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Humanitarian Volunteers Talk about Building Homes and Men in Post-Cyclone Tonga

A senior missionary couple from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph and Lilian DeLong, recently returned from serving as construction managers for the Ha’apai Tonga home building project.

The Delongs have been living in Ha’apai for over 6 months.  They supervised 44 apprentices who, while working on the project, earned a level two construction certificate from the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology.  

Sister DeLong said, “This entire project had a great self-reliant component.  Not only do 105 families now have a roof over their heads, but 44 hard-working individuals have earned a level 2 construction certificate and have been offered jobs from four different construction companies.”


The apprentices did not receive pay for their service.  The goal was to train, certify and complete 105 homes.  In some cases, this meant being away from family and homes for the entire certification period.  Many would leave late after a long working day to fish and bring food to their families. 

According to the DeLongs, these men were hard workers and very task oriented.

Elder DeLong said this was one of the hardest and most challenging assignments they have undertaken. “We worked 24/7 with little diversion.  We loaded our truck each morning to take water and supplies to all work teams.  We had to monitor their work, attendance, time spent on the job, progress and completion of tasks.”

Elder DeLong’s occupational experience was in the construction industry although he is a talented artist.  He joined Church employment in 1995.  He and his family were immediately sent to Ghana Africa where he was involved in construction of Church buildings and all matters associated with real estate. This work took them to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.   They remained in Africa for a total of six years. After Africa came Guam, then in 2010, he retired.

The Church recognized the DeLongs’ exceptional talents.  In 2010, they became volunteer senior missionaries.  Their assignment is “short-term specialists” in the Welfare Services Department.  A typical assignment is two to three weeks in duration.  While Ha’apai was an exception, they look forward to contributing their time and talents in the future.





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