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Vava’u Portion of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-92

After a fun and relaxing time in Ha’apai , former President ‘Isileli Kongaika, his son Joel, and three grandchildren boarded a boat headed for the Vava’u Islands in Tonga. Unlike former trips made by the Kongaika family on the ‘Olovaha, this newer boat, the MV. Tongiaki had the latest equipment and was supposed to provide a comfortable ride. Unfortunately, the sea was very rough and all but one of the family got seasick.

The following notes are from President Kongaika. He makes more detailed ones since he was actually on the trip:

Boat ride to Vava’u

Left Ha’apai at 2:00 pm on speed ferry and arrived 6 pm to Puatalefusi harbor at Neiafu, Vava’u.

All the kids including Joel and the newly called missionary called to  serve in New York, Sione Filimoe’ulie got seasick. This missionary has never been outside of Tonga!

Trying to recover from seasickness at Saineha High School in Vava’u

Greeted by planning committee at the wharf and transported to our prepaid house at Neiafu. A home with 5 beds and 2 baths, gorgeous back porch view of the famous Lolo ‘a Halaevalu Harbor.

The Vava’u Group – please tag!

We were invited to have a welcome potluck dinner with all the returned missionaries serving with us from 1989-1992. It was held at the Saineha High School Gymnasium. From 8-10pm

  • Everyone who came introduced themselves with spouses and children.
  • Pres. Mosaia To’a, our Vava’u group chair introduced his officers and gave a welcome remarks while we ate. He also outlined the plan for the rest of our gathering for the next four days. Aug 8-11.
  • At the close of the evening I was asked to respond and expressed gratitude to all who had any hand in the planning and carrying out of the plan. They have learned well from their mission experience the commitment pattern in carrying out their activities.   

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

  • Pres To’a arranged for a seven-passenger van for us to rent while in Vava’u. Bro. Filimoe’ulie was our designated driver.
  • Joel and Kids dropped me and Filimoe’ulie to meet the ministering committee at the stake center and they went to do some sightseeing around Neiafu and do some laundry. 
  • We went to visit a sister who was married outside of the covenant and is no longer active. It was a good visit both for us as well as for this mother. We extended an invitation for her and her family to join us in the activities as we celebrate our 30th year reunion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

  • We went on to visit three graves of our missionaries who had recently passed away, leaving behind widows and children. We presented flowers in each of these graves. The missionaries were Alavini Vea, Sione Fakatava and Viliami ‘Elisa all from Neiafu and Toula.
  • At about 4 pm we went with kids to join the dinner prepared by the Neiafu group to welcome and start our activities in Vava’u. By now JoJo has become proficient in selecting from the spread of foods on the table that he likes and so did Eryn and Anna. JoJo had learned the best part of a roasted pig was the meat along the spine. 
  • A welcome dance was held around 7 pm to 11pm at the same stake center. It was good to see all the missionaries and their spouses came to have an enjoyable evening with other fellow missionaries. I was able to get reacquainted with many with whom we served together 30 years ago. We received many leis and food to last a while.

Friday, August 9, 2019

  • We decided to take the kids on a trip around the Island and show them where I served in Vava’u some 55 years ago. We started at Neiafu our zone leader headquarters. We drove to Leimatu’a through Mataika and Felecia. Leimatu’a was where I had served for about 2 months and then was assigned to transfer to Longomapu for 8 months
  • We drove on to Longomapu through Tefisi. I was able to show the kids the backwoods of Vava’u and saw a horse being used for transportation as well as the manual laborer.
  • This is where we cleared land given to the Church for a little house of worship and later it became a ward with a beautiful brick meeting house. The location was so amazing and it overlooks the ocean with a view of the outer islands. 
  • We also visited the location of my first missionary make-shift fale and told how the Lord sent us to activate a less active member in Longomapu. Brother Tau’aika was no longer living in his Longomapu estate. 
  • We drove and looked for Bro Tau’aika who now lives in the village of Tu’anuku. It was good to have Joel and the kids meet the person I had often talked about while on my mission in Longomapu. He and his wife are now aging but still very aware and remembered every detail of our time together. 
  • After the visit to the western side we headed to the Eastern side, that includes Ta’anea, Ha’alaufuli, Tu’anekivale, and Koloa. We visited Koloa where Grandpa Sione Kongaika and Grandma Mele had served a mission as couple leadership missionaries. It was here he made a visionary decision that all church meetings will be held on Sunday, allowing them to do ministering work on other days of the week. We had to drive through a crossways from the end of Tu’anekivale to this tiny island called “Koloa” (treasure). I am uncertain what the treasure was in this tiny remote island. 
  • We drove back and stopped at Ta’anea to have another feast prepared by the Eastern group. It was an excellent meal, however the kids and Joel decided after that long tour around the the main island of Vava’u, they had had enough for the day and broke off for an evening of private pizza dinner in Neiafu.
  • Around 7 – 10 pm the Eastern group hosted another dancing activity and invited all to come and mingle and dance. It was so fun to see the future of the Kingdom in these activities. They enjoyed good clean fun.

Saturday AUGUST 10, 2019 Touring the island district.

  • This group was headed by Pres Saipa’ia who served with us. Pres. Saipa’ia is my cousin from the ‘Isileli Tupou descendants. He had gained permission from the Mission President for us to use the Missionary speedboat named Alma to tour the Islands in Vava’u namely, Noapapu, Matamaka, Talihau, Otea, Pangai Motu and others I can’t remember.
  • It was a great day for boating and swimming. First we drove to the bridge that connects Talau to Vaimalo. This is where we used to swim across the channel to get to Neiafu for Missionary work days. Now they drive or ride a bike or walk this road. 
  • We then headed out by Tefisi and Tu’anuku to the Sparrows Cave. Here we drove into the cave and Joel and some of the kids who joined us got brave and jumped in for a swim. The kids just observed as they were nervous about getting out of the boat. We drove around these islands for an opportunity for sightseeing. We headed back to Neiafu and took a rest before we drove out to Pangaimotu for the evening dinner picnic at a place called the Ano (lake) 
  • Again, we enjoyed a gathering with families of our Vava’u 89-92 Returned Missionaries as we broke bread together over another outpouring of anga’ofa (love). The kids enjoyed the barbecue dishes and they had also barbecued a lamb as they do little suckling pigs. Many speeches and tau’olunga (dances) were given to entertain the crowd. As always, I was asked to give the closing remarks signaling the close of the activity.

Sunday AUGUST 11

  • We were invited to join any ward or branch we wanted to. So we attended the Leimatu’a ward for two hours.
  • Joel and the kids went home for lunch which was prepurchased. I joined the rest of the party with a pot luck lunch at Saineha under the huge mango tree. Here we had the traditional favorite dishes like lo’i lesi, veihalo, and vaihopa, to name a few. There were always fresh young coconuts to drink. We also had some good sharing as we ate together under this huge mango tree.
  • At 7 pm we started out missionary fireside and most people did not show up until around 8 pm. It was a time for remembering God’s tender mercies while we served as His missionaries. 
  • I closed this fireside with an invitation to focus our gospel study at home, following  the Come Follow Me course of study, if we are to know, love and serve Christ more. 
  • The other invitation was to live the new commandment to “Love one another as Christ has loved us.” The image is in the Tongan Proverb to “PIKIPIKIHAMA-KAE- VAEVAEMANAVA MANAVA” – remember the poor and the needy, the widows and homeless and the sick and those in prison. Love them as Christ loved us all.
A yachters paradise – Vava’u

Monday 12 AUGUST 

  • We just relaxed, paid our bills, and got ready to fly home to Tongatapu.
  • Some things have not changed over these many years. We were scheduled to fly out at 5:30 am and was later delayed to 3:30 pm. While at the airport we were told it was delayed one more hour so did not get off the island until 5:30 pm.
  • We checked in to a house that Joel had reserved online and they enjoyed a pizza dinner provided by Alavini and Mokiana Sika. Pres Sika and Mokiana took me to a farewell family home evening with whomever were left in Tongatapu before we departed for home the next day. Again, we had a wonderful evening of activities focused on helping single mothers of our group with necessary items for their homes. We raised some money to be divided among these widows. 
  • Of course a good Tongan meal always accompanied a gathering like this. At the end I reminded them of our reunion invitations:
  • Focus in Gospel study in our homes by following diligently the “Come Follow Me” curriculum of the church.
  • Live the best we can the new commandment to “Love One-another as I have Loved You” The image of PIKIPIKIHAMA- KAE- VAEVAEMANAVA is to represent the commandment as we strive to care for the poor and needy, widows and fatherless as well as those who are sick and in Prison. 

Check back for more photos of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-1992 in Tongatapu, Ha’apai, and Vava’u tomorrow!!