Saturday, June 17, 2017

Kolopeki is back in Tonga

Missionary Flippers (or Flip-flops to us).
I don't want to hear about wearing out
a pair of Doc Martin's.  At least they
have good foot and arch support.
I suppose since we have been in Tonga now for 5 months now we can officially provide the following observations.

Young Elders and Sisters in Tonga are AWESOME!  Now that is an over used word in today's lingo so I want you to know I am using it in the vernacular of yesteryear when awesome really did mean AWESOME!   I am constantly amazed at their commitment to the Lord and to preaching the Gospel as well as their dedication and willingness to serve their fellowman.  They constantly look for ways to serve from major service projects to simple acts of kindness.

They work through the challenges of working closely with a hoa (companion) not with just a different personality but often times from an entirely different culture.  We have many missionaries from Tonga who serve close to family and friends but always strive to keep the rules.  We have missionaries from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and the islands of Fiji, Kirabati, and Hawaii just to mention a few.  This can lead to some interesting differences but they always do their best to work through them.

Kapa pulu is often on the typical
breakfast menu
Missionaries are fed twice a day, breakfast and dinner, by the locals in the area they are serving.  This is called fafanga, a typical breakfast might be a loaf of bread with some butter or canned spaghetti and a bottle of Fanta.  At dinner time they may receive some of the following:  a can of kapa pulu (canned corned beef), some Lu (leaf of Taro plant), Moa (chicken), Ika (fish), Manioke (tapioca root), Ufi (yam) and lots of Taro (potato like root only drier), Laise (rice) and (noodles).   They also have no way to heat anything up or cook anything in their MQs.  Most MQs have filtered water for drinking but we often note that the bottle is empty.  When Megan was serving in Guatemala she said that she could drink the local water but then you'd have to call her Elder.  I suppose that happens here more than we know but we do encourage them to drink bottled or filtered water.

The locals are always willing to share and to give the missionaries their best.  I have tried everything above now but the missionaries also get served horse, dog and bat meat on occasion.  Most of them graciously accept and try the food.  I'm not sure I'm up to the horse, dog and bat yet but my defenses are weakening and we still have 18 months to go ...  who knows?

They also walk all day long .... in flippers!  No one ever complains (at least to us)  In fact, even the flippers in the photo were still in use.  We told the young Elder (from the US) that he needed to get some new ones.  He just smiled and said he would.  We always offer to give them a ride when we see them walking down the road but they seldom accept as their schedules are built around walking.  We have given a ride to missionaries at 6:00 pm headed to the next town (about 3K away) going to a meeting and then would be walking back home later that night.  This is after walking all day ... and again, in flippers.  I drive most places with limited walking and my feet are always tired at the end of the day.

Elder and Sister Groberg after the devotional.
Today is the day we met Kolopeki (Elder Groberg ... think "The Other Side of Heaven").  He has been in Tonga for close to a week but went to the outer islands first.  I can't help but think of the impact this one man has had on the nation of Tonga.  Now I know there are many others who have served faithfully here who also deserve credit but in any case, his impact was huge.  I suppose partly because of the movie, everyone here knows him and is excited that he is visiting.  We were fortunate as today was his birthday (June 17, 1934) and we got to sing Happy Birthday to Kolopeki Tongan style.  It was a rousing rendition followed by Happy Long Life to you (sung to the tune of Happy Birthday).

We had a great conference both Sister and Elder Groberg spoke and gave great messages.  Sister Groberg spoke about the many changes that have occurred since they served here as the mission president some 50 years ago and how each missionary should do their best to maintain the beauty found in Tonga.  Elder Groberg spoke a little bit in English and the rest was in Tongan.  He talked about some of his mission experiences and how important it is to stay close to God and to listen to the Spirit.  We actually understood some of the Tongan.  We are learning it word by word, phrase by phrase.  Not like the young missionaries who seem to learn it instantly.

On a lighter note, Lepeka and I watched the movie "The Other Side of Heaven" shortly after we received our mission call last year and decided that was probably not the best endorsement of Tonga for new missionaries to watch.  We did enjoy the movie but it did give us cause to pause and think about ... well ...  "The Other Side of Heaven".

I'm not going to try and list all of the missionaries but you may see yours somewhere here
360 degrees of missionaries shown in these two photos from the plaza panorama style (after Elder Groberg's devotional)
More than half of the population of Tonga are members of the Church.  I think membership is listed at around 66,000 (regular attendance numbers are much lower) and total population around 110,000.  There are 19 (soon to be 20) LDS Stakes and 141 Wards and Branches (my unofficial count) and meetinghouses (official church buildings) on 7 different islands not including meetings that may occur in member houses on small islands.

Missionaries in the chapel just prior to the Elder Groberg devotional.
This is just the missionaries from serving on Tongatapu and 'Eau

My attempt at a selfie trying to capture Elder Groberg in the background
Photo bombed by the infamous Lepeka and Elder Enos (Hawaii)
It's okay ... she's a keeper!
We're to the right of the flagpole (2nd row-ish)


  1. Notice that there weren't any pig photos this week?

  2. I had a companion on my mission who had either SPAM, corned beef, or canned fish for breakfast every day. Interesting smells to get used to in the morning!

  3. Sounds like you guys are having a blast! Great to read.

    1. We really are enjoying ourselves. We love the missionaries and the work. Hope things are going well for you too.

  4. I love reading your blogs and hearing about all the great things you are doing and your experiences. Sounds like you are having a most excellent time serving in Tonga! Love you guys!