Friday, September 10, 2010

Showing "Honor To Men of All Sorts"

The following experience from Samoa, (on pgs 74-77 of the 2009 Yearbook) is a very good example of showing honor when defending your beliefs to opposers, (which this newly baptized brother did in front of an entire assembly of hostile villagers!), since every aspect of Samoan culture & tradition revolves around displaying an extremely high degree of honor and respect to others...especially to the chiefs and elders of the village.

(1952) Pele and his wife, Ailua, became the first Samoans to dedicate their lives to Jehovah and get baptized. Pele knew that he would be called to account for leaving the religion of his ancestors. So he studied hard and prayed earnestly for Jehovah's help. When summoned by the high chief of the family to a meeting at Pele's home village of Faleasiu, a large coastal village 12 miles west of Apia, Pele and another relative interested in the truth faced a hostile assembly of six chiefs, three orators, ten pastors, two theological teachers, the high chief who was presiding, and the older men and women of the family.

"They cursed and condemned us for disgracing the name of the family and the church of our forefathers," recalls Pele. The high chief then proposed a debate, which ended up lasting until four in the morning.

"Even though some yelled, 'Take that Bible away! Leave off that Bible!' I answered all their questions from the Bible and disproved their arguments," states Pele. "Finally, neither word nor sound was forthcoming from them. Their heads were bent down. Then the high chief said in a weak voice: 'You won, Pele.' "

"Pardon me, Sir," Pele recalls saying to the high chief, "I did not win. This night you heard the message of the Kingdom. It is my sincere hope you will heed it."

With Pele's humble reliance on Jehovah and His Word, the Bible, the seed of Kingdom truth was taking root in Upolu.

(and here's some info regarding the structure and tradition of Samoan culture, which really shows what a difficult situation this brother was up against)

Traditional Samoan Culture:
In 1847, a missionary of the London Missionary Society, George Pratt, described Samoans as "the greatest observers of etiquette in Polynesia, if not the world." This traditional Samoan culture—called faa Samoa (the Samoan way)—is a highly structured code that pervades every aspect of Samoan life.
Paramount in this code is "the respect, even veneration, shown for those 'higher' than oneself," says the book Samoan Islands. This respect is reflected in good manners, proper speech, and allegiance to one's family and village. Most consider it unthinkable to reject the customs and religion of their forefathers.
Family chiefs (matai), the guardians of this tradition, direct the daily affairs of one or more related family groups and represent them on the village council. They command strict obedience and enforce their authority through fines, beatings, or even expulsion from the village. For example, the matai of one village fined a clergyman when he made young boys throw stones at Jehovah's Witnesses.
Villages may have from 10 to 50 matai. Most are elected by extended family (aiga), but some inherit the office automatically. Titles are organized according to a strict hierarchy. Each village has a head chief (alii), who presides over the village council. A talking chief (tulafale) cares for ceremonial matters. However, not all matai have political or religious duties. Some may restrict themselves simply to caring for family matters, such as serving as trustees of family land with the authority to decide how such property is used.