Thursday, January 30th
This was another VERY GOOD DAY in Tonga. We had the Ha’utu Water Project closing ceremony this morning. When we got up it was really cloudy, by 8:30 it was raining, by 9:00 it was pouring and the street and sidewalks were flooded. We needed to be in Ha’utu by 9:30 but we had to wait for the rain to let up a little to get out the front door and into the car. As we drove to Ha’utu, the rain started to lessen a little. The closer we got the better the weather. It had rained in the village, but then it stopped. The villagers and water committee were out at the site putting up a large white tent for us to sit under when we arrived. They got it all set up, put chairs under it and we had room for all of the invited guests to sit down for the ceremony. It started a little late, but that gave the TV channel a chance to take a lot of pictures and interview Alan and the water master. The Bishop conducted the ceremony. The town officer, the water master, the Stake President, Alan, Ana and the District Officer all spoke. It was such a touching experience for me to watch these big Tongan men, with tears in their eyes, express their appreciation for all we had done to make this day possible. They are so grateful to have the water up and running again. When they turned the engine on and the people could hear it running they all cheered and clapped. That is when I realized that there were many villagers who had come and were standing in the back. The people of the village are so thrilled to have water in their homes again. They told us that last night everyone in the village had a bath and did laundry!
The opening prayer and the closing prayer were given by members of our church, but they had invited a Wesleyan Minister to say a prayer during the program. It was a great way to make everyone in the village feel a part of the ceremony. We saw a miracle during the ceremony. When the Wesleyan Minister was praying, and we all had our heads bowed and our eyes closed, a table with a white table cloth, loaded with food, magically appeared. I truly did not hear a thing and I was sitting in the front row. But then, Wesleyan Ministers have a tendency to yell in their prayers. When I opened my eyes I almost gasp right out loud, I was so surprised to see that table and all that food appear right in front of us. It is kind of sad though that they would do that during a prayer. I was glad that nothing like that happened while our priesthood leaders were praying.
At the end of the ceremony, after we had all had time to have some light refreshments, it started to rain again. At first it wasn’t to bad, so everyone was able to make it to their cars, but then it started to pour again and the wind was so strong it got to you no matter where you were standing. In the midst of that down pour, I had to pause and give thanks that our prayers had been answered. Heavenly Father gave us two hours of calm weather. Just long enough to have an amazing closing ceremony, and then the rain returned. It wasn’t a coincidence, it was the answer to our prayers.
When we got back to our car we found it loaded with food. Coconuts, pineapples, watermelon, and huge papayas. This is a very poor village and they cannot afford to give expensive presents but they wanted to express their appreciation for all we had done. They gathered the best of their crops and gave them to us. We were overwhelmed by their generosity. It was way more than we could ever eat but it will be fun to share with the other senior missionaries.
We received an email today telling us that we need to move out of our office at Liahona by Monday. That was a real downer on such a good day. We knew that there were plans to turn our building into classrooms, but when it didn’t happen during the school break we thought we had dodged the bullet and would be able to stay there for the rest of our mission. WRONG!! We will have to stay in town all day or try to find another option here on the campus. Howard knows that we need to have internet access available to be on top of what is happening to aid Ha’api. If we are out of our office like we were today, we aren’t going to drive all the way into town just to check our emails. He is trying to help us find a solution.
It was fun to watch the news tonight. We made it to one of the top 3 news stories. Alan did a great job of representing the church in the interview he did explaining the project. The water master also did a good job and he expressed how grateful the people are to have running water again. The principal of the primary school expressed gratitude for the water and explained how the school had to close down when the water was off. All in all, we feel really good about the positive coverage we received.
It rained hard this afternoon and the forecast is for more to come. We hope this will help with the water problems in Ha’api. It should dilute the salt that is in the ground from the huge waves that covered the island. After this rain, when they plow the ground up it should be good to plant again.