Feleti Vimahi of Pangai, Tonga


Feleti Vimahi of Pangai, Tonga

On a small and beautiful South Pacific island surrounded by reefs lives 10-year-old Feleti Vimahi. Baptized in the Pacific Ocean, Feleti lives in Pangai, a village in the Kingdom of Tonga. Feleti’s village is part of Lifuka Island—an island so small that from his house Feleti can see the water on both sides of the island.

Map of Tonga

Map by Thomas S. Child

Feleti’s family lives right next to his cousins Loti and Salesi, and Feleti plays with them every day. He also plays with his younger sisters, Lupe ‘Aho‘aukai, age 8, and Mele Siloni, age 4, and his brother, Tevita Tu‘ipulotu, age 1. They like to play tag, hide and seek, and rugby.

Feleti is very creative, and he can make toys and things to do out of just about anything. Once he made a kite from scraps of paper he found. He is always singing, dancing, and drumming on things around the house. Feleti is a very good swimmer, and he especially loves to go swimming in the ocean with his dad.

Feleti likes to have fun, but he is a hard worker, too. He sometimes goes to the plantation with his dad and older cousins. They dig up ‘ufi (yams) and pick enough coconuts on the weekend to last them through the next week. For New Year’s Day they dig a lot of ‘ufi for a big feast that their family prepares each year for their neighbors and family members. Feleti’s family and friends feast on roast pig, ‘ufi, fish, and bread.

“I love to ride my bike and go to school,” Feleti says. To attend school, Feleti and his sisters walk to GPS Pangai Hihifo Primary School, which is close to their home. Feleti is in class six, and he goes to school from February to November. December and January are summer break in Tonga.

Feleti’s native language is Tongan—a language with only 16 letters—and he is also learning to speak English. English is Feleti’s favorite subject, and he does well in both English and math. Feleti’s dad teaches math and science at a school Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy started when he served as a missionary in Tonga. His dad says that Feleti works hard and does well in school.

Feleti’s favorite food is sausage, and he eats a lot of it, too. One night he pleaded with his dad for so long to go buy sausage that his dad went in the middle of the night and got some for him. Feleti cooked it all by himself. He offered some to his dad, but his dad just wanted to sleep because it was so late.

The Vimahis attend the Pangai Ward in the Ha‘apai Tonga Stake. They used to have to travel through two villages to get to church because their old building burned down. Feleti didn’t mind the distance they had to go. In fact, he says, “I am happy with church because I like to go to Primary.” Now their chapel has been rebuilt, and about 25 children attend Primary. Five of them are in Feleti’s class.

Feleti is happy that he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He studies the scriptures at home, and he sometimes sings scripture verses loudly as he walks through the house. When asked during one family home evening to share a scripture that he likes, he read 1 Nephi 1:1 [1 Ne. 1:1].

Also during a family home evening, Feleti thanked his dad and his cousin for putting up metal over the windows to protect them during a hurricane. At least once a year in Pangai, there are very strong winds. When this happens, the family prays together to be protected. In one hurricane, Feleti’s family’s fences were blown down and some banana trees were ruined, but no one in the family was harmed.

Like Nephi (see 1 Ne. 1:1), Feleti has been taught by good parents—his mom, Matelita, and his dad, Pulotu. “He helps and cares for his brother and sisters,” says his dad. And Feleti thinks that everyone should get along. “I don’t like to argue with my sisters,” he says.

Feleti’s creativity, his sensitivity to others, and his love of the gospel will continue to help him as he lives and shares the gospel on his beautiful South Pacific island.

[photos] Photography by Annaka Vimahi

[photo] Siloni, Lupe, and Feleti play at the beach during low tide.

[photo] Salesi (Feleti’s cousin), Salesi (Feleti’s uncle), and Feleti swim in the ocean.

[photos] Above: With some of his extended family members, Feleti helps cook in an ‘umu—an outdoor oven. Below right: Feleti with his parents and sisters.

Annaka Vimahi is a member of the Orem Eighth (Tongan) Ward, Salt Lake Utah South (Tongan) Stake.