Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hey family and friends!

The island where Elder Groberg went to
pray and read the Book of Mormon.
These past 2 weeks have had some pretty crazy, memorable events. The main reason for that was the District Conference in Niuatoputapu on Dec. 11th. Backround: Niuatoputapu (or Niua) is an island in Tonga 800 miles north of the main island of Tonga, closer to Samoa than anywhere else.  It's super small, with maybe 500-600 people living there. It is also the island from "The other side of Heaven," with Elder Groberg. Every missionary in Tonga wants to go to Niua because it's so remote and it's like going back in time. Because there wasn't a plane going there until sometime in January, President decided to charter a boat for the conference, sell tickets to people who wanted to go to Niua and take the entire office, including us!

Before I talk about Niua I better talk about the boat ride,
since I spent more time in the boat than in Niua (dang). We took the boat "Maggie Cat," which was not a big boat, holding probably 200 people, but it was really nice and pretty fast too. Our schedule was to leave Friday, take the 6-7 hour boat ride to Vava'u, sleep there, then wake up early on Saturday to take the 8-9 hour boat ride to Niua, then come back the next day after the conference to sleep at Vava'u, then come back to Tonga. Haha.  I calculated it up and it was 35 hours on a boat. And this was me on the boat the entire time.

I immediately felt terrible for Elder Groberg who had to take an 8 day journey from Tonga to Niua in a rowboat. The 9 hour journey from Niua back to Vava'u was especially bad cause the sea was terrible. I never threw-up, thankfully, but I was laying down on the top deck in the fresh air the entire time. It was pretty awful, but it's a good memory to have and I know I will never take a boat ride that long ever again.


My first impression of Niua was that it's way beautiful, and waaaay small. The first thing we did was of traditional Tongan manner, EAT.  For one of the poorest islands of the world they prepared us a feast - pigs, lobster, crab, and a lot more. As you can see I took the liberty of taking one of the pig heads (side note: pig tongue is really good, but don't go for the roof of the tongue, it's gross).

After that we went to the Priesthood Session of conference. Attendance was about 20​ with probably about 7 from the island. The church is really, really small. I had heard that there were about 10 member families on the entire island, but it's amazing to see the faith and the strength of the members. One thing that really struck me from the Priesthood Session is that all of the members were very committed to going to the temple even though it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip to get to Tonga and to get to the temple.

That night we had a Holahula (dance) and invited the entire island. It was probably the biggest activity on the island in a long time. Probably 150-200 people showed up.  We brought ice cream and a speaker and a ton of people to participate. While the Hulahula was going on I was helping record patriarchal blessings with the Patriarch that came along. It was really humbling to see people that had wanted a blessing for so long and were finally able to receive it. I probably recorded about 7 blessings.

Lastly we had the Sunday conference which probably had 200 people there, a ton of them non- members. It was a really good conference and a lot of powerful testimonies were given about simple doctrines of the church. The entire mission presidency spoke along with the district president in Niua. 

In conclusion (oh gosh I feel like I'm writing an essay), it was super fun in Niua, I know that it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and though the boat ride was a little rough and it was a 4:30 wake up go to bed at 1:00 kind of trip, I was glad I got the opportunity to go. I could totally tell why Elder Groberg thought that this island was the other side of heaven.  It's such a beautiful island and the people are all so faithful. The word Niuatoputapu literally means sacred island and when I was on the island I could feel it. If this isn't really weird - you could feel the magic coming from the island.  I testify we have a God who's good and mysterious, and that he gave us the gift us his son.

Love you all,
Ofa Atu,
Elder Wilson

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