(photo & following experiences on pgs 107, 108, & 110, of the 2009 Yearbook)
Adapting to Island Life
Foreign Witnesses who moved to Samoa over the years soon discovered that even in this paradise, life has its challenges. One such challenge is transportation. "During our first two years of missionary service in Apia," writes John Rhodes, "we often walked long distances to attend meetings and go witnessing. We also used the popular and colorful island buses to get around." These highly decorated vehicles usually have a wooden cabin mounted on the back of a small-to-medium size truck. Crammed inside, passengers carry everything from farm tools to fresh produce. Loud music and merry singing complete the festive atmosphere on board. Bus stops, timetables, and bus routes tend to be quite flexible. "The bus to Vava'u," points out one travel guide, "is always punctual: it arrives when it gets there." "If we wanted to buy something along the way," says John, "we simply asked the driver to stop. After making our purchase, we reboarded the bus and continued our journey. Even so, nobody worried about the delay." If the bus was full, new passengers would sit on the lap of those already seated. So missionary husbands quickly learned to have their wife on their lap. At journey's end, children and adults often paid their fare by extracting a small coin from their ear - a convenient coin pocket! To travel between islands, missionaries and publishers used planes and small boats. Journeys could be perilous; delays inevitable. "We had to learn to be patient and cultivate a sense of humor," says Elizabeth Illingworth, who for many years served with her husband, Peter, in the circuit work throughout the South Pacific. (In Costa Rica they refer to the locals as being on "tico time" since people tend to show up late everywhere but its no big deal since that's just part of the culture...and it was perfect for me when I was there, because I'm always running late!)
On land, heavy rains can make travel difficult - especially during the cyclone season. Attempting to cross a flooded stream on his way to a Congregaton Book Study, missionary Geoffrey Jackson slipped and tumbled into the raging torrent. Emerging wet and bedraggled, he continued to the meeting, where the host family dried him off and dressed him in a long black lavalava (a Polynesian wraparound kilt or skirt). His companions had difficulty restraining their laughter when a newly interested person at the meeting mistook him for a Catholic priest! Brother Jackson now serves as a member of the Governing Body.
Other challenges confronting new arrivals involved mastering a new language, adjusting to the constant tropical heat, coping with unfamiliar health problems, having few modern conveniences, and evading a host of biting insects. "The missionaries really expended themselves in our behalf," writes Mufaulu Galuvao, "and as a result, many grateful parents named their children after these dear loved ones, who had lovingly assisted us."
(experience of Robert Boies, pg 99 of the 2009 Yearbook)
We found that even when we first arrived, the people of American Samoa appreciated our efforts to learn Samoan and overlooked many mistakes. One one occasion, I used Revelation 12:9 to explain Satan's influence on the world. However, the Samoan words for devil (tiapolo) and lemon (tipolo) sound very similar. Confusing the words, I explained that the "lemon" had been cast out of heaven and was misleading the entire inhabited earth. However, I said that Jehovah would soon crush and put an end to the "lemon." (hahaha) Naturally, the householder and my missionary companion laughed heartily. On another occasion, I recited a memorized presentation to a Samoan woman in the house-to-house work. I later learned that the only part of the presentation that she understood was a brief reference to Revelation 21:4. Sensing that my message must be important, she immediately went inside and read the verse from her Bible. That one scripture so touched her heart that the woman later accepted a Bible study, and she and her children came into the truth! Happily, we eventually mastered the Samoan language and enjoyed many fine experiences. When health problems forced us to return to the United States, we left Samoa with many tears.