From what I've been able to read in the news and hear from friends, the death toll in the Samoan islands has reached at least 100 with a high chance that it will continue to increase as rescuers pick through the wreckage left by the tsunami that hit yesterday morning.
Now that the tsunami has come and gone, we begin the massive relief and rebuilding efforts in Samoa and American Samoa. Islands in both polities have suffered devastating losses of life and property, but many people and organizations, both on and off the islands, have already mobilized to administer relief to the Samoans.
A friend of mine, Sam Denton, said he "called the [LDS Church] headquarters and they were able to tell me that all missionaries are accounted for and OK. I also spoke with the emergency response division of the church. They advised they of course are already working on the ground in Samoa to start relief efforts. Their advise at this time was to give to the humanitarian efforts fund or donate in kind donations to Deseret [Industries]."
An official report from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confirms that the Mormon missionaries in Samoa have all been accounted for, but "two local sister missionaries from the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission serving on the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu, which borders Samoa," are currently missing.
Your prayers and money or in-kind donations are much appreciated. I know that this is a tough time economically for many of us. But think, if you have food and shelter, that is more than many Samoans have at this time.
One easy way to free up some funds is to fast, or abstain from food, for one or two meals and then donate at least the value of the food you would have eaten. The prophet Isaiah said that a true fast is not for the purpose of self-torment, but to administer to the relief of those who need it. He also promised that God would bless those who fasted in this manner. (See Isaiah 58:1-12)
Jesus Christ also taught, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (See Matthew 25:31-46) Another ancient prophet reminds us that "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (See Mosiah 2:17)
For the Samoans, this tsunami is as 9/11 or Katrina were to Americans. Our hearts go out to them. Our prayers ascend to heaven for them. But as faith is an action more than it is a mere passive belief or profession, we will administer to the Samoan people of our substance.
(All photos were taken in American Samoa. Photo Credits: Phil Murphy)