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Alaska town welcomes Samoan church

Two churches now congregate in the brightly painted church room in the basement of Whittier’s Begich Towers. At 9 a.m. on Sundays the room fills with richly layered Baptist hymns, sung in Samoan.The newly founded church is Malamalama Fou, which translates as “New Light Church.” Pastor Su’e Su’e, his wife Antonina and their children moved from Samoa to begin a Samoan-language church in Whittier. Sarah Taula’i, a missionary serving in Whittier from the Samoa Alaska Baptist Church in Anchorage, and Kevin Jones, former Whittier Community Church pastor, perceived a need in the community for Samoan services. The Anchorage church put out a call for a pastor, and Su’e answered.In August, the first-time pastor and his family moved up to Alaska. “We did everything by faith,” said Su’e, “Everything is new to us.” Challenges have arisen, including the icy roads, but his vision for the church sustains him. Su’e and his family live in Anchorage and commute down to Whittier every weekend for Saturday evening Bible study and Sunday morning service. They hope to move to Whittier early next year.Su’e and Taula’i began weekly Samoan-language Bible study in September and Samoan feasts the first Sunday of every month. They thought it would take at least a year to begin the church. The desire for Samoan services was so strong that the community mobilized to begin much earlier than that.Su’e preached his first sermon on Sunday, Nov. 10, with at least 20 congregants in attendance. “I know because I made 20 leis that day,” said Antonina, “and they all were out. I stopped counting after 20.” She was ecstatic. “We never thought it could happen so soon.”