“I was not the smartest kid on the block,” Olga Falasikeni, associate pastor of the Killeen Seventh-day Adventist Church in Killeen, Texas, United States, said. “I barely passed high school. I failed in college. Statistically, I should have been a dropout. But God somehow saw in me something He could use.”
Falasikeni’s remarks were part of her presentation during the DVELiP Leadership Conference, “Re-Thinking Mission,” held in Auburn, Washington, United States, August 29-31, 2021. The conference was organized by the Two Percent Ministry, launched in 2019 to support outreach by and for Pacific Islander communities in the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
DVELiP stands for Discipleship, Vocation, Evangelism, Leadership, Indigenous, and Preaching. Falasikeni coordinated the Vocation segment of the three-day event.
From the Pulpit
For Falasikeni, discussing vocation is a personal enterprise. As the first female Tongan Adventist pastor in the North American Division, she finds that the topic has come up repeatedly through the years.
“My first language is slang,” Falasikeni acknowledged. “But somehow, God saw fit to use me. And I think He placed me in this position to save me. If He hadn’t put me where I am today, I don’t know if He would be part of my life. So I gave Him my little bit, my slang, my simple way of thinking. He placed me before doctors, conference presidents. I have nothing to give except what He’s done to me. He put me in a place where no woman in my culture has been. And it’s not because of me,” she said.
Falasikeni explained that as she sees it, the key is to ask ourselves what little bit each of us can do to impact the people around us. “You serve a God who can bless you even when He puts you in a position imposed upon you,” she emphasized. “Serving God is our vocation.”
According to Falasikeni, it is high time each of us rethinks vocation. “If our vocation is to serve the Lord, can we be passionate about Jesus? Are we made to glorify Him? Can we use Him to serve others?” The three-woman panel that followed Falasikeni’s introduction provided practical examples of how some Adventist Pacific Islander women in North America are answering God’s call to serve Him.
At a Foster Home
In the second part of Falasikeni’s presentation, she interviewed and exchanged viewpoints with three women on the frontlines of service in the NAD. “These are people who serve the community outside these walls,” Falasikeni explained. “They are just as necessary for the kingdom work as those who stand behind the pulpit. They serve people who may never enter this building.”
The first was Fatai M. Langi, who, together with her husband, manages 3 Angels Children & Family Services in Reno, Nevada. They minister through a foster-care organization that provides, among other services, consulting work, tools, and resources for families. “My husband and I have a huge passion for family preservation,” Langi explained.
They have three biological children, but for nine years they have also served more than 100 foster kids in the community.
Langi confessed that part of her motivation to start that service was to be home with her own kids. “Many just got into foster care for the money,” she shared. But they saw an opening after a rough patch in their marriage when they took the challenge of inviting God into their lives. “We saw that foster care was a broken system, and we decided to partner with God,” Langi said. “We soon found out that everything we asked God, He would do it! Since then, everything has been His purpose. My daily prayer is, 'Oh Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,’ ” she said.
A Lawyer and Compliance Officer
The second Pacific Islander woman in the panel was Elizabeth Atofau, a licensing compliance officer and licensed attorney in Washington State who recently became a Seventh-day Adventist. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, she moved to Washington for college. “I wanted to be a chef, but God led me into law school,” she confessed. “God allowed me to do those things I feel I am gifted with. After all, it’s not so much what you do but why you do it,” she said. “And everything that God has opened to me has helped me to serve in the places I work.”
Atofau acknowledged that God was not such an essential part of her life, but as she grew up, He made Himself evident in her life. “God is such a personal God. Wait till you get there, and you will understand,” she told Pacific Islander Adventist members following the panel. “God knows me. I am living out what God already has created for me.”
In Health-care Management
The third woman on the panel was registered health information administrator Lina Aiolupotea. As a pastor’s kid, Aiolupotea said, her journey was not clearly driven for herself at the beginning. “I went to La Sierra University and then to Loma Linda University to become a nurse,” she recounted. “But I panicked because I knew I wouldn’t be a nurse for long.”
Aiolupotea credits “a great counselor,” who suggested she should go into management in health care. “I made a deal with God,” Aiolupotea said. “Wherever you lead me, I’ll do my best to serve you.”
She eventually became health information manager at a hospital in Honolulu. “I was hired because my résumé said Loma Linda University,” she confessed. “The person who hired me was a non-practicing Adventist, but she remembered she had attended church as a child.”
As a manager, Aiolupotea said, she worked in a challenging unionized setting. “But God used that job to teach me how to be structured and firm while being Christian in a difficult environment,” she shared.
And even if she can’t talk openly about God at work, people around her see it, Aiolupotea said. “Once, I was in a meeting as the only manager among executives,” she shared. “And I was told, ‘You bring peace when we are talking about difficult pieces.’”
Aiulopotea advised other people like her to avoid undervaluing their contributions. “Among many Polynesian people, many would rather be likable, but they downplay what they can bring to the table,” Aiulopotea explained. “They need to be confident, especially girls and women. You must embrace your beauty and know that you are valued and smart. Our confidence comes from God. Just work hard, and God will lead you.”
Falasikeni agreed, referencing the Bible example of David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. “God can reroute us when we take a wrong turn,” she reminded. “He is our GPS.”