I grew up in a very poor family, the second youngest in a family of seven. I was born the year Tonga experienced the biggest earthquake in its history. When I was five, cyclone Issac hit Tonga so a big wave swept away all of Sopu Village, including our house. We than had to stay in a tent for almost 10 months.
Our father was the only income earner in our family. He always reminded us that education was the answer to our life and that if we wanted good food on the table, we needed to study hard. I took that advice seriously and deeply into my heart. Dad was always sick, and passed away when I was 15. This was a sad time, when it seemed our hope was gone
I used to go to church once a month as a duty, but the Bible never made any sense to my mind and I didn’t think what it talked about was real. I used to think that only losers needed Jesus and always said to myself that education was more important than Jesus.
One Sunday, I went to church and sat at the back in my usual seat. The preacher was talking to us about Jesus—what Jesus had done and will do if we let him be the Lord of our life. My heart was moved as I thought about Jesus and his love for me, how he died on the cross for my sins, and how the grave could not hold him. I thought about how Jesus rose from the dead to give us life.
The preacher wrapped up by saying, ‘If you think Jesus is not real, why don’t you come taste and see? And that is what I did. My journey with Jesus started then.
I came to The Salvation Army as Business Administrator for the Tonga Region. In my spare time in the office, I would read the books in the library. I read about William Booth and how he changed his generation. I loved the teaching and the mission he left for us, so in my heart I said, ‘This is what I want and this is where I belong.’
Yet so many hindrances and hurdles pushed me away from The Salvation Army. I always said to God, ‘God, if you sent me overseas I would answer your call, but while I’m here in Tonga, please no!”
Every day I knew God was drawing me in, calling me to a life of service through The Salvation Army, but I was like the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament. I tried to find so many ‘ships’. I tried to get a scholarship, a new fellowship, friendship, overseas citizenship, a new relationship, but all came to a dead end. Nothing was successful.
Finally, I tired of running and having nothing, so I came to God and said, ‘Lord, here am I. Use me for your glory. I finally found the right ship—and that is soldiership.
So today I am a soldier of God, a member in The Salvation Army. I await God’s commands and will be saying, ‘Yes, Lord. Yes!’
By Initi Tu'iono