While the great majority of Adventists in the Samoa-Tokelau mission area joined other Christian churches in worshiping on Sunday, after the government’s dateline realignment on December 30, 2011, a small group of Seventh-day Adventists have continued to worship on the seventh day of the week.
The current dilemma facing Seventh-day Adventists in Samoa has affected me personally in many ways. It has divided my immediate family on the issue, it has split my extended family at Samatau village in Samoa (with most now worshiping on Sunday), and more important it has tested my conviction to keeping the Sabbath day. On the other hand, the situation in Samoa revived my interest and has brought me closer to God. In the process it also led me to be in touch with many Seventh-day Adventist people around the world who are very concerned with the Sabbath position being taken by the Samoa-Tokelau Mission.
By putting pen to paper over the last six weeks, I hope that I have helped SDAs and the public in Samoa to make an informed decision with respect to the opposing views. I also hope that by my providing a local context and background information, SDAs and everyone else around the world will see that the only logical option for the SDA church in Samoa, to honour God, is by keeping the seventh day of the week, which falls on Saturday.
Please forgive me for not replying individually to your emails of encouragement and support for our Sabbath Keepers in Samoa, last week and this week since arriving in Samoa. The urgency to be in Samoa to provide moral support to the few faithful families of Sabbath Keepers, prompted me to travel to Samoa for a week, arriving Friday afternoon from New Zealand.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to the surroundings of a tropical paradise, knowing that I’d be worshiping with some very special people in the ‘history’ of the SDA church in Samoa. Over the last twenty years, I’ve spent 30% of my time in Samoa and 70% in Auckland, New Zealand with my family, and where my SDA church membership is. Whenever I’m in Samoa, I stay at our parents’ (the late Pastor Fereti Puni of Samatau and the late Puataunofo Puni of Matatufu and Puapua) home at Lalovaea where the SDA headquarters in Samoa is located.
I had arranged with my office in Samoa to have the company Land Cruiser ready for me to use during my visit, which I used on Friday afternoon on arrival. But come Sabbath morning, it failed to start. That morning, I was to help transport a few families to the Government Prayer House on Mt. Vaea, including elder Matamua Vaea who was to preach that Sabbath, his wife Savali and their children. Not to be deterred, Matamua, who has severe gout and is on dialysis treatment, caught a taxi (like I did) to make it on time for Sabbath School.
I was the first to arrive with my nephew Ta’i Vise, (whose grandparents, the late Pastor Tavita Niu of Afega and Fetu of Samatau, currently reside in Brisbane, Australia), camera ready to take pictures. Matamua and his family (former members of the Apia church) were the next to arrive, then elder Lealailepule Sini Laikum (former member of the Faleula church), then Lance, Merita and their family arrived (former members of the English speaking Immanuel church), then Faumui and Peka visiting from Melbourne, Australia, then Muliagatele Dr. Rasela Lole (originally from the Wellington Samoan Church, New Zealand) and niece Maranita, then elder Tamua & Malae (former members of the Vailoa church), then Fuaoa Tiaono and daughters (former members of Siusega church), then Emoni Tesese (daughter of the late Pastor Tesese Tasi of Tagata and Avaganofoa of Samatau who currently reside in Brisbane, Australia) and niece Elsa (former members of the English speaking Emmanuel church), then Pule Vaivaioalisi Fanene-Lockington, Tauati Fanene Tariu and Darius Parker Fanene (former members of the Siusega church) also Pasia Fanene Tariu and Seataomanu Fanene Tariu (visiting from Wellington, New Zealand), then Meki (visiting the wife of Pastor Nonu Maiava from Adelaide, Australia), then Tagiilima Suemai and children (former members of the Siusega church), also Sigalu Levale from Brisbane, Australia, then Dan Mulama (former member of the Apia church), and the last to arrive was elder Moananu Okesene and family, from Auckland, New Zealand.
They say a picture paints a thousand words, but I doubt that the pictures I took can describe the joy of the Lord that I witnessed among the ‘Lighthouse’ Sabbath Keepers on Mt. Vaea. I also could not help but wonder at the appropriateness of the Sabbath School lesson, “Judgement and Grace,” in regard to the situation in Samoa. Before the main service, members were given the opportunity to share their testimony.
The highlight of my Sabbath was the sermon by elder Matamua. It was the first time for me to hear Matamua preach, although I grew up next door. What touched me was the knowledge that twenty-five years ago Matamua still had a reputation at Mt. Vaea Nightclub, the roughest bar in Apia, and at all the bars in the capital of Samoa. Yet out of over fifty families who are members of the main church in Samoa, Matamua and his family are the only ones that choose to keep God’s Sabbath.
Over shared lunch, we decided to initiate a special Sabbath this weekend, in Apia, with the Samatau group attending. Since I was heading to Samatau to attend the afternoon youth program, it was then decided that I inform Samatau of the intention to organise a combined program. Since my car wasn’t working, I had to ask my cousin Emoni if she could take me to Samatau, which is an hour’s drive.
We arrived just in time for Sepu to start hitting the hanging oxygen tank with an iron rod (the equivalent of a church bell) to signal the start of the afternoon youth program. After the service, the first photo that I wanted to take was of Sepu and the church bell. There’s nothing special about Sepu, apart from being the leader of the untitled men of the Puni clan at Samatau. Instead it is what Sepu did on the first Sabbath of the new reckoning, 31st December 2011, that will be talked about over many years.
As you know, the Samoa SDA administration had opted for Samoa to start worship on Sunday (of the new reckoning) as the Sabbath. Elder Puni Raea, the head ‘matai’ of the Puni clan, on whose land the Samatau SDA church is built, was scheduled to preach on the first Sunday ‘Sabbath.’ Instead, Puni instructed Sepu to ‘ring the bell’ on Saturday morning. Today, over 13 families at Samatau are now worshiping on Saturday because Sepu ‘rang the bell’ on that first Sabbath day of the new reckoning.
While at Samatau, I was told by the Sabbath Keepers there that they would be meeting the next day, to discuss the letters received from the President, Pastor Uili Solofa, in preparation for a meeting with the Samoa-Tokelau Mission Executive Committee to explain why members at Samatau are worshiping on Saturday.
Heading back to Apia, I asked Emoni if I could be dropped off at Lance and Merita Cutts’ residence at Tulaele, for closing the Sabbath. After prayers, Merita and Lance shared what God had done for them. Then it was Muliagatele Dr. Rasela Loli’s turn. She shared why the Sabbath was a big part of her conversion to Seventh-day Adventism — likewise for Elder Matamua, whose family was Catholic. We had a wonderful sharing with Meki, and also with elder Lealailepule, followed by a heat break and lemon tea.
In my next posting, I hope to provide a pictorial report with more pictures of Sabbath Keepers at the Lighthouse and Samatau, from last Sabbath. I will also provide a brief report from yesterday’s meeting that was called by the President and Executive Committee. The meeting was at Samatau and was attended by representatives of both the Samatau group and the Lighthouse group, who presented their reasons as requested by the Samoa administration.
This week we will be launching the SABBATH KEEPERS NETWORK initiative here in Samoa, with the sole purpose of supporting those groups of people that continue to keep the seventh-day Sabbath in Samoa. We will inform you how you can support by visiting Samoa, providing church resources, making a monetary donation, even forming your prayer group to pray for the situation in Samoa.
Until then, manuia le po (good night).
Pa’u Fereti Puni