By Deloris Trujillo
There are no limits to what God can accomplish through His people. The pandemic may have closed church buildings, but it also became a time to “Sing to the Lord a NEW song.”
When the South San Francisco Samoan church started to livestream their church service, their average attendance of 50 to 70 people suddenly ballooned to thousands “attending” every week. Averaging between 1,000 to 1,500 and sometimes more, with the first Sabbath in July peaking at 2,393 views, people are listening from across the country and even from New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific islands of Samoa.
Why such an increase? Florencia Tuaumu-Vaili (Flo), the church clerk and communication secretary at the time, said, “Having Pastor Manuao Maui’a online opened up an opportunity for Samoan-speaking viewers to hear the Word.” The Samoan culture places high value on loyalty to the family. Some family members might like to learn about or even attend a church, but they may not pursue that interest because of the disruption it could cause within their family. “However,” Flo explained, “being online provides an innocuous and harmless channel into the homes of many Samoan families.” In other words, watching the livestream became a safe way to learn about the Adventist message that might never have happened otherwise.
Starting out as a company in 1966, the South San Francisco Samoan church was the first Samoan Seventh-day Adventist church in North America. Because most Samoans coming to the U.S. are first-generation immigrants with English as their second language, Samoan-speaking churches are important. Considered the “mother” church to other Samoan congregations in the U.S., South San Francisco Samoan has long felt that starting new churches was a good way to do evangelism. Therefore, members would often financially support their young people in our schools before sending them to plant new churches.
Besides serving as the senior pastor, Maui’a is also the Central California Conference’s director of Asian Pacific ministries. He is the author of the Samoan version of the Adult Sabbath School lessons each quarter, and he serves as the leader of the Samoan Ministries Association for the North American Division.
As Maui’a would tell you, it has been an amazing experience to see how many people view the Sabbath morning livestream and to read their numerous testimonies. Many would likely repeat what one viewer from Sydney, Australia, wrote, “Malo, Pastor Manuao. Maui’a le feau i lenei Sapati.” (“Thank you, Pastor Manuao. God bless the preaching of His Word this Sabbath.”) God has blessed these new methods so that, as Isaiah exhorted, many more are singing a new song and proclaiming His praise in the islands.