A little over two weeks ago, Monday afternoon, July 22nd, Sister Nele Moaga needed to exchange some Australian money for Samoan, so we headed to town, stopping in front of Western Union for her errand. We waited in the car for her. She told us later that she heard someone yell, “Hey!, but not realizing they were directing it to her, she hurried into the building. Moments later, a man squatted down to speak to Leon through the car window. (Remember we drive a Hyundai Getz; ‘squat’ is an appropriate descriptive word if you wish to address the driver of a Getz.) Understand, we had a run-in with a cunning hustler maybe six or seven weeks ago, so we were naturally on guard. But this man was different. Leon rolled down the window (yes, he ‘rolled’ the window down with a little handle on the door for that purpose – remember those?) (but, take note, the windows were up because, though it may be a humble little car, it has great a/c!). Back to the story.
The man was clean and (how would we know this), good. He did not ask for money. He was not selling anything. He did not ask for a ride. He simply told us that he recognized that we were Mormons and quickly added that he is not a member of our church (some with hidden agendas claim to be members when they see our name tags), but that he is aware that it is a “big” church in Samoa (did you know that 25% of the population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?) with many members. Because of that, he hoped we might be of help. He told us with obvious urgency that his 15 year old niece was in the hospital badly in need of type AB blood. We asked him for her name and a contact number for him, which he gave. He said she was in the maternity ward, though we are unsure now what he called it. The women’s hospital or something. We made an assumption that this might be a little girl in trouble with a pregnancy. No matter. She needed blood and this man, her uncle, cared enough to reach out to anyone he thought might help. We told him we would do what we could. By then Sister Moaga was back in the car, they spoke in Samoan and clarified that she was in the maternity ward. I wish I could adequately tell you what I felt from this man. He seemed familiar somehow.
We talked about it on the way home, thinking that we could send word out to the senior missionaries, and maybe the office couple could help us discover if any of the young missionaries had type AB blood.
This was Leon’s day to wash our little car, so while he was busy with that, I headed over to the mission office. I told my tale to Sister Gertsch, who emphasized how careful we need to be when approached by strangers. I assured her this man was not asking us for more than our help in finding a blood donor for his niece. She was hesitant to send out an unauthorized email request w/o verifying with someone above her. President Leota was not in, so I couldn’t refer to him, but he was expected shortly. She took the info I had jotted down and said she would email it to someone in the service center (I can never remember his name). She reminded me of the unsanitary conditions of the hospital, the danger of asking our missionaries to give blood, which would require needles, which may be reused, who know what terrible things might happen, etc. I hadn’t thought of bringing danger to anyone. I couldn’t imagine the hospital would reuse needles, but I do have memories of childbirth at the Mootoatua Hospital, of cockroaches and showers that caused me to wear flip-flops while showering and hold the soap in my mouth by the lid of its box. So I wasn’t entirely untouched by her fears.
As I walked back from the mission home to talk with Leon, who was making good progress on the car, it occurred to me that the very least we could do was to offer to give this girl a priesthood blessing. I suggested that to Leon and he agreed. So back I went to see if I could solicit the help of the two assistants to the president, who are often close by. As I entered the office, Sister Gertsch informed me that the unnamed authority in the service center answered her email that he ‘didn’t know this man’. Hello. Luckily, President Leota walked in just then, happened to have a minute, so he ushered me into his office and I explained the need. He was supportive and surprised at the concerns that had been raised, but said he definitely would ask his assistants, Elder Amituana’I [say Ah-me-too-ah-nah-ee] and Elder Kepu, [say Kay-poo] if they would accompany us to the hospital and administer to Eneleata Epati [say Eh-nay-lay-ah-tah Eh-paw-tee], 15 years old and in need of a blessing. He suggested that I inquire about the procedures the hospital follows in taking blood.
He picked up his cell phone and called his assistant. As he was asking Elder Amituana’I what his schedule looked like in the next little while, the elder walked into the office with his phone on his ear. Haha. Yes, they would be free in 45 minutes and would go with us. I finally felt peace. Leon finished his task, cleaned up, and with the elders in the back seat of our sparkling clean Getz, we were off to the hospital.
I must take a moment here to explain ‘the hospital’. The Mootoatua Hospital, as it was called when April and Leslie were born there, was an old WWII one story building, looking its age. We have driven to the site of the old hospital more than once trying to figure out if it is still part of the medical complex that now sprawls over half a city block and which includes a spanking new two story red and white hospital built by the Chinese government. More about that later. We walked instead back through an older building and inquired of a laborer nearby where the women’s section was. Following his directions and with a few corrections in our course, we found it. The nurse at her station directed us to the maternity ward, a large open room with six beds, the curtains drawn back where all could visit. There were a few family members or friends there, each with their patient.
There on her bed lay beautiful Eneleata Epati, her dark hair pulled back, her dark eyes accepting and patient. Her mother stood by her bed. I introduced us to her and explained that Eneleata’s uncle Aleni, had asked us to help locate her blood type and that we had brought these two young elders of our church to give her a blessing if that would please her. Her mother introduced herself as Fay. She was pleasant, smiling and grateful that we would come. She said she didn’t know that we would minister to those not of our faith. Of course I’m paraphrasing. Once the introductions were over the elders conversed with them in Samoan. We observed that Eneleata was receiving type A blood through a drip.
And so the blessing was given. Leon was privileged to lay hands on her head with the elders as they administered to her. We learned that this precious girl has been bleeding more heavily than is normal for the past year to the extent that she was in need of a transfusion. We asked if it would be alright for us to check on her later to see how she is doing. Her mother said yes, we could. The elders left with knowledge of the village where the family lives, the church they currently attend, and an invitation to visit in their home. On the way back to the mission home, they told us that they felt the spirit very strongly in giving the blessing. These two elders are so dedicated, so fun and happy in the work. They obviously enjoy working together.
The next morning, waiting outside the temple at 4:30 a.m. for the doors to open, we filled Sister Moaga in on what had transpired the night before. She then told Brother and Sister Sauni (in Samoan) all that had happened. And guess what. Brother Sauni has type AB blood. And that’s not all. Sister Moaga’s niece is serving a mission here and is working in the very village where the Epati family lives. I have said before that we are living in a land of miracles.
Leon tried several times in the next couple of days to reach Aleni by phone, but without success. He finally called the hospital and learned that Eneleata had been released and gone home. When he reached her uncle Aleni, he told Leon she was doing well and was back in school. He thanked us for blessing his niece. He was very grateful that she is doing so well.
We were so blessed to have been part of this. The truth is we all live in a miraculous world. And if we are willing, we can all participate in miracles. The good news is that it doesn't require a name tag. I hope when the tags come off, the miracles will continue.
This is the new hospital. The sign tells that the grand opening was July 2nd this year. It was built by the Chinese government, who brought their own workers and materials, built it, cleaned up after themselves and went home. A couple of issues remained. First, the windows do not open, and although there was air conditioning installed, there wasn't enough power on the island to power it. They ponied up with a generator, so that was solved. Then when they were ready to admit patients, it was discovered that the electrical plugs were like those at home for 110V, while the plugs here are altogether different and are for 230V. Stop everything. Remove the furniture and move the equipment. I haven't heard if they are in business yet or still working on it. But it is a beautiful building, don't you think?