The plans were robust: a six-day convocation program to share culture and faith for the Samoan population in North America. There would be preaching, teaching, praying, interacting, eating and singing. The schedule would start early in the morning and go into the late evening hours.
The plans of humans, however, gave way to God’s better plans.
The plans unfolded as the days progressed: More than 900 people signed up to attend the North American Division Samoan Camp Meeting from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Northern California, Southern California, Utah and Missouri. It had been a dozen years since the last convocation in Southern California, and excitement ran high leading into June 24–30, 2019, at Auburn Adventist Academy campus in Auburn, Wash.
As the team of 25 event planners examined the registration roster, they noticed that most participants were from the younger generation. The planning team, then, rearranged the meeting locations to allow the younger generation to gather in the larger meeting space and the older generation to worship in the smaller meeting space. Both generations also had shared spiritual and cultural learning times as well.
“We are trusting God’s blessing as we seek to better understand our culture and teach our children about our culture and our faith,” says Fred Toailoa, pastor and event planner for Washington Conference's Samoan church district.
The program began with a “Fa’afeiloa’iga,” a traditional welcome protocol that concludes with a respectful and cultural oratory speech that depicts the Second Coming.
In the afternoons, cultural activities illustrated “We Are Samoa.” The older generation coached, mentored and judged the friendly competition of the younger generation in husking coconuts, peeling green bananas, scraping taro, participating in tug of war and more.
Another afternoon, each “church tribe” shared traditional and contemporary fashions — puletasis (ladies’ attire) and ie faitagas (gentlemen’s attire). The church tribes presented beautiful songs, dances, comedies and unique stories that illustrated “breaking through enemy lines.”
A significant highlight was educational career day where Samoan professionals — doctors, judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers, business owners, teachers and executives — shared their career paths and encouraged youth to use their gifts, skills and talents for God’s glory.
The faith-building experience culminated on Sabbath morning with an appeal for young people to represent their culture, faith and commitment to Jesus.
“It’s easy to be a creature of habit,” says Meshach Soli, a San Diego, Calif., pastor, in his presentation to young people. “Everywhere you go — the market, the school or workplace, the community — the church goes. Pacific Islanders represent 2% of the North American Division membership. Be the 2% to speak up against whatever is holding you back to help someone else.”
The response was significant. The planning team quickly arranged for the baptisms to be held in the swimming pool next door.
All week, the elder generations prayed for the younger generations to ask God to “show me Your ways and teach me Your paths” (Ps. 25:4), and now the results of were emerging. In all, 44 young people (and a few older people) were baptized at the North American Samoan Camp Meeting to the praise of Jesus and the joy of parents.
“God is doing something special at this camp meeting,” said Eliu Lafo, a pastor from Southern California who coordinated the baptism ceremony. "Lots of prayer went into this program. We saw sons and daughters and loved ones commit their lives to Jesus. We need to show them now how to live a life for Jesus.”
From cultural interchanges and spiritual growth training to angelic harmonies of music and the sharing of communal meals, Samoan camp meeting provided a memorable time for unifying the generations of the Samoan faith community in North America, greeting world church secretariat guests on their Northwest tour and educating other cultures about the Samoan culture.
Instead of a dozen years of waiting, the next spiritual convocation is already anticipated in 2022 because Samoan Adventists in North America discovered once again the value of following God’s way for Christian fellowship to help nurture new generations of believers.