Tongans are faith-loving people. So much so, that Tonga closes down on Sundays. If stores had opened the Sunday before Hurricane Gita, a Category 4 devastating storm, perhaps people would have been better supplied, but most important was secure shelter, and that’s hard to come by in Tonga.
Stuff.com New Zealand posted an article focused on the destroyed churches of Tonga, juxtaposed against the gratitude people feel for the lack of casualties. Church buildings of many Christian faiths were badly damaged by the storm.
Sione Tukuafu, a 23-year-old Mormon rugby player, said the sight of any damaged church was an emotional ordeal for his highly religious countrymen.
“I don’t know how to explain, but it hurts us,” he said. “I walk past them every day now and feel pretty sad.”
Finding Protection with the Mormons
Around 6,000 people sought shelter in churches the night of the terrible storm. Many survived even though walls slanted and most roofs were blown off.
But the National Emergency Management Office’s logistics advisor Graham Kenna said Tonga’s sturdily built Mormon churches were responsible for the lack of cyclone-related deaths in the kingdom that night. Mormon churches in Tonga are built out of bricks to American standards, he said, and were known to withstand powerful storms better than the often simply constructed local homes.
Mormon chapels have welcomed people during disasters all over the world. This is just the latest example.