By JAMES GUMUNO
PASTOR Joe Aki’s motto is “Change nobody to be somebody.”
To him it simply means to be more proactive than just merely yelling from the pulpit during services.
He is based at the Kenebo SDA church in the Kotna local level government of Dei district, Western Highlands.
His pastoral duties includes caring for the “disadvantaged and neglected”.
His most recent mission was to bring to the fold 28 drug addicts who agreed to get out of a life cycle of cultivating and smoking marijuana. Another 60 have contacted him. They also want to join his crusade.
“To save one soul (sheep) is better than nothing.”
Pastor Joe, 50, in the past five months has visited villages to mix around with the drug addicts.
“I leave my family and live with them in their homes, cook, eat and sleep with them. I told them not to afraid of me. I tell stories and tell them to continue smoking. I tell them about the Holy Bible.”
He lets them make up their own minds if they want to accept Jesus Christ and give up their bad habits.
He is the second eldest son of Keu Rop and Yuin Rop of Minjip village. They were strong members of the SDA church. The family is from the Anducklimb clan of the Moge tribe in Hagen Central.
He has two sons and a daughter. He attended Hagen Tee Primary School from 1977 to 1984 then Hagen Park High School from 1985 to 1988. He could not continue his education. So he went to Rabaul and worked as a waiter at Travelers Lodge from 1989 to 1991 before returning to the village.
In 2010, he became a volunteer missionary. He was posted to the Baiyer Zoo, serving Jimi and Rauna Valley. He went to the Ukuni where the stone-age people were discovered recently.
In 2016, he attended the Omaura Bible School in Kainantu, Eastern Highlands. He became a pastor and was based at Ketakori in Muglumb until May this year.
After noticing many people smoking marijuana in the villages, he decided to take the gospel to them.
“I socialise with the drug addicts and let them feel my presence.”
After getting to know them by name and where they lived, he visited them one by one.
“I go into their house, eat and sleep with them, showing them that they are not neglected and rejected in the community.”
Slowly the men made a turnaround and accepted God into their lives. They even built a house where he conducts counselling and agriculture training he had learnt from Bible School.
He is happy that he has managed to bring back some lost sheep in to the fold.
Preaching from the pulpit is one thing, another is to mix around with the people, talk to them about their problems and find ways to solve them.
“These people are regarded as nobody. But they are children of God and I want to make them become somebody.”
By JAMES GUMUNO