News Story

Emotional Response Teams Minister to Grieving Samoans

83 deaths, mostly children, from Samoa measles outbreak

From September 2019 into the early part of 2020, the country of Samoa was ravaged by a measles epidemic.

Although other island nations were also affected, none felt the same impact as Samoa with 5,707 confirmed cases and 83 deaths.

The great majority of deaths occurred in children under the age of four, leaving many families dealing with deep sadness.


In response to the needs of families who lost a loved one to measles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent an emotional response team (ERT) made up of professionals from New Zealand, Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

This multi-disciplinary team of psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, family services, welfare and self-reliance managers, medical doctors and missionaries were divided into three teams. Two teams to serve the more populated island of Upolu and the other team going to Savaii, a more remote island of Samoa.

Their role was to minister one by one to heartbroken families, providing love, comfort, and support along with teaching ways to deal with grief and begin to heal.

Stake President Adney Reid quoted the late Apostle Robert D. Hales in saying "Suffering is universal; how we react to suffering is individual."

Elder and Sister Edwards, a senior couple serving as Welfare and Self Reliance missionaries in American Samoa, who were part of the emotional response team, remarked, “What a blessing it was, a week before Christmas, to be with these families that had lost so much, to bring the message of good tidings of great joy.”

Elder Galu and Sister Misirita Matagi, both Samoan, serve as missionaries on the island of Savaii. They acted as translators for the Edwards while meeting with families in Savaii.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive with most visits ending in tears and hugs,” Sister Edwards said.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.