Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bats in the Belfry

View from the balcony of our Hotel room at the Paradise
International Hotel  Taken at dusk the Fruit Bats started to
fly.  You can also see them hanging in the tree.
We ended up with a last minute trip to Ha'apai and then on to Vava'u for zone conferences.  Lepeka was presenting her health information and checking on the health of the missionaries.  We flew out early Tuesday morning headed to Vava'u with a two hour layover in Ha'apai.  We would then come back to Ha'apai for their zone conference on Friday. Our first leg was earlier than the others we were going with but we met up with them in Ha'apai for the last leg to Vava'u.  Clear as mud?

Fruit Bat photos taken with amazing
finger pinch zoom option on iPhone 7+
Photos taken by Lepeka and I provided
these two photos to highlight the bats!

Boarding the boat to pick up the Elders
for zone conference.

Anyway, we made it to Vava'u and dropped our bags off at the VIP quarters on the Liahona High School campus, then hopped on a boat headed to Otea on the nearby Kapa island to pick up some of the Elders to bring them back to the main island prior to the meeting scheduled for the next day.

The island was about a 20 minute ride on a pretty fast boat and we also stopped to see some coastline caves that are open in some places from above which many use to dive into the water (a pretty good drop from what I saw).  After our boat ride, we picked up our bags (once we found someone who had keys to get us back in the room) and took them to the hotel where we would be staying.  We made it back and drove around a bit before heading to dinner a 'Ene'io resort (translated: tickle me until I say yes) a botanical garden and beach restaurant on the South East end of Vava'u.

Typical Tongan dinner items include
pork, curry chicken, lu and canned
corned beef, 
We had a typical Tongan dinner that we enjoyed along with some birthday cake for Sister Ramsay who just happened to be turning 22 (she is one of the main Sister Trainers).  Sister Ramsay is Tongan and pretty compact at somewhere around 5' tall.  The host for the evening shared with the group his religious views (Weslayan Methodist) but stated how he didn't dislike other religions and thought we should all get along together.  He told how some of his family (who were LDS) had tried to convert him but he wouldn't convert.

At the end of the evening when our host was still there Sister Ramsay stood to say thank you for the wonderful birthday but then shared her testimony in a most powerful way directed to our host as she maintained eye contact with him and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  I have heard her share her testimony on a few occasions and marvel at her ability to reach out and teach through her sincerity.

Paradise International Hotel
Parking for 3 cars.
We then headed back to the hotel to turn in for the evening.  I had gathered a few seashells as we had walked along the beach earlier and when I came out from brushing my teeth Lepeka said that something was moving on the carpet.  It turns out that one of the shells still had it's inhabitant and had worked its way off the bench to the floor and was slowly trying to make it's way through the orange shag carpet back to the ocean.  We were close enough that I could throw it from our room balcony back into the water so I hope it survived the impact.

We had a great zone conference with 40 missionaries.  After the meeting we had the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through Neiafu (the capital city of Vava'u) before going to our room for the evening.   Vava'u is a beautiful island with many more hills and lush green vegetation.

Boarding our charter flight back to Nuku'alofa
All luggage and passengers were weighed and assigned
specific seats to balance the plane.
The next day we were scheduled to fly back to Ha'api but learned our plane had broken down so there would be no flight.  President Tui'one spent much of the day on the phone trying to find a way back to either Ha'apai or Nuku'alofa but had no luck.  He finally chartered a plane to fly us all back to Nuku'alofa leaving at 9:00 P.M. (the Church does not allow missionaries to use the large plane that flies in and out of Vava'u because it doesn't meet safety requirements).  Since we had five missionaries that are leaving this week he had them join us on the flight.

Our cramped plane coming home.
We filled 15 of the 17 seats.  It was a small cramped plane but the flight was only about 1:30 minutes so we survived.  If my knees were cramped you can just imagine how some of the taller people felt.  We had one missionary who is around 6'6" on the flight with us and President Tui'one is quite tall as well.  We made it back safely around 10:30 P.M. and then had a 30 minute ride home to Liahona.

I have included several photos as the trip was very scenic and memorable.

Catholic church in Neiafu.  They seem to keep things pretty clean and clutter free
her in Tonga.  It seems strange as they just drop paper and garbage but it always
gets cleaned up by someone pretty quickly.

This is a small building for a branch in 'Utungake

View from a chapel on a hill.  This is the area in the harbor
where Cruise ships will anchor 

This is behind Liahona High School the plateau at the top
is where many believe a Temple will be built someday.  We
talked to one individual who said that during President Hinkley's
visit to Tonga (and Vava'u) in 1998's he was up there alone looking
around for quite a while. 

The sign to our harbor front hotel in Neiafu.  It had shag carpet
from the 70's but the rooms were clean and adequate ... even
without WiFi.  I guess my expectations have gone down since
arriving here as WiFi used to be the primary factor in determining
the rating for a hotel.

This is a Missionary Quarter by an open field in Koloa where
a chapel will be built one day.  Currently, they set up chairs in
the open field for about 25 attendees.  If it rains they put up a
tarp to protect them as much as possible and still hold Church
services.  If you look at a large version of the photo you can see
the chairs in the back of the field near the MQ.

Beautiful island setting for the Oteau chapel on the island of Kapa.
It would be hard to concentrate on the meeting here.  Elder Chou
and Elder Rosales are working this area thoroughly as they find
people to baptize.  The island is shared by Wesleyans and Mormons

Life is good!  We found some cottage cheese
for the first time here and Lepeka made me some
good ol' American Lasagne.  She had to use
beef instead of sausage but it was still very good!


  1. We understand that the Fruit Bat population in Tonga is decreasing even though they are now protected.