Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Samoan concert benefits tsunami relief

Among the 250 people who lost their lives in the Sept. 30, 2009, tsunami in American Samoa and Western Samoa were relatives of people in 15 Samoan churches in the Northwest. 

Many others have relatives whose homes were damaged or destroyed, and who are recovering from injuries.

Samoan Toa Dancers
Dance and song help keep culture alive for younger generations.

Ulisese Sala, pastor of the First Samoan Congregational Christian Church in Tacoma, said there is still need for food, clothing, building materials and medical supplies.

The church’s 50-member choir concert Feb. 21 at Bellevue First Congregational United Church of Christ raised $2,300 for ongoing tsunami relief.

Some of the funds will also help with losses the church sustained when its sanctuary burned in a Christmas fire.

Peter Lin, who is on Bellevue First’s outreach committee and has been involved in the UCC’s Pacific Islander Asian American Ministry (PAAM) since 1995, helped plan the concert.  He related with the church, as one of 10 PAAM churches in the conference he visited as PAAM moderator.

“After the tsunami, Bellevue First planned a concert in November, then rescheduled it for January and postponed it again because of the fire,” said Lin, who has attended Bellevue First since he moved there from Olympia in 2007. He also attends the Taiwanese Christian Church in Seattle.
He said that before the concert, a map was projected showing how far—5,000 miles—Seattle/Bellevue is from Samoa. He also valued the experience of learning about Samoan history, culture, life and customs through the program, dance and song.

Telling of the fire, Sala said his church’s Christmas Eve service ended at 9 p.m.   At midnight, his family, who live in a house on the church campus, saw the fire in the sanctuary.

The Tacoma Fire Department brought the rapidly spreading fire under control by 1 p.m.  Sala said an electrical fire started in an extension cord for Christmas tree lights.

Damage to the seven-year-old, 4,000-square-foot building, at 3717 E. Portland Ave., is mostly covered by insurance, so they will be able to rebuild.

The 200-member congregation held worship for six weeks at First Samoan Church at Fort Lewis.  In mid-February, they began worshiping in their new social hall, which had been slated for completion in May.

Samoan Men Dancers
Samoan men perform dance at cultural celebration.

Sala shared some background about First Samoan Church in Tacoma and its ministry.

Eight of the 15 Samoan churches in the region relate to the Pacific Northwest Conference, and have roots in the Congregational Christian Churches of American Samoa (CCCAS).  American Samoa is a U.S. territory.  Western Samoa is independent, he explained. 

More than 60 CCCAS churches relate with the UCC, which at General Synod in 1999 adopted partnership in mission and ministry with the CCCAS.

Funds raised at the concert will be sent to the CCCAS.

“The tsunami has had much emotional impact on our congregation,” Sala said, expressing appreciation for assistance from FEMA, other nations, the UCC and World Vision.  “We have had nurses, doctors and relatives of people who died or were injured go to help.”

Travel to American Samoa as a territory is convenient, although expensive, he said, adding that many Samoans in the Northwest have served in the U.S. military, retired and purchased homes here.

“Now children and grandchildren born and raised here are influenced by the individualism and secularism of U.S. culture,” Sala explained.  “That has affected our lives and families.  We offer a youth program to teach cultural values and have bilingual worship, as well as encourage travel to keep up our customs and ways of life.

“The church is the only place people see our culture alive here,” he explained.

Not wanting to be isolated, the church has dual affiliation with the PNC-UCC and the CCCAS, as “we look from our context for meaningful ways to apply our faith in the cosmopolitan society here.”

For information, call 253-474-3600 or 425-968-2383.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2010


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share