By GIBSON TORASO
THE day last Saturday was cold and the sky over Kundis Village was filled with clouds.
The sun was not strong enough to brighten up the village in Enga’s Ambum Valley in the Kompiam-Ambum district. Here Jacob Luke, a local from Monokam village who owns Mapai Transport Ltd – a transport and logistics company – slaughtered 50 pigs and gathered thousands of kina worth of food stuff to mark the 50th anniversary of his elementary prep class in 1969 at the Kundis Lutheran Community School (now primary school). He was joined by the people of Piau, Kubin, Poteyalin and his Tirr tribes and other guests from across the province to mark the day.
Born to parents Luke Luai and Aipit Luke in 1960 as Yakapus Solekuli Luke at Monokam Village, Jacob, of the Tirr tribe, grew up as any other ordinary Engan village boy in the headwaters of Ambum River learning to master the skills of hunting and roles and responsibilities of men in the tribe and society.
It was in the colonial days and the chances of a native attending school and graduating from college or university and finding a job was rare during his time as there were not many schools as the case is today. Leaving his parents and his Monokam home at the age of nine, Jacob moved to Kundis and enrolled for prep class at the only church-run school in the whole Ambum Valley.
From 1969 to 1976, Jacob completed standard one education at Kundis Lutheran Community School and was selected to do standard two at St Paul’s Pausa Lutheran High School in 1977. He completed grade seven and continued to grade eight in 1978 when he and others were terminated.
Luke never achieved his dream of completing his education to become a pastor like his father when he and other students were terminated in 1978 for protesting over teachers not teaching well.
“I was the ring leader of the protest over teachers for not teaching well,” he said, adding that he never regretted what he had done and being terminated for it.
“I called them (teachers) incompetent (so) I was terminated.
“I was patient. I never regret because it made me work harder
“Thank God that he let me to face the difficulty to lead me to success.”
His anniversary message to the students of Kundis and Enga was for them to obey their parents and abstain from being bad young people and to be good and successful in whatever they aspired to achieve in life.
“Obey your parents. Avoid being in groups and being bad,” Luke advised the students who attended his anniversary.
“When you face problems, never give up. There is always a way out.”
Being educated to grade eight level and now realising how blessed he is, Luke chose Psalm 142.6 – which says I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my Lord as long as I live” – as his anniversary slogan on a banner, alluding his success in life and business to the grace of God. He never looked back after he was terminated from school and moved on with life to become one of the most successful businessman in Enga and Papua New Guinea owning one of the largest transport and logistics companies in the country.
Describing his success, fellow businessman Paul Kurai said Jacob’s story was like that of American astronaut Neill Armstrong who landed on the moon in 1969 as the first man from earth and later testified that God was real. “After reaching the pinnacle of life in a career, the highest we can see is God, there is nothing more than that, only God we can see,” Kurai quoted Armstrong.
Luke gave anniversary presents to his former teachers for their time and effort in getting him and others educated to some level and acknowledged the work of the missionaries for setting up schools and spreading the Word of God. His Mapai Foundation also presented a cheque of K50,000 to Kundis Lutheran Primary School for their projects.
His former teachers who were celebrants at the event and presented with gifts included Kross Kapatae, Julie Yakasa and Grace Yapao. Kapatae, when receiving her gifts, said she taught Jacob in his preparatory class along with many others in 1969.
“He was observant and attracted my love,” she recalls her interaction with Jacob when he first enrolled in her class. Yakasa, who taught him in grade two in 1972, said she changed his old name, Yakapus Solekuli Luke, to Jacob Luke. Yapao said she favoured Jacob as her most obedient and above-average student while her husband Mark sought forgiveness from Jacob for terminating him and other students from Pausa.
During the celebration, many prominent people and fellow Engan businessmen spoke highly of Jacob for his continued determination through challenges to excel in business. Wabag MP Dr Lino Tom said Jacob was a role model for school children in Enga to emulate through sheer commitment and dedication.
Kundis villager and Goroka-based businessman Namba Tumu thanked the Lutheran missionaries for providing schools and ministering the Gospel to educate the people in the Ambum Valley.
“The success story of Mapai is a blessing to the Ambum people and it was the result of the work of the missionaries that opened doors to us,” Tumu, who also asked Jacob if he could name one of his over 100 trucks ‘Kundis’, said.
Luke thanked the American Lutheran missionaries for providing him the opportunities in his life and business, his foster family who looked after him when he was attending community school at Kundis, the teachers, pastors and individuals who made a difference in his business career.
Professor of Theology at Birip Timothy Lutheran Seminary Rev Dr Ron Rall, who shared a sermon for the event, attended with wife Mary Anne and missionaries Roy and Judy Schache.
Also in attendance were students and academics from Timothy and Martin Luther seminaries, including Lutheran pastors as well as members of others churches.
More than a thousand people including the guests and the local tribes celebrated the anniversary with Jacob at Kundis on that beautiful Saturday.
By GIBSON TORASO