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Monday, November 5, 2012

THE FRIENDLY ISLANDS


Tui, who never seems to be without his smile.
Selflessness is almost a way of life here, but sometimes it still takes me by surprise.  Twice in the past week our friend  Tui (TOO-ee), who is a counselor here at the high school has stopped by with food for us – mangoes and kumala, a white sweet potato.  This is a man who has five children of his own to feed, but still finds a way to share.  “Tonga’s only mountains are in our hearts,” says a Tongan proverb – meaning that the challenge to create a summit of good character is of prime importance here.  Our friend has created his own mountain, and summited that mountain in quiet, humble service. 


Students would work in this kind of field.


We are not the only objects of his service, either – Tui is working on creating a program that will help students next year (school is over except for exams and national exams).  The program is kind of a work-study program, using the Church welfare farm to raise and sell crops to reduce their school costs.  If four acres of kumala (those white sweet potatoes, like the ones Tui brought us) can be planted and harvested three times during the school year, each boarding student’s total school cost will be cut in half.  Not bad for two or three hours’ work every Saturday morning.  Here’s hoping the area church leaders will approve Tui’s request.



This is a part of the Church farm here in Liahona.


Tui serves for the same reason as most Tongans – they are firmly convinced that their own spiritual welfare, indeed, their whole balance of spirit, emotion, intellect and social connection -  depends on finding ways to share.  Most of the rest of the human race are happiest when we receive something.  Most Tongans are happiest when they have the opportunity to give something.  Perhaps it is because they have so little, that they are so generous –  sort of “give now while I have something to give, because I may need someone else to be charitable toward me next week” thinking.   Whatever the reason, the generous nature of these people, as typified by Tui, is remarkable.  They don’t call Tonga “The Friendly Islands” for nothing.