News Release

French Polynesia Sends Love to Tonga

Government, congregations and communities respond to natural disaster with needed aid

The people of French Polynesia watched with dismay the damage and destruction in Tonga caused by the volcanic eruption and tsunami on 15 January.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout French Polynesia offered prayers and fasting on behalf of their fellow Saints in Tonga, sending messages of support through social media. 

After other natural disasters around the world, many members and friends of the Church have responded by donating generously to the Church’s humanitarian fund or other charitable organizations.

“There were strong feelings among our leaders that we needed to help, but the question was what more could we do to help Tonga,” said Elder Frederic Riemer, Area Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“We asked everyone to pray earnestly to find the best way we could help our brothers and sisters in Tonga.”

The answer came with the announcement by the President of French Polynesia, Edouard Fritch, that the government would charter the ship Tahiti Nui to carry relief supplies to Tonga, the same ship that had taken supplies to Fiji when it was hit by a cyclone last year. He called on the people of Tahiti to again show their customary generosity for their Polynesian neighbours.

Elder Riemer said that this felt like an answer to their prayers. Meeting in an emergency council, he and the nine stake presidents (local church leaders) of Tahiti unanimously made the decision to mobilize: the congregations were invited to collect donations of food, clothing, hygiene products and water. The Fariipiti Stake Center, located in the capital city of Papeete, would be the Church’s gathering point for everything.

Members of the Church responded spontaneously with generosity to Elder Riemer's call for support in this token of love.

Under the supervision of the bishops of the respective wards, numerous volunteers collected, sorted, and packed the donations. Missionaries also joined in to collect the donations, label them and load them into trucks headed for the port.

Friends of other faiths, entire communities and local associations also took part and deposited their donations at the different chapels around the islands of Tahiti and Moorea and directly at the Fariipiti sorting center. Private companies also contributed goods and offered to transport Church donations free of charge due to the large volume of materials being collected.

All of the donations were joined with materials provided by the government and taken to the port of Motu Uta in Papeete.

In the end, more than 250 cubic meters of equipment and supplies weighing over 300 tons were loaded onto the ship. This included water tanks, tarpaulins, wood, sheets, chainsaws, dehydrated food, water bottles, clothing, cleaning and maintenance products, brooms, brushes, and diapers. It also included 30 tons of water. 

The story was reported in local media here and here. Both of these stories are in French.

UPDATE: The Tahiti Nui arrived in Nuku'alofa on 5 February. Because of the recent outbreak of COVID there, it was placed under quarantine while being unloaded with no public access. 

Président Edouard Fritch speaks at a press conference as relief supplies are loaded onto the Tahiti Nui ship heading to Tonga. He is joined by Elder Frederic Riemer from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Roger Tetuanui (right), President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of French Polynesia. January 2022.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

As the final items were being loaded onto the ship, President Fritch thanked the entire population for their generosity and responsiveness.

“The spirit of unity that characterizes our peoples of the Pacific has lived up to its reputation for generosity in the most difficult situations. And it is in these moments that we see that despite the thousands of kilometers that separate us, the ties with Tonga are real and powerful. It’s because we belong to the same family, that of the great people of Oceania.”

President Fritch added: “There is much more than material in the hold of this ship; it also carries the token of our love and the expression of our solidarity.”

Elder Riemer said, “Just with what the Church has collected, we can see all the generosity and the benevolent love of the Polynesian people. We are grateful for every gesture made, every donation given, no matter how small, which responds to the exhortation of Jesus Christ: ‘Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of these least of my brethren , you have done it unto me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

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