One Corps Gave Its Heart to ‘Paradise’ for a Very Special Reason …
Glenfield Corps officers Majors Malia and Sila Siufanga hail from Tonga – or as Sila describes it, ‘paradise’ – and over half the congregation are Pasifika. ‘Thrive Tonga really touched our hearts, and being able to empower our young children, together with The Salvation Army, was special. We wanted to make it a collective effort, so everyone could be part of the Thrive Tonga project,’ explains Sila.
Planning began in May, during Family Month, but culminated in a fundraising dinner, attended by over 100 people on Friday 2 September. They began with an hour-long showcase of Pasifika singing, dancing and other cultural items. And ‘while people were laughing and full of joy’, they enjoyed a Tongan feast of greens, seafood, roast meats, tropical fruits and more.
The guest speaker was Cindy Roberts, who began the kindergarten ministry in Tonga in 1996, which was birthed out of her passion and love for the Tongan children.
Since then, The Salvation Army has been at the forefront of preschool education in Tonga. ‘We saw that there was a gap in Tonga which could be an avenue for mission, by providing early childhood education - which is a key factor in improving lives,’ explains Sila. At the time, there were only 1 or 2 kindergartens in the whole nation.
A kindy was established at the Nuku'alofa Corps. At the same time, the team ran Women’s Ministries events: ‘So the women would drop off the children, but then also attend these events, so they also got connected with the Army,’ says Sila.
‘One of these children will be the eighth King of Tonga, and he started his education at The Kolovai Kindergarten,’
It was such a success that the King and Queen of Tonga soon took notice. They asked the Army to establish another kindy at Kolovai Corps Plant on the Western side of the main island, donating 2 acres of land to the project.
‘Their grandchildren actually attended that kindergarten – one of these children will be the eighth King of Tonga, and he started his education at The Kolovai Kindergarten,’ says Sila.
‘We heard the story of one of the grandchildren: they had their annual kindergarten bus tour around various important places at Nuku’alofa. They were surprisingly invited to visit the palace and also able to share prayers and reading Bible verses, and the King and Queen thought, “Oh wow”.’
Last year, the current Queen, Nanasipauʻu Tukuʻaho, approached the Army to establish a third kindergarten in Pea, as part of an initiative that would place the Kindy at the heart of a community hub and health centre.
Tragically, the eruption and tsunami in January devastated the areas surrounding the kindergartens. All funds raised from this year’s Thrive Tonga will go towards helping restore all three Salvation Army kindergartens.
In September, Glenfield Corps also held a special service to celebrate Women’s Ministries, where they asked women to dress up in a costume significant to them. ‘The whole idea was to lift up the wāhine and show our appreciation for them, and it was a wonderful occasion,’ recalls Sila.
Women wore everything from a wedding dress – signifying her 50 years of marriage! – to traditional cultural costumes.
Each nation from our Territory was represented on stage, while the country’s national anthem played. The corps celebrated the female leaders of these countries, including the Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, and the Queen of Tonga. But there was also a special surprise guest …
‘Captain Denise Daly was our speaker for the day, so we dressed her up as Jacinda Adern. We welcomed her onstage with the national anthem, and made an announcement: ‘Welcome to Glenfield, the Right Honourable Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Adern!’ We think Denise suits the title!
‘It’s really special that three of the countries in our Territory are led by women and we wanted to honour that, as well as all women,’ sums up Sila.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to Thrive Tonga – whether your contribution was big or small, it all counts towards giving Tongan children a great start.