On October 13, 2010, Ruth Matthews and Kimeesean Donaldson, members of Genesis United Methodist Church in San Jose, along with the church's pastor, the Rev. Sifa Hingano, and three members of Sanger Rotary, Michael Galan and Larry and Carol Pistacchio, embarked on a three-and-a-half-week mission trip to Tonga.
Genesis UMC had already sent over a container "full to capacity" with clothing, dishes, furniture, and other supplies.
"For our first week and a half we worked along with the Sanger Rotary in installing solar water pumps in villages in Tongatapu, in Houma, and by God's guidance we even installed another solar water pump to a village that had been without water for a month, and distributed some of the items from the container," reports Donaldson. "We then went to the island of Vava'u and installed another solar water pump in Leimatu'a. We visited several other perspective sites for [trips] in the future, [and] delivered some other items from the container."
A year prior, a vicious tsunami had destroyed homes, fishing boats and nets, pandanus trees (used for weaving, a source of income), and destroyed or contaminated many rainwater tanks on Niua Toputapu. Hilltop UMC of Seaside, California and Church of the Wayfarer in Carmel coordinated a relief drive which resulted in two crates of food and supplies being shipped to the devastated area.
The Genesis UMC/Sanger Rotary team also visited the main hospital in Tongatapu and the hospital in Vava'u, along with a domestic violence shelter, Siaatoutai Theological College, and Queen Salote College, where they donated linens. They visited the Free Wesleyan Church communication and archives of Tonga and other Methodist schools, and attended several United Methodist church services.
The volunteers from Genesis UMC also set up a library at Houma Middle School.
"Though we did a lot during our mission, there is still a lot more we could have done," Donaldson says. "We all look forward to going back and doing more work for these beautiful people of God."