Fiji Mission president Pastor Luke Narabe has called for church members around the world to continue praying for his nation after Cyclone Winston destroyed an estimated 70 Adventist churches and seven schools, with the damage bill predicted to top $F2.1 million.
“The Mission desperately needs a project manager to bring all of this together,” Pastor Narabe said.
Despite the devastation, general secretary Pastor Joe Talemaitoga said the people are “still smiling”. “They are bearing up, life has to go on,” he said.
Pastor Talemaitoga has travelled to many of the damaged sites, filming short videos that can be viewed on the “My Mission–Fiji Mission of Seventh-day Adventists” Facebook page.
One of the videos shows flattened churches and school buildings missing roofs. Navesau Adventist Secondary School, Lewa Adventist Primary School, Peni Tavodi Memorial, Naqia, Navolau and Namara churches were either destroyed or suffered extensive water damage.
John is still smiling as he stands in the remains of his house
John, a teacher from Navesau, sheltered with his wife and two-year old daughter in the kitchen of the partially flooded school dining hall after his house was destroyed. “It was terrible,” he said, describing the cyclone. “I could say I’ve never experienced something so devastating. Broken glass [flying] and the sound of rushing wind, all this corrugated iron . . . It was like in a movie, a horror movie. Much more than that because I’m experiencing it first hand.” (For John’s full story, visit <www.record.net.au>.)
The school, which has about 300 students from Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea, needs $F450k to be fully functional again. It is anticipated that this will take three or four months. In the meantime, students will live and study at the old Fulton campus at Tailevu. A working bee to clean up the site was assisted by two busloads of students and staff from the new Fulton College campus, as well as Trans-Pacific Union staff.
The Fiji Mission has provided 2100 food parcels for cyclone survivors, committing $F60,000 aid.
Many Adventist students, church members and staff are helping out with the clean-up effort. “It’s a great feeling to know that church members are ready and willing to take time off work and volunteering, men and women, to come and do whatever needs to be done,” Pastor Talemaitoga said. A church member from the island of Qamea was seriously injured by flying iron roofing while running for cover when the cyclone hit. He was airlifted to a Suva hospital.
Volunteers have been handing out food packs
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is at the forefront of the emergency response and has distributed food and hygiene kits to more than 1000 families. Food packs containing rice, lentils, tuna, sugar and biscuits were distributed to 501 families in Ra Province, one of the worst hit areas, along the northern coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
Meanwhile, more than 600 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits have been delivered to families to help prevent an outbreak of disease, which is common after a disaster. In addition, 244 households received a water filtration system to ensure they have clean water to drink.
“This is not a disaster that people recover from quickly,” said Iliapi Tuwai, country director for ADRA Fiji. “We’ve also begun plans for recovery projects that will help people re-establish their homes and livelihoods.”
Mr Tuwai said the supplies were well received. “In many remote places where we have distributed food, people said we were the first aid organisation to reach them.”
As well as ADRA’s work, there are other glimpses of hope and good news amid the devastation. Fulton College, Suva Adventist College and the Adventist school at Lautoka escaped serious damage and classes have resumed.
The Adventist Church in Vanuatu is asking all of its churches to support a special offering for Fiji on March 26. Its members can relate to the plight of the Fijians as Vanuatu is still recovering from Cyclone Pam, which destroyed 53 churches around 12 months ago.
– Josh Dye and Jarrod Stackelroth