August 25, 2022 | by JB Brayfindley
More than four hundred people crowded into the Holy Cross United Methodist Church parking lot on Saturday, August 13, 2022, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to watch more than 50 youth dance to Pacific Island music and eat traditional Pacific Islander cuisine. Tickets were $25 per person but many people also donated funds by throwing money at dancers. The event raised near 17k in funds for the church’s growing youth program.
“There was a stunning amount of hours spent in preparing the costumes, food, dances and decorations,” states Rev. Gary Pope-Sears, one of the pastors at Holy Cross. “It was humbling to see how much effort was made in honoring the youth and a variety of islands traditions—a wonderful witness of caring and support...”
On the pavement, a tent covered the handcrafted stage standing four inch high covered with faux lawn built for the event. A backdrop made of grass mats stood behind the stage displaying an island scene. An outdoor patio was covered in woven greenery and paper flowers.
The men’s group roasted ten pigs on spits and then placed them in open earth ovens called “umu.” People lined up to fill their plates with the barbecue pork chunks; marinated raw fish or ‘Ota ‘Ika, the national the national dish of Tonga; sautéed buttered shrimp; taro; sweet potatoes; corned beef wrapped in tala leaves; and more. They chose from a variety of desserts including fresh mango or watermelon otai.
The event featured dancing children, youth and young adults dressed in authentic, handmade costumes from five different island groups including Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, and New Zealand. The outfits made for this occasion were a project of the women’s group over the past few months.
“We divided the dances by different islands,” states Rev. Tevita Vaikona, pastor at Holy Cross in charge of the Pacific Islander Language Ministry. “We found dances for different ages and different groups—we wanted to include everyone.”
“The luau is not only for one group, but I also think it activates and occupies the men, who mostly do the food, and the women on the costume side,” states pastor Vaikona. “This is the way we explore our ministry… it’s not only for dance… it’s for our kids. A lot of kids don’t have anything to do so they join with us, and their parents follow them. The idea of ministry is there’s a lot of Pacific Islanders who move from the Bay Area and they don’t have a connection… so we find activities for them to be together. We found this to be effective… and the kids really enjoy it!”
If you would like to hire the youth of Holy Cross UMC to dance for your church group or community activity, please contact Rev. Tevita Vaikona at (209) 472-2177.