Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand, are of Tongan descent and have family and friends in Tonga.
So when an offshore volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami that hit the Tongan islands on Saturday, Jan. 15, the New Zealanders knew they had to help.
Recently, several stakes and their neighbors organized projects to send supplies and other relief to Tonga, reported New Zealand Newsroom.
Local businesses donated equipment and shipping containers, and people brought their donations to local chapels where items were sorted, packed and loaded.
“As soon as we heard of the eruption and tsunami in Tonga, we wanted to help,” said Hamilton New Zealand Rotokauri Stake President Ra A. Bacon.
His stake members, along with the Waikato Tongan Community and the Hamilton City Council, worked together on a project in Hamilton, filling three containers with supplies.
Three more containers were filled in Auckland in a project put together by the Auckland New Zealand Penrose Stake. The stake has two large Tongan-speaking congregations.
According to New Zealand Newsroom, cheers of joy erupted when the last container door was closed and the donations were on their way to Tonga.
Lisi Leakehe was there and said, “It was a sacred experience to witness the sacrifices of many who have little, and yet they offered an abundance for their friends, families and people they don’t know.”
Auckland Penrose Stake President Faaleaga Young Yen said, “This project started with love and surely ended with the same spirit of love, sacrifice, joy and gratitude which are all fruits of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
“Giving this service blessed our members’ lives as offerings, and service was rendered without thought for self or family circumstances. It is a recognition of a greater need and love for our brothers and sisters in Tonga that superseded all else.”