Recovery efforts continue in Tonga after the eruption of an undersea volcano and subsequent tsunami caused chaos for the island nation on 15 January.
The tsunami destroyed all of the coastal resorts and took out the underwater fiber-optic cables, rendering communication from Tonga to the rest of the world impossible. A sub-island of Tonga was completely leveled, and the total death toll remains at six.
The Mango Tree Center is a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene in Tonga that works with handicapped and disabled children and their families. Mango Tree Directors In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok Kim gave a first-hand account of their experience and the battles they face in recovery:
Our family anticipated a huge tsunami coming when the underwater volcano erupted, and we felt a tremendous roar in the air. Buildings trembled, and we had pain in our ears. We hurriedly got into the van and went outside to evacuate to a higher place. Soon after, small stones and dust began to fall from the sky. However, as cars flooded all the roads to evacuate, it was difficult to go forward. We could only move 200 meters away from the center, and we went up to the second floor of the nearby church’s kindergarten building and stayed overnight.
At dawn, I looked outside, and the world was covered in brown as if it had fallen with brown-colored snow. Overnight, volcanic ash fell along with acidic rain, covering the ground in ash with a thickness of 1-2 cm. We have continued to remove ash from the roof, gutter, walls, yard, and playground of the center.
We ask you would pray as follows:
1. Tongan people living on this island were shocked by the huge sonic booms that resounded in the air due to the eruption of an underwater volcano and the tsunami that followed. The volcano still smokes and earthquakes continue around, leaving many people traumatized. Please pray that the Lord will touch them with His heavenly peace and that they will recover quickly.
2. Among the people with disabilities and their families the Mango Tree Centre helps, a family whose son has cerebral palsy lost their house to the tsunami. We immediately delivered drinking water, mattresses, rice, flour, and diapers, but they are not enough to meet the needs of the family. Please pray that the Lord will continue to send helping hands for these families to continue to meet their basic needs.
3. Acidic rain and volcanic ash entered the rainwater tank, polluting the drinking water. In addition, volcanic ash is blown everywhere, making it impossible to go out without a facemask. And because the air quality is poor, there are concerns about respiratory diseases.
4. The government announced on 2 February that two Tongans who were unloading relief supplies from overseas for victims of volcanic eruptions and tsunami were infected with COVID-19, which resulted in community transmission to more than two people. It is the first four COVID cases to appear in Tonga, which had been a COVID-free country. The government started a lockdown, and as a result of this announcement, civilian relief activities for victims of volcanic eruptions and tsunami have stopped, and it is unknown when we will resume.
Please pray with us together for all in Tonga to boldly overcome hardships and sufferings, to restore completely their daily lives, and that God may help us resume the ministry of Mango Tree Center as soon as possible to take care of suffering families with disabilities with the love of Jesus.
Let’s also pray for the people in Tonga that in the midst of all these challenges and experiences, their relationship with Jesus is more intimate and stronger.