President Kupu was scheduled to land on Tuesday at 9:00pm, so Elder Ss and I were so excited we got there early dressed in our suits and then later President and Sister Erickson showed up as well and we all waited anxiously. Well we saw many people come out and we kept waiting and waiting and then less and less people stated coming out and then after quite awhile they told us "That was the last flight and those were the last passengers"... so we went to the South Africa Airline office and found out they were rebooked to land at 12:30 on Wednesday. Well The Ericksons flight home was to leave at 1:30...so they would be already through security and would not be able to meet the Kupus.
On Wednesday we had planned for President Erickson and Pres Kupu to meet for an hour or so and have a small meet and greet with muffins and juice, but that wasn't happening anymore, so we met at the office and still had the muffins and then bade the Ericksons farewell as the senior couple took them to the airport. Later, once again in our suits with just as much excitement, we left to the airport - this time with the Groesbecks. We waited and eventually they came out and greeted us and told us that all of their 9 articles of luggage were missing! What a mess, but later that day the airport called and we went and retrieved the luggage.
Also, the Kupus and the Ericksons met ON the airstrip! The Ericksons were heading to board their plane while the Kupus were getting off of theirs!
Throughout Wed, Thurs, and Fri, I was the Kupu's driver. It was nice because we got a lot of time to get to know them, but I'm sure glad President Kupu is now driving himself!
So the Kupus:
They are from the Pacific island nation of Tonga. President and Sister Kupu came with their 17 yr old son, Junior (named after his father, Inoke). President Kupu was a stake president for 8 years as well as a principal for the Liahona High School, a church-owned school. He and his wife graduated from BYU-Hawaii. Junior is making a huge sacrifice to accompany his parents on this mission. He originally didn't want to come but after counseling with a general authority about it and praying about it he felt he should come. He gave up friends and family and the comforts of home as well as a spot on the U16 national rugby team, so I have a lot of respect for him. He will be attending the American International School of Lusaka for 2 years then he will serve his own mission. (He's praying he goes back to Tonga or else New Zealand where he was born.)
They told us that Tonga has a population of about 103,000 people and over 50% of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! They have a chapel in every village!
The Kupus are classic Tongans. They are super friendly and loving and are always laughing. They also love food haha they came with one suitcase just packed with American candies to give out to the missionaries. They are soo much different than the Ericksons, but that's okay. President Kupu is going to be so good for this mission and will take us to higher heights. Sometimes we think we always have to go the same direction to go higher, but sometimes it's by switching directions that we really go higher.
We had a "Meet the President and Family Meeting" on Friday where the Kupus introduced themselves, showed everyone where they come from and a little about their culture and then President Kupu told us what direction he wants to go and what he expects. He is putting great emphasis on PMG (Preach My Gospel) and the Book of Mormon as well as teaching investigators to repent. Junior wore the traditional Tongan skirt thing for the meeting as well.
On Saturday, we showed Pres around Lusaka and went to all the chapels and meetinghouses where President had interviews with all the missionaries. We will be doing this along with the Meet the Pres Mtg in all the zones over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow we drive 6 hrs up to the Copperbelt Zone, then the next week we will be busy with sending out 5 missionaries and receiving 8 new missionaries then we will fly over to Malawi and do the meetings in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Lots of excitement for Elder Ss and I over the next few weeks. What a fun way to conclude my mission experience.
Love you all!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand