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Sunday, July 21, 2013

THE LAST DAY

As I sat in the room where Liahona Middle School was holding their awards assembly, I smiled as one of the students I knew was recognized for academic excellence.  But I heard a longer version of his name, and leaned over to ask the principal for his whole name.  “Taumoe’anga (Tow –moh-ay-ahngah),” she said quietly.  “It means fights with shark.

As I considered this information, I knew what thought I would share with the gathered students.  We had been honored at the assembly too, for helping with some of the student programs as well as working with the teachers, and it was our last working day in Tonga.

Taumoe’anga is a slight young man who at age 13 serves in the deacons’ quorum presidency of our ward at Liahona.  He often sits on the stand right behind the bishopric, becoming the bishop’s messenger as needed during Sacrament meeting.  He has a shy manner but a ready smile, and I have watched him work very hard in his classes.  But what impresses me most about this young man is his resolve.  He shows great determination to serve.  I have watched him pick up hymnals after our meetings when nearly all the other Aaronic Priesthood holders have left the little room we use as our chapel.  He regularly helps stack the plastic chairs that serve as our chapel seats.  And nearly every week, he waits outside the bishop’s office for further assignments, after services have ended.  Not your usual 13-year old.

Moe, as I have known him, accepted his award, shook my husband’s hand (Jim was the honored guest asked to congratulate this group of students) and went back to his seat.  After all students were recognized (70% of these students made honor roll this quarter), Jim and I were asked to say a few words. 

Jim urged the students to find ways to serve others, their friends, their teachers, as they grow older.  He paraphrased a prophet’s words that “through service we lose ourselves and when we lose ourselves, we grow.”

Then came my turn.  I called Moe forward.  Turning him to the audience of about 500 people, I repeated his full name:  Taumoe’anga.  “In English, his name translates to ‘fights with sharks.’  Is that right, Moe?”  Moe nodded in agreement.  “This name was a gift from your parents and your auntie, right Moe?”  Again came the confirming nod.

I turned to the audience.  “What a wonderful gift to give a child – a name that means fights with sharks.  I am sure that because of this name, Moe has made sure he is strong.  He doesn’t need to be strong physically, because he may never actually encounter a physical shark.  But he, like every one of us, has to fight with spiritual sharks.”  I paused, and noted many nodding heads in the audience.  “Taumoe’anga has been given the strength and the mission of living up to his name.  Are we living up to our own names?”

I looked over the audience.  Many of these Tongan children had been given English names, or Tongan versions of English names.  “For those of you named Mele – Mary – the name Mary means pure.  If your name is Lisiate (Richard, in English), your name means strong king.  If your name is Viliami (William), your name means that you desire to protect others.  If your name is Siosi’ana (Susan), your name represents both your royal birth and the beauty of a white lily.  What will you do today to live up to your name?  What will you do tomorrow to live the meaning of your name?  How will you use your name to accomplish your mission on this earth?”

Well, as they say, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  Time for me to reflect and answer those questions for myself.  And that’s one more lesson learned.

This is the last story from our mission.  Thank you for your love in reading and responding to this blog. We have returned to the States.  We were released as full-time missionaries on Wednesday, July 17th, and will be spending the next month visiting friends and family before we leave the U.S. for our job in Kazakhstan.  If you haven't heard that bit of news, please go to beaszokanotes.blogspot.com.   





Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ONE MIRACLE AT A TIME

Elder Makasini, a young Tongan American, sat stunned in his seat.  Who would have thought he would ever have the chance to keep his promise to Elder Hamala?

Months before, when Elder Makasini first received his mission call to leave his home in California and travel to Tonga to preach the gospel, one of the full-time missionaries in his ward had pulled him aside.  Elder Hamala, who had grown up in Tonga and was serving his own mission in California, told him very earnestly, “I need you to make me a promise.

“Promise me that if you ever get to Maufanga, and you find my mother, you will bear your testimony to her,” he requested.  “She’s a devoted Catholic, but she’ll listen to you, and maybe your testimony will touch her heart.”

Elder Makasini promised he would do that.  But time went by and Elder Makasini served in other villages in Tonga, and forgot his agreement with Elder Hamala.  Then one day he went on a companion exchange with another missionary, and a couple of ward leaders each took a young full-time missionary to visit the homes of less-active and part-member families.  Elder Makasini found himself in the home of a widow.  “My Tongan is still not very good,” Elder Makasini admits.  “But about 15 minutes into the conversation, I realized that this woman’s name was Hamala, and that she had a son who was a member of the Church.” 

Elder Makasini turned to Mrs. Hamala, and asked, “Is your son serving a mission right now?  In California?”  Both answers were yes.  “I know your son.  And he asked me to bear my testimony to you if I ever met you.  Would you allow me to do that?”  Again, the answer was yes, as a mother who missed her own son dearly listened to the words of a stranger, explaining to her why her own son left her for two years, why Elder Makasini had left his own family in California to come to Tonga, and the importance of the message he brought to her.  

Reflecting on the experience, Elder Makasini shares, “I knew the Spirit was strong that night.  I felt it, and I hoped that she felt it.  I bore my testimony, we all wept, and that was the end of the visit.”

Fast forward about 5 months.  Elder Makasini now serves in an area that includes the Nuku’alofa Temple, and was walking along the sidewalk across the street from the temple one day when he heard a voice call out, “Makasini!  Makasini!”  The voice belonged to Elder Hamala. They ran to each other and embraced.

“Hey, I didn’t know you were home!”
“Just got home a couple of weeks ago.  How’s your Tongan?”
“Oh, bad, really bad.  But I keep trying.”
“That’s good.  You’ll get it.  Keep trying.”
“Hey, I found your mom a few months ago, and bore my testimony to her.”
“I know.”
“Really? What, did she tell you about it?”
“That and more.”
“Well, tell me about her.  Where is she now?”

Elder Hamala pointed his thumb over his shoulder at the temple.  “She’s in there, doing some baptisms for the dead.  She was baptized months ago.”

Elder Makasini and Hamala embraced once more, this time out of sheer gratitude for the power of the Holy Ghost, which had carried Elder Makasini’s words to the heart of Elder Hamala’s mother.  She in turn recognized the power of that witness, and acted upon it.  One miracle at a time, the Lord’s work continues here in Tonga.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

THE VALUE OF AN EDUCATION

What follows is a story provided to me by one of our teachers.  I know there are many arguments out there about the value of education, but when you start from nothing, the value is hard to discount.  Here is Mo's story:

I grew up on a small island of about 500 people.  The island is only 3 miles by 5 miles.  It was hard for me to see the importance of education.  How could I use education in my daily life on this island?  What I saw was that I could raise pigs, chickens, cows to eat, grow root crops, vegetables and fruits, and go fishing any time I wanted.  However, every day I went to my small elementary school, and my mom told me to study hard so I could have a better life, and life would be much  easier for me.

Pigs range freely on all the islands of Tonga.

A field prepared for planting taro, a root crop.




A bull resting.







Bringing lobster to a feast.
 No one need starve in Tonga.

Her counsel and her loving wishes for a better life for me really touched my heart, yet I saw no reason to gain a better education since no one in my family has any education.  The only person with any education was the teacher.  I was not sure what education she had, but I thought she had to have some kind of training.





















I looked at my immediate family.  None of them had finished high school.  There seemed to be no reason for me to have an education.  If all of my siblings and my parents could survive without education, then so could I.  I did not bother to ask whether or not their life was easy.  Everything seemed okay without education.  So I went to school just to make my mom happy, and just to play with my friends.  I did not see any future in an education.


Somehow, I made it into high school.  I was suspended and dropped out, but I never told my parents.  To this day, they do not know anything about it.  I came to the main island to live with my older sister, and when I was suspended, I told my parents that I wanted to transfer from the government school to the Church school.  But I was unmotivated.  I had been suspended because I did not want to go to school.  Still, I did not want to hurt my parents’ feelings.

I recall my conversation with my parents.  They shared with me their sadness at the report of an older brother of mine who dropped out of school.  I thought at that moment that I had to change, to make my parents proud and happy instead of sad.  So I went back to school and graduated.  I thought that I had finished all the education I would ever need.

This statue, called "Education", stands
in front of Liahona High School.
Then I went on a mission.  I saw the “big picture” – that life without education is a lot harder than life with education.  I was excited to go back to school after my mission.  I was very grateful that I had completed high school and could attend college.

Now I have a Bachelor’s degree, and I would love to further my education when possible.  I think of my immediate family and my extended family back on the island – it’s really hard to see the purpose of education when life is all about raising pigs, cutting down coconuts, fishing and harvesting root crops.  I am the only one in my family with a college degree.  My relatives have not seen the big picture.  They do not appreciate how education makes a difference in your life.  Education may not be that important on a little island, but when you leave that island, life will be very hard without an education.


I live an easy life because of education.  My older brothers and sisters sacrifice every day just to survive, working their crops and trying to sell to other people who have no money to buy anything.  I have no regrets about going to school and college, but I know that my siblings regret the choice they made to drop out of school.  I know for a fact that they push their children to get as much schooling as possible, but just like me, their children see no purpose for education.  I try to help them by comparing my life and my siblings’ lives, so they can understand how much easier my life is than their parents’ lives.  Sometimes I feel like it’s working.  I hope they will start a revolution for prosperity, and put an end to our non-education family.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CHANGING THE CULTURE

This is what the highway looked like all the way from 
the airport to the palace last year, when the former 
king's body was returned to Tonga.
The culture in Tonga is all about respecting those of superior rank, whether that means parents, the royal family, government leaders, church leaders, or even students who have been given particular titles.  Commoners defer to the nobility here, and everyone defers to the royal family.  Children are expected to show respect for all adults – and like the Navajo tribe of the American Southwest, that includes NOT making eye contact when being spoken to directly.  So when the Protestant minister calls upon a family, they all sit in their home never looking at the minister.  Coming from my background of non-verbal and verbal communication levels, that habit has been hard for me to accept.  Fortunately, it’s okay for Palangis to look at people – even the king – so I haven’t been thrown in jail or anything for looking at someone at the wrong time!

Okay, a little more explanation, then the story.  Students called “Prefects” here help out like student government officers in the U.S., but there are also offices of Head Boy, Head Girl, and Student Body President.  And these officers are shown the same kind of respect by other students that adult leaders are shown by the general population – unless their teachers decide to change the culture.

The Liahona flag and uniform - two white stripes on a 
field of green.  The two stripes remind students to learn 
by study and also by faith.

That is exactly what is happening here at Liahona.  In their Seminary (religion) classes, teachers have been helping students model themselves after Jesus Christ, who was a leader by being a servant.  In fact, the teachers have named the leadership model the Servant Leader.  Time after time, students have been taught about how Jesus Christ healed the lame and blind, patiently taught and explained principles of power, and led by example in serving others.  Here is a story about how one student put those stories into practice.

Most student gatherings in Tonga look like this, with leaders and speakers on a raised stand in a gymnasium, and students on plastic chairs.  Multipurpose areas are the norm here.

Malakai (Malachi) was the student body president at Liahona, and he, along with several other student 
government officers, attended a leadership conference for all the high schools on the main island of Tongatapu.  One of the prefects from another (Protestant) school invited Malakai to eat lunch with his student body presidency, so Malakai took with him the Head Boy and one of the male prefects.  Instead of sitting down first, Malakai got the box lunches for his two assistants, opened them and handed each of them a fork and a napkin.  He happened to look over at the two assistants across the table – the ones from the other high school – and saw the confusion on their faces, as they brought their president his lunch, fork and napkin.  During the lunch, one of them reached with a napkin to brush some food off their president’s chin.  Malakai smiled, took his napkin, and reached over to one of his assistants to brush his chin, again noting the confused expressions on all three faces on the other side of the table.  When they finished eating, one of the assistants on the other side of the table collected the empty boxes and forks, napkins, and soda cans, and took everything to the trash, while his president remained seated.  But it was Malakai who stood up, collected everything from his own side of the table, and put it in the trash. 
Some of the food was prepared by other students.
 Finally, the other boys could stand it no longer.  “Do you not teach respect at Liahona?” they asked. All three Liahona boys assured them that respect was an important part of their learning.  “But Malakai, why did you stand to take the rubbish to the trash?  Why was it you who opened the napkins for your assistants, and laid those napkins in their laps?  Why did you get their food, and wipe their faces?” 

Malakai smiled.  This was his opportunity.  “Do you remember how the Lord Jesus Christ taught us to lead?” he asked.  “Do you remember how he led others?”  The other boys, well-schooled in the New Testament, recited examples of Jesus teaching quietly, healing people and doing good to others.   Then Malakai taught them: “Jesus was a leader by example.  When he washed his disciples’ feet, he was teaching them to serve.  When he healed the sick, he was showing us how to serve.  When he answered the same questions over and over without becoming impatient, he was showing us how to serve. I want to be a Servant Leader like Jesus Christ, so I try to follow his example of showing respect to all of God’s children.”

The other boys had no reply.


The Church schools here in the Pacific have been challenged to be the agents of change in their cultures.  This story, at the very least, illustrates one moment of change.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A UNIQUE HOLIDAY

A holiday is coming up here in Tonga.  June 4th is Emancipation Day.  This marks two important milestones in this country’s history, and most Tongans regard it with the same kind of attitude that Americans have for Independence Day.

Okay, to give you a feeling for the reason it’s called “Emancipation Day” I need to give you something of a history lesson.  This little tiny country is the ONLY country in the South Pacific never to have been colonized by any European power, although there was a treaty of protection between Tonga and Great Britain that was valid from 1900 through 1970.  Today, Tonga operates independently, but in partnership with other nations.  For example, there are Tongan soldiers serving in U.S. and British units in Afghanistan.  There are agreements in place with Australia and New Zealand for Tongans to pursue higher education there.  And so on…

Tonga's first King, who took the Christian name
of George, after King George III of England
The first modern king of Tonga, King George Tupou I (the current king is George Tupou VI) came to power after civil wars had split the islands in the 1780s.  He was crowned king of one island group, then fought wars to unite all the island groups, and reigned as  king of all Tonga from 1845 until his death in 1893 (reportedly at age 100!).  He did some remarkable things, and is still revered in this country.
King George Tupou I also had this modest
palace built. It is still used today.

Before he was king of a United Tonga, this warrior king abolished the system of serfdom that had defined Tonga for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years.  He emancipated the lowest echelons of Tongans from obliged servitude to those born into positions of nobility or royalty. It took until 1862 for this law to be in force in all 176 islands, but every Tongan “commoner” was emancipated.  Then he took the unprecedented step of writing into law the allowance for every Tongan male to have land to work.  Every Tongan male, at age 16, is entitled to rent-for-life a plot of bush land (away from the village, similar to the 18th century practice in the U.S.) for a nominal fee, in order to provide food for his family.  Each male Tongan was also given the right to a smaller plot of land for a village home.  Today, the land is limited, and plots of land are not as big as they used to be, but many families still work the land rented to them by the King:









A more mature King
 George Tupou I







George took this step because he had been baptized a Christian in 1831. And this Christian perspective caused him to take one more step that no other reigning king in recent history has done: he consecrated his land and people to God.  His words, translated into English, are “God, our Father, I give you my land and my people, and all generations of people who follow after me.”  He went on to beg the protection of God for his people, the waters, and the creatures of Tonga and its waters.  Is it any wonder that Tonga has received special protection?  Is it any wonder that this country is one of the few left on earth where all businesses are closed on Sunday, in honor of the Sabbath?  Is it any wonder that Tonga’s people love the Lord?  Their king consecrated them to God’s keeping, to God’s service. 


Tonga's Queen and Queen Mother
The reigning king of Tonga












The kings (and one queen) since George Tupou the first have used a royal seal, upon which is printed, “God and Tonga are my inheritance.”  Not “my God-given right”, not “my kingdom”, but “my inheritance.”  They are keenly aware that their position is a stewardship.  The current king and queen are working to bring a higher standard of living to Tonga through improved health and educational resources.  This tiny country, consecrated to God for more than a century and a half, has more than a few things to teach the rest of us. Call it Emancipation Day, call it Consecration Day, call it Tonga’s national day – I call it a lesson for the rest of us. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

CHARACTER


I had to say goodbye to two wonderful friends this week.  The longer I stay here, the harder it is to say goodbye.  And this goodbye was particularly difficult because this couple returned to their home in Melbourne, Australia, and it’s very likely I will never see them again.  Elder and Sister F. spent only six months here, but in that time they won my heart with their plain speaking, their patience, and their love. He is a 78-year old retired woodworking teacher who has the patience of Job, and she is a 75-year old plain-speaking Scottish descendant who has more skill with children than most professional teachers.  

You don’t know these two.  I understand that.  But you know their type.  A Scottish poet by the name of Robert William Service (how terrific would it be to carry THAT family name?) described them in a poem written long before these two were born:

A Character 


How often do I wish I were
What people call a character;
A ripe and cherubic old chappie
Who lives to make his fellows happy;
With in his eyes a merry twinkle,
And round his lips a laughing wrinkle;
Who radiating hope and cheer
Grows kindlier with every year.

For this ideal let me strive,
And keep the lad in me alive;
Nor argument nor anger know,
But my own way serenely go;
The woes of men to understand,
Yet walk with humour hand in hand;
To love each day and wonder why
Folks are not so jocund as I.

So be you simple, decent, kind,
With gentle heart and quiet mind;
And if to righteous anger stung,
Restrain your temper and your tongue.
Let thought for others be your guide,
And patience triumph over pride . . .
With charity for those who err,
Live life so folks may say you were--
God bless your heart! --A Character


Fair winds and following seas, Elder and Sister F.  I love you.  Thank you for being Characters in my life.  When I grow up, I want to be a Character.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

THE FAITH OF A CHILD


Now and then a Primary child speaks in church here in Tonga.  Recently little 9-year old ‘Ofa (means “love”) spoke about the power of prayer.  I offer her story in her own words (edited with her mother):

When I was six, I found out how important prayer is.  My family van was broken, and my mom was sick.  It was raining very hard, and the wind was very strong.  I had no raincoat, I had no umbrella.  My family had no telephone to call a taxi to take me to school.    It was very important for me to go to school that day, because I had a test to take.  But this was a hard day, because there was no help for me. I didn't want to get wet on the way to school and have to spend the whole day in wet clothes - I might get sick.

My dad had already left to go to work, and I was very sad.  I stood beside my mom and cried.  But then I got a very strong feeling that I should say a prayer.  I looked at my mom.  She told me we needed to kneel down and say a prayer together. Even though I was still crying, I said the prayer.  I asked Heavenly Father, “Please help me go to school today.”  

Even before I finished my prayer, I could hear that the rain had stopped.  I said “Amen” and looked out the window.  The wind was still blowing very hard.  The sky was still dark,  but there was no rain.  My brother, my mom and I stood in the doorway and said another prayer, this time thanking Heavenly Father for stopping the rain.  My brother and I ran all the way to school.

As soon as  I entered my classroom, the heavy rains began again, and continued all morning.  Because of this experience, my faith grew.  I knew after that day that I have a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers my prayers.   My mom told me that President Kimball used to compare prayer to an umbrella or raincoat to protect us from danger.  On that day when I was six, I found out that I didn’t need an umbrella or a raincoat, as long as I remembered to pray, and exercise my faith.

I testify that Heavenly Father answers prayers.  I know the power of prayer.  I am now working on my Faith in God program, and because of prayer, I feel I am closer to my Father in Heaven, and I can feel that he really loves me. 

This little message brings me peace, because it makes me remember that God knows each one of us by name.  We are truly his children, and because he is a loving Father, he knows our names, he knows what we need (and not just what we want), and he knows how and when to help us.  Thank heaven for little girls who teach me such wonderful things.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

This is a poem by Marianne Williamson, called "Our Greatest Fear."  I have had it posted on my bulletin board in my office for months now.  

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our own darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?"

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking 
      so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give 
     other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.


Monday, April 29, 2013

LAND OF LIGHT





Living in the tropics where days do not shorten and lengthen as much as they do in more temperate latitudes, I have come to rely on the rhythms of the sun to measure my day.  If I wake up and the sun is above the trees, I know I’ve overslept.  But if the sky is just beginning to brighten, then I know I have time to get ready for the day without rushing. 
Sunrise in my back yard.  Yeah, it's a hardship assignment here.

The other night we ate dinner with friends at a restaurant, watching storm clouds approach the northern shore of the island.  Their dark, heavy appearance made us willing to hurry through our dinner and get back into the car, to get home so we could be safe.  We knew that the clouds would bring only rain, not high winds, but the foreboding nature of the clouds was enough to make us concerned.  We had no care to stay and experience the coming rains, as announced by the clouds.  So, we hurried back to enjoy the storm from the safety of our little home, turning on electrical lights to fend off the darkness of the clouds and rain.  As I sat and pondered in our home, some very loosely connected thoughts came to me:

1.  I have heard darkness defined as “the absence of light”.  That definition is used in black and white photography, but I also see it as a metaphor for my life.  The light of knowledge, the light of truth, the light of understanding – my purpose is to seek for light, and then use it to guide my decisions.  I know the standard of light - the quality of light I want to develop in myself.  I must guard myself against absenting myself from the light, and make my choices based upon the quality of light each alternative will provide.  

The other day I was working with some of the leaders of the boys' dorm, and we talked about the word "praiseworthy."  We talked about making decisions based on the praiseworthiness of each choice - which of two good things would you rather be congratulated on?  Which of two (or more) good things would you want your parents, or your leaders, or the Savior, to see you doing?  That is the praiseworthy test.  

One teacher doing a presentation in one of the
classes I teach after school.
2.  The light of education has been easy for me to seek. I have a deep love for the light of learning.  I appreciate the new understandings I gain when I search, and for the new understandings I can impart to others as I teach.  As I work with teachers here in Tonga, I love to watch the light in their faces as they master a new skill, or comprehend a new concept.  But there is so much more for them, and me, to learn.  May we have enough light to understand how to accomplish our worthy goals.

My "tall sister" and her daughter - I am the short sister!
3.  Light is within us all.  I need to remember that.  As I work together with others, I need to remember to bask in the light of others, and absorb the light of understanding - exemplified by the woman in this photo, who asks me almost
as many questions as I ask of her;  the light of patience, exemplified by a teacher who sat there with me for eight hours while we tried to get the computer to cooperate (eight hours - seriously????); the light of love, exemplified by Lehua (at lower left), one of the dorm girls who I have been blessed to know.  When I allow myself time to absorb light from others, I can do more than reflect the light of others – I can become a stronger source of light for others. 


Whether I seek physical sunlight, or the light of education, or the light of love and understanding, or even the light of Jesus Christ, the benefits are the same: increased happiness and capacity.  And isn’t that what we all want in life?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TINY STORIES

Just a crazy quilt today of pictures and thoughts.  No special connections, no "moral of the story" - just a hodgepodge.

This is a picture of a semi-traditional Tongan home.  It's probably about 12 feet wide by 6-7 feet deep.  Most of the more traditional homes have only two rooms - parents' sleeping room and a common room. All the cooking is done outdoors, on an open fire, and bathroom needs are met by hand-dug latrines and buckets of water.  The shutters, closed against the rain in this picture, can be propped open to allow for ventilation.


This house is more indicative of how most people live in Tonga:  a simple, concrete structure with four or five rooms (common room, parent bedrooms, boy's bedroom and girls' bedroom, perhaps a room for extended family).  The corrugated metal fencing around the yard is to keep the pigs out of the yard, so it's called a pig fence.  This house even has a catchwater system, to store rainwater for household use in the big cement cistern to the right.  The smaller green cistern to the left holds treated water, delivered to the house, for drinking and cooking.  



This is a picture of a missionary, standing beside a child who in my book is an expert fisherman - he caught this small leopard shark with his bare hands.  Not bad for a 9-year  old boy, eh?  "Hey, mom, I got dinner for all of us!"  Families are often seen wading through the waters at low tide to harvest shellfish and urchins to eat - and my goal is to get a picture of a pig in the water, rooting for urchins!!!







This is a typical scene on the road.  You can see whole truckloads of students being delivered to the school here each morning - people find a place to sit, on the corners of the truck bed walls, or standing and holding on to the frame behind the cab window, or just lying down in the bed of the truck.  Don't panic, though, most of the time they're holding on very well, and the trucks rarely go more than 30 mph!





This is John (in Tongan, Sione = say See-OH-nay), one of our security guards here at Liahona.  Our school colors are green and white, so someone found these shirts and bought them for the security guards.  I have to smile when I read the pocket tabs, though:  Homeland Security.  Without going into detail, let me assure you that security at Liahona is much more relaxed than any security system I've ever seen anywhere else.  But we don't need a lot, either.





This is the fire station here.  And by "the fire station", I mean THE fire station.  There's only one in Tonga.  They stay busy!  They have a couple of small tank trucks and a pumper.  Does anyone know a multi-millionaire who would be willing to donate a couple million dollars to build and equip a second station on an island of 70,000 people?




The next picture is just so you know we aren't deadly serious all the time.  This was a mock trial at our recent principals' conference - English powdered wigs and all - charging principals with (shock and horror) making improvements to their educational programs!!!  Turns out they were all guilty, and each was sentenced to eating a 24-ounce chocolate bar at one sitting!



This last picture shows the dais built for the King of Tonga when he came to hand out diplomas at graduation.  This temporary structure was built out from the stage in the school gym/auditorium, and then covered in traditionally woven and painted mats.  The different weaves, patterns and styles of decorating reflect the different clans on this and some of the other islands in Tonga.  But the thing that amazed me most about the whole graduation ceremony was that students climbed up the steps at the right, received their diploma from the king, and then BACKED DOWN the steps again, because it is disrespectful to turn your back on the king!  


Life in Tonga is simple, unstressful, and slow.  And I am learning to appreciate that.