Samoan-born Auckland man Amituana'i Timo Pepe has experienced his fair share of tough times throughout his life. But his faith in God, hard work, and ability to keep a sense of humour have helped him rise above his challenges.
After a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he says he came back home with much better English skills as well as “a greater confidence and motivation to talk with people.”
“While a Mormon missionary,” he adds, “I also developed a strong desire to help other people.”
This month Pepe won the Toastmasters’ Humorous Speech Competition for the Central/South Auckland area. In his winning speech, he touched on some his experiences and how he has tried to stay faithful to his religion and to remain cheerful, no matter what difficulties he faced.
"When I first arrived in New Zealand," he says, "it was tough to find employment due to my limited English language skills."
"Every time I went out to find a job I was told to go learn English or go back to the island. I also lacked interpersonal and communication skills, and many other skills needed to be offered any employment."
But Pepe worked at developing his talents, something he continues to do to this day.
Apart from language and employment challenges, Pepe has also endured health problems. At the age of 26 he suffered a stroke. After treatment and rest, he made a complete recovery. He says that his own prayers and the prayers of others were instrumental in his return to full health. His recovery, he says, enabled him to get back to what he desires most, to help others.
Pepe’s dream is to become a motivational speaker and writer. He recently finished writing a book, due to be published soon, about his first 20 years of life in Samoa. Another book in the works will be about his second 20 years of life, in New Zealand.
During his Toastmaster’s speech he had the audience laughing at his anecdotes about misunderstandings he has observed when English and Samoan languages have collided. For example, his shortened name, Ami, pronounced 'Ar-me,' has led to confusion as doctors and others have thought he was a woman, based on his name, before meeting him.
A common theme in the lives of many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the focus and drive to improve one’s circumstances and talents through faith, education and hard work. And in the process of self-development, there is often a strong desire among Mormons to reach out to help others.