Sapapalii Celebrates 192 Years Since John Williams brought Christianity to Samoa

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The Sapapalii EFKS church stands tall in the place where John Williams arrived 24 August 1830. Photo Credit: Leituala Dr Ben Matalavea.

The village of Sapapalii in Savaii held celebrations on the 24th of August, to commemorate 192 years since Christianity first arrived to Samoa’s shores.

John Williams and his wife Mary arrived in Samoa in 1830 on the Messenger of Peace a ship he had built with local materials in Tahiti.

Among his crew, a Samoan couple, Fauea and his wife Puaseisei, who joined them on their voyage and proved pivotal in the mission in Samoa. They set foot on the island of Savaii at Puaseisei’s village of Safune, before arriving at Sapapalii on the 24th of August, 1830, to meet with Malietoa Vaiinuupo who was considered the King of Samoa at the time.

It is recorded in Church history that Williams’ meeting with Malietoa proved a success, as Malietoa accepted Christianity immediately. Williams later observed that Samoa was the only country where Christianity was accepted without war.

When Malietoa died on the 3rd of May 1841, the last King of Samoa declared that he would take Samoa’s traditional monarch and kingship to the grave, while Samoa turns to Jesus and the Word of God, as its King.

L: A plaque at Sapapalii tells the story of Malietoa’s declaration – that Jesus shall be King of Samoa.
R: A stone constructed in 1930 to commemorate 100 years.

O le a ou alu i le tuugamanau ma paia ma mamalu faa-le-atunuu, ae tatou tupu tasi ia Iesu Keriso ma le Talalelei”.

Williams successfully gained converts and established a church that would later form the largest denomination in Samoa, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) or Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (EFKS).

In 1839 just nine years after Williams landed in Samoa, the first missionaries were sent out to other Pacific Islands by the EFKS.

The Prime Minister of Samoa was given the honors of raising the flag to begin celebrations at Sapapalii. Cabinet Ministers travelled across to Savaii and hundreds descended upon Sapapalii village to help celebrate.

Cabinet Ministers enjoying the celebrations.

Performances by visiting churches from other Savaii EFKS was concluded with the Sapapalii EFKS youth who ended the days celebrations with a performance that impressed the guests.

Sapapalii EFKS Youth.

Minister of Environment Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, described the Sapapalii Youth performace as a contemporary, fusion interpretative creation expression of art.

Dr Leituala Ben Matalavea who attended the special service and celebrations said the occasion is significant for every Samoan.

“It is taught in our history, and the stories of King Malietoa and Demi-God woman warrior Nafanua.”

Dr Leituala Matalavea sums it up well when he says, “Taeao Fou supercedes anything and anyone who came before, and Faavae i Le Atua Samoa is our constitutional foundation. So it is truly a significant event to celebrate.”