U.S. Samoan District Senses Ownership
The Samoan District has gelled as a body since official recognition by the U.S. Assemblies of God in January 2014, according to Tuugasala Fuga, superintendent of the language district.
The adoption of bylaws and election of officers has resulted in more of a feeling of ownership and a spirit of sacrifice, says Fuga, who is based in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines, Washington. Few of the 46 churches in the district, located primarily in the Western U.S., expressed interest in joint events before the legal configuration of the group, Fuga says.
"District appointment was the answer to prayer," says Fuga, who has been a pastor for 18 years. "Before we didn't have a sense of belonging, we didn't feel our voice was being recognized. Now we have 100 percent participation in meetings and giving."
The AG Samoan District includes churches in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. One of the major challenges, both organizationally and financially, is being so spread out geographically. Fuga, a graduate of Northwest University and Fuller Theological Seminary, has established thrifty "mini offices" in various states to give the ethnic group a more adhesive distinctiveness. Fuga says AG geographic districts, notably the Alaska Ministry Network and the Northwest Ministry Network, based in Snoqualmie, Washington, have been helpful in providing assistance and mentoring.
Fuga says Samoans are bound by a tightknit fraternal sense because of their homeland, an independent island group of 195,000 people in the Pacific Ocean, roughly midway between Hawaii and New Zealand. As such, he believes - despite the physical distance between U.S. congregations - Samoans have an advantage over geographic districts.
"There can be enhanced communication and connection with leaders who share the same language and culture," says Fuga, who moved to the U.S. in 1990.
Fuga credits Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations, with helping Samoan churches organize in 2003 and the formation of the Samoan District 11 years later. Temple, likewise, is impressed with the sacrificial attitude of Fuga.
"The growth, participation, and maturity of the Samoan District is the indigenous principle at work here in the U.S.," Temple says.