Report from the Mission Field

Last year Taufui Vakapuna traded in his cleats and shoulder pads for the dress shoes and tie that are the uniform of an LDS missionary. Total Blue Sports recently heard from former freshman fullback sensation who is currently in southern California knocking on doors instead of heads.

Elder Taufui Vakapuna has been serving as a full-time LDS missionary in the Carlsbad, California mission. Carlsbad happens to be the home of yesterday's BYU tight end signee Vic So'oto. So'oto has had the chance to personally see the work of a BYU football player turned missionary.

Like so many others players before him, Elder Vakapuna has put aside his football career and education to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Aw, he is doing awesome down here!" exclaimed So'oto. "I went tracting with him and he was talking to this lady who really didn't want anything to do with the Elders and started to walk away. Then out of now where Elder Vakapuna just said, ‘Did you know that in the gospel you can do baptisms for the dead?' Then the lady turned around and wanted to know more about what he had to say. Elder Vakapuna set up a time to teach her the gospel right there, and they are teaching her now."

Surprised and confused by what just took place, So'oto wondered how Elder Vakapuna knew she would take an interest in baptisms for the dead.

So'oto recounted: "I asked him how he knew what to say, and Elder Vakapuna just said, ‘I don't know. We are just the mouthpiece for the Lord, and I just felt like I should tell her that.' He's an incredible missionary."

During his last P-Day, Elder Vakapuna stopped by the So'oto family for a visit and wanted to relay this message to all the BYU fans that have taken an interest in him, and to let them know of the experiences he is having serving the Lord.

"Everything is going well down here," said Elder Vakapuna. "We just had a baptism and we have a couple coming up in two weeks, and then we had a family this past week. That was awesome! That was the greatest experience I've had so far on my mission. Just to have a family be baptized, I was balling all day. It was crazy."

Elder Vakapuna and his companion have just recently baptized a large African American family in Carlsbad.

"Yeah he did," said Vic So'oto. "It was crazy too because this family was really anti-Mormon and didn't like the church, but he got them to listen to him and taught them the gospel and now they are baptized. It was so incredible. They have younger boys in the family that are football players too. One is a sophomore in high school and is pretty good."

Elder Vakapuna will finish serving his mission in February of 2006. Prior to that he will get in touch with BYU coaches and begin preparing to join his fellow teammates at BYU. In the mean time, Elder Vakapuna is focused solely on the task at hand.

"I have to talk to the coaches and see when is the best time," said Elder Vakapuna. "If they need me to come before next spring, I'll come home in the spring. My time is up next February so I want to work hard so I don't have any regrets, so I'm not going to think about when I come home. I'm learning so much. Without [the gospel] I would have been lost growing up. My mission has helped me out a lot. This has been beyond anything I can imagine."

During LOI day, coach Mendenhall expressed to media and boosters his support for missionary program and reaffirmed his desires to fully support those in whom seek to put their education and football career on hold for two years to serve the Lord.

"We've got young men coming back and young men expecting to leave, that's the most volatile thing about coaching at BYU is planning for that because we might be in the middle of the season and a young man says, ‘No I'm not going' then decides to go," explained Mendenhall. "What am I supposed to do at that point, ‘No don't go?' Certainly go and we'll work around that and it changes just like a young man transferring, and my job is to support them if they want to serve."

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