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10 Years of Vava’u Corps!

10 Years of Vava’u Corps!

On March 29, Territorial Leaders Commissioners Julie and Mark Campbell travelled to the beautiful Vava’u Island, along with Tonga Regional Leaders Majors Sevanaia and Vakatoto Wawa, for the tenth anniversary celebrations of Vava’u Corps Plant in the Tonga Region. Major Vakatoto Wawa and Jules Badger tell us the story of the past decade.

Festivities were led by current Corps Planting Officers Captains ‘Eliesa and Selalina Prescott, and the theme for the weekend was ‘Christ in Me’. It was a weekend of reflection and thanksgiving, and a time of celebrating God’s goodness, blessings and faithfulness. Highlights for the anniversary weekend included the enrolment of five new senior soldiers and seven new junior soldiers.

Commissioner Julie Campbell says, ‘We thank God for the many people who have come to faith in Jesus and the many ways the love and compassion of Jesus has been shown through the mission and ministry of Vava’u Corps. We praise God for the past and believe for even greater things in the next 10 years.’

Looking back

Captains Sinoti and ‘Ofa Tomu and their children arrived in Vava’u on 3 January 2013. The first Salvation Army meeting was held ten days later in their rented quarters in Makave Village. Vava’u Corps Plant was officially opened on 17 February 2013, by Lieutenants (now Captains) Bryant and Pauleen Richards (regional leaders at that time), who installed the new officers as leaders of the corps plant. The ex-students’ hall at Tonga College was rented for most programmes, with others taking place in Longomapu Village on the western side of the island, where some of the corps plant pioneer families resided. The Tomus served in Vava’u until March 2015.

Retired Lieutenant Sosiua Palu followed the Tomus briefly before Captains (now Majors) Petuliki and ‘Akesa Mosa’ati served from 2016 until 2020. The officers’ quarters was moved to Talau, a suburb of the capital, Neiafu. In January 2021, the Mosa’atis were followed by the current corps officers.

Kids first

Currently there are five families committed to the corps plant. From its commencement, Vava’u Corps Plant placed great emphasis on developing its ministry to children and young people. This work was funded by child sponsorship and Jeff Farm Trust, alongside wonderful support from Tonga Regional Headquarters. For example, a weekly study class (pōako) runs for both primary and secondary school levels, similar to a homework club but including some teaching in core subjects and reading in English. There is also the opportunity for students to take music lessons and other forms of creative ministry.

In November 2022, the first local children’s camp was held, which was attended by 30 children. In December 2023, a children’s school holiday programme was held over four days in five different villages, concluding with a combined funfair and talent competition. In 2023–2024, Tonga Health funded the provision of equipment, refreshments and prizes for sports and other healthy lifestyle-related activities for children right through to adults.

Other work

The Salvation Army Vava’u runs alcohol and drug awareness training, as well as courses on request for clients who are referred through the courts. Prison and hospital ministry, as well as visitation of the elderly and disadvantaged also take place with assistance from Regional Community Ministries.

‘We thank God for the lives of those who established the work at Vava’u Corps Plant. Lives have been transformed, people have come to know the Lord and made commitments and decisions inviting God to be the Saviour and Master of their lives,’ says Major Vakatoto. ‘God’s faithfulness remains!’

Celebration meetings

Public celebrations commenced on Friday 1 March with families coming together for an evening of vibrant worship. Children and young people performed action songs thanking God for his faithfulness and goodness. Major Vakatoto shared a devotion to conclude the evening.

‘Captains Selalina and Eliesa prepared well for the weekend, and we thank God for their lives, for living the gospel and loving the people they serve,’ explains Vakatoto. ‘Celebrating with them was such a blessing for us and also for those who were present and part of the celebration.’

Vakatoto reports that ‘it was also a privilege to see prisoners being part of the celebration on Sunday. A few of them gave their lives to the Lord. What a blessing!’ A shared fellowship meal followed the service.

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