Fiji, South Pacific:  The effects of tropical cyclone Winston are widespread on Fiji’s island of Viti Levu. In our time of driving to circumnavigate the five hundred kilometers of island, hour after hour we passed through large swaths of bare forests, stripped and twisted.

coastal exposure fiji1The path that this storm took was very, very wide.  The force of the winds must have been incredible. In the villages between the inland mountains and the coast, very little infrastructure has been left untouched by the cyclone. Some concrete walls have fared marginally better than wooden ones. Most metal roofs are curled or gone. Roof trusses stand naked or are missing altogether. Power lines are down and tangled. In some places the croplands are fiercely ravaged, though thankfully other crops and lands emerged reasonably intact.

People are out and about…quietly gathering, stacking, fixing, nailing, covering and searching. A lot of cleanup has been accomplished already. There is a lot that yet needs doing.

Cement MixingSome Nazarenes are very much engaged in the needed “doing.” We visited a work site where a Nazarene team from local Fijian churches was reconstructing a house that flew away in the storm. There was gentle camaraderie as concrete was mixed and lumber was prepared.

NCM FijiWe drove further around the island. There was another work team – resplendent in their reflective safety vests.

In this location, where the eye of the storm passed directly overhead, our Nazarene pastor fled his home in the height of the storm. He was able to usher his family to a more solid shelter nearby. His own house disappeared up into the storm. His neighbor across the road not only lost his entire house but he also lost his life when the house disintegrated around him. Sobering. There are faces and names and personal stories amongst the details of account of tropical storm Winston.

House Building NCM FijiSome of the destruction from cyclone Winston will heal quickly as tropical climates typically promote rapid re-growth of vegetation. Some wounds will take much longer to heal as the afflicted slowly reconstruct and re-establish. Some hurts may never heal.

At the end of a worship service in a small Church of the Nazarene in one of Fiji’s major cities, we were introduced; she and her husband had been in the city before the cyclone and had returned to their coastal village ahead of Winston’s arrival.

When the cyclone hit, the rising ocean storm surge and the disintegrating concrete and wooden structures in the intense wind forced their fellow villagers to flee inland. The wind, water and flying objects overwhelmed her husband. He did not survive. There are faces and names and personal stories amongst the details of account of tropical storm Winston. They touch us all.

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— Submitted: John Watton, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Asia-Pacific Region