Elder Lelea, the senior companion from Tonga, had been serving in Samoa since January of 2008. Elder Miller, the junior companion from Brentwood Tennessee, USA, was relatively new and had only been in the Samoan mission since the middle of August.
They were living in a Church member’s fale (home) in the village of Malaela and were beginning their day as they normally did, with morning prayers, showers and study time.
Elder Lelea was just completing his shower when he heard someone outside shouting “Peau, Peau!” (Samoan for “Wave, Wave!”). He wrapped a towel around his waist and ran outside to see what was going on. As he looked toward the sea, he could see a large brown wave coming toward the village.
The wave was very high and the thought came into his head that this could be his last day on earth. With a wave this size, he knew that the village would be destroyed and as he ran back to the house he began silently praying to his heavenly father for help.
Elder Miller, who was unaware of the pending disaster, was inside writing in his journal as Elder Lelea burst into the room and yelled: “We have to go now. We have to run!”
Elder Miller had either not heard or didn’t understand the shouts from the village of “lolo, lolo” Samoan for “flood, flood.” So Elder Lelea shouted, “Quick, look at the sea”.
As Miller looked out the window he saw what all the excitement was about. A gigantic wave was about to crush the village. They bolted for the door and ran for their lives toward higher ground, many metres away beyond a forest.
As they ran towards the trees they couldn’t help but notice that everyone else was gone and they were probably the last ones to leave the village. Upon reaching the first of the trees they could see that many of the villagers, off in the distance, were already up in the branches of the trees and yelling for them to climb.
They continued running for a short distance when they noticed three little children huddling together near the trees. They had somehow been separated from their family, scared and crying for their mother.
With no time to waste the missionaries scooped the children up and ran to the first large tree. Elder Lelea said that it almost seemed like Elder Miller flew up the tree and was perched in the branches. Lelea quickly threw the children, one by one, into the waiting arms of Elder Miller who carefully placed the two oldest in the branches and held the youngest in his arms.