‘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…