Samoan Culture in Australian Missions
We recently returned from a one month mission to Australia in which we saw God’s faithfulness abundantly. There were four of us on the team; Fr. John & Patti Sosnowski, Tina and me. The invitation to Australia came from our daughters and their husbands, Stacey & Simon Fua (missionaries with YWAM) and Kerry & Daniel Berris (who lead an Anglican Church plant).
Our Australian Mission was two-fold: the first phase began in Melbourne and was one of encouragement, refreshment, healing, and new vision for the YWAM Base Leadership. Matthew 11:28-30 was the scripture we prayed and focused on while there. It was a true blessing to watch the Lord love His children; to refresh, heal, redeem, and to restore them to proper perspective.
The second phase of our Mission took us to Brisbane. Our focus scriptures were Romans 1:16-17 and 2 Timothy 4:2 with the topic of "The Changeless Faith Engaging the Changing World." Our time was split between North Lakes Anglican Church plant and a Diocesan event at Fresh Waters Anglican Church where Fr. John and Patti presented GAP (Grandparents At Prayer), an international Christian grandparenting movement which challenges grandparents to pass on the legacy of faith to the coming generations. There was interest expressed in beginning GAP ministries in their churches. And if you are an interested grandparent, check out these sites: christiangrandparenting.net or firstname.lastname@example.org
At the beginning of our trip, Tina and I had arrived in Melbourne before Fr. John and Patti to enable us to attend our grandson, Gideon's "Samoan Haircutting Ceremony" and his 5th birthday celebration. The Samoan haircutting was an impressive and moving ceremony. Gideon's hair had been allowed to grow long for 5 years. Prior to the ceremony, his hair was sectioned and braided in around 17 braids. Gideon entered the hall with his family: Simon, Stacey, Taimane (6), Noa (4), and Gabriel (4 mo) and sat on a chair; front and center.
Simon explained why we had gathered; this ceremony was to symbolize to this young boy that the community and his family gathered to let him know they were going to help him grow up to be the man God was calling him to be. Cutting a braid symbolized one's committment to invest in Gideon's life. After a time of worship, I was invited to come forward and bless Gideon. Then Simon's family and my family who were present, came one at a time to cut a braid. Following us were godparents and friends. After all the braids were cut, Simon removed Gideon to go give him a proper haircut. Gideon returned to celebrate his 5th birthday.
It was remarkable to participate in this Samoan cultural ceremony. An important part of international missions is to understand and appreciate the foreign culture that you live in. Our daughter and her family have shown this in one small way by adopting this Samoan cultural practice. Not only is this good for their relationships with those they live near and serve, but this is also a rich and beautiful cultural heritage, which is now blessing their son Gideon and our entire family.
It was a blessing and privilege to witness the Lord at work among our brothers and sisters in Melbourne and Brisbane; and to know that as we faithfully presented what we were to share, that the Lord would water and tend the seeds that were planted. We give thanks to the Lord for all that he did and will do. May we "continue in our faith, established and firm, and not move from the hope that is held out in the gospel" (Colossians 1:23).
Father Joe and Tina Rhodes have served the Anglican church worldwide for over 30 years. Fr. Joe was ordained to the priesthood in 1978 and served in South Carolina before serving as the Rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Baton Rouge, LA for 22 years. The Rhodes are very passionate about missions, both domestic and foreign, and served as administrators at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with Bishop Lloyd Allen. Fr. Joe and Tina now live in Sumter, SC where they are close to their family and friends.