News Release

Hopes and Homes Rise After Cyclone Devastation

Six families on the Fiji islands of Taveuni and Rabi are now sleeping and living more comfortably thanks to the volunteer service of local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Church members worked alongside home-owners in re-building six homes for families whose houses were destroyed during last year's Cyclone Thomas.

Mario Banidawa is one of the grateful recipients of a re-built home. 60 days after his home was levelled by the cyclone, his wife passed away, adding greatly to his grief.

He recalls how his wife went to Suva for medical treatment, a journey of 10 hours by boat. Doctors could not identify her illness at first, so she attended the temple every day for two weeks seeking answers to her prayers. When she went back to the hospital, doctors were able to identify that she had terminal cancer.

Elder Taniela Wakolo, a senior Church leader from Fiji, visited with Sister Banidawa at this time. He remembers her telling him that the temple gave her peace, and was helping her and her family prepare for her passing.

Local Latter-day Saints rallied to help Brother Banidawa during this difficult time before and after his wife's passing. Recognizing that he was living in a tent since the cyclone, they also assisted with the re-building of his home.

According to Taveuni Church leader, Marika Lesuma, the outreach to the Banidawas has benefited the whole community.

"This humanitarian project has had a positive impact on the members of our faith and members of other faiths as they watched the priesthood in action," he said.

Brother Banidawa has a son serving a mission for the Church in the Marshall Islands, one daughter living in another part of Fiji, and another studying at Brigham Young University – Hawaii.

"Mario is an inspiration to all of us as one who endures to the end," said Sister Jean Sunderlage, a senior missionary serving with her husband on the Fiji island of Taveuni.

The project was made possible by donations from Latter-day Saints worldwide to the Church's Humanitarian Fund. Project funds were used to purchase materials.

"Members of the Banidawa family are separated by long distances and death, but are closer in Christ," Elder Wakolo said.

"We help people to help themselves because this is what Christ taught us to do."


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