Sarah Jane Weaver
Youth wave to President Henry B. Eyring and other LDS Church leaders after having to end the Suva Fiji Temple youth cultural celebration early on Saturday, Feb. 20.
SUVA, Fiji — Amid severe weather conditions caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cut the youth temple cultural celebration here short Saturday afternoon.
Originally scheduled to be held in the open-air ANZ Stadium in Suva, the event was moved across the street to the enclosed Vodafone Arena — which event organizers had also reserved months in advance.
However, as weather conditions intensified and the government asked everyone to vacate roads by 5 p.m., organizers skipped several numbers and had the 1,300 youths perform their finale.
Earlier in the day, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, told a group of missionaries serving in Fiji that although he did not know what was going to happen with the cyclone, he felt at peace with plans to hold the cultural celebration and rededication. “I got the feeling, ‘Go forward. Don’t be afraid,’” President Eyring said, noting that the “Lord is in charge.”
During the cultural celebration he addressed the youths, praising their preparation and sharing the love President Thomas S. Monson has for them. "I join with you in celebrating the great contributions of so many who have built up the kingdom of God in these isles,” he said.
Ernest Vitinavulagi, director of the youth cultural celebration, said the cultural event was a “celebration of faith” intended to showcase the islands of the Fiji temple district — Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu and New Caledonia — to the Pacific and the world.
The cultural celebration committee brought youths by bus and boat to the celebration. After the event, organizers reported that all the youths made it safely to the church schools, where the majority would spend the night during the storm.
When the event was cut short, Selai Vuetibau, 18, did not get to perform the number she had prepared for the celebration. But she will always remember gathering with the youths of the temple district for the opening number and again for the finale.
She said the youths had been working on the finale for two weeks. “We thought it wouldn’t be perfect, but it was,” she said.