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tenth anniversary of Asau Baptist Church that
would fall on the first Sunday of February. We
would be installing our first local senior pastor,
Sopo Tanielu. We would also be ordaining an
assistant pastor, Ropati Tumanuvao. I would
be turning the church completely over to their
leadership. Asau Baptist Church was ready to
go from mission church to fully autonomous.

I had the privilege to lead Sopo to the Lord
in my living room in January 2010. A month
later, he was the first man to be baptized and
added to the church on its opening day. How
humbling and gratifying to watch him grow
over the last ten years! He eagerly attended
services, hungered for the Word, was readily
discipled, and later underwent a full program
of training through our Bible college. Brother
Ropati joined the church a few years later and
has been very faithful in his studies and service.

As church-planting missionaries, this was our
dream come true—go to the field, preach the
Gospel, win souls, disciple believers, train
national men for the ministry, ordain them
as preachers of the Gospel, and see God work
marvelously. The epidemic was over, but the pandemic
was just beginning. With everyone still raw
and reeling from the measles outbreak,
neither government was taking chances.

Full tests would be needed, followed by a
three-day delay before traveling. The new
restrictions were announced and implemented
immediately on the morning of my departure
while I was already at the airport to return for
the ordination. However, God moved on both
sides, allowing me to leave American Samoa
and enter Samoa a few long hours later. To God
be the glory!
A week after that great anniversary celebration,
I returned to the church in American Samoa
to prepare for an incoming shipment of 15,000
Samoan Bibles and to help the church establish
its pastor search committee. I got there just days
before the shipment arrived and had time to
prepare, obtaining a letter from the Treasurer
of American Samoa to waive all customs and
processing fees, saving thousands of dollars.

As Pastors Sopo and Ropati rose into
new leadership over in Samoa and Bible
distributions and the pastor search continued
in American Samoa, COVID-19 cases
mushroomed into a pandemic. With Emi in
Samoa working in the school ministry and me
in American Samoa, I knew more stringent
restrictions were coming. It was time to get
back. With ticket in hand, I was all set to go,
but before I could even get to the airport,
both governments issued proclamations. All
international travel, even between our two