“If it wasn’t for God…” Happy birthday, Sieni!
Story and photos: Misiona Simo and Aufa’i Areta
Thank you God for your faithfulness, mercies and love that are new every morning.
That was the message from a grateful mother, grandmother and great grandmother who celebrated a new era in her life journey at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel on Friday night.
The occasion was the celebration of Sieni Mata’afa Lesaisaea’s 70th birthday.
Sieni, of Saleaula, Fusi Saoluafata, Sagone, and Vaitele-fou is the daughter of the late Mata’afa Apoua and Falefitu Mata’afa.
A pre-school teacher by profession, she married the late Levaopolo Alopopo Ramese of Papa Sataua and Neiafu. They have seven children in Fa’asega, Tofigaonafanua, Simolo, Falefitu, Fualole, Sosikeni and Hala.
Sieni is the third eldest in a family of 12 siblings. Five have passed away but most of them who are alive flew in from Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America for her birthday.
The celebration started on Friday morning when her Samoa-based children hosted an ava ceremony to welcome all her family who flew in from outside of Samoa to be with her. These included her children, grandchildren and great grand children who also came from Australia and New Zealand.
Making the occasion extra special, her birthday was planned to co-inside with the Sieni and Ramese family reunion which kicked off at the Apia Harvest Centre Church on Thursday evening. The theme is “Where there is unity, God commands a blessing.”
A lunch organised for her family was hosted at Salamumu beach on Saturday afternoon.
At Sheraton on Friday night, the birthday told the story of Sieni’s journey from her humble beginnings at Salamumu where she learned from her parents how to live off farming and fishing.
Guests were greeted with a maketi-like set up when they entered the foyer where a stall was set up with all the produces she sold to try and raise her children. These included tauaga (sinnet), bananas, vegetables, taro, coconuts and other goods from the land.
Inside the classy Sheraton ballroom, it was decked out in her favourite colours, white and gold. Her children chose blue as their colour signifying the importance of the occasion. The leis for the guests were carefully chosen with her children opting for ula laumaile. In her younger years, Sieni used to sell them.
Her Pastor, Reverend Dr. Fa’afetai Fata, of the Apia Harvest Centre Church, blessed the gathering and congratulated the birthday girl.
Testimonies about Sieni’s life came from her brother, Pastor Mafi Mataafa from Sydney Australia, Taupau Faavesi, on behalf of her husband’s family with Fa’asega and Tofiga speaking on behalf of the children. They spoke of a hard working woman who is kind, loving and fears God.
The night was hosted by Sieni’s youngest brother, Tapuai Leota Tausani, who worked beautifully with Solace Band to roll out an unforgettable evening of great food, lovely company and great people.
Her grandchildren – and there are many of them – did a great job keeping their nana and guests thoroughly entertained with items from all over the world – including Africa where her grandchildren have done missionary work.
During her speech, Sieni acknowledged everyone who has played a part in her journey, which now sees her working as a Counselor for Fortress of Faith Ministry, Teen Challenge and a member of the AHC Intercessors Group. She also hosts a weekly radio programme on Laufou Radio.
But she reserved the highest praise for her God, saying: “I am deeply grateful because if it wasn’t for God…”