Samoa is a very physical country. Passions run strong and discipline methods are pretty crude and brutal. It makes for a sobering experience for Jesus lovers who come from a less violent culture and society. This Sermon comes to you with a mixture of sadness and love from Samoa.
A six year-old deaf girl lived at Camp Samoa for a month or so with her Samoan mother and father. They needed a place to stay and a Pastor friend asked me if I could help them out. I helped teach her sign language and they helped out on the plantation – for a bit. They were a good family, so I was told. He’d been to bible school in Australia and was a devout church-goer, constantly talking about worship, living in the presence of God and seeking the anointing . . . . in some ways it sounded too good to be true.
A week or so into their stay the daughter wandered into my office (as she was want to do) and showed me some welts on her back. She was bleeding. It was all pretty matter of fact . . . just another day at the office, for her and for me. No big deal. Kids get hurt all the time in Samoa, skin infections, falling out of trees, machete cuts, dog bites or stones flying through the air that connect with their target!
So I asked her, through sign language, “Oh dear! Was it the cat or the dog [that did the damage]?”
“No! No!” she signed back. “My father.”
OK. So that was the fact. Pretty simple. A kid gets a hiding from an angry father. It happens all the time here in Samoa. The child clearly just accepted this as normal, which is because it was for her, as with many families in Samoa. Dad gets angry. Kid gets hiding. Outsiders just have to get over it!
One village we take guests to has an intellectually handicapped boy. When I asked what was ‘up’ with the boy I was told, again oh-so-matter-of-factly, “His mother beat him too much when he was young” with an implied. “and that’s just too bad, eh?” as they say here.
So my attitude to my supposedly Jesus-loving, church-committed, constantly-preaching new guest moved from a possible ‘like-mode’ to definite ‘unlike-mode’ inside a millisecond. I just don’t like people who beat-up on kids. Sorry!
Knowing that in Samoa, anything can and does happen, I snapped a quick couple of shots of the injuries and documented the facts for the record [just in case] then kept totally quiet about it for a week or so.
My newly arrived guest wanted to bring another friend and his family to live here too. They had five kids with another on the way and couldn’t afford private school, but wanted their kids to learn English. That’s smart of them BTW!
So we interviewed the new guy. In the interview with his friend it all came out. My guest mentioned it casually somehow with his friend (that he’d belted his daughter) and I cried. He got a surprise that I cared enough to cry.
That’s right . . . the Jesus that I know and love doesn’t condone drawing blood from physical violence. The Jesus that this man worships and supposedly supplies with an anointing on a Sunday in church is a totally different Jesus from the one I know, who, like this man’s daughter, took a physical beating through no fault of His own.
He’s got a different Jesus to mine.
And Pastors too
In case you think that this is just an isolated case, limited to the uneducated or poor village people, it’s not.
I have two pastor friends (if you can call them that) who use excessive anger to control. Love seems notably absent from their conduct behind closed doors. One is a leading Pastor in Samoa whose wife attempted to get me to remain silent about certain conversations and events, so as not to rouse her husband’s anger. The other is a pastor friend who will take offense if I turn up at his door with gifts but don’t wear a shirt when I do, yet will think nothing of belting, or threatening to whack a four year old adopted son with a leather belt in my presence.
I have probably lost a friendship with the former couple because I had the temerity to speak to them about the fact that another man’s wife wants to keep a secret with me because of the man’s anger. Sorry, that’s not going to happen if I have anything to do with it, and they can get as angry as they like with me as a result.
The other pastor friend still remains a friend because he’s clearly ‘stupid’ and actually wants me to correct him!
I take Palagi guests to the former pastor’s church when they want to attend a church like theirs. I’ve found them accommodating, kind, friendly, hospitable and more. But I know the rot behind the scenes and from the Jesus that I know and love is not into people manipulating others through personal anger – verbally OR physically is the same thing.
The God thing
The God Thing seems to feature strongly in everything to do with Samoa. In both these cases of my new guest and his friend, the men were praying and fasting before they just happened to hear about me and engage with me. The guy who never came said that “God had told him”. He never did what I asked him to do and never came back. His Jesus-God is clearly a different one from mine.
The guy that did bring his wife and daughter was doing a 40 day fast when God told him that his answers were to be found here at Camp Samoa, and that he could stop his 40 day fast. He only lasted just over a month before God seemed to change His mind and he was gone.
It happened like this:
After a few weeks of sharing and caring for the family, in which I counselled, taught, loved and helped the man discern the difference between self-righteous anger and righteous anger, as well as demonstrate the difference between true discipline and violence, I witnessed another beating.
The belt was out again and the girl again the target.
So I issued a formal written final warning. “Violence of any sort will not happen again on any land under the control of the SWAP Foundation. If it does, you will be asked to leave immediately and permanently!” was the essence of the communication. No Palagi would stay more than ten minutes around anyone who did that to their kids, I can tell you!
So they left. Simple. No proud Samoan especially a Matai would ever want to submit to a Palagi – especially one who has the cheek to enforce things like I do.
Good byes were ultra short.
“Thank you so much for loving my daughter. As long as we live you will always be my ‘brother’. If you ever need any help, just call me and I will come and help you!”
Everyone who has ever called me their brother in Samoa has hurt me through lies, stealing or some other evil, so I declined the offer to be the man’s ‘brother’! Hopefully it was gracious enough to get me through the ‘Samoan brotherliness hurdle’!
“Can I please have some soap?” his wife asked.
“Can you please pay the taxi for me?” he asked. “We have no money.”
That’s Samoa – all about ME.
They’ll be in church next week for sure, their daughter probably wearing bruises under her Sunday whites, and they will have a lovely ‘party’ with Jesus no doubt. Their church service lasted four hours last weekend. It might be three hours next week. . .
. . . but life carries on . . .
. . . and their God is a different Jesus from mine.