Ilai (Iosua) Koomwaiyou was born and raised a member of the Congregational Christian Church in Samoa, and sincerely believed his church was the true one, and he faithfully attended church on Sundays. He tells his story in his own words:
In my late-20’s, I was involved in some complicated problems. My aunt, a Seventh-day Adventist, reached out to assist and support me when I was in deep trouble and in need of help. This act of kindness touched me deeply. When my aunt shared her church beliefs with me, I took an interest in what she said because of the genuine love she showed for me during my troubles. The most difficult principle of the Seventh-day Adventist Church which I found hard to accept was the seventh-day Sabbath. I had always believed that Sunday was the Sabbath, however, with Bible studies from my aunt’s pastor, I was finally convinced that the Sabbath of the Lord is Saturday, the seventh day of the week. While it was hard to go to church on the day in which sports, events and everything important in my life took place, I realized that I had to go all the way to obey God.
On 18 June 1983, I was baptized at the Fasitootai Church, as there is no church in my neighbouring village, Leulumoega. I am the only Seventh-day Adventist in my immediate family, but I have been very fortunate to be able to join the only church which keeps all of God’s commandments.
When the Government changed the International Dateline to the side where it was originally, I really thought there wouldn’t be any confusion and question in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath as it is a straightforward matter, and I was very surprised when our leaders decided to keep Sunday instead of Saturday. The Bible clearly gives us the command to keep the seventh-day sabbath. Jesus kept the Sabbath, and even in His death, He rested in the grave on Sabbath and rose on Sunday, he first day of the week. I could not believe that my church, which means so much to me, and which has been known by everyone in Samoa the Sabbath-keeping church, has decided to keep Sunday instead of Sabbath! I just cannot and could not accept this belief, nor will I ever consider going back to Sunday keeping.
Last year, I was an elder and the treasurer of our Fasitootai SDA Church. This year, I was appointed as Assistant Head Elder and Sabbath School Leader for our church. When the church leaders gave the instruction for us to keep Sunday as the Sabbath, I made up my mind to keep God’s sabbath at home and not go to worship on Sunday. When the Fasitootai Church found out that I was not worshipping on Sunday, I was stripped of my church responsibilities.
After several Sabbaths of reading our Bibles at home on Sabbath, another family who used to worship with me at the Fasitootai Church informed me that they had received information from overseas that there were Sabbath keepers at Samatau. We came to find out if this is true and we were warmly welcomed by our Sabbath-keeping brothers and sisters in Samatau. This (March 24) is our third Sabbath of worship at Samatau. We come in the morning and stay until after the afternoon service, and we are very contented to again be able to worship God on the seventh-day Sabbath, which He commanded us to do.
I used to talk to another Fasitootai Sunday keeper friend to share my reasons for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, but he has been asked by others not to waste his time talking to me. Some former members whom I worshipped with still talk to me, though very briefly and not as open as before, but others are furious at me for not worshipping on Sunday. I have asked them not to get mad at me and not to listen to false gossip being circulated about the “rebellious Sabbath keepers.” We are obeying the will of God – not the instructions of men.
I thank all the members of God’s family overseas for their prayers and support for the Sabbath keepers in Samoa. My request is that you continue to pray for us as we need strength and encouragement.
I thank God for giving me the understanding and a heart to be able to hold on, despite not knowing at first that there were other faithful believers who, like me opted to obey God rather than the local and overseas leaders of the Church who directed that we worship on Sunday. I kept Sunday blindly most of my life when I was a member of another faith but I am not going back to that. I know the Sabbath truth, and I will remain firm until my Lord returns, for I want to be saved.
Ilai (Iosua) Koomwaiyou is a 54-year-old Seventh-day Adventist form Leulumoega,