The Gataivai Village $2m talā Methodist church opens after church members repay the loan
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2019: It may sound superstitious – For a Christian church to be holding a special ceremony to “burn the papers” (records) of the loan that built its church.
But members of the Gataivai Methodist Church in Savai’i have started 2019 on a new chapter and pursuing new goals after paying off a $2 million talā loan at the Samoa National Provident Fund (SNPF).
They came together from Samoa and abroad after Christmas to celebrate their achievement in Savaii. The ceremony was called Susunuina o Pepa o le Taulaga where the loan receipts and records were burnt as a sign of the projects completion. A proud moment it was for the sons and daughters of the village and church members to celebrate their collective achievement.
The loan for the church project
A $1.5million talā loan from SNPF to build the church was approved 13 July 2012. The monthly repayment was $16,516.25. Loan repayments relied mainly on members contributions. Another minister was leading the church at the time and little moved in the loan repayments after the first year.
Further negotiations with SNPF resulted in a drop in the monthly repayments from $16,516.25 per month to $14, 453 a month according to the Chairman of the Church Development Committee, Amituanai Filipo Fitiala’a.
The church members however agreed to pay $15,000 talā a month.
In 2015, a new church minister, Reverend Tuivanu Tuivanu and his wife Tuau were appointed to lead the church.
The church’s major focus was on repaying the loan and Church member Puaina Tuivaiti said various church sectors such as the Mafutaga a Tina, Youth Group, Au Leoleo and church choir all had their share in paying off the loan through various fundraising activities. Fundraising included selling BBQ’s, homemade pork cakes – keke pua’a and weekly bingos.
The church pastor also sacrificed his regular takings from church members towards the loan repayments.
Then on one significant day, 8 October 2018, the Gataivai Methodist church handed in their final repayment to clear their $1.5 million talā loan.
Amituana’i said due to the bank interest, the full amount repaid by the church came to $2,000, 462.34 (two million and four hundred sixty two talā and thirty four cents).
Reverend Tuivanu Tuivanu acknowledged the contribution from all church members and families both locally and abroad.
The Thanksgiving Service was conducted in the new church in the morning and the ceremony to burn the loan receipts – Susunuina o Pepa o le Taulaga was held in the afternoon followed by a feast and entertainment.
Then on top of all that, the church members also gifted Reverend Tuivanu and wife Tuau a new pick-up truck on the day.
Puaina Tuivaiti said it was stressful sometimes, “but the faith and united effort of church members had seen the success and the full repayment of their loan for Gods’ glory.”