Missionary-run radio station broadcasted hope during supertyphoon
Following the many reports of destruction from Supertyphoon Maysak also comes the story of one radio station that remained a guiding light throughout the storm.
Andrea, Alicia, and Matthew Colson are a family of missionaries that have lived in Chuuk for almost two decades. "We have a radio station as well as churches in the different villages and our station is actually the only Chuukese FM radio station there," explained Andrea. "And we reach many of the islands in and outside of the lagoon."
It was this small radio station that served as a beacon of light throughout the storm, with Matthew saying, "We started making announcements on our radio station telling people there is a storm coming, we weren't really sure yet, the updates were kind of hit or miss." By Saturday, it was confirmed the storm was coming. "We started announcing, we know it's Palm Sunday, but you should probably stay home, there's going to be some really bad weather probably around 9 o'clock - just find somewhere to hide, and we just kind of did some announcements like that," he recalled.
When Maysak hit the family said it was more powerful than anyone expected, with sustained winds of 95 miles per hour, and gusts of up to 160 MPH. Matthew continued, "Then came the eye, which basically everything kind of calmed down, and unfortunately, some people thought it was over. They didn't realize that it was just the center, and I realized that because people started driving up asking, 'How were you during the storm?', and I said, 'Well, it's not over yet!'"
So they went back on the air, telling people to hide and find shelter. "We were just praying that our tower would stand, there were two old radio towers that were in our village and they both fell, but our 100-foot freestanding aluminum tower stayed," he said.
Without the other towers, most communication was down in Chuuk, causing concerned family members from around the world to reach out to Andrea via Facebook. "I was getting messages from the mainland, Guam, Hawaii, saying, 'I'm trying to call my family and they're not answering the phone and I'm not sure if they're even alive', and so some of the people I knew and I was able to say, 'They're fine!'," she said.
For people she didn't know, she would take their names and announce it via radio, so they knew their family was concerned about them. The Colson family hopes this is a role they can continue to play with the plan to bring the station online in the next few months. This would continue to allow people from around the world to hear what is going on in Chuuk, and better communicate with their loved ones on the islands.