By Rev SEIK PITOI
SUNDAY, Nov 24, 2019, was a special and joyous day for Mirupasi (Max) Abaya.
This 36-year-old preacher from the Kagua-Erave electorate of Southern Highlands graduated with a certificate from the Frontier Evangelism Institute (FEI) programme run by the Bethel International Training College, a member of the CRC Churches International. It had been a dream for Maxy, as he is known to his friends, to have some kind of formal Bible training, and the dream was realised that day.
In contrast to that day, life for Maxy wasn’t always easy. He was dealt a cruel blow right at the start when he lost his father – someone he had never met. While hailing from Kagua, Maxy, has never set foot in Kagua; neither has he ever gone out of Central Province. That is because in February 1983, while still in his mother’s womb at three months, his father passed away in tragic circumstances.
Maxy is the second son of May Abaya who was from Kagua. His elder brother, Sere, was almost two years old when their father died. Both boys grew up with their mother, late Rose Pitoi, in her Gabagaba Village with their grandparents. As an evangelist, their grandfather was always active in the village and nearby circuits preaching the gospel. The boys and the other grandchildren were always around him. Church was a part of their lives.
Maxy’s grandfather, the late Sir Sere Pitoi, was like a father to the boys. He assisted his eldest daughter take care of the boys’ schooling needs from primary school to high school. Both boys managed to complete grade 10.
However, as in all aspects of life, the choices we make will always determine the kind of lives we will live in the future. Even the friends we choose to hang around with will impact on our lives, either positively or negatively.
Sadly, their poor choices resulted in failure in many areas of their lives, including employment and further educational pursuits.
Following grandpa’s footsetps
Over the past few years, however, after their mother got critically ill, Maxy decided to get serious with his walk with the Lord. He took on leadership in the village youth fellowship as well in the clan.
He became a member of the evangelism team and began to take part in their programmes. As a small boy, he had been known as their evangelist grandfather’s “bag carrier” when he and his older brother would accompany their grandfather walk from village to village to attend crusades and church programs.
Being asthmatic, and having his only vehicle stolen from him, the old man cherished the help from his grandsons. In carrying his bags, apparently some of the anointing may have rubbed off on Maxy and he too soon began to develop a heart for evangelism.
After their mother died last year, Maxy felt it was time to look for opportunities for formal Bible training. He had attended the graduation of a youth member at the Bethel College that year and got a brochure of the courses on offer. He shared his desire with youth minister Rev Tau Leva and clan deacon, Baroa Doana. Both men encouraged him to apply.
With further assistance from evangelist Brian Nouairi, Maxy got enrolled for his six-month programme!
The FEI is a full time stay-in programme where students live on campus. The disciplines of college life greatly moulded the young preacher with time for work, study and relaxation. Quality lessons were delivered by the local and overseas teaching staff.
Into croc territory!
Soon, it was time to do practical ministry and he and his team were sent to Wama, a Goilala village in the hinterlands of the Kairuku district. After arriving at Agevairu Bridge, they travelled on motorised dingy upstream for about six hours.
“This was a ministry trip like no other I have ever been on,” he said.
“The scenery was beautiful but there were crocodiles in the river. I had my first sight of a real croc on this trip. In fact, I even ate crocodile meat! As missionaries, we ate what the people cooked for us. Eventually I got the taste of it,” he added.
There were lots to be done during their outing, including fellowshipping with the local people, attending hauskrais and conducting funerals. They blended in and became part of the community, helping the people in their daily lives. Maxy saw how receptive the people were to the gospel, and Missionary Wesley Vogen, their leader, even baptised some new converts.
The people looked after them well, providing fresh vegetables daily with kumu (greens) cooked in coconut milk as abus (protein). Occasionally they would have pig meat, fish from the river or the odd crocodile as a delicacy! The other village they ministered in was called Inika.
On one occasion while at Wama, Maxy was bitten by a snake which slithered off before anyone could identify it. Nonetheless, the team rallied around him and prayed to nullify any poison if indeed it was poisonous (Mark 16: 18). Like Apostle Paul experienced on the island of Malta (Acts 28: 3-5), God in His mercy saw him through safely without any side effects! These experiences helped Maxy grow in his faith in the Lord.
Graduation day was the highlight for the students. Maxy, being an accomplished singer and guitarist, composed a song for his FEI class, including a humorous line saying that they were “FEI and not FBI”! They presented their song to the loud applause of the audience.
Popular student and peer
Maxy’s pleasant and friendly personality made him popular with staff and students alike. Even the guest speaker on the day, Pastor Paul Bonython from Australia, singled him out in his illustrations, while college principal Pastor Abel Manzanilla also had some good comments to make about him.
The Gabagaba evangelism team and some church leaders came for his graduation. Leaders commented that their sponsorship was not in vain as Maxy had proven his worth. They were pleased with his efforts and proud that he was an excellent ambassador for the village church.
“I am indebted to the many from my village who assisted me in cash and kind,” he said.
“I would not have completed my course without their help.”
So, at a not-so-young 36 years of age, Mirupasi (Max) Abaya Pitoi finally got his prayer answered, though he says this is “only the beginning”.
Armed with his new knowledge, he is raring to go on the field to win souls for the Kingdom of God.
His final comments were: “I am passionate about getting out there and serving. Souls are dying while the churches are playing religion and politics. Many young people are discouraged and disillusioned. I wish to encourage them to stand firm in God’s word and get close to the Lord. I urge village churches to send their youths for formal Bible training, and I highly recommend this excellent college, Bethel International Training College. My time here was spent learning many new things about the Lord and ministry. God pruned me off my bad habits, shaped and moulded me, and gave me a passion to see many people get saved.”
For one who had spent many good years of his life wandering aimlessly and without purpose, this is great advice indeed!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.