Everywhere you go in Samoa you find young boys playing footie – in their front yards, backyards, streets, everywhere. The NZ Rugby Union announced last week that the All Blacks would play in Samoa next year. Woohoo!! Although the announcement was made while my wife Watiri and I were visiting Samoa, I doubt we contributed to the decision (but you never know!). And that wasn’t my greatest surprise.
Nor was was it the heat or the food – although we were lost for choice with the array of seafood and taro that was laid on the tables in the villages we visited. The strong sense of community and the hospitality of the Samoan people is evident everywhere. The way Samoans eat and live demonstrate their value of community. We were encouraged to see the commitment the people of Samoa have to family, tradition and respect for the elders. We also noticed that the connection between NZ and Samoa runs deep – most people we met had relatives in NZ.
What I was not prepared for was the Christian presence in Samoa. The number of churches we saw was staggering! Every village even has a number of churches. So the issue is not whether people go to church, but what kind of church. We sensed a deep hunger for God among the people. But we also noticed the challenge of discipleship despite the many churches and sects as well as the potential for Samoans to take their place in global mission.
On a sad note, one of our hosts lost 13 members of her family in the Tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands in September 2009. Her village was one of the ones tragically impacted by this event. It was very moving hearing stories of the devastation. However, we also heard extraordinary stories of God’s providence – like three surfers out in the ocean when the Tsunami hit who were carried by the Tsunami’s wave and landed in a Church without a scar! That was amazing! I thought in every story of brokenness is a story of redemption and God’s grace.
Already opportunities are opening up for NZCMS Encounter Teams to go to Samoa. If you know any Samoan young adults in New Zealand, please do let us know because we would love to find ways of enabling them to join this missional conversation as we equip them for God’s mission.
And encourage them to join our new initiative for young missional adults by sending them this link: nzcms.org.nz/hashtag
For discussion: What are the signs of God’s grace that you have experienced in your life in a time of brokenness?