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Serve Others, Serve God: Valuing Christlike Principles In Education

Johann Faana-Kong, a senior majoring in political science from Tahiti, French Polynesia, shares how his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped him grow as a student akin to the Savior.

Portrait of Johann Faana-Kong.
Photo by Douglas Ferreira

Surrounded by Christ Everywhere

As a convert of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Faana-Kong yearned to maintain his connection to the gospel of Jesus Christ after serving in the Tahiti Papeete Mission. Unlike most of his friends back home who pursued a college education in Europe or Canada, Faana-Kong felt BYU–Hawaii was the best option for him.

After three years at BYUH Faana-Kong remarked, “This school made me become self-reliant academically, temporally, and spiritually. The Church helps with that. Sacrament meetings, the temple, and weekly devotionals,” Faana-Kong said, emphasizing his surroundings as good influences in his life. He adds, “BYU–Hawaii is a place of spiritual environment for my testimony to grow.”

Portrait of Faana-Kong.
Photo by Douglas Ferreira

The Aloha Spirit and the Holy Ghost

Faana-Kong describes BYUH and Hawaii in general as a “bubble of good vibes.” Although he notes that BYUH is far from a city environment, he is pleased to feel the aloha spirit on campus, especially from other students, saying, “Everyone is nice to everyone. It’s a safe space for one’s career and eternal progression to grow.”

There are two things in particular that Faana-Kong loves about BYUH. The first is how well classes integrate communicating with our Heavenly Father. The second is how diverse the university is.

“It’s great to start every class with a prayer since it sets the right tone and allows the Spirit to be with you to learn more,” Faana-Kong said, highlighting how prayer can greatly improve secular learning. He adds, “Praying also allows me to make friends with people from different countries. It’s a crazy experience since although there’s a bit of diversity back home in Tahiti, it’s not quite as much compared to this university.”

A Template for Life

BYUH has played an important role in contributing to Faana-Kong’s life, particularly his family—his wife, Melanie, is also a BYUH student—and future career. He testifies of this, saying, “This school has helped my wife and I set the right foundation for our family. Being able to study full-time while also having a part-time job and serving in the Church has given us a great template later in our life, especially when we’ll be busy with kids and other responsibilities.”

Ultimately, Faana-Kong is eternally grateful to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, saying, “We always need to think about the Lord Jesus Christ and what he’s given us. The way we can be grateful for that is simply by serving Him.”

A Legacy of Serving Others

Mirroring the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob’s words, Faana-Kong hopes to become financially secure enough to donate money through the school. His goal is to “obtain riches… [and] seek them for the intent to do good” (Jacob 2:19), he says, quoting the scriptures. “As a recipient of a work-study scholarship in this university, I would love for more opportunities for international students like me to study in such a beautiful place like BYUH.”

Portrait of Faana-Kong.
Photo by Douglas Ferreira

Regarding the legacy of BYUH, Faana-Kong states that the biggest way for him to contribute to that legacy is through His future children. “I will help them see the potential growth that BYUH can give them by setting a Christlike example as a BYUH alumnus,” Faana-Kong says, wanting to remind his future children how BYUH shaped their father. He adds, “When they come of age, I will encourage them to go study here, just like I did.”

Johann Faana-Kong’s desire to learn in a gospel-oriented university has paid off as he prepares for his graduation. His principles in life distinguish him as an amazing example of a disciple of Jesus Christ to his family, his fellow students, and everyone around him. “It’s the simple principle that I learned that ‘when you serve others, you serve God.’ Giving my time to help others grow academically and spiritually is just me giving back what He gave me,” Faana-Kong states, testifying how God’s work in BYUH students is “one eternal round.”