New Fale nofo’anga for Kolovai Officers
Faifekau = minister/officer | Fale = house | Falelotu = Church (building) | Fale Nofo’anga = quarters
Kolovai Corps in Tonga is eagerly awaiting the arrival of two 40-foot shipping containers. Inside the containers are the materials for a brand-new four-bedroom EasyBuild fale (house). A team of 15 volunteers from all over New Zealand will soon follow. The team includes builders, an electrician, a plumber, a range of DIY enthusiasts and labourers. With the goal of putting the house together in just two weeks beginning mid-October, when completed the house will become the Kolovai Corps officers fale nofo’anga (quarters).
Kolovai Corps has never had an official fale nofo’anga, with various rental properties serving as officers’ accommodation for the past decade. However, Regional Leader for Tonga Captain Kenneth Walker explains that when the eruption of Hunga Tonga Ha‘apai occurred in January 2022, with the ensuing tsunami, everything changed.
‘As you can imagine, post tsunami there was a housing shortage here in Tonga – still is. The tsunami was a big driver towards the current project. When the rented fale where the faifekau (officers) were living was destroyed the only rental we could find was far from Kolovai, nearer the city (Nuku’alofa). So the fale nofo’anga is no longer in the community where the corps is based. The officers have to travel in and out each day. We can’t underestimate the importance of having our faifekau living in the area where they serve. They can’t be separate to their community, but part of it. That’s really important in Tongan culture,’ explains Kenneth.
The new quarters will be added to the 6-acre compound owned by The Salvation Army, where the falelotu (church) is situated. The land also has a kindergarten and farm. ‘Being onsite will increase ministry capacity tremendously,’ affirms Kenneth. ‘It’s all about getting the officers back into the community so that their ministry can be elevated and supported practically.’
The foundation for the building will be prepared prior to the arrival of the containers and kiwi team. ‘You can’t ship a concrete slab in a container!’ laughs Kenneth. ‘The Tongan community here also have skin the game and ownership of the project too. They will be part of the build to, making up numbers in terms of local labour. It’s a real opportunity to learn and glean something from the building process itself.
This project holds a special place in Kenneth’s heart. In 2013 his sister (Captain Pauleen Richards) was serving in Tonga. ‘Mum and Dad went over and at the time Kolovai was still a corps plant, and meetings were held in a tent. The story goes that Dad (Major Donald Walker PTG) was looking up at the stars—through the ripped roof of the tent. “We can do better than this” is the line that has become legend. Dad returned to New Zealand and wrote a proposal to headquarters to take a team over to build a falelotu (church building). It was approved, and that’s what happened.’
The building of the new falelotu in 2014 sparked something special. Nearly a decade later, members of that original volunteer team are now returning to help with the quarters build in October. And it’s still a family affair, albeit a bitter-sweet one. ‘Dad is now gone,’ explains Kenneth, ‘but my older brother Graham and younger brother Pete, and even some of Graham’s kids, are on board and coming over for the build. It’s becoming a generational tradition and not just with the Walker family. Electrician Paul Austin is bringing his son with him this time, as is builder Andy Collin. And Pete’s bringing some of his firefighter mates.’ Kenneth hopes that if they can complete this build well, further opportunities to work with Tongan Salvationists may arise in the future.
Kenneth would like SALT readers to be praying especially for a smooth run for the containers through customs. Kenneth is concerned that there may be hold-ups or additional charges so is working on exemptions. In addition to this, he’s a little concerned about the weather. ‘If we get two weeks of good weather we’ll manage. But if we have bad weather, we could end up with half a house. But if the weather is fine, well, we’ve done this before, and we know we can do it again.’