Praying for Tonga – as we wait news from outer islands

There have been no casualties on Tonga’s main island following the weekend’s massive Volcanic eruption, but lots of houses are damaged, according to a message from Rev ‘Ulufonua from Ha’apai in Tonga to Tongan Methodist ministers in New Zealand, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reports.

(Update: a British expat woman has been reported missing)

New Zealand MP Jenny Salsa, who is Tongan, said, “One of the main things that they’re dealing with right now is the damage to the water system and the fact that not all of the people were able to protect some of the tank water that they collect from the rain.

“There are 169 islands in all of Tonga, 36 of those are inhabited, and so we don’t have updates from any of those other islands.”

The volcanic eruption is believed to be the largest since Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. Communication with Tonga is extremely limited with damage to the Southern Cross cable.

The runway on the main island is intact, with ash needing to be cleared from it, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta told RNZ.

Tongan Christian Radio asked for prayer. “Pray for the Kingdom of Tonga following yesterday’s massive underwater volcano eruptions at Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, that could be heard clearly in New Zealand (2500km away).

“Tsunami waves surged across the shorelines, and while the damage around the Tongan islands of Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u is reported to be minimal, the tsunami surge destroyed boats and damaged coastal areas as far away as New Zealand and Peru.

“Thankfully, we understand from the latest reports that the extent of the damage is not as great as originally feared, although the air is toxic and water catchments are becoming polluted with the ash fall-out – so clean water is urgently needed. Shops have been allowed to open between 10am and 2pm  [Sunday].”

Australian Christians have been praying. Mata Havea Hiliau, Moderator-elect of the Uniting Church NSW and ACT, prayed live on Facebook yesterday, urging people to light a candle of hope and pray without ceasing for  Tonga.

“Friends and family, like every Tongan around the world, just could not sleep because of the darkest night for sure for Tonga at this present moment. Conclusion: There are family and friends and all Tongans that are suffering in Tonga. And I wanted to jump on live – I don’t normally do live … to join in prayer and solidarity, with Tongans, and non-Tongans around the world in prayer, for God’s protection over Tongan people.

Mata Havea Hiliau prays for Tonga.

“At this time, many of you will know from the news that there has been a volcanic eruption in Tonga … and a Tsunami that has taken place. Many of us have not been able to contact any of our family and loved ones in Tonga. All we can do is to gather together to pray.

“If you have a candle, lying around at home… I have this special candle I received a couple of months ago [gestures to candle] And I want to encourage you to light a candle for Tonga this evening as we continue to join in prayer. [Lights candle.]

“Lord, may your light shine in the midst of darkness, for we know that wherever your light shines, darkness shall not overcome it.

“Almighty God, you are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Tonight is one of the darkest nights in the Kingdom of Tonga. Everyone joins with thousands and thousands of Tongans and millions of people around the world praying for our little island nation of Tonga that has been devastated by a Tsunami and the eruption of a volcano.

“Lord, we pray for a miracle tonight. We pray for our family and our loved ones, the whole people of Tonga. Lord, be with them. Tonight as we lit this candle as a reminder that you are with us, and in the darkest night, O God, our hope is in you. Lord, may you hear our prayers, the prayers of our hearts, those who have joined – we uphold to you their loved ones [and] their families at this time. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray.”

(Please search Uniting Church NSW & ACT on Facebook to view this video.)

“We are reminded of our vulnerability as human creatures who inhabit this vast earth,” says a prayer by Dean Sandy Grant posted by St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney. “As the ancient psalmist wrote, ‘You are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.’ So gather those affected under your wings, calm their fears and keep our faith strong.

“We pray for those in Tonga who grieve any loss of life; for the injured or traumatised; for those searching for family; for those whose property has been destroyed or livelihoods ruined. We ask for your healing presence in their lives.

“We ask you to strengthen all those who have been involved in search and rescue and in care for the injured. Be with the Tongan government, and support efforts sent from other governments around the world, along with aid agencies, churches and other organisations, as they seek to serve. Sustain them through a time of tremendous stress.

“We pray for Tongan migrants among us in Australia who feel homesick and far away from loved ones at this time. Sustain all those seeking to restore communications within Tonga. We commend to your care those are working in the cleanup. May shelter, clean water, food, and medicines be supplied as quickly as possible. May generous gestures of practical aid and prayer support offered lift the spirits of those who hurt.”

 Bible Society South Pacific (BSSP) sends this urgent request:

“Sincerely, requesting your prayer support for Tonga, and specifically for our BSSP representatives and their families at this time with the Volcanic eruption and Tsunami that happened in Tonga last Saturday.

“We all can only imagine the extent of the damage, and what the people are actually going through at this terrifying turn of natural events. The best support we could give for now is our sincere prayers and hope , and the more we find out in the coming days, will give us information on the best support we could provide with what we could help our collogues in Tonga with.
“May God guide and bless you all, as we turn our thoughts and prayers for Tonga and our BSSP colleagues.”

Prayer meetings are being organised. A special Prayer Night via Zoom for Tonga and Fiji will be held by FamilyVoice Australia on Thursday night at 7pm (AEDT). Rev. Mata Havea Hiliau (whose prayers we feature above) from the  Tongan community, will be joined by Rev. Viniana Ravetali of the Fijian Community and Greg Bondar of FamilyVoice Australia. Register here.