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The Right Move

The Right Move

Chris Vaifale is a clinician in the addiction services team in the Samoa Region. He shares his faith journey, and the ways God has impacted his life following his return to Samoa.

I grew up in West Auckland, New Zealand. I have always had a passion for sport and music, but my faith has remained my number one. I was raised within the Methodist Church where my father is a lay preacher, and I now serve as a lay preacher myself. My parents chose to move from Samoa to New Zealand to provide my sister and I with better opportunities. I find it funny that God had other plans for my life, as I have now been living back in Samoa since 2016.

Christianity and my faith have always been a big part of my life. I’ve had times when I’ve experienced challenges and my faith has been tested, and I’ve also had times where I’ve really felt God’s hand on my life. Often when I’m struggling, I’ll get through it and reflect, and I can see what God was doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m not going to make a certain deadline and then out of nowhere I feel God’s presence and I know everything will be okay.

Realising a dream

A big year for me was 2023, where I felt deeply connected to God’s presence. I have always loved playing rugby league. It was my dream to represent my country. At age 32 I was fully aware that I was considered too old for the rugby world. I mean like really old. In rugby you are old at 24! I had accepted that those doors were closed, and then God opened them for me. Last year I realised my dream and captained the Samoan Rugby League Nines Team at the Pacific Games.

In my younger years, I enjoyed the popularity and recognition of being a rugby player. I don’t see it that way anymore; my motives have changed. I feel like sport is a way for me to connect with the youth at my church. A lot of kids play sport, and rugby is my ministry with youth and within the rugby community. I am trying to break stereotypes that are normally associated with rugby.

Ten years ago, being a rugby player came with a different pressure. There was a big drinking culture. Normally after a game you sit down and have a drink. Since coming to Samoa, I made the decision not to drink alcohol anymore, so after the game there would just be me drinking soft drink. The next month there would be one or two who would join me, to the point where now there are more non-drinkers than drinkers. A few of the guys said that it was good that I came because it’s hard to say no when everyone else is drinking. God has given me the opportunity to have influence in my rugby circles.

Open doors

My move back to Samoa was a big leap of faith for me. I can’t say that at the time I fully trusted the decision, but looking back I can see it was the right move, so many opportunities have opened up for me in Samoa. From this I have learned to say, ‘Jesus, if this is how it’s meant to be, I’ll do it’.

I was approached to become a lay preacher at my church. It had never crossed my mind to do something like this. Traditionally people would say I am quite young for this position, but I am well supported by more mature preachers and God is using me in this role.

Coming to Samoa led me to The Salvation Army. I had applied for a job at another organisation, but it fell through; God had other plans for me. When a role at The Salvation Army popped up, I applied for it and got a job in a brand-new field for me. I’d never even heard of an alcohol and other drugs (AOD) clinician. I didn’t have the qualifications and I never thought I would be there.

I’ve worked in many jobs, but I’ve never felt a real sense of purpose. It was just something I was doing to earn money and pay the bills. Now I feel like I’m doing something with purpose. As a team we’re serving God with everything that we do. For someone to be able to come in and engage in our service, that’s a big deal. You feel like you are making a difference in their lives.

Personal development

My parents and my sister all graduated from university, but I didn’t. I wanted to, but I never felt the timing was right. Twelve years later, I hadn’t got back to it, and I told myself that it was impossible—then boom! God gives me an opportunity to study a Bachelor of Applied Counselling as part of my AOD clinician role.

Since starting work at The Salvation Army, my faith has grown. Although I work with the AOD department, we are a small team so everything I do for AOD I also do for the corps. I offer myself to The Salvation Army for music and talks with the youth. I am still a member of my own church but, when invited, I help where I can.

The things that I have now, it’s all because of Jesus. This is the story of me moving back to Samoa. God has given me all these amazing opportunities—to work as an AOD clinician with The Salvation Army, to study, to play rugby league for my country and to be ordained as a lay preacher.

There have been some challenging times. It was really difficult not being able to return to New Zealand because of Covid-19 restrictions. But my mindset right now is that the difficult times are just part of the process. I’ll accept them and understand that it all comes down to God and my faith in him. Whatever happens now, I’ll accept God’s plans for me.

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