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Thursday, February 14, 2013


Kava trees as they grow.


The Tongan farmer looked at the visiting Paalangi.  “This is kava.  Kava is a royal crop, Brother.  I have more than 200 acres of it growing on my plantation.  This is how I shall provide an education for my children and for my grandchildren, from the sale of kava. We make juice from the roots.  Will you honor me by trying some?”

Squeezing the juice from kava roots.

The Paalangi looked long at the Tongan.  “Brother Vai, I have never seen kava before.  But I have just had a prompting from the Holy Ghost that kava is not good for the body. I shall not drink any today.  Still, I thank you for your invitation, and your good will.”

Dried kava roots

 The Paalangi left, and Brother Vai sat down to think.  Then he stood, and thought some more.  And then he walked, and thought some more.  Much, much later that night, he went to bed.

 The next morning, Brother Vai called his plantation workers together.  "We will uproot every kava tree on this plantation,” he said, stunning his workers.  “I will not grow kava any more.”

The workers would not confront their employer, but later they complained among themselves.  "He can't be serious!" said one.  "The other plantation owners will say he's gone mad," said another.  "What is he thinking?  He will have no money, and we will have no jobs!" protested a third.  Still, they obeyed their employer.  He was firm; every kava tree had to go.  

Many weeks later, the last of the kava trees was removed from the ground.  The workers watched in amazement as every tree was chopped up for firewood, and the valuable root systems burned.  Now that the job was finished, the plantation owner explained himself to his staff.

“I trust this Paalangi who came to our plantation.  I know in my heart he is a man of God. I know that he is inspired of God, and I trust his judgment based upon that inspiration.  He was the one who told me that kava is not good for the body.  I will not grow anything that is harmful to anyone’s body.  I will apply in my life the principles that I know are true; and one of those principles is to never harm another person.”

The workers now understood why Brother Vai had chosen to uproot his crops.  But how would he pay them?  How would they manage a plantation with no crops?

A banana grove.
Brother Vai started over.  He had banana trees, and bananas would always sell.  They would plant more banana trees.  Little by little, more crops were added: mangoes, melons, pineapples, root crops – and sooner than any of the workers had expected, the plantation was filled with beneficial vegetables and fruits.  And Brother Vai never let any workers go – they managed together.  The plantation thrived as never before; the weather seemed to support every planting, every harvest, and the workers came to understand the value of applying their faith in both word and deed.

This is what kava drink looks like.  It used to be used only
in ceremonies,but now is popularly used as a pastime.

I was told this story by the grandson of Brother Vai, whose entire family uses this story to teach each other the value of trusting in our leaders.  I don’t know who the Paalangi in the story was; it doesn’t matter.   What matters is that Brother Vai perceived the inspiration of a leader, and trusted enough in that inspiration to take the drastic step of destroying his own crops and then replacing them, without knowing for himself the reason.  (It is now common knowledge that kava is a mild hallucinogenic, is addictive, and can cause severe liver damage.)  Brother Vai , his children and grandchildren are strong, contributing members of the Church here in Tonga, and provide leadership in many wards and branches.  It is our pleasure to know and work with a few members of this family.  

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