September 24, 2019

In North America, More than 900 Adventist Samoans Share Culture and Faith

More than 900 people signed up to attend the 2019 North American Division Samoan Camp Meeting, coming from the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Utah, and Missouri. A dozen years had passed since the last convocation, held in Southern California, and excitement ran high leading into the June 24-30 event at Auburn Adventist Academy in Auburn, Washington.

The plans were robust: a six-day convocation to share culture and faith for the Samoan population in North America. There would be preaching, teaching, praying, interacting, eating, and singing. The schedule would start early in the morning and go into the late evening hours.

The plans of people, however, gave way to God’s better plans.

As the team of 25 event planners examined the registration roster, they noticed that most of the guests who had signed up were from the younger generation. The planning team then rearranged the meeting locations to allow younger people to gather in the larger meeting space and the older generation to worship in the smaller meeting space. The two generations also had shared spiritual and cultural learning times.

“We are trusting God’s blessing as we seek to better understand our culture and teach our children about our culture and our faith,” said Fred Toailoa, pastor and event planner for Washington Conference’s Samoan church district.

The program began with a “Fa’afeiloa’iga,” a traditional welcome that concludes with a respectful speech that depicts the second coming of Jesus Christ.

In the afternoons, cultural activities illustrated “We Are Samoa.” The older generation coached, mentored, and judged the friendly competition of the younger generation in husking coconuts, peeling green bananas, scraping taro, participating in a tug of war, and more.

On another afternoon, each “church tribe” shared traditional and contemporary fashions — puletasis (women’s attire) and ie faitagas (men’s attire). The church tribes presented beautiful songs, dances, comedies, and unique stories that illustrated “breaking through enemy lines.”

A significant highlight was educational career day, when Samoan professionals — doctors, judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers, business owners, teachers, executives, and others — shared their career paths and encouraged youth to use their gifts, skills, and talents for God’s glory.

The faith-building experience culminated on Sabbath morning with an appeal for young people to represent their culture, faith, and commitment to Jesus.

“It’s easy to be a creature of habit,” said Meshach Soli, a San Diego, California, pastor, in his presentation to young people. “Everywhere you go — the market, the school or workplace, the community — the church goes. Pacific Islanders represent 2 percent of the North American Division membership. Be the 2 percent to speak up against whatever is holding you back to help someone else.”

The spiritual response from the audience was significant. The planning team quickly arranged for baptisms to be conducted in the swimming pool next door.

All during the week of the convocation, church members of older generations prayed for younger generations to ask God to “show [them His] ways and teach [them His] paths” (Psalm 25:4), and now the results were emerging. In all, 44 young people, and a few older people, were baptized at the Samoan Camp Meeting, to the praise of Jesus and the joy of parents.

“God is doing something special at this camp meeting,” said Eliu Lafo, a pastor from Southern California who coordinated the baptism ceremony. “Lots of prayers went into this program. We saw sons and daughters and loved ones commit their lives to Jesus. We need to show them now how to live a life for Jesus.”

From cultural interchanges and spiritual growth training to angelic harmonies of music and the sharing of communal meals, Samoan Camp Meeting provided a memorable time for unifying the generations of the Samoan faith community in North America, greeting the world church secretariat guests who were on their Northwest U.S. tour, and educating other cultures about the Samoan culture.

To avoid another dozen years of waiting, event planners said the next spiritual convocation is anticipated in 2022, because Samoan Adventists in North America discovered once again the value of following God’s way for Christian fellowship to help nurture new generations of believers.

The original version of this commentary was posted on the North Pacific Union Conference Gleanernews site.