Susunu Le Fanua – Burn the Afterbirth

For the past two months, I have been paying close attention to the concept/principle of belief or believing and how faith and miracles work in my life and those of my family members. As things became more and more clearer to me, a certain event that happened a long time ago finally made sense in my heart, which led to understanding of other stories I read about. It felt like I was able to solve a mystery. It was euphoric!

My mom gave birth to her eldest, a son. He got sick and died an infant. Two more sons were born thereafter; one got sick and died an infant. The third son experienced the same ordeal as his older brothers, but survived. The cure? Burn the placenta and fetal membranes discharged from the uterus after the birth of every son. And oh my dad had to be the one to do it. It was taboo for anyone else to feed the afterbirth to the devouring fire. He had to sit there to make sure the whole thing burned to ashes before he could sleep. You probably are shaking your head saying “WHAT?” as this makes no sense. Yeah, I too was searching for a very long time for answers, but all I got from my mom was “that was the instructions” – instructions from the village traditional healer. I will come back to this later.

After the death of two sons, any parent would wonder why and how to prevent the next son from the grave. My parents started searching for answers in order to save their future sons. I am telling this story using information from my mother who told me the story many times. My parents took their sick sons to doctors. No luck. They took them to traditional healers they knew of. No luck. Then, one day they decided to take their third gravely ill son to a woman named Nive, a village healer who lived about 40 miles away in the village of Neiafu. (A side note: Neiafu is the most beautiful bright beachfront village I’ve ever seen. The fine sand, glistening in the sun sends out powerful white rays to welcome you; it’s so heart-happy. Just make sure you wear sunglasses.) My mom’s devout Methodist parents lived in Neiafu. My mom’s parents had a tradition of fasting and praying every Friday; my mom continues that tradition today. In fact, the event I’m going to share was the beginning of my parents’ belief in this spiritual practice; they also do it in remembrance of their sons being saved.


Three surviving sons in order of birth from left to right

While my parents were in Neiafu, my grandparents dedicated their many fasts and prayers hoping for a miracle for their grandson. He did not get any better; he had no appetite and was now refusing to eat. In the meantime, my parents again took their baby from one healer to another hoping for a cure. Before my grandparents closed one of their fasts for this sick infant, they took baby to the Methodist chapel, laid him on the altar and pleaded with God to save his life. After their petition to the Lord, they told my parents to quickly take the baby to Nive, the village healer. My parents rushed as their son’s head and neck started to become limp and his life slipping away. Nive grabbed the baby, opened his mouth and spit some kind of leaves she was chewing into the baby’s mouth. It is called vai pipisi (spitting medicine.) With the baby’s eyes closed, my parents watched his sunken tiny chest looking for his breath, some sign of life. Nive instructed my parents to stay at her home, told them to let the baby sleep and keep an ear out for his cry – it was then they could feed him. My mom said they couldn’t sleep; they were too scared that this son would die too. In the middle of the night, the baby let out a loud scream; they jumped up and quickly fed him. To their relief and joy, he ate the whole bowl of food and more. Before they returned to grandma and grandpa, Nive told my mom her sons got sick and died because mom had “gafa tama le au” (male line incomplete). It means none of her sons would live. To solve this issue, my dad had to take the afterbirth (placenta & fetal membrane discharge) and burned it to ashes. He was not allowed to go to bed until the whole thing became ashes. My dad would religiously do this for two more sons and sure enough, they both survived.

Returning to the instructions from Nive to burn the afterbirth, I am reminded of two stories from the Bible – The 10 Lepers and Naaman, the commander of the army of King Aram. Both of these stories deal with the disease of leprosy; the characters in these narratives were told by someone to do a simple specific thing in order to survive the malady and receive healing. After pleading for healing, Jesus Christ told the 10 lepers to go show themselves to the priest. They did and they were cleansed. Through his mistress’ maidservant, Naaman learned of a prophet who could heal his leprosy. Believing Naaman went to the King of Israel who outright told him he had no power to do such things. Elisha, the prophet heard of the King’s anger and asked for Naaman to come to him. Naaman went. Elisha sent his servant to tell Naaman to go dip himself 7 times in the dirty river Jordan. After persuasion by his own servant, Naaman went and dipped 7 times in the filthy river Jordan and was healed. My parents were told by a village healer to burn their sons’ afterbirth; they did and their sons lived.

I said earlier that I have been observing the principle of believing faith and miracles in connection with events that have happened in my life and those of my family members. Not until I understood this principle did I come to understand the story of my brothers’ survival and the healing in the stories of the lepers. The truth is, God hears every word in all kinds of prayers – believing prayers, doubtful prayers, the so so prayer, the “kaukulimoe” prayer, the joyful ones, the saddest ones, the desperate ones and so forth. He does answer believing prayers. When believers pray and go with their might to look for solutions, God uses whatever means He wants to provide them with answers. For some in searching for cures to illnesses, He answers through others in forms of simple instructions and then showing up to where they need to be in order to get that healing. For some, God uses the elements of the earth even the dirt and filthy water to answer that prayer. For my mom it is burning the afterbirth. Here is another truth – it is not the dirt, the filthy water, the priest, the vai pipisi or the burning of the placenta. It is the believing and obeying to do. It is the hardest thing to do when hope hangs by a thread, but it’s exactly what has to happen for the miracle to occur. This miracle will confirm the faith of the child in the Father and turn the heart of the child to Him; it’s the kind of miracle that changes the way the child shows devotion and obedience to the Father as well. And best of all, it is the type of miracle that helps the child feel of the Father’s love; it may be the only time the child feels of such tenderness which can change a multitude of things.

When my grandparents fasted and prayed for my brother to live, the answer was simple. Take the baby to Nive. It was not Nive or the spitting medicine that Nive used, but through her God showed His love and mercy in a simple way. It was not the struggle to find the cure for their son, but the endurance during the most difficult stretch of the test, doing and hoping for a miracle. It was not the burning of the afterbirth, but the faith and obedience to act on the instructions that brought the miracle. My dad probably did not know if burning that placenta had any connection with the survival of his future sons, but he believed in it. He obeyed; he did as he was told and his sons lived. God uses any means to bless, teach, and show love to His believing children. When His children obey, they reap the miracle they hope for. The test of my parents’ and grandparent’s faith had to become so intense. The test had to be almost unbearable for the greater blessing to come. Through their obedience to act on the inspiration they received, their posterity was saved and therefore their faith in God, their prayers and fasting remained undeterred. This experience and many others have made these people witnesses of God and His power to deliver and bless in times of need because they believe!


Didn’t I tell you this was euphoric? It surely is!


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