As a high school student, Litia K. Cavu Vakarewakobau followed her older sister, Ruci, to LDS Church meetings in Suva, Fiji — held in various locations around the city.
Missionaries had arrived in the Pacific Island nation in September 1954. Four months later, President David O. McKay visited the country, worshiped with the 28 members there and identified a site for a future chapel in Suva.
Litia visited the site of the new chapel often and watched as “fresh white coral stones” were placed on the front and rear of the building.
“It was an exciting time as expectation grew for a permanent home for the Church in Fiji,” she recalled.
As the building neared completion, Litia — not then a member of the Church — began to see herself worshipping in the beautiful structure.
“As I studied the lessons I was moved spiritually by the Holy Ghost on a daily basis,” she recalled in her written history. She talked about her feelings and emotions with another sister, Jessie. “We were excited and knew that we had finally found our personal Savior in Jesus Christ.”
Litia, then 17, and Jessie entered the waters of baptism on Nov. 2, 1957.
On May 4, 1958, President McKay returned to Fiji to dedicate the new chapel. Litia, and more than 300 other members, attended the dedication and met President McKay.
“President McKay’s faith in the future growth of the Church in Fiji dictated that the size of the chapel was almost that of a stake center rather than a small first chapel,” Sister Vakarewakobau wrote. “He did state that he envisioned that in a few short years the large chapel would be full of saints on [the] Sabbath as the Church grew.”
Almost six decades after attending that small dedication, Sister Vakarewakobau stood on the grounds of the Suva Fiji Temple and recalled “the miracles that have happened in Fiji from that day to this day.”
Through the decades, Sister Vakarewakobau has witnessed the growth of the Church in Fiji.
The Fiji Mission (later renamed the Fiji Suva Mission) was created on July 23, 1971. President Spencer W. Kimball visited the country in 1976. Later that year, the Church’s Fiji Technical College began holding classes. The first copies of the Book of Mormon in Fijian arrived on Oct. 29, 1980, and the Suva Fiji Stake was organized on June 12, 1983.
In 1997, the Church reached a major milestone when the 100th stake in the Pacific, the Suva Fiji North Stake, was organized. And on Oct. 15, 1997, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Fiji and spoke to 10,000 people in the National Stadium in Suva.
Sister Vakarewakobau compared that meeting to the one she attended in 1958, when the Church had a a growing membership of 300.
Three years later on June 18, 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Suva Fiji Temple in a private service amid political unrest in the country. Sister Vakarewakobau was there.
She said she has always tried “to do what was right before the Lord.”
Sixteen years later, Cyclone Winston almost prevented Sister Vakarewakobau and her husband, Meli, from participating in the rededication of the temple. After maneuvering around a downed tree in their yard, the Vakarewakobaus were stopped by police enforcing a mandatory curfew in the country.
Sister Vakarewakobau pled their case: “Today is the dedication of the temple of the Lord,” she told the officers, who allowed the couple to travel on to the temple.
After remembering the 1958 promise by President McKay that Church membership in the country would one day require a large building, Sister Vakarewakobau said missing the rededication was not an option.
“It has been a journey of faith and works for me thus far,” she said.
Reflecting on Church growth in Fiji — home now to some 35,000 Latter-day Saints — Sister Vakarewakobau said: “I knew one day the Church would be full.”
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