On Saturday, the Vi'iga family of Saleapaga had some visitors. Van loads of men from their church branch in Apia came with hands willing to help. They left town at 4am and by sunrise they were mixng the first load of cement for the foundation of the Vi'igas new home. By the time the last van left after sunset, the roof was up, the floor was hardening and the Vi'iga family was preparing to move their belongings into their new home.
Among these belongings are a chipped wooden cabinet with glass panelled doors. One of the panels has a crack in it. Leua Viiga uses the cabinet to store her glass dishes.They also own a deep chest freezer. Slightly rusting at the edges.It hums quietly in the background of every conversation.
When I visited the Viiga family two months ago, they told me their tsunami story. Leua was at home with her two grandchildren. A seven year old and a three year old. When the wave came, Leua picked up her youngest and ran. But the water was too swift and too strong. Her child was taken from her arms. Their house was swept into a careless pile, burying her underneath it.Her 7 yr old caught hold of the wooden cabinet that was floating by and clung to it. They would find their freezer upside down in a pool of mud- several neighbors down the road.
Leua was badly injured and hospitalized for a month. The little one was found face down in mud. They have a photo of him in their makeshift shelter, draped with shell necklaces. It was a photo taken in the morgue because they have no other pictures of him when he once smiled and laughed. His little grave is out in the yard decorated with colorful streamers and a teddy bear keeps him company.
All these things, the Viiga family told me. But they also told me about their wooden cabinet - "see, this cabinet saved our grandson's life...and none of the dishes in it were broken! you should take a photo of it...it was a miracle"
They told me about their freezer - "see we plugged it in after the tsunami and it still works! Look at it there, theres nothing wrong with it...its a miracle."
In spite of all they have lost. And all they still have yet to endure. The Viiga's have eyes to see "the Lord's hand at work." They can still see miracles. In a chipped wooden cabinet and a rusty freezer.
And now as the wet season rains pour. And gale force winds blow through the mountain hills of the new Saleapaga village, the Viiga family are in their new home. Another miracle?