Former Elder Filimoe’ulie was asked be a traveling companion to formerly President Kongaika to make sure everything went well. Isi had been quite sick in Tongatapu without being able to speak and the committee felt he needed someone to go to Ha’apai and Vava’u with him. Thanks for taking care of Grandpa!
President Kongaika of the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission 1989-92 was back home again after a long sojourn in the desert valley of Utah. He had missed this little island where he had grown up. He had thought the whole world revolved around his small island and now that he was home, he didn’t want to leave again. He said it was so peaceful and for the most part unaffected by the world.
As for the grandchildren, this was their first time to set foot on the soil of Pangai, Ha’apai. Son, Joel had been born in Provo, Utah and his children Anna, Eryn, and Joseph (Jojo) had been born and raised in Hawaii. They had heard many tales from their grandfather about growing up in the islands of Ha’apai and Nuku’alofa, but now they were actually seeing it with their own eyes. How wondrous and marvelous to experience the land, sea and air of this nation where time seems to have a different meaning, far from the crowded noisy cities.
Happy familiar faces greeted the excited group and made them feel at ease. Some of our missionaries now have children serving missions. So happy they could carry on in the service of the Lord.
The traveling group moved into the Mission Home near the wharf on Pangai. Isi and Ruth had stayed there several times when they served their mission. They had even entertained one of the general authorities, Elder and Sister Glenn Rudd, in this home. The kids said it was quite different than what they are used to, but it was quite comfortable except for a few spiders and other bugs.
Only three of our RMs were involved in the planning of the activities in Pangai, but ‘Isi said they went all out. Thank you all including the Stake President, Tonga Onevai, for your efforts in making it a very memorable trip. They were also able to visit some of missionaries who had married out of the faith and were welcomed.
The kids were able to go to the local elementary school. They were impressed that the children were so willing to sing for them and make them feel welcome. Anna, Eryn, and Jojo in return sang for the school children. They said they feel that the people are so service oriented and look out for one another.
The first project on Grandpa Isi’s mind was to find his grandfather Sione Kongaika’s grave and clean up the area. This was an act of love and service to honor his grandfather. The Kongaika name came from Sione because he was always in the sea. The name means “part fish”. Before that the family name was ‘Aholelei. He was a very active convert in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His wife Mele had raised Isi’s father, Viliami.
Once Sione’s grave site was cleaned up, others came to help clean up the graves of some palangi elders who had died in the service of their God, Elder Rasmussen and Elder Oborn. They gave their all!
The travelers were treated to feasting and dancing. The kids were surprised that the children would shoo the flies the whole time they were eating. What a selfless act of kindness that was.
The group traveled to Foa on the causeway and the kids had fun collecting shells for Grandma Ruth and enjoying the gorgeous beaches. Isi laid under a coconut tree and felt very grateful for having been able to return again to his islands of Ha’apai.
There was a special fireside held and the main topic was “The Gathering of Israel”. Many participated and it was more of a discussion than a talk by President. It was noted that there were some BYU-Hawaii graduates now living in Ha’apai and serving where they can. “Isi reminisced about the simple faith of the people he grew up with in Ha’apai and he loved every minute he was there.
To be continued… next – Vava’u and more pictures throughout the trip!!