When we last wrote an update on the progress of our mission in Tonga (see that article HERE), the Kingdom was still closed to any outside visitors. Thanks to God, the Kingdom of Tonga has re-opened its borders, and all restrictions related to COVID-19 have been lifted. We are very excited to announce that one of our clergy from Fiji, Fr. Bartholomew Senibulu, has agreed to move to our mission center in Tonga with his family to re-establish the Apostolic ministry there. He will be joined by the Jones family from the United States, who spent a year at our mission in Fiji and are preparing to return to the South Pacific to assist the Metropolis in Tonga. Together, these two families will resume the liturgical services, reconnect with the Orthodox faithful in Tonga, and continue the work of sharing the Orthodox faith with the people of Tonga.
During the COVID pandemic our Metropolis was unable to send a priest or diocesan representative due to two and a half years of strict lockdowns. Consequently, the mission property, a 0.2 acre parcel including a small chapel, rectory and the large Church of St. George (under construction), is in need of repairs and maintenance. In particular, the rectory is in need of basic maintenance one would expect after 10 years in the harsh tropical climate, plus vegetation has quickly grown over the property, some damage has occurred from unauthorized use, and all of the usable furniture, appliances and supplies were stolen.
Our Metropolis has developed a plan to reclaim and beautify the mission property so that we can resume the liturgical services. Our vision is to make the mission a place of beauty where and members and guests of the mission feel welcome and can experience the rest and peace that the Orthodox way of life offers, similar to what one might experience when visiting a well-tended monastery. We believe this is the best way to help the parish will grow in strength, faith and numbers. God-willing, the Orthodox faithful of Tonga will begin to take on the task of completing the Church of St. George and growing the Church in Tonga, thus beginning a healthy cycle which will lead towards long term self-sustainability.
In addition to this beautification project, the Metropolis has identified two parcels adjacent to the Tonga mission centre which would be ideal sites to expand our ministries and capabilities there, perhaps with additional housing, an education and catechism facility or a workshop where the Church can provide job skills training for the local people. We are also prayerfully considering where else in Tonga the people are eager to receive the Orthodox Church and will continue to expand as God allows.
We ask all of you to keep the Apostolic Ministry in Oceania in your prayers. Additionally, if the Holy Spirit stirs your heart to assist in this important and blessed work, whether through a monetary donation, or by participating in the work yourself, contact us HERE or through our social media platforms below. Thank you for your prayers and continued support of the Orthodox Apostolic Ministry in Oceania.