Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

High tech from local scrap

Published: Saturday, July 20, 2002

E-mail story

It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.

Your name and e-mail address are transmitted to the recipient. Otherwise, it is considered private information; see Privacy policy.

Photo courtesy Pacific Islands Area
Loni Sanft, service center supervisor, found a way to install satellite receiver despite missing many parts. Completed dish served Tongan members for first broadcast of satellite.

Photo courtesy JSAT Corporation Photos courtesy Pacific Islands Area
Rendering of recently-launched Japan satellite used to broadcast Nauvoo temple dedication.

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga — The saints in Tonga have been waiting many years for "high tech" to reach them. Finally the word came: a satellite dish was to be installed one week before the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, June 27-30, allowing them to see and hear President Gordon B. Hinckley live. The proposed location for the new dish was the Navu (Nauvoo) Chapel of the Liahona Tonga Stake.

The dish arrived, but when Loni Sanft, Service Center Supervisor, reviewed the parts list, 25 pieces were missing. The dish and its parts had been shipped in two large crates. However, what arrived was the dish and several smaller parts, all in separate packages.

He went to the TransAm cargo office and found a few of the missing parts, but the rest were gone. He was told it would take at least a week to get replacement parts to Tonga.

With heavy heart, Brother Sanft took the four professional satellite installers to the Navu meetinghouse the next morning. He asked if the parts could be made locally.

"Impossible," they said.

The cost of constructing the satellite system was more than $20,000 (U.S. dollars) and no one wanted to take the risk of setting it up incorrectly. He reluctantly drove the installers to the airport, but they were turned back at the ticket counter and were told that the next plane would leave in four days.

Knowing the urgency of the project, and having the faith that it could be done, Brother Sanft appealed to Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy and second counselor in the Pacific Islands Area Presidency, who was in Tonga to conduct a stake conference.

He contacted Richard Wilson, Pacific Islands Area Director of Temporal Affairs in New Zealand. The result was a phone call from Australia with skeptical permission to "do what they could."

Brother Sanft turned the car around and phoned his welders, Kepueli Ahome'e, Sione Fonua and Laisiasa Koroinamua, to meet him at the Service Center. The next day was a holiday and the stores would be closed, so they would have to work swiftly.

Photo courtesy Pacific Islands Area
Homemade adjusting bolt was one of several missing pieces replaced by local ingenuity so satellite would function in time for Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication broadcast.

They called Fiji, where a new satellite dish had just been installed. The Fiji construction crew measured and described the missing pieces. The Tongan crew began to cut pieces of scrap metal to fabricate the needed parts. A critical missing part was a 25 cm long, 1.5 cm diameter threaded bolt needed to adjust the focus of the dish. In a back corner of the local hardware store, they found a bolt, just what they needed, one hour before the shop closed for the holiday.

Another part to be fabricated had an unknown critical angle. As the workers searched through the discarded boxes and packing materials, they found a crumpled piece of paper, which had a miniature picture of the piece showing the angle. They enlarged the picture several times on a copy machine until they could make a cardboard template of the angle. Specifications called for precision to plus-one centimeter. Any greater deviation would not permit the dish to be focused properly on the satellite.

The pieces began to fit together. When the dish was mounted and positioned at the specified altitude and azimuth, the signal from the satellite came in loud and clear.

"Truly the hand of the Lord can be seen in the skill, talent and devotion of the Tongan brethren who never lost their faith," said Elder Dellenbach. "They determined that the saints in Navu, Tonga, were worthy of the blessing of seeing the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedicated. It takes Tongan faith to accomplish miracles like this one."

Late that night, the Tongan men and the professional installers discussed what had happened. Tears were shared all around. Campbell Waller, the installation team leader, hugged Brother Sanft.

"You guys did it, and it's a miracle! I wish I had workers like you in my company."

"We all did it, with the help of the Lord," Brother Sanft replied.

On Friday, June 28, at noon Tonga time, the Navu miracle came to fruition. More than 4,000 members viewed the dedication. With joy and gratitude in their hearts, they watched the large screen in Navu, Tonga, as President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the temple in Nauvoo, Illinois.