Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yearbook Experience - Valu Lotonuu

*the following story is a really great example of a sister who put her 'trust in Jehovah in times of distress' (like the material I posted yesterday from the shepherding call) ...since she not only had the challenge of being a single mother raising 6 children, but her decision to put Jehovah first in her life, resulted in opposition from her local community, transportation obstacles, and a heavy financial burden imposed upon her ... but she didn't throw in the towel or compromise.

(experience of Valu Lotonuu on pgs 138 & 139 of the 2009 Yearbook)

In 1993, Jehovah's Witnesses called at my home in Lefaga, and I accepted a Bible study. Soon afterward, my children and I began attending Christian meetings at Faleasiu, 14 miles away on the other side of the island. On midweek meeting nights, I would collect the children from school early. Some teachers threatened to expel the children, until I explained that it was for vital spiritual reasons that we attended the meetings. Each child carried his or her meeting clothes, Bible, songbook, and study publication in a plastic bag. Sometimes a passing bus gave us a lift, but more often than not, we walked all 14 miles. When we finally arrived at the Faleasiu Kingdom Hall, the local Witnesses would welcome us and feed us. They also allowed us to shower and put on our clean clothes for the meeting. After the meeting, began the long walk home. At the top of the ridge dividing the island, we paused for the children to have a brief nap. I kept watch for any passing vehicle that might give us a ride home. Usually, we arrived home well after midnight. The next morning, at five o'clock, I was up again to catch the first bus back to Faleasiu to go preaching.
On one occasion, I was summoned before an assembly of village matai presided over by the village high chief. They demanded to know why I traveled all the way to Faleasiu rather than attend a church in our village, especially the one established by my grandfather. Finally, they ordered me to stop attending meetings at Faleasiu. But I was not going to let anything stop me from getting to the meetings. I was determined to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29). Matters soon came to a head. When I did not attend a village toonai (a Sunday feast attended by the church minister, deacons, and village matai) the council fined me five large pigs. This was a heavy financial burden, since I was a single mother with six young children. Nevertheless, I eventually paid the fine with pigs from my herd. In time, though, the villagers came to respect our firm stand and no longer opposed us.
Getting to meetings required great effort over the years. But it was worth it. All of my children are active Witnesses, and one son is a ministerial servant. My children and I still walk to meetings. No, not 14 miles to Faleasiu, but just down the road. In 2001 a beautiful new Kingdom Hall was built right in our village. Today it hosts a thriving congregation. So, even now, it's not too far to walk to meetings!

*I also appreciated the spiritual 'balance' this sister displayed when it came to dealing with the local authorities by showing submission and respect for the law. Because although in the first instance she stood firm when they asked her to do something which broke God's law, she didn't try to justify using the principle at Acts 5:29 in order to get out of paying the fine (even though it was unjust). That's such a true test of loyalty, when a person obeys God's laws even during times when it's inconvenient or difficult to do so.