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By Jasmine Netzler

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 9) – The oldest Methodist church building in Samoa, which sits upon a cave at Piula, the home of the Piula theological College, is back to its former glory.

Built in 1912, Methodist Secretary General Reverend Tupu Folasa II said the last time it was used was in 1968, because it had suffered severe damages from hurricanes in 1961 and 1966.

Many builders considered the possibility of renovating it but decided it was impossible, Rev Folasa II said.

This was until Lemalu Saini came along. His ancestor was part of the group who built the original church.

"He came and offered to renovate the church," Rev Folasa II said.

Renovation work started on 22 August 2006. On Saturday 30 June this year, the project was completed.

And yesterday, nearly 40 years later, the renovated church hosted its first ceremony, attended by hundreds of Methodist members from here and all over the world.

"To God be the glory," Reverend Folasa II said. "We’re very thankful and grateful because many people thought it (the project) was not possible."

Although the total cost of the renovation is yet to be finalised, Reverend Folasa II said all the funding was provided by members of the church.

"The project was not easy because the building was in a very bad state as it had been years since it was last used," Reverend Folasa II said.

Most of the building materials had to be shipped in from overseas.

"Although it was an expensive undertaking, we wanted this historical monument to be restored to what it once was ninety-five years ago."

The original church was built by college students, staff and members of a local high school.

Despite the church sitting on a cave, Reverend Folasa II said engineers from New Zealand have reassured the church that there was no damage to the structure because of the cave and the water.

Yesterday’s special service was also the official opening of the church’s 2007 annual conference, which starts today.

All Methodist pastors who passed away between last year and this year’s conference were honoured and remembered.

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