Aisake and I began the day early as we needed to catch the 7 a.m. ferry from Taveuni Island to Vanua Levu Island where I am based during this mission. We were staying at Aisake’s daughter’s house at the Taveuni Hospital. She and her husband are both doctors and they basically run the hospital. We had arranged for a cab to pick us up early enough for our boarding time. The cab did not come, so at the last minute, we caught another cab that had delivered someone to the hospital. By then it was after 7 a.m. No worries. The ferry didn’t leave until around 8:30 a.m. Fiji time.
The crossing can be nasty, I’m told. There is an extremely strong current running through the coconut strait and often there are high winds. But we had another very smooth crossing. There was a bit of chop but nothing worth mentioning.
The hour bus ride from the landing to Aisake’s house was also unremarkable. Though the road is unpaved for over half the trip, the suspension is excellent on the express bus and the seating is comfortable and fairly wide. My seat mate was a farmer from Taveuni who farms about 300 acres. Like so many others, he lost his entire crop and his house was more than 50% destroyed. He says it is like starting all over after so many years of farming.
We got to Aisake’s house in good time, had some tea and then headed into town to buy iron roofing material for the house of one of the pastors we work with. His house was badly damaged during Typhoon Winston. This pastor does not receive any guaranteed income from his congregation, so he definitely benefits from this help. I say we bought the roofing material. To be more accurate we ordered it. The hardware store is completely out but we are told a supply is expected this coming Thursday.
I have often wondered why there were so few deaths as a result of this storm, the most powerful ever to hit land in the South Pacific and the 2nd most powerful to hit land anywhere in the world. The sustained winds were clocked at 186 mph with gusts up to 235 mph. The tidal surge was routinely 10 ft and up to 60 ft in some locations. It was over 200 miles across. Yet there were fewer than 75 deaths from across the nation on all the multiple islands that were hit by the storm. I firmly believe it is only by God’s grace that hundreds more people did not die in this storm. There can be no other rational explanation.
I told you yesterday about the village of Navakawau and the 5 waves that were flattened by winds just before they could destroy the village and kill most of the inhabitants. Let me tell you another story that drew national attention right after the storm.
In another coastal village, Nakodu, there was one small, fairly well constructed house that was on a slight rise within the village. Everyone from the village crammed into that structure in order to be safe. Once everyone was inside, people were packed so tightly they couldn’t open the doors.
However, as they fled in panic to take refuge in this house, they forgot about a crippled man who lived in the village. They accidentally left him in his house down by the beach. As the storm began to rage and grow stronger, this man crawled out of his house on his stomach and made his way inch by painful inch to the place of supposed sanctuary. Someone inside saw him through a window. Everyone was too fearful to try to go out and get him and they couldn’t open the doors even if they had wanted to.
Then they saw a massive tidal surge rushing toward the village. It swept through, destroying everything in its path. The house was not on high enough ground to survive the onslaught. The man meanwhile had reached the door, could not get in and was beginning to crawl back down toward whatever shelter he might find.
When the wall of water reached the spot where he was crawling, it split and went on both sides of the man and of the house which was now immediately behind him. The wave wrecked havoc to the entire village as it surged around the man and the house. Destruction was everywhere. As the wall of water receded, it again parted around the house and the man, leaving them untouched.
How many stories like this must there be that we will never hear? Stories like these provide some evidence to the truth of my belief that God intervened to spare lives.
Thanks for your continued prayers. Blessings!