No meek, no rich: The gospel according to Phil
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My dear brother, Sam Gawi Rake

Sam Gawi Rake
Sam Gawi Rake. The SMS read: “Pass the message around that Sam is dead….he was beheaded by cult worshipers…."


PORT MORESBY - Monday 2 April 2018 was a gruesome day for me. Early that morning the news of the death of my brother and best friend, Sam Gawi Rake, reached me.

I was in the students’ computer lab preparing my work when the message came in an SMS on my mobile phone from an unknown person.

“Pass the message around that Sam Gawi Rake is dead….he was beheaded by cult worshipers….his head is missing while his body is in morgue at the Modillion Hospital in Madang.”

I was shocked. I was unable to digest the message. Was it real?

I called back to confirm the news of the death and barbaric murder of my brother. It was true. Sam had been beheaded.

Tears ran from my eyes. My neck felt gripped by strong pressure. My heart was in acute agony. I had lost a loved one. I cried bitterly.

My colleagues with me in the lab were confused. One of them came to me and asked, “Kenny, anything wrong with you?”

“Yes, my brother, a teacher, who has been teaching at Bau Primary in Madang has been beheaded by a cult group. His head has been taken away. Only his body is at the morgue.”

The teachers felt for me and comforted me. They told me to go home and mourn the loss with my family, tribe and community.

When he met his fate, Sam was in his second year of teaching after he completed a three year Diploma in Primary Teaching at Madang Teachers’ College.

He was the first born son of Rake Kirape, a local evangelist in the Lutheran church. His mother, Bepi, was a woman’s group leader in Yamala village in the Southern Highlands.

Sam’s education was an investment of the family. Even though both of them were subsistence farmers, Rake and Bepi supported Sam financially through his education as he attended, Ponowi Primary, Ialibu Secondary, Aiyura National High, Unitech and Madang Teacher’s College.

At graduation day in Madang, Rake and Sam’s younger brothers were there to witness the long awaited event. When Sam came down from the podium with the envelope containing his diploma his father and brothers hugged him. Everyone shed tears of joy because Sam had gone so far in pursuing his education.

The day after graduation, Rake said they should go home and have a feast for Sam’s success. Rake thought Sam would want to teach in the Southern Highlands.

However Sam decided he would stay and teach in one of the schools in Madang. “I have graduated on the soil of Madang so I will give back the knowledge I received to primary school kids in Madang for the next five years”.

Sam’s father and brothers knew Sam had fallen in love with beautiful Madang so they left him without further questions even though they were only half convinced. Sam was posted to Bau Primary School where he met his fate early in the second year after teaching for only one year.

In my mourning for Sam I continued crying as each issue crossed my mind.

I felt for my poor parents and their siblings. I felt the pain of losing an educated first born in the family. Sam was the light and hope of us all. My parents spent years raising him as an educated man. But that was all gone in the passing of a piteous second.

I also felt for other teachers and public servants who left their loved ones and homes to teach and work in faraway places. How did they and their families feel when they heard of people mercilessly killing teachers and government workers?

And I was angry, but as a Christian felt for our brothers in Madang. I was gripped by a forgiving and peace-loving spirit. I felt for the killers because they had been exploited by evil. They had taken an innocent life and had ruined their own lives.

Black Jesus cult leader  Steven Tari
Black Jesus cult leader, Steven Tari

The movement that took Sam away from us became known publicly when infamous Madang cult leader, Steven Tari, known to his followers as Black Jesus, was arrested by police. Steven later managed to escape from prison but was hacked to death in early September 2013.

I honestly can’t believe that this horrific act was done by natives of Madang, the home of Lutheran and Catholic missionaries who brought the word of God to the Highlands. Where was their Christian faith? Was Madang going to be flooded by cult worshipers?

I thought that taking revenge on Madang people working in the Southern Highlands would not be possible because Highlands people respect coastal people who are pastors, missionaries and public servants working in their land.

If they need food we give food, if they need cold water we give cold water, whatever assistance the coastal people need we give it, but we don’t intermediate or kill them. Yes, we kill our tribal enemies but we don’t kill innocent people from other places.

I also worried about a person who had been decapitated being buried headless. What a disgraceful, shameful and painful experience for the family and extended brothers and uncles of Sam who are capable warriors even stronger than the cult worshippers.

When I thought of this, I was in a shocked state. I prayed for God to help my parents find the head and get it back.

Furthermore, I was broke. Buying a return plane ticket to attend the funeral was impossible. So I was remorseful and wept bitterly for being careless and not saving any money for such unexpected events.

Since I was unable to go home, I kept close track of events by telephone and eventually heard that Sam’s head was returned after two weeks through the help of the Madang governor and other leaders. Then his body was repatriated to his Highlands village to be laid to rest.

My family and community spent one month mourning for Sam. Down on the coast, I stopped work jiust for one day and cried a lot as I truly miss him. It would be nice if I met him this coming December, but this will not happen. I will not see him as he has gone to an eternal place.

This is really heartbreaking. So my brother, Sam Gawi Rake, rest in eternal peace.


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