The conference room, with Tongan students and the heads of university departments, grew quiet. As attendees of the meeting eagerly waited, the Honorable Deputy Prime Minister Semisi Sika of Tonga and Vice President John Bell of BYU-Hawaii signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] on Aug. 2 to allow Tongan students to return home and embark on internships in the Tongan government. “This is a win-win for the country and the Church. Not only can Tongan students go home, but go back to serve,” said DPM Sika.
DPM Sika was given an opportunity to give words of advice to the six Tongan students present and indirectly to BYU-Hawaii students. He encouraged them to make the most of their time at BYUH.
The heads of the President’s Council said they originally planned to have the signatures faxed. However, they felt it would be more meaningful to have DPM Sika present and have the signatures in person.
He spoke of his time at BYUH and referenced former President Eric Shumway’s promise the Church would set programs for students to return to their home countries and serve. Shumway said the Lord would bless the students abundantly.
DPM Sika said Shumway’s promise was true and evident in his life. After DPM Sika graduated from BYUH, he taught at Liahona High School, became a member of parliament and now serves as deputy prime minister. DPM Sika reminisced about his time in BYUH as a tour guide and student worker in the Cafeteria.
Before the anticipated moment of signing the MOU, the Tongan students present introduced themselves to the attendees. Standing and introducing himself, Talamonu Tupou, a sophomore from Tonga majoring in accounting, said, “There is a Tongan proverb that says ‘someone who goes fishing, but has a hole in the bag.' This means there’s no point in fishing because the fish will escape. [Tongan] students can now put something in that hole. Efforts will not slip through the hands of those trying to help.”
Another student, Fanguna Vaitohi, a junior from Tonga majoring in information technology, said he wanted to give thanks for this opportunity to return home and serve his country.
Also in attendance, Alfred Grace, president and CEO of the PCC, said, “I can see why Tongan students want to come to BYUH. There is a drive for quality education. BYUH students and graduates are loved back in Tonga. The students have a ‘can do’ attitude and great problem-solving skills.”
The Tongan students, dressed in traditional clothes, sang “Folofola Mai a Sise.” The song is about a commandment to follow God. They sang to show their gratitude for the new opportunities the MOU will offer current and future students.