Cyclone Disrupts Suva Fiji Temple Youth Cultural Celebration

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 20 February 2016

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, watches the youth during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20.  Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

SUVA, FIJI

Amid severe weather conditions caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston, Church leaders halted the youth temple cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on February 20.

Originally scheduled to be held in the open-air ANZ Stadium in Suva, the event was moved across the street to the enclosed Vodafone Arena—which event organizers had also reserved months in advance.

However, as weather conditions intensified and the government asked everyone to vacate roads by 5:00 p.m., organizers skipped several numbers and had the 1,300 youth perform their finale.

Earlier in the day President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, told a group of missionaries serving in Fiji that he studied the weather before getting off the plane in the Pacific island nation. He asked the question “Should we change plans?” The answer, he felt, was “No.”

Although he did not know what was going to happen with the cyclone, President Eyring said he felt at peace with plans to hold the cultural celebration and rededication. “I got the feeling, ‘Go forward. Don’t be afraid,’” President Eyring said, noting that the “Lord is in charge.”

LDS youth run to buses after Church leaders ended the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration early on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth represent Tuvalu in the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver

Finale of the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth represent Kiribati during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February. 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

During the cultural celebration, President Eyring addressed the youth, praising their preparation and sharing the love President Thomas S. Monson has for them.

“I join with you in celebrating the great contributions of so many who have built up the kingdom of God in these isles,” he said. “The Lord has blessed you with an increase of your talents and in your feelings of gratitude for all the Lord has done here and in all the places from which the people will come to enjoy this house of the Lord in Suva.”

He asked the youth to treasure their cultural celebration experience. “I know you will never forget it.”

Also addressing the youth was the Fiji Minister of Sport and Youth, Laisenia Tuitubou. He praised the youth for “their love of their God as well as their faith.”

Speaking of the cyclone, he said, “Through our faith we are all here.”

Ernest Vitinavulagi, director of the cultural event, said it was a “celebration of faith” intended to showcase the islands of the Fiji temple district—Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia—to the Pacific and the world.

The cultural event brought youth by bus and boat to the celebration. After the event, organizers reported that all the youth made it safely to the Church schools, where the majority would spend the night during the storm.

When the event was cut short, Selai Vuetibau, 18, did not get to perform the number she had prepared for the celebration. But she will always remember gathering with the youth of the temple district for the opening number and again for the finale.

She said the youth had been working on the finale for two weeks. “We thought it wouldn’t be perfect, but it was,” she said.

Accompanying President Eyring to the cultural event were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Mary Cook; Elder Kent F. Richards, a General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department, and his wife, Sister Marsha Richards; and members of the Church's Pacific Area Presidency—Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, all General Authority Seventies, and their wives, Sister June Pearson, Sister Peggy Haleck, and Sister Wendy Nielsen.

A young woman enters the arena for the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, addresses youth performing in the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth perform in the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Sister Mary Cook, view the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth representing the Fiji Rotuma cultural group perform during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth representing the Fiji Rotuma cultural group perform during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth represent Tuvalu in the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Suva Fiji North Stake perform a dance representing the Solomon Islands during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, applauds youth performing in the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Finale of the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Finale of the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Finale of the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, applauds the youth during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, waves to the youth during the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration in Suva, Fiji, on Saturday, February 20. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth wave to President Henry B. Eyring and other Church leaders after having to end the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration early on Saturday, February 20. Sarah Jane Weaver.