A Samoan church in South King County pays the mortgage on their building by holding monthly “huli huli” barbecues, where fans flock to buy delicious meats and Samoans gather for family style fellowship.

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Pull up to the Samoan Christian Fellowship in Des Moines on certain Saturdays and you’ll smell the aroma of grilled chicken and pork ribs rubbed with a “super secret” sauce and spun over an open flame, “huli huli” style.

The meals draw loyal fans from as far away as Everett, Olympia and Port Orchard, who buy in bulk, as well as newcomers lured by roadside markers along Eighth Avenue South and at nearby intersections.

“We have Samoan friends, and any food they touch is delicious, so I stopped when I saw the sign,” said Linda McGowan of Des Moines, who was there for the first time last week.

If you go

Here’s when the next “huli huli” barbecues are, for the rest of the year:

• July 2

• July 23

• Aug. 6

• Sept. 10

• Oct. 1

• Oct. 15

The fundraiser starts at 10 a.m. and ends when the meat runs out.

Samoan Christian Fellowship: 19804 Eighth Ave. S., Des Moines, WA 98148

More information: schristianfellowship.org

“Will I be back next month?” joked James Kelby, also of Des Moines. “This is awesome. It’s delicious. I might be back tonight.”

The church’s congregation has been holding the fundraising cookouts, which usually sell out by midafternoon, for the past three years or so, according to Tautualelei Tauaifaiga, the fellowship’s capital campaign director. He’s the one who prepares the secret blend of spices used to rub the meats before they are grilled on a massive rotisserie.

Besides feeding the community, selling the meat allows the congregation to pay its mortgage without undue strain on individual members, who generally work hourly wage jobs, said lead Pastor Tu’ugasala Ulualetuiatua Fuga.

It also gives members a chance to serve their church through their labor and to build fellowship with each other, an important part of Samoan culture, he said.

Krystle Tauai, who is among the two dozen or so church members who put on the fundraising dinner, said she looks forward to it every month.

“Island people like each other’s company,” she said. “We have a rich, happy culture, and we like to laugh, tell funny stories and eat.”

Tauai is among the women who set up the canopies, tables, scales and register while a group of men run the handmade rotisserie that can cook up to 100 chickens at a time.

In the field and in the parking lot, children and teens ride bikes, play football and wrestle. Boys and girls brag about their Polynesian roots, how old they look and how substantial they are.

“We’re big, we’re strong, we’re athletic and we’re fluffy … you know, a little plump,” said Aiden Mana Tupuola, 13, of Kent. “We’re proud of our fluffiness. It makes us good at football.”

“People from Samoa are funny, and we like to play rough” said his cousin Kaden Frost, 12, of Federal Way. Puberty comes early and is “tough,” he said, but it’s worth it in the end because “people think you’re older, and all the girls like Samoan men.”

Hadessah Taumua, 3, said her strong Samoan legs help her run fast. “I’m growing and I’m going to keep growing and I’m going to be so happy and so big,” she said.

According to an article on HistoryLink.org about Samoans in the Seattle area, a legend says all Samoans descended from one couple who populated the islands with their children, which contributes to a feeling of closeness in the family based culture.

Pastor Fuga said studies show that people of many cultures disperse the longer they are away from their homelands, but after visiting New Zealand, Australia and other places, he’s found the opposite to be true for Samoans — especially in this region.

“I can’t explain why, but I feel like Samoan culture is actually becoming stronger here than it is in the islands,” he said.

It might be because people here have to make an effort to be together, which might make that time more meaningful, said Tufu Mageo, of Auburn.

“Everyone comes; everyone gets to know each other. For us, it’s important for us to have fellowship and fun.”