Roll out the mat and let the relatives talk
Ke fofola e fala, kae talanoa e kāinga
What’s your story? A question posed by Mr Kepueli Vaka, a current student at the Uniting theological college (UTC) in North Parramatta. Kepueli led the sermon for the 400-plus attendees who gathered at the Croatian club in Punchbowl for the Tonga Parish’s last youth rally on the 19th November.
Kepueli delivered a message of a hopeful future through shared stories, while the attendees were all dressed in Tonga’s national colours of red and white (Tonga’s International Mate Ma’a Tonga (MMT) Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) had a close victory over Lebanon that weekend).
Inspired by the UCA NSW/ACT Synod 2017 theme ‘Telling Our Story’, the theme was adopted and personalised into ‘Sharing Our Stories’. Anchored by the readings from Romans 8:18 and Palms 107:2, the young people were encouraged to share their stories of happiness, triumph, hope, struggle, endurance and perseverance. The significance of the word ‘sharing’ implies the reciprocal notion of taking turns, talking and listening, give and take, offer and receive as well as contributing and participating whilst being invested and involved.
Kepueli reminded the young people of the Tongan Proverb; Ke fofola e fala, kae talanoa e kāinga translated to: Roll out the mat and let the relatives talk. This highlights the Tongan oral traditions used by ancestors to translate stories. These oral traditions brought chiefs and social groups together to share their stories. This is a process which has many challenges for the young people today with the convenience of technology and social media in our busy, fast-paced 21st century.
A panel of youth members explored the benefits, hindrances and challenges of sharing their stories in this day in age. Themes of acceptance, identity and honesty surfaced as the panel interpreted the theme from their own personal experiences. It takes a lot for one to share their own story. There’s a particular depth of vulnerability and acceptance needed of your own journey and self-identity to therefore be able to share your personal story. We reflected and learned from Christ himself; the ultimate role model, who came and dwelled amongst us to hear our stories with empathy and compassion as his pre-destined story unfolded.
In addition to the Tonga Parish’s 11 youth groups; Tongan UCA churches gathered from Auburn Parish, Strathfield/Homebush, Mascot, Concord, Petersham and Sutherland shire to share their stories in praise and worship. A special thank you to our ministers for allowing our voices to be heard and empowering us to share our stories. Thank you – Rev Valamotu Palu (Tonga Parish), Rev Nau ‘Ahosivi (Concord), Rev Kamaloni Tuiono, Rev Salesi Faupula and Rev Charissa Suli (Sutherland Shire), Rev Mosese Taufa (Auburn Parish), Rev Fololeni Tafokitau (Petersham) and Miss Tupou Talakai (Mascot Youth Leader).
We now understand that as our stories continue to be shared they evolve with influences from our culture, family, values, attitudes and religion. So we laugh, we cry, celebrate, we mourn and we reflect that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
You can find pictures and videos from the youth rally on our Facebook page: @TongaParishYouthUCA
Malia Fineone Puna is the Director of the Tonga Parish Youth.