Dr. Samani Pulepule, who passed away on Wednesday last week, led the Samoan Assemblies of God in New Zealand from 1960 until his retirement in 2011.
Dr. Pulepule helped influence the rejection of many traditional Samoan practises that burdened families in church, and strongly believed in putting families first.
New Zealand MP, Su'a William Sio, says the Dr. Pulepule was a man who was genuinely concerned with the welfare of the people he led.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Su'a William Sio, New Zealand MP
SIO: I think the people that he's been associated with will see him as a man of very genuine, good man who was generally concerned about not just the spiritual welfare of people that he led, but also their temporal welfare.
COUTTS: And he was a bit of a leader and a pioneer in the way that the church went about things, rejecting many traditional Samoan cultural practices. What practices in particular?
SIO: Yeah absolutely as I saw it, I've attended many of the services that they've held, whether it be graduation ceremonies for those who've completed the bible schools or birthdays or funerals in particular, and I did not ever see any of the traditional practices associated in particular with funerals and weddings of the reciprocal gift-giving where fine mats are involved, and often money and food and often the burden of the extended family. I found that they still practice, I suppose in their ways I would call it respecting the dignity of people who were present, particularly visitors and invited guests, but it was such in a simple way of giving a flower lei or a bouquet of flowers, more so than the extravagance of some of the traditional practices that we're accustomed to.
COUTTS: So they didn't actually abandon the traditional ways, they just modified them to keep pace with the amount the communities could afford?
SIO: Yeah I think that's the message that I've often heard and preached and subsequent other pastors of this faith, really their work wasn't just about the spiritual wellbeing of people, it was also about their social and economic wellbeing. And living away from Samoa often didn't allow for families to be able to practice it in a way that they were accustomed to. And we've seen too many families who were burdened, often by these traditions by taking out loans often at high interest rates, because if you had bad debt you would often be looking at loan sharks. And that caused problems for families, that caused families to lose homes, it caused some families to split up. And as far as Dr Samani Pulepule could see well that had to stop because his message was about uniting families.
COUTTS: And he did a bit more for the community as well, the convention committee centres, seating up to four-thousand in Mangere, the biggest centres for worship?
SIO: Yeah and I thought that was significant given that many families who were under his watch didn't really have, they were scattered throughout the Auckland region, they didn't have a central focal point, often they held services in education workshops, whether it be getting a drivers license or what not in garages or in somebody's home or in schools. And so he had a vision of bringing the community together, not just people that belonged to his faith, but the wider community. And I often attended exercise programs on Saturday mornings at their facility. So they built this facility where they were able to worship but they are also able to embrace other activities, whether it be education, exercise and a range of youth programs not only for the people of their faith, but also people in the wider community. And as you say it seats four-thousand people and often events held by other villagers inside that particular hall. So it's become sort of a focal centre for not just the Assemblies of God church under his wing, but the wider community in Mangere and throughout Auckland. And some events have had people from all over the world attending.