Saturday, June 23, 2018

Timote Kau, A Story of Faith

Here's a photo of Elder Kau in his hospital isolation room.
I love how  the trees reflect freedom in the window.
Disregard the bald head in the foreground.
This weeks post is a little bit different as I relate a few short intertwined excerpts from the life of one of our missionaries who finished in December 2017.  

If you have read our blog for very long you may recognize Timote Kau since he is mentioned in several of our weekly blogs.  He was a great missionary and is a fine young man.  We became very close with him after he contracted Typhoid Fever in May-June of 2017.  He is the only missionary during our time here that has contracted Typhoid.  Through this time we spent many hours with Elder Kau and became very good friends.  During our visits we learned so much about him and heard many stories from his life.  It seemed to me that a couple of them tied together rather nicely in his wonderful story of faith.

There is supposedly only one surviving photo of Timote as a young child that one of his brothers has but we have not been able to obtain a copy of it so here (below) is a photo of him with his nieces and nephews at his home in Lakepa.

Elder Kau with his nieces and nephews in Lakepa.  They seem to idolize him.
Little Keni (front and center in green) loves to do the Mr. Tonga pose for us.

The following short story is 100% true as verified by Timote Kau and it has been written and shared with his permission.

God Will Protect Us

The year was 2001 and 9 year-old Timote or “Little Mote” (pronounced Mow-tay), as he was known to his close friends and family, peaked out from under the covers of his bed.  Where he used to see the ceiling, he now saw stars.  Tropical cyclone Waka, one of the most destructive tropical cyclones ever to hit the island of Vava'u in the Kingdom of Tonga, had taken off the roof of his family’s home there.  He watched as his father Siosefa and older brothers worked feverishly to protect the family’s belongings and shelter them all from the wind and driving rain.  Mote’s mother Heata did her best to comfort and calm little Mote as she told him to cover up and that God would protect him and his mother said, “We worked hard to be ready and this house has been blessed, we will be okay.”

Not Kau's actual weights but he says
that his looked very similar to this.
Mote was the youngest of 11 children born to Siosefa and Heata Kau.  Tongan families are usually quite large and the Kau family was no exception.  Mote grew up in this typical LDS Tongan family where he was taught the principles of the gospel at home and church.  He loved athletics and spent much of his time playing rugby, volleyball, running and exercising with his homemade weights consisting of rocks and cement.

In 2008 when Mote was 17, his father died from a heart attack.  One year later the family moved to Tonga’s main island Tongatapu where the now diminishing family made their home in a small village called Lakepa.  His older siblings had married and moved away from home, so when he turned 19 instead of serving a mission like most young Tongan men, Mote stayed home to provide and care of his mother whom he dearly loved.

 Heather Wardell and Heata Kau.    
(Timote's mother)
He continued to do the things he loved most, sports and exercising again making his own training weights from rocks and cement.  He also trained as a boxer and won the heavyweight division title for Tonga.  This was during a time when his mother was quite ill and she also told him that she would not go watch him box.  She challenged him to serve a mission and told him that if he would serve a mission she would be healed and blessed and that everything would be alright as God would watch out for her while he was serving.

His plan was now to submit his papers and then go to Papua New Guinea with his cousin and train with his uncle who had been a champion boxer the year before while he waited for his call.  However, his bishop said he would have to wait until he got back to work on his papers.  Mote did love his mother and wanted to serve a mission so he decided to stay home and work on submitting his papers instead (which can take several months).  It was difficult as he watched his cousin get on the plane and leave but he was happy because a mission was more important to him and time was running out as he was approaching the age of 25.

It was at that time in 2014, Mote’s sister who lived in America sent him some money and he used a small portion of that to go to the only gym in Tonga located about 10 km from his house just to see what it was like.  As he was lifting weights that day, he caught the eye of a couple of men who offered to sponsor him as a contestant for the Mr. Tonga contest that was about 6 months away.  They agreed to help him with his exercise, diet, and gym fees if he would commit to hard work and train as they taught him.  Mote thought this sounded good to him as he loved to work out anyway and doing it in a gym with all their fancy equipment really appealed to him.  He could do this while he completed his missionary application and waited for his call.

Mote was true to his word and worked very hard building his already powerful physique into a chiseled masterpiece.  When it came time for the contest and posing, Mote didn’t know exactly what to do but tried to mimic the other contestants.  In spite of his inexperience, he won the title of Mr. Tonga 2015.  With all of his success, Mote was becoming quite a celebrity in Tonga but he wanted to serve a mission more than anything else now.

A short time later, Mote received his mission call to serve in his home country of Tonga where he served honorably for two years.  While serving as a missionary, Mote was known for his long stride (which often left his companions almost running to keep up with him), his work ethic, and his ability to teach the gospel.

While serving in the small village of Niuatoua, he contracted Typhoid fever and had to be quarantined for several weeks as he recovered from this serious illness.  It would have been easy for him to have become discouraged and just give up as he was already nearing the end of his mission.  Instead, Elder Kau used this as an opportunity work even harder to find and teach others even teaching from his hospital room.  He taught and eventually baptized a young man he befriended while both of them were quarantined.  He recommitted to make up for lost time once he was cleared by the doctors. He finished his mission in style working harder than ever to show his gratitude to the Lord for his quick and complete recovery.

Mote or “Big Mote” as he was now called by his friends, was far from that little boy who had cowered under the covers that night as a 9 year-old in Vava’u.  He now stood a towering 6’6” and 230 lbs.  His massive shoulders told the story of the hard, physical work he had performed throughout his life.  His physique is not only a testament to hard work but also to righteous living.

It was now 2018 and tropical cyclone Gita was bearing down on Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. The main island took the brunt of this category 4 cyclone during the night on Monday, February 13th (the strongest to hit Tongatapu in over 60 years).  He had helped prepare his home as much as possible as they huddled together in the dark and waited for the storm to pass.  They soon heard the sound of breaking glass as wind-blown debris shattered a bedroom window in their home.  As he, his mom, and sister tried to fight a winless battle with the elements, he finally ushered them into the adjoining room and calmly closed and blocked the door and said, “We have worked hard to protect this house and it has been blessed now God will protect us.”

As they stepped out early the next morning to survey the massive destruction that had been brought to their small village by cyclone Gita, they noticed the extensive damage to surrounding trees and noted that many nearby homes had been completely destroyed, blown away with all of the occupants belongings.  However, the only damage to their home consisted of that one broken window and some minor water damage from the rain water that had blown in.  They immediately knelt and offered a prayer of gratitude to God.  Mote had learned the lessons from his youth well.

Timote Kau at his home in Lakepa after cyclone Gita

Note:  Timote Kau finished his mission in Nuku'alofa Tonga in December of 2017 and is currently serving as second counselor in the Young Men's presidency in his ward in Lakepa.  

I've included a few other photos of Elder Kau that are not part of this story with captions for you to enjoy!

Elder Kau posing with his nephew Keni.

The missionaries visiting Elder Kau while he was quarantined in June 2017
You can see Elder Kau in the window holding his missionary badge.
Elder Kapp, Elder Kau, and Sister Kapp

Sign on the door of the hospital isolation unit ... at least they said pliz!

Elder Kau and Lisala (the young man he taught while they were both quarantined
at the Hospital).  Elder Kau had the opportunity to baptize him later when they
 both had been discharged (with his parents permission of course).  Lisala wanted a
missionary badge so Elder Kau made him one carefully printing it by hand.

Elder Pakalani and Elder Kau ... service project cleaning up near the palace.

I had to include this post mission photo of Big Mote.