We've been to the museum, the Dole Pineapple Factory, swimming at the Hukilau, walking the sands of Pipeline, and Ken and Nancy will be making their second visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center today, after they try out snorkeling at Turtle Bay. I won't list out the gluttony of food we've been eating. Sufficient to say I have had to exercise very hard not to gain any weight.
I will convey one experience from this week. I try to hard to learn the words for "hello" in each of the six languages of the Polyensian villages here.
So, in full view of Ken and Nancy, I saunter up to the workers in the Tongan Village .
"Bula Vinaka," I shout out confidently
"Malo e lelei," they growl back in a unified voice that sounded so much more like "you are a dopey American" than it could ever convey 'hello.'
Yep, Sister Jones strikes again. Just for clarity, "Bula Vinaka" worked much better as a greeting when we entered the Fijian Village.
Anand Kumar Vakapalli is a student at BYU-H from Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India.
As a teenager, he started taking gospel lessons from the LDS missionaries along with some friends. He didn’t take it seriously at first, but in a while, he felt moved by what he heard and was baptized and joined the Church.
When the time came, he applied to go on a mission. He was assigned to serve in India. India has strict rules about proselytizing missionaries from other countries. Most missionaries are therefore native to the country.
Before starting his mission, Anand needed to go to the temple to obtain his endowments. The closest temple was in Philippines. His endowments were given in a language he didn’t know, so he did not understand what was said. He had to utilize his faith to know that he had been provided with sacred covenants and promises. Upon returning to India, he began his mission – traveling by commuter train, or bus or by walking many, many miles. Little by little, his faith grew. Service to others became a matter of great importance to him.
After his mission, he married Santhi in 2007, a young woman he had been arranged to marry since he was a young child. She was a graduate of Andhra University with a Master’s degree in Chemistry. Her father was a Christian Pastor. He did not believe in Anand’s religion. Neither did Santhi. It was very difficult. She did not want to hear about the Church. She had been advised not to listen by her family. This lasted for a couple of years. Then she agreed to attend Church. She listened to the missionaries. She loved what she heard and she decided to be baptized and join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Because of her conversion, her father was ostracized and eventually released from his ministry.
In 2010, after much prayer and effort, Anand was accepted to Brigham Young University – Hawaii. He, Santhi and their son, Daivik, came to Hawaii with much faith and little else. Anand is pursuing a degree in Information Technology. He feels that he will be able to return to his homeland with an education that will support his family and allow him to positively lead and support his community. Santhi teaches chemistry classes in BYUH and is volunteering to develop a way to convert biodiesel Glycerin into soap.
The Vakapallis’ were able to fulfill a cherished dream to be sealed together as a family for eternity on June 7, 2013. Their love of the temple is best illustrated in the following story:
When the Vakapallis first moved to Laie to attend school, they were placed in a very small apartment unit with a promise that they would be moved into a larger one as soon as one became available. When that time came, they felt like they would have to say no simply because they could not afford it. They walked into the apartment knowing that they were going to have to turn it down. When they turned around to leave, they saw thru the door a perfect view of the La’ie Temple. Most of the apartments do not have this amazing view. They knew that they must have this blessing in their lives. Their reverence for the temple is manifested every evening as they gather around their doorway to say family prayers in full view of a Temple of the Lord, which they recognize to be one of the greatest blessings members have on the earth today. Their apartment may be small and humble, but when given an opportunity to move to even an even larger apartment, they would not give up their precious temple view.
We love Anand and Santhi Vakapalli not only for their friendship, their support and their generous hearts, nor because Santhi is truly one of the best Indian chef’s we've ever met, but most of all because of their faith, sacrifice and joy in serving the Lord and sharing His love.
They are unique and special, but then again, their example of faith is repeated over and over again with the students we meet. We have so many joys here in La’ie, but the families that we meet, work with and worship with are the greatest joy of all.