HAMILTON, New Zealand — With one son finishing a mission in Hawaii for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and another son preparing to leave for a mission in Hong Kong, Vai Sikahema — former Philadelphia Eagles football player and current sports director for NBC 10 News in Philadelphia — felt it was time for his children to see firsthand their Tongan family roots.
“I felt it was critical that my children know the cost and sacrifice my parents made, which paved the way for the good life we have today in America,” said Vai. “I not only wanted my children to learn about the Tongan culture and see where I was born, but I wanted to take them on the spiritual journey my parents underwent in 1967.”
That spiritual journey started in 1961 in Tonga, when Vai’s parents were married. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they believed that families could be together forever by participating in sacred ordinances performed in Church temples. The only problem was the nearest temple at the time was more than a thousand miles away in New Zealand.
Undaunted by a seemingly impossible dream, the Sikahemas spent the next six years working and saving money to purchase one-way tickets to New Zealand for them and their three small children. “My parents’ desire to have our family sealed was so strong that toward the end of those six years my parents had sold almost all their possessions, including their home,” Vai explained.
Fast forward to 2007. After a stop in Hawaii to pick up eldest son Landon, the Sikahema family flew directly to Hamilton, New Zealand, to see the place when Vai’s parents’ faith was fulfilled.
As Vai walked with his wife and children on the temple grounds, he recounted the experience of finally reaching New Zealand and what it felt like to be in the holy temple — knowing what it took to be there. He even showed his children the small apartment the family lived in for two months as Vai’s father worked to earn money to take his family back to Tonga.
Vai recounted his family’s trip in “Vai’s View: Returning Home to Tonga,” a seven-part blog series on the NBC 10 Web site. In his final entry on this subject, Vai wrote: “As I look at my kids, I’m reminded of something my St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals head coach Gene Stallings, used to tell us. ‘You owe your children two things: a good name and an education.’ The only inheritance my parents left me was those two things. And this momentous trip was my attempt to leave that same legacy for my children.”
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.