Polynesian Luau: A Celebration of the History and Cultures of the Polynesian People

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“This was a glorious celebration.” “It was a magical trip.” “It was incredible” “It was a wonderful evening.” “It was so much fun.” Such were the expressions used to describe the experience of those who attended the Polynesian Luau.

On Saturday, August 6, 2016, from 4:00 to 8:00 pm Bethel-Woodlawn United Methodist Church hosted their first Polynesian Luau at Clement Auditorium at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. The event included a delicious Hawaiian dinner and a spectacular Polynesian show.

2016_Polynesian Luau 1 Reverend Dr. Apelu Poe, pastor of Bethel-Woodlawn United Methodist Church, coordinated the event to raise needed money to help Bethel-Woodlawn UMC’s Congregational Development Fund.

“Bethel-Woodlawn United Methodist Church has been a beacon of light for the citizens of Clarksville and Woodlawn for over three hundred years. This year Bethel UMC is celebrating their two hundred and five years of Christian ministry while Woodlawn UMC celebrates one hundred and thirty six years. When we put these two together, we are talking about over three hundred years of Christian ministries and charitable services. That is why we thank God for all of you,” Reverend Dr. Poe explained, “because by joining us this evening, you have helped us raise the desperately needed money to keep these two divine vineyards going for many more years to come.”2016_Polynesian Luau 2

The Polynesian Luau began at 4:00 pm with a delicious Hawaiian dinner at Immaculate Conception Family Center. The following local corporate sponsors provided the support for the event: Walmart, La Quinta Inn, Hilton Garden Inn & Suites, F & M Banks, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, Taylor Farms, and Second Harvest Food Banks of Middle Tennessee.


The dinner was followed by a 6:30 pm spectacular Polynesian show at Austin Peay’s Clement Auditorium. Reverend Dr. Cynthia Talley, pastor of New Providence United Methodist Church, opened the event with a word of prayer.

“Many people have asked me this question: Where did Polynesian people migrate from in the first place? One theory says that we Polynesian people migrated from South America. Another says that we came from Southeast Asia. Still another says we came from the lost tribe of Israel that kept drifting and ended up in the South Seas as ancestors of Polynesian people. The good news for us,” Dr. Poe proclaimed, “is that we are not going to solve this mystery this evening. But what we will do is take you on a tour to these South Pacific islands through dance and music so that you may learn something about our Polynesian history and cultures.”

2016_Polynesian Luau 3The tour to the South Pacific islands, guided by tour guide, Faapio Poe, began in Hawaii, then onto Tahiti, New Zealand, Tonga, Tokelau, Rarotonga, and ended in Samoa, widely acclaimed as the “heart of Polynesia.” The name, Samoa comes from “Sa,” which means “sacred,” and “moa,” which means “center.”

Charles Hewgley from Belmont UMC in Nashville said, “The Polynesian Luau in Clarksville was just like taking a trip to all of these islands. The food and the native entertainment were spectacular and really authentic. This was a glorious celebration of the people and culture of Polynesia. So glad we have the opportunity to experience this in Middle Tennessee.”

Professor Eric Stalions from Martin Methodist College said, “The similarities among the songs and dances from Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and New Zealand made the greatest impression on me. Such connections demonstrated a deep interconnectedness among these cultures.”

Reverend Dr. Thomas Russell from Franklin said, “It was a magical trip to the islands of Polynesia with terrific South Seas food and dancing. I am glad we had the chance to be there.”

2016_Polynesian Luau 4In addition, the event provided an opportunity for the partnering of local churches, ethnic ministries, schools, government and non-government organizations, and businesses.

Reverend Dr. Poe explained that he hoped this Polynesian Luau celebration, which he expected would become an annual event, served as the first important step towards recognizing God’s vision for cross-cultural unity, human rights, social justice, and international peace. Reverend Michael Guertin, pastor of Central Chapel United Methodist Church, ended the magical tour to the South Pacific islands with a word of prayer, sending the crowd of over 500 people home to await the next luau.


Photographs courtesy of clarksvillenow.com and photographer Lee Erwin.