Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau. MFAI/ 22111415
The Religious Advisory Council (RAC) held its annual national prayer service on Sunday, praying for safety and thanking Lord Jesus Christ for continuing protection during the cyclone season which runs from November to April.
Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau, who delivered
the keynote address, recited the Bible verse of Salamo 121:1-2. “E akara ainei
toku mata ki te au tuaivi? E rauka ainei te tauturu iaku i reira? No ko ia
Iehova ra te tauturu iaku, ko tei anga i te au rangi e te enua. I lift up my
eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the
Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
The prayer service also presented an opportunity for
the different church denominations on the island to unite as one to give glory
to our Saviour Jesus Christ, said Tapaitau.
“Tai Atua, Tai manako, Tai Vaerua, ko te Atua.
“For almost 20 years, we have prayed to our Saviour
for guidance through whatever challenges the coming season might present us
Tapaitau noted the 25th anniversary of
Cyclone Martin that struck Manihiki in 1997 destroying almost every building on
the northern group island, sweeping people into the ocean by the force of the
waves and the winds and claiming 19 lives.
Tapaitau’s father, the late Tepure Tapaitau was serving
as Cook Islands Minister of Disaster Management at the time and was one of the
first to arrive on the island after the cyclone hit.
Accompanied by two doctors, a communications
technician and government officers, Tepure Tapaitau’s immediate priority was to
provide medical assistance to the injured, and to ensure the runway was in a condition
for the Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules to land, said DPM Tapaitau.
The people on the island resiliently worked to ensure
the runway was in a good state – the next day the Hercules landed, loaded with
15 tons of equipment, food, and supplies.
“My father talked about how there was practically no
food or clothing left on the island, other than what people were wearing,” the
Deputy PM said.
“Many of the island’s people were in a state of shock,
he said, with some having spent 19 hours or more in the water, and there were
not enough buildings left standing to shelter all those who needed it.
“Despite this, we know that in the days following this
disaster, those who were left on the island - after the injured and most of the
women and children had been evacuated, set to work with strong will and stronger faith to clear away the damage and
begin the process of rebuilding.
“The men would sing church songs as they worked and
read passages from the Bible when they stopped to rest – their faith continuing
to sustain them even after they had gone through so much.”
Tapaitau hopes and prays that no will ever again have
to endure the level of tragedy and hardship from Cyclone Martin, asking those
present to remember those whose lives were lost and those who were left behind
to pick up the pieces, continuing on with faith still strong in their hearts.
“There is a lot we can learn from them and what they
went through – they have shown us what faith can overcome and by their example.
“I believe our own faith can be strengthened here
tonight, as we join together in our prayers for safety and security this
In closing, Tapaitau quoted Psalms 71:3 – “Be my rock
of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are
my rock and my fortress”, and John 16:33 – “I have told you these things so
that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take
heart – for I have overcome the world.”
According to New Zealand’s National Institute of Water
and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Cook Islands could expect zero to one cyclone
in the 2022/23 TC season.