Friday, November 17, 2006

Pre-Stake Conference

Have you ever heard of Pre-Stake Conference? I hadn't either until I came to American Samoa. You know those semi-cultural things that you sometimes find members doing in foreign countries that are not official church meetings? Yep, that's what Pre-Stake Conference is. And that's what we went to tonight.

Of course, you could just call it a stake activity, but now I've already gone too far on this tangent. Honestly, it was very fun. No speakers. No church clothes. Just Samoan food, Samoan dancing, and a really good time. Tomorrow is when the real Stake Conference starts.

(Earlier in the day, I commented to Mike that we were having a stake dinner. I should have guessed the reaction. "Wow, so you're having steak?" Leave it to me to expect everyone in the world to know Mormon-lingo.)

We all met in the largest stake center in the South Pacific. This building is huge. With two chapels, one extra large-size cultural hall/basketball court with full stage, another full-size cultural hall/basketball court, and at least twice the class space a regular stake center has in the states, plus large outdoor gardened areas within the church, and a full size basketball court outside in the parking lot, which, by the way, is completely gated (Samoan style), and beautiful landscaping, this is easily one of the largest, most beautiful stake centers you have ever seen.

After going to church for a month in Hawaii about two years ago, I fell in love with church in the Pacific. It is just as wonderful here. We sang the opening song (in Samoan), and you could just feel the power from the Samoan people singing. Pacific islanders really have a beautiful gift of singing with strength that we don't have in the states.

Then they turned on all kinds of dance music, and everyone got out and danced! The first to start dancing were the Area Authority Seventy and his wife, Stake President and wife, and Stake patriarch and wife! Can you imagine this happening in the states? Then everyone got out and joined them. We all just had a good time.

And there was so much food! I am starting to like certain Samoan foods. My first impression of Samoan food is that it's a little too bland for my taste. I like food with a lot of zing (like Korean food)! But now I really enjoy turkey tails and Oka (a raw fish meal). I guess different foods just start to grow on you.

Throughout the night, different groups from the wards in the Stake performed Samoan dance numbers that they had prepared especially for Pre-Stake Conference. It was really fun. Our ward is the Mesepa International Ward, so we have members from all over the place. We have a very large Tongan membership in our ward, so our ward performed numerous Tongan numbers. Kids as young as 3 or 4 were doing these difficult hand and foot movements they had learned to perform with the teenagers and adults. This was absolutely my favorite part of the evening.

As I watched the dances, a very elderly Samoan woman kept tapping me on the shoulder every two minutes to ask me questions, "where are you from?", "is that your family?", "oh, you have a very lovely family! (I can't disagree there)", "do you want more kids?" In between, she left her hand on my shoulder. It was sweet.

Why didn't I bring my camera?

Oh, well I guess there's another Pre-Stake Conference--just like there's another Stake Conference--in the Spring. So I can tape it then.

It's nights like this that really make me glad I came.


Daniel M. Woods, Esq. said...

Hi Colettis,

I read this post and felt like I was at the event. I don't know why your family was in American Samoa . . . or if you are still there, but I will be moving to American Samoa in less-than two weeks and would love to ask you some questions.