A week of church events and challenges of today
All is well that ends well. The past couple of weeks have been eventful and busy for some of the biggest church denominations in the country with their annual conferences and the hosting of some very high profile visitors.
Each of these churches had different messages not just for their members and supporters but for Samoans and non Samoans from all different walks of life.
Now some people say Samoa has too many churches and we talk too much about God when some things that are happening don’t reflect it. We agree to an extent.
But we would also argue that Samoa is not alone when it comes to a lot of crimes and bad behaviour we see. These crimes are universal and in fact it would be quite scary to imagine Samoa without the churches.
It’s true that we are not perfect.
But it could be a lot worse. Which is why the messages from all these different churches are not only important, it is quite refreshing and much needed. The thing is, they might be different by name but they all share the same passion, to help people deal with their struggles.
At Pesega for instance, thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gathered last week to welcome their President and Prophet, Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy Nelson. For members of the church, it was an occasion to behold.
“The main message everywhere we go is to come unto Christ and receive his blessings in your life,” President Nelson said in response to being asked how the church can respond to the challenges of today. “Everyone has a choice, either to choose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ or to choose another path. As his disciple I invite people to come unto Christ because he will make life better for you.”
Of course President Nelson wasn’t the only one talking about Jesus Christ and the work of the church on earth this week.
While members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were buzzing with their Prophet’s visit, up the road at Lotopa, hundreds of members of the Assemblies of God Church in Samoa gathered for their 50th Annual Conference.
Guided by the theme “The Church the body of Christ,” Superintendent Reverend Dr. Tavita Pagaiali’i highlighted their message in response to the growing number of challenges people are confronting today.
"We deal with preaching the word of God and in the message we try to deliver is that there will always be challenges in life but only our saviour Jesus Christ is the answer to solving these problems and hardships," he said.
"We have no power to change a person's life. Only Jesus can truly transform the lives of people and so we depend on God to change the lives of others both from inside and out.
“We must understand that Jesus said that 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me', which means only through Him that we can be saved."
Down at Malua, the biggest denomination in the country gathered for their General Assembly. The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa’s annual conference started last week with the women’s fellowship followed by the main conference, which attracted hundreds of church members from abroad and in Samoa.
The Malua conference has become an institution in Samoa. It’s an annual pilgrimage that stops the nation and could possibly be regarded as a national event on the calendar. In the newspaper you are reading today, we have provided extensive coverage of the conference, reflecting its importance.
But it’s not all about taxes, monies and positions. The C.C.C.S. being the biggest denomination in Samoa plays a vital role in shaping behaviour and influencing changes.
Reverend Elder Samuelu Limu Samuelu of the Congregational Christian of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) at Saoluafata knows this. Speaking to the Samoa Observer, he said the church has a critical role to play to tackle some of the problems today.
"Especially the Church Ministers and leaders," he said. "And I am not particularly talking about Church Ministers for the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, I know it's the same for every other pastors from other denominations. It is part of our calling to help out in solving these issues concerning our people."
How? "For our church, pastors are the ones who nurture the spiritual lives of our children. Starting from when they are young with the introduction of literacy and numeracy through our Sunday schools and Pastor schools,” he said.
"We lay out this foundation for them with the belief that if we start them right at a young age, they will grow up and become very intelligent people not only academically but also spiritually.
"It was how our lives were formed up by our ancestors and forefathers. We were nurtured first of all in the comfort of our homes and the church. The elders of the church always emphasis on this and encourages all the Church Ministers to continue on this practice as it really helps our youths.
"We also try and engage them in programs so they are able to work with other fellow youth members and build relationships so they can learn from their experiences and a stronger bond in Jesus."
In the end, Rev. Samuelu echoed the opinions President Nelson and Superintendent Pagaiali’i.
"Jesus is the answer to any of our problems,” he said. “No problem is too big for him. The church has a role, so as the village council, the government and also families. If we work together, it will make everything easy. It will make a huge difference."
Wise and wonderful words from Rev. Samuelu. In fact all three churches share the same passion.
But now comes the hard part, walking it out and living it.
What did Jesus Christ do? Well he didn’t rob the poor, he didn’t manipulate their thinking and he didn’t take anything from them. He loved them, cared for them and gave his life to save them.
Shouldn’t the church be doing the same thing?
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!