“We Lived on 70 Cents a Month for the Temple,” Ensign, Feb. 1976, 30–31
“We had to do some extra things to accomplish our goals,” Brother Vaha’i Tonga simply stated. More than anything else Brother Tonga and his wife wanted to be in New Zealand for the dedication of the temple, but it was not easy for a Tongan Saint to save enough money for such a journey. It took months of preparation and saving, but finally the money was gathered and plans were made.
But the Lord’s church had other needs, and mission President Fred Stone approached the Tongas with a request. “Brother Tonga,” President Stone said, “I want you to get all the money you have saved to go to the temple and bring it over to me. We want to build a chapel in your branch, and if you don’t contribute the money, the building program will pass by your branch and you will have to wait a couple of years to build a chapel.”
“I will do it. Tomorrow I will get the money,” replied Vaha’i Tonga. But it was difficult to give up their dream of seeing the new temple. He related that after President Stone left, “My wife and I talked about our decision. She said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it, but you know I have told my friends and my family that we are going to go to the temple dedication.’ I will never forget what I was prompted to say at that moment. I said, ‘Let us close the door on Satan and keep him out. We will do what the Lord tells us to do.’
“Wednesday morning I went over to the government bank and drew out all of the money. I gave it to my wife and told her to give it to President Stone.
“That night we had a little talk. I said, ‘Honey, the Lord has promised us through our leaders that if we keep his commandments he will prepare some way that we will be able to go to the dedication. We have cows, pigs, and some horses, besides furniture and mats. Let’s sell it all so that we may be able to receive the blessings of the dedication.’
“We began to tell people that we wanted to sell our livestock, but when they came, they said, ‘No, too much money, too dear for us to buy those things.’ This was on Thursday, and Friday was not successful either. On the following Monday the ship, the Tofua, was to leave.
“On Saturday morning three families came who needed some cows, pigs, and other things, and we received between $500 and $600 in about half an hour. I told my wife that we had the money and would be able to go.
“I went over early Monday morning to Nuku’alofa to give President Stone the money. In surprise he asked, ‘Where did you get the money?’
“‘We sold some of our things so that we may go to the dedication.’
“‘Brother Tonga,’ he said, ‘the Lord will bless you.’
“At the temple we realized many blessings. We were the first witness couple and the first couple to be sealed in the New Zealand Temple. I was the leader of the Tongan chorus and President McKay had me lead the entire congregation in the closing hymn of the dedicatory service.
“When my wife and I were sealed to each other, something touched my heart. Our children were not with us, and tears came to my eyes. When we arrived home I promised our four children that if they would help, we could go to the temple together. I thought to myself, ‘How can you say, be a good boy or be a good girl, if I am not sealed to them in the temple?’ I had the feeling that they were not mine.
“For two years we sacrificed almost everything. I divided my pay from school for each one of us, and we saved that. But we paid our tithing and fast offerings. We were left with 70¢ in our hands each month. This is how I lived with my family, on 70¢ a month for two years. We lived on what we could grow and gather. I remember my wife would wake up early in the morning to make our salads with bananas and coconut milk. My children could not buy candy or shoes or go to movies because they were saving to go to the temple.
“In addition to my regular teaching job at Liahona High School, I did some other work as it came along. To save on transportation costs I also rode my bicycle to district meetings in Nuku’alofa, seven miles away. I was a counselor to the president of the mission MIA and had to travel from branch to branch. I rode my bike on these assignments. Most of our district meetings began at 6:00 A.M. so I had to leave home very early in the morning.
“When the deadline came for getting our money in, my five-year-old said, ‘Dad, let me go and count my money.’ She counted it and said, ‘I’m through, I’ve got enough money to go to the temple.’ The two oldest boys said they had about $235. After saving for two years the little one had saved $65. I had saved almost $1,300 for my family.
“Through sacrifice we were able to take our family to New Zealand to be sealed in the temple. We had to do some extra things to accomplish our goals, but it was a great blessing to us.”