Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Hello Family and Friends.

May and June have just flown by for us.  The first Saturday of May we were able to meet with The Area Presidency and All the Area Seventies.  President Pearson allowed Paul Reid (our Area Self-Reliance Manager and person we work directly with), 2 hours to do a presentation on Self-Reliance, My Path, My Foundation and the Education Initiative.  Elder Spencer, Ariel, Dean and I were there for questions and support.  It worked out to be very informative to the Area Seventy and it was nice to have the Area Presidency showing their support.  That is the first time, I, Nada, have been in a room up close and personal with that many General Authorities all at one time.  They had quite a few good questions and it was a very great couple of hours.

Our old Mission President, Johnny Leota, was called during April 2015 General Conference to be an Area Seventy in Sydney.  He was at this meeting and it was great to see him and talk to him face to face for a few minutes.

On Monday, May 4, 2015 we went early (left our flat at 4:40 a.m.) to the airport to catch a flight to Tonga.  We picked up Ameet, the new Area TVET Director because he is flying there as well.  He is a premier customer so we got a special pass to check in with him and go to the Premier Customers Waiting Room. They had all kinds of food there to eat and then we did not have to wait in line to board.  It was nice to see how the other half lives for one flight!

They asked us to go to Tonga and check on the Bridging Program.  They wanted us to survey the students, teachers and administrators and see what is working and what needs to be changed.

Elder Bob and Sister Susie Wood met us at the airport.  They are great people.  They had to leave on Tuesday to go to one of the other little islands so he decided to take us on some tours on the way back to the Liahona High School campus where we will be staying.

 This is the airport in Tonga.  We were surprised at how flat Tonga is.  There really are no mountains or even many hills on the main Island of Tongatapu.  There are also no rivers or streams.
 Sister Spencer, Sister and Elder Wood and Ameet at the airport.  Yes I have a jacket on and I wore it most of the time.  Tonga actually gets cool!
 Elder and Sister Wood took us to a place called the Land Bridge.  The white churning water is the ocean water coming in and out under the bridge.  We walked over it and it is wide enough to drive a truck over.  This is the place where in 2013 some BYU nursing students were there visiting and one of them fell off.  They never found her body and after visiting we can see why.  The rocks are treacherous and the waves crash in there.  It is beautiful but you have to stay away from the slippery edges.

We are standing on the cliff looking back into where the ocean comes crashing under that land bridge.
Walking back to the van.  They use these kind of leaves laying on the ground to make mats and baskets with.

 Next stop Pakilau Middle School.  Sister Wood, Sione Langi (Stake President and Principal), Elder Wood and Reed.  We wanted to visit the different schools and say hello to the principals, counsellors and students.
 All the church schools in Tonga wear green and white uniforms. The boys wear a Ta'ovala (fine mat) wrapped around their middle as part of the uniform.  The girls wear their hair parted down the middle and in two braids.  That is part of the uniform.
 It is lunch time.  They do not have regular cafeterias like in Utah.  They have different people that make the food and bring it to the school for the kids to buy for lunch.  Sometimes it is just a roll, noodles, sausage roll.  They have a big water cooler and glasses that the kids were reusing for drinks.  Much different than what we are used to.  They didn't even have a tuck shop like in Samoa.
 The students were trying to find shade and just eating and visiting until their lunch hour was over.
 This forked coconut tree is the only one we know of.  When we asked some of the YSA in our Saineha Ward in Auckland what we needed to see when we visited Tonga this is one of the sites they told us about.
 Tonga is a Kingdom and has a King, Princes and Princesses.  This is a grave of one of the Princesses of the Royal Family.
We went to our house, changed our clothes and headed to the only good swimming beach close by.  Reed and Bob Wood snorkelled. Reed loves the water and was so glad to be able to spend an hour snorkelling and looking at the sea life.  It was too cool and kept raining so Susie and I just looked for seashells and walked along the edge of the water.
The water was very clear.  I am standing on the rocky beach and could see these bright blue fish swimming around.  That was good enough for me.  Reed said the water was quite shallow because the tide was out and he saw some fish he had not seen before. 
On the way back to the house we stopped at the blow holes.  They were all along the coast line.  We could see probably 20 going of at one time.  The beach and these blow holes are only about 15 minutes away from the Liahona campus.
 The waves were crashing in and setting off the blowholes all along this coast line
 This was the house, #24, we stayed in.  Similar to the church housing in Samoa.  All cinderblock, white, tile floors, etc.

 We went back and cleaned the bathroom, which was quite disgusting, cleaned up and went out to dinner with Elder and Sister Wood and Elder and Sister Holbrook our ITEP couples there.  We went into town and ate at a place called Friends.  It was quite good.

Below is a picture of the main street of Nuku'alofa, the downtown on Tongatapu Island.

 We then went to Family Home Evening with all the senior missionaries.  It was nice to meet them all.  One of the couples, named Elder and Sister Wolfgram, seemed familiar.  Reed had served with a Tongan Elder in Melbourne, Australia when he was 19 with that name.  He walked up to Elder Wolfgram and asked where he served as a young man.  He said Melbourne, Australia.  Reed stood there for a minute and Elder Wolfgram looked down at his name badge.  It clicked and he yelled "Spence"! and picked Reed up in a big Tongan hug.  That was the best part of this whole trip.  Seeing those two reunite after 41 years.  The Church is amazing.  What a small world!  We went to bed exhausted!

 On Tuesday we got up and headed over to the school office.  We talked with the vice principal and Nada met the two counsellors she has been working with getting ready for the Counsellor's Summit later in May.  They call themselves Big Vika and Little Vika!  What delightful ladies.

We walked around campus and talked to students and took pictures of the Liahona High School and Middle School Campus.  It is a very large campus.  The students were very friendly.

This is the main office and front of Liahona High School!

Above is a picture of the Tongan Flag!

Reed standing in front of the ITEP building.  The ITEP Missionaries have their offices here and a room where they do their teaching.  They also have a closet where they can keep all their books.  Very nice!

We then met up with Verna Tukuafu, our Self-Reliance Manager there in Tonga.  She is our only female manager and is doing a great job.  We went into town with her and had lunch at a nice little restaurant.  We were surprised at how many good restaurants this small Island has.  Verna is also the Relief Society President in her Ward and her Father-In-Law is the Area Seventy.  She had made appointments for us to meet with all the teachers and stayed with us during those interviews and we attended the Institute Class for the Bridging Program together.  We attended a few of the classes and then had dinner at Elder and Sister Holbrook's home.
 On Wednesday we got up and borrowed Elder Wood's van while they are off Island.  Took Sister Holbrook as our guide and headed to the Self-Reliance Model Center to visit Verna and Elder and Sister van den Akker.  It is a pretty nice set up with computers for the students to register for PEF, BYUH and even a separate room with a few computers to do home work on.
The picture to the left is Nada, Sister and Elder van den Akker who are our Self-Reliance Missionaries in Tonga.

We then found Brother Tevita, a former teacher at Liahona, and commissioned him to do a couple of pieces of Tapa for us.  Reed really wanted something different and Brother Tevita does beautiful, unusual work. Verna told us he is the best on the island.  Elder and Sister Wood will pick it up and bring it to us when they come to the Counsellor's Summit.

 Above is the Tongan Temple.  It is right next to the Liahona campus.  It is very beautiful.  The picture to the right are some of the students in one of the Bridging From 5 Math classes.  Some of them are Returned Missionaries who never finished school before leaving on their missions.  Some of the students are older than YSA age taking advantage of  a second chance to finish high school.  Some of the students are kids who dropped out just a couple of years ago either because they had to go to work to help feed their parents and siblings or just thought school was too hard!

The Liahona campus at sunset!  The classroom wings with the big water tower in the middle of the buildings.

 This tree is hollow in the middle.  They gave great shade and were very interesting.  There were quite a few on campus.  A lot of the trees on campus were coconut trees.

The Form 5 English Class.  They are working on a writing assignment.  These classes started out with about 25 in each class but some of the students have dropped out.  Some of them dropped out for the same reasons as before, too hard, not enough time or they did not have a ride home at night.  The buses stop running about 4:00 p.m. and most of these students do not have cars.

We decided to walk over to the Temple and see the Stained Glass Windows at night!  Another busy great day.

Thursday morning we got up and went to the Temple to do a session.  Elder and Sister Wolfgram officiated the session which was very nice.  We met the Temple President and Elder Wolfgram had asked him if they could do the session in English instead of Tongan and he said yes.  Very nice.  What a beautiful Temple inside and out.  So nice to meet up with Elder and Sister Wolfgram.

We then went to the school field for their Field Day.  They had divided all the students into houses and they decorated their canopies and had made up cheers and songs that they were judged on.  The breeze was quite cool in the shade.  I was sorry I did not have my jacket on.

The band had just finished playing which we were sad about!

These students had made hats and were the song and cheer leaders.

Here they race without shoes as well.  The kids run hard the first lap and then most of them end up walking or just stopping for rests for the rest of the times around the track if they are doing more than one lap. You can see the canopies have signs and balloons decorating them.  Each house had a different color and name.  They have prefects and head girls and boys just like Hogwarts!
 Nada, Big Vika Kaufusi and Little Vika Kivalu.  They are wonderful counsellors and so much fun.  You can see that they were cold,  Little Vika has a heavy blanket wrapped around her.  They gave themselves those names.  Little Vika said to Nada, "I'm not so little any more!" and then laughed.

This young man was the song leader for the blue house and which was the two Vika's House.  My blue outfit matched theirs!
This young man wearing his homemade, weaved hat to keep the sun off and waiting to eat lunch.

 Vika Kavalu, Sister Spencer and Vika Kaufusi.  Enjoying the fun Field Day at Liahona, Tonga!

 Red House.  Kids doing their cheer!
Running Broad Jump!
 Just some darling little girls walking home!
Students wanting their picture taken.  Everywhere in the Islands when you take their pictures they do these signs.  We've asked what they mean but they say nothing really.  We just like to do it.

 We packed our suitcases, loaded up in the van and headed to Bob's Beach.  Elder Wood named this beach.  We asked what the real name was and they didn't know. There is not much beach but it is a cool little place when the tide is low to have a picnic and enjoy nature.
You can see all the different blow holes going off at once!  Beautiful!!  Below the sun is setting

 We wanted to spend our last couple of hours in Tonga watching the sun go down at the blow holes.  It was everything we hoped it would be.  It was romantic, a beautiful sunset, the temperature was perfect and the company wonderful!
Saying good bye to Tonga at the blow holes.  Sister and Elder Holbrook, Sister and Elder Spencer and Elder Wood.  Sister Wood is taking the picture. 
 The sun was majestic over the water as it was setting.
The blow hole in the front with the sun almost disappearing into the ocean in the back ground.  This was just a few feet in front of us.  Wow!  Doesn't get much better than this.  We went and had a good Chinese dinner on our way to the airport.

Elder and Sister Wood and Holbrook dropped us off at the airport just after 8:00 p.m. to head home.  After we checked in they told us the plane was an hour late.  Oh well, we just read and waited to board.  Talked about how beautiful  the people and the Island of Tonga are.  We are so grateful we had this chance to visit Tonga.  We have had so many wonderful opportunities to visit interesting places and meet all kinds of people. Even though we did not get home to Auckland until 1:15 in the morning we had a wonderful time.

We hope you enjoyed visiting Tonga and meeting the students and teachers there.  It is a great place to visit.  Hopefully this will not be our only time visiting this beautiful Island.  We love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are grateful to be missionaries serving here in the Pacific.  We love these people and hope that in some small way we can help them become more self reliant and see the importance of education so they too can become like Our Father-In-Heaven.  We love you and ask the Lord to watch over and bless you all.  Until next time. 'Ofa atu, Elder and Sister Spencer



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