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How Two Mission Companions Discovered They Were Cousins

Alia Tanuvasa and Megan Young learned they were first cousins once removed after becoming friends during a preparation day activity

Megan Young, left, and Alia Tanuvasa were both serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission when they learned they were first cousins once removed. The two had previously never met. Photo provided by Megan Young and Alia Tanuvasa, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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By Kaitlyn Bancroft, Church News

Sister Alia Stone, from Macomb, Illinois, was new to the Alabama Birmingham Mission in July 2020 when she learned that a fellow missionary was a cousin she’d never met.

Sister Stone had been serving in New Zealand until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She returned home for several months before being reassigned to Hawaii — but the week before she was due to leave, she was again reassigned, this time to the Alabama Birmingham Mission.

After so much upheaval to her mission plans, she was confused about why the Lord was sending her to Alabama. But then she met Sister Megan Sintay, from Lindon, Utah, during a preparation-day game of volleyball.

The two connected over their shared Polynesian backgrounds. And when they checked their Facebook accounts to see who their mutual friends were, they realized they shared the same “Uncle Bill.”

Sister Stone and Sister Santay compared their family trees and learned they were first cousins once removed. But despite being only two months apart in age, the girls had never met before.

The experience was the start of many “miracles” that the two described as a result of their meeting. They served as mission companions for one transfer, and their friendship helped heal rifts and rebuild connections in their family; later, they were married during the same week in the same temple — Alia Stone becoming Alia Tanuvasa and Megan Sintay becoming Megan Young.

Young said she and Tanuvasa sometimes jokingly told their mission president that they have him to thank for bringing them together.

“But he’d always … point his finger up and [say], ‘Nope, this is the Lord putting you guys together,’” Young said.

Sister Megan Sintay, left, and Sister Alia Stone smile for a photo while serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission in 2020. The two are cousins but had never met before serving in the same mission. Photo provided by Megan Young and Alia Tanuvasa, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Real-time Family History Work

Tanuvasa and Young said their mission was primarily focused on family history work. A typical day included, when possible, visiting local Church members and discussing photos, family trees and other genealogy related-information.

It was a particularly special role for Tanuvasa and Young, who were experiencing the blessings of connecting with family in real time. Tanuvasa said she and Young loved telling stories about their shared ancestors, and doing their family history work brought them closer together.

“That [was] a miracle in and of itself, for other people to see [that] God does work in mysterious ways and… in our family history right now, together,” she said.

Young said she’d previously taught about gathering Israel on both sides of the veil, but after meeting Tanuvasa, she truly lived that principle.

“The spirit of Elijah was so strong,” she said, adding, “I felt like we could totally feel [our ancestors’] presence. … It just felt like they were cheering us on from the other side.”

The missionary badges of Sister Alia Stone and Sister Megan Sintay are displayed in the sand in 2020. The two are cousins but had never met before serving in the same mission. Photo provided by Megan Young and Alia Tanuvasa, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

That feeling persisted when they both completed their missions between November and December 2020 and began visiting family members they previously hadn’t met. Young said “pure joy” came from those meetings, while Tanuvasa recalled how her grandfather seemed happier than she’d ever seen him after a night spent reconnecting with family members.

Her grandfather recently passed away, she continued, and while that event brought the family closer, “it was comforting that we already had started rebuilding and reconnecting the family. … We’re so grateful that we got to meet each other [and] that we’re a part of each other’s lives.”

Another blessing Young and Tanuvasa have experienced is learning more about their Polynesian heritage. Young said that, despite her ancestry, she didn’t know much about Polynesian culture before meeting Tanuvasa.

“She’s passionate about where we come from, [our] culture and the language,” Young said about Tanuvasa, adding, “She was really able to help me come to love … my identity [and] understand that part of me.”

Alia Tanuvasa, front right, and Megan Young, looking over her shoulder, spend time with their cousins. Photo provided by Megan Young and Alia Tanuvasa, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Cousins, Companions, Friends

Young and Tanuvasa have stayed close since returning home from their missions — they even got married during the same week in May 2022 in the Payson Utah Temple.

These days, the 24-year-olds live and work in Utah. Young is a master esthetician who runs her own practice while attending Utah Valley University, and Tanuvasa is a Samoan language teacher at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

They affectionately call each other “hoa,” a Tongan word that means “companion.”

“We’re not just cousins, but we’re also companions and we’re friends,” Tanuvasa said, adding that God gave her a best friend who’s family, too.

“One of our main goals is to … continue collecting family history stories together and really strengthen our family ties,” she said.

Alia Tanuvasa, second from left, stands with her husband, Kanoah Tanuvasa, left; and Megan Young, second from right, stands with her husband, Maxwell Young, right. The couples were married in May 2022. Photo provided by Megan Young and Alia Tanuvasa, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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