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Tongan women’s camp mix of serious and light-hearted

‘Jesus is my saviour’ was the theme for the Tongan synod of the Methodist Women’s Fellowship camp held during in the last weekend in September in Ponsonby.

The objectives of camp were: 1) to challenge Tongan women in the Methodist Church to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is their personal saviour; 2) to facilitate spiritual fellowship of Tongan women in the Methodist Church of NZ to encourage spiritual growth, and share some traditional Tongan dances; 3) to share some practical knowledge and skills that will enable Tongan women to make a difference in their homes, churches and communities.

The camp started with a welcome fellowship on Friday night. Each delegation of women dressed in distinct attire. The Gisborne women wore gold, the Wellington women wore pink, the Otara women wore white and red, and the Blenheim women wore blue.

Saturday was very busy, and started off with morning devotions and a Bible study led by Rev Sylvia ‘Akau’ola-Tongotongo. This was followed by a panel discussion on the theme, ‘Jesus in the family means a happy home’.

Four panelists then spoke on topics that were related to this theme: education, women and the Millennium Development Goals; mum as role models for children, and the dignity of Tongan women in a foreign land.

Four workshops were conducted on Saturday afternoon. They were how to fold Tongan mats and tapa, making flower arrangements, how to set the table for dinner, and how to make doughnuts. The day finished off with a social night of music and dancing. The social night raised more than $4000, which paid off some of the camp expenses.

Saturday lunch and dinner were accompanied by speeches. During lunch Mele ‘Alatini from Statistics NZ spoke on the social and economic status of Tongan women in Aotearoa, and during dinner Mele Halapua spoke on the evils of gambling.

Sunday saw an early prayer meeting together with the Ponsonby congregation, followed by a Bible study led by Rev Vaikoloa Kilikiti. The Sunday worship service was led by co-superintendent of Vahefonua Tonga Rev Kilifi Heimuli. The camp concluded that afternoon with a meal and exchanges of gifts.

Special guests for this camp were national MWF president Lynne Scott, MWF vice-president Rita Reid, and MWF treasurer Valmai Horlor.

More than 300 women registered for camp, from Christchurch, Blenheim, Wellington, Gisborne, Auckland and Manukau. It was a special blessing to have several women aged 80 plus at camp.

The Tongan women acknowledge with sincere thanks the financial support for this camp from Vahefonua Tonga, the Auckland/Manukau Parish, the Otara Parish, and the PAC. The hospitality of the Ponsonby and Otahuhu congregations and the beautiful meals prepared by their cooks were greatly appreciated.