Where yesterday is already today

The New Year had already begun at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, 31 December 2019—relative to Coordinated Universal Time: UTC + 14—while the corks only began popping in London on Wednesday, 1 January at 12:00 AM. And it’s all because of the International Date Line!

And there are some even more remarkable phenomena: at present, Apia, the capital city of the South Pacific island state of Samoa, is a full 25 hours ahead of Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, even though an airplane trip from one island to the other takes only about 35 minutes. But the flight crosses the International Date Line (IDL) en route. Although it is only an imaginary line that follows the 180th meridian (180 degrees longitude) it has quite a significant influence on both the clock and the calendar. While people in Samoa are already celebrating New Year’s Day, it isn’t even New Year’s Eve yet in American Samoa! There is a whole calendar day between the two locations. The IDL separates yesterday from today. If you travel from west to east, you will land in the previous calendar day, while taking the other direction will bring you into the following calendar day. An old sailors’ rule states that if you travel from east to west, the date will stay the same, but if you travel from west to east, the date will change. Relative to the Prime Meridian, you thus gain or lose a day in the calendar, depending on the direction the airplane flies. If you are travelling eastward (and thus toward the sun), you will have to keep setting your watch ahead. If you are flying westward, you must keep setting your watch back—until you arrive at the IDL: it is here that even the calendar day changes.

Two neighbours a day away from each other

In earlier times, Samoa and American Samoa were in the same time zone. It was only in 2011 that Samoa went back to the western side of the IDL because its economic ties to Australia, New Zealand, and Asia were too valuable. For example, a businessman from New Zealand would not necessarily endear himself if he were to call on Monday morning while his business partner in Apia was still enjoying his Sunday morning breakfast. So it was that, in the year 2011, Samoa simply skipped the 30th day of December. American Samoa, on the other hand, remained in its “American” time zone, and was from then on a day behind.

A productive leap in time

Apostle Desmond Malcom Lodewick lives in Australia. He is responsible for the Church’s work in Polynesia. He is fond of travelling to Samoa, and most often begins his journey there, namely in the west. The stretch is somewhat shorter. He likes working near the International Date Line because he finds it extremely productive for his endeavours. A typical deployment there takes the following form: he arrives in Samoa on a Friday, celebrates a divine service in the evening, then conducts a seminar for the local ministers on Saturday, before going on to conduct a divine service in one of the congregations on Sunday morning. After lunch, he then goes to the airport and takes a little Twin Otter eastward to get to the neighbouring island of American Samoa. The flight takes all of 35 minutes, but nevertheless, it is Saturday for him again! He has just crossed the International Date Line. Again he conducts a ministers’ seminar, and once again he conducts a divine service on Sunday morning for the congregation there. On Monday morning, the Apostle flies from American Samoa back to Samoa, where he arrives on Tuesday. Once again, he conducts an evening service in one of the congregations there. And then he heads back to Australia. As a commuter between the two islands, he often has to adjust his wristwatch to the correct time.

The responsible District Elder Peter Eves lives in American Samoa. He too travels to both countries in a single weekend, only in the opposite order: he flies to Samoa on Friday, lands there on Saturday, conducts a ministers’ meeting, conducts a divine service on Sunday morning, flies back to American Samoa, and conducts a divine service there—and by Monday morning he is back in his office again!

Congregations in Samoa and American Samoa

Samoa is home to some 200,000 people, and practically all of them profess the Christian faith. There are four New Apostolic congregations and one mission in Samoa. The Church’s approximately 400 members there receive pastoral care from a total of fourteen ministers.

Around 60,000 people live in American Samoa. Most of them—approximately 98 percent—are likewise Christian. The two New Apostolic congregations there are attended by some 200 members, who are served by eleven ministers.

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