News Story

Cousins Delay College Football Careers to Serve in New Zealand


With signed contracts to play American football at Stanford University and Brigham Young University (BYU) Provo respectively, Levani Damuni and Mason Fakahua chose to delay their start dates to serve the people and communities in New Zealand.

What they found was they were the ones being served.

“People here are so loving and generous,” says Mason. “There’s never a time when people don’t invite you in for a chat or for a meal. Even if we have different beliefs, the people listen.”

Because of their New Zealand welcome, the cousins have learned to be more giving,

“Give like the Saviour would give,” says Levani. “Others might need what you have more than you. I’ve learned that from the people here - real benevolence.”

Mason and Levani are Tongan Americans, cousins and now missionary companions serving as Elder Fakahu and Elder Damuni for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The gospel message to “love one another” are not just words to these two young elders – a part of each week is given in community service such as gardening, trimming trees or packing lunches for those who struggle.

“We try to be a good hand and help out wherever we can,” says Elder Damuni.

They have also learned some important lessons.

Elder Fakahua says, “Though I have Tongan heritage, I didn’t grow up speaking the language. I was asked to learn the Tongan language for my mission. It’s humbling but I’m doing it.”

Elder Damuni adds, “When I finish my mission, I’ll be going to college far from home. I’ve learned I need to be able to stand on my own.”

The cousins also have words of advice to those considering serving a mission.

“My parents always told me – ‘serve something greater than yourself.’ It didn’t really sink in until I began to focus on this during my mission,” says Elder Fakahua.

Elder Damuni’s athletic training shows when he adds, “Go as hard as you can. Work so you have no regrets and that you know you gave everything you had while serving. Leave it on the field – the mission field.”

Though these two cousins are likely to play opposite each other at Stanford and BYU, the lessons learned and friendships forged while serving as missionaries and companions in New Zealand make the sacrifices all worth it.

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