“Where did you take your Scouts camping last weekend?” “oohhh – wwweellll, we went to Tahiti and Bora Bora.” “WHAT and HOW in the world did you get to go to Tahiti on a Scout campout?” is always the jealous reply. A wonderful and rare opportunity came to about 10 leaders and around 60 Scouts in 1999.
The trip turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences for my two boys, Charlie and Andy and me. We had many wonderful experiences but one particularly stands out involving the Tahitian Saints.The Tahitian Saints Troop planned on joining us on a tour of the islands. When we arrived and got our first glance of the Tahitian Troop, who were an impressive group and made any of our troops look shabby in comparison, we adjusted our first assumption about the island. The Tahitians had no training on how to run a troop so they put a retired high ranking military church member in charge. He had those boys whooped into shape, and you could tell.
The first day there was no talking between our boys and their boys because nobody wanted to take a risk and communicate with an unknown youth. Obviously, the language barrier was an additional problem but by the last day it was a miracle to see them the best of friends. The activities of fishing, singing, skits, touring and dancing together did the trick. Scouting is amazing at bridging language and communication barriers.
The faith of the Tahitian Saints is well known by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Hinckley mentioned this particularly in regard to the Saints who lived on a little island that is about a 25-mile boat ride (about two hours) to the west of Bora Bora, called Mauipiti. There were only about 1000 people on this island that is approximately four square miles. Then-Apostle Hinckley visited Maupiti in the wake of a tragic accident that occurred on a return trip of the Maupiti Saints from a conference on Tahiti Island where Then-Elder Hinckley spoke. It was very stormy and several saints died trying to get back through the dangerous and singularly narrow pass. Many boaters bypass this tiny island because of this reason. President Hinckley recalls he had not yet left for home when he heard of the tragedy and left immediately for Maupiti to console the Saints. This the Maupiti saints have never forgotten.
Some problems arose in the itinerary of the schedule during our tour so we changed plans to bypass Maupiti. We made the saints there aware of this and they were saddened. As we continued to visit the various islands we felt an overwhelming feeling that Maupiti should not be skipped. We changed plans once again and made the very bumpy two hour boat ride over. The saints welcomed us with dancing, music, beads and joy. They showed us the island and fed us the grandest meal ever from their own meager earnings. They lived in very humble circumstances but their countenances were joyful and gracious.
That evening at a fireside the Spirit was very strong. The saints shared with us what happened when they found out we were not coming. The entire membership of the church on the island fasted and prayed that the Boy Scouts from America would have a change of heart and still decide to come to their beautiful island. This was such a big important event for them because they hardly get any visitors. The visit from President Hinckley as an apostle still burned within their hearts some 25 years or so later.
We had grateful hearts for the promptings of the Spirit as we dried our tears. We were so moved by their faith. They were patient and loving and the most Christlike people I had ever met. I was so impressed that I took my wife back for a visit just a few short years later.
Although the trip itself was an amazing opportunity, the faith of the Maupiti people strengthened our hearts and showed us what true fellowship in the gospel means. And without the opportunity of Scouting to bring us together our hearts would not have been touched.
Author: Shaun Heaton| President, Bonneville Asphalt