It is common practice to start and end every activity with a prayer.
This also reminds of an incident back in 2014 when I was working for the Ministry of Police in Samoa. I missed our daily devotion one morning because I wanted to get an early start on my case load for the day, and when I walked into the office later in the day, excited to tell my superior about some new evidence I had discovered, I was greeted with a “you start the day with God and you end the day with God” lecture.
When a child is successful in school, or gets a promotion at work, or when a family wedding or funeral ends on a high note (i.e. where everybody goes home with a full stomach and extra food plates for the road), you will often hear people say ‘mo le viiga o le Atua’ (for the glory of God) or ‘viia le Atua’ (praise the Lord).
These are a few snapshots of your everyday Pacific “ways of being”. Spirituality isn’t only about believing in God and attending church every Sunday. It is part of people’s everyday tasks and routines. It is a way of life that is guided by the worldview that to be well is to maintain harmony in your relationship with God, your family and community, and your environment. And this is relatively easy to uphold in the homelands, where cultural norms, rituals, and practices are underpinned by this philosophy.
In New Zealand’s multi-cultural society, the task is a bit tricky. But the place of the spiritual is still evident among our Pacific communities here. You go to Avondale race course on a Saturday night and you’ll find people playing housie, hosted by a Pacific church, to raise funds for a church building or activity. You drive around South Auckland (home to the largest Pacific population) on a Sunday afternoon and you see Pacific churches filled with attendees.
The ongoing New Zealand Youth2000 study also reveals the high number of Pacific youth rating spirituality as important in their lives, in comparison to other ethnic youth groups in New Zealand.
Evidently, for many Pacific peoples, the place of the spiritual in attaining wellbeing is still paramount, despite being far removed from their homelands.
I am writing this from underneath Grafton bridge on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. I didn’t go to church today. But I’m okay with that. I’m still Samoan. I believe in God and I know that He loves me, because at my darkest hour, I called out to Him and I was comforted. My best friend visited me in Samoa in 2014 and on the same Sunday afternoon, in different locations, both our mothers gave us the ‘toe alu tasi i le Alii’ (go back to God) lecture. I have a feeling they meant ‘go back to church, and youth, and church choir’ … but I think praying and surrendering control to God through prayer, is good enough for them too.