religion, christianity, articles
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Let Your light Shine in Samoa

By Jimmie B. Hill

religion, articles, christianity

Samoa is two separate countries. There is Western Samoa, an independent nation, and American Samoa, a territory of the United States (the only U.S. land possession in the southern hemisphere). The two countries are united however by a single description-lush, green, mountainous islands with balmy, tropical breezes and warm, friendly people. Located between Hawaii and Australia in the heart of the Oceania, Samoa is still one of the few places left in the world whose culture and tradition have survived the influence of the Western way of life. Pago Pago is the seat of government in American Samoa and is the gateway to both Samoas. Western Samoa, whose capital is Apia, is less developed but more picturesque than American Samoa. And although each country has a different historical background, the two are almost the same ethnically speaking. The people are Polynesians.

The Lord's work in Samoa began somewhere in the early sixties. Such men as Don Thornton, Luaao Soli, and Ed Crookshank contributed much to the growth of the body of Christ in Samoa. Though the church is small in Samoa (there are currently five congregations with an estimated membership of 350) it continues to be evangelistic. Numerous well­attended gospel meetings are held each year with speakers coming from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand to preach to the lost and edify the brethren. Bold, straight­to­the­point gospel radio programs are presented each day in the Samoan and English languages which result in numerous Bible study contacts. The Samoan brethren also utilize their local newspapers to teach the people of God's love, grace, and truth. In addition to these evangelistic endeavors, the All Samoa Workshop was implemented in 1987 and still gives the Samoan brethren strength and encouragement from the Word of the Lord to be faithful and to work for the Lord.

The denominations are in Samoa. The oldest denomination in Samoa is the London Missionary Society which found its way to the islands in the 1730s. The largest and most influential denomination in Samoa is the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). There is a large Mormon temple in Apia. The Holy Roman Catholic Church, complete with its Samoan bishop, is also present in the islands. Also present are the Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and various other family­oriented denominational groups. And many Samoans still believe in the spirits, bush medicine and Samoan folklore.

Conversions are often difficult and many problems must be overcome, therefore longsuffering and patience are a must. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth" (Phil. 4:13). In spite of the difficulties, the work is rewarding.

The government is intertwined with the family system and, although Samoans enjoy freedom of religion, this family system can cause problems. In this system a high chief is over a group of villages in a district, a chief is over a village which is made up of extended families, the extended family is ruled by a matai, and the parents are over the immediate family. Several problems can and do occur in preaching the gospel in such a system. For instance, if one of these in authority is baptized, he may order everyone else under his authority to be "baptized" and become a "member" of "his" new church. The other side of the coin is, one in authority may order those under him not to study the Bible with anyone. To go against one of these rulers may result in the loss of one's family, shelter, livelihood, and in many cases, one's honor. Converts know the cost of discipleship and generally remain faithful to the Lord.

Let us pray for the brethren in Samoa.

Published November 1996