The Tongan United Methodist community in the United States holds an annual celebration, hosted in a different U.S. city each year, to honor alumni of a UM-related high school in Tonga. The school is privately owned and a majority of the Tongan pastors now in this country are its graduates.
This year First Tongan UMC of San Bruno organized the celebration, held at the Cow Palace – and while the gala is always well attended, never has the turnout been as great as it was on April 18 and 19, when an estimated 5,000 people attended.
People traveled from Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii, as well as from other cities on the U.S. mainland.
First Tongan UMC pastor, the Rev. Kalatini Ahio, asks for prayers of thanksgiving that the celebration was such a joyful success.
He is himself a 1979 graduate of the school, which he describes as one of “strict Christian training, and the only room-and-board high school in Tonga.” It is this year 142 years old, making it the oldest high school in the South Pacific.
Ahio attributes the success of this year’s event to the hard work of his congregants at First Tongan UMC and their year of planning.