Recently a “dream team” of sorts, comprised of five women from Nazarene churches in Whangarei and Auckland, New Zealand, and ranging in age from fifteen to their mid-fiftys, went to the Kingdom of Tonga to help at the Mango Tree Center.   The center works with children and adults who have disabilities, providing Braille classes,  physio-therapy, and many other types of support.  Those with disabilities are not the only ones served, but their families as well.

The Mango Tree Center, which is a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene, is visited by many teams who support them in various ways, but this team was the first to come solely for the purpose of holding programs specifically for the disabled children.  The approach of the team was to host a special one-of-a-kind camp specifically designed for the most vulnerable in that society, the severely disabled children.  The first day of camp included a  whirlwind of activities including touching, smelling, tasting, and singing through activities such as songs, stories and crafts.

“This was truly a blessed messy-ness,” said one team member.

The team worked like clockwork with the youngest members, Lina and Lucy, playing with and supporting the children as if they had worked with special needs children for years.  One team member, Alison, was a school teacher and although she had not worked with children at this level of disability, she clicked into teacher mode and worked efficiently.  Donna worked with the children also and had a real rapport with the mothers with whom she shared her unique testimony.  The team was lead by Collean Stott, a special needs teacher at the Carlsen School in Auckland.

Each day the team members reflected on the events and made adjustments to the program as needed. In the afternoons the Nazarene Missionary and director of the Center, In-Kwon Kim and his wife Jeong-Seok, took the team to the homes of the children who were not able travel to the center.  They sang, played, and prayed with each child and their family.

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The team received an incredible blessing as they worked alongside the other volunteers and supported the Kims in their ministry.

“Jeong-Seok, I, and the children with disabilities were so blessed,” stated Kim.

You can visit this link for more information about partnering with the Mango Tree Respite Center.

Story Contributors Alison Weinstock, Collean Stott and In-Kwon Kim