Thursday, March 3, 2016

Cyclone Winston

We were supposed to be in Fiji this week for a training conference for the Area Family History Advisers from Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji.  We have spent weeks preparing for it and making all the arrangements.   However, the conference will have to keep.

Cyclone Winston hit Fiji as a Category 5 Cyclone on February 20, destroying 55,000 homes, killing 44 people and directly impacting a further 350,000. 

Those first days after the storm hit were awful as we waited to hear how our dear friends there came through it.  The power was out and all communication was down for some time, so we simply had no way to know the full extent of the damage at first.  As sad as it is that so many were left homeless and many lost their lives, we are deeply grateful that our loved ones there are safe.

Also, the re-dedication of the Fiji Temple was going on when the storm hit, so there were members gathered in Suva from all the surrounding island nations - Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papau New Guinea, Tuvalu, Cook Islands and other areas.

As with all temple dedications, thousands of youth had prepared an impressive cultural celebration.  People had travelled by boat and plane to present their talents for the apostles that were there for the dedication.  "Originally scheduled to be held in the open-air ANZ Stadium in Suva, the event was moved across the street to the enclosed Vodafone Arena—which event organizers had also reserved months in advance.
However, as weather conditions intensified and the government asked everyone to vacate roads by 5:00 p.m., organizers skipped several numbers and had the 1,300 youth perform their finale".  (Church News)

 People of the islands are not strangers to powerful tropical storms, but this one was the most destructive ever recorded to hit landfall in Fiji.   For months to come there will be much work to be done to clean up and rebuild. 

Of course, Missionaries and other volunteers organized through Mormon Helping Hands will be a big part of that effort.

(Photos from Church News)

Living in the Pacific Area we have had opportunities to see more than ever before the inspired way  the Church welfare system is implemented.  Of course there are many organizations that assist in times of disaster.  Our faith teams with a lot of them.  The Church, however,  is truly unique in their method of organization and delivery, using their existing network of church leaders and home teachers to reach out to even the most remote areas with genuine loving concern by those who know and care for those affected.  They have no political agenda and are truly there to help members and non-members alike in Christlike service.

Seeing this work in action reminds us again and again of the Savior's words:

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