When the Princess Ashika ferry capsized en route to the Tongan Island of Vava'u in August, the hope of better medical care on the island went down with it. A supplies-filled ambulance, donated by the City of Sanger and United Methodist congregations in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, now rests alongside the ferry on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The loss of the ambulance compounded a tragedy of epic proportions, when 73* people, including all the women and children aboard the vessel, were killed. It would be difficult to find a Tongan untouched by the tragedy, and in fact, three Cal-Nev clergy lost members of their own families.
So it is with a measure of joy and a huge helping of gratitude that the Rev. Siosifa ("Sifa") Hingano, pastor of Genesis UMC in San Jose, announces that the lost ambulance has been replaced - by two others!
A member of Sanger UMC, the church Hingano pastored for the past six years, contacted him to say that Fresno Community Hospital, where she works as a registered nurse, will donate two fully-stocked ambulances to Tonga: one for Vava'u and one for the main island. Jackie Karle participated in a mission trip to Tonga a few years ago and was moved to help as soon as she returned to work after extensive cancer treatments - a miracle in itself! Hingano reports that although the disease was at an advanced stage when it was discovered, Karle now has been found to be cancer free.
Her role in the ambulance replacement is "a double miracle for Jackie and the Kingdom of Tonga," he says.
A fundraising drive is underway to underwrite the cost of shipping the two ambulances to Tonga, estimated at $20,000. You may send donations to Sanger UMC, 1612 9th Street, Sanger, CA 93657.
Rev. Hingano has written a letter to express his appreciation to Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., the Rev. Kristie Olah, San Jose District Superintendent, and all the people of the California-Nevada Annual Conference for their prayers and support while the Tongan community has dealt with the Princess Ashika tragedy.
*According to the British newspaper Lloyd's List, the original death toll of 90+ was revised downward when a group of people reported missing was found not to have been aboard, and some passengers thought to have perished were found unharmed.