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Pastor Uaita Levi (L) with missionary David Choi

God Orchestrates a Partnership in the South Pacific

Uaita thought he had his retirement figured out, but that was before he heard about the Island to Island Partnership—and the hope of bringing the same gospel message that had changed his life to his native Samoa.

Look up the religious demographics in the Pacific Islands and you’ll see some of the most Christian nations in the world. We’re talking over 90% Christian in most of these places.

Missionaries swept through the islands in the 1800s. Mission accomplished, right? God certainly did amazing things through the first missionaries in the Pacific.

So why are we talking about missions and the Pacific?

As is often the case, the full story is a little more complicated than what the statistics tell you.

Joining Together to Reach the Islands

MTW missionaries serving in Australia and New Zealand met with the missions arms of three local denominations in 2018. They knew the Islands are heavily churched, but just as heavily saturated with cults, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the prosperity gospel, cultural nominalism, and syncretism.

So, the Island to Island Partnership was formed. Its first task was to deploy MTW missionaries Jim Jung, Steve Williams, and me to visit the Islands to assess the needs, identify local partners, and begin praying and dreaming with Island leaders about how the gospel could take hold in the Pacific.

That time of assessment reconnected us with an old friend, Pastor Uaita Levi. Jim Jung and I met with Uaita in Samoa where he shared his story with us.

Uaita and his wife, Susana, moved to New Zealand over 40 years ago from their native Samoa. Like most Samoans, they were Christian. When they arrived in their new home, they walked into a church on Sunday, something they had done their whole lives, but something was different this time. At that church, they heard the true and full gospel for the first time.

Uaita’s life changed. He knew this was something precious, and he committed his life to sharing this good news. Uaita became a Reformed Presbyterian pastor in the Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand denomination before recently retiring with plans to move back to Samoa and grow cocoa. He thought he had his retirement figured out, but that was before he heard about the Island to Island Partnership and the hope of bringing that same gospel message that changed his life to his native Samoa.

In a moment of clarity, Uaita realized that God had brought him back to Samoa not just to retire, but to be part of this plan to bring gospel revitalization, to bring the life-giving message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, to Samoa and to the Pacific Islands.

We are still in the early stages of prayerfully planning and preparing our next steps alongside leaders like Pastor Uaita, but we are excited and hopeful for how God has already been moving and opening doors and hearts in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and American Samoa.

David & Julie Choi serve with MTW in Australasia.

David Choi, Church planting Nov 10, 2020
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