There have been so much happening in the last few months that 2017 seems to sneak by without much fanfare. Amongst those activities, my family and I bid farewell to our church family that has been a part of our journey for the last five years. The months of December and January are hectic months with both family and church activities at their peak.
For the majority of Tongans around the globe, the beginning of each year provides an opportunity for each community to gather and reflect on the year that has just past and to look forward with hope and anticipation to the year to come. “Malanga Faka’osi ta’u attracted its content and purpose from the ‘Watch Night’ tradition of the church. Tongan congregations everywhere observe this tradition in which 10-12 sermons are preached during a 2-3hours service that starts at 10 pm until after midnight. On the stroke of midnight, mass prayers of thanksgiving are heard out loud from all members attending to welcome the new year. Joyful and uplifting music is sung followed by members greeting and embracing each other on the first day of the new year. It is standard practice that members will then return home to greet their families and share together in their first Thanksgiving devotion of the new year. On this night and also the first week of the year, sleep is a scarce commodity.
On the first week of the year, the church observes a ‘Week of Prayer’ with two services each day from Monday to Sunday. The morning services usually start at 6.00am with evening services commencing at 6.00pm. After each service, it has been the custom that fellowship continues over a meal, I mean a ‘feast prepared by allocated families. Speeches of encouragement are shared during meal time and often cultural stories, and stuff of life are shared for the benefit of the younger generations.
I vividly remember these gatherings as very formative and influential in my upbringing. I could not remember setting a personal goal for the year nor making a promise to do certain things. But I can not forget how my uncle’s sharing of his life encounters and circumstances nudged him in a particular way that gave him hope and purpose in life.
In my experience, making promises or setting goals for the year is best done through those who were ‘there’ already – coming from the other spectrum of expertise, the previously known. Not me projecting into the unknown my hope of what it may or may not be possible for me to achieve and do.
I still very much enjoy attending the ‘Uike Lotu’ and always looking forward to hearing these ‘nuggets’ of wisdom that will help me navigate through the maze of life.
And it is so true that “It takes a village to raise a child’ in every way.