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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  • We went to visit a sister who was married outside of the covenant and is no longer active.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!!

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Ha’apai Part of the Tonga Mission Reunion 1989-92

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!

Ha’apai Boy Back Home!! Joyful Celebration!

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.

Sione Kongaika the fourth from the left in back. Viliami is the boy in front third from the left with bandage on head.

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!

Beautiful beach on Pangai, Ha’apai

You can see the beauty of Ha’apai from these photos. The kids had a new friend in AJ who could speak English very well and showed them the ropes. Isi was talking with Ruth in Utah to tell her all about the trip.

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!!

travel

New Monarch in Tonga

You may or may not have heard that His Majesty, King George Tupou V, passed away on March 18, 2012. He had reigned over the kingdom of Tonga for six years following the death of his father, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.

Since I lived in Tonga for several years, I try to keep up with what is going on in Tonga. My condolences and respect go to the Royal Family of Tonga. Right now plans are being made for the funeral of His Majesty. It is a somber time of mourning for all Tongans.

http://elayne001.hubpages.com/hub/King-of-Tonga-Passes-Away-and-Prince-Lavaka-to-Take-the-Throne