Submitted by Toese Tusitala of the Abbotsford Stake
“I see how the Lord was placing me in every way for a reason. I never once lost my faith or questioned the course God placed me on.”
“Bloom where you are planted”—a familiar saying to some—a way of life for others. Sister Toese Tusitala joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 14 in her native land of Samoa. She transplanted herself and her myriad of talents to the fertile soil of Canada where she emigrated in November 1978. Often uprooted in life’s travels, she continued spreading the beauty of her talents and testimony. Through the seasons of her life she not only bloomed where she landed, but planted seeds of faith for others to grow and bloom as well. No wonder she’s called, “The Flower of Samoa”.
The mother of two children Toese made a promise when she divorced their father in 1998 that if he got sick she would take care of him. That’s a promise she kept when she found out that her children’s father was suffering from dementia and had no one to take care of him. For ten years Toese made sure Bob got tucked into bed at night before she left the house to teach her fitness classes. She made sure Bob always had healthy meals and any medication he needed; all while she worked fulltime at two, sometimes three jobs. One of those jobs happened to be teaching fitness. “I knew that the Lord wanted me to do fitness so that I could have the strength to do all this,” she says. At that time, her full-time employer didn’t know that Toese was caring for her ex-husband, but suggested that Toese could work from home to free up space for other workers in the office. This came as an answer to her prayers. The company provided her with all she needed to run an office from home. The change allowed her to continue teaching fitness in the mornings, care for Bob, and work without the stress of going to an office. Still, it was a juggling act. She woke early each morning for prayer and scripture study before taking on the day’s tasks. Toese’s employment changed off and on during that time, but she continued to teach her fitness classes and attended school to increase her skills and get a diploma. “It’s amazing during all that time I was never sick, never fatigued. I still managed to teach 20 fitness classes a week, studied and take care of my children’s father.”
After ten years Bob’s condition deteriorated and he became hospitalized. “He was the best father I could ever want my children to have and that’s why I continued to look after him,” Toese says. “I strongly believe that as I serve the Lord he will bless me with the health and strength I need.” Her son, Robert Jr. (Bobby) Tusitala Thornton, a professional soccer player in Wisconsin and her daughter, Siona Elizabeth Tejada (Thornton), a mother herself felt the need to come and be with Toese and Bob when he was hospitalized. Siona and her daughter Kaiona (three years old) stayed in the hospital during the day for three months taking care of Bob while Toese worked during the day. Siona and her daughter slept at the hospital during the time Bob was deteriorating. After work each night Toese made food and pureed it to spoon feed Bob at the hospital during the week. On the weekends her son Bobby sat with Bob so that Toese could fulfill her church callings. This continued for three months until Bob passed away (2010). “A strong belief in and an understanding of the Gospel made the time of his passing a very sacred time for us,” Toese says.
After Bob’s passing Toese began pondering and praying for direction as to what course her life should take next. During that time, she reflected often on counsel from her patriarchal blessing to keep up with her exercise and to be a missionary always. At that point she hadn’t worked for three years, except for teaching Polynesian Dance, her fitness class and three to six months’ contracts with MTI College and Sky Deficiency Company. She sent out resumes weekly looking for work. “I never stopped doing my part,” she says. She could no longer afford the mortgage on her house. Her daughter urged her to move to Utah to be close to her family and grandchildren. She would have to sell the house. “This is such a big decision to make,” she said. A firm and faithful -temple attendee took the matter to the Lord. “I received the impression that I should sell and move to Utah with my daughter’s family.”
Toese sold, at a loss, but felt comfortable with the decision. At the same time a plea came from her ward relief society for furniture and supplies to help a family just moving to Canada from Honduras. Toese gave all her household furnishings and supplies to the family. “I felt the Lord wanted me to de-clutter my life. I had so many material things; it was time to get rid of it. My plane ticket to Utah was paid for, and I was ready to go.” While preparing a farewell Luau for her dance group and friends just two weeks before her planned move, Toese got a call from the Provincial Government requesting that she take a typing test. “I couldn’t remember applying for a job with the Government, but went for the test anyway. I didn’t really care, because I was going to move in a few weeks.” She passed the test with flying colors and received an interview request and then an official job offer with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. At that same time, she got a job offer from an acquaintance that required moving to China. Still, she felt that moving to Utah was the right thing to do. “I went from having no job for three years to having three options to choose from,” she said.
Thinking back, she remembered how, after selling her home, she “stumbled” onto an apartment unexpectedly. She befriended the upstairs neighbour and introduced her to the Gospel. The woman joined the Church. This same woman encouraged Toese to apply to the Government. “I see how the Lord was placing me in every place for a reason. I never once lost my faith or questioned the course God placed me on. I just have to do my part and live according to the gospel teachings so I can get the right direction. I always get up at 5:30 in the morning and read and study my scriptures and pray. I pray about everything—fast, pray, temple, serve—I always do this.”
Toese accepted the job with the Ministry, but needed to find a new place to live. Once again the way opened for her and she found the place that “felt right” only two blocks from the temple. To her initial disappointment she found herself in a different ward than she’d hoped. But in the Brookswood Ward she found that she was needed in ways and callings she hadn’t imagined or contemplated before. In the Primary as secretary she took charge of making sure that the full program was administrated faithfully and the children responded gratefully. From there she blessed the young women’s organization and eventually was asked to teach the Gospel Essentials class and serves in the temple laundry.
Toese uses her dance and cooking talents to bring the ward and members of the community together both at work and with yearly Ward Missionary luau dinners. “The Church comes first in my life and because of that I see the hand of the Lord in my life. I know this is the place that the Lord wants me to serve. My mission is to plant the gospel seed by sharing my talents, bringing happiness to people and showing that my strength comes from the gospel. There is nothing better in my life than serving the Lord.” Toese Tusitala, the flower of Samoa is blooming in Abbotsford Stake and in Brookswood ward in Langley until she retires and serves a mission somewhere else.