Once a month we get together with the Senior Missionaries and have a Family Home Evening. Last month we met at the Mission Home and had a delicious dinner and speaker. The speaker was President Kalougata and he had an amazing story that he shared with us.
Joeli is a very humble man who has had a lot of tragedy in his life, but he has been able to overcome his tribulations through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the hope of someday finding the truth. What an amazing man. We felt very priviledged to be able to hear his story and meet Joeli and his wife, Elenoa.
His story was printed in the 2004 Ensign and Liahona. If you want to read the full story follow the link below.
Otherwise we will share some of the highlights. Although his father was raised a Methodist, he did not raise his children Methodist because he knew it did not conform to Biblical teachings. His cousin had been in Hawaii and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When his cousin told Joeli's father about his new church the Holy Ghost witnessed to him that it was the true church. There were no missionaries or branches of the church where they lived on a small island in the Lao group, so his father wrote the Mission President in Suva and the Mission President sent him a Book of Mormon and some other information. The family saved and planned for 2 years to make the boat trip to Suva to be baptized. Finally, in December of 1973, Joeli, his younger brother and sister, and his parents got on boat for the journey to Suva. 2 older sisters and 1 brother already lived on the big island of Viti Levu. A few hours into the trip a small storm turned into a cyclone. The boat took on too much water and sank. Joeli was able to hold onto a floating bag of coconuts but his father, mother, and siblings all drowned. Out of 120 passengers, 35 survived and were rescued after 2 days and 3 nights of floating in the ocean. Joeli, who was 12 years old, went to live with his older sister and in all of the chaos of the tragedy, the mission president could not find him. In 1985 after 12 years of searching, the missionaries located Joeli and he was baptized a member of the Church.
Joeli Kalougata and his wife Elenoa
The first time Joeli met Eleona he said she kept looking at him and he at her finally he told her he was going to marry her (note: this was before their first date or first anything else.) His wife was the daughter of the island chief and as such Joeli had to give 7 tabua (pronounced "tam boo uh" and is whale's teeth) to her father (reminiscent of "Johnny Lingo").
Elder and Sister Barfus, work in the mission office (left)
Sister and Elder Archibald, work in the temple
Left to right- Elder and Sister Lawlor, Elder and Sister Anderson all temple missionaries