Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Samoa Part 20: Milovale's Faith

On Upolu, south of Pesega, in the Vilimaa area, up at the top of the road there is the source of the area’s name: O le Vilimaa--the rock grinder, or in more familiar terms, the gravel pit. Right before one enters the compound one can look to the left and notice a house. There lived an old lady 76 years of age (as of 2001) named Milovale. She was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but hadn't been to church for about 3 months: the time that she had lived in that house with her daughter and Catholic son-in-law, since the time she moved there from further away on Upolu.

We asked Milovale if we could get a ride to come and pick her up on Sundays and take her to church. She enthusiastically agreed. We told her that we probably couldn’t get her a ride for the upcoming Sunday but definitely for the next.

On Sunday morn while we were listening to the message of the speaker in the English-speaking ward, someone came to us and told us that an old woman and her daughter had asked for us. We exited the chapel to find Milovale and her daughter; they had walked from the Vilimaa to the chapel without really knowing where to go. The weather was hot, she had no water to quench her thirst, and the dust of the road only mocked her, I’m sure, as she set out, a 76 year old woman, to go to church. She hadn’t known exactly where the church building was, she just set out to find it.

The first thing that she asked for was a tithing slip and envelope that she might be square with the Lord and contribute to her son’s mission fund as he was serving in New Zealand. I did not see how much she put in the envelope, but I am certain that it was comparable to the widow’s mite.

The great faith of this woman drove her from the comforts of her daughter’s home to attend the meetings of a congregation unfamiliar to her. She had arrived 2 ½ hours early and patiently waited until the Samoan-speaking ward started, and she then remained there for the full 3 hour block. We secured a ride for her to take her home after the meetings.

Elder John H. Groberg who served his mission in Tonga, a close neighbor to Samoa, once wrote about the Tongans' faith. I think it is equally applicable to the faith typical of the Samoans. He wrote:

I would not characterize their faith by the English word simple, but rather the word profound. If we say there is a "simple faith," then by extension we need to say there is a more complex or sophisticated faith and that one faith may be superior to the other. I do not believe this. I do not believe there are various types of faith, such as simple or advanced or complex or sophisticated. I believe there is just faith or lack of faith. We either have faith or we don't. Of course, some have stronger faith than others. (1)

It may seem a simple thing for Milovale to have walked all the way to church that day in the blistering heat, but it still took faith to do it. Her example illustrates that faith is a principle of action, not only belief. Her belief in the resurrected Savior impelled her to church that morning despite the inconveniences of going.

After witnessing Milovale's expression of faith my own faith was strengthened. My desire to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only increased (see James 1:22). And thus, "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6); that is, as we see the natural expressions of others' genuine faith in Christ, the fire of their faith kindles within us the desire to also live by faith. Such is the power of true testimony.

1. John H. Groberg, In the Eye of the Storm, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993, pg. xii.

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