Vai's View: Vai's View: Food for thought from BYU's Education Week

Published: Friday, Aug. 19 2011 12:03 p.m. MDT

BYU Legends host Curt Doussett and Vai Sikahema are seen in LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

Byron Kirkland

Arrived in Salt Lake with my family for Education Week late Saturday night. Spoke at a fireside Sunday night to the three Tongan stakes in Utah at the Riverton stake center. The fireside was hosted by the Tongan South Stake and their stake president, Isi Tausinga, is a childhood friend who has always been a younger brother to me.

President Tausinga and I have been best friends since our childhood in Tonga; our parents were best friends, our families traveled to the New Zealand temple together and immigrated to the states about the same time. He grew up in Salt Lake while I was raised in Mesa, Ariz.

We were called to South Dakota as missionaries and though we were never companions, we were always in the same areas and spent a lot of time together. After our missions, he was one of my groomsmen and he took a liking to one of my wife's bridesmaids, Mona Meyers. When we came out of the Mesa Temple after our sealing for pictures, Isi and Mona were no where to be found, so they're missing from our wedding photos but they do appear in our reception pictures.

A few months later, they announced their engagement. President Tausinga's stake roared with laughter when I told that story. Our children have never been with one another, so we were thrilled watching them connect and it appears another generation of Tausingas and Sikahemas will be best friends.

Later in the week, we spent an evening with one of my favorite missionary companions, Jed Bindrup. Jed and his beautiful wife Ann had us over to their home in Draper for a barbecue. Elder Bindrup was my senior companion and the zone leader of the Rapid City Zone. He was probably the hardest working missionary I ever worked with and was an exceptional teacher because of his incredible memory. I was stunned that Jed remembered small details like our shared birthdays, though he pointed out that since I was born in Tonga, I'm actually a full day older.

We re-connected in February at our mission president's funeral and when we bumped into a former stake president from our mission, Jed correctly recalled a talk that man gave 30 years ago in which he referenced the air crash of two 747s on the Spanish island of Tenerife that killed nearly 600 people in 1977, the deadliest aviation disaster in history. Needless to say, I was as astounded as our former stake president.

It wasn't really surprising that Jed Bindrup returned from South Dakota, graduated from Utah State, then the University of Utah medical school, followed by an internship in Roanoke, Va. He completed his residency at the University of Rochester Hospital in New York, then a fellowship at Harvard's Children's Hospital in Boston.

Today, Jed Bindrup is a successful plastic surgeon. As with the Tausingas, our children connected easily. Imagine our pride as old missionary companions as we knelt as families at evening's end to express our gratitude to God for our blessings. It was difficult to contain my emotion as I could vividly see two young missionaries kneeling in South Dakota nearly 30 years ago in a musty apartment with little idea that we'd share this moment with our families in 2011.

Yesterday, I took my recently returned missionary son, Leonard Trey, to the MTC for lunch at the invitation of President Lon Nally, a counselor in the MTC Presidency. President Nally was a young executive at Conoco-Phillips in the early '80s stationed in Rapid City, S.D. As missionaries, we often taught in Lon and Kaye Nally's home. President Nally once showed me a 16mm motivational film produced by Phillips66 for their sales staff that featured coaching legend Vince Lombardi. I thought the principles Lombardi taught were so universal that I borrowed the film to show fellow missionaries at our leadership training seminars. Over lunch, President Nally kidded me that after I left Rapid City, the Lombardi film disappeared. I assured him that even if I had taken it, I still didn't have a projector to show it. We shared a good laugh over the memory.

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