Friday, September 16, 2016

Climbing a Coconut Tree

When you say 'stake president' there is an image that is conjured up in your mind - well at least in my mind - of a mature man dressed in a suit and tie.  We have met a lot of stake presidents in our time and in various places and the majority of them are the traditional type as I described.

Now, envision a stake president who lives in a small, remote village in the hills of Samoa.  His home is a lean-to on the back of a fale with only one electrical outlet in the traditional family gathering room.  His wife cooks in a umu (outdoor cook shack) and the kitchen sink is mounted on four wood poles and braced with a few sticks of wood plank and is located outside, about 40 feet from the living quarters, with a loose stone floor.  The open fale area in the front of the home has been set aside as a chapel for the branch  to have Sunday meetings.  He farms for a living growing taro, bananas, and coconuts.  He's well over six feet tall, solidly built, and most importantly, he has a smile and a warm  handshake whenever you meet him.  This is a truly remarkable stake president -- meet President Kofe of the Upolu Samoa Saleilua Stake.

We met him about five months ago during our technology training for his stake, we promised him that within the next few months we would be installing all new computer throughout his stake - as his was one of the only stakes that did not receive even one of the last installments of new computers.  We fulfilled our promise and today, September 14, we installed the last new computer in Vaovai Ward.

The Vaovai Ward also meets in an open fale, for now, because their building is being remodeled to become the new Saleilua Stake Center.  The clerk and bishop cannot use the office because of the construction and so the clerk takes the computer to his home during the week.  We didn't know where he lived, so President Kofe had us drive to his house, pick him up, drive him to the clerk's home and then to the stake center.  You have to realize, President Kofe doesn't have a car, he lives about a mile up a dirt road in a little village, and his home is 4 villages away (maybe 10 miles) from the current stake center.  So, we have no problem in providing transportation to have him assist us.  Since he is a farmer he can leave his work to go and help anytime he is needed.

That said, we took the data from the old computer, put it on the new computer, showed the clerk all the new programs and features and then drove President Kofe back to his home.  On the way, Elder Schaefermeyer started to ask lots of questions about Samoan life, his farm and what he grows and if he could climb a coconut tree.  President smiled and said yes; okay, he was on the hook to prove it.

When we arrived at his home, he changed his shirt (from a clean yellow one to a less clean purple one), grabbed a long rag from a little pile of dirty clothes and we trekked along the muddy path, through the weeds to the right coconut tree.  He tightened his lavalava around his waist, wrapped the cloth around his feet, grabbed onto the tree, gave a short hop and up he went.  The tree he chose to climb was among some of the tallest we have seen and when he reached the top, down came several coconuts which his kids gathered up.  His 15 year old son, found a stick (about 3 feet long) shoved one end in the ground, cut the top of the stick to a 45 degree angle, and started to husk the coconuts.  I had to divert my eyes as the President shimmied down the tree in his lavalava as there are parts of a stake president I didn't want to see.  It was definitely exercise and he beamed with pride that he could still do this; he commented that it had been about a year since he had climbed a tree.  He has children for that now.

Elder Schaefermeyer had to try his hand at husking the coconut.  We would starve if we had to live like this.  Not only can't Theron climb the tree, he can't even get the husk down to the point of where you can cut the top off and drink it.

All was done is the spirit of fun, friendship, and with a lot of frivolity.  We went away with a great appreciation for President Kofe, his family and his circumstances.  What humble leaders we have in the Church and it just goes to show the Lord doesn't look on your livelihood or circumstances; if you have what the Lord needs, you are called to the work.

Thank you for your example President Kofe.


  1. Hi/Malo, I am Sister Hollingsworth of the Henderson, Nv Lakemead Stake. I enjoyed reading your blog! It was very insightful and it helped me to have a better understanding of what life is like in Samoa. I teach the Sunbeams, have been a nursery leader six times and have taught at a private preschool. I love those little ones and feel priveledged to be their teacher and a part of their life. Also My Neighbor, friend, and renter is Samoan and she has a freight container that will be sent to her family in Samoa soon. We heard from Tia's sister Sita that the church has started a Prechool and is in need of supplies so we have been adding prechool supplies to it. If there is anything else you feel we can add we would do our best to add it. I am very interested in the Preschool the church has set up in Samoa and would like to see about donating part of the proceeds of our buisness to the preschool to help the families in Samoa. Would you be able to put me in contact with the person I would need to talk to in order to do that? I have a special place in my heart for the Polynesian people and feel the Lord has put me in a position to be able to help. I would appreciate any insight you have.
    Your sister in the gospel,

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