In Tonga, relief and recovery efforts are continuing after the January 15 eruption of an undersea volcano and subsequent tsunami. Coastal resorts collapsed, outlying islands were severely damaged, communication with the outside world was cut off, and a thick layer of ash settled over the affected area. More than 2,000 people are still homeless. The eruption was so powerful that satellites captured images of clouds of ash from space and the sound was heard more than 1,400 miles away in New Zealand. Tsunami waves are reported to have reached the coasts of California and Peru. Right now, the death toll stands at six.
On the main island of Tongatapu, the Church of the Nazarene operates a compassionate ministry for children living with disabilities called Mango Tree Center. Missionaries and Mango Tree Center directors In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok Kim shared a first-hand account of their experience during and after the eruption, written February 3. They ask the church to pray for Tonga and those impacted by the disaster.
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 is some brown-colored snow had rained all over. 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 peace and that they will recover quickly.
2. Among the people with disabilities and their families the Mango Tree Center helps, there is a family whose son has cerebral palsy. They 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 face mask. And because the air quality is poor, there are concerns about respiratory diseases.
4. The government announced on February2 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 two more people. They are 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 the victims of the volcanic eruption 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 those with disabilities with the love of Jesus.
- In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok Kim