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April 2010

Tongan families unite to form Papakura church

By Cory Miller

A Tongan man’s search for a place to worship in his neighborhood of Papakura has led to the founding of a new church.

When Tongo Vaiangina a member of the Tongan Methodist Tokaima’amanga Parish in Otara moved to a new family home in Papakura last year he found there was no local congregation.

He met others in Papakura who were not going to a church due to the absence of a Tongan congregation. "There were others I met who were not attending church either," Tongo says.

Without a church to go to they felt that there was nowhere for them to worship God, a place of fellowship for their people was needed, says Rev Vaikoloa Kilikiti. "Their aim was to let the people know God," he says "They wanted to be a good people."

Tongo Vaiangina’s initiative led to the creation of a new Tongan
congregation in the Otara Tongan Methodist Parish.

Together with his brothers, Tongo decided to hold family prayers in their home. Other Tongan families in the neighbourhood were also invited to share in fellowship with the family.

"I wanted to create a church for those who were unable to go, to have fellowship with our people," says Tongo. "We went to our homes to have prayers and to find God."

The small gatherings expanded to include others until it became too big for the family home. Together these families helped to bring together the foundation for a new church.

With their home bursting at the seams, Tongo approached Vaikaloa for advice about where to house his growing church.

Though the people would have been welcome to attend the Otara Parish, they knew that the distance would be a deterrent for many families. A site for worship was needed in Papakura itself.

With Vaikaloa’s support, Tongo approached the Tongan synod superintendant to discuss the possibility of establishing a new church in Papakura.

Though they were unable to have a new building of their own, they were able to use a local marae and the Papakura Anglican church for worship.

With all parties in agreement a commitment was drafted and signed by the members of the new branch. They held their first service as an official church on the 29th of November, 2009.

The new church was recognised as a branch of the Tongan Congregation in Otara. "They are an extension of our church," says Vaikaloa. "Once a month we gather together as one congregation in Otara to take communion."

Each Sunday up to 50 people gather for prayer, song and fellowship in the Tongan language in Papakura.

"The future for this small but growing church can only be good," says Vaikaloa. "Where there was no Tongan Church before, there is now a strong group of people who have found their place of worship."