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Do Not Judge the Beggar

Updated on June 19, 2017
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, aka Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian boy (Tongan) and has had many adventures.

PC: Fiji Sun
PC: Fiji Sun


Awakening to another glorious day in the Pacific, there was an added eagerness for the flight to the zone conference on one of the many islands in the mission. Much planning and preparation had gone into the lessons and talks to be presented. The missionaries always seemed hungry for that special spirit which accompanied the monthly meetings. They enjoyed seeing the President and reacquainting themselves with others laboring daily to save precious souls.


A smooth flight over the sparkling deep blue ocean and a well-maneuvered landing on the small strip of a runway made me feel quite confident this would be an edifying and enjoyable day.

My spiritual message had been given much thought, as the theme of the month revolved around “charity” (the pure Love of Christ). I had chosen to speak about Christ and His pure love that was given to the leper in the New Testament. Seeing the faith and great desire this condemned one had, Jesus had reached out with compassion extending far beyond the written laws of man and healed him with His touch.

Some of our missionaries Personal photo REK
Some of our missionaries Personal photo REK

Our plane had been met by two scrubbed smiling missionaries, and we had been escorted to the meetinghouse where the chorus of Polynesian voices welcomed us. So far it had been a day of perfection.

As one elder presented his message, the Mission President leaned over to me and asked if I would accompany him on a short errand to town. I followed him out to the car, and we made a quick dash to the store. The President went towards the building, and he was met by a middle-aged man with eyes that were bloodshot and somewhat bulging. His hair was all but gone, and his wide grin revealed gross neglect of his teeth. His mannerisms and loud voice quickly gave away the fact that he was intoxicated.

Not caring that we were in a hurry to get back to our Conference, the impoverished man grabbed the President’s hand and held onto it tightly as he cunningly asked for a few dollars (no doubt to buy yet more liquor). My first reaction at the scene across the street was of irritation and disgust.

Boat ride to the outer islands in Tonga  Personal photo REK
Boat ride to the outer islands in Tonga Personal photo REK

This was not the first time, nor probably will be the last, that beggars had told their sad stories and asked for just a few dollars so they could quench their insatiable thirst.

I tried to wait patiently, but as the time dragged on, and I knew I would be giving my message shortly, I tried to motion for the President to come. To my great astonishment and displeasure, the President escorted the beggar across the street, and before I knew it, he told him to get into the back seat of the car. The drunkard could barely find his way in, but when he did, he inconsiderately sat right on the meager refreshments we had brought for the conference break, making them inedible.

The stench from his perspiration mixed with alcohol made me queasy, and when he offered his grimy hand as a token of friendship to me, I winced and coiled away from him. Again he extended his hand and made some comments about how happy he was to see me, but I stayed stiff and immobile.

How could the President let this man into the car, anyway? I muttered a few quiet words of complaint to him as he started the car and began to drive around the block and up the street. Suddenly we stopped. As I peered out the window, I saw a woman, carrying a small child and with several others clinging to her skirts or trailing after her.

President told the man to get out of the car and stay with his wife and children and then promised him that after the conference he would bring some food for his family. The man obviously didn’t want to share his good fortune and hesitated, but with a bit of prodding from the President, he finally stepped out and stood with his family. The wife and children were shoddily dressed and looked hungry.

As we journeyed to the conference, the President revealed to me that this man had once been an active member of the church. He had been a strong handsome lad, having been in sports and other activities. Now with a wife and 13 children, he had been taken in by various types of activities, which had led him into the habits to which he was so obviously bound.

History of the Church in Polynesia (includes Tonga)

Back again finally at the meetinghouse, I gathered my notes and stepped up to present my message. I began confidently, and as my message about the true love of Christ began, suddenly I was struck by the realization that I had failed a simple test moments earlier.

The talk had been so easy to prepare and find materials for in the scriptures, yet I was unable to even do what I was preaching about. The man we had picked up didn’t suffer from leprosy, but a similar infirmity, which cried out as desperately as the lepers had in the scriptures. My response had been that of the natural man, not the loving touch of the Savior. Perhaps an understanding, patient, and loving person could change the course of this unfortunate family’s future.

There had been many conferences before and many to follow, but this one stood out as a great lesson for me. I resolved to be more in tune with what the Lord would have me do.

I shall long remember the example of a charitable Mission President, who later kept his promise by returning to the family with some food, and also had a greater appreciation for the simple but extraordinary loving act of the Savior’s touch.

Sister missionaries in Niuatoputapu  Personal photo REK
Sister missionaries in Niuatoputapu Personal photo REK

Vava'u, Tonga

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© 2017 Elayne

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  • elayne001 profile image
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    Elayne 3 months ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thank you, Dolores, for your comments. In a way, we are all addicts to something - Pepsi, gum, meat, whatever, and we are even judged for those things by some people. If we follow our hearts and give with the reason of charity, then what they do with it doesn't really matter.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 3 months ago from East Coast, United States

    A valuable lesson for us all. An addict is a human being who is suffering. We are not put here to judge whose suffering is acceptable, but to help relieve it. People think that they are enabling addicts if they give them a handout. But without the drug or alcohol that the addict may or may not purchase, they may die. Also, addicts need to eat too!

  • elayne001 profile image
    Author

    Elayne 4 months ago from Rocky Mountains

    @diogenes - we have the same problem here in Utah. Beggars are abundant, especially downtown SLC. It is quite a challenge for all of us, and I'm sure one that will not go away, but it is how we react to them. I've been advised to help when I can, but it really does feed their desire to keep doing it. Things were a bit different in Tonga - not so many beggars there back when. Thanks for your comments.

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 4 months ago from UK and Mexico

    Elaine: Shows what a wonderful person you, and your neighboring Polynesians in those days - were.

    However, alcoholics and tobacco addicts, along with diabetics whose disease is largely due to bad diets and obesity - are sending our wonderful NHS into a downward spiral. The governments have been chucking billions at the problem but Britons continue with these and other abuses...so much so that with all the goodwill and charity in the world, the NHS may soon have to limit treatment to all repeat substance abusers who will not control their sad addictions.

    That's the reality of the world we live in today in the UK

    But what a lovely story you have brought us today...

    Bob x