Recently we had the opportunity of traveling to the Manu’a Group of islands in American Samoa. Our home is on the Island of Upolu, about 75 miles west of Tutuila, which is the main island of American Samoa. Manu’a is another 75 miles east of Tutuila.
|The Samoa Chain|
Three small islands make up the Manu'a Group, all of which I visited and one of which I lived on as a missionary 53 years ago.
Manu’a is especially important to the Samoa chain of islands in several respects. For many years the 9 populated islands of Samoa were ruled by the King of Manu’a. Some Samoan stories say the first people to settle Samoa came from a larger land mass to the east and arrived on the eastern most tip of the Island of Ta’u (pronounced tah-ooh). Interestingly, while I was in Samoa a half century ago, a fisherman in his canoe from the Marquesas Islands who had lost his oar drifted more than 2,000 miles westward on the South Pacific currents and landed on Ta’u, right where Samoan legend say the first King of Manu’a lived.
Our purpose in going there was to see how our missionaries are doing there and what their living conditions are like. We flew from Upolu to Tutuila, then caught the island hopper from Tutuila to Ta’u Island, the largest of the 3 islands of Manu’a.
|A fun ride|
|The trusty co-pilot|
Ta‘u is where Margaret Mead conducted her famous study in the 1920s, later published as Coming of Age in Samoa. (A lot of what she said about Samoan culture has been criticized and contradicted by subsequent research. Personally, I found much of the book to be quite contrary to what I saw as a missionary. When I wrote my observations in a paper for an anthropology course at BYU, the professor scoffed at me and asked, “Who are you to question the distinguished Margaret Mead?” I have been glad to see at least some scholars agree with me.)
We spent a week on the Manu’a group. We found the elders and sisters there to be in good health and in good spirits.
|Sisters in Zion|
|Elders in Zion|
We got to proselyte a bit with the 3 sister missionaries who live in the village of Fitiuta on Ta’u Island. It was a delight to be with them.
|It was a joy to be around them!|
|Missionaries doing what they have been called to do.|
We also got to visit with the new LDS Branch President on the island and his family. There is a sweet, strong spirit among the people there. A week after we left Manu’a, a large family was baptized in the ocean there, strengthening the people and the work of the Lord in Samoa.
|The Branch President and his wife at the far right.|
|Red skies at night on Ta'u|
|The Village of Faleasao is fortunate to have them.|
From Faleasao we took a boat over to Ofu Island. We hope you can open this video:
|Ready to board|
|"Are you sure about this?"|
Alicia was a little nervous at first, but it turned out to be a nice relaxing 90-minute ride, with her taking pictures and my napping.
The elders living there met us at the dock and treated us to a ride in their pickup. We insisted on riding in the back (sitting down in the bed, after this picture was taken).
|Traveling in style|
They are renting a nice small place that has air conditioning and an inside toilet.
|Not a bad place|
Back in the good old days of 1963, we lived in a Samoan fale where we had no electricity, no running water, and no inside toilets.
|A real Samoan fale, like the one I lived in on Olosega|
Actually, back then on Manu'a, we had no inside or outside toilets – we went down to the beach early each morning and late at night. The tides rolling in and out twice a day functioned as plumbing.
|Our "outhouse" 53 years ago|
|A professional at work!|
|"Where two or three are gathered in my name"|
|Between Ofu Island and Olosega Island|
|Happy Anniversary coming soon|
|Welcoming us to Olosega|
We met some beautiful people on Olosega. We were accepted everywhere we went.
|Beautiful people all|
We tried to hike up to the top of the island but found that the path is so overgrown that it was almost impossible to get through the undergrowth. Apparently the gardens there are no longer being used.
|Exploring old trails|
|The trail narrowed|
But fifty years ago we would make our way up to the top of the island to the taro gardens and coconut groves to bring down food to the village.
|Me and my Manu'a friends (1963)|
|Me and my Manu'a friend (2016)|
I took with me a few photographs and asked several people there if they knew anyone in the pictures. I had kept the names written on the back of the pictures, and several people recognized the names. But anyone I had known there was either dead or had moved to Hawaii or California or Utah. I was pleased to learn that a granddaughter of the couple with whom we lived – who were not members of our faith – has since joined the Church, but she no longer lives on Olosega.
The trip over to Ofu and Olosega was relaxing; the six days spent there were uplifting.
The trip back was exciting as we were tossed about by the wind and waves. Maybe you can open this video:
As nice as it was to get to see places I had been in more than 50 years ago, the best part of the trip was getting to see the growth of the Kingdom of God in this faraway place, to see people accepting the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.