LOCATED about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, the alluring Samoan islands sparkle in the warm blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Born of volcanic violence and arrayed with cloud-capped peaks, lush tropical forests, and palm-fringed beaches, they are gems of exquisite beauty. Shimmering lagoons nurture a marine paradise, with some 200 varieties of coral and up to 900 species of fish. Little wonder that these frangipani-scented islands were described by early European missionaries as among the most beautiful they had seen in the South Pacific!
It seems that some ten centuries before Christ, the Lapita people became the first to settle in the Samoan islands. * Bold explorers and master navigators, these earliest Polynesians evidently migrated into the Pacific from southeast Asia. Following the sea winds and currents, they sailed huge double-hulled canoes over greater areas of ocean than had any people before them. Deep in the heart of the South Pacific, they discovered a small group of islands that they named Samoa.
Over the centuries their descendants spread eastward across the Pacific to Tahiti, then to Hawaii to the north, New Zealand to the southwest, and Easter Island to the southeast. Today, this vast triangular region is called Polynesia, meaning “Many Islands,” and its inhabitants are called Polynesians. Samoa is therefore spoken of as the “Cradle of Polynesia.”
This account tells the story of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Samoa, * American Samoa, and Tokelau. In 1962, Western Samoa became an independent nation, and American Samoa is under U.S. territorial control. Thus, the Samoan islands are divided into two separate parts—Samoa and American Samoa.
THE LIGHT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
The good news of God’s Kingdom first reached Samoa in 1931 when a visitor placed more than 470 books and booklets with interested people throughout the island group. That visitor was likely Sydney Shepherd, a zealous Witness who sailed through parts of Polynesia about that time spreading the good news.
Seven years later the Kingdom message reached American Samoa when J. F. Rutherford, from the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, stopped at the island of Tutuila when traveling by ship from Australia to the United States. During that brief stopover, Rutherford and his party seized the opportunity to distribute literature throughout the harbor town of Pago Pago.
Two years later, in 1940, Harold Gill, who had pioneered throughout the Asia-Pacific region, arrived in *American Samoa. With him he brought 3,500 copies of the booklet Where Are the Dead? the first publication translated into Samoan by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Harold then crossed over to the island of Upolu, Samoa, a journey of between eight and ten hours by boat. “Word must have gone ahead though,” he later wrote, “for on my arrival a policeman told me that I was not allowed ashore. I produced my passport and read to him the rather glorious preamble that requests all concerned to allow His Britannic Majesty’s subject ‘to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him every assistance and protection.’ That gained me an interview with the Governor, who allowed me to stay until the next boat sailed in five days. I hired a bike and toured the island, leaving the booklets far and wide.”
After Harold’s successful preaching expedition in the Samoas, he had to return to Australia. But one of the publications he placed eventually found its way into the hands of an office worker, Pele Fuaiupolu. * The booklet’s message remained in Pele’s heart, awaiting the return of Witnesses to water the precious truths that had been planted.—1 Cor. 3:6.
In 1952, 12 years later, a Witness from England, John Croxford, arrived in the town of Apia, Samoa’s capital, on the island of Upolu. There he took up work in the sameoffice as Pele. John was a friendly man who was eager to witness to others. Detecting Pele’s interest in the Bible, John took the initiative to visit him at his home. Pele writes: “We talked until the wee hours of Sunday morning. I asked him many questions, and every answer he gave was read from the Bible. I was convinced beyond any doubt that this was the truth I had been looking for.” Later that year Pele and his wife, Ailua, became the first Samoans to dedicate their lives to Jehovah and get baptized.
Pele knew that he would be called to account for leaving the religion of his ancestors. So he studied hard and prayed earnestly for Jehovah’s help. When summoned by the high chief of the family to a meeting at Pele’s home village of Faleasiu, a large coastal village 12 miles [19 m] west of Apia, Pele and another relative interested in the truth faced a hostile assembly of six chiefs, three orators, ten pastors, two theological teachers, the high chief who was presiding, and older men and women of the family.
“They cursed and condemned us for disgracing the name of the family and the church of our forefathers,” recalls Pele. The high chief then proposed a debate, which ended up lasting until four in the morning.
“Even though some yelled, ‘Take that Bible away! Leave off that Bible!’ I answered all their questions from the Bible and disproved their arguments,” statesPele. “Finally, neither word nor sound was forthcoming from them. Their heads were bent down. Then the high chief said in a weak voice: ‘You won, Pele.’”
“Pardon me, Sir,” Pele recalls saying to the high chief, “I did not win. This night you heard the message of the Kingdom. It is my sincere hope you will heed it.”
With Pele’s humble reliance on Jehovah and His Word, the Bible, the seed of Kingdom truth was taking root in Upolu.
Talk of Pele’s new religion spread quickly through the close-knit island community. Like the first-century Athenians to whom Paul preached, some were curious about this “new teaching” and wanted to know more. (Acts 17:19, 20) One young man, Maatusi Leauanae, learned that those interested in the new religion met each week at a doctor’s house on the hospital grounds and decided to investigate. But at the hospital gate, he was suddenly overcome by nervousness and turned to leave. Fortunately, John Croxford arrived just in time to invite him to join the small group that night. Young Maatusi enjoyed the study of the book “Let God Be True” and wanted to come again. Although he attended meetings sporadically at first, the truth finally took root in his heart, and he was baptized in 1956.
New ones associating with the group soon saw the importance of sharing what they had learned with others. Within just five months of Brother Croxford’s arrival in Apia, ten individuals had joined him in the preaching work. Four months later the number had increased to 19.These new ones had good results as they witnessed to friends and relatives.
One such publisher witnessed to his cousin Sauvao Toetu, who lived in Faleasiu. In time, Sauvao and his brother-in-law, Finau Feomaia, began attending meetings with their families and took their stand for the truth.
In January 1953 a thrilling milestone for true worship was reached in Samoa. Since about 40 people were attending the meetings at that time, the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia approved the formation of the first congregation in Samoa, at Apia. Afterward, when Brother Croxford returned to England, newly baptized Pele took the lead in the congregation. The publishers were fearless and zealous, but they were also spiritually young and inexperienced. Many needed to learn to present the Kingdom message in a more tactful and appealing way. (Col. 4:6) Others needed help to put on the new personality fully. (Eph. 4:22-24) Happily, such help was soon to come.—Eph. 4:8, 11-16.
HELP FROM OVERSEAS
May 1953 saw the arrival of Australian pioneers Ronald and Olive (Dolly) Sellars to assist the Apia Congregation. “The Australia branch had temporarily lost contact with the brothers and were concerned about them,” writes Ron. “Since we had indicated our willingness to serve in the Pacific, they asked us to go to Samoa and work along with the newly formed congregation as special pioneers.”
Traveling to Samoa by seaplane, Ron and Dolly prepared themselves mentally for the sort of challenges that are often encountered in remote missionary assignments. “What a surprise awaited us,” recalls Ron. “Lush tropical vegetation covered the island. Everywhere, wesaw happy, smiling people with strong, healthy bodies. Children frolicked around open-sided homes that had thatched roofs and clean coral floors. No one rushed or worried about the time. We had, it seemed, arrived in paradise.”
Finding accommodations with Pele’s family, the Sellars immediately set to work. “I met with the brothers almost every night to answer their many questions,” says Ron. “Although they knew basic Bible doctrines, I soon saw that they needed to make numerous changes to measure up to godly standards. To help them during that difficult period, Dolly and I tried to be extra patient and show them more than the usual love.” Sadly, though, some resisted this loving Scriptural readjustment and gradually fell away from the congregation. Others, however, showed a humble spirit and responded well to the training and encouragement. In time, they made spiritual progress, and as a result, the congregation was refined and strengthened.
Ron and Dolly also took the lead in witnessing from house to house. Up until then most of the brothers had only witnessed informally to friends and neighbors. Now, as they worked along with the Sellars in door-to-door preaching, they found much interest. “On one occasion,” writes Ron, “we were invited to the village of an interested chief to tell him more about the Kingdom. After our meal a lively Bible discussion ensued. By the time an hour had passed, the discussion had escalated into a public talk because the audience had grown to almost 50—and this without any advertising on our part!” The publishers often found that Bible studies with 2 or 3 individuals attracted 10 to 40 onlookers who were curious about the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Such activity, however, did not go unnoticed by Christendom’s clergy. When the authorities refused to extend Ron and Dolly’s visitor permits, Ron approached the high commissioner to ask the reason why. “He told us,” recalls Ron, “that certain clergymen had complained to the government about our witnessing. As a result, he said that he would only extend our visas if we promised to quit helping the congregation in their preaching work. This I refused to do. I also told him that no one could stop God’s work, a fact that he would do well to note. Laughing, he said, ‘We’ll see what happens when you leave!’”
From then on, the authorities were careful to prevent foreign Witnesses from entering the country. Despite that, in 1953, Theodore Jaracz, who then served at the Australia branch office and who is now a member of the Governing Body, quietly entered Samoa to encourage the congregation. “His visit gave us a real boost and assured us that we were moving in the right direction spiritually,” says Ron.
Shortly afterward, Ron and Dolly’s visas expired, and they moved to American Samoa. Nevertheless, during their eight months in Samoa, they had done much to stabilize and strengthen the local brothers. And although the authorities did not know it, other Witnesses would soon arrive to take the Sellars’ place.
PROGRESS IN APIA
Richard Jenkins, a newly baptized, enthusiastic 23-year-old Australian, arrived in Apia in May 1954. He relates: “Before leaving Australia, I was advised not to associate with the local brothers until I made my work situation secure. However, after several months, I became very lonely and started to feel spiritually vulnerable. So I decided to make discreet contact with Pele Fuaiupolu.” The two met late at night under cover of darkness.
“Pele told me that he would not use my real name for fear the authorities would connect me with the congregation and deport me,” recalls Richard. “So he gave me the name of his newborn son, Uitinese, which is the word ‘witness’ pronounced the Samoan way. To this day the Samoan brothers and sisters still call me by this name.”
Using his newfound pseudonym, Richard maintained discreet contact with the brothers. He also witnessed informally and started several Bible studies. One Bible student, Mufaulu Galuvao, a young man who worked as a health inspector, later became a member of the Samoa Branch Committee. Eventually, another Bible student, Falema‘a Tuipoloa, also became a Witness, as did several members of his family.
One of Richard’s Bible students, young Siemu Taase, used to lead a gang of thieves that stole goods from the public works department. Before he could make spiritual progress, however, Siemu’s past caught up with him and he was jailed for his crimes. Undeterred, Richard obtained permission from the warden to continue Siemu’s study under a shady mango tree about 100 yards [100 m] outside the jail walls. In time, several other inmates joined the study.
“Although we were unguarded,” recalls Richard,“none of the prisoners ever tried to escape, and some accepted the truth.” After his release from prison, Siemu eventually served as an elder.
In 1955, Richard married an Australian pioneer, Gloria Green. Together they spent 15 years in Samoa, and before returning to Australia, they helped 35 people learn the truth. They now live in Brisbane, Australia, where Richard serves as an elder in the local Samoan-language congregation.
Another Australian couple, William and Marjorie (Girlie) Moss, helped out in those early years. Bill, a practical-minded elder, and Girlie, a pioneer with 24 years of experience, arrived in Apia in 1956. At the time, 28 publishers associated with the Apia Congregation, and there were book study groups in both Apia and Faleasiu. For the next nine years, Bill and Girlie worked tirelessly along with the congregation. By the time Girlie’s deteriorating health forced them to return to Australia in 1965, the Faleasiu group had become a congregation in its own right.
During those years, requests to allow missionaries into the country were repeatedly denied by the Samoan government. Clearly, they and the clergy hoped that Jehovah’s Witnesses would simply fade away. However, the very opposite occurred. The Witnesses increased innumber and were active and zealous—they were here to stay!
PROGRESS IN AMERICAN SAMOA
Before the Sellars’ visas for Samoa expired in 1954, Ron decided to apply for residency in American Samoa instead of returning to Australia. “When I approached the attorney general of American Samoa,” writes Ron, “and he learned that the Samoan government had rejected our visa applications on religious grounds, he said, ‘Mr. Sellars, we have religious freedom in American Samoa, and I am going to make sure that you get a visa.’”
Ron and Dolly arrived in Pago Pago, American Samoa, on January 5, 1954. As a condition of entry, the attorney general asked Ron to report regularly to his office so that he could become better acquainted with Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result, they enjoyed several fine spiritual discussions.
Later that month, Ron and Dolly received a dinner invitation to the attorney general’s home. Since the local Catholic priest and the London Missionary Society pastor were also invited, a lively Bible discussion ensued. “At the end of the evening,” remembers Ron, “the attorney general thanked all of us for coming and said, ‘Well, I think that Mr. and Mrs. Sellars have prevailed in tonight’s discussion.’ Soon afterward, we received our permanent residencyvisas. When the attorney general later informed us that the government would welcome further applications for Witness missionaries to enter the country, I immediately passed the information on to the Australia branch office.”
The first person to dedicate his life to Jehovah in American Samoa was 19-year-old Ualesi (Wallace) Pedro, a Tokelauan by birth. Lydia Pedro, a relative who was a special pioneer in Fiji, had left a copy of the book “Let God be True” with Wallace’s older brother when she was visiting in 1952. Young Wallace discovered the book at his brother’s home and studied it carefully.
After finding the Pedro family in 1954, Ron and Dolly studied with Wallace’s older brother and sister. Wallace believed in Jehovah God, but at first his distrust of religion made him wary of joining the study. In time, though, he became convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth, and he began attending meetings regularly in Fagatogo. He made rapid spiritual progress, and on April 30, 1955, Wallace was baptized in Pago Pago Harbor.
By January 1955, just one year after Ron and Dolly arrived, seven persons were attending meetings at their humble home in Fagatogo. It was sparsely furnished, so everyone sat on the floor. Before long, three of the new ones began accompanying Ron and Dolly in the field ministry. It was a day of small beginnings, but wonderful developments lay just ahead.
GILEAD MISSIONARIES ARRIVE
On February 4, 1955, two missionary couples from the United States, Paul and Frances Evans and Gordon and Patricia Scott, arrived in American Samoa. They settled into the Fagatogo missionary home, which looked out upon a colorful neighborhood. Circuit overseer Leonard(Len) Helberg, who visited Pago Pago that year, describes the scene:
“The missionary home was a large apartment above an old-fashioned general store. To one side, across a small stream, was a bar where sailors sought entertainment in the evenings. When brawls spilled out of the bar into the street below, the local police chief, a short but very solid man, would wade into the throng with his cigar clamped firmly between his teeth and throw punches left and right to subdue the crowd. Hellfire sermons blasted forth from a church just beyond the backyard. From the front veranda, we could see crowds flocking around the bank once a month on government payday. Church missionaries, assembled from around the island, would search frantically through the crowd in an effort to collect tithes from church members before the money was spent.”
Those lively surroundings provided a climate for much interest in spiritual things. “One missionary,” relates Len, “started his day at six in the morning by conducting a Bible study in the barber shop across the square before the owner started work. He then studied with the local baker before bringing bread home for breakfast. Later in the day, in the town square, the same brother studied with a group of prisoners from the local jail.” By year’s end, the missionaries were conducting approximately 60 Bible studies with more than 200 people.
“MOVIE TONIGHT—NO CHARGE”
One reason for this flourishing interest was the film The New World Society in Action. * This film—the first produced by the organization since the “Photo-Drama of Creation” nearly 40 years earlier—highlighted the global preaching and printing work and showed how Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized. During a four-week visit to American Samoa in 1955, Len showed the film 15 times, to a total audience of 3,227 people, an average of 215 per showing.
“Before each showing,” recalls Len, “we advertised the film by driving through the villages tossing out leaflets to everybody we passed. At the same time, we shouted out, ‘Movie tonight—no charge,’ along with the name of the village where it would be screened.”
The film made a huge impression on the population. After each showing, audiences wanted to learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their teachings. Rather than wait for the Witnesses to return, many interested people came directly to the missionary home, where missionaries conducted several studies in different parts of the home at the same time. When one group left, another took their place. “Years later,” remembers Ron Sellars, “people still associated Jehovah’s Witnesses with the wonderful things they had seen in that film.”
PERSISTENT PREACHING REACHES HEARTS
Two months after Len Helberg’s visit, the first congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in American Samoa was formed at Fagatogo. Within a year the number of publishers in the congregation increased from 14 to 22. About that time two more special pioneers, Fred and Shirley Wegener, arrived from Australia to assist the growing congregation. Fred now serves as a member of the Samoa Country Committee.
These publishers, pioneers, and missionaries were “aglow with the spirit.” (Rom. 12:11) “As a result of the publishers’ persistence,” writes Len, “and the level of Bible interest in the community, by the mid-1960’s, a Bible study had been conducted at one time or another in every home in the village of Fagatogo. Every home on the island was also visited on a monthly basis in those years.”
This thorough preaching campaign did not fail to influence the thinking of local people on Biblical matters. “It became common knowledge that everlasting life would be on earth,” says Len, “that there is no hellfire, and that the dead are unconscious. People had learned these basic truths, not from their church, but from Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was because we spoke to them one on one and reasoned with them from their own Bibles.”
Even so, religious and family ties prevented most individuals from acting on what they learned. Others preferred the loose morals tolerated by the churches to the high moral standards required of true Christians. Nevertheless, there were honesthearted individuals who, like the traveling merchant in Jesus’ illustration, viewed the truth as a pearl of high value and seized hold of it. Many such sincere islanders courageously took a firm stand for the truth.—Matt. 13:45, 46.
“It was such a joy to go witnessing in those early years,” reflects Caroline Pedro, a pioneer from Canada who married Wallace Pedro in 1960. “At nearly every home, someone was willing to talk about the Bible. Bible studies were easy to start, and whole families often sat in.
“Preaching in outlying villages was especially memorable. Young children usually accompanied us from house to house listening intently to our presentation. They then ran ahead to let the next householder know that we were coming. They even told the householder what we were talking about and what scriptures we wereusing! As a result, to stay ahead of the village children, we prepared several presentations.”
While sharing in the witnessing work, the brothers also remained conscious of good manners and proper local protocol. (1 Cor. 9:20-23) Former missionary Charles Pritchard, now a Branch Committee member in New Zealand, writes: “Because of the hot tropical climate, village fale (houses) have no walls, so we could easily see if someone was home. It was considered the height of bad manners to speak either while standing or before the householder had formally welcomed us. So we approached each dwelling and silently waited for the householder to notice us. He or she would then place a clean mat on the pebble floor inside the door. This was an invitation for us to remove our shoes, enter the home, and sit cross-legged on the mat.” Sitting like that on the floor for long periods was a painful experience for many missionaries. Thankfully, local custom allowed them to extend their legs and feet and modestly cover them with a mat. They thus avoided pointing their uncovered feet at the householder—a gross insult to Samoans.
“Householders would formally welcome us and explain that we honored them by bringing our Bible message to their humble home,” says John Rhodes, who served as a missionary in Samoa and American Samoa for 20 years. “The conversation then turned to personal matters: Where do you come from? Do you have children? Where does your family live?”
John’s wife, Helen, adds: “We always addressed the householder with respectful terms normally used on formal occasions. This language of respect dignified both the householder and our Bible message.”
“Through these introductions,” says Caroline Pedro, “we became well acquainted with the individuals and their family, and they with us. It helped us to meet their spiritual needs more effectively.”
Once introductions were complete, the publishers were free to present the Kingdom message. “Householders customarily listened to us for as long as we wanted to speak,” recalls former missionary Robert Boies. “They would then repeat to us many of the things we had said to show us that they felt our message was important.”
Since people were well versed in the Bible, long discussions on Bible teachings were common. “These discussions helped to sharpen my understanding of various Bible subjects,” says Caroline Pedro. Most householders readily accepted literature. In time, publishers learned to tell the difference between those who were merely curious and those who were genuinely interested in spiritual things.
Many newly interested people who began attending meetings were eager to start out in the field ministry.“Samoans have a natural flair for oratory,” says John Rhodes, “and many new ones could confidently express their faith to others with little or no training. Even so, we encouraged them to use published witnessing suggestions and to reason with people on the Scriptures rather than rely solely on their natural speaking abilities.” Such fine training eventually produced many accomplished evangelizers.
THE IMPACT OF SAMOAN LITERATURE
While many Samoans speak fluent English, there are some who do not. To reach the hearts of those truth-loving islanders, Pele Fuaiupolu translated four tracts into the Samoan language in 1954. Pele went on to be the organization’s principal Samoan translator for many years. He often worked late into the night, typing up translated material on an old manual typewriter in the light of a kerosene lantern.
While attending to this translation work, Pele cared for his wife and eight children, took the lead in congregation activities, and worked five and a half days a week inspecting cocoa plantations around the islands. “During those years of tireless activity,” writes Len Helberg, “Pele never sought recognition or praise. On the contrary, he was deeply thankful for the privilege of being used by Jehovah. His loyalty, humility, and zeal made him an outstanding Witness—one fondly admired and loved by us all.”
In 1955 the publishers distributed 16,000 copies of the 32-page Samoan booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom.” It used simple language and presented basic Bible teachings in an easy-to-understand way—making it an ideal tool for starting and conducting home Biblestudies. Writes Richard Jenkins: “After going through the booklet a couple of times, new ones were ready for baptism. We loved it!” Other Samoan-language booklets soon followed.
The Samoan edition of The Watchtower first appeared in 1958. Fred Wegener, a printer by trade, produced the magazine by stapling together single sheets of mimeographed paper. Later editions were printed in the United States and then in Australia. Several of our publications were translated and released as monthly installments in the Samoan Watchtower. From the early 1970’s, the release of complete books in Samoan did much to speed up the preaching work.
The organization’s bound books have enjoyed wide distribution throughout the Samoan islands. In 1955 when publishers distributed the book You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World, most households in American Samoa obtained a copy. “People read their Bibles, but most had never heard of Armageddon,” writes Wallace Pedro. “Yet, after families read this book, children often announced our arrival in the village by crying out, ‘Here comes Armageddon!’ Some parents even named their children Armageddon.”
The Samoan edition of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, released in 1972, had a similar impact. Most missionaries initially placed two or more cartons of this book each month with eager readers. “People approached us in the local marketplace,” recalls Fred Wegener, “and even leaned out of bus windows to ask for copies of the Truth book.”
STRENGTHENED BY ASSEMBLIES
In June 1957, excitement over the first circuit assembly to be held in Pago Pago, American Samoa, was running high among the brothers. There to enjoy the program were publishers who had come by boat from Samoa. Keen to invite the public, the brothers advertised the assembly program extensively in both English and Samoan. As a result, the 60 publishers in Samoa and American Samoa were thrilled to have 106 people at the opening session on Friday.
At this assembly there were some unexpected developments during meal breaks because of Samoan culture and the curiosity of onlookers. “Dining is an important part of Samoan culture,” writes Ron Sellars, “and people customarily invite passersby to join them at mealtime. But when the brothers invited large numbers of curious bystanders to join them for the midday meal at the assembly, it placed an unanticipated load on the food department, which had only prepared enough food for the assembled brothers and sisters.”
Nevertheless, mealtimes gave a fine witness to onlookers. In Samoa, on special occasions men customarily eat before women and children. Foreigners and ministers of religion usually sit apart from others and receive the best portions of food. At the assembly, however, onlookers saw foreign missionaries and local families happily eating together as equals. The love and unity among Jehovah’s people was clearly evident for all to see.
Assemblies such as these not only encouraged and trained the publishers but also prepared them for severe trials that lay immediately ahead.
APOSTASY IN APIA
It became apparent that along with the encouraging growth taking place in the islands, problems were brewing in Samoa. Several individuals, led by a strong-willed person who was a matai (family chief), had been resisting theocratic direction and stirring up trouble in the Apia Congregation. Since meetings were held in this man’s home, tensions in the congregation steadily increased.
Finally, in 1958, the rebels broke away to form their own study group. Douglas Held, who then served at the Australia branch and was visiting Fiji at the time, crossed over to Samoa to try to assist the disgruntled ones. Although his mature Scriptural counsel greatly encouraged faithful ones in the congregation, one quarter of those attending the meetings there eventually took their stand with the rebels. Victims of their own unyielding pride, several of these individuals later had to be disfellowshipped.
It soon became clear, though, where Jehovah’s spirit lay. The rebel group eventually fragmented and came to nothing. In contrast, the Apia Congregation enjoyed a35 percent increase in publishers that year. After meeting temporarily at Richard and Gloria Jenkins’ home, located near the Apia hospital, the congregation finally moved to Maatusi Leauanae’s home in Faatoia, Apia. Here the publishers enjoyed a truly warm spirit of love and cooperation. The first Kingdom Hall in Apia was later built on Maatusi’s property, with financial assistance from a congregation in Sydney, Australia.
The Apia Congregation was further strengthened in 1959 when the Samoan government allowed five missionaries from American Samoa to attend the first circuit assembly held in Apia. How delighted all were when 288 people attended and 10 were baptized! Two years later, the congregation hosted their first district convention at an old German hospital building near a guesthouse, the White Horse Inn. This landmark convention drew delegates from as far away as New Zealand.
Those gatherings gave the brothers valuable training in assembly organization. Thus, when the Samoan government later refused to allow traveling overseers and missionaries into the country, the brothers were able to organize their own assemblies. In 1967 they even organized and presented a full-costume hour-long Bible drama—a first for Samoa. That drama, which was based on God’s provision of the cities of refuge in ancient Israel, was long remembered by those present.
During those years, the publishers in Samoa also benefited from attending interisland conventions in American Samoa and Fiji, even though this required considerable effort and sacrifice. For example, attending district conventions in Fiji not only meant paying travel and food expenses but also involved being away from Samoa for up to a month.
AMERICAN SAMOA MOVES AHEAD
In 1966 the brothers in American Samoa were thrilled to host the “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assembly in Pago Pago. This historic convention drew 372 delegates and eight language groups from Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), Tahiti, Tonga, and Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides). The colorful, multilingual crowd raised the ratio of Witnesses to local residents in the convention city to 1 in every 35, even though at the time, there were only 28 publishers in the local congregation!
How would so few publishers accommodate so many visitors? “We had no trouble finding accommodations for the large number of visiting delegates,” recalls Fred Wegener. “The local people were hospitable and readily welcomed the brothers, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders.”
This convention had a wonderful effect on the Pago Pago Congregation. Within six months, meeting attendance increased by 59 percent and many new ones qualified as publishers of the good news. “It also spurred the congregation to build a more suitable place for meetings,” writes Ron Sellars. Although there was little vacant land on the island of Tutuila, where Pago Pago is located, a local publisher kindly gave the congregation a 30-year lease on a block of land to the west of the city, at Tafuna.
“The land was below sea level,” says Fred Wegener, “so the congregation labored for three months to gather lava rocks to raise the site foundations.”
The local Catholic priest, who regularly read The Watchtower and Awake!, allowed the brothers to borrow the church’s concrete mixer when it came time to pour the concrete floor. “This priest,” writes Ron Sellars, “laterread an Awake! article on marriage and immediately left the priesthood to get married.”
Brothers from overseas generously assisted with this Kingdom Hall project. Gordon and Patricia Scott, who were two of the first missionaries to serve in American Samoa but who had returned to the United States, donated chairs from their congregation for use in the new hall. “Then, by selling surplus chairs to the local movie theater,” says Ron Sellars, “we paid for the cost of freighting all the chairs to the island!” The new 130-seat Kingdom Hall at Tafuna was completed and dedicated in 1971. Upstairs missionary quarters were later added to the hall.
SAMOA OPENS ITS DOORS
Up until 1974, the work in Samoa was hampered by government restrictions that prevented Witness missionaries from entering the country. In that year local responsible brothers approached the prime minister directly to discuss the matter. One of these brothers, Mufaulu Galuvao, writes: “During the discussion, we discovered that a government official had set up an unauthorized committee to review all missionary applications. This committee, made up of our religious enemies, simply rejected our visa applications outright without even informing the prime minister.
“The prime minister had been unaware of this scheming; hence, he immediately ordered the chief immigration officer to bring him the file on Jehovah’s Witnesses. In our presence, he dissolved the bogus committee and granted Paul and Frances Evans three-year missionary visas with the opportunity to obtain an extension after that time.” Thrilling news indeed! After 19 years of persistent efforts, they finally entered Samoa as fully accredited missionaries!
Paul and Frances first lived with Mufaulu Galuvao and his family, but when John and Helen Rhodes arrived in 1977, both couples moved into a newly rented missionary home in Vaiala, Apia. Other missionaries included Robert and Betty Boies in 1978, David and Susan Yoshikawa in 1979, and Russell and Leilani Earnshaw in 1980.
ADAPTING TO ISLAND LIFE
Foreign Witnesses who moved to Samoa over the years soon discovered that even in this paradise, life has its challenges. One such challenge is transportation. “During our first two years of missionary service in Apia,” writes John Rhodes, “we often walked long distances to attend meetings and go witnessing. We also used the popular and colorful island buses to get around.”
These highly decorated vehicles usually have a wooden cabin mounted on the back of a small-to-medium-size truck. Crammed inside, passengers carry everything from farm tools to fresh produce. Loud music and merry singing complete the festive atmosphere on board. Busstops, timetables, and bus routes tend to be quite flexible. “The bus to Vava‘u,” points out one travel guide, “is always punctual: it arrives when it gets there.”
“If we wanted to buy something along the way,” says John, “we simply asked the driver to stop. After making our purchase, we reboarded the bus and continued our journey. Even so, nobody worried about the delay.”
If the bus was full, new passengers would sit on the lap of those already seated. So missionary husbands quickly learned to have their wife on their lap. At journey’s end, children and adults often paid their fare by extracting a small coin from their ear—a convenient coin pocket!
To travel between islands, missionaries and publishers used planes and small boats. Journeys could be perilous; delays inevitable. “We had to learn to be patient and cultivate a sense of humor,” says Elizabeth Illingworth, who for many years served with her husband, Peter, in circuit work throughout the South Pacific.
On land, heavy rains can make travel difficult—especially during the cyclone season. Attempting to cross a flooded stream on his way to a Congregation BookStudy, missionary Geoffrey Jackson slipped and tumbled into the raging torrent. Emerging wet and bedraggled, he continued to the meeting, where the host family dried him off and dressed him in a long black lavalava (a Polynesian wraparound kilt or skirt). His companions had difficulty restraining their laughter when a newly interested person at the meeting mistook him for a Catholic priest! Brother Jackson now serves as a member of the Governing Body.
Other challenges confronting new arrivals involved mastering a new language, adjusting to the constant tropical heat, coping with unfamiliar health problems, having few modern conveniences, and evading a host of biting insects. “The missionaries really expended themselves in our behalf,” writes Mufaulu Galuvao, “and as a result, many grateful parents named their children after these dear ones, who had lovingly assisted us.”
SAVAII HEARS THE GOOD NEWS
Now let us turn our attention to the largest and most unspoiled island in the Samoa group, Savaii. Much of this island is uninhabited and features lofty mountains, a jagged volcanic ridge with some 450 craters, nearly impenetrable jungles, and rugged lava fields. The majority of the residents live in small villages scattered along the coast. It was in 1955 that the good news first reached Savaii. Len Helberg and a group of publishers from the island of Upolu briefly visited to show the film The New World Society in Action.
Six years later, two missionary sisters—Tia Aluni, the first Samoan to attend Gilead, and Ivy Kawhe, her partner—were invited to move from American Samoa to Savaii. Arriving in 1961, the two sisters found accommodations with an elderly couple living in Fogapoa, a villagelocated on the eastern side of the island. Later, they were joined for a while by a special pioneer sister, who had once lived on Savaii. To encourage and support the new group of between six and eight persons, brothers from Apia visited once a month and gave public talks. These meetings were held in a small fale in Fogapoa.
Tia and Ivy remained on Savaii until 1964, when they were assigned to another island. For the next ten years, there was little spiritual activity on Savaii. Then, beginning in 1974, several families moved to Savaii to help revitalize the work. These included Risati and Mareta Segi, Happy and Maota Goeldner-Barnett, Faigaai Tu, Palota Alagi, Kumi Falema‘a (later Thompson), and Ron and Dolly Sellars, who moved from American Samoa. The small group formed at Fogapoa met at the Segis’ fale, located next to the beach. Later, a missionary home and Kingdom Hall were built nearby. In time, another group was established at Taga, a village situated on the west coast of Savaii.
Beginning in 1979, more missionary couples were assigned to Savaii to assist the local publishers. These included Robert and Betty Boies, John and Helen Rhodes, Leva and Tenisia Faai‘u, Fred and Tami Holmes, Brian and Sue Mulcahy, Matthew and Debbie Kurtz, and Jack and Mary Jane Weiser. With the missionaries setting a fine lead, the work in Savaii moved forward steadily.
On Savaii, however, traditions and family ties held a tight grip on the people. Up to one third of the villages banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from preaching in their communities, some even making public radio announcements to that effect. Hence, it took much time and patience to help new ones to make progress. Evenso, many came into the truth, including some with serious health problems.
OVERCOMING HEALTH PROBLEMS TO SERVE JEHOVAH
One such person was Metusela Neru, who fell from a horse and broke his back when he was 12 years old. “After his accident,” recalls one missionary, “he walked as if he were folded in half, and he was in constant pain.” When Metusela began studying the Bible at 19 years of age, he resolutely endured his family’s opposition. Because of his disability, what would otherwise have been a five-minute walk to congregation meetings was a 45-minute ordeal. Nevertheless, Metusela made fine progress and was baptized in 1990. He later entered the full-time ministry as a regular pioneer and qualified as an elder. Since then, more than 30 of his relatives have attended meetings in Faga, and several have been baptized. Today, despite his ongoing health problems, Metusela is well-known for his smiling face and happy personality.
Another person who overcame severe health problems to make spiritual progress was Saumalu Taua‘anae. Saumalu was severely disfigured by leprosy and lived in the remote village of Aopo. Because his village was so isolated, he first studied the Bible through correspondence with Ivan Thompson. Then Asa Coe, a special pioneer, moved to Savaii and took over the study. When Saumalu attended his first meeting in 1991,it required a two-hour drive to Taga, a village on the opposite side of the island.
So self-conscious was Saumalu about his disfigured appearance that when he first attended a special assembly day, he listened to the program from his car. He was deeply moved, though, when during the intermission at lunchtime, brothers and sisters lovingly approached him and extended a heartfelt welcome. He gratefully accepted their warm invitation and enjoyed the rest of the program sitting with the audience.
Soon Saumalu and his wife, Torise, began attending meetings at Faga, traveling more than an hour each way to be there. Saumalu was baptized in 1993 and, in time, qualified to be a ministerial servant. When doctors later amputated one of his legs, he still drove his car to meetings. Their village has banned the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses; hence, Saumalu and Torise zealously witness to others informally and by means of the telephone.
Today, they live in Apia, where Saumalu receives regular treatment for his many health problems. Instead of being bitter, he is well-known for his positive, joyful outlook on life. Both he and his wife are greatly respected for their strong faith.
TRIALS IN TOKELAU
Tokelau, comprising three isolated atolls located north of Samoa, first heard the Kingdom message in 1974. *In that year, Ropati Uili, a medical doctor, returned to Tokelau after graduating from medical school in Fiji. Ropati’s wife, Emmau, was a baptized Witness, and he had studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses briefly in Fiji.
In Tokelau, Ropati discovered that another doctor and his wife, Iona and Luisa Tinielu, were baptized Witnesses. He also met another interested person, Nanumea Foua, whose relatives were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The three men organized regular Bible meetings and public talks, and soon an average of 25 persons were attending. The three and their families also began to witness informally to others.
However, not everyone was pleased with this theocratic activity. At the instigation of a pastor of the London Missionary Society, the island’s council of elders summoned the three family heads. “They ordered us to stop our meetings,” recalls Ropati, “and said that if we disobeyed, they would burn us alive in our homes or cast us adrift on a raft. We tried to reason with them using the Scriptures, but they were adamant. They expected their authority to be respected at all costs.” After hearing this ultimatum, the families decided to hold their meetings discreetly to avoid attracting attention.
This opposition, however, was only the start of their troubles. Twelve years later, when Ropati’s sister and brother-in-law accepted the truth and resigned from their church, the village elders banished every Witness from the village. “That night,” writes Ropati, “each family gathered its personal belongings, loaded them onto small boats, and fled to the largest village on the island. Their homes and plantations were plundered by their former neighbors.”
Despite this persecution, the publishers courageously continued to meet together for worship. “Acting as if they were going on a weekend outing,” Ropati relates, “the families would paddle to an isolated islet on Saturday morning and return Sunday evening after holding their meeting.” At that time, several families also made the long and arduous boat trip from Tokelau to Samoa to attend annual district conventions.
The relentless opposition, however, eventually prompted these families to emigrate to New Zealand. Thus, by 1990, there were no Witnesses left on the atolls. Even so, Ivan Thompson, who was then pioneering in Apia, studied by interisland mail with Lone Tema, a young man living on Tokelau. Lone made good spiritual progress and now serves as an elder in Australia.
Later, several publishers returned to Tokelau. Geoffrey Jackson, who then served at the Samoa branch office, tried unsuccessfully to contact the New Zealand commissioner for Tokelauan affairs to discuss the problems faced by Jehovah’s Witnesses on the atolls. “But I was granted permission to visit Tokelau in my capacity as a linguist,” writes Geoff, “and during the voyage, the ship’s captain invited me to join him and another man in the officer’s lounge for refreshments. That man was the very commissioner for Tokelauan affairs that we had been trying to contact! We talked for over an hour. At the end of our discussion, he thanked me and promised to do what he could to relieve the pressures on our brothers in Tokelau.”
Today, there is still official opposition to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tokelau. When Fuimanu and Hatesa Kirifi’s youngest child died in 2006 and Fuimanu gave a Scriptural talk at the funeral, the council of elders threatened to banish Fuimanu’s family from the island. Jas. 1:2-4) They came to know that Jehovah does not forsake his faithful servants.—Deut. 31:6.Later, Fuimanu was threatened when he refused to work on the local church, and he and his wife faced pressure to participate in political activities. Yet, he and his family stood firm in their faith. As a result, their faith became stronger. Says Fuimanu, “We have learned to rely on Jehovah during our trials.” (
SPIRITUAL GROWTH HAS JEHOVAH’S BLESSING
Since the good news first reached Samoa, various branches have had oversight of the Kingdom work here. At present, a hardworking Country Committee of four brothers serves under the direction of the Australia branch in caring for the work in the Samoas. Over the years, the brothers in Samoa have put forth great effort to reach even the most remote areas with the Kingdom message. Regular witnessing campaigns in American Samoa have covered remote Swains Island and the Manu‘a Islands group, located some 200 miles [320 km] north and 60 miles [100 km] east of Tutuila Island respectively. During these visits, publishers left hundreds of pieces of literature and started dozens of Bible studies with interested people. Other publishers have worked to expand their local territory by preaching to people who speak a foreign language.
TRANSLATION EFFORTS INTENSIFY
As the number of publishers grew, the need for literature in Samoan also increased. To meet this need, Geoffrey Jackson and his wife, Jenny, were transferred from their missionary assignment in Tuvalu to the Samoa branch office in 1985. Geoff was assigned to oversee the two-person Samoan translation team. “At first,” he relates, “the translators worked at tables located in the Betheldining room. Each morning they cleared the breakfast tables before they could start translation work. Then, just before noon, they put their translation materials away to set the tables for lunch. Afterward, they cleared the tables again to get back to translation work.”
The constant disruption hindered productivity. The translation process too was labor-intensive and time-consuming. “Much of the work was written out by hand and then typed up,” recalls Geoff. “Each manuscript was retyped several times for proofreading and revision before it was ready for printing.” In 1986, with the purchase of the first computer for the branch office, much of this repetitious work was reduced or eliminated. Other computerized tools have further accelerated the translation and printing process.
This translation and publishing effort has focused particularly on the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Since January 1993, The Watchtower in Samoan has been printed simultaneously with the English edition—and in four colors as well! Then, in 1996, a quarterly edition of Awake! in Samoan was introduced. “The release of Awake!” recalls Geoff, “was heralded, not only by newspaper and radio but also on the national television news.”
Currently, a group of translators in Samoa keep pace with Samoan translation needs. Along with other translation teams worldwide, these hardworking translators have received advanced training in language comprehension and translation skills, equipping them to translate more accurately and efficiently.
NEED FOR BRANCH EXPANSION
When Milton G. Henschel visited Samoa as zone overseer in 1986, it was clear that the Sinamoga missionary home was too small to serve the branch’s growing needs.Consequently, the Governing Body assigned brothers from the Brooklyn Design/Build Department and the Regional Engineering Office in Australia to visit Samoa to assess the need for larger facilities. The recommendation? Purchase a seven-acre [3 ha] site at Siusega, three miles [5 km] inland from Sinamoga, to build a new Bethel complex. Then, once the new branch office was complete, the old Bethel Home at Sinamoga could be dismantled to make way for a new Assembly Hall.
Construction of the new branch began in 1990, and what an international undertaking it proved to be! A total of 44 international servants, 69 international volunteers, 38 full-time local volunteers, and many part-time workers labored unitedly on the project. Suddenly, though, when construction was well underway, disaster struck.
Cyclone Val, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the South Pacific, slammed into Samoa on December 6, 1991. Winds of up to 160 miles [260 km] an hour battered the tiny islands for five days, defoliating 90 percent of the vegetation and causing $380 million (U.S.) worth of damage. Sadly, 16 people lost their lives.
“The branch office quickly set relief operations in motion,” recalls John Rhodes. Within days, a cargo container filled with relief supplies arrived from the Fiji branch. Funds from other Pacific branches soon followed.
“Immediate needs came first,” writes Dave Stapleton, an international servant working on the new branch at Siusega. “This involved distributing clean water, tarpaulins, kerosene, and medical supplies to needy brothers. Then we restored Sinamoga Bethel to a usable condition and repaired damaged buildings at the branch construction site. Later, we repaired and rebuilt damagedKingdom Halls, missionary homes, and homes of individual Witnesses. It took months to finish the work.”
When the government later provided funds for all religions—including Jehovah’s Witnesses—to repair their premises, the brothers returned the funds with a letter suggesting that since all our damage was already repaired, the excess funds could be used to restore government buildings. Grateful government ministers subsequently reduced the import duty on branch construction materials arriving from overseas, resulting in considerable savings.
“FAR BEYOND OUR FONDEST DREAMS”
After the cyclone damage was repaired, the new branch project moved ahead rapidly. A year and a half later, in May 1993, the Bethel family finally made the long-awaited move from Sinamoga to their new home in Siusega.
Then, in September 1993, a group of 85 Witness tradesmen from Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and the United States converged on Samoa to build the Sinamoga Assembly Hall. All traveled at their own expense. “Different building terms and measurement systems were used on the building site,” writes Ken Abbott, who led the Australian tradesmen, “but Jehovah’s spirit helped us cheerfully to overcome any problems that arose.”
“Seeing firsthand the international brotherhood in action,” observed Abraham Lincoln, who was with the Hawaiian team, “had a positive effect on everyone.”
Through the united efforts of the international construction team, the Assembly Hall was completed in just ten days. Local publishers learned valuable trade skillsby working with the visitors, and they also benefited spiritually. Hence, after the project was completed, some publishers enrolled as pioneers or entered Bethel service.
Finally, on November 20-21, 1993, the dedication of the branch office and Assembly Hall took place. John Barr of the Governing Body delivered the dedication talks. Summing up the feelings of many present on this happy occasion, long-time missionary Paul Evans said: “Jehovah has blessed us far beyond our fondest dreams.”
THE TRUTH TRANSFORMS LIVES
When the truth of God’s Word touches people’s hearts, it moves them to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s elevated standards. Many Samoans have experienced this transforming power of God’s Word.—Eph. 4:22-24; Heb. 4:12.
For example, Ngongo and Maria Kupu were, as Samoans say, “living in darkness”—that is, living together without being married. “We had studied with Ngongo and Maria for some time,” explains Fred Wegener, “but did not realize that they were not married. Then one day they proudly showed us their newly acquired marriage certificate. Soon afterward, they were baptized. Although Ngongo has since died, Maria still serves as a regular pioneer in American Samoa.”
Another challenge facing new ones in Samoa involves the sanctity of blood. Samoans customarily strangle pigs and chickens before cooking and eating them, a practice forbidden in God’s Word. (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:13, 14; Acts 15:28, 29) One young woman in American Samoa expressed surprise when she saw in her own Bible God’s clear commands on these matters. “Although her family attended church and read the Bible regularly,” explains Julie-Anne Padget, “she had eaten unbled meat since childhood. Yet, she immediately accepted the Bible’s direction and resolved not to eat any unbled meat.” Today, the stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the sanctity of blood is well-known throughout Samoa. Furthermore, medical professionals in Samoa are generally willing to respect our stand regarding blood transfusions.
YOUTHS WHO PRAISE THEIR CREATOR
In Samoa, parents train their young children to cook, clean, tend the family vegetable garden, and care for younger siblings. Such early training may help to explain why many Samoan children also accept their spiritual responsibilities at an early age, some even taking their stand for Jehovah without the help of family members.
Ane Ropati was 13 years old when her parents stopped attending meetings. So she regularly gathered her two brothers and her sister and walked five miles [8 km] to the Kingdom Hall to attend the meetings. She later pioneered and worked on the Siusega branch office construction. “Missionaries,” writes Ane, “had a big impact on my life and helped me to progress spiritually.” On the construction site, she met Steve Gauld, a volunteer worker from Australia. The two got married and served as international servants on construction sites in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Russia before returning to Samoa Bethel. Both now serve at the Australia branch.
EDUCATION OVER THE AIRWAVES
Through the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have used a variety of means to spread the good news of the Kingdom. One that is particularly effective is public radio. Beginning in January 1996, an independent FM radio station based in Apia invited Jehovah’s Witnesses to present a weekly radio program entitled “Answers to Your Bible Questions.”
These broadcasts were scripted and presented by Leva Faai‘u and Palota Alagi from the Samoa branch. “In our first program,” explains Leva, “Brother Alagi raised several questions, such as: Was there a flood in Noah’s day? Where did all the water come from? Where did the water go? How did all the animals fit into the ark? I answered the questions using extracts from our publications. At the end of the program, we introduced next week’s topic and invited listeners with questions to contact Jehovah’s Witnesses locally. Other programs covered such questions as these: Why did Solomon have many wives when Christians must have only one? Would a God of love torment people forever in a fiery hell? Is the Bible from men or from God?”
The radio program ran for over a year and generated much interest. “Many people told us that they enjoyed the program and were regular listeners,” says Ivan Thompson. “Some told us they never knew that the Bible answered such interesting questions.”
KINGDOM HALLS NEEDED
In the 1990’s, most congregations in Samoa and American Samoa met in private homes or in buildings constructed from bush materials. “These meeting places were often looked down upon by the local community,” says Stuart Dougall, who served on the CountryCommittee between 2002 and 2007. Even the 25-year-old Kingdom Hall in Tafuna, American Samoa, was showing its age. The time had come to replace the aging structure with a new hall.
A new Kingdom Hall, however, required a larger block of land, something in short supply on the tiny island of Tutuila. The brothers approached a prominent Catholic woman who owned vacant land at Petesa, a short distance from the current Kingdom Hall. When the woman learned that the brothers needed land to build a house of worship, she promised to discuss the matter with her daughter, who had planned to construct commercial buildings on the site. The brothers’ prayers were answered three days later when the woman told them that she would sell the land to them because, as she said, “God should come first.”
Writes Wallace Pedro: “She even gave us the deed to the property before we paid her, saying, ‘I know you are honest people and will pay in full.’ Which, of course, we did.” A beautiful 250-seat, air-conditioned Kingdom Hall built on this property was dedicated in 2002.
In 1999 a new program to help build Kingdom Halls in countries with limited resources was instituted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first of these halls in the Samoan islands was built at Lefaga, an isolated village on the south coast of the island of Upolu. The congregation of ten Witnesses in Lefaga had previously met in an open-sided thatched room attached to the front of a publisher’s house.
The building project was supervised by Jack Sheedy, an Australian who had served with his wife, Coral, in Tonga for seven years. “From a distance,” he writes, “the construction crew of farmers, fishermen, and housewiveslooked like ants scurrying back and forth over the building site.”
When the 60-seat Kingdom Hall was finished in 2001, local villagers praised its appearance. “Your halls have a dignity and simplicity that make them attractive,” they said. “How different they are from our churches, which are ornate and filled with furnishings that often appear untidy and unclean.” Attendance at the meetings also increased dramatically. In 2004, 205 persons attended the Memorial of Christ’s death in this new hall.
By late 2005, the construction program for lands with limited resources had built four new Kingdom Halls and renovated three throughout the Samoan islands. In addition, the Sinamoga Assembly Hall in Apia, Samoa, was renovated. As is true in other places with limited resources, the Samoan publishers deeply appreciate this loving support from their Christian brothers and sisters around the world.—1 Pet. 2:17.
DEALING WITH CHANGING TIMES
Many Samoans have moved to other lands. For example, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, especially Hawaii, now host sizable Samoan communities. In those lands more than 700 Witnesses make up 11 Samoan-language congregations and 2 Samoan-language groups. Other Samoan publishers serve in English-speaking congregations in the countries to which they have emigrated.
A number of Samoan Witnesses have traveled overseas to receive spiritual training and have returned to Samoa or American Samoa to put their training to good use. For instance, during the 1990’s, Talalelei Leauanae, Sitivi Paleso‘o, Casey Pita, Feata Sua, Andrew Coe, and Sio Taua attended the Ministerial Training Schoolin Australia and then returned to Samoa to further the Kingdom work. Today, Andrew and his wife, Fotuosamoa, serve at Samoa Bethel. Sio and his wife, Ese, served in circuit work for several years with their young son, El-Nathan. Sio now serves on the Country Committee. Other graduates faithfully serve as elders, pioneers, or publishers in their congregations.
What has been the result of this fine activity? In 2008 in the 12 congregations of Samoa and American Samoa, the peak number of publishers was 620. More than 2,300 people attended the 2008 Memorial. Thus, there is good potential for further growth in the Samoan islands.
MOVING AHEAD WITH JEHOVAH’S ORGANIZATION
Over the years many honesthearted individuals in Samoa have responded to the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) In the spirit of their seafaring forefathers, they have overcome numerous difficulties on their journey from Satan’s old world to a new spiritual home in Jehovah’s spirit-directed organization. Such obstacles as family opposition, community exile, clergy propaganda, government restrictions, fleshly temptations, and other trials have not stopped them from serving the true God, Jehovah. (1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 2:14) With what result? Why, today they bask in the security of a spiritual paradise!—Isa. 35:1-10; 65:13, 14, 25.
Even so, their journey is not yet complete. Just ahead is their final destination—an earthly paradise under the righteous rule of God’s Kingdom government. (Heb. 11:16) In association with their global brotherhood, and guided by God’s Word and his powerful holy spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Samoan islands continue to move forward, determined to reach their goal.
^ par. 3 The name Lapita refers to a site in New Caledonia where the distinctive pottery made by these people was first discovered.
^ par. 6 Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa in 1997. We will use the name Samoa throughout.
^ par. 10 Several descendants of Mr. Taliutafa Young, Harold’s host, later became Jehovah’s Witnesses. His grandson Arthur Young currently serves in the Tafuna Congregation, in American Samoa, as an elder and a pioneer. One of Arthur’s most treasured possessions is a Bible given to his family by Harold Gill.
^ par. 12 Samoans have a first name—Pele, for example—and a family name. Pele had the family name Fuaiupolu from his father. In addition, there are Samoans who are entitled to have a chiefly name. Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses renounce their chiefly name or refuse to accept one, feeling that the name has political or worldly connotations. In this account we will generally use the first name followed by the surname most commonly known, such as in the name Pele Fuaiupolu.
^ par. 53 This movie was rereleased on videocassette in 1995 and is available in Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), Spanish, and Swedish.
^ par. 123 Ropati was baptized on a subsequent visit to New Zealand.
[Blurb on page 77]
“This night you heard the message of the Kingdom. It is my sincere hope you will heed it”
[Blurb on page 98]
“Children often announced our arrival in the village by crying out, ‘Here comes Armageddon!’”
[Blurb on page 108]
“The bus to Vava‘u is always punctual: it arrives when it gets there”
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Samoan Religions—Old and New
Ancient Samoan religions mixed aspects of polytheism, animism, spiritism, and ancestor worship but had no temples, idols, or organized priesthood. Religion permeated every aspect of life. Why, then, did the Samoans seem ripe for religious change when London Missionary Society (LMS) missionaries arrived in 1830?
An ancient Samoan legend foretold that a powerful new religion would end the rule of the old gods. Samoan chiefs (matai) reasoned that the missionaries represented this new religion. King Malietoa opted to worship the Christian God, Jehovah, and ordered his subjects to do likewise.
Missionaries—Catholic, Methodist, Mormon, and LMS—gained large followings, and today church membership is nearly universal throughout the Samoan islands. Both Samoan governments have religious mottoes: “Samoa is founded on God” and “Samoa, let God be first.” Religious broadcasts are prevalent on the television channels there.
Religion’s influence is strongest at the village level, where local chiefs often decide the religious affiliation of village residents. Some villagers may even be pressured to contribute more than 30 percent of their income to support local pastors and church projects—a burden increasingly resented by many. There are even competitions to see who can give the most. Some churches announce the names of winners who have donated the most money.
In many villages, activity comes to an abrupt halt for the daily sa, a 10- to 15-minute period of villageprayer. Young men carrying large sticks line the road at regular intervals to enforce the custom. Violators may be reprimanded, fined as much as $100, or required to feed the council elders or the village. In extreme cases, they may even be beaten or banished.
On one occasion, circuit overseer John Rhodes and his wife, Helen, arrived at Salimu village, Savaii, after a tiring journey. Because the sa had just started, guards asked them to wait at the edge of the village. Obediently, the Rhodes waited until the sa ended and then went to their accommodations.
When the high chief of the village heard that John and Helen had been delayed, he apologized to their hostess. The chief said that Witnesses were honored guests, and he instructed the guards to let the Rhodes enter the village at any time, even if the sa was in progress. Why the special consideration? The chief’s young son, Sio, was studying the Bible with the Witnesses and making fine spiritual progress. Today, Sio Taua is a member of the Samoa Country Committee.
John and Helen Rhodes
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An Overview of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tokelau
Samoa consists of two main islands—Upolu and Savaii, which are separated by an 11-mile-wide [18-km-wide] strait—and several smaller inhabited islands. American Samoa, located about 60 miles [100 km] southeast of Samoa, has one main island, Tutuila, and includes the Manu‘a Islands, Swains Island, ‘Aunu‘u, and the uninhabited Rose atoll. Tokelau comprises three low-lying coral atolls located 300 miles [480 km] north of Samoa.
Over 214,000 people live in Samoa, and about 57,000 in American Samoa. Tokelau has approximately 1,400 inhabitants. Over 90 percent are Polynesians, and the rest are Asian, European, or part Polynesian.
Samoan is the main language, although most people speak English as a second language. Tokelauan, a language similar to Samoan, is spoken on Tokelau.
Agriculture, tourism, tuna fishing, and fish processing are the main occupations.
Starch-rich taro, green bananas, and breadfruit mixed with coconut milk constitute the staple diet. Meals can also include pork, chicken, or fish. Tropical fruits such as papayas, pineapples, and mangoes are abundant.
Located close to the equator, these islands are hot and humid most of the year. Pago Pago, on the island of Tutuila, in American Samoa, receives over 15 feet [5 m] of rain every year.
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“Very Good Book”
Brother Harold Gill brought 3,500 copies of the Samoan booklet Where Are the Dead? to distribute in American Samoa. When he presented the governor with a copy of the booklet, the governor suggested that Harold show it to each of the religious leaders so that they could let the attorney general know whether it was suitable for public distribution. How, though, would the religious leaders respond?
The London Missionary Society parson was friendly and unopposed. The Seventh-Day Adventists were not concerned about what Harold did—as long as he did not take any of their flock. The padre of the navy, although somewhat sarcastic, was not hostile. An unusual incident, however, preempted Harold’s seeing the Catholic priest. Harold had given a copy of the booklet to the Samoan policeman who escorted him to the governor. A few days later, Harold asked the policeman if he had enjoyed reading the booklet.
The policeman replied in his broken English: “My boss [the attorney general] said: ‘You go see your [Catholic] priest and ask him if this book is good.’ I get under tree and read book. I say to myself, ‘This book very good, but if I show priest, he say, “No good book.”’ So, I say to my boss, ‘Boss, my priest say, “Very good book.”’”
Later, the attorney general invited Harold into his office. As the attorney general paged through the booklet, Harold explained its contents. Then the attorney general picked up the phone and made a call to give permission for the booklet to be released for distribution. As a result, almost all the booklets Harold brought were distributed throughout the islands.
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Traditional Samoan Culture
In 1847, a missionary of the London Missionary Society, George Pratt, described Samoans as “the greatest observers of etiquette in Polynesia, if not the world.” This traditional Samoan culture—called faa Samoa (the Samoan way)—is a highly structured code that pervades every aspect of Samoan life.
Paramount in this code is “the respect, even veneration, shown for those ‘higher’ than oneself,” says the book Samoan Islands. This respect is reflected in good manners, proper speech, and allegiance to one’s family and village. Most consider it unthinkable to reject the customs and religion of their forefathers.
Family chiefs (matai), the guardians of this tradition, direct the daily affairs of one or more related family groups and represent them on the village council. They command strict obedience and enforce their authority through fines, beatings, or even expulsion from the village. For example, the matai of one village fined a clergyman when he made young boys throw stones at Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Villages may have from 10 to 50 matai. Most are elected by extended family (aiga), but some inherit the office automatically. Titles are organized according to a strict hierarchy. Each village has a head chief (alii), who presides over the village council. A talking chief (tulafale) cares for ceremonial matters. However, not all matai have political or religious duties. Some may restrict themselves simply to caring for family matters, such as serving as trustees of family land with the authority to decide how such property is used.
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“The Man of Jehovah”
PROFILE The first person living in Faleasiu to accept the truth. A Kingdom Hall was later built on his land. As told by his son Tafiga Sauvao
IN 1952, one of my father’s cousins from Apia visited our family in Faleasiu. This cousin, who was associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, wanted to discuss the Bible with my father. Several of our relatives in the village decided to listen in. Together, they talked nonstop from Saturday morning until Monday afternoon, pausing for only one hour of sleep. After similar discussions over the next four weekends, my father finally declared: “My curiosity is satisfied. I have found the truth.” My father’s brother-in-law, Finau Feomaia, also accepted the truth, as did both of their families.
My father immediately started witnessing. This shocked our relatives, who had viewed him as a devoted Seventh-Day Adventist. They mockingly called him the man of Jehovah. But what a compliment that was! Although my father was small in stature, he was stout of heart and could think clearly and speak persuasively. This enabled him to defend his newfound faith skillfully. In time, our small group became the second congregation to be formed in Samoa.
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Faithfulness Despite Poor Health
PROFILE Declining the opportunity to become a prominent matai, he became a regular pioneer.
LATER, despite his poor eyesight and a clubfoot, Fagalima served for years as a special pioneer throughout Samoa. One circuit overseer, when working from house-to-house with Fagalima, noticed that he was accurately reading scriptures without glasses and asked him if his eyesight was improving. Fagalima replied that he had lost his glasses and was quoting passages from memory.
Eager to attend a convention in Fiji, Fagalima worked alone on the far side of Upolu for four weeks gathering coconuts. Despite his clubfoot, he carried 15 coconuts at a time for two miles to a location where he could remove the outer husk and extract and dry the coconut meat, or copra. He then sold the copra and traveled to Apia to pay his fare to Fiji—only to discover that the price had increased beyond his means. Rather than complain, give up, or ask for help, he returned to cut more copra and earn the needed money. He did all of this to attend a convention he thought would be held in two languages that he did not know. What a reward it was for Fagalima when he arrived in Fiji and discovered that most of the convention program was to be presented in his own language!
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“I Enjoyed Every Day”
PROFILE He and his wife, Olive (Dolly), entered Samoa as special pioneers in 1953. He graduated from Gilead missionary school in 1961. Ron still serves as a special pioneer in American Samoa.
WHEN the government in Samoa refused to extend our visas, Dolly and I moved to American Samoa. The interisland ship dropped us at the deserted Pago Pago wharf at three o’clock in the morning. We were the only publishers in the country and had $12 in our pockets. Later that morning the father of a former Bible student kindly gave us accommodations. We slept in a curtained-off corner of his one-room home. Although we wanted to find our own place to live, we started witnessing at the house right next door.
Several weeks later we rented a large apartment located above a general store in the village of Fagatogo. It had superb views of picturesque Pago Pago Harbor but was completely bare. Brother Knorr had told us: “When you go to the Pacific islands, you may have few comforts. You may even have to flatten literature cartons on the floor to make your bed.” So that’s what we did! Only months later did we have the money to build a proper bed, table, and chairs. Still, we were glad to have a place to call home.
Although my dear wife passed away in 1985, I still go out in the service most days. Looking back on more than 50 years of pioneer and missionary service, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every day!
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“They Instilled in Me a Love for Jehovah”
PROFILE The first person baptized in American Samoa. He and his wife, Caroline, pioneered and then raised a family. They now serve in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
WHEN I studied the Bible and started preaching, my family put me out of the house with only the clothes I was wearing! That night I had to sleep on the beach. I prayed to Jehovah for courage to serve him whatever the outcome.
The next day, I was in the school library when Brother Paul Evans unexpectedly walked in. Sensing that something was wrong, he said, “Let’s go to the missionary home and talk about it.” The missionaries kindly took me in, and later that year I was baptized.
After graduating from high school, I pioneered with the missionaries. Later I married a zealous Canadian pioneer, Caroline Hinsche, who had served in Fiji, and we started special pioneering in American Samoa.
My parents’ attitude gradually mellowed. My father studied the Bible before his death, and my mother was baptized at 72 years of age. I am thankful for the example of those early missionaries. They instilled in me a love for Jehovah that has sustained me to this day!
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Persistence Gets Results
PROFILE He and his wife, Frances, served as missionaries in Samoa and American Samoa for over 40 years.
WHEN my wife and I commenced circuit work in 1957, it was not easy to enter Samoa because the government was trying to isolate the local Witnesses from outside help. Visitors and tourists were even required to sign a statement promising not to proselytize during their stay. So, on my first visit to Samoa as circuit overseer, I asked the immigration official what it meant to proselytize. When he appeared confused, I asked:
“Suppose you were a Catholic visiting another country and you went to church. If they asked you, could you get up and give a talk?”
“You should be free to do that,” he replied.
“Now,” I continued, “you know that Jehovah’s Witnesses visit people at their homes with their Bible message. If my friends want me to go along with them as they do this work, is that permitted?”
“That would probably be OK,” he answered.
“But what if the householder asks me a question?” I inquired. “Can I say anything in reply?”
“I don’t see any problem with that,” he said.
“Well, that’s good. At least now I know what to do,” I concluded.
When leaving the country after a successful circuit visit, I asked this same official if he had heard any negative reports about our visit.
“Not a thing,” he replied. “Everything is fine.”
“So, what about entry permits for our next visit?” I asked.
“Don’t apply through the immigration department,” he advised. “Just write me a personal letter, and I’ll see that you get a permit.”
So that is what we did for several visits.
Unfortunately, the officials who succeeded this fair-minded man proved to be less cooperative and refused subsequent circuit overseers entry into Samoa. This situation continued until 1974, when the government granted Frances and me missionary status. Our patience and persistence were finally rewarded.
Frances and Paul Evans
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A Language of Orators
The Samoan tongue has a soft, lilting sound that is gentle to the ear. However, “since many words appear as a jumble of vowels,” observes Fred Wegener, “missionaries need plenty of practice (faata‘ita‘iga) and encouragement (faalaeiauina) to master the language.”
Colorful oratory and proverbial speech play an important part in Samoan culture. Chiefs (matai) and orators (tulafale, talking chiefs) like to quote from the Bible and use elaborate language on formal occasions. The traditional courtesy of the Samoan people is particularly noteworthy in their meticulous use of formal and ceremonial language when required. Samoan has a highly developed polite “chiefly” language (tautala lelei) when speaking to or about God, chiefs, people in authority, and foreign visitors. On the other hand, for everyday conversation or when speaking of oneself, Samoan has colloquial language (tautala leaga), a less formal, more relaxed way of speaking.
To avoid causing offense when discussing official and ceremonial matters or when talking about the Bible, the respectful “chiefly” form of Samoan has specially designated dignified terms. “Because politeness and respect pervade the entire language,” explains Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body who served as a missionary in Samoa, “when witnessing to others, it is important to address Samoans with the politeness usually reserved for royalty, at the same time following the humble custom of using everyday words when speaking of oneself.”
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‘We Left With Many Tears’
PROFILE He and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty), served as missionaries in the Samoan islands from 1978 to 1986.
WE found that even when we first arrived, the people of American Samoa appreciated our efforts to learn Samoan and overlooked our many mistakes. On one occasion, I used Revelation 12:9 to explain Satan’s influence on the world. However, the Samoan words for devil (tiapolo) and lemon (tipolo) sound very similar. Confusing the words, I explained that the “lemon” had been cast out of heaven and was misleading the entire inhabited earth. However, I said that Jehovah would soon crush and put an end to the “lemon.” Naturally, the householder and my missionary companion laughed heartily.
On another occasion, I recited a memorized presentation to a Samoan woman in the house-to-house work. I later learned that the only part of the presentation that she understood was a brief reference to Revelation 21:4. Sensing that my message must be important, she immediately went inside and read the verse from her Bible. That one scripture so touched her heart that the woman later accepted a Bible study, and she and her children came into the truth!
Happily, we eventually mastered the Samoan language and enjoyed many fine experiences. When health problems forced us to return to the United States, we left Samoa with many tears.
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“The Whole Town Turned Out”
One of the largest funerals ever held in Apia was that of Fred Williams back in the 1950’s. The Captain, as he was known, was a tough, old retired seaman who was married to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had sailed the seven seas and was well-known throughout the South Pacific. His many exploits included navigating his crew back to safety in an open lifeboat across a thousand miles of ocean with barely any rations after being shipwrecked on a remote reef.
The Captain believed that the practice of religion in general was insincere. Nevertheless, this former whiskey-drinking, poker-playing sailor studied the Bible with Bill Moss and became a zealous Witness. By the time he got baptized, the Captain was practically blind and more-or-less bedridden. Yet, he never failed to share his newfound faith with his numerous visitors, including many religious leaders.
When the Captain died, his will specified that Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct the funeral and that he be buried at sea. “It seemed as if the whole town turned out for the funeral,” writes Girlie Moss. “The radio station announced his death, and business firms in Apia lowered their flags to half-mast as a sign of respect.” In addition to all the Witnesses present, there were lawyers, schoolteachers, prominent religious leaders, and many from the business community.
Everyone paid rapt attention as the speaker, Bill Moss, using many Bible texts, explained the Captain’s hope of a resurrection on a paradise earth. “I felt a great Heb. 11:4) “The Captain, by means of his funeral, gave a great witness on the day that he died.”wave of love for the Captain,” says Girlie, “because he had prepared for this witness to be given at his funeral to so many who are normally hard to contact or to talk to in the door-to-door ministry. I thought about Abel who, ‘although he died, yet speaks.’” (
After the funeral talk at the Captain’s home, a convoy of over 50 cars proceeded to the harbor. “The wharf was so packed with onlookers,” writes Girlie, “that the police had to keep the way open for us to get to the boat. Then, along with the family, the high commissioner, and prominent citizens, we boarded the yacht Aolele (Flying Cloud) and put out to sea.” The name of the yacht was most appropriate, as Bill had to cling to the mast because the yacht was tossed like a cork in the waves and the wind tugged ferociously at him, his clothing, and the pages of his Bible. Finally, Bill read the Bible’s promise that ‘the sea will give up those dead in it’ and said a prayer. (Rev. 20:13) After that, the Captain’s wrapped and weighted body slipped into the tempestuous waters of his beloved Pacific Ocean. People talked about this funeral long afterward, providing many opportunities for a further witness.
“Captain” Fred Williams before his baptism
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“We Kept Coming Back”
PROFILE He and his wife, Shirley, serve at Samoa Bethel. Fred is a member of the Country Committee.
WE MOVED from Australia to American Samoa as newlyweds in 1956 to serve as special pioneers. Our first assignment was Lauli‘i, a small village at the eastern entrance of Pago Pago Harbor. There we moved into a run-down shack with no doors, windows, ceiling, or running water. After making it livable, we immediately had a new addition to our family. Wallace Pedro, a local youth who had been evicted from his home by his opposed parents, came to live and pioneer with us.
Two years later, we attended Gilead and were assigned to Tahiti as missionaries. Our stay there, however, was short-lived. The government rejected our missionary applications and politely informed us by letter that we must leave on the next plane. After returning to American Samoa, we served with Paul and Frances Evans and Ron and Dolly Sellars at the Fagatogo missionary home in Pago Pago. Here I printed the Samoan Watchtower and Our Kingdom Ministry on an old mimeograph machine set up on thedining room table. In 1962, Shirley and I were invited to take up circuit work. Our first circuit covered most of the South Pacific, including American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Eight years later, our son, Darryl, was born, and we settled in American Samoa. I served as a special pioneer, and Shirley spent most of her time translating Bible literature into Samoan.
About this time, I worked with a Witness abalone diver to replenish our family funds. The outboard motor on his small boat broke down, and we were lost at sea for four days. We drifted hundreds of miles, survived a fierce storm, sighted 32 passing vessels, and were nearly crushed by a huge container ship before being rescued. Soon afterward, Shirley and I learned that another baby was on the way, so in 1974 we reluctantly decided to return to Australia, where our daughter, Tamari, was born.
In the years that followed, we often thought about returning to our cherished missionary assignment. Imagine our delight when Shirley and I were invited to return to Samoa in 1995 with Tamari, to serve at Bethel. One year later, Shirley and I were invited to resume circuit work—after a break of 26 years! What a joy it was to meet up with the many faithful old-timers whom we had worked with years earlier in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga!—3 John 4.
Today, Shirley and I serve alongside Tamari and her husband, Hideyuki Motoi, in Samoa Bethel. How glad we are that we kept coming back!
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‘Jehovah Has Answered My Prayers’
PROFILE She pioneered on the islands of Upolu and Savaii from 1965 to 1980. She now lives on Savaii.
I WAS born with severely deformed clubfeet. As a result, the soles of my feet curl back under my heels, making it very difficult for me to walk.
When I first heard the truth, it sank deep into my heart. I wanted to attend congregation meetings, but walking along the hard and rocky road to get there seemed impossible. Eventually, I became very skilled at making my own shoes from rubber sandals. These allowed me to walk more comfortably.
I started pioneering soon after my baptism. Then, after pioneering for nine years on the island of Upolu, I moved with my sister and her husband to Savaii, where there was a need for Kingdom preachers. Here I special pioneered along with my niece, Kumi Falema‘a.
Kumi and I traveled by bus each week from Faga to Lata, a small village located on the west coast of Savaii. After conducting a Bible study with a woman in Lata,we walked five miles [8 km] to the village of Taga to study with another woman. We stayed the night with this woman and her family and then returned to Faga on the morning bus. This routine continued for about two years. Happily, both of these women and their families later became active Witnesses.
When my relatives left Savaii, I stayed behind to look after a small group of sisters and interested women at Faga. I conducted the weekly Watchtower Study and Congregation Book Study and led the sisters in the house-to-house ministry. Once a month an elder traveled from Apia to conduct one of our Sunday meetings. Because the village chief forbade us to sing Kingdom songs at our meetings, we read the words aloud instead. Five years later a missionary couple, Leva and Tenisia Faai‘u, arrived from New Zealand to help our little group. Others followed. Today, Savaii has two flourishing congregations, one at Faga and the other at Taga.
Although I never married, I love children and always drew close to them. Some children even lived with me for a time. Seeing my spiritual “children” grow and take their stand for Jehovah has filled me with joy.
Now I am old and can no longer walk from door to door. I conduct Bible studies at my home and witness to people I meet at the local hospital. Even so, my limitations frustrated me, so I prayed to Jehovah to help me to do more. Then, missionaries in my congregation introduced me to telephone witnessing. Looking back over my life, I see that Jehovah has truly answered my prayers.
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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Residents of Samoa and Tonga set their clocks to the same hour, but Tonga’s calendar is one day ahead! Why? Samoa and Tonga are located on opposite sides of the international date line—Tonga to the west and Samoa to the east. Thus, although the two are separated by only a short distance, Tonga is one of the first countries in the world to observe the annual Memorial of Christ’s death, while Samoa is one of the last.
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7:00 p.m. | SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN
International | Date Line
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A Bible Translation That Honors God’s Name
In 1884, Christendom’s missionaries produced a Bible translation in the Samoan language that used the name Jehovah throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The abbreviated form of God’s name also appeared four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures as Aleluia, meaning “Praise Jah.” (Rev. 19:1-6) However, the 1969 revised edition of this translation removed the name Jehovah from every verse but one—an apparent oversight by the translators! (Ex. 33:14) Church authorities also removed the divine name from their hymnbooks and discouraged church members from using Jehovah’s name.
In November 2007, however, Bible lovers in Samoa were delighted to receive the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in the Samoan language. This accurate, easy-to-understand translation faithfully restores the divine name to the inspired text. Geoffrey Jackson, a former missionary in Samoa who now serves on the Governing Body, released the new edition at a special interisland convention held in Apia, Samoa.
Televised reports of the release stirred up much public interest. Some individuals phoned the Samoa Bethel requesting copies of this translation. A senior government official asked for ten copies to give tomembers of his staff. A school principal requested five copies to award to his best students at the end of the school year.
Many people have commented favorably on the new translation’s careful renderings, which provide valuable insight into the meaning of the original text. The New World Translation is also reacquainting Samoans with the importance of using God’s name. Finau Finau, a special pioneer in Vailele, Upolu, used Jesus’ model prayer to help a woman reason on this point.
After reading Matthew 6:9, Finau asked, “Whose name do you think should be made holy?”
“The Lord’s,” she replied.
“But 1 Corinthians 8:5 says that there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’” reasoned Finau. “How can God’s name be Lord when there are many false gods with the same name?”
He then showed her the name Jehovah and explained that Christendom had removed that name from their Bible translations. Driving home his point, he added: “Now imagine if a person tried to take away or change your family’s chiefly (matai) name. How would you feel?”
“We would be furious,” replied the woman.
“Exactly,” replied Finau, “and that is how Jehovah feels toward all those who try to remove his name from his Word.”
The “New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures” in Samoan
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“Jehovah Has Blessed Me a Hundredfold”
PROFILE This daughter of a former prime minister serves as a regular pioneer in Apia.
I WAS raised on the island of Savaii as the daughter of a successful businessman and politician. Because my father owned a huge cocoa plantation and employed about 200 workers, Samoan newspapers called him the Cocoa Baron, and for several years he served as the prime minister of Samoa.
I was one of 11 children. Father was not an especially religious man, but my mother gave us basic instruction in the Bible. When she died, I missed her terribly. Thus, when Judy Pritchard, a missionary sister, witnessed to me about the resurrection hope, the thought of seeing my mother again thrilled me!
I bombarded Judy with questions, and she answered every one from the Bible. Soon we were studying the Bible together. Later, I started attending Witness meetings.
At first, my husband, Steve, a prominent deacon in our village church, opposed my studies. He took me to visit several clergymen who tried to talk me out of attending Witness meetings. But I did not follow their advice. Next, he took me to my father, who merely suggested that I study someplace other than the family home. My fleshly brothers and sisters, however, ridiculedme for changing my religion. But I would not give up learning Bible truth.
When I finally qualified to be a Kingdom publisher, the first house that I visited in the preaching work belonged to one of my father’s cabinet ministers. He had often attended political meetings at Father’s home and knew me well. I was so nervous that I hid behind my companion! People were shocked to see me preaching and asked, “What does your father say?” My father, though, was a reasonable man who defended my new faith. Furthermore, by then he enjoyed reading the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
Eventually I overcame my fear of man and became a regular pioneer. I love conducting Bible studies, and I keep a list of about 50 potential students for when I have an opening in my schedule. My greatest joy, however, was being able to teach my four children the truth. My daughter Fotuosamoa and son Stephen and their marriage mates, Andrew and Ana, now serve in Samoa Bethel. I also helped my sister Manu to accept the truth. Even my husband, Steve, who had opposed me, began to study the Bible and attend meetings. Truly, Jehovah has blessed me a hundredfold.
Left: Fotuosamoa and Andrew Coe; right: Ana and Stephen Young
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My Choice—Jehovah or Professional Golf?
PROFILE He decided to enter pioneer service rather than pursue a professional golfing career.
I WAS 18 years old when I learned that the family living across the road had joined a religion called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Curious, I visited the father, Siemu Taase, to ask why they used God’s name, Jehovah, in the way that they did. His kind manner and Scriptural reasoning impressed me. So he began studying the Bible with me, and I began attending meetings. When my father learned what I was doing, he threatened me. I begged him to let me attend meetings, but he insisted that I have nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Surprisingly, however, the next day he changed his mind. My aunt later told me, “While you slept, you kept crying out ‘Jehovah, please help me!’” I must have been dreaming and talking in my sleep. Happily, my cries softened my father’s heart.
Also across the road from my home was Samoa’s only golf course, where I earned pocket money by finding and selling lost golf balls. Later, I caddied for King Malietoa, who was at that time Samoa’s head of State. The king thought that I had potential as a golfer and gave me his old golf clubs. He also arranged for two local businessmen to sponsor me as a professional golfer. He believed that my golfing skills would “putSamoa on the map.” I was thrilled! But golf soon began to distract me from serving Jehovah, and that troubled my conscience.
Matters came to a head when I won the Samoan Open Golf Championship against a field of international golfing professionals. The king was delighted and wanted me to meet an important American golfer at the presentation dinner that night. Feeling uneasy, I said to myself: ‘This is the time to make your decision. Will you choose golf or Jehovah?’ That night I attended the circuit assembly rehearsals rather than the presentation dinner.
Understandably, the king was furious. When my father confronted me, I had a long talk with him and explained from the Bible why serving Jehovah was so important to me. To my surprise he began to weep. He then told me: “When you were five years old, you were very sick and pronounced dead. We were lowering you into your grave when a bee stung you on your face. Suddenly, you yelled out and began to cry—just in time! Now I believe that you were saved to become a witness for Jehovah God.” He never opposed me again.
After moving to New Zealand, I served for ten years as a regular pioneer and then as a special pioneer, and I married Robyn, who was also a special pioneer. In time, we had three children and moved to Australia. For the next 30 years, I worked full-time to support my family. Meanwhile, we helped many of our relatives come into the truth. I often prayed that Jehovah would help me to reenter the pioneer ranks. What a joy when, after retiring from secular employment in 2004, I finally achieved my goal. How glad I am that I chose to serve Jehovah rather than pursue professional golf!
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Parental Training Gets Results
PROFILE He and his wife, Mareta, serve as special pioneers in Samoa.
WHEN we enrolled our son, Sopa, in primary school, I gave the principal a copy of the brochure Jehovah’s Witnesses and Education and explained our stand on religious and nationalistic activities.
The next day, however, Sopa told us that the principal tore up the brochure before the assembled children and teachers and demanded that the Witness children sing a religious hymn. When they refused, he stood them before the entire assembly and demanded that they sing one of their own religious songs. He expected that this would frighten them into submission. However, Sopa urged the Witness children, “Let’s sing ‘We Thank You, Jehovah,’” and he led the children in singing the song.
The principal was impressed and commended Sopa for his courage. He and some of the other teachers later showed interest in the truth. Whenever this principal sees us, he asks about Sopa and sends him his greetings. Sopa continued to make good spiritual progress and was baptized in 2005.
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“It’s Not Too Far to Walk to Meetings”
PROFILE She and her six children walked 14 miles over a mountain range to attend meetings.
IN 1993, Jehovah’s Witnesses called at my home in Lefaga, and I accepted a Bible study. Soon afterward, my children and I began attending Christian meetings at Faleasiu, 14 miles [22 km] away on the other side of the island.
On midweek meeting nights, I would collect the children from school early. Some teachers threatened to expel the children, until I explained that it was for vital spiritual reasons that we attended the meetings. Each child carried his or her meeting clothes, Bible, songbook, and study publication in a plastic bag. Sometimes a passing bus gave us a lift, but more often than not, we walked all 14 miles [22 km].
When we finally arrived at the Faleasiu Kingdom Hall, the local Witnesses would welcome us and feed us. They also allowed us to shower and put on our clean clothes for the meeting. After the meeting, we began the long walk home. At the top of the ridge dividing the island, we paused for the children to havea brief nap. I kept watch for any passing vehicle that might give us a ride home. Usually, we arrived home well after midnight. The next morning, at five o’clock, I was up again to catch the first bus back to Faleasiu to go preaching.
On one occasion, I was summoned before an assembly of village matai presided over by the village high chief. They demanded to know why I traveled all the way to Faleasiu rather than attend a church in our village, especially the one established by my grandfather. Finally, they ordered me to stop attending meetings at Faleasiu. But I was not going to let anything stop me from getting to the meetings. I was determined to obey God rather than men.—Acts 5:29.
Matters soon came to a head. When I did not attend a village toonai (a Sunday feast attended by the church minister, deacons, and village matai) the council fined me five large pigs. This was a heavy financial burden, since I was a single mother with six young children. Nevertheless, I eventually paid the fine with pigs from my herd. In time, though, the villagers came to respect our firm stand and no longer opposed us.
Getting to meetings required great effort over the years. But it was worth it. All of my children are active Witnesses, and one son is a ministerial servant.
My children and I still walk to meetings. No, not 14 miles [22 km] to Faleasiu, but just down the road. In 2001 a beautiful new Kingdom Hall was built right in our village. Today it hosts a thriving congregation. So, even now, it’s not too far to walk to meetings!
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1931 The good news reaches Samoa.
1940 Harold Gill distributes the booklet Where Are the Dead? the first publication in Samoan.
1953 First congregation is formed in Apia.
1955 Gilead missionaries arrive in American Samoa.
1955 The New World Society in Action film is shown throughout American Samoa.
1957 First circuit assembly held in American Samoa.
1958 Translation of The Watchtower into Samoan begins.
1959 First circuit assembly held in Western Samoa.
1974 Missionaries arrive in Samoa. Work opens up in Tokelau.
1984 Branch office established at Sinamoga missionary home, Apia.
1991 Cyclone Val devastates islands.
1993 Samoan Watchtower simultaneous with English edition. New Bethel Home and Assembly Hall dedicated.
1996 Weekly radio program “Answers to Your Bible Questions” presented on FM radio.
1999 Kingdom Hall construction speeds up.
2007 New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures released in Samoan.
1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
Frances and Paul Evans
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SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN
International Date Line Wednesday
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Pele and Ailua Fuaiupolu were the first Samoans to dedicate their lives to Jehovah
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Ron and Dolly Sellars moved to Samoa in 1953 to serve where the need was greater
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Richard and Gloria Jenkins on their wedding day, January 1955
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Girlie and Bill Moss on their way to Samoa
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A typical Samoan house
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This Kingdom Hall built in Apia was the first in Samoa
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The original Tafuna Kingdom Hall, American Samoa
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Ane Ropati (now Gauld) took her stand for Jehovah as a youth
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Samoa Office and Bethel
Samoa Country Committee: Hideyuki Motoi, Fred Wegener, Sio Taua, and Leva Faai‘u