Friday, August 28, 2009

Yearbook Experience -Cyclone Val Hits Samoa During Branch Construction

The following info is from the 2009 Yearbook...the large map looks kind of blurry but if you click on the photo for a closeup, it should be clearer...

(Samoa, American Samoa & surrounding islands - pg 73)

(closeup of Sinamoga & Siusega -locations of the original & current Bethel Branch & Assembly Hall facilities)

(the following info is from pgs 121, 122, 125 & 128)
The Need For Branch Expansion 1986, it was clear that the Sinamoga missionary home was too small to serve the branch's growing needs. Consequently, the Governing Body assigned brothers from Brooklyn Design/Build Department and the Regional Engineering Office in Australia to visit Samoa to assess the need for larger facilities. The recommendation? Purchase a seven-acre site at Siusega, three miles inland from Sinamoga, to build a new Bethel complex. Then, once the new branch office was complete, the old Bethel Home at Sinamoga could be dismantled to make way for a new Assembly Hall. Construction of the new branch began in 1990, and what an international undertaking it proved to be! A total of 44 international servants, 69 international volunteers, 38 full-time local volunteers, and many part-time workers labored unitedly on the project. Suddenly, though, when construction was well underway, disaster struck.

Disaster Strikes!
Cyclone Val, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the South Pacific, slammed into Samoa on December 6, 1991. Winds of up to 160 miles an hour battered the tiny islands for five days, defoliating 90 percent of the vegetation and causing $380 million (U.S.) worth of damage. Sadly 16 people lost their lives. "The branch office quickly set relief operations in motion," recalls John Rhodes. Within days, a cargo container filled with relief supplies arrived from the Fiji branch. Funds from other Pacific branches soon followed. "Immediate needs came first," writes Dave Stapleton, an international servant working on the new branch at Siusega. "This involved distributing clean water, tarpaulins, kerosene, and medical supplies to needy brothers. Then we restored Sinamoga Bethel to a usable condition and repaired damaged buildings at the branch construction site. Later, we repaired and rebuilt damaged Kingdom Halls, missionary homes, and homes of individual Witnesses. It took months to finish the work." When the government later provided funds for all religions - including Jehovah's Witnesses - to repair their premises, the brothers returned the funds with a letter suggesting that since all our damage was already repaired, the excess funds could be used to restore government buildings. Grateful government ministers subsequently reduced the import duty on branch construction materials arriving from overseas, resulting in considerable savings.

After the cyclone damage was repaired, the new branch project moved ahead rapidly. A year and a half later, in May 1993, the Bethel family finally made the long-awaited move from Sinamoga to their new home in Siusega. Then, in September 1993, a group of 85 Witness tradesmen from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the United States converged on Samoa to build the Sinamoga Assembly Hall. All traveled at their own expense. "Different building terms and measurement systems were used on the building site," writes Ken Abbott, who led the Australian tradesmen, "but Jehovah's spirit helped us cheerfully to overcome any problems that arose." "Seeing firsthand the international brotherhood in action," observed Abraham Lincoln (no relation. he he) who was with the Hawaiian team, "had a positive effect on everyone." Through the united efforts of the international construction team, the Assembly Hall was completed in just ten days. ( Assembly Hall in 10 days??? that's almost as quick as a Kingdom Hall build!) Local publishers learned valuable trade skills by working with the visitors, and they also benefited spiritually. Hence, after the project was completed, some publishers enrolled as pioneers or entered Bethel service. Finally, on November 20-21, 1993, the dedication of the branch office and Assembly Hall took place. John Barr of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talks. Summing up the feelings of many present on this happy occasion, long-time missionary Paul Evans said: "Jehovah has blessed us far beyond our fondest dreams."
(old branch facilities & missionary home in Sinamoga)

(new Samoan Branch built in 1992 - photo on pg 401 of the JW Proclaimers book)

*I wanted to include this one extra experience from Samoa, since it reminded me of today's text discussion...about how learning God's requirements and applying Bible principles can help people to live a clean, moral lifestyle, despite being surrounded by temptations or by other obstacles which can make living by Christian standards a challenge.

The Truth Transforms Lives (pg 128 & 131)
When the truth of God's Word touches people's hearts, it moves them to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah's elevated standards. Many Samoans have experienced this transforming power of God's Word. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Hebrews 4:12)
For example, Ngongo and Maria Kupu were, as Samoans say, "living in darkness" -that is, living together without being married. "We had studied with Ngongo and Maria for some time," explains Fred Wegener, "but did not realize that they were not married. Then one day they proudly showed us their newly acquired marriage certificate. Soon afterward, they were baptized. Although Ngongo has since died, Maria still serves as a regular pioneer in American Samoa." Another challenge facing new ones in Samoa involves the sanctity of blood. Samoans customarily strangle pigs and chickens before cooking and eating them, a practice forbidden in God's Word. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:13, 14; Acts 15:28, 29) One young woman in American Samoa expressed suprise when she saw in her own Bible God's clear commands on these matters. "Although her family attended church and read the Bible regularly," explains Julie-Anne Padget, "she had eaten unbled meat since childhood. Yet, she immediately accepted the Bible's direction and resolved not to eat any unbled meat." Today, the stand of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the sanctity of blood is well-known throughout Samoa. Futhermore, medical professionals in Samoa are generally willing to respect our stand regarding blood transfusions.