AUCKLAND, New Zealand The Prime Minister of the Royal Kingdom of Tonga, Dr. Feleti Sevele, paid an official visit to the Church's New Zealand/Pacific Islands Area office and met with the Area Presidency on Feb. 1. During the 90-minute meeting in Auckland the area presidency reviewed the growth of the Church worldwide, as well as in Tonga where Church membership of 53,000 now represents almost one in two of the population.
The prime minister, together with his aide and a representative of the king of Tonga, met with area president Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy, and and his counselors Elder David S. Baxter of the Seventy and Elder Hans T. Sorensen, Area Seventy. Also in attendence were Clint Gurney, area director of temporal affairs; Area Seventy Elder Sione Fineangonofo; and Tonga Service Center Manager Suliasi Kaufusi.
The prime minister reviewed with the area presidency the work of regeneration that is underway in Tonga following the destruction of downtown Nuku'alofa during pro-democracy riots on Nov. 16 last year. The prime minister thanked the Church for its response to the tragedy which included a humanitarian aid donation to the Cabinet Relief Fund.
Dr. Sevele commended the Church for its extensive school system in Tonga which serves nearly 3,000 children in eight schools. He was surprised to learn that nearly 400 Tongan missionaries are serving full-time missions in various countries of the world. At the conclusion of their discussion with the prime minister, the area presidency hosted Dr. Sevele at a dinner provided in his honor by local members of the Church in Auckland.