By ALPHONSE BARIASI
HE grew up learning how to fish from an early age and over the years perfected his trade to become one of the village’s best.
The winds, tides, reefs, spawning and feeding seasons – he knew them well enough to make a catch each time he cast a net, line or spear. He returned home with a sizeable catch to feed family and Tubumaga clansmen in the big village, Hanuabada.
Yet despite years of experience and knowledge of the elements, tragedy can befall anyone venturing out to sea anytime.
It was during tuna trawling one day that Arua Nou encountered engine trouble and sat helplessly in his boat as he was swept out into open sea. He had caught 12 fish in the early part of the day but longed with fervent hope that a fellow fisherman or a passing vessel would come to his rescue.
Help did not come, and night fell.
Meanwhile, back in the village an alarm was raised and a search party was organised to go out to sea at first light.
Thank God – and it was indeed God at work as Arua acknowledges – help arrived from practically out of the blue.
“At about 9pm two men in a very old fishing boat approached and took me to the village,” Arua recalls.
“One of them told me ‘we’ve been sent to meet you, we’ll meet again’.
“The one talking said, I’m Peter and this is John.”
Arua said the two men brought him safely home and when he tried to give them six of the 12 tuna in his boat along with fuel for their return trip, they politely refused them.
And there was something else that further convinced Arua that his rescue was a divine intervention. He says when the two men left he saw their boat going for about 200 meters close to the two beacons of the Port Moresby wharf, then lifted out of the water, rose into the night sky and disappeared.
“People told me later when I related my vision that the life-savers were the Apostles Peter and John but during the whole episode, I had no idea what was happening and didn’t bother to ask where they had come from.”
Confirmation of ministry
Later, in an attitude of gratitude and praise to God, he reached for his Bible and the passage that opened before him was the fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
He was drawn to the Lord’s encounter with two fishermen: And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fisherman. Then He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matt 4:18,19).
The Hanuabada fisherman took that as his personal summons. He had already been in church and evangelising at the time so his encounter with the life-savers and the scripture left with him with no shadow of doubt in what he was born to do.
He has served the Lord faithfully, together with his wife Vavine for several decades now.
While raising their seven children, the couple had faithfully served even without recognition from the local congregation of the United Church. They have ministered to their own people and outside including places like Rigo District in Central, Lae and Ramu (Gusap).
Their hopes to attend formal Bible school training, however, had been thwarted several times.
Finally, last year their local bishop convinced the annual synod to enroll the couple for pastoral training. After eight months of training the couple graduated along with other mostly younger trainee ministers on Nov 10 at the Matego Theological College with certificates.
“The call of God is greater than any church policy,” Arua said at the graduation, making reference to the church’s retirement for pastors who are over 60 years.
“I will continue serving the Lord until the day when I’m unable to walk,” the evangelist said.
After serving as provisional ministers, the couple will be ordained and then be known as pastors.
Education and work
Arua was educated to grade 10 level at the nearby Idubada Technical College and worked for some time with the Chief Minister’s office at Konedobu before Independence as a clerk.He then switched to the private sector, working as a salesman and customs clerk at Burns Philp Ltd.
Meanwhile, his wife to-be Vavine of Pari Village, similarly moved from the public service – working as a nurse aide at Port Moresby General Hospital – to Steamships, the only other major company in the city then. Their paths crossed through their jobs and they got married in 1974.
Fishing runs in the Arua blood and is passed from father to son. When his first son was only a year old, he took him out on his first fishing trip and the boy has learnt the tricks of the trade and today, he has learned a few new tricks of his own. In fact all four of his sons are fishermen.
Arua and his seven siblings were raised in the home built by dad Nou Heni in 1946 after the war. While his elder brother, who had the right of inheritance, built a home of his own and moved, Arua, the next in line took ownership of the family home.
Arua and his family are part of the Lakani Toi Memoiral Church, so named after the first Motuan to welcome the pioneer South Sea evangelists of the London Missionary Society on Nov 21, 1873. (The first Motuan convert was Arua Daera.)
They family continues in sharing their joy of the gospel and whatever blessings they receive through fishing and other sources.
“We always want to share because the blessings return to us in many different ways,” Arua says.
Though in their 60s, the evangelist is are eager to go on ministering and the United Church Urban Circuit would do well to use them as much as possibly while the zeal and fire of the gospel keeps burning in their hearts.
Peacemaker and friend of criminals
Arua’s ministry has changed lives of many young people in the community who abandoned their bad ways. He remembers one particular event in Saroa Village, Rigo where two groups were fighting following a murder incident.
Arua was called to preach at a crusade when tension was still very high but through the power of God the enemies changed heart and made peace.
He has this to say about his own Hanuabada Village: “This is supposed to be a Christian village. For this is where the gospel first landed and from here it spread to other parts of the Southern region and the country.
“But over the years Christian and traditional values were greatly undermined and social problems like drug and alcohol abuse increased.”
Arua has for a long time befriended youths regarded as outlaws and criminals. And when some of them later changed their ways and turned up in church, the congregation found out about his work through the testimonies of those young men.
Far from feeling overwhelmed by the extent of the social problems in the village and society at large, Arua is confidently working with the help of the Lord to change lives.
The fisher of men has vowed to take his vocation to the very end.