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Samoan Finds Compassion in the Streets of San Francisco

August 21, 1985|MARK A. STEIN | Times Staff Writer and

SAN FRANCISCO — Jorge Michael usually spends his time saving souls in Central America.

But he was more than happy to take the time to save a septuagenarian Samoan in San Francisco.

The story of Michael and the Samoan, Faaitua Logo, is a tale of a different kind of lost soul and of two newcomers to America.

Michael, who was born in Colombia, until recently was laboring in Honduras as a missionary for Christian Life Fellowship. He came to San Francisco, his wife's hometown, to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Logo, from American Samoa, came to the Bay Area two years ago to live with his children in East Palo Alto. On a family outing earlier this month, he got lost in a crowded San Jose flea market and began searching for his home.

Two weeks and 45 miles later, Logo, who speaks no English, found not his home but San Francisco.

And Michael found him.

While strolling along tree-lined Park Presidio Boulevard last week, Michael came across Logo, disheveled, disoriented and sitting next to his upturned hat on a street corner. In the hat were coins donated in silence by passers-by.

"I was going to my house when I saw him on the corner, sitting and smiling at me," Michael said. "I stopped to start a casual conversation with him, but he couldn't say anything to me but 'Samoa.' "

Michael deduced that the old man was hungry and panhandling for food, so he went home and returned with hot coffee and bread.

The young missionary saw the man on the same corner the next day and the day after that. He said he could tell that this was no ordinary bum.

"He was nice and calm and smiled," Michael recalled. "He tried to communicate as best he could. He was not a crazy person. I could tell that. He was not smoking or drinking or doing anything, just sitting by himself on the corner.

"I tried to find out if there was someone, a relative or someone, who could help him, but he couldn't tell me anything," he said. "So I prayed, and he prayed for help."

He also asked Gail Manson at the local Christian Life Fellowship office to call Samoans for Samoans, a local support group for immigrants from the South Pacific island.

The group sent Julia Moliga to try to help the man.

"He was just sitting there," she remembered. "I walked up to him, and he said, 'Alofa, ' which means hello (in Samoan). Then he started crying. He said he was thinking about his family and his kids."

As it turns out, his family was thinking of him too.

After being separated from him at the flea market two weeks earlier, they had been frantically combing the San Jose area looking for him.

What Logo's family did not know, however, was that rather than wait around to be found, the 72-year-old former banana plantation worker had decided to find his own way home to East Palo Alto--20 miles away--and started walking.

By the time he finally stopped walking 10 days later, Logo's zig-zag trail had taken him to San Francisco, 45 miles from the flea market.

Along the way, he slept in bushes and spent spare change dining on cookies, coffee and soda pop. He sometimes hopped on buses, riding for hours, staring forlornly out the window, hoping to spot his house.

When his money gave out, he simply sat down on a street corner. The language barrier kept him from asking for help. It was then he discovered that strangers would give him money to eat.

"He thought it was their love for him" that caused them to give him the coins and dollar bills, said Lavenia Lesa, his granddaughter. He was convinced, she said, that "the Lord was watching for him."

Lesa said her grandfather was not frightened during his adventure, only concerned that he would never see his family again.

"He wants to let people know how grateful he is for everyone's help, and is glad he is back," she said.

"I'm glad God let me do it," Michael said. "I want to help people."

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