Family members of Tua’oima’alii Numera and Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath keepers gathered at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, July 23, 2012, at the morgue of the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Moto’otua for a short service, before accompanying the body of their fellow Sabbath keeper for his final service and burial at Samatau.
The short service was led by Tapunu’usa Pr. Sioeli Puni, from Los Angeles, USA and Teleiai Dr. Sapa Saifaleupolu from New South Wales, Australia.
At the end of the service, orator ‘matai’ Mano’o Kato Kini spoke on behalf of the grieving family to thank everyone who attended, before the trip to Samatau.
The seven-car convoy, which included the hearse, cars of family members and church members, and a bus carrying Samatau church members, wound its way through the 7:30 a.m. traffic, before the morning rush-hour. I was in the rear car of the convoy, and as we came down the Moto’otua hill, turning left at the four corners at Malifa, and slowly driving past the entrance to the Samoa Tokelau Mission (STM) headquarters at Lalovaea, I thought about the simple life of the humble lay person who was in the coffin on his last trip past the headquarters of the church which, only eight years ago, he had embraced as the true church of God, which church he served with heart and soul until he closed his eyes in the sleep of death.
The 7-car convoy was a short procession when compared to the usual 20-40-car convoys for other church funerals. This was a reminder that Saturday Sabbath keepers in Samoa have been branded as “rebels” by the SPD, TPUM and STM leadership, and by Samoa SDA church members, and that this is part of the price the “rebels” will have to pay for not keeping Sunday as instructed by STM and SPD church leaders.
During the almost 2-hour trip from Moto’otua to Samatau, the church members in the bus sang hymns of farewell to their fellow worshiper, who was no longer able to join them in singing or worship.
Tua’oima’alii Numera’s coffin was carried into his family’s house where there were a short service and a brief rest, as Tua’oima’alii’s family from Saleapaga as well as the Samatau village paid their respects to a ‘matai’ of the Sa Pa’u clan and a much loved father and friend. An hour and a half later, Tua’oima’alii’ Numera’s body was taken to the Samatau SDA Church.
I joined the congregation as they rose to sing, “Days are filled with sorrow and cares, hearts are lonely and drear …” while Tuaoima’alii Numera’s coffin was slowly carried into the church by six Samatau Sabbath keepers. Immediately behind the coffin walked his widow, Falesoa, flanked by two church ministers: Pr. Sioeli Puni, who had arrived with his wife, Arasi, two days earlier, and Tuaoima’alii Numera’s brother, a Methodist minister who had also flown in with his wife from Australia.
As the congregation sang the second verse, “Troubled soul the Saviour can see, every heartache and tear. Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near” the sad group walked slowly past carrying their colleague’s coffin. At that time, I felt tears trickling down my face.
They were not tears of sadness for Tua’oima’alii, as I knew he was beyond the reach of any more sickness or pain, but my tears were of happiness because Tua’oima’alii is now free from ridicule, scorn and rejection. He was rejected by those with whom he had worshiped at the Samatau SDA Church over the last eight years, until the first Sabbath of 2012 – discarded and abandoned by the STM leaders whom he had served honestly, faithfully and loyally for the eight years he was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Samoa.
In addition, my tears were tears of annoyance and disbelief – that church ministers can be so cold, so heartless and so cruel, that even at the death of a humble fellow believer, they would not attend his funeral because he chose to keep the seventh-day Sabbath of the Lord instead of bowing to the might of the STM and SPD to keep Sunday as the Lord’s Sabbath in Samoa.
A few minutes earlier, I had received news that the church ministers in the village had decided to boycott Tuaoima’alii Numera’s funeral, supposedly because he is a member of the “rebellious” group of SDAs. Where did the village ministers get their information from? You make a guess.
My mind was full of ‘whys’ as the service continued. Before too long, we were standing for the second hymn, “Oh meekly wait and murmur not.” As I sang the verse, “Toil on nor deem though sore it be, one sigh unheard one prayer forgot; the day of rest will dawn for thee, wait, meekly wait and murmur not.” I though I surely had been murmuring – at the heartlessness of people!
Just then, I saw Pr. Sione Ausage, Secretary of the STM, and his wife, walking to Tua’oima’alii Numera’s coffin at the front to pay their respects, leaving their bouquet of flowers next to the coffin, a white material to cover the coffin and a gift envelope given to the sorrowful widow, before they joined the congregation in singing. The Samatau SDA pastor’s daughter was also in church to express her sorrow and to give a gift to the grieving family. At that time, I realised that there are still some people with human hearts who will, during sad times, share the pain and the sorrow of their brothers and sisters who have been shunned by the STM church leaders and church members.
Approximately 140 relatives, friends and Sabbath keepers attended the funeral service for Tua’oima’alii Numera.
Tua’oima’alii Numera: You have fought a good fight; you have finished the course, and you have remained faithful to the Lord of the Sabbath until the end. Thank you for your humble and sincere life; thank you for your faith, character and courage. Rest in peace until the golden morning.