Late Rev Elder Oka Fauolo regarded as father of CCC
The late Reverend Elder Oka Fauolo from Samoa is regarded as a father of the Congregational Christian Church, the spiritual father of a nation and a man for everyone.
Rev Oka, as he was widely known, was revered as a spiritual advisor to the leaders of his country, including the Head of State, his highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi.
His funeral last month is described by many as majestic, the likes of which would not be seen again.
Following 13 strict instructions he left in the event of his death Rev Oka was buried with simple dignity and grace in the manner he lived his life… never wanting to be praised or acknowledged, always deferring to his Creator until his final breath.
One of his instructions was that he did not want any artificial flowers at his funeral, just the natural, sweet fragrance of fresh plumeria and moso’oi garlands to flow in the air and his surrounding. And so it was that day.
“Instead of opulent glittering bolts of cloth and gilded candle sconces, the church communion tables and alter were draped with thousands of colorful leaves finely sewn together with spiritual symbols," said Ipu Lefiti who told Samoa News that Rev Oka was one of her mentors, a father ahead of his time on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse.
Lefiti said when church doors were closed Rev Oka was supportive in advising, and blessing her chosen path as a Victim Advocate.
Lefiti went on to say that another of Oka’s instructions was that his grave was not to be raised above the existing family plots with no cement guard wall and that local rocks were not to be placed around his plot but to fill it with smooth river or ocean pebbles.
Rev Oka passed away at 82 on May 12, 2012, at his residence in Vaoala at 2:05am after fighting heart problems for more than a decade.
Rev Oka was from Fusi, Safotulafai Savai’i and is survived by his widow So’oletauaoletumua and their four children and 13 grandchildren.
Rev Dr Iutisone Salevao, General Secretary of the CCCS described Rev Oka Fauolo as a hero for the Work of God. “Rev Oka was a humble and great leader and his memory will live forever, he served the church with dignity and honesty and a great leader”.
He was fully committed to his service as a leader of the church and he was staunch in promoting harmony in every church in Samoa.
“He also encouraged cooperation between church leaders for the sake of the spiritual life of Samoa as a whole,” Rev Oka’s daughter Okenaisa Manila told Samoa Observer back in May. She described her father as a man with a deep understanding of the fa’aSamoa. Also as an approachable man of God who always had an open door for anyone who needed help.
Rev Oka served in the CCCS Church for more than 50 years during which time he was principal of Malua Theological College from 1979 to 1994, Secretary for the National Council of Churches before he became the Chairman of the Samoa Council of Churches for more than 20 years.
And yet he was never appointed to serve a particular village but was assigned to different places, like the prison, hospital and also schools.
In 2005 Rev. Fauolo published an 802 page history of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS), “Ole Vavega o le Alofa Lavea’i (The Love Saving Miracle)," which spans 238 years from 1761 in England to 1999 in Samoa.
Okenaisa said her father opposed anything he saw as a threat to Samoa’s Christian values. When the government introduced its Casino plans, Rev Oka was one of the first ones to speak out against it. She added that her father’s humble approach in any matter could resolve any difficult situation faced by the church or the nation as a whole.
His devotees describe Rev Oka as a true man of God who gave his entire life for his people. The father who held on and held together his tsunami ravaged children and a nation with God’s words of comfort.
Okenaisa told Samoa Observer that they were lucky to have a father who was faithful, helpful, caring and humble. “I have a lot of ways to describe the kind of person my father was, but overall he was a spiritual doctor.”
The work of the late Rev Oka was recently honored by the Samoa Victim Support Group’s (SVSG) during a family gathering earlier this week at the To’oa Salamasina Hall in Sogi, Samoa.
According to the SVSGH, before Rev Oka’s passing he was one of the pillars of the SVSG and guided the group spiritually.
A minute of silence was observed during the gathering to honor Rev Oka’s memory which included Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. SVSG said the Prime Minister, reiterated the late Reverend Oka Fauolo’s words during the ‘No to Rape’ March where he referred to perpetrators of rape and indecent acts as “animals.”
On his final journey home, Reverend Oka's casket was taken from the Ligaliga Mortuary in Apia all the way to Mulifanua wharf during which students from every village school lined the entire road strip, in their various school colors, tossing flowers, singing songs or waving good bye "Tofa Oka" as the funeral motorcade passed by.
This line of students alongside the roadside, continued in Savaii. “Except this trip was punctuated with several stops as village councils stood in respect to offer their best fine mat to drape on Rev Oka's coffin as the procession made its way to his final resting place,” described one mourner.
After the church service Oka was taken to his final resting place and the silence was so loud, one could imagine hearing angels wings flap as they surrounded and welcomed their faithful disciple home.
A man no one can claim as their own other than as "Papa". “Without any sense of grief, we were blessed and privileged to have had a relationship and be known as one of the thousands of Oka's children,” said Lefiti.
Rev Oka's beloved wife, So’oletauaoletumua gave her wedding band to the Prime Minister to place in the grave. It was her ‘ashes to ashes’ symbol which was followed by her whisper, "Till death do us part".
The last time Rev. Oka visited the territory was for the funeral of the late Paramount Chief Tufele Li’amatua, last year.