Fa’amanu Akeripa, 10 October 2021
This week I was reminded of white patterned shirts and ‘ie faitaga (formal wrap around cloth for men), reminiscing a time I had to go from one place to another. Shopping that is, a trait my mother had, ushering us kids in the early nineties through the busy K’ road traffic. On the bus we would travel from West Auckland and head into town, the days shopping at George court. Experiencing the elevator operator at the McDonalds on Queen Street, remembering the playground at the top of Farmers, my mother would leave us there to play while she quickly got through her shopping. What’s now known as the Heritage hotel on Hobson Street. If Dad was available, it was by car, and we would head out to South Auckland to places such as Otahuhu or Otara. The markets, they were the best places to shop for this occasion.
It was the second Sunday of October that marks a special occasion on the Samoan Christian calendar. It’s a Sunday specially given to all the children in the church to lead worship. Don’t ask me why this Sunday has been chosen by the congregational church of Samoa, it just happens to be the 2nd Sunday of October. Maybe some significance to the gospel reaching the islands or attaining the first translated bible in Samoa, I don’t know, it just was.
For those of you that have some idea or have had slight experiences of this day would know it as “White Sunday” or how I would refer to it as “Lotu Tamaiti” which simply translates to “Children’s church”. For weeks and for some churches months of practice go into preparations for this one-time opportunity. Some of the things that you’d see in this service are children reciting scripture, short skits, songs, plays, speeches, and these are presented both with family, Sunday school classes, youth, and bible class. It felt like a mini concert, just before the busy Christmas period approached.
It was a time where the parents were able to learn from the children. The faith community being ministered by the kids. The Sunday school teachers played a significant role in organising and handing out parts relevant to the plays or skits they wanted children to be involved in. In some cases, it was also a Sunday some kids chose not to remember.
I learnt a lot later as a parent, that it was a proud occasion for parents to showcase their children and what they were able to show of the bible, the scriptures. I remember growing up and being coerced into saying my memory verse by heart, taught to me by my father. My aunties would watch proudly and say, “If you say your memory verse, I’ll give you a lollipop straight after”, I was a blubbering mess. I think now and wonder how I got through those days. You see, as a young 8-year-old you are following your parents, they say, you do.
You are willing to do all that is asked of you. Picture yourself on stage ready to recite your memory verse, in front of a group of people, stage fright comes to mind and the fear of not getting the lollipop. I got the lollipop by the way. But you do it because you love your family, your parents. As I got older it became the norm, for us to do White Sunday. I look now at my kids and think therefore they were so excited coming to the community of St Luke’s first thing they said to me was no White Sunday.
I gather that this morning’s reading in 2 Kings 4 the love of a mother for her children, enabled her to ask Elisha to help her as she did not want her children to be sold into slavery. The shopping I was talking about earlier, reflected the love the mothers and fathers of this world would give to their child. Extending and moving out the widow searched for help, she was asking Elisha for help. I knew that the little money my parents had they made sure we got what was required to look the part. Shopping for the best White outfits they could find for us kids to wear. The children are fashioned and prepped for White Sunday because it is a time where the kids minister to us. I am reminded that of the little faith the widow had she was blessed with more, her obedience to the task encouraged by Elisha enabled her and her children to greater faith and spiritual blessings.
There is no doubt that the story that I grew up in around white Sunday is one that is heavily influenced by Sunday school teachers and parents. A story that although is controlled by differing circumstances enables the love children show for their parents. The children went looking for jars from the neighbours to pour oil into. For many of the children in white Sunday they didn’t know what they were getting themselves involved in but I’m sure with their compliance they later learnt when they received all the treats the family had organised for them later. It is this relationship that is built on love.
You see, one of the wonderful things about White Sunday is that the kids get to choose what they want to eat and are first to be served during Sunday lunch. In a Samoan household on a Sunday, the children are setting the table for the adults, help prepare lunch and serving the adults first. They help themselves on the lunch table once the adults have finished. On this day however, it is the other way around, the kids eat first, and the adults tend to the duties in the kitchen, parents serving children. It’s a huge occasion and no matter which church denomination you belong to when family come together everyone is treated the same.
I wondered what this might look like and how would a little 3-year-old child minister to us on this great scale. I sensed that as young as the children may be their willingness and innocence make up for any shortcomings they may show. If but one word is uttered from the five words they had been taught, that was them ministering to us. For the young parents I have grown up with it’s the ability for our children to find their own words, their own place, and where they fit.
I remember a play I was involved in it was called the superhero skit; the setting was of a woman carrying the burden of the world. Superheroes were called to take this burden off her, now you must remember we were trained to speak in Samoan. So, we had to say our lines in Samoan, I took pride in remembering my lines by heart. As I flew in to help the distressed woman, my sandal came apart and fell off the stage, so committed I was of my role I pushed on. When I reached the girl, she was laughing hysterically so I said to her, you hold onto that burden I’m going to grab my shoe and come back. I remember the whole church erupted in laughter, Superman for me never looked the same again.
I take it that, it may be as the two friends found guilty walking along the stretched rope over the chasm, stepping out into doing something new, the ability to let go, and give things a try. In our current situation with lockdown this can be hard, we are given yet a new account of what our living looks like with the new level 3 restrictions, uncertain how to adapt to this new way of living. May you continue to be safe and may we take lessons from our children to love one another in the most difficult circumstances. May we continue to be kind and generous in our meetings. Maybe during these times we learn to adapt and re-write our own scripts as Superman did and may we find the joy of laughter, the laughter that is the gift from God.