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Gospel examples and Covid lead Cook Islander to greater public service

Saturday 27 May 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features, Local, National


Gospel examples and Covid lead Cook Islander to greater public service
Tim (centre) and Anna Varu, pose with Elder Taniela B. Wakolo (left), General Authority Seventy and member of the Pacific Area Presidency, following the Avarua Cook Islands District Conference, 23 April 2023. LDS CHURCH/23052662

While the coronavirus outbreak caused many to isolate and stay away from others, for one member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Cook Islands it was a catalyst to a greater level of service in his community and nation.

Tim Varu, who became the first member of the Church to be elected a Member of Parliament in the Cook Islands in August 2022, said the gospel of Jesus Christ has always been the defining principle in his life, and guides him in the decisions he makes as he represents his community in the halls of government.

He was elected as a Member of Parliament representing Ruaau village in the Arorangi district on the island of Rarotonga. The concrete worker and former Cook Islands rugby star said he never intended to run for office, but the outbreak of the coronavirus revealed an opportunity to serve his community.

“All my life I was taught to help people when they need it,” Varu said. “When Covid-19 broke out I saw so many people struggling, and I just felt that there was more that I could do to help those that were in need,” he said.

“I went out into the community and listened to people’s struggles, their hurts and financial hardships due to Covid,” Varu continued. “Ruaau has a special place in my heart and that’s why I raised my hand to be a voice for what was needed in our community.”

Varu served as the captain for the Arorangi rugby union and rugby league teams and played for the Cook Islands national team, so he was well known throughout the country. 

He explained elections in the Cook Islands, a nation of just more than 15,000 people spread throughout 15 islands and atolls, are very community oriented, so there is not the kind of extensive, costly campaigning that happens in larger countries. 

“It all happened pretty fast,” he said. “The elections were held and I got elected, and now I’m working to do the best job that I can.”

Varu is thankful for the gospel and the moral teachings he received throughout his life, expressing gratitude for parents, grandparents, and members of his church community whose lives and examples have informed the decisions he makes today.

“There are many challenges that face our small nation, so I’m working closely with my fellow members of parliament to look for solutions to them,” he said. “There’s a lot of reading you have to do to keep up with the work of the Parliament but, more importantly, you have to do a lot of listening.”

"For me, the key is to not rush, to take the time to hear all sides of things,” Varu said.

He said the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ he received throughout his life has fuelled his desire to make decisions that will be beneficial to everybody in the Cook Islands.  

“I’m just really thankful for what I have been taught in the gospel, and I try to balance the problems we’re hearing about against these teachings that have guided me all my life,” he said. “I just want to do what is right.”

Varu and his wife, Anna, are the parents of three children. He presently serves as first counsellor in the presidency of the Arorangi Branch of the Avarua Cook Islands District.

-LDS Church