A week before Christmas 2020, Tropical Cyclone Yasa made landfall in Fiji.

A monstrous category five storm, Tropical Cyclone (TC) Yasa devoured crops, tore houses apart and left thousands homeless; the reconstruction bill ran into the billions. Many Fijians say it was the worst cyclone they’ve ever experienced.

“TC Yasa was the first time people really believed they’d been empowered to help themselves in the aftermath of a disaster, and it was the work of the Church that made it happen,” says Noa Tokavou, who leads disaster preparation and response work for the Methodist Church in Fiji. “My role was to help people prepare and also to give them the ability to decide for themselves how resources like clothing, food, water should be distributed among the most vulnerable.”

The Methodist Church in Fiji is the largest church in Fiji, with presence in even the most remote islands – a powerful voice for change in a culture where most people identify as Christian. “We have been using teaching resources that our Pacific theologians developed with the help of UnitingWorld to preach and teach about the big issues for our culture: where God can be found in disaster, how to look after creation, gender equality and child protection,” Noa says.

“We have chaplains who are providing counselling to the survivors of disaster, and practical training in disaster risk assessment. People are responding really well; they no longer feel ignored or helpless.” Noa has a long history of involvement in the Pacific community, but has a special heart for remote, isolated parts of his country, where human trafficking still 

devastates lives and families lack the resources they need to stay healthy or send their children to school. “My motivation is the words of Paul in Corinthians that describe what God’s love is like,” he says. “It’s very practical – about being patient, kind, truthful – and I try to live this out among the most vulnerable people in our communities.” The Methodist Church in Fiji regards the Uniting Church in Australia as a ‘big brother’ and is incredibly grateful for the prayer, support and resourcing we offer.

“Our church is run financially by the giving of our people, who pay a levy to become a member,” Noa says. “Many of our districts are really lacking in financial resources, and we’re grateful not just for the funds you provide, but for the support and many offers of prayer we receive.”

LOVE in action

• MCIF serves the community through schools, colleges and hospitals across the country.

• They help communities to assess climate risk, advocate for sound climate policies, provide trauma counselling in times of disaster and support people to build back better.

• They support communities in the informal settlements to educate children.

• UnitingWorld supports their program to teach the equality of men and women and end domestic violence, as well as supporting their climate resilience and child protection work.

1. Leadership

Give thanks for the support of Australian and other Pacific partners who are assisting Fiji with disaster preparation and best practice climate change response.

2. Welbeing

Pray that Australia and other wealthy nations will act ambitiously to curb their emissions, and work in partnership with Pacific nations to build resilience to the impacts of climate change (such as extreme weather events, land erosion and salt water in the drinking table due to sea level rise).

3. Solidarity

Pray for the COVID-19 response, particularly in outlying areas where health messaging is still not well recieved and people are vulnerable to conspiracy theories embedded in religious ideology.

Your voice as a citizen is vital if Australia is to do our bit to fight climate change. Visit the Climate Council (www.climatecouncil.org.au), learn about how you can advocate for action that will save not just Fiji but our own incredible bushlands, reefs and wildlife.

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