Alaska is home to a growing community of Pacific Islanders. Samoans who relocate miss their language and heritage. In Anchorage, The United Methodist Church has become an important connection to culture and family.
(Locator: Anchorage, Alaska)
Moana Silva: “First Samoan United Methodist Church really made Anchorage, Alaska my home.”
The Rev. Faatafa Fulumua, First Samoan United Methodist Church: “My church family, that is God’s family.”
There is nothing unusual about wearing summer clothing and tropical jewelry to church in the South Pacific. But these Native Samoans are holding Sunday worship almost 3,000 miles north of home-- in Anchorage Alaska.
Florence Mana: “This is a very traditional United Methodist service. It’s just translated in the Samoan language.”
Faatafa Fulumua: “There’s a lot of Samoan people here in Alaska.”
Florence Mana: “We moved here from Hawaii because of my job. I was transferred here.”
Faatafa Fulumua: “They came here for the opportunity. They like stay here because of their family.”
Florence Mana: “Alaska is a good place to have your kids and family grow, a lot of opportunities. Back in the islands we have very little or none. It’s cold! But that’s the decision they make.”
Faatafa Fulumua: “I am the Rev. Faatafa Fulumua. People call me ‘Pastor Tafa.’ I am pastoring the First Samoan United Methodist Church and the East Anchorage United Methodist Church.”
Faatafa Fulumua: “Here in Alaska, we feel different because of our culture. It’s not easy to face.”
Florence Mana: “A lot of our kids who grow up in the United States lose their cultural history, the Samoan language, the culture of what to do and how to act.”
(Young person) “This is you, Layla…”
Florence Mana: “So it’s important for us that we keep that culture even within the church, so they grow up learning it and knowing it.”
In Alaska, roots don’t grow deep because of the permafrost. Trees must connect to others for strength, and so it is for families.
Faatafa Fulumua: “In Samoa, they live in extended family, your grandparents, your parents, your sisters, brothers, your aunties, your uncles live together. I think that’s the culture they are trying to bring here. I can see that in the way they worship.”
Faaua Fulumua: “I am the only one here. The rest is in California, Hawaii. I’m not really complete without my whole family here. This is what our home is about. All these church members are your family. Those are your brothers and sisters, grandchildren and children. Wherever they go, we go.”
Moana Silva: “My child is your child. Your child is my child. So, I think the church is the uniter. We are united as one.”
Faatafa Fulumua: “Preserving our old tradition from the older generation to a new generation here in Alaska, that’s our gift from God, to be Samoan.”
For more information, contact the Alaska United Methodist Conference at 907-333-5050.