News Release

Pointing People Towards the Lighthouse on the Shore

Sister Kelela Tonga, Area Organisation Director, bears her testimony to members of the Church's National Communications Council, 26 February 2023, in Liahona, Tonga.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

When Kelela Lupi Tonga reports to work each day, she manages Tonga’s shipping and port infrastructure, keeping a growing country moving by sea.

But in a new volunteer leadership role she has been asked to fill in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she hopes to point people towards Jesus Christ, whom she sees as the shining lighthouse on the shore.

In December, Sister Tonga (as she is known by her fellow Latter-day Saints) was extended a calling to serve as the Area Organisation Advisor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga. She joins eight other women from throughout the South Pacific, specifically focused on loving, listening to and encouraging women congregational leaders in the Church.

“When Elder [Taniela B] Wakolo called to explain this new role to me, I was both shocked and intrigued,” she said. “I listened very carefully because I had never heard of this calling before and I didn’t fully understand what it really meant,” she explained.

“Then, when I learned what this meant, I was surprised that I had been asked to take this on. But I also knew it was an invitation to serve the Lord.

“You just don’t turn away from that!”

While she has more than 20 years of professional experience making sure international and Tonga’s maritime laws and regulations are adhered to as Director of the Marine and Ports Division in the Ministry of Infrastructure, this new responsibility gives her a different kind of influence—with women in the Church, helping them to feel valued and to be inspired in their spiritual lives.

As one of nine Area Organisation Advisers called to serve throughout the Pacific Area of the Church, Sister Tonga is determined to offer more than just training and encouragement to female congregational leaders in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organisations of the Church. She wants to be there to love them, to hear their concerns and make sure they are clearly understood by church leaders. 

Sister Tonga says she learned a long time ago from her mother that the answers to problems in life arefound by looking to her Saviour, Jesus Christ. “My dear mother always taught me that whatever responsibility I was given in Church, that was a calling from God. So my feeling has always been that whatever I am asked to do, I will do it the best way I possibly can.”

She fortifies her faith through regular scripture study and personal and family prayer, and by attending church and partaking of the sacrament each Sunday with her family and neighbours in their congregation in Tofoa, a village near Nuku’alofa.

“The sacrament represents the Saviour and receiving it every week reminds me of His  Atonement, and the sacrifice He made for all of us,” she related.  “I am so grateful for that, and it helps me to focus each week on keeping the covenants I have made with Him.”

She also worships in the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple, found in the community of Liahona. She says she has seen lots of good changes in her life as she has placed additional focus there.

“I try to go to the Temple every week, to feel the Spirit that is there,” she related. “And I have made it a practice to fast before going to the Temple. 

Fasting helps me to be in tune with the Lord’s will, and to be open to the spiritual inspiration that is found in His House," she says.  “I usually come away from there feeling like I have a better understanding of what He wants me to be doing.”

Sister Tonga says as she has placed more emphasis on this spiritual preparation in her life, she and her husband, Saimone, have both seen wonderful blessings come their way.

“I feel like I better understand what the Lord wants from me, and how I can better support the leaders of the Church in their efforts to help us hear God’s voice in our lives.”

Don’t get her wrong—she’s still looking at her day planner, is concerned about all of the meetings and the work that has to be done at her government office each day. But spending time focusing on the Lord has blessed her family in a multitude of ways, including organising her time.

“I truly believe that if I do my best in serving the Lord, He blesses me in all of the other things in my life," she said. “I hope to be a blessing to the women in our country, to help them serve the Saviour like we all want to do.”

Area Organisation Advisers provide training and mentorship for local leaders. They participate in councils within the Pacific Area as they work together in unity with the men and women of the Church in their respective locations. They serve under the direction of the Pacific Area Presidency for three to five years.

Sister Kelela Tonga, right, enjoys a lighter moment with Frances Satini, a member of the Tongan National Communications Council, 26 February 2023© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

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