The people were very gracious and welcoming. We spent quite a bit of time after the presentation showing them how to check for and correct duplicates in FamilySearch and answering questions.
When that training was over Brother Piatau met us for lunch. We drove down to a nearby beach to have a picnic. It felt good to have a little bit of time to catch our breath and enjoy some of the beauty of Tonga.
Soon enough though, we were back on the road for our 2PM session that day
And then on to our evening session to wrap up the day.
We were again quite exhausted by the time we finished up. In addition to the rigors of travel, we experienced many strong emotions throughout each training. We taught the members about the importance of family stories by sharing stories of our own families. That always stirred up lots of feelings of missing our loved ones back home and remembering poignant experiences that were very powerful for us.
I shared different stories of about my grandparents, my siblings and my children, alternating between different stories at each training depending on whatever I felt prompted to say for that particular group. Several times I told the story of the heartache I felt over my youngest son’s 20 years of being away from the church and the worry I used to feel for him when I knew he was making poor choices that would make his life more difficult. I told of the promise a wise Stake President had given me during that time, telling me that if I would increase my commitment to temple attendance and continued to pray for him as Alma had prayed for his wayward son, that my son’s life would be blessed. I relayed how my son had recently come back to the gospel through the influence of a wonderful home teacher, and how much joy that brought to our lives. This was often a very emotional story for me to tell. However, Sister Piatau said that story was important to share for two reason. First, many of the members we were teaching had wayward family members of their own, and this story showed them there was hope for the future. Secondly, she said some Tongans think the Palangie people are different, not having any of the same problems they do. She said this story helped them relate to us more when they understood how much we had in common.
Many times as I would share this story we would see people in the group openly weeping as they thought of their own families. After those sessions various individuals would come up to me to share their own stories, telling me how we were the same. We felt a real bond with the people as we talked with them about their sons and daughters, parents and siblings who they prayed might one day come to know a relationship with Christ. We spoke with them of estrangements and reunions. We talked about funny things and sad things. They told us about things they had learned from their grandparents and stories passed down in their families about their great-grandparents. We heard about aunties and uncles. We encouraged them to write those stories down and especially to record them in FamilySearch so they would be preserved for future generations.
After the story telling exercise we always asked them to briefly recap the feelings they had while talking about their family. Over and over they named joy, love, gratitude, desire to know more about them. We learned the words “fiafia” (happy) and “ofa” (love) as each group would say these again and again. It was good and it was powerful. Still, by the end of the day, all that intense emotional work left us feeling utterly spent.