When Viliami Nofomuli Nyssen Tonga returned from his mission in 2014, he felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. He had just served two years in the United States South Carolina Columbia Mission, which is half a world away from his Pacific island homeland of Tonga.
Serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he remembers fondly, “was an experience that changed my life.” But Viliami did not know that it was only the beginning of the ‘mighty change’ Heavenly Father had in store for him.
Soon after he arrived home, Viliami began working at a local pizza shop. He’d made pizzas as a job before and it was work that he genuinely enjoyed.
Like many young adults in the islands, Viliami thought that the next step for him might be to move to a bigger country – perhaps even back to America – in search of a more prosperous life. Working at the pizza shop would help him save for the big move.
Then, tragically, after being home for only four months, Viliami’s beloved mother passed away. She had struggled with complications of diabetes and left behind seven children, four of whom were still in school.
Viliami was devastated. As he wrestled with his grief, he also thought about his younger siblings and knew that his dream to move abroad would have to change.
Viliami set new goals. He would stay in Tonga and take over many of his mother’s responsibilities at home. He would also find additional sources of income so that he could provide better for his family and build up his own self-reliance.
Viliami decided, as well, that he wanted to open a pizza shop of his own in a year’s time.
And he did.
In May 2015, he opened ‘Ofa ki Tonga’, his new pizza shop in Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa. Ofa is the Tongan word for love. It is also Viliami’s mother’s name.
Reflecting on his life so far, Viliami is in awe of journey it has been. “If you knew me before my mission, you would be shocked to see where I am now.
“Back then I had no real sense of direction. I never thought about the future. I didn’t finish high school, and some people didn’t think I could finish my mission. I wasn’t sure either,” he laughs.
“But serving a mission showed me a different world, a different lifestyle. It helped me to want more for my life. It taught me what people can achieve if they work hard for it.
“It also solidified my testimony of Jesus Christ.”
A scripture that strengthened Viliami in the difficult days after his mother’s passing is found in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 82:10. “I, the Lord, am bound when you do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
It was a constant reassurance that he could achieve all his righteous goals if he stayed obedient to Heavenly Father’s commandments . . . and indeed, the Lord has blessed him abundantly for it.
With the earnings from his new business, Viliami was able to support his siblings as they completed their schooling and even purchase land on which to build a new home for his family. Then, he reconnected with a friend he’d known since 2015 and discovered in her the love of his life. He and Lupe were sealed for time and all eternity in the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple at the end of 2019.
“You know, if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would say, ‘Keep your head up. Dream big. Don’t be afraid.’”
Viliami is a living witness that if we do the very best that we can, Heavenly Father will do the rest.