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A Waipahu center becomes a crowded gathering place to share news and pray together


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POSTED: Friday, October 02, 2009

Isle Samoans filled a Waipahu service hall yesterday in support of victims of the tsunami in American Samoa and Samoa, with several still trying to find out about the well-being of family members.

“;It's just sad not knowing,”; said Ifo Tuiala, of Honolulu. “;That's the frustrating part.”;

Tuiala does not know whether her aunt and an uncle in Solosolo in western Samoa are still alive, and has been unable to reach them.

Besides her family, she also prayed for the child victims in Samoa. Family in New Zealand sent her photos of truckloads of dead children on the way to a temporary morgue.

About 400 people crowded into the Lighthouse Outreach Center and listened to messages of faith and support for those in Samoa.

“;We hurt together, we mourn together and we join together,”; said Lighthouse Senior Pastor Joe Hunkin, who emphasized the Samoan motto of putting God first: “;Ia muamua le atua.”; “;It's something to push us to keep us going.”; Tuiala's husband, Sam Samuelu, 40, said his mother survived the destruction in the

tsunami in Leone, a village in American Samoa, but he sought unity with other Samoans.

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“;It's like a bond to make one prayer for all Samoans and especially for the other countries like Indonesia and the Philippines,”; he said. “;I feel like we're all in the same boat.”;

“;I feel that there's a lot of help needed,”; he added. “;My heart goes out to them. I want to be there to help.”;

Those who want to donate to the Lighthouse mission should call the American Samoa government office in Honolulu or the mayor's office.

Launiu Paleaae, 56, volunteered with about 30 others from the Lighthouse to fly to Samoa next week and deliver canned goods, generators and other aid.

His sister and 80-year-old mother live in Saluafata, a village in Samoa that he heard was damaged by the tsunami, but he has not been in contact with anyone in the village and wonders whether they are alive.