The Samoa Files

There has to be a God By: Dennis A Smith, 7 January 2011-20:46:51

I think the doors are opening for us in Samoa again. There has to be such a thing as providence, kharma, a God or similar - there just has to be.

The MountainAs a Christian, we are encouraged to look up for guidance - at both a theoretical level (such as determining right and wrong, good and bad) and specifically for the moment, (What would Jesus Do) sort of thing. Biblical speak for all this goes along the lines of Jeremiah 29:11 for the first form of general guidance (that God has good plans and purposes for the righteous), and the Rhema (spoken word or God) that guides us day by day, minute by minute in specific circumstances.

[Pic: Our Magic Mountain. The mountain itself is conical, similar in size to Mt Ngaruahoe in NZ, with quite a larger circular crater and a ridge of mountains rising up on the far side making for good vehicular access to the top I'm told. This photo from Satapuala looking south at the mountain with my personal open-walled, rusty roof sleeping Fale in the foreground]

I know well the pain of struggling to "hear" God as a young Christian, thinking that I was not spiritual enough to "hear" the Man in the sky like some of the other Christians around me seemed to do. That was until I worked out that the still small voice that always triggered my conscience, and the gentle loving impressions that I was having as a result of "converstations with God" in my brain were increasingly connected to apparently random events at the time, but in retrospect I could identify with Christian co-incidence that I would confidently later ascribe to "the Lord".

Gradually I began to understand that just as a good relationship doesn't always begin with love at first sight, so too does a Christian walk not always begin with a booming voice from the sky, and if it did we weren't to live a life of love being instructed on what to do every 10 minutes or so from a voice from the clouds. In Jesus' walk on the earth, He experienced a couple of these moments, once at his baptism and another couple of encounters that you've gotta say were out of this world, but from as best as I can tell, He just spent time with His Father, quitely listening, talking and sometimes in agony - simply engaging naturally with a world outside of the visual and material.

If it is the voice of God we seek, we are best to look within and exercise faith. If we genuinely want to hear from Him, and to do what He advises, I have found that He pretty much always lets us work things out, takes the pain and frustration that we dump on Him on the chin, and encourages us to go just that little bit more. He has a way of correcting and guiding us when things are going wrong. Doors really just close!

So I met a guy in the street the other day. Minding my own business, I had stopped the Swap-mobile to get a new battery and he walked up to me. "Excuse me!" he said in good English. "I heard about your troubles with the landlord and what happened to you and I am so, so sorry about that! That was horrible what happened!"

Wow! That's a kind of nice thing to happen to me . . . a stranger wanders up and wants to be a friend. Samoans do that well by the way. They constantly compliment me on the SWAP uniform and several times a day I would be thanking them for their compliments. I know it means a lot to them when I wear an Ula and a lavalava, so I go out of my way to always wear my uniform when out on the town.

But this guy went further. "I have land I would like to show you if you would like to have a look at it sometime and you are welcome to it if you want".

OK now in context . . . This may seem like generousity at first glance, but the only thing many Samoans have is land. It's family, or customary land so no Palagi worth their salt would touch it, but Samoans with nothing would LOVE NOTHING MORE than to lease it to a Palagi for lots of moola! So I get this all the time from dreamers and others less well meaning. So I said "Thank you that would be nice" and I got his business card.

After our landlord troubles we needed to relocate. So I thought it would be reasonable just to have a look at it. Debbie and I met the guy, chatted a bit and he just wouldn't stop talking about his land. He loved it and it really showed. It was infectious. He told us how he loved the trees and all the natural things on it and how he wanted to run eco-tours on it and share it with the world. He told us how he came back from overseas and has worked the land and fenced it and looked after it for 20 years, and patiently sold his assets to build a road to it at great expense and effort. He enthused on and on about it and bottom line . . . we could do anything we wanted on it. He just wanted other people to come and use it and enjoy it and be part of his family.

It sounded too good to be true but we went and had a look at it. It's 400 acres just up from Fasitootai and smack in the middle of his land is a volcano! This guy owns a bloomin' mountain and has just offered it to us to do anything we want with it!

Pinch self.

Recount the past - 14 months of fighting with Samoan Tourism Authority who want us out of here and undermine everything we try to do. Liars and theives and crooks target us. People treat us like moneybags and just try to use us and bleed us. (Hopefully that is all over by now).

And then this guy just bowls up to us in the street and says "Sorry to hear about your troubles mate . . . want some land?" and it turns out to be 400 acres with a mountain in the middle of it!

So I did what all self-respecting Palagi thinking that he's about to get fleeced does and said "We'll think about it and get back to you. We can't do anything now without the Prime Minister's approval you know. He is the one who will find us land and give it to us. If he approves then we can talk some more about it!"

Well I've done a bit of research about this new-found friend. I interviewed him today and asked him what he really wanted from me - money? lease? help? partnership?

Would he be able to take correction and learn from me if we worked together? Was he serious about developing it? Did he understand the business mind and the way a Palagi thinks? and on and on.

Dennis & Tau[Pic: The man with the other man!]

He passed with flying colours. His name is Tau. He has a few minibuses and runs an Airport Shuttle. He is well respected and on the board of Polynesian Airlines! OK! He is definitely the High Chief and he bestowed the family title on his younger brother and yes, he does own the land. He can work with us. He wants to work with us. He IS genuine and does understand the mind of a businessman. He has ideas already about where we can start on the land and what we can do. He understands that we need access, power, Internet access, water, and a breeze. He is happy to start small and build up. He likes our ideas and understands that we need the support of government to offer opportunities to off-shore investors.

WOW! It's been a big day!

So let's back up for just a minute and recap some of the people who were once friends but who have done the dirty on us and then go through some what-ifs. I now make the assumption that there is a God, who is just and honours our faith and rewards crime with punishment. There are three people that have done the dirty on us pretty badly, I won't name names but it is no secret who they are.

The first man is from Fasitoo-tai. This is the very village that owns this mountain. He once spoke to me and showed me the land that he and his brothers worked up on the side of the mountain. "We could do a village stay there," he said once, expectantly. "Really?" I said. "Wow that would be so amazing to do a (one) Faleo'o up there with such an amazing view." He stole from us multiple times, lied multiples times and went to jail. He won't be working for us again. It could be that one day when he works his plantation on the lower slopes of the mountain, he could look up to us developing and employing and doing great things for other people in his village who have a godly approach to life.

Yes, quite possibly there is a God - just maybe one who understands that there is such a thing as justice for the good.

Another one of our ex-employee's family owns land in Safotu. It is on a hillside. We had planned to develop an underground recording studio on it one day. ("Undergound" on the side of the cliff so that rain noise and heat are dampened by a soil roof and cyclone proof with a line of windows with a view). But I said that we'd wait and that Debbie and I would see by the end of the year whether or not he had pressed in close to God, and was prepared to do things the honest and right way. He lied, and lied, and lied. We had to ask him to go and then he stole and did worse. It is very likely that someone else will have the ideas that we were working on with this guy until the evil took over. To this guy and others like him . . . you can't play games with God. He will not be mocked and we won't deal with liars and thieves (unless they repent and mean it by growing up and changing of course).

And to the last of our staff who stole (quite a lot, actually) - a trusted team member who abused us more than all of the others before. All she wanted was security for her baby and her family - to interface with Palagi who could challenge her and engage with her so she could enjoy a miserable life on the run with nothing, no job, no money, no real friends. This land and planned development would have been her dream come true - gone forever for the sake of money, that's probably all gone now on smokes and booze!

She will have lots of time to think about her favourite saying where she will be going . . . "But Dennis, we have God and truth on our side!" Yup - surely we do - and that's why you wil be inside someday soon!

So while it hurts to see trusted staff and friends get their punishment for their crimes, maybe if things work out - all of them too can say "Well, yes, maybe there is a God" too.

And you know what Tau says to us over and over? "I've been praying every night for 20 years for someone like you to come into my life and help me. Surely the Lord has sent you to me!"

Pinch self again.

Excuse me? I'm the one who has been looking for land and security and an opportunity to settle and develop a base and have had some pretty interesting discussions with the Lord about WTF was going on around all of this! You were the one who tapped me on the shoulder in the street and made it happen!

I get the picture now . . . this appears to be another But God moment. There HAS to be a God - surely!

OK, enough God stuff for the day - down to business.

Tau and I will have another look at his land on Monday with our cultural advisor and general good-guy Tuigamala (that's the rugby player Inga's brother) and talk through some specifics about what he wants and what we want and how we could all do things. We want land for a base for the SWAP Foundation and to setup a few ventures - one guy wants to do a weight loss retreat. Another wants to do a music recording studio in the bush. Others just want a retreat and to chill. Others want to do children's retreats and we have ideas of a green R&D facility and green, organically safe and sound thingamy stuffs all through.

Everyone's got lots of ideas.

So it looks like there may be a bit of progress on the land front and we'll be able to offer the PM a possible solution to our own land problem if things go according to plan. There's a bit of work to do - such as a decent road, a surveyor, a 20ton digger is needed and a whole bunch of other stuff, but we're moving again now it seems after a month or two of stagnation and waiting.

Who knows what will come from this but if it does happen, you heard it here first . . . it was a God thing.


Tagwords: god, mountain, tau
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