Sunday, October 6, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Pineapples to stave off scurvy.

From this December 1974 article in the Ensign magazine:
The dedication and concern of the Samoan people for the missionary effort and their great ability to love is epitomized by an experience of Ralph G. Rodgers, Jr., a missionary in 1956 and president of the mission from 1971 to 1974.
“During my first weeks in Samoa as a missionary, I came to love and respect the people because of the love and respect I received from the family where I lived,” he relates. “I watched as the family mother, Vaela‘a, prepared our meals, giving us the best she could possibly fix. Every few days she would gather up our clothes and go to the stream where she would ‘beat’ them clean with rocks. Everything this wonderful Samoan family did for me taught me about the meaning of love.
“After a time in Si‘umu, where we lived, there was a famine on that side of the island. For many weeks all we had to eat was rice or taro and some fish. Vegetables and fruit were impossible to get. I noticed that one day some sores were developing on my legs and after a time they became very infected. We went to Apia to see a doctor, and he explained I needed vitamin C. But I realized that citrus fruit was impossible to get on the back of the island, and so my companion and I made the situation a matter of prayer and fasting.
“When I returned home from seeing the doctor, the family father, Uta‘i Tapena, who was also president of the Si‘umu Branch, asked what the doctor had said. I told him, but assured him that the Lord would take care of me.
“Early the next morning my companion and I were up and ready for breakfast when we noticed that the father of the family had gone. We asked about him and the mother said he had gone on an errand. That night when we returned he still had not come back.
“The next morning at breakfast we noticed that in the middle of our eating mat was a large pineapple, all cut up and ready to eat. I asked where it had come from and the mother said the father, concerned about what the doctor had said, knew I needed some fruit. He only had two shillings, but he spent one taking the bus into town and the other on a large pineapple. That left him with no money to return home, so he had walked all afternoon and most of the night, 20 miles back, so we would have fruit for our breakfast.
“I had the privilege of returning to Samoa about nine years later on a Church assignment. My first concern was to hurry out to Si‘umu to see my ‘father.’ When I got to the village the people said he was in his other home in the hills. I walked a mile or so to see him, and as I came into the hut I saw an old, gray-haired man. At first I didn’t recognize him, but then he called my name. It was my Samoan father, Uta‘i. He had aged greatly in those nine years, and there he sat in that little hut with both legs cut off at the hips because of cancer. How I wished that I could have walked those 20 miles for him and bought him something that would have taken care of his illness as he had done for me when I was a missionary for the Lord in those wonderful islands!
Image credit: https://familysearch.org

2 comments:

Whitney Hardie said...

What a touching story. That is truly beautiful.

Nate said...

Thanks, Whitney!