Reei Temakei, a freshman from Kiribati majoring in biology, shared how her difficult childhood life decisions led to discover the Church, which eventually led her to BYU–Hawaii.
Temakei was born in Australia to parents from the nation of Kiribati, and she moved to Kiribati around the age of 10. Describing her childhood, Temakei said, “When I was a kid... my dad started to drink a lot and there were a lot of arguments between him and my other family members.”
Her parents were less active members of the church, and for much of her childhood, Temakei said she was not sure if there was a God. She said she could remember times when she would wonder if God was really out there, and if he really did exist and was looking out for her.
“I was always pretty rebellious as a child,” Temakei admitted. “But I wanted to know that someone out there was looking out for me.”
At the age of 10, Temakei met with the elders that her aunt would feed. “My auntie was always feeding the missionaries. She was like the mother to the missionaries, and I started to talk to them about the gospel. One night, I decided to pray to ask Heavenly Father to not let my parents divorce, but to keep them together.”
Temakei recalled, “Since I was rebellious, it took a little bit to learn how to be obedient to God and His commandments. When I heard about the Plan of Salvation and how I could be with my loved ones again, I was very excited.”
She said she later helped her parents go back to church and she went on to serve a mission in Guam and Micronesia. Temakei said “My original plan was to go to college for three years or so and then go serve a mission. But I met a returned missionary named Beiarung, and she told me all about her mission experiences that made me want to serve right away.”
Temakei shared that her mission experience was probably the hardest thing she had ever done up to that point. “Every day was so physically and emotionally tiring. I got very homesick and everything about it was just so hard. It was not supposed to be easy, but I made it. And it’s the best experience of my life.”
Temakei explained, “Focusing on the temple and the Plan of Salvation make me really hopeful for the future, and I know I made the right decision to join.”
Beiarung Taungea, a senior from Kiribati majoring in accounting, was the returned missionary Temakei said inspired her. Taungea explained what she had told Temakei about serving a mission, “Reei knew that I was once a naughty young lady. But because of missionary work, I learned a lot and strived to be a daughter Heavenly Father wants me to be.
“I was also reading Doctrine and Covenants that day when she came. I always ask God specifically, open the D&C, then just randomly select any scripture verse with my fingers. Reei did the same. I remembered she asked Heavenly Father if He wanted her to serve a mission. She opened the scripture and pointed on one of the verses in Doctrine and Covenants where it says something about going from house to house and leaving a blessing.”
Angelina Kumkee, Temakei’s best friend who is a freshman and biology major from Kiribati, said, “She is unique in many ways. We have been friends since high school, and I was able witness how she is such a special child of God. She just loves everyone and cares a lot about them even those she barely knows them.”