A faithful couple eager to continue serving the Lord even after officially retiring
By Rev SEIK PITOI
WHEN one comes to the end of his service in any endeavour, there is a sense of accomplishment.
But then, there is that uncertainty of what the future holds, especially in the twilight years that lie ahead. Furthermore, one begins to miss the daily routines that were a part of life for the past 40 or so years. But it can also be an enjoyable time; a time to rest well and do the things one wished to do before but couldn’t find the time to. Now, he has all the time on his hands!
For a minister of the Gospel, though, after years of preaching, teaching, baptising, marrying and burying church members, retirement comes as an anti-climax. Suddenly, one does not have a congregation of his own, except his own family. The ‘itch to preach’ is evident but he has no ‘pulpit’. Will those years of experience now lie in waste, or should such a person be considered an asset to his own local church and be involved more often?
Such is the case with now retired Rev Jino Wari Pala. After over 40 years of active Christian service, including 30 years as an ordained minister, Rev Pala hung up his gown and stole (sash) in 2019. But you can’t keep a good man down. Two years on, Rev Jino and his wife, Marama Martha, apart from being kept busy by minding their two bubus (grandchildren), can often be seen on the pulpit of their local church, preaching and teaching.
Rev Pala did his primary education from 1963 to 1968 at the mission school in his village, Kapari, in the Central. In 1969, he entered vocational school at Kupiano. However, his enthusiasm was short-lived when the manager of the centre announced that there was no food and accommodation so students had to return home. With that, he left for the city to find ways to further his education.
He resided with his uncle, Kini Puele, for a year before enrolling in 1970 at the Kilakila High School to do forms 1 and 2. He continued in 1973 and 1974 at Kwikila High School in the Rigo district. Jino was adept in athletics, playing a variety of sports but majoring in rugby league at Kwikila. He recalled being one of two sprinters at Kwikila; the other being Judge Ravu Auka! It was also at Kwikila that Jino came to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
The retired minister recalled an incident that happened during his high school days. In their zeal to share the Good news of Jesus, he and his Christian school mates from the same village, including Dr Sir Puka Temu, took tracts to the village during the holidays and began sharing with their friends. He said the village church leaders heard about it and were very angry, thinking they were trying to start a new church. They rebuked the boys and told them to be ashamed of themselves as they were children of United Church deacons! That was far from the truth, but such was the belief held by the leaders.
That rebuke actually motivated the boys to go all out for Jesus! That zeal was later to propel Jino to enter into full
Struck by illness
After High School, Jino joined the PNG Banking Corporation (PNGBC) and worked as a teller. But after only a year into his career, he was struck by a serious illness. “I was admitted to the Port Moresby General Hospital intensive care unit (ICU) and underwent an operation. I was kept at Ward 8, bed 24, where I remained for four months until I was discharged in April 1976.
It was also in the hospital that I recommitted my life to Christ and received my call to enter full time ministry,” he recalled. The text the Lord used to speak to him was John 15: 16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” Having heard God speak to him, Jino was determined to walk out of the hospital totally healed so he could begin to serve God. And so he did!
After he left the hospital, Jino was offered a job at Post and Telecom (PTC) as a clerk. He eventually rose to the position of recruitment officer. In the meantime, he began to take his Christian life seriously.
He left Everyman’s Centre where he had been fellowshipping, and moved to the newly established Waigani United Church. From 1976 to 1984, he threw himself into the ministry of the church, getting involved in the work. During that nine-year period, Jino served as youth chairman, Sunday school teacher and superintendent, and at one time was the circuit youth coordinator! Not only did he have a steady job, he was also getting all the ministry experience he would need for his future pastoral ministry.
A bride being prepared
Meanwhile, God was preparing a young woman to be his bride. Martha hails from Keapara village and was a student at Sogeri National High School. She graduated in 1979 and sought a job with PTC. Her job interview was conducted by the recruitment officer – none other than Jino Pala!
“She passed and we gave her a job,” Jino said. “I was on my way to do my Public Service Higher Certificate (PSHC) at Adcol and I made my intentions known to her before I left.” Both being Christian young people, they decided to pray about in and leave it to God. At His leading, the pair became friends, got engaged and married in June 1980.
Because of his faithfulness to ministry, Jino had been urged by many of his pastors at Waigani to enter full time ministry. He declined on all occasions because he felt the timing was not right. He resigned from work and continued to serve in ministry while working on his pre-college studies (CCTC and practical) which are prerequisites for entry into college.
Off to Rarongo
Upon completing his studies, Jino felt the time was right. In 1987, with his wife and two young kids – Christine and Emmanuel – the family made their way to Rarongo Theological College in Rabaul. The programme lasted for three years and after graduation, they took their first posting to Manugoro Village in the Kadeboro Circuit.
Coming from the Marshal Lagoon area, it was quite a challenge for the minister to learn the Motuan language spoken by the villagers, who have their own native language as well. But he did well.
“After 3 years, I spoke like a typical Motuan and I even started to find it difficult to converse in my local Aroma language,” he said. This continued in the next village of Sabuia, which is in the same circuit. It was in those villages that their other two boys, Wari and Jeremiah were born. Interestingly, the children were all fluent – not in Motu – but in the local language!
In 1997, Jino switched from the pulpit to the desk. He served for the next three years as Regional Youth Coordinator with the East Papua Mainland Region (EPMR) under Bishop (late) Wala Tamate. He also was at one stage Regional Secretary and Mission Education Secretary.
Meanwhile, Sina Martha also got a desk job in being the EPMR Women’s Coordinator. After a stint in those positions, the couple felt it was time to get back to the pulpit. So in 2001, they took their next posting to Kilakila village. Following that, they moved to Malaita United Church in Lae where Rev Jino was the superintendent minister.
In 2007, they commenced at Ela United Church. However, Martha came down with a debilitating sickness that saw them take two years off from work to allow her to recover.
They recommenced duties at Gerehu United Church in 2010 only for a year before being posted to Waigani United Church. It was a home-coming for the family and they thoroughly enjoyed their three years there. Their final posting was to Boroko United Church where Jino served as minister and circuit minister concurrently. They served two terms, from 2014 to 2019. It was at Boroko that they retired from active service.
The couple reminisced fondly on some of the highlights in ministry. Jino recalls part of their early training at the Rev Sir Allan Walker College of the Methodist Church in Australia. He went twice, in 1991 and 1996, while she went in 2005 for a counselling course. The couple were among the organisers of the controversial Women’s South Pacific Area Workshop in Apia, Samoa. Martha also had the privilege in 2001 to attend the Council on World Missions programme in Madagascar, East Africa! Then, in 2004, Rev Jino was part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (Ramsi) outfit on the Solomon Islands for six weeks.
Walking away from it all hasn’t been easy. But the couple, who are residing temporarily near their last church, are still called upon from time to time by the local minister to assist with preaching duties. They are ably assisted by their two sons, Wari and Jeremiah, who serve in the church’s worship ministry. Wari is also the national Director of Evangelism Explosion ministry. Both boys are competent preachers and musicians who do evangelism through their Gospel band, Shammah. The parents’ legacy continues through the boys.
The couple gave some timely advice: “Ministry has challenges. It’s not the challenges, but how we respond to them that counts. Pastors must preach the word without fear or favour. They must dwell in the word daily and preach it faithfully. For postings, accept where God sends you. Don’t look for comfort and ease. Obediently go where He sends you. And finally, allow the joy of the Lord to be your strength. You will need His joy when the going gets tough. But know that God’s love and grace will see you through!”
While others have retired and called it a day, Rev Jino and Sina Martha believe otherwise.
“We have ‘re-tyred’. We have new tyres and will keep going as long as God allows us to!”
With that attitude, it’s obvious this very special couple still have many good years of service left in them!
•Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.