Born in Tonga in 1962, Elder Vai Sikahema was 5 years old when his family traveled to the nearest temple in New Zealand for the first time. "Whatever could be sold was sold for our passage to New Zealand," Elder Sikahema says in a new LDS Living video.
The Sikahemas were so set on reaching their destination that Elder Sikahema's father peeled off the wood on the sides of his home to sell for the journey. "By the time we went to the temple in 1967, one side of the house was completely open," Elder Sikahema says. "I suspect my father would have sold the entire [outer walls], it would have just been four posts and a roof but we had gotten enough to go to the temple."
In 1986, Elder Sikahema became the first Tongan to play in the NFL, and after a brilliant eight-year career, Elder Sikahema and his family remained in Philadelphia, where he had played with the Eagles.
After a temple was announced in Philadelphia in 2008, a city agency was created to try to take the property back from the Church, and Elder Sikahema sat in meetings with the mayor and Church leaders to help advocate for the new temple. During one meeting, Elder Sikahema stood and bore a powerful testimony about what the temple meant to him and his family. Learn more about how the Sikahema family played a role in a miracle that helped make the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple possible.