Yesterday, we were privileged to attend a Stake President's Council conducted by Elder Fata of the Seventy. Elder Fata is the Welfare Manager in Samoa and an area seventy. We were introduced to the stake presidents because we will be working closely with them to identify and call technology specialists.
We attended this meeting with Denny Afualo, the Service Center Manager - he lives across the street from us and he's the guy that oversees the care of all the Church's facilities in Samoa. On the way home from the meeting, he told us this story about one of the Savai'i's (the second island here) stake presidents we had just met. I will not mention his name because of respect.
The Church was not accepted on Savai'i among many of the villages. The families are organized into villages with the head of the village called the Matai (chief). This now stake president, accepted the gospel and his family was quite high up in the village. When the village council told him that he must denounce the gospel, he simply told them no. Several times they tried to force him to leave the Church, but each time he told them no he would not. Then they tried to get him to leave the community, but again he would not.
The village fathers could no longer take this man's insolence and non-conformance of the village requirements and they bound him with cords and started a big fire to burn him. He held fast to his testimony and told them he would not deny his faith. As they brought him to the fire, a heavy rain came over the very spot where the fire was and put the fire out.
As the people witnessed this miracle, their hearts became softened and many of them began learning about the gospel. This man went on to become the first branch president, then district president, bishop and is now serving as the stake president in the Pu'apu'a Stake, one of the five stakes on Savai'i.
This is only one story of the great faith of the Samoan people. God is aware of everyone and as we stand firm in our testimonies, he will put out the fires of contention that surround us. We witness this faith.