Mango Tree Respite Center, Kingdom of Tonga. Work and Witness is truly a global ministry with sending and receiving churches coming from all points of the earth!
This was clearly demonstrated July 17-24th, when a multicultural, multigenerational Work and Witness team from the New Zealand District arrived at the Mango Tree Respite Center, located in the Kingdom of Tonga, an island nation in the South Pacific.
The team of eleven members who came from five different Nazarene churches on the New Zealand District (New Lynn, Oak Tree, Living Faith, Takinini and Seabrook) exemplified the rich diversity of culture found in this area of the world. Team members, while residents of New Zealand, originally came from areas such as Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue Island, Tonga, and Scotland, in addition to New Zealand. In fact, on the work site, conversations were ongoing in three different languages English, Samoan, and Tongan.
The Mango Tree Respite Center, a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene, ministers to disabled children and their families in the name of Christ. Since its start in 1994 by Nazarene missionaries Duncan and Charmayne Old, it has grown under the leadership of Korean Missionaries In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok Kim, impacting numerous families.
In Tonga, culturally, disabilities represent a curse from God, so people hide their disabled family members, cutting them off from society. The Mango Tree Respite Center is gradually changing this stigma.
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The center provides respite and hygienic care to patients and families with disabilities, vocational training and educational support, rehabilitation services, and ambulatory support equipment including wheelchairs and home modifications, all allowing those with disabilities to live with greater self-esteem.
One of the New Zealand Work and Witness team members, Elvis Ula, has been so touched by the ministry of the Mango Tree Respite Center that on this recent trip, he came with his wife, youngest daughter, and two grandchildren. His story exemplifies how God works through Work and Witness.
In 2012, Elvis was part of a Work and Witness Team to the Mango Tree Respite Center. While born in Tonga, Elvis had left as a teenager, twenty six years earlier, having never returned until coming back with the team. To his incredible surprise, he found a member of his own family, suffering from cerebral palsy, receiving care and compassion at the center.
“This center is part of the ministry of my church in New Zealand. I came to help on a building trip but I never knew that my own family members were recipients of this ministry,” Evis exclaimed. Quite unexpectedly, this ministry had become very personal.
Contributors: Dr. Neville Bartle (New Zealand National District Superintendent)
Moana Tautua (New Zealand National NYI Leader)