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The Power of One: Faith Guides the Life of Lone Student from Vanuatu

April 29, 2013

BYU-Hawaii student Maklen Kapalu is from Vanuatu. Her country isn’t well known, even here on this culturally diverse BYU-Hawaii campus. Though the university’s students come from more than 70 countries, the number from any given place can be few. Maklen is the only Ni-Vanuatu here.

But she is not alone.

maklen-kapalu

“Even if I don’t know anyone, I feel like everyone on campus is my best friend,” she says. “I feel the aloha spirit.” Maklen speaks seven languages and is a sophomore at BYU-Hawaii studying to become a teacher. She is a recipient of I-WORK student aid and works in the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) kitchen. Oh, and she is the Relief Society president in her young single adult ward.

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“Things are really hard here. I work every day, I have classes and assignments, and I try to help the sisters in my ward,” says Maklen. “But Heavenly Father really helps me, and I appreciate that. If there is any secret to life, it is faith.”

She feels that heaven guided her here. After she served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand, her mission president encouraged her to come to BYU–Hawaii, and I-WORK made it possible. Donations from alumni and friends of the university fund the I-WORK program.

“I am grateful to those who helped me get here and for the I-WORK program,” she says. “Without it, I don’t think I could be here.”

Be an answer to prayer

When Maklen first arrived on campus, she was homesick and in culture shock - everything was so different. “I missed my family,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone here, so I just stayed in my room. I didn’t even do my laundry; I didn’t know how to and didn’t have money. I didn’t want to ask anyone for help. It was really hard.”

Then one dark night she prayed: “Heavenly Father, I know that you are doing your best to help me. I know you answer prayers. And so I’m asking for your help.”

The next morning Maklen went to class, and when she returned to her dorm, she found laundry supplies, quarters, and toiletries on her bed. It brought tears to her eyes then and still does now. “No one heard me pray,” she says. “No one saw me pray.”

She searched for her good Samaritan, but her hall mom told her to “forget about it and serve others.” Maklen later learned that it was this same friend who had left the supplies. “Heavenly Father answered my prayers,” says Maklen. “He’s been there every step of my life.”

Faith in every footstep

Maklen’s journey to BYU-Hawaii began nearly 10 years ago when she, her father, and her brother first encountered the missionaries. Her dad, a leader in another church, initially declined, but when Maklen’s brother persisted, the missionaries set an appointment. In the family home, after receiving a lesson on the Restoration, Maklen accepted the challenge to read the Book of Mormon.

“I knew that this was the truth,” she says. In time her father gave permission, and she was baptized. Six months later the rest of her family joined too. Her dad is grateful for Maklen’s faith and endurance, which brought the gospel to their family.

Maklen was the first full-time missionary called from her branch. After returning home she moved forward with plans to attend BYU–Hawaii but stayed home an extra semester while her family prepared to go to and then traveled to the temple in Fiji to be sealed. They are grateful for the promise of eternal families. Maklen’s brother and sister are now serving missions.

Maklen is just one person, but her actions richly bless her family, friends, and community. How could one even measure the noble, cascading influence such a person has, even into eternity?

The noble role of educator

Before her mission and as a missionary, Maklen learned that she loves to teach. “My first calling in the Church was as a seminary teacher, then as a Sunday School teacher, and then as a missionary,” she says. “I just love teaching, interacting with different people and looking at things in different ways.” To further her teaching qualifications, she is studying to be a physical education teacher. “At home we need teachers,” she says, “specifically exercise and sports teachers.”

Maklen will make a difference in the world. She is a learner, a leader, and a builder. She is a pioneer and the “genuine gold” for whom BYU-Hawaii exists. Thank you for what you have done to aid her journey.

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President Steven C. Wheelwright

President Steven C. Wheelwright