Week 7 – Talihau/’Utungake

The internet is kind of slow this week so no pictures this time.

Tuesday was my first full day and it was a pretty good start. We had a zone meeting with President and Sister Makai, who started out as just couple missionaries. President Makai became 2nd counselor to Mission President Tuione recently though. It’s hard for President Tuione to be everywhere he’s needed since the islands are pretty far apart, so President Makai was assigned to preside over Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Niua. He and Sister Makai are a hardworking couple and I look forward to working more with them.

After zone meeting we did some street contacting, which is pretty much just walking on the road saying hello to the same people every day. We decided to stop at the house we thought one of our potential investigators lived in. He wasn’t there but a lady named Senalita was. Elder Hopoate talked with her outside for a while and asked if he could share a poupou fakalaumalie (spiritual thought). She declined, saying she was already a member of Siasi Tonga, but she and Elder Hopoate kept talking for a while. After a while I felt prompted to ask if I could share a message to practice my Tongan, so I did and surprisingly she laughed and invited us inside. I had a verse picked out from the Doctrine and Covenants so I introduced it as revelation from the Lord to the prophet Joseph Smith. Her smile dropped noticeably after that, which was pretty funny. We were told in the MTC that nonmembers in Tonga are familiar with the name Joseph Smith, in a bad way, but I felt like it was better to be bold in that instance. I shared the verse, bore my testimony of Jesus Christ, and expressed my gratitude for the opportunity to share His message. We kept talking and found out she has tons of Mormon relatives but her husband has a calling in Siasi Tonga. She said we could come back and talk about scriptures whenever. It was pretty cool getting a new investigator for my first time.

It rained all of Wednesday which pushed our plans to the next day, but it rained then too. I was a bit frustrated because sometimes it wasn’t raining very hard, but when it rains here the towns just go inactive. Everyone that isn’t at work or school just sleeps inside or does lalanga (weaving) in big groups which is a hard approach for teaching. Another thing is that once it gets dark, all you can really do is hang out with members or go home early because people think you’re crazy if you try to go around contacting at night. I guess I learned that I can’t force the people to follow my schedule., but I should compromise and adapt mine to theirs.

This weekend was our stake conference and luckily we were able to attend all of the sessions. The Area Seventy Elder Leota attended and spoke at every meeting. The vision the First Presidency gave him to share with the stake was that every family be worthy to be sealed in the temple. Their main concern is that right now there’s a huge number of less-actives and potential Melchizedek Priesthood holders. He promised to us the missionaries that if we want baptisms, we need to focus on the less-actives, because they have so many connections to nonmembers. Elder Leota also talked about the importance of inviting people to act. He shared a story of how he once invited a young man to serve a mission, knowing nothing about him. Later they saw him on his mission and found out he wasn’t a member when they invited him but he immediately took the steps necessary to serve. Then they met him again after his mission and he told them his whole family had been baptized. Crazy how great the consequences can be from just one invitation.

Some funny/interesting things about Tonga:

  • There are pigs and dogs literally everywhere. Most people have fences to keep them out of the yard but they pretty much roam the whole rest of the village. Even though they walk around freely they all have owners who know which pigs and dogs are theirs. It’s funny because both animals are treated the same, you almost never see people playing with dogs. I feel like I was prepared to serve here because I never had a pet dog growing up, so I have no reservations about eating one. Sadly it hasn’t happened yet because I think they save the dogs for when there’s famine.
  • There’s barely any road safety here. If you want to go somewhere you just wait for a truck to come by and hop in the back with like ten other people. Nobody waits for animals to cross the road and sometimes they jokingly try running into them. You’d think the animals would learn but they still love hanging out on the street.
  • There are basketball courts at almost every church building but nobody here plays basketball. Instead they get used for volleyball. Every night around 5:00 people start playing volleyball until it’s too dark to see. Sometimes we join in but the guys here are super good. I’ll have to keep practicing with the younger kids.
  • The food is pretty good, but honestly I miss American food. Vegetables just don’t exist here and there’s only white bread. The best meal is probably moa (chicken) with luu (leaf that tastes like spinach). Sometimes fafanga isn’t lava (our member-provided meals don’t happen) and we buy loaves of bread and kapapulu (canned beef) from the store. I can’t really complain about the food though because whenever we do eat, we eat a ton.

I love being a missionary here and can’t imagine serving anywhere else. Tonga is a beautiful place with amazing people.

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Author: Elder Patrick Watts

I am serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission.

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