Welcome to the three-day Tongan National Intercollegiate Games held in the Nuku'alofa stadium each April. It is an entertaining world of Harry Potter with all the various houses--colleges, high schools, and middle schools--throughout the Tongan islands competing in the track and field events as well as cheering competitions among the schools. As guests, we missionary couples arrived early to avoid the heavy traffic and crowds. Tongan culture is founded on rank and has a three-tiered class system: 1. royalty 2.nobles 3. commoners. A special Tongan language is spoken only to the King, another spoken to all other royals and nobles, and the regular Tongan language spoken among commoners. This area is prepared for the king and his family.Tonga's Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita arrives for the games. There are definite rules to follow here. I guess we can be excused because we are Palangi’s. Let the games begin!
A missionary gathering at the games: It seems the young elders earned a free day because during their home inspections they all earned a "Celestial House of Order" reward. Elder Karrati (sp.) in the middle top is from Pleasant Grove not far from Britt's neighborhood, and the elder left of him is from Spanish Fork.Of course the young elder missionaries are never without purse and script Tongan style:The athletes work hard to get here and many of them do not have shoes or socks for the competitions. But it is a big deal! Two of the winners from each event will have the opportunity to represent Tonga in the Olympics. During the opening ceremony the teams march around the track. The CES (Church Education System) Saineha High School students from the island of Vava'u were impressive competitors! Sister Heimuli said that during practice the trainer gives their athletes a bit of honey in the palms of their hands to eat just before they run. It gives them energy. Then, too, the different departments in school take turns feeding the athletes a good lunch daily a month before the big competition. The Pain of an Athlete: Liahona students did well, too. For the past month the athletes have gotten up at 4 A.M. to train, and the student wards asked for donations to help feed them. It’s difficult, grueling work considering they don’t train all year. Ola Vaitai, Liahona PE teacher and our bishop’s wife, said the kids suffered during training but persisted. She shared with the athletes that she saw their pain but it was nothing compared to our Savior’s pain. She taught them the power of the Atonement, that He wants us all to win and we must never give up. One young athlete in our ward said, “The pain of running in the sun was not like the pain our Savior suffered for us.” They are a simple beautiful people and spirituality is prominent in their lives.
Before competing, these Liahona athletes bow in respect to the Princess: Tongans cover their heads with anything including tree branches to keep their heads out of the sun: Food for the judges: Check out the strength in those arms: Medals are awarded:Liahona high school band members prepare to lead the parade of athletes in the closing ceremonies: We were so proud of them!