. We started off with our weekly planning meeting and  then went to see an investigator at Noon but he dropped! He always sets appointments for the mornings and then drops us and it ruins our plans because it stinks to bike back and forth from the Township  when no one else is home.

We were able to find a less active women who stopped coming because she got married to her second husband and apparently in her culture she has to follow the husband's religion. Someone else told us that that isn't true so we'll have to have another talk with her but we're not going back for two weeks. Other than that it was just lots of biking in the rain. It was the hardest on the way home and I was soaked by the time we made it back. Luckily I had that nice rain jacket my awesome Father got for me before I left.

Happy Singles Awareness day to all of the missionaries! I felt like throwing law of chastity pamphlets at people but that probably wouldn't have been a good idea. Instead, we had District meeting this morning which went well. We talked about how the Book of Mormon can help investigators resolve their concerns. Afterward we went to Romans for some pizza. It's good pizza but the best in SA doesn't compare to the stuff back home.

It was raining again today even harder than yesterday so we were dropped off in our area. Of course the rest of the day it stopped raining and we could have taken the bikes. It was still a good day though. We saw some people and found a less active member who wants her name taken off the records because she has a new church that she likes more.

We had a good lesson with Mbali and Siya. They're a married couple and Siya was baptized when he was 8 but he doesn't really remember the church and he goes to a different one now but Mbali is investigating the church. We taught the plan of salvation and things were going good and they were asking really good questions. That's always nice to see in an investigator. We also extended an invitation to Mbali to be baptized and she agreed to it. We don't have a date yet, it was just a soft commitment. That's how I spent my Valentine's day.

Today was not such a good day. Elder Roeloffze had no appointments scheduled and the people that we did try to see weren't home. We were able to do our one hour of online study for the week and we went to Nandos, which is a chicken place, for lunch. Not much else happened today except that Elder Cobabe left me a steak to cook and it was delicious. I've become a much better cook on the mission. Nothing too fancy yet but definitely better than when I left.

I forgot to mention on Thursday that I was asked to speak today in Sacrament Meeting. It was the first time I answered the phone here and it just happened to be Brother Van Theil calling to ask if I'd speak on reverence outside of church. Bit of a strange topic but it turned out well. We had to be at the chapel at 9 today because Elder Carlson had to do a baptism interview for the Zone Leaders. The guy passed so that's good. His name is Davrin and he's engaged to a recent convert.  He is a huge man. He's super tall and super built.

We had no investigators at church again which stunk. We teach lots of people here but no one comes to church! It's very frustrating. After Church there was a baptism for a 12 year old boy named Ethan Blighnaut. His dad is a member but his parents are separated and his mom finally gave permission for him to be baptized. A lot of the members stayed around for it and it was really cool. After that we went to the Tembos for lunch and they made us burritos which were amazing. Their oldest daughter served in the Denver North mission so she knows how to make real Mexican food.

Next we went to the Area for our 5 o'clock appointment which dropped. So we followed up on some people and then went to see Rex, our recent convert. He's had TB and has been talking about going back to Malawi but we thought this would be in the future but it turns out that he's leaving Wednesday. He rebuked us for not helping him and just reading papers to him. I don't know what help he wanted from us when he doesn't even tell us that he's leaving until three days before.

We had just come from an appointment where a drunk guy told us that he wants to kill his wife. We talked him out of it and then said a prayer with him. This has been a very stressful area so far. I hope things improve soon. I feel like a therapist sometimes with the problems that everyone tells us. It becomes a bit too much at times, but I'll get through it. That's one of the reasons why I love Sundays and going to Church so much, it really lifts me up and gets me ready for the next week.

1st half of Monday:
I'll tell you guys the rest of what we do today next week but this week we started off the day by going to Seaview Lion Park. I have some really sweet pictures to send. I went in a cage with a lion and a tiger and they were huge and very playful. The tiger jumped on the back of one of the volunteers working there and the lion was being too playful for us to take a picture with him but I still got some good pictures of him. It was 250 rand (25 dollars) and totally worth it! We might go back in two weeks and play with the little tiger cubs.

Love you all,
Elder Kupka

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week 35

It's been a fast eight months let alone a fast week, Mom. As of tomorrow I'll have been out of the U.S. for eight months and it is super crazy to think about how fast the time has gone by. I was the youngest Elder on this side of the Zone at last Zone Conference. So now we have a greenie (me at 8 months) and then the next missionary has been here 17 or 18 months. In other words, we are a pretty old Zone.

I'm sad to be missing the Olympics because those are always super fun to watch. I remember when they were in Utah very well. It kind of surprises me how well I remember all of the events we went to since that was 12 years ago. I'm so jealous of the ping pong table you have now, too. I played a ton in college and got pretty good. The pie social at the Ward sounds like a fun time.

This week has been a huge improvement from last week. We were able to teach a lot more and we found six new investigators and a few more people who have some potential. Unfortunately, none of our investigators made it to Church this week. Hopefully, we'll be able to change that.

We did have a bit of an interesting lesson with one of the potential investigators though. We went to teach a family that had been found last transfer but hadn't been taught yet. We started teaching the father and he's a super powerful guy and we thought it was going to be awesome. Half way through he invites his wife to join us and I was talking to her about prayer and I was asking her about how she would feel if her son didn't talk to her. All of a sudden she points at her husband and says, “This man is a liar! Our marriage is falling apart and we're going to get a divorce. He's abusive and he chased me with an ax the other day.”

The guy looks at us and says, “It's all true” and then tries to defend himself. Meanwhile my companion and I are just sitting there without a clue what to say while they went back and forth accusing each other of things. Finally my companion shared some ideas about eternal families and we talked about trials but now they want us to come back and start giving them advice on their marriage. It's going to be very interesting. We were supposed to see them yesterday but they weren't there. Hopefully we'll be able to help them to make the best decisions and not chase each other around with axes.

On Saturday we had exchanges again and I was in Lorraine with Elder Cobabe. We went to visit a family who live on a farm that is about a 30 mile drive away. That means when they come to church it takes them around 45 minutes to get there. They fed us an amazing meal of steak, boerewors, macaroni salad, real salad, rolls, and a berry meringue for dessert. It was amazing. We then just sat around and talked for a long time and by the time we looked at our watches we had been there for three and half hours and it was 9 o’clock at night. They are an awesome family.

As we were walking out the door their daughter told us that she had hurt her knee so she wasn’t going to walk out to the car with us. It is pitch black on their farm so we we're walking along with the parents when the daughter popped out of the bushes and screamed at us. I kinda jumped a bit but Elder Cobabe let out a super girly scream. It was so funny; he ran straight for the car!

Sunday was another good Sabbath day. I love having 10 o'clock church and we're a five minute walk from the Chapel so it's nice. We had no investigators between us or the Zone Leaders so we went to the adult Sunday School class. It was very strange being around so many old people in one class. By old I mean married.

After church we were fed by Sister Bell. She had a ton of food and it reminded me of Queenstown because it was a lot of traditional Xhosa foods; chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, beans, squash. I bought groceries this last week but I've only had to cook for myself twice.

Not much else interesting has happened this week. I think I'm going to start writing my emails every night before I go to bed and then I'll send them all on Mondays. I've had a great week and this next week is going to be another good one.

I love you guys,
Elder Kupka

This is Trent's response to his Dad's questions from this week's email:

Hello Dad,

I have had a great week. We were able to get a lot more teaching done. We stay in a large apartment complex. There is the member’s home and then next to it is a bunch of apartments that they built to rent out to people and then next to that is a little flat that the Elders stay in. We have two bedrooms that can only fit a bunk bed in each for the four of us and then there is a kitchen and a bathroom with a sliding door that doesn't completely cover the door way. It's a fun one.

The big fences are because of crime. All of the richer people from Cape Town to Queenstown have giant walls with electric fences or spikes on top. When you tract there you don't even get to see the people you just talk to them through the buzzers. That area that you saw south of the rail road tracks is where we do most if not all of our work. It's called a township and during apartheid it's where the white people put all of the black people. There are lots of townships scattered across the whole country.

Apartheid is over now so they can move out but so many of them are still so poor that they have to keep living there. There are some decent houses but most of them are super small or if they are slightly bigger then there are lots of people living in them. There are also tons of tin shacks everywhere for people to live in too. One of the people that we visit lives in such a small place that there is only room for a bed and a little burner stove. We have to sit on buckets of laundry soap and the bed and then there's no room to move. It's crazy how small it can get.

People cut hair in rail cars and sell things out of them and some people even live out of them. I saw one with windows and a door cut into it. I see cows and donkeys and chickens running around all over the place every day. The school uniform is something that every student wears throughout the country. All of the public schools have different uniforms and most are all-boy or all-girl schools.

We've had a lot more success this week teaching wise and found six new investigators but none of them came to Church so hopefully that will be the next step. Elder Carlson and I are getting a long good. He's a good guy and we're doing very well. He's one of my better companions. The bikes are good. It is getting me into shape but it's so hot out and I get so sweaty when we show up to appointments.

I got the package that you sent with the ties in it this last week. Thank you very much! I love them. I've worn all three of them already. Hope all is going well with the family back home. I love and miss you guys.

Elder Kupka

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 34

Hola mi familia y mis hermanos!

Spanish isn’t something you hear in South Africa too often... or ever. The Xhosa is coming along. When I get to know the members better I'm going to ask them to translate my testimony into Xhosa so that I can start working on learning it.

As for this week, last Monday we played rugby which was way fun but I managed to get a gnarly cut on my arm. The grass was super dry and it cut it up pretty good. Everywhere we go people have been asking me about it; even just random people in the township. It's healing well though.

That night we went to pick up Elder Erickson from the bus stop because he's following me here now. We had three Elders who had visa problems come in late from the Kenya mission so he got sent out here. Then a few days later we got two more Elders from the Botswana mission. They both ended up in our Zone so we now have the biggest Zone with 19 missionaries (1 tripanionship).

Our Zone extends to George and Knysna which is a 4 or 5 hour drive though so that's why. The Zone will probably split next transfer. This mission is getting very big. There are two other Elders with visa problems who came in this week straight out of the MTC. I don’t know where they were supposed to go but they are here now.

After we got Elder Erickson we went to the Blatters, who are a senior couple, for ice cream and we watched the General Conference talk The Mediator by Boyd K. Packer. Sister Blatter saw my arm so she gave me some stuff to put on it. I looked at it when I got home and she had given me cough syrup by mistake. I didn't realize this until after I had put some on my arm and I felt like a fool.

This week has been hard. I've been sick since last Saturday. I don't know what caused it but it's finally done. It stopped us from going out on Friday though. I felt so bad physically and mentally but I really couldn't do it and we only had one appointment so it wasn't the worst day to stay home.

It's been a rough week for us. No investigators came to Church and we weren't able to see a lot of people during the week. We try to visit the less active members but they all work until night and we can't stay in the township after dark because it's too dangerous.

We did have a really good lesson about enduring to the end with our recent convert Rex, and his wife, who is investigating the Church. It was super powerful and super spiritual. I was on exchanges on Saturday but Elder Carlson went to see them again only to find out that they've split up and Rex moved out. Neither one of them are answering their phones now.

So you can see why it's been rough. I'm enjoying it though and it's teaching me how to work. I'm loving Port Elizabeth. It's a great place especially for P-days. Today we went to Danell Cheetah Park. They took us around and showed us all of the animals. We got to pet the lions through the cage. Then after that they took us back to one of the cheetah’s cages and let us go inside and pet it. It was just like a big cat. It was licking me and loving it when I scratched it under the chin. Its tongue was super rough and they said that if it wanted to it could take my skin off in 14 licks. It was a pretty sweet P-day.

I’m excited for this next week and excited to work while feeling healthy. We got the bikes back this last Wednesday. I'm starting to get used to them and biking in town is fine but biking in the township on dirt roads over trash isn't my favorite thing. It's going to be a great week. I love and miss you guys.

Elder Kupka

Port Elizabeth Pictures