‘Isileli Tupou Kongaika served as the Mission President in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission from 1989-1992. His family including wife, Ruth and children, Liana, Robert, Joel, and Jacob lived in the Sopu Mission Home those three years.
Since then, he has lived in Hawaii and then retired to the Salt Lake City area in Utah. In August, 2019, he met with Joel, his son, and three grandchildren, Anna, Eryn, and Joseph in Tonga and they stayed for two weeks traveling around Tongatapu, to the island of Pangai, Ha’apai, and Vava’u. Grandma Kongaika stayed home as well as Joel’s wife Meilani and daughter, Lily.
On the way to Tonga, ‘Isi stopped over in Auckland, New Zealand, where he met with many of his former missionaries and families. They shared memories of their missions and treated their old president with much love and respect. They fed him and encouraged him to speak, but alas, he had lost his voice due to a bad cold.
The three grandchildren had not been in Tonga before and enjoyed learning more about their grandfather and father’s culture. They endured culture shock, Tongan feasting, mosquitos, cockroaches, high humidity, grandpas long stories, and sea sickness.
As their grandmother, I was acutely aware of the hazards that the grandchildren might experience. I prayed every day for their safety and well being. Thankfully, all of them survived their trip and made new friends. Grandpa had them very involved with the Tongan missionaries and school children in Tonga.
All of the traveling group became ill on the trip, but are now on the mend. Grandma was asked several times why she didn’t go also. My excuse is that I had a pretty bad year health wise and didn’t want to get sick again.
Joel was too excited to return to Tonga and relive his childhood. To be continued…
So, since my husband has been away for a couple of weeks, I decided to do some thrifting at a place not regularly on my radar. I have previously donated to Goodwill on occasion, but have not shopped there. Some friends have seen my recent posts on Facebook about meeting some of our missionaries there, so here is my story.
My first experience at Goodwill was an exciting one. I stood at the front door since I was a bit early for the opening. There were about fourteen individuals that looked primed and ready to go into this large establishment by the train tracks in SLC, Utah. I had no idea what to expect, but had great anticipation since I knew you pay by the pound, not the label.
Once the door was opened, there was a rush to get carts and then off to grab anything of value. You had to watch your step or you might get plowed under in the commotion that ensued. Since I had not been in there before, I was not familiar with the rules of the hunt, so I tried to keep a low profile and stay out of people’s way. Every 15 minutes or so a gang of highly qualified individuals come and take out a row of the bins and replaces it with new bins full of whatever belongs in that spot.
There are well-marked lines on the cement floor where the bins of items have to go. There are about 40 or so bins filled with second-hand clothes, shoes, toys, purses, books, sheets, and the like. The bins at the far end from the cash register have all books. Some people went straight for those bins in an attempt (as I noticed) to gather all the textbooks, no doubt to sell online to students. After gathering up those, they would have a checklist to mark them all off.
Others went straight for the clothes bins. Arms were flying and some would scoop their arms down under the piles of clothes and turn them all upside down in an attempt to be able to see what was at the bottom. The first day I tried to do that and my arms got really sore. Hey, this is good exercise and not for the weary in mind or body! I spent a lot of time looking at labels and found a few items in my size.
There were also quite a few bins of toys, purses, shoes, kitchen gear, and other paraphernalia all mingled together. Good luck finding two shoes that match. They are supposed to be rubber banded together, but that doesn’t last long in the hubbub. However, the first day I brought home five pair of shoes, several pieces of clothing, bags, a few purses, scarves, ties (one was a Giorgio Armani), hats , a Andy Warhol t-shirt, pants for my husband, and decorative doilies for the house. When my arms felt like rubber and I felt I had retrieved a few treasures, I went to weigh the cart. The kind cashier is very helpful. They weigh the cart and all then minus the weight of the cart from the total and that is what you pay. My first haul only cost $30. Wow, I was hooked! Oh, no!
I think of thrifting as a huge treasure hunt. I know there is something that belongs to me in there and I am willing to keep going until I find it! On one of my first trips to Goodwill, I found a beautiful Native American doll with long black hair and the front locks were braided. She was mesmerizing! My mother has an Indian doll and I have always admired it. I was in love! My husband better come back soon or I will spend all my time in this place.
Isn’t she lovely! I feel she was worth more than I paid for all the things I found. Don’t be jealous! If you want her, $50 please.
I found another doll, only this one I have written about before. She is an authentic Madame Alexander Collectible! (with papers) . I was so excited to find her and glad no one else cares about dolls the way I do. She is amongst the First Ladies of the United States series – her name is Betty Taylor Bliss 1849-1850. The clothes are very detailed as well as her face and hair. Again, if you want her, $50 please.
I would like to welcome all my friends and family to join me (unless you think you’re too good to go in there)! Honestly, there is plenty for everyone and since we are all different sizes and have different tastes, there is only a small chance we will want the same things. The only caution is: please stagger your visits because if all the Polys in the valley go at once, we’re in big trouble!
Just as a side note, if you get 24 pounds worth, you will need to go back to get one more pound since it will be cheaper that way. That happened this last time so I went to the book bins and found a huge book about Mary, Queen of Scots (relative), and that threw me into the next category.
Now I have a Madame Alexander doll with her guarantee papers as well as a new Christmas fairy doll. I have listed many of my items on Poshmark where I resell things literally from my closet. My user name is elayne001. So if you are interested, check out:
I could spend every morning at Goodwill if it weren’t so far away (takes me about 30 minutes to get there). Also, my bank account would diminish if I keep it up for too long.
The friends I have made there are forever! We don’t try to steal each others stuff and are very considerate. When someone finds a treasure they don’t shout it out to make others feel bad. Once I saw what another person found and I wanted it. He said you can buy it for $50 – such is the life of a reseller.
I ran into some friends from Tonga I hadn’t seen in years. They thrift to send things home to their families in Tonga. Overseas remittances are the greatest income for the little islands. My husband will be surprised when he sees the nice things I found for him at Goodwill, I hope! He took several of his own clothes to give away while he was in his home country.
We went to see the movie, “The Other Side of Heaven 2”, and I thought it would be good to share my impressions with you.
We were fortunate to be with a group that previewed the movie before it was shown to the general public. The theater was filled with relatives of one of the main characters in the movie, Tonga Toutai Paletu’a. The story was about his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his relationship with his family prior to that decision and after.
Elder John H. Groberg was depicted in the movie as the LDS Mission President at the time who had served his first mission in Tonga. My husband happened to be one of his missionaries. This movie has special significance to us and to our family. Another interesting fact is that our daughter married the grandson of Tonga Toutai Paletu’a! It was very exciting to have so many connections.
We had been anticipating this movie since we found out there would be a Part II, having loved the first movie ten years earlier.
One thing I was interested in was that the same actor who played John Groberg’s part also starred in the second movie. He had hardly changed in many years and did an excellent job in both. Anne Hathaway who had played his wife in the first has gone on to become quite a Hollywood star, so they chose another actress, Natalie Medlock to play the part of his wife. I thought she did a marvelous job!
I enjoyed the movie from start to finish beginning from when it showed BYU TV and Kolipoki Pictures. Those of us who have lived in Tonga or are somehow affiliated with it will know the significance of the name Kolipoki. It is “Groberg” Tonganized.
The actors chosen to play Toutai Paletu’a and his family were all excellent! The man who portrayed his father even made me dislike him very much for his portrayal of a very strict minister who would not admit his own faults.
There are many lessons throughout the movie that can benefit all people. Respect, forgiveness, love of family, hard work, the power of prayer, and fasting, Christlike love, and many more.
The fact that I personally knew Toutai Paletu’a and his wife made the movie so much more meaningful. When we lived in Tonga, when you met President Paletu’a, it seemed as if he could see right through you. He knew that I was having a very difficult time adjusting to my new life in the little islands. He told me if my husband ever gave me a hard time, he would talk to him. Somehow he sensed my culture shock and was trying to help me out.
The person that played our late prophet Thomas S. Monson has an uncanny likeness to him. I almost forgot it wasn’t really him. Kudos to the person who found him.
My favorite movies are those based on true life heroes. This was definitely one of our family’s favorites. One of the stories portrayed in the movie took me right back.
The Grobergs had several daughters until they moved to Tonga where they were blessed with a son, John. The baby became very ill and was close to death when the Queen and all the people who knew them fasted and prayed for him to get better.
When we lived in Tonga, I gave birth to my first son. He was very small and became so ill that he was unconscious. We rushed him to the hospital which was a 15-20 minute drive from where we lived in Liahona. I tried to wake him up all the way there, but he would not. Once we got him to the hospital, Dr. Havili gave him a shot of adrenalin. We were so happy to finally hear his little cry and knew he would be alright. I relived this experience through the movie.
The Grobergs worried over their sick son in the movie.
Spoiler alert: Why was the movie rated PG-13? I was a bit concerned taking my grandchildren to see it because of the rating. The fact that the father threatened his son not to come home ever again and asked his other son to throw a piglet into the ocean (substituting the pig for his son). The other part that was offensive, and I understand it did not really happen, was when the father buried one disobedient son in the sand at the beach and then there was a big storm that could have drowned him, but somehow he escaped. The other scene is when their baby was thrown to a person from the boat to the shore. My little granddaughter was quite upset about that. Someone mentioned the plucking of dead chickens as being offensive, but I was used to that when I lived in Tonga (try eating one of those rubber chickens)!
My favorite part besides the adorable children’s interaction with their father was when the wife of Paletu’a’s father called him a stubborn pig. Because, he was!
I urge you all to see the movie and you will come away with a new awareness of life in Tonga and a greater appreciation for those that stay true to their beliefs despite many hardships. Congratulations Elder and Sister Groberg on fulfilling President Monson’s wish of a comeback!