Talofa! For the past week, Glenn and I have enjoyed extraordinary hospitality and we’ve been blessed to teach on the beautiful island of American Samoa. Glenn has done elder case studies with the men of the Nu’uuli congregation and surrounding areas in hopes of their aspiring to be godly elders for the future of the church here. Unlike most places on the mainland, women were willing to spend two-and-a-half hours in study of the Word with me and then, when that was over, they wanted to stay and ask questions. Our treatment by the family there was far better than we could deserve and we will always be grateful. I ate a few foods that were brand new to me, including mussel and turkey tail (I did not even really know there was a tail!). I have eaten taro root and yams that were white and Glenn loved the octopus.
We met for our services in a red and white building at the foot of a huge mountain that exhibited beautiful waterfalls when the rains came. (We teased them that they painted the building just for us Bama fans!) The singing was the most beautiful and energetic I have ever heard. I could not understand most of the Samoan words, but I knew, for certain, there was no reservation of praise and thanksgiving. Abraham Soli, who traveled with us from West Huntsville, along with Joseph, occasionally, (who is local) did the interpreting for Glenn. His sisters, Ruth and Pisa, also from West Huntsville, interpreted for me in the women’s classes. This island was their childhood home. Their father, a faithful elder and preacher of the gospel, started the congregation and his body is now buried in a tomb that stands right behind the building. Their mother’s tomb is beside his. To say they are loved here is an understatement. They did an excellent job translating, as well as being very generous and loving to the people of the island. In return, the islanders were very kind and generous to all of us. They did not eat until we were finished. They would not allow us to wash as much as a fork or cook a dish. They truly loved beyond measure.
The biggest challenge of the week was communication. Though our translators were excellent, there are all kinds of difficulties when you are trying to match two languages to deliver exact meaning. Imagine trying to define Greek words from Titus 2 to the best of your limited ability, and then, when you are done explaining, the explanation is still not in the right language for understanding. You still have to go through one more round of defining.
Connectivity with the world off the island was almost impossible. We had no cell phone connections, an extremely scant facebook connection every now and then, and our email was turtle slow. There were some important emails and urgent correspondence that we did not feel could comfortably wait till we got home, so we kept trying…trying at the hotel, trying at the church building, trying at McDonald’s. But it was to little avail. We will be spending some time trying to catch up when we reach the mainland on Wednesday morning. The 17.5 hours in the air, between here and Huntsville, Alabama, is a chasm of lost communication, itself. We will wait to hear from loved ones until that communication is restored.
But there was One that we love dearly with whom we never dropped a call, with whom we never had to wait for connectivity or for whom distance has never been a problem. I am so glad—SO GLAD—that my God is never unavailable. When I could not offer any help to the couple who were experiencing marriage problems, I could still implore in their behalf and beg for His providence in making a way for restoration. I could pray James 1:5. When I could not speak with my children or grandchildren, I could still talk to their most important PARENT and beg for his mercies on them—that they would be constantly in His service and in His care. I could still talk to the ONE who could do so much more for them than I could ever dream of doing. When I could not call my siblings who are so good to me as we work through the settling of matters after our dad’s death, I could talk to that other Father, Who is overseeing the whole process and Who is, even now, caring for the father and mother we miss so much. On Sunday, when we knew that we could not worship with our spiritual family on the mainland, we knew that we were doing the exact same things that they had already finished doing and that the sweet savor had been coming before our Father’s throne all through the hours of the first day of the week from all around the world. We were connected in the most important ways.