Tongan Missionary Reconnects with Long-Lost Sister in California

Contributed By Gwen M. Beck, Church News staff contributor

  • 18 July 2014

Elder Moala was assigned to work in an area with many prepared to hear the gospel message, including his sister and her husband.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Moala was raised in a Latter-day Saint home in Tonga and called to the California Fresno Mission.
  • The first area he was assigned to was Patterson, where, unbeknownst to him, his sister who he hadn’t seen in 13 years and her husband lived.
  • His brother-in-law was baptized, and Elder Moala was able to attend the sealing of his sister and her husband a year later.

Elder Peter Moala, raised in a Latter-day Saint home in Tonga, was as excited as any missionary would be when opening his mission call from a prophet.

Called to serve in the California Fresno Mission, he arrived to the mission full of faith and of an eagerness to serve.

The mission president sought the Lord’s inspiration to know where each new missionary would be assigned and who would be his or her companion. The president asked, “Where can this elder (or sister) bless the lives of others?” When all factors are considered and then multiplied by almost 200 missionaries—each with individual needs and talents—this can at times be overwhelming. Above all else, the most important consideration is the quiet whispering of the Spirit.

Elder Moala was assigned to work in an area with many prepared to hear the gospel message.

During one particular transfer, the mission president felt impressed to assign Elder Moala to Patterson, California. Unknown to the mission president—or to Elder Moala—Elder Moala’s sister, Sulieti Lelenoa, lived in Patterson.

Sister Lelenoa left Tonga over 13 years ago, moved to the United States, and married. She stayed in sporadic touch with her family in Tonga but had not seen them in 13 years, and the family did not know specifically where in the U.S. she lived.

Sister Lelenoa and her husband were expecting their first child, and she expressed her desire to raise their child in the Church, but her husband, not a member of the Church, wanted to raise their child in his faith tradition. At one point in their discussion regarding religion, her husband stated, “Sulieti, I’ll join your church when your brother knocks on our door!”

On Thanksgiving Day in November 2007, Elder Moala and his companion began knocking on doors in Patterson. When they knocked on her front door, Sister Lelenoa opened the door, looked at a familiar face, saw the nametag, and rushed to hug a younger brother she had not seen since he was nine years old.

Sister Lelenoa and her husband agreed to be taught by the missionaries. Her husband felt the Spirit confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, and he was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church.

After a year had passed, Sister Lelenoa called the mission president, introduced herself as Elder Moala’s sister, and said she and her husband were planning to be sealed in the Oakland California Temple. She asked if Elder Moala could attend their sealing. Special permission was given to allow Elder Moala to travel to Oakland, where he was able to witness Josiah and Sulieti Lelenoa and their baby son sealed together as an eternal family.