Tonga Region Youth Councils
Over the first weekend of December, 80 Tongan young people gathered at Tupou College, Toloa, for the first face-to-face youth councils since the pandemic. Regional Youth Worker Mele Vaea led a fantastic weekend with the support of Regional Leaders Captains Kenneth and Catherine Walker, and special guest speakers Major Mat Badger and Leslie D’Mello from the Territorial Youth Department.
Mele had prayerfully chosen the weekend’s theme of ‘make a choice and stick with it’, inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22, ‘but test them [prophecies] all; hold onto what is good and reject every kind of evil’. Mele says that for her the highlight of the weekend was seeing how the theme impacted the young people’s hearts and minds.
‘The impact was amazing,’ she says. ‘Over the weekend I could see the young people absorbing the definition and grasping how decision-making contributes to life and, most importantly, to a God-centred life. For us in Tonga there is often the struggle of making a choice for ourselves because we tend to go with the flow or do what others think is the right decision or choice for us. But God can take control of what we do in life and help us to make good decisions.’
Captain Kenneth Walker opened the event by drawing a line on the floor and challenging the young people to make a choice about what side of the line they will be on when it comes to following Jesus. ‘You need to make a decision,’ he said, ‘will you opt in, or opt out?’
Major Mat Badger spoke on Saturday morning from the book of Daniel in the Bible, about the choices Daniel made while living under extreme pressure. ‘It didn’t matter what was going on in the world around him, Daniel and his three friends decided that they were going to be faithful no matter what the cost. They stuck to that decision and God used Daniel to change the world because of the choices he made,’ explained Mat, who challenged the young people to think about the pressures they face and how they might make decisions now about how to respond.
Leslie D’Mello unpacked this further, with his challenge to be the difference. ‘Everyone is different,’ affirmed Leslie, ‘but not everyone makes a difference.’ Leslie explained that to be the difference, you have to know the difference. Drawing on Daniel’s decision to eat only vegetable (Daniel 1:12–16), Leslie explained that ‘a lot of things may be good, but once you know the difference between things, you can make the right choice.’
Captain Catherine Walker spoke on Saturday night from Genesis 25 about Esau selling his inheritance for a meal, highlighting that sometimes we sacrifice the long-term good for the short term because we fail to make wise decisions. On Sunday morning, Mat challenged the young people to ‘take Jesus home with you’, just as Zacchaeus did.
‘It’s all very well to come to an event like this and outwardly and publicly pretend we have it all together, but we must decide, like Zacchaeus, to take Jesus home with us. When we do that then Jesus can lead us in the small decisions we make every day when we are by ourselves. Zacchaeus’ experience when he took Jesus home was that it changed his whole household,’ explained Mat.
While there were also relevant life-based workshops over the weekend, and opportunities for quiet reflection, there was also plenty of fun! ‘There were crazy games organised that involved teamwork and collaborative decision-making. All the action took place outside in the hot Tongan sun—it was fun, but it was very hot,’ reports Mat.
Mat says that one of his highlights for youth councils was seeing the Tongan youth committee in action. ‘Tonga Region has an amazing youth committee of about 10 up-and-coming leaders. Their planning and leadership over the weekend were superb, and I’d like to say a huge thanks to them and to Mele for a great weekend!’