Elder Joseph Fofoga Key returns home with honour

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, Tuatalatala.com (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • Elder Joseph Fofoga Key with his parents Junior and Makerita Key. 
    Elder Joseph Fofoga Key with his parents Junior and Makerita Key. 

Not all missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, return to their Ward, Stake, village and nation with honour.

Some missionaries don't make it home at all.

For that reason, the homecoming of every Latter-Day Saint missionary is counted as an immeasurable blessing to his and her family, Ward, village, hometown and the LDS Church worldwide.

After two years in the mission field, the Key family and Alamagoto Ward celebrate today their first Sunday since the return of 22-year-old Return Missionary (formerly Elder) Joseph Fofoga Key.

"It was great. There are countless good things that I experienced during my mission," said Key during an interview with Newsline Samoa.

"I met people from all walks of life, all kinds of people of different ethnicities – Vietnamese, Koreans, Mexicans. I'm from Samoa and I'm accustomed to seeing, being surrounded by Samoans. It was different, a whole new world for me. The best thing about my mission was the people I was able to serve."

Family members and friends were joined by local Church leaders at Faleolo International Airport to greet the return missionary on Thursday, 12 July, 2018.

Joseph, the second youngest of four children born to Junior and Makerita Key of Alamagoto village, comes from a missionary family.

His parents were LDS missionaries and so were his three siblings. He attended Pava'ia'i Elementary School in American Samoa and Pesega College in Samoa. He is the last of the Key bunch to serve and return home with honour.

Joseph completed training for the Anaheim, California Mission at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

When asked who or what family he was able to serve stands out most in his mind, Joseph recalls the Perofeta family.

"It is the Perofeta family. The father served as a Methodist minister for 40 years," he said. "We invited him to Church, he was very happy with the teachings and what he learned and we baptized his entire family – the father, his wife, their daughter, their granddaughter and the granddaughter's husband."

As for the challenges, he said there were many. The biggest was the culture shock.

"There is a big difference. The people in California are different. They are and can be very mean," Joseph said.

It was normal for him and his companion to be pushed down and kicked around when traveling on their bicycles or sitting in front of a store.

Joseph was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that occurred on Euclid Street. He was riding his bike when a car struck him. The incident put him in the hospital, he underwent surgery and had to recuperate during the last six weeks of his mission.

"Tore my ACL and my meniscus. It was a hit-and-run," he told Newsline.

Joseph traveled from California to Houston, then New Zealand, enroute to Samoa. Welcome banners, ula and hugs awaited him as he arrived wearing a knee brace and using crutches.

Following his airport welcome, Elder Joseph Fofoga Key was released from his calling by Apia Central Stake President Jason Joseph. Ward and Stake leaders later gathered for prayer and a celebration of thanksgiving.

"I am overjoyed, I am so happy to be back and to see my parents and my family but I also miss the Ward where I served most of my time," said return missionary Joseph.

"I want to thank my Ward, Bishop, Stake President, my parents and Anaheim 8th Ward. I missed my parents but I know serving my mission is a blessing to my family, to the people I served and to me. It was a successful mission."

He plans to attend Brigham Young Unversity in Hawai'i where he'll major in IT.