By Sister Tekifaiva Tuitavake
Tonga Nukualofa 10th Ward
My extended family has a fun tradition. For holidays, reunions, or other special occasions, we like to take my uncle’s boat from Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga, to a beautiful outer island called Pangaimotu. There, we spend the whole day playing volleyball or pool, kayaking and, of course, eating and swimming.
On arrival to Pangaimotu, our boat is anchored just outside its lagoon, and a smaller boat ferries the adults to shore. The kids – my cousins and siblings – never like to wait for transport. They prefer to swim from our big boat to the shore, and then, at the end of our day-long excursion, they would all swim back.
When I was younger, I’d always want to join them, but that swim was difficult for me because the water near our boat was deep. It scared me to not be able to touch the ground with my feet – I was sure something would grab me and pull me down. Plus, the distance between the shore and the boat seemed so far. What if I got tired before I got there?
My dad knew how important it was for me to make that swim.
As the sun began to set on yet another Pangaimotu day, he called me over to him. He was going to help me to get from the shore to the boat.
Dad walked with me past the shallows and into the deeper water. As soon as I could no longer feel the ground under me, I got scared and tried to cling to him, but he wouldn’t allow it. Frustrated, I shed a few tears, but my dad just stayed beside me and encouraged me to keep swimming.
At one point, as much as I flailed my arms and kicked my legs, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. I was so tired! My dad gently suggested that I change my swimming position.
I concentrated so closely on his voice, on my breathing, and on just moving, that I barely noticed we had arrived at the boat – much sooner than I had expected.
A warm feeling of accomplishment came over me after I climbed on board, and I realized that somewhere along that journey – as I focused on my swimming and on my dad – I lost my fear of the ocean.
Over the years, I have made that swim, back and forth, many times without fear. What once seemed so difficult has now become so easy.
I think about how my dad guided me on my first successful swim out to the boat. He was kind but firm. He let me experience difficulties for myself, but he stayed close beside me the entire journey. At times I panicked and protested, but he continually encouraged me with patience and love.
I have since learned that our Heavenly Father works in much the same way. He knows we are here on earth to learn, and often, this requires us to step out of our comfort zone. He knows that many of our earthly challenges will be difficult and painful and that we must experience them ourselves in order to progress, but He is always there beside us, to guide and encourage us, and to help turn our weaknesses into strengths.
When we endure our trials with humility and faith, they can bring us closer to our Heavenly Father. They can teach us to trust in His divine love for us and in His desire for us to succeed. Like my dad did for me many years ago in Pangaimotu, Heavenly Father can mold us into better versions of ourselves and help us accomplish more than we ever could on our own.