Monday, September 13, 2010

Its A Small World After All

It was the fall of 1972 and I was about to enter the US Navy.  The war was continuing in Vietnam and I expected to serve in the Western Pacific.  In fact I had requested it when I enlisted.  I had wanted to return to the Philippines and the wonderful people I'd served while on a mission there.  When I enlisted I was single and had expected to be so for the foreseeable future.

Then one day, about three weeks before I was to report to Boot Camp I happened upon the girl of my dreams. We went on our first date and really hit it off.  In fact on that date, I felt impressed that I must marry her.  That notion was quite alarming to me.  Not because I was afraid of marriage; but because I'd put in for WestPac and expected to be away from home for the entire two years of my enlistment.  I couldn't imagine marrying this wonderful girl, only to leave her behind.

The day following our first date I had a notion that I'd like to see my brother.  Brad and I had been best friends all our lives and we hadn't laid eyes on one another for over three and a half years.  I'd gone on my mission in 1969 and he had left for his a few months before I got back.  Now I was bound for Vietnam, or so I thought, and might not see him for an additional two years.  I couldn't bear the thought.

With an attitude of nothing ventured nothing gained, I called his Mission President, President Rex C. Reeve Jr. and explained my situation. I told him that I had a regulation hair cut, plenty of white shirts and ties, the discussions memorized and a current Temple Recommend.  Then I plead, "Can I please come out to South Dakota and spend some time with him?"  There was a long silence on the other end.  Finally, he spoke and said he'd have to take the matter to the Lord.  I agreed and hung up the phone.  It wasn't two hours later the phone rang and it was President Reeve.  He had found a bother in the local area to be Brad's companion's companion and said I could come if I would be my brother's companion and serve as a missionary by his side.  I was ecstatic!  He made it clear that this was not a time to play around, but that he expected me to be a missionary and to follow mission rules.  I promised I would.

The next morning I jumped in the car and headed for the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, where my brother was serving.  It took twelve hard hours to drive there.  It was a difficult journey.  I spent almost the entire twelve hours in prayer.  I was determined that marriage was not the answer.  I had every excuse in the book.  It was too late.  There was not time for preparations.  There was not time to get acquainted.  Who in their right mind would marry a man she hardly knew and who was about to leave to war for two years.  The list went on and on.  All the way to South Dakota I plead with the Lord to excuse me from what appeared to be my destiny.  All the way, I got no relief from His expectation of me.

There was some respite upon my arrival.  A happy reunion!  And a wonderful opportunity to be missionary companions for something just shy of a week.  We worked hard and kept the rules, except one.  We couldn't get ourselves to go to sleep on time.  Too much catching up to do.  It was a very different mission than the one I had experienced.  Rather laid back.  The Elders wore white shirts and ties and blue jeans.  They drove a pickup truck.  Brad explained that we might be called upon to haul hay or do some other chores as we loved, served, fellowshipped and taught these wonderful Native Americans.  This was not new to Brad and I.  As young men our family had been called to serve a two year mission among the Ute Indians of Utah, not far from our home.  We loved the Indian people and do to this day.  Their great hearts, sweet testimonies and profound faith, coupled with a cheerful nature and terrific sense of humor, make them fond brothers and sisters of ours, for life.  I won't go into too many details except to say that these were precious days and a sweet gift from a kind Father in Heaven.  I will always be amazed and grateful that we had such a blessed time together as missionary companions.

One highlight, though, is the reason I'm writing this now.  My brother's companion in South Dakota was Elder Sion Latu.  He was from Tonga and a giant in body and in spirit.  I loved getting acquainted with him and after nearly 40 years, still have not forgotten his name.  I remember what a great cook he was and that his cooking not only represented quality, but quantity.  Easily, he ate more than I and my brother combined.  And we had great appetites ourselves!  Elder Latu was jovial and warm hearted and really made a big impression upon me.  I only got to see him briefly each morning and again in the evening but I loved being around him.  He had that famous Polynesian charm and talent and it was just a joy to get to rub shoulders with him.  Actually, I might have had to stand on a chair to do that, but you know what I mean.  On the other hand, most Polynesians I know are larger than life and should you actually take their measurements, you might be surprised that they are not as giant sized as they seem.  Part of me wishes I had such a personality.  Of course if such wishes could be granted we'd all be Polynesians!  Wherever you find them, they are the leaven of the loaf!

A couple of weeks ago I met a wonderful girl from the Islands.  Her name is Kika and she told me she was Tongan; though she'd only visited there.  I thought I might ask her if she happened to know Elder Latu.  I'd forgotten his first name - if I ever knew it.  I decided not to.  You know.  Different generation.  Lots of Tongans.  What are the chances?

Since then, Kika has visited my blog, and in a comment, she signed her name Kika Latu.  I wrote her a note and asked what I should have when we met.  Sure enough!  Last night I got my answer.  Kika is Sion's very own daughter!  It is indeed a small world after all.  Kika is a walking breathing tribute to her father.  Wonderful in every way.  I loved watching her play with the children and engaging with the others at our Book Blogger's Summer Social.  She may not be in the islands, but the islands most certainly are in her!

I feel so blessed to make connections from my remote and neglected past.  God is so good in that regard.  You'll remember another, quite similar post from this past spring - I Don't Believe in Coincidences and also Remembering to Trust or Meet Joe Hapi.  I was able to track down Joe through Facebook a couple of years ago!

All I can say is a little prayer to my Heavenly Father, "Malo 'aupito!"

Post Script:

I drove home with another prayer in my heart.  One of faith and courage and trust.  Qualities encouraged by my brother and received by contagion from Sion Latu.  I asked Sweetie out the day after my return and that night made a proposal of marriage.  Miracle of miracles, she accepted!  The next week I went to boot camp, came back at Christmas, and married her in the Provo Temple.  We spent the next two years together, stationed in San Diego, California.  We lived in a ward leavened with one third Polynesians.  Life is so good!

1 comment:

Suey said...

That's a chill worthy story! Thanks for sharing. How awesome!

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