News Story

Couple from California Travel 8500 Kilometres to Teach School in Tonga 

A chance meeting between a missionary from Tonga serving in California, and Ted and Leah Webb began a series of events that led to the Webbs teaching school in Tonga. Ted was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when Leah invited the missionaries to their home for dinner. As Elder Sione Pahule visited with them and shared experiences from his homeland, a seed was planted which started the Webbs on their path to Tonga.

Ted and Leah are both middle school teachers at a private school in California which offers a sabbatical program (a period of paid leave granted to teachers allowing them time to study or travel). The Webbs decided that for their sabbatical, they would like to teach in a Pacific Area School. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has schools on some of the Pacific Islands, and Tonga seemed like a perfect fit.  Eventually, Ted, Leah and their four sons, ages 13, 11, and 7-year old twins were on a plane headed to Tonga, 8500 km away. 


The travel-weary family arrived late at night and were met at the airport by Tui Havea, a neighbour and teacher, who helped them with their luggage. The next morning, within minutes after the Webb family arrived at their home, neighbourhood children came to their door to meet their children and invite them to play.  

After the first day of middle school, the Webbs' 13-year old son reported that everyone wanted to shake his hand and welcome him. His parents said, "He felt really special," and added, "It was pretty incredible how welcoming people were."    

It wasn't long before the Webbs met Sione Pahule, a high school teacher who lived two doors down and attended their ward (congregation). When they told him which town they were from in California, he said he had served as a missionary in that area 11 years prior, but had only been in their particular town for one day when he and another missionary traded places. Sione remembered aloud having dinner at the home of a couple who were both school teachers. It was an amazing moment for all when the Webbs told him they were that same couple and that it was because of Sione that they began thinking about teaching in Tonga. They exclaimed, "You're the reason we're here!"  Leah added, "That night I had a hard time falling asleep because it was such an intense moment." 

Ted and Leah taught at Liahona Middle School in Nuku'alofa from June to mid-November 2019, where their two older sons attended school. They prepared a mini iPad lab to teach remedial math to small groups of students in order to help them prepare for standardised tests. Leah also helped in the science department, and Ted in the history department, alongside the missionary who had visited their home 11 years previously.

The Webbs were impressed with the teachers and school administration, noting that they were incredibly welcoming and thoughtful. "It was neat to see the care that they and the other teachers put in to their school." 

While in Tonga, the Webbs and their sons were sealed as a family in the Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple. Leah said, "It was really a special day. Our boys still talk about it."

In reflecting on their experiences in Tonga, Ted noted, "We are kind of amazed at how much we miss it. It was a wonderful time in our lives. The purity and love of Christ that was there is something that we can take with us."          


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