News Release

Sending Love Back Home to Tonga

Containers of surplus New Zealand school supplies packed by Tongan missionaries

Missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are always on the lookout for ways to help others.

On one particular day, recently, six young missionaries serving in the New Zealand Auckland Mission mowed someone’s lawn and then moved furniture for someone else who needed help.

When that was done, they went to a nearby school and packed a shipping container with surplus school desks headed to the Pacific Islands.

Six hundred desks, chairs and other school furniture donated by Blockhouse Bay Intermediate School were loaded into a container bound for Tonga.

Once there, the nation’s Minister of Education will decide where the supplies will be distributed.

Another group of young missionaries ─ all women ─ did something similar at Kristen School in the Auckland suburb of Albany recently.

They loaded a second container of furniture bound for schools in Tonga. They added 120 desks and chairs, over 100 boxes of books, and 10 bags of sports balls.

“I was grateful to know we were all able to fulfill a need and show our love to Heavenly Father by serving His beloved children,” said one of the volunteers, Sister Rangi. 

More than six years ago, John McLean and Callum Blair ─ members of the Church from Auckland ─ had the idea of sending surplus school materials to schools in the Pacific islands. A charitable trust was formed called Pacific Assist to facilitate this process.

“It’s all about education and trying to feed the needs in the islands,” McLean said. “Schools donate the items, volunteers help with the packing and logistics, and Latter-day Saint Charities covers the cost for the transport. In addition to furniture, several large organisations give us books to repurpose.”

This project was especially meaningful for three of the young male missionaries and three of the female missionaries. Elder Ahokovi, Elder Lutui and Elder Funaki, along with Sister Fa'apoi, Sister Lauvao and Sister Tuiaki, are all from Tonga. They loved knowing that they are helping school children in their home country.

As Elder Lutui was carrying a load of chairs, he said, “It’s awesome that we can do this for our little country. It is such a blessing for us to do this service for Tonga.”

“It would be so cool to see the Tongan kids’ smiles as they see this,” said Elder Avanitui, with a big smile of his own.

Elder Funaki served his mission in Zambia Lusaka Mission in Africa. Because of COVID-19 he served for 36 months in his original mission. He continued to serve in the Auckland mission while waiting to get home to Tonga and had been on his mission for 37 months. The normal length of a mission is 18 to 24 months.

“This makes me a little bit homesick,” he said. “But helping to prepare this container that will help our island country makes me feel love for my family. It always feels good to do service for our fellow brothers and sisters.”

Elder Funaki was able to return home a few weeks ago.  

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