Monday, August 18, 2014

Josateki

from w
It was a great day yesterday, saying sorry at last to the Josateki Koroi now an elderly man farming in the Navua area. Our lolom to Josateki and his wife Nola at this time.  I found this story of Jo's life in an earlier Fiji'Times. The author of the article left out an important aspect of Jo's life - the way the church turned on him, kicked him out of leadership and the pain and hurt of this time.  Instead of accepting that there are different views on how to deal with dissent and different views, Jo was treated very badly. We remember with shame that difficult time when there was a dispute within the leadership of the Methodist Church in Fiji - a conservative view, an inclusive view.  At last there is a reconciliation.

The reluctant preacher

MARY JOHNS-RAUTO
Sunday, January 20, 2008
EVEN though he was not academically bright, he was determined to be a teacher, while his family had other ideas about what he should become.
Childhood
Josateki Koroi was born in 1932 and grew up in his village of Mavana in Lau. His father was a church steward or vakatawa in Fijian.
He attended school in Mavana up to Class Four, the highest level in the village at the time. At 10 years old, he left the village for Levuka to attend the mission boarding school there.
Later, he moved to Bau where his granduncle Reverend Wilisoni Langi was the superintendent minister. There he attended Bau District School until 1947, when his granduncle retired and returned to Mavana.
The young Josateki set off for an uncle who worked at the Vatukoula gold mine where he attended school from 1947 to 1949, reaching Class Eight and having failed the qualifying exam.
Dream to teach
From a young age Josateki knew he wanted to be a teacher and trying to get him to change his mind resulted in trickery.
"My wish was to be a teacher. Failing to go anywhere else for further education I worked at the gold mine from 1949 and 1950.
"My uncle's house was next door to the talatala (minister) in Vatukoula, Wilisoni Buadromo, who was from my village.
"He saw me being a school leaver working at the mine and felt sorry for me and thought I should continue my education.
"He asked me if I was interested in going to the Bible school at Davuilevu and I said I had no interest in going to Bible school
"But what do you want?' he asked me. I told him that I wanted to be a teacher. He said oh yes you can go there then from there you could go into teaching.'
"Eh, how do you do that? You sit again for your qualifying examination at the Bible school.'
"Of course it was a lie; he just wanted me to get in. I believed him and at the beginning of 1950 he telephoned Davuilevu and arranged for me to go there."
Reverend Josateki said he had to work to pay his last two years at the Bible school.
"In the second year I did contract work like weeding grass work with Indian farmers in the Nausori area to pay my school fees until the third year
After all his struggles at the Bible school, the young Bible scholar was steadfast and more adamant than ever in his dream of being a teacher.
"I found out that going to the teachers training was not at all possible from the Bible school," he said. "Still I had no intention of joining the ministry. I was interested in education. I was dux in all three years at the Bible school."
Life in Australia
At the end of his third year at the Bible school and having turned 21, the school principal Reverend Tuilovoni wanted the high achiever to go into full ministry.
"The problem was that I was not interested and the rule of the church would not allow me being 21 to go into the full ministry," he said.
"The rule of the church was that the only way a 21-year-old could go into the full ministry was if you were married.
"I was single, 21, and only single men over the age of 25 were allowed into the ministry.
Reverend Tuilovoni took Josateki's name to the synod for recommendation and authorisation to go into full ministry.
The synod agreed and he was the first person in Fiji to go into full time ministry - below the age of 25 and single.
"I went in as a theological student in 1953 to 1955. At the end of my third year I should have been appointed to work in the circuit but then the church decided that I should go further in theological education to Australia
He went to Australia in 1955 and was to return at the end of 1957 but was told to stay on for to do youth work. He returned at the end of 1958.
Finding Love
During his time working in Australia, Reverend Koroi saw Nola Lambert in the church choir.
The rest, as they say, is history.
"When I saw her in the choir I joined," he said. "I also had a good voice - a good bass voice.
"My family was against me marrying a white woman. My mother asked can she fish, can she collect firewood, can she make mats?'" Upon his return to Fiji Reverend Koroi stayed in contact with Nola via letters.
Reverend Langi heard about his parents' objections and told his father to allow the couple to marry saying it was "God's will".
"From 1958 to 1960 we continued with our correspondence. In 1961 I said to her I'm concerned about my mother's concerns you better come to Fiji first before I ask you to marry me.'
"I took her to villages in Rewa and Sawani so that she had an idea of the places she would live in should she agree to marry me.
"She returned to Australia and after a few weeks I asked her what she thought. She wrote back and said nothing will change my mind."
Reverend Koroi said Nola's parents also objected to their marriage.
"Her father told her not to marry a Roman Catholic, a dark skinned man, a man whose eyebrows meet and a man who is hairy.
"His son married a Roman Catholic, Nola married a dark man and her younger sister married a hairy man."
The couple were engaged in early 1961 and married at Davuilevu in July of the same year.
Mrs Koroi is a qualified pharmacist and works in Suva.
Call from above
When Reverend Koroi returned from Australia he was made assistant director of youth at Davuilevu under the directorship of Reverend Tuilovoni.
He worked with Reverend Tuilovoni in the youth department until he was made director in 1969.
During this time he and Reverend Tuilovoni developed training centres for youths in which they planned to train youth leaders and Sunday school teachers.
But with the appointment of a new principal in 1971 who wanted to separate the training of youth leaders and Sunday school teachers, with which Reverend Koroi disagreed and resigned from the church.
A year later he was asked to return and was appointed superintendent of Davuilevu schools - the theological college, Lelean school and the youth department - where he stayed for three years.
He was then appointed to the Suva circuit as assistant minister to Suva City in 1972 and the next year moved to the Nabua circuit. In 1973, he was also made senior chaplain to the Fiji Military Forces.
In 1975 he was appointed the assistant general secretary of the church and became secretary in 1977. The following year being the senior chaplain he went with the first army peacekeeping contingent to the Middle East.
He returned in 1979 and was appointed principal of Davuilevu. He made his second trip to the Middle East in 1985. When he returned in late 1986 he was appointed minister of the Wesley Butt Street circuit in Suva.
Methodist presidency
At the 1986 church conference Reverend Koroi was appointed church president. He was in office from 1987 to 1989.
"But 1987 was a historic year because in May the first military coup took place."
Having been a military chaplain and now head of the Methodist Church, Reverend Koroi had to keep wayward elements within the church in line.
"During my second year of presidency the church started the problem of roadblocks." In 1987, disgruntled with the easing of the so-called Sunday ban on trading and non-essential travel imposed after Sitiveni Rabuka ceased power, some elements in the Methodist Church mounted unauthorised roadblocks.
"The secretary of the church, Reverend Lasaro, was for the ban and took advantage of it. That was where we differed greatly"
The roadblocks went up during Christmas 1987 and the New Year and Reverend Koroi and Reverend Lasaro's relationship was straining.
"I suspended him for the roadblocks and for not getting the authority of the church so after his suspension I was due for leave.
"I went on leave and by the time I returned he was able to lead the majority by buying their loyalty."
Retirement
Reverend Koroi and his wife have three children: Ella, Naulumatua and Eceli.
They are also blessed with six grandchildren.
Today, Reverend Koroi lives on his eight-acre property at Waidradra, close to Pacific Harbour.
He spends a lot of his time in his garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bula Wendy and Peceli , one small correction in this article: the road blocks were in 1988 , 18th December to be exact. The letter of suspension to Lasaro was dated 20th December that year and detailed 3 relevant points : (a) organising illegal public road blocks (b publicly opposing Conference resolutions regarding the Interim Government and (c) speaking as the official voice of the church without authority. Updates::::: In retirement we now reside in our home village of Mavana, Vanuabalavu, having moved away from the farm at Waidradra. And add one great -grandchild to the total of grandchildren. Loloma, Josateki & Nola.