Saoluafata Youth gear up for 58th birthday
The 'Sulu o le Malamalama' Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) at Saoluafata has launched a string of festivities in the build to the grand celebration of the 58th birthday of their Youth Ministry, established on 24 July 1962.
The official celebration is set for Sunday 31 October 2020 in Saoluafata, said Reverend Elder Limuaa Samuelu who leads the congregation with his wife, Daru Samuelu.
“This the 58th year for our autalavou…the time has passed because our autalavou’s birthday was on July 24 but it’s has been delayed because of the Covid-19 lockdown so now we have set it for the 31st of October. On that date, we have a celebration at our church hall,” Rev. Limuaa said.
The festivities begin with a walk down memory lane for the youth, revisiting past victories of the Saoluafata youth at national competitions of sports, dance and marching.
Rev. Elder Samuelu boasts that during his time with the congregation, his youth won the championship title for Siva Samoa, at the 2005 Teuila Festival. In that same year, their young women won the championship in the Marching Girls Band contest.
“We have so many trophies in sports that we have won in the past,” he said.
“We have the same birthday as Independence Day so our youth is 58 years old…June is Independence Day and we are in July.”
The Saoluafata youth serves the community by supporting government programs like their involvement in the 50th Anniversary of Independence for Samoa.
“Our youth have developed greatly over the years. They have grown and so many have been blessed and have done well for themselves. This is the contribution of the gospel to the country,” said Rev. Elder Samuelu.
“Not every congregation or faifeau likes to operate a youth ministry (autalavou) but every congregation of the C.C.C.S, every village. should have the autalavou. Our youth was one of the first established within the C.C.C.S. and it still has not quit…”
The Reverend and his Faletua have served the Saolufata C.C.C.S. for 38 years.
On the eve of his retirement, he is reminiscing on his work with the youth.
“This will be my last celebration with the youth because I am going on pension next year,” said Rev. Elder Samuelu.
“I will be leaving Saoluafata so I am really working to have a good celebration. I will leave next year, and they will have to continue on with the autalavou.”
About 40 young men and women comprise the C.C.C.S. youth group.
The youth have traveled together to American Samoa, New Zealand and the United States together. Rev. Elder Samuelu recalled “so many” trips to Pago Pago, American Samoa with his autalavou.
“We have been to America together and we have been to Pago Pago so many times,” he said. “We’ve been to New Zealand four times and to America twice.”
Rev. Elder Samuelu is a native of Leone, American Samoa. He grew up in Vailoatai.
On the youth group trips, some members stayed in America and they now have families and live and work in America.
“Their lives have been blessed in America, they have spouses, they work and live in America and they send money back home to their families who live here in Samoa,” said Rev. Elder Samuelu.
“To me, that is a very nice thing as someone working in Saoluafata with our youth. We have a string band and even a bus. We have contributed much in support of our country especially in the area of sports. We always participate, our youth participate in school sports — be it athletics, basketball, volleyball.”
Their latest win was a championship title clinched by the young men of Saoluafata in the Under-12 Division of the Jamboree Basketball competition.
“It’s a great win for our youth, especially in this time when White Sunday is near. I am proud of their achievement,” the Rev. Elder proudly said.
“They have won a gold pin and trophy.”
The autalavou, he said was started by church leaders of the past to guide the young men and women to lead successful lives by living gospel principles. He encourages other church leaders to build and support the youth.
“I did some research and tried to find which was the first autalavou established in Samoa but I could not find the information, Rev. Elder Samuelu said.
While the Saoluafata C.C.C.S. Youth shares the same age as the country, the Reverend and the autalavou share the same birthday.
“The funny thing is, the autalavou was founded on 24 July and July 24th is also my birthday,” he said.
“I am 70 years old. Our church Fonotele was canceled due to Covid-19 so we will meet next year in May. We will be leaving the congregation and Saoluafata will have to find a new Reverend."
On Wednesday, children were rehearsing for their 2020 White Sunday program.
"Each child will have something to say on White Sunday. They will dance and sing. The program is going to start with the youngest ones, then the older group will perform and then the youth. In the evening, they will do their spiritual plays and performances," Faletua Mrs. Samuelu said.
"These aren't all the children we have in our church, they are not all here yet. Some of the older children are in school. When all of the children are here we have about 200. We wish everyone a blessed White Sunday."