The End of the World
This is my second day in Tonga. I am here on a humanitarian mission and to teach people how to be resilient. I would like to share with you my first lesson.
We met a man and his wife. His name was Mosese Sa’afi. He was an eyewitness to the largest volcano recorded. He and his wife talked with us about losing their home when the volcano erupted and caused a tsunami.
He did most of the talking, his wife mostly held his arm and wept quietly as he told their story.
On January 15, 2022 at 5:10 p.m. he heard a loud sonic boom and saw a small plume rise above the blue ocean. Soon, other deafening sonic booms shook the air and a plume of ash rose 36 miles into the air.
Unbeknownst to Mosese, the first sonic boom sent waves that would soon crash into his island and destroy his home and all the other homes along the beaches of this seemingly serine paradise island.
Near the shoreline there is nothing left but sand, any evidence of human occupation was washed out to sea.
“I saw a large wave coming very fast and I tried to tell the people to get to higher ground that the wave didn’t look right.
“I have seen waves like this before, but the people didn’t listen. A few went toward the ocean to look. My neighbor grabbed her mother and aunt and held their hands, she tried to get them to move, but they are old.
“The water drug them under the house (built on stilts) and they got separated. After the water rushed back, she moved to higher ground because there were more waves coming.
“She wasn’t strong enough, they got separated, her mother survived, but her aunt did not.”
He told how he heard several large blasts as the volcano erupted and the volcano pushed up 2.4 cubic miles of rock, ash, and sediment. This great plume of smoke and ash rose 36 miles into the air and darkened the skies until the sun was blotted out.
Astronauts in the International Space Station could see the plume rising into the sky. It was the largest recorded volcanic eruption, even larger than the history making Krakatoa eruption of 1883 that killed more than 36,000 people and could be heard 1900 miles away.
The eruption sent a tsunami racing around the world and a sonic blast that circled the earth four times.
In addition to the smoke and ash, the volcano pushed up enough water to affect the earth’s average global temperature.
The amount of water increased the water in the earth’s atmosphere by 10 percent, about 60,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
Volcanoes seldom push up water into the atmosphere, Tonga was unique because of the shape and depth of the bowl-shaped cauldron and shallow water.
It would be hard to imagine a sound this loud since the earth’s atmosphere can only sustain 194 decibels (loudest sound possible in air) which was what was recorded; loud enough to break ear drums.
Nearly 40 miles away A British ship captain reported that half of his crew had shattered ear drums and he wrote, “My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgment has come.”
The sonic boom was heard 6,000 miles away in Alaska. The sound was the loudest sound on earth since 1883 and the Krakatau volcano.
Mosese and many of the simple faithful natives thought it was the end of the world as the sky was darkened and wave after wave inundated the island as the tsunami rushed inland.
Mosese said, “I climbed to the top of the hill. It looked like the end of the world. Soon I couldn’t breathe. I thought Jesus was coming. I wasn’t scared. I was worried for my people.”
The deafening noise, ash falling blotting out the afternoon sun, and the tsunami were not all that occurred.
During the peak of the blast, volcanoes create their own weather system and an astonishing lightning storm ensued.
Space satellites recorded over 2,600 lightning strikes a minute inside the volcanic plume. It is estimated that nearly 200,000 lightning strikes lit up the sky over an eleven-hour period.
For comparison, look at the description found in the scriptures. “And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise.
“And I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises.
“And I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk.
“And I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.”
It is hard to overstate how terrified and life changing an event like this would be. Mosese told me, “We can’t get help from the government because his house was built on his wife’s land (via her brother) and in, Tonga women cannot own land.”
So, they are rebuilding adjacent homes but not his. He now lives in a small shanty that his brother-in-law owns. He lost all his earthly possessions. His wife’s tears flow easily as she relives the nightmare that her husband tells.
He talks with gratitude in his heart that he and his wife are alive to try again, he wants to build a small house again, he wants to live again and grow his garden again and catch fish from the ocean again.
I didn’t teach the first lesson; I was the student. Mosese taught me today that man is resilient.
Our ability to keep living and keep trying is astonishing to me. I have nothing to teach a man such as Mosese who lost everything but his faith; but he has taught me many lessons this day.
I go away after listening to his story and I am more grateful for what I have. My love is more deep and sincere for those that are dear to me.
Be generous with our material possessions; they really aren’t worth as much as we think.
Many out there who suffer in secret practice being resilient just by waking up and trying again. So be kind and listen to our neighbor’s story with an open heart; maybe we can serve those less fortunate.