Saturday was P-day and after 4 hours of market time with the couples, we left for a beach party celebration in honor of President and Sister McMurray’s birthdays, a day apart. If you’ve seen the LDS Friendly Islands portrayal, President Nau was featured in it. He and his wife Winnie were given about 89 acres of prime beach property from the King of Tonga 9 years ago. President Nau visits regularly with the new king—it seems they’re cousins.
He gives celebration feasts on his beach for the General and Area Authorities when they come to the islands. And there we were in a tropical island paradise. We could feel the spirit of it as we entered the beautiful place on a beach front surrounded by ocean, coral reefs, sandy shores and jungle covered cliffs. No wonder they named it “Heaven on Earth."
President and Sister Nau put on a great feast for us with enough food to feed 100 people. There were 19 there, including 4 missionaries from the office, and 5 of President and Sister Makemali’s family! It was the Tongan way of expressing gratitude for the missionaries and all they do for Tonga.
Story 1: With the help of 8 of his men, they’ve spent years clearing and improving the area by planting coconut trees, palms, pandana trees, banana trees and other tropical plants and flowers. Up beyond the cliffs he has a Noni fruit tree plantation and about 70 acres of pasture with 40 head of cattle. We were where there once was thick wild jungle all along the beach front property as they began the arduous job of cleaning out the unwanted foliage and stacking it all along the beach in an extensive wind-row between 6-8 feet high. The intent was to allow it to dry and be burned. Then one morning his men went out to work and called him on the “mobile” phone and said, “You must come here right away!” When he arrived at the work site the entire beach coastline was pristine clean. He looked out to the sea and there was no debris anywhere. It seems a storm had blown in during the night and the wave action had cleaned the beach of the foliage hauling it out to sea beyond the coral reefs. He raised his arms in gratitude and said, “Oh, thank you Heavenly Father!”
Story 2: President Nau then related another story to Elder Hawley that happened when he was working on his plantation. He and Elder Hunter (perhaps President Hunter but not sure) had driven out to observe the planting of new trees. The men were all carrying buckets of water for the new plants and the work was tedious and hot under the blue sky. Then Elder Hunter said, “This will not do.” The men were big and strong with sweat pouring down their bodies. President Nau described them as standing like the armies of Helaman with bandanas around their heads and leaning on the long spades as a prayer was given in which Elder Hunter pleaded for rain to water the plants. Then President Nau and Elder Hunter walked back to the vehicle. Just as they got inside and shut the doors, the skies opened up and it poured rain out of a cloudless sky watering all the plants. Smiling at President Nau, Elder Hunter gave him a thumbs up and off they drove.
President Nau invited each of the missionary couples to plant a coconut tree on the beach which we did. As Elder Hawley and I planted the brown coconut with a long green sprout coming from it into the sand, we were to say to the plant, “Grow well and we will return.” (Sister Heimuli said that the spouted ripe coconut is especially good to eat as it has a marshmallow like taste.)
The beauty of the place and sacred power of the missionaries and the people there truly made it a Heaven on Earth as we gathered shells, listened to stories, and to the roar of the ocean waves crashing into the coral reefs and flowing onto the sandy beach.