Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cyclone Ian Aftermath...

Looking toward the cockpit on our very small plane to Ha'apai
Tuesday, February 4, Garth and I flew to Ha'apai, to see how things were going in the wake of Cyclone Ian. We flew up and back in one day, so our tour of Lifuka and Foa was quick. Pres. Steven Fehoko, a counselor in the mission presidency, had arrived in Ha'apai within days of the cyclone to help coordinate the clean up between the missionaries and bishops. What an amazing man he is. He is a master wood carver by trade.

He met us at the airport, and we got to briefly visit with Elders Montgomery and Ika (zone leaders in Ha'apai) as they headed to Tongatapu to attend the monthly Mission Leadership Council.

In the few weeks Pres. Fehoko had been on Ha'apai he had organized the missionaries into three groups. They would coordinate with the bishops and prioritize what needed to be done. The mornings were spent out working – fixing roofs, clearing debris, rebuilding, cutting fallen trees – whatever was needed. By the time we arrived, he had moved them out into the bush so farmland could be cleared of debris and crops could be replanted. The mission had sent steel-toed boots, long pants and shirts for the missionaries to wear while working, and chain saws to help with clean up. Pres. Fehoko assigned two men from each ward to be in charge of using the chain saws – missionaries were NOT allowed to use the chain saws – Pres. Fehoko wanted to make sure limbs remained intact :) He held a 30-minute “_____” to teach the men how to use and properly care for the chain saws. Many thought they didn't need the training, but Pres. Fehoko was adamant – no training, no chain saw.

Garth supervising the pruning of fallen trees

Two missionaries helping remove fallen trees
No chain saws for missionaries - only machete's
What a tree looks like after it's been "trimmed"

Afternoons when the temperature was at its highest, the missionaries rested. As evening approached the missionaries would divide – some would go back out to work, and others would clean up, put on their missionary attire, and go out proselyting. Many who had been inactive prior to the cyclone were coming back to church, and many nonmembers desired to learn more about the church. The numbers of members is steadily increasing in Ha'apai. God sometimes has to bring us low to bring us back to him.

Missionaries returning in the afternoon from working in the bush
There is still a lot of clean up that needs to be done, and there are still people staying in the LDS chapels at
A woman staying in the Pangai chapel
 night while working on their property during the day, but those numbers are decreasing. The government is still very slow to relinquish any goods – choosing to store them rather than give them out. Who can understand the machinations of a government bureaucratic mind. But the church, as usual, is there helping out. Not only are local members in Vava'u and Tongatapu helping by sending fresh produce, water, and other needed goods, but the church has given $100,000 so far, to buy supplies and whatever else is needed to help aid the cleanup. They are also working to begin building homes for those whose homes were destroyed. These homes will be built for anyone who lost theirs to the cyclone, whether an LDS member or not.

Sleeping boy in the Pangai chapel

The cultural hall in the Pangai chapel - temporary home for many
A visitor inside one of the Red Cross tents

A temporary home (tent) set up next to a home undergoing roof repairs

Downtown Pangai - tents donated by the Red Cross - they were very, very hot inside

When not working in the bush, a missionary is giving a haircut

Firefighters helping with cleanup

Students attending Ha'apai High School cleaning up the school grounds before school can start

Cleanup at Ha'apai High School

Missionary laundry hanging to dry in the cultural hall

Laundry hanging out to dry in the tennis court of the chapel

Laundry hanging to dry on the fence of the church grounds

Missionaries taking a break during the heat of the day

Beginning to rebuild

An elementary school - papers out drying on the lawn

Sima vai (water tanks) collecting rain water at one of the chapels

Faleloa - one of the hardest hit villages

Downed telephone lines and electrical lines - a common site

Minor damage to one of the LDS chapels - a door got blown off and was replaced - pink instead of blue :)

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