Cyclone Winston,the worst storm recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, hit the Islands of Fiji on 22 February, causing widespread devastation. Thousands remain homeless in the wake of the “monster storm.” World Methodist Council received this message from the President of the Methodist Church in Fiji.
24th February, 2016
Dear Partners in Christ,
You would have heard of the disastrous event of severe tropical cyclone Winston battering the Fiji islands this past weekend.
Today the Methodist Church in Fiji’s Disaster Response Committee had their first get together. This committee will continue to be our resource team for all future work that will be undertaken for the care of victims of the cyclone.
Attached is a briefing paper prepared by the committee. Please look at the attachment which should contain information about our response to this disaster. Perhaps it will give you an idea of where you may be able to lend a helping hand to the people of Fiji.
For your information, while we hope to extend hands of care and love to all those who are suffering in this crisis, we are also concerned with our colleagues who have lost everything, our schools, community halls and churches which are damaged and our Methodist brothers and sisters who are traumatised by this disaster. We need to rebuild the infrastructure through which we serve our fellow Fijians.
You may also have heard that the number of lives lost has almost doubled in as many days as we continue to receive reports from our outer islands and remote interior villages.
On behalf of the Methodist community in Fiji, I sincerely thank you for your prayers and support and we hope that together we will be able to help those who are in real need in Fiji.
The thought that there communities of faith such as yours thinking of us and praying for us, and kind- hearted individuals in your country willing to lend a hand, has enabled us to continue with what we should be doing on the ground in Fiji. Please continue to do that.
We are establishing a separated dedicated account, the “Methodist Hurricane Relief Fund” and will provide you the details shortly.
As I received your messages of support, I was reminded of what Wesley termed “Primitive Christianity,” the Early Church’s care and support for each other during times of famine and other difficulties. We give thanks to God for your love and care for us.
May God’s blessings be with you and your communities of faith. Vinaka vakalevu.
Yours in Christian service,
Rev. Tevita N. Banivanua President
This brief from Rev James Bhagwan details the damage and response efforts.
Between the evenings of Friday 19th February, 2016 and Sunday 21st February, Severe Tropic Cyclone Winston – Category 5, unleashed its full fury on Fiji Islands.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed, tens of thousands of people made destitute – without food, shelter or clothing. Schools, halls, churches reduced to rubble. At the start of this report the number of reported deaths was 29. By the time this report was completed the death toll had risen to 42, with more expected. It is without a doubt the worst disaster experienced by the people of Fiji in our history.
Yet we are reminded that we are in the season of Lent, a time of struggling, to put faith into action and that we are people of the resurrection, where life nor death has the final say. The people of Fiji will rise. We will not only give of our excess but share whatever we have. We are #strongerthanwinston.
In the wake of STC Winston the Church has formed a Disaster Response Committee to lead the Church’s response to the humanitarian crisis resulting from the devastation caused the second most powerful storm in the world. The DRC is comprised of the Church’s department heads, divisional superintendents and chief stewards from the Suva (i-Taukei-speaking), Wesley (English Speaking), Indian (Hindi-speaking) Divisions, Churchward Circuit (Rotuman- speaking), as well as divisional heads of a number of Methodist Women’s Fellowships and leaders of Methodist Youth Fellowships. The Deputy General Secretary is the convener and chair of the committee, assisted by the Secretary for Christian Citizenship and Social Services and the Secretary for Communication and Overseas Mission.