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Tongans lost in transition


The once friendly islands of Tonga have been shaken by the mass riots and destruction in Nuku’alofa last November.

Contributed to by those marginalized within the community particularly deportees from the US, Australia and New Zealand, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga has established a program to come alongside these unsettled and marginalised youth with the love of Jesus.

The Rev Fili and his team aim to disciple and support them as they work through their anger and take on skills to create a new life back in Tonga. They meet on the streets but building trust is hard and the work is slow.

Sioleli, first on board

Sioleli was one of those departed from San Francisco. Once a truck driver and family man, he ‘got mixed up with the wrong group’ and became a member of one of the many Tongan gangs doing drugs and crime.

After four years in jail Sioeli was deported arriving in Nuku’alofa feeling alone, angry, rejected and outcast.

Luckily he met Stan a project worker from the Uniting Church in Australia and a boy from his childhood. Sioeli soon became a part of the project and felt he belonged.

“Three close mates have been killed in gang violence. It’s been very tough but I can see it has been God’s plan to save me and reconnect through deportation.

"When I was on the streets I thought I was free and could do anything. Now I realise that is not real freedom.

"I want to show youngsters who think that drugs and alcohol make you look good that there is another way.”

Sioeli is now involved with the Free Wesleyan Church as a full time evangelist in training.

As Sioeli says, ‘This is the first step for me. I’m looking forward to reaching out to others and sharing the gospel. I’m not too old to do God’s work.’

From dependency to self supporting

Uniting International Mission has committed to supporting the Free Wesleyan Church $39,000 each year for the first three start-up years with the longer term goal of the project being self supporting.

In October they will be asking churches around Australia and their regular supporters if they will help save those ‘lost in transition’?

Visit www.uim.uca.org.au/uim/welcome for more information and for donation details.