On Savaii ...traditions and family ties held a tight grip on the people. Up to one third of the villages banned Jehovah's Witnesses from preaching in their communities, some even making public radio announcements to the effect. Hence, it took much time and patience to help new ones to make progress. Even so, many came into the truth, including some with serious health problems. One such person was Metusela Neru, who fell from a horse and broke his back when he was 12 years old. "After his accident," recalls one missionary, "he walked as if he were folded in half, and he was in constant pain." When Metusela began studying the Bible at 19 years of age, he resolutely endured his family's opposition. Because of his disability, what would otherwise have been a five-minute walk to congregation meetings was a 45-minute ordeal. Nevertheless, Metusela made fine progress and was baptized in 1990. He later entered the full-time ministry as a regular pioneer and qualified as an elder. Since then, more than 30 of his relatives have attended meetings in Faga, and several have been baptized. Today, despite his ongoing health problems, Metusela is well-known for his smiling face and happy personality.
Another person who over came severe health problems to make spiritual progress was Saumalu Taua'anae. Saumalu was severely disfigured by leprosy and lived in the remote village of Aopo. Because his village was so isolated, he first studied the Bible through correspondence with Ivan Thompson. Then Asa Coe, a special pioneer, moved to Savaii and took over the study. When Saumalu attended his first meeting in 1991, it required a two-hour drive to Taga, a village on the opposite side of the island. So self-conscious was Saumalu about his disfigured appearance that when he first attended a special assembly day, he listened to the program from his car. He was deeply moved, though, when during the intermission at lunchtime, brothers and sisters lovingly approached him and extended a heartfelt welcome. He gratefully accepted their warm invitation and enjoyed the rest of the program sitting with the audience. Soon Saumalu and his wife, Torise, began attending meetings at Faga, traveling more than an hour each way to be there. Saumalu was baptized in 1993 and, in time, qualified to be a ministerial servant. When doctors later amputated one of his legs, he still drove his car to meetings. Their village has banned the preaching work of Jehovah's Witnesses; hence, Saumalu and Torise zealously witness to others informally and by means of the telephone. Today, then live in Apia, where Saumalu receives regular treatment for his many health problems. Instead of being bitter, he is well-known for his positive, joyful outlook on life. Both he and his wife are greatly respected for their strong faith.