Today is your Sabbath. We hope you enjoy it fully and are spiritually nourished. We certainly were yesterday, our Sabbath. The Pesega 5th Ward which we are attending is the 'palagi' ward, but that is misleading. What it really means is that the meetings are in English. Most of the members are Samoan. The bishopric is Samoan, the priesthood leaders are Samoan, the auxiliary leaders are either Samoan or spouses of Samoans. We palagi's are by far in the minority, but most of the palagi senior missionaries attend this ward. Before we came to Samoa we intended to attend a Samoan ward, meaning a Samoan language ward, which would be any of the other wards on the island. However, we soon realized that we have the same need now as we did at home to be nourished by the word. To regularly attend church in a language we don't understand would not be helpful to us at this point.
Within the past week we have learned the meaning of two important words: palagi and Samoa.
President Ho-Ching explained that 'pa' means 'burst forth' and 'lagi' is the Samoan word for 'heaven'. Their point of reference for a white man is their 'tradition' of a White Man who 'burst forth' from (or suddenly came down from) heaven. Palagi. That is a humbling thought. Sadly, the experience some Samoans have had with our ethnic group has not been all that positive, so it is not always thought of with respect.
As for 'Samoa', we always assumed and laughed at that assumption, that since 'sa' means sacred, and 'moa' is the word for 'chicken', that for some unknown reason, this nation was called "Sacred Chicken". It made no sense since Samoans don't consider chickens to be sacred, but in our ignorance we never bothered to ask. Until some days ago. President Ho-Ching explained that the center of the body is referred to as 'moa'. Samoans believe that the first people to inhabit Polynesia sailed with the current from South America and landed in Samoa, which they refer to as 'The Heart of Polynesia'. He remembers as a youth of 12 years old in the early '50's, living in American Samoa, watching as a man arrive on his raft, as the Samoans and the media welcomed him after he had done exactly that, ridden the ocean current which landed him there. He remembers that the same man repeated the voyage with a similar result. This was a confirming witness to them. They believe that from Samoa the people explored the South Pacific and spread to the other islands. Scripturally, they site the voyages of Hagoth in the Book of Mormon and others who followed (Alma 63:5-8); "And it came to pass that they were never heard of more. And we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea." v. 8.
We obviously have much to learn.
So much for ancient history. In recent history, we have all been blessed by the visit of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and members of the area presidency over the South Pacific. They began their tour of the islands, including New Zealand and Australia, right here in Samoan. They arrived Thursday night, April 18th. During the following 3 days, we heard them speak at a mission conference, a cultural celebration, and a stake conference. What a wonderful thing it is to be in the presence of an apostle of the Lord. As a Special Witness of the Lord, Jesus Christ, he not only bore his witness in the form of a testimony and inspirational, enlightening teachings, but by his very personality and love for all of us, his cheerfulness and good humor, he bore witness of the reality of a personal God that, if the veil were lifted and we could taste the joy of His presence for just a moment, we would do anything necessary to qualify to live eternally in that Joyful Presence. Those qualities are apparent in every apostle or seventy that we have had opportunity to meet. They all reflect a joy and a love that comes from Him.
I'll share one glimpse with you of Elder Oaks' inspired teaching. At the mission conference, he entered the chapel, walked to the front and stood in the aisle beside the front row. Row by row, each one of us passed by him and shook his hand, looked into his eyes and felt such gratitude for the opportunity. He began his remarks by referring to that experience from his perspective. He quoted from D&C 121:45, asking, "What does it mean to have your 'confidence wax strong in the presence of the Lord'"? He answered his own question, searching for the right word, he said, it means to feel like you 'belong'; that you are 'comfortable' in His presence. He then said that with almost all of us, he sensed that we were comfortable in his presence, that we felt that we 'belonged'. In a few cases, however, he said some of you didn't make eye contact, and it was apparent that you couldn't get away fast enough. You didn't feel that you belong. He emphasized that it didn't change the love he felt for each and every missionary, but said, "I don't know why you felt that way, but YOU know. My counsel is whatever it is, 'fix it'".
We have only one picture of Elder Oaks, which Leon took at the cultural celebration, so we'll include that.
Have a wonderful Sabbath and week.
Elder and Sister Crowley