On Sabbath, February 17, the Independence Samoan Company held a dedication service as part of a three-day celebration of their transition from a company to an official church.
Members and approximately 100 guests came together for the weekend, including Samoan Adventist leaders from across the U.S., some coming from as far as California, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Samoans representing other Christian faith groups in the surrounding community also came to show their support. Representing the conference were executive secretary Robert Wagley and ministerial director Lee Rochholz.
“We’re not here this morning to welcome you into the sisterhood of Seventh-day Adventist churches in Iowa-Missouri,” Rochholz said, adding, “because you’re already a part of that sisterhood.” Likening the church’s journey to pastoral ordination he said, “When we ordain pastors to the gospel ministry, we’re not giving them power they didn’t already have or a charge to go do new ministry; we’re simply acknowledging what they’ve already been doing. The Holy Spirit has already been working through you and we’re simply here to acknowledge that.”
Wagley, who gave the sermon, echoed Rochholz’ sentiments.
“Today is a day of recognition, celebration and dedication,” he said. “Not only to the faithfulness of God, but to your commitment to living out His calling.” He shared the story of the temple consecration from 2 Chron. 7:12-16 and challenged the members to continue their commitment to reach their community for Christ. “We are not merely a group of believers who gather in holy huddles on the right day of the week,” he said. “We are people of light and hope to a community in need of nourishment from the word of God, the testimony of His people, and the faithful witness of the gospel being lived out in His church.”
As the dedication service concluded, each member in attendance came forward and signed the church charter (article of incorporation).
“This process started five years ago this very day,” said church pastor Mark Tagaloa. He recounted how, on Sabbath, February 17, 2013, he and his wife, Sandee, were visiting family in the area and discovered there were a large number of Samoans in Independence.
The Tagaloas came away from that trip convicted that God was calling them to plant a church there. Both the core group of Samoans and the conference were interested, but there was a problem: no funding was available to hire Tagaloa. However, because he believed so strongly that God was leading, Tagaloa agreed to start as a volunteer. He served for several months with no pay and for a little more than a year on a small stipend, at one point turning down a fulltime position with another conference to continue laboring where God had called him.
Over the last five years, what started as a group of 20 people has grown to 70 baptized members, with more than 30 others attending weekly.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the church’s new name is First United Samoan SDA Church. No name change has yet been voted.