Rainy, cold weather on Aug. 10, the third day of the Tonga Mission Centennial Celebration, threatened to prevent the cultural show at Teufaiva Stadium from happening. But the organizers determined that “rain or shine, the show must go on!”
Three thousand Tongan youth of the Church danced before Their Majesties, King George Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u; the Crown Prince, HRH Ulukalala and his wife, Sinaitakala; and HRH Prince Ata, with more than 3,000 others in attendance.
Prince Ata, who is LDS, opened the event, officially welcoming his parents and thanking them for gracing the celebration with their presence. He said, “In spite of the weather we hope that everyone will enjoy the show.”
The dances depicted the growth of the Church throughout the islands of the Pacific — beginning at the time of King George Tupou I — and included dances from Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
As the dancers performed, one observer said, “The amount of preparation showed through the vibrant colors of the costumes, the oneness and gracefulness of the motions of the dances, and also the excitement that was seen and felt from the dancers. It was as if the sun was out and that they were not performing in the mud and rain.”
Comments from the crowd included many exclamations of “wow,” “beautiful,” “amazing,” and “awesome!” The performers were rewarded with a standing ovation at the close of the show.
The early LDS missionaries to Tonga arrived in July 1891, and the Nuku’alofa Tonga Mission was officially organized July 8, 1916. By 2015, the Church reported there are more than 63,000 Tongan Latter-day Saints in more than 166 congregations.
Elder ’Aisake Tukuafu, senior Church leader in Tonga, and his wife, Lose, welcomed former mission presidents and their wives, former and current missionaries, and members and friends of the Church to the event.
Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni; Lord Tu’ivakano, Speaker of the Parliament; and Hon. Semisi Sika, Minister of Tourism were also in attendance.
President of the Centennial Committee, ’Alavini Sika, gave the closing remarks for the evening, followed by a prayer and the singing of the national anthem; then “farewelling” Their Majesties and honoured guests, keeping with Tongan tradition.