Anglican Missions has this afternoon launched an emergency appeal in support of the Anglican Church in Tonga's efforts to reach out to Tongans who lost homes, property or livelihoods when Cyclone Gita rampaged across the Kingdom last night.
And first reports suggest Tongan Anglicans have reason to be proud of their response to their fellow citizen's plight so far.
Not only have numbers of at-risk families taken up Bishop 'Afa Vaka's offer to seek shelter in Anglican Church halls through Tongatapu – but well before the cyclone struck the young people of All Saints' Fasi (recently trained in Community Vulnerability Assessment work) had already identified the most vulnerable families in their neighbourhoods – the widows, the elderly, those in flood-prone areas or whose houses were unsound.
They had identified 22 of these homes – and in the hours before Gita struck, they fanned out to batten down roofs, lift furniture, and to distribute candles, canned fish, matches and biscuits to the widows and the elderly.
The young people are not resting on their laurels, either. They're ready to get cracking on the post-disaster phase – helping assess damage done, needs unmet – and those assessments will be forwarded to Bishop 'Afa, the Diocese of Polynesia and to Anglican Missions.
Anglican Missions CEO Rev. Canon Robert Kereopa says it's clear that the Diocese of Polynesia is “better prepared for Cyclone Gita than it was for Cyclone Winston in 2016 – they've mobilised their preparedness and response efforts very quickly in Tonga”.
Money raised in this Anglican Missions appeal will be used to help the support the families needing most help after Gita, explains Anglican Missions Operations and Project Officer Michael Hartfield.
"We're continuing to talk with relevant partners here in New Zealand and Australia (including Australia's Anglican Overseas Aid and Anglican Board of Missions) to ensure our response and recovery efforts are well co-ordinated."
Tropical Cyclone Gita also caused damage in Samoa last weekend and some funding from this Appeal could go to the Church in Samoa if there's sufficient proven need.
Meanwhile, the cyclone is currently picking up speed and heading toward the southern-most islands of Fiji, although it is unlikely that the main islands will be affected.
Michael says the people of Tonga and Samoa value our prayers.
"And if you, or your parish would like to donate to this Appeal, please refer to our website.
"If you have any questions, please contact the Anglican Missions office: email@example.com, or phone (04) 473 5172."