Island News

Destined for God’s ministry

Written By : WAISEA MAKUTU. Being brought up in a loving and understanding family that emphasises and encourages your best personal output, to strive to survive and lead a respectable
04 Feb 2011 12:00

image Written By : WAISEA MAKUTU. Being brought up in a loving and understanding family that emphasises and encourages your best personal output, to strive to survive and lead a respectable life has influenced and paved the path for what I am today, says the Kalabu Methodist Circuit deacon, Reverend Joji Rinakama said.
The church minister and probably the most influential rugby union mentor always aspired to be either a technician with the telecommunication sector or a surveyor.
He did not know that his Creator had something else in mind.
“I was told that I was born on May 22, 1960 at the Vunidawa Hospital, situated three and a half miles away from my home village in Lutu, is close to the meandering Wainibuka River.
“There were no proper constructed roads in those days and my mother had to make the journey with my father along that waterway to where it meets the Rewa River and struggle through those legendary tracks to Nakorovatu, Naqara or Vuisiga villages to await the moment.

Origin and family ties
“We had traditional ties with those villages and my mother is from the Sauturaga clan of Vuisiga Village. But I am a proud son of Navunikavika, being the name identified for all three in the i-tokatoka, mataqali and the yavusa.
“Our traditional plant is none other than the kavika (Malay apple tree or Syzygium malaccence) and we are traditionally the warrior clan and will always be,” he confidently said.
After Rev Rinakama’s birth he stayed back at Naqara to be nursed by his grandmother Elenoa Durilala, until he turned two.
“I am proud of my parents who led in every aspect in life and that made an impact being the initial images painted on my innocent memories,” he said.

The naughty boy/child image
Rev Rinakama attended Lutu District School from Classes One to Eight and was branded as a mischievous child throughout his primary school days.
Lunch at school during those days, he said, were always either rourou (Taro leaves) or bele (castor-oil plant or Ricinus communis) vakarakara (cooked in boiled water) together with dalo (taro roots). They were cooked at their home in the village.
The young Rev Rinakama was the worst offender when it came to attendance at the weekly Sunday school sessions.
His negligence always gets him reported to the school authority because in those days the church ministry and educational institutions co-ordinated in instilling discipline and inspired developments during the transitional period between childhood and adulthood.
“My name was a regular first on the list of those to be admonished and that is something I am not proud of sharing today,” the Reverend said.
“Throughout my academic years English proved to be the barrier and this haunts me to this very day,” he disclosed as if in an anxious manner for the command of the language.
“My father decided to move our family to our allotted farmland, two miles out from the village location and I had to walk daily to and from school and this excited the siblings in every way.
“We helped dad with the farm work and ran other errands for him before and after school and this was a normal routine.”
He moved on to Ratu Kadavulevu School and opted to learn physics, technical drawing, mathematics and English.
He was member of the Ma’afu House of which the former Secretary of Education, Filipe Jitoko, was their house master.
“I went up as far as the Upper Fifth Form but was expelled for breaching various school rules,” he said.
“In 1979 I enrolled at the Saraswati College and was also expelled half way through the year for violating instructions with disorderly behaviour like burning rubbish inside the trash bin inside our classroom.
The Reverend comes from a big family, with six brothers and two sisters.
“Tending the pigs and the cows and helping dad with the farm work inspired me and developed that instinct to survive.
“Dad was distinctively a teetotaller and the only means of survival for the family was toiling hard in tilling the land.”

Back to the village
When he returned to the village he was advised by his father to face the consequences and learn to survive on the village setting, if that was the furthest he could get academically.
“My father also stressed that it was by choice that I was back at the village,” he said.
The Lutu Co-operative Society was being revived in 1980 and to be a shareholder you have to contribute $200.
This saw the Reverend joining a group to cut sugarcane in Rakiraki in August that year.
“This was the toughest work I have ever done in my life,” he said.
He earned his share and brought it back to the village three month later. He returned to earn a few more dollars until the end of the harvesting season.
“I came back and went straight back to work on the farm where the yield was fetching good money.
“I also helped with the up-keep of the family piggery and herd of cattle that grazed our paddocks.
“One harvested yaqona (Kava or Piper methysticum) plant could be bartered for at least one calf and it was good as I was getting the feel of it,” he gladly shared.
In 1981 he took over the captaincy of the Village rugby team (Senikau) and was playing for the then Naitasiri North Rugby Union team as a loose forward.
“During this period I was involved in unacceptable activities that would trigger my mother to say that my life is worse than that of an animal. I was leading a life that was a far-cry from their teachings.
“Then my defining moment came when my uncle, Aseri Sewale – a former Fiji Rugby representative and Tuirara Levu or Head Treasurer of the Namaka Methodist Circuit – requested that I join the Youth Development Programme at Davuilevu, which I accepted.
“This was done after my mother had talks with my uncle Aseri and my other, uncle Reverend Ratu Wame Torolevu, who was a Methodist Church minister at the time.
“I had to comply out of respect for my mother’s brother.”
He was recapping on the concern the elders had for the younger generation.
“I was at Davuilevu but did not know a single Bible verse and had always feared being chosen to lead the group in prayer because I did not know the proper procedures of doing such a thing,” he added.
“This was the start of that great journey that today, I do not regret accepting it back in 1985.”

Family and siblings
He is married to school teacher, Adi Soro Vakacegu Torosi of Namada, Nadroga.
“I am very lucky to have married such a very beautiful and loving person as my wife and long-life partner,” he expressed proudly.
They were married in 2005 and they have two sons and a daughter.

Hobbies and interests
“There is nothing on earth that can equal my desire for rourou, bele or ota vakarakara with dalo as my favourite menu, the Reverend said.
“For my best readings I will always resort to the Holy Bible, and in music, I have grown along with it accordingly to my character and attitude until I have finally found my peace with gospel music, tunes and choral singing.
“I would love to put on a pair of longs whenever the opportunity requires me to do so but wearing a sulu is better these days.
“My other passion, when it comes to sport, is boxing.
“Nothing but disasters and serious complications can divert my attention when I am doing my work and would till the land at every available opportunity to pass the times,” he said.

The years at Davuilevu
Reverend Joji Rinakama picked up the art of wearing a tie when he was taught by Reverend Waisea Kama of Cakaudrove at Davuilevu.
When enquired about the status in which their allegiance to the Christian fellowship is categorised, he was the only one declaring that he is just a member of the congregation. In reply Reverend Paula Taukei said that he was part of the negative atheist sect and had to dedicate himself to the Lord.
This shows how bad the situation in spiritual status and growth he said he was in. After his third month at Davuilevu he was starting to take a liking to this new way of life. Along with this change of attitude he had continued his love for rugby.
He had attained the Siga Dina status (those who have pledged to be dedicated to the Christian fellowship) only after one month of joining. At the end of that first year he was appointed Tuirara (to lead the group) in all quarters ranging from spiritual, character discipline, logistics and welfare awareness for all the students.
In 1986 he was again chosen to lead those aspiring to attain the qualifying standards to become a i-Vakatawa (Catechist). He confessed that he did not have leadership qualities but took it up as challenge and strived to perfect his abilities.
His motivational and inspirational mentors at this stage were Reverend Josefa Katonibau and Reverend Mosese Naivolasiga and their advice are still part of what he is to this very day.
Before his first posting as a i-Vakatawa (Catechist) to the congregation at Nausori Village he was chosen to lead in front of the whole Davuilevu Christian Community and God must have known the sudden panic that came over him. He said that he was saved by the over flight of an Air Pacific plane that drowned all the noises.
“By the time they could hear my voice I had ended the sermon.”
The concluding sum up to the sermon was not audible to those present that day.
After spending nine years (1987 – 1995) at Nausori he was accepted to enroll in the Vuli iTalatala (Deacon/Pastor) programme at Davuilevu.
He strived with diligence and was again unanimously decided to be their head student ahead of twenty six other students.
It was surprisingly incredible to him because he had attained the lowest qualifying mark to enter the programme and was on the waiting list.
While doing this programme he befriended former prisoner Timoci Serevi from Ovalau and he was his mentor helping him to grow spiritually.
They used to fast for a whole month and amazingly he played top level rugby throughout and achieved as if he was not fasting at all. He had felt the power of his Lord there along with him.
He graduated with a diploma in 1997 and his initial posting was to the hills of Navosa from 1999 to 2003. He was then transferred to Sigatoka Village in Nadroga until being transferred to Kalabu in Naitasiri in 2010.

Rugby/coaching career
He started playing for the village team (Senikau Rugby Club) soon after leaving school. He then took over the reigns of leadership from former Fiji representative Rusiate Namoro.
By then he was already representing Naitasiri North and in 1985 he played in the trials to select the national team.
He had enrolled at Davuilevu and played for Ilaitia Tuisese’s Duavata Rugby Club in the then Rewa Rugby Union competition.
He switched to play for the Nausori Rugby Club when he was appointed to his first posting as iVakatawa (Catechist) at Nausori village.
His Diploma in Divinity from Davuilevu took him to Navosa. “The players were only playing sevens rugby and I had consultations the elders and we revived the Navosa Rugby Union. In that first year we became the Minor Union’s champion and were promoted to the top level of provincial rugby in the country.”
The union was placed eighth in that debutant year of major competition and challenged for the prestigious Farebrother-Sullivan Trophy in 2003. They still retain that major union status to date.
He moved to Nadroga then finally to Naitasiri and has made his presence felt wherever and whenever he is designated to contribute.
He attributes all that he has achieved in this life to Creator, the Heavenly Father up in Heaven.

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