We are again in far-off Samoa, this beautiful lush green island state. Starting with virtually nothing, we begin our efforts to build the holy baptistery and the sacred church of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The only thing we have is the plot, which does not wholly belong to us. And yet, totally unexpectedly, the blessings of God are coming one after another.
“… And grace for grace…”
Everyone who likes to offer to the others is rich at heart and generous. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of whom we are starting the work of the Church here in Samoa and by the grace of Whom we hope to accomplish it. And His grace is tangible and is becoming more and more perceptible day after day. Before we started building the church, He provided a faithful “laborer”, the Greek Orthodox full of zeal man named George, who lives in New Zealand but has connections with Samoa. He is a man of deep faith in Christ and in the Church, and he is wealthy, which enables him to help us. He has already undertaken the building costs of the Baptistery, offering three thousand Samoan dollars. Then he brought Mr. Peniamina to us, who, along with other Samoans, had long since wished to get in contact with Orthodoxy, which they want to bring to their home country.
Mr. Peniamina joyfully accepted to be baptized, and so did his wife. He is to become the first priest in a people who has plenty of traditions and accepts the truth eagerly and easily.
“… And grace for grace”
Near Peniamina is also Tulala, a lawyer by profession with a strong personality and willing to cooperate in order to advance the construction process of the church, to have the conduction of the first baptisms, and when Peniamina returns as a priest from Constantinople and Greece to have a baptistery where to conduct baptisms and a church in which to perform the sacred services. And as the big church will take at least one year to finish, we all agreed to have first a smaller church built. On that agrees Mr. Pepe, too, who is the second to be ordained and will work for the spread of the Orthodox Faith.
We started building the Baptistery, but we were stopped by decision of the local authorities. There are powerful unwritten laws here as well. However, with God’s help, we accomplished something much more important. We took Peniamina and his wife Fasenga to Wellington, New Zealand, we baptized them, and then we ordained Peniamina as a Deacon, giving him the name “John” in honor of John the Theologian and Evangelist. Then, on Sunday evening, at the Annunciation Cathedral, he was ordained to the priesthood in the presence of many Greek Christians and Samoan fellow countrymen.
We all experienced moments that reminded us of Pentecost. So instead of making the beginning of Orthodoxy in Samoa with the Baptistery and the Sacred Church, it was made with the First Priest and Missionary. Everything indicates that this pious and dynamic priest, Fr. John Tapelou, will be a pioneer of Orthodoxy not only in his homeland Samoa but also in the neighboring Tonga.
«… And grace for grace»
How can we not be touched and not praise Him Who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and from Whom we receive grace over grace, that is, all goods and all blessings? And how can we not believe that everything that originates in His name and glory ends with His own power and grace? May His name be highly exalted and revered.
† Amphilochios of New Zealand