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Spiritual Strength Overcomes Physical Limitations

Vavao Sualoa might have every reason to be angry.

He’s battled addictions to alcohol and tobacco. In 2006 a cancer diagnosis led to the amputation of his right leg. Later the doctors discovered that the leg had not been cancerous after all.

“Junior,” as his family and friends call him, is bound to a wheel chair. And now he’s experiencing pain in his other leg.

But the 30-year-old said he’s never been happier.

A convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in American Samoa, he shares his hope and happiness by teaching others to make the most of their lives.

His conversion in 2011 was the catalyst that changed everything.

It was around the same time that he began learning about the LDS Church that he said he started losing all feeling in his right leg. One day an LDS Bishop (an unpaid, volunteer congregational leader) stopped by his home for a visit and offered to give him a blessing. Despite his questions and doubts, he accepted the bishop’s offer.

At that time, he also was struggling with his alcohol and tobacco additions. When he learned about the “Word of Wisdom,” an LDS health code that encourages healthy, moderate eating and prohibits the consumption of harmful and addictive substances, his resolve was strengthened. Over time, he was able give up both those habits.

Now Sualoa teaches students of all ages the very principles that changed his life. He’s assigned to teach Seminary, Institute, and PathwayConnect, all LDS Church programs based on the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that lead to self-reliance and self-mastery.

He’s found hope and peace from the words of the scriptures.

Interestingly, Junior had never enjoyed reading. While investigating the Church, Junior read the Book of Mormon twice. He now has increased his reading skills, which have given him confidence and improved his teaching abilities.

Each day Junior can be seen riding his wheelchair to the Institute classroom at a stake centre (meetinghouse) in Pago Pago. Because there is no bus accessibity, it takes him 50 minutes each way.


Why does he do it? In addition to the joy he gets from serving others, he says he gets "to learn from teaching class.”

“Reading scriptures helps me by giving me confidence and hope that there is something more important that’s waiting for me. God is always mindful of His children. Knowing that helps me move forward,” he said.

                 Currently more than 400,000 youth ages 14-18 in more than 170 countries participate in Seminary classes that often meet in the early morning hours at LDS chapels and designated buildings.

Institute classes, which are offered in the evenings, serve the needs of adults ages 18-30. Both programs draw their curriculum from the Old and New Testaments, The Book of Mormon, and other LDS scripture.

PathwayConnect is a one-year educational opportunity that helps adult learners transition to online degree programs through the LDS-owned Brigham Young University-Idaho. Students complete online life skills and academic preparation courses and participate in weekly gatherings where religious courses are taught.

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