Rev Dr Jione Langi
by Verenaisi Raicola
The late Methodist church president Reverend Doctor Jione Langi has been described as a bold shepherd, pillar of support, tireless worker and man of great faith.
Colleagues say he was someone who had the dream to take the church to a higher level of spiritualism unique from a few extremist predecessors who intertwined politics, the vanua and the church.
Unlike them he wanted to separate the church making it play its proper spiritual role in society. In the process he may have developed adversaries from within the church.
Close friend and fellow pastor Reverend Doctor Ilaitia Tuwere said the passing away of Dr Langi was a great loss to the church.
"If he had served his full term he would have taken the church to new heights because he had the capacity to listen.
"We need people like Reverend Langi in a situation flooded with rhetoric. We need stillness and quietness to listen to others with different views from our own. And this is a gift he had."
Reverend Tuwere who last met Reverend Langi over coffee last week said since they were room- mates at the Davuilevu Theological College while training to become pastors they never lost contact.
'No matter where we are we always were in touch.
"In fact I had influenced Reverend Langi to return and serve locally because he was needed here.''
Reverend Tuwere recalled how Reverend Langi influenced him to go to Parliament in 2000 to pray and share with the hostages.
An emotional Reverend Tuwere who was initially shocked when he heard of Reverend Langi's death last week said: "I miss a great friend who was full of love, affection and understanding.
Church general secretary Reverend Ame Tugaue said Dr Langi was wise, of unwavering faith and loving care for his fellow men.
He was born at Pephau, Malhaha, Rotuma on August 16, 1941 and throughout his life related closely to his family and Rotuman heritage with full commitment and pride.
In an address to students at the University of the South Pacific earlier this year Dr Langi said: "God has chosen us even before we were born, to be members of our families, our tribe, our ethnic groups and of Rotuma our land.''
Throughout his life Dr Langi illustrated his love of God through a close affinity not only to his family and his people.
Members of the church because of his love and humility respected him as a father for people of all walks of life.
He had a distinguished career. He attended the Davuilevu Theological College from 1964 to 1966 before serving as chaplain at Ratu Kadavulevu School and Queen Victoria School. He was later appointed assistant minister at the Bau Circuit.
He was ordained in 1969 and graduated from the Pacific Theological School in 1971.
Dr Langi was also appointed minister of the Pacific Islands Church of the Methodist Central Mission in Australia.
He was later superintendent minister for the Rotuma Division and served as Region Secretary for Evangelism, World Methodist Council.
In 2001 Reverend Langi was elected assistant general secretary of the church and general secretary from 2002 to 2004 before becoming president from January this year.
Reverend Tugaue said throughout his life, Dr Langi had modeled an unshakeable conviction that "Jesus Christ is our Lord and savior and that God's word is more relevant in the growing uncertainties of our time".
Dr Langi held a firm belief that we must pass on to our children the knowledge about God so they may follow Christ and learn to trust and obey him.
In one of his speeches he said: "Our children are special gifts to us by God. The emphasis on the Christian teaching of high moral values, character building, and godly living is more important than merely passing examinations.
"These values help our children respond in a Christ like manner to situations they face in life, and the very foundation of a good and just society.''
He once prescribed that leaders should be God- fearing, exemplifying God's laws in their own lives, have clear purpose and vision, should have a deep commitment towards national goals and objectives, be people of integrity, people of proven and tested character, be full of humility motivated by love and service for others.
QVS old boy and Air Fiji chief executive officer Sialeni Vuetaki said the death meant that the country had lost a great religious leader who was a man for all races with deep spiritual understanding.
"He was able to touch everyone from the top to the grass root and had an impact because he was accommodating always.''
Another old boy, High Court judge Filimone Jitoko said Dr Langi was a disciplined man of God who had an impact on students at QVS during his term as chaplain.
"There were a number of mates like Reverend Viliame Daunabuna, Reverend Jimione Kaci, Reverend Vakarau and Reverend Terubea who followed his footsteps. He influenced others through his way of life.''
Mr Jitoko said Dr Langi guided students spiritually as a complimentary to other developments at school and was a great companion to the boys back then.
Dr Langi's death brings in a great vacuum in the church. Not only a loss to Methodists but to all Christians denominations because he was an inspirational leader and to other faiths because of the principles of good leadership he stood for.
His replacement will be decided at the annual conference next month to be held in Nadi.
Reverend Langi is survived by his wife, Rigamoto , and three children. Today members of the Methodist churches say Ni sa moce Turaga na Qase Levu.
Eulogy at the funeral of Reverend Jione Langi on 28 July 2005 by Rev. Dr Dean Drayton
The President of the Republic of Fiji, distinguished guests, and members of the Methodist Church.
Riga and the family -- we cannot know your grief and loss. It is hard enough saying goodbye to my friend. But this is the time in the tears that we also take a longer perspective, look to the horizon of a persons life and see the way he has sailed. He was a man of the Kingdom of God. Inevitably it means he was caught up with a world vision, a Pacific vision, a Fiji vision and a Rotuman vision.
He was a builder always looking forward in his witness of the Kingdom of God that he saw drawing us on. Because his confidence was with God, and not in himself, his life is a living definition of what it means to be part of God’ s future.
He was willing to move a long way from his beloved Rotuma. What a task he had in Sydney. Working at the Wesley Mission he was the one encouraging and shepherding all the Pacific congregations that used to meet there prior to the mid-eighties when each found their own property to worship in and moved away from the one central sight. He must have had the wisdom of Solomon to help so many cultures work together.
Perhaps it is because he was a Rotuman that he saw so clearly the need for all to work together: Fijian and Indian, Polynesian and Melanesian, Pacific and Australia, Oceania and the world. When you come from the edge you know you cannot do it by yourself. It is necessary to work with others. But he saw beyond necessity, he saw that this was the way of Jesus and Jesus' Kingdom.
Since hearing the awful news I have been asking myself, what passage of scripture gives us insight into the man of God Jione was. From the first and now after days I come back to 1 Corinthians 3:7,“So neither the one who plants or the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." Verse 9, "For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Can’t you hear him saying. Verse 11, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that is laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ."
What a keen sense of injustice he had. Last year when one of our Presbyteries was most unwise, Jione named the issue as unfair in no uncertain terms. He was direct, no backing away from important issues, but if one was honest and direct too, then the foundation was laid for matters to be worked through. He know how to speak the truth in love.
He passionately worked for the Conference, for Fiji, for all to have their rightful part. Jione had a great capacity to surprise, to pull one out of the hat, or in Rotuman, “Bring it out from behind the knees.”
But for me one gets to the deepest issues in the way in which he wanted Rotumans to have a place here in Suva, with many more Rotumans living in Fiji, than on Rotuma itself. The Churchwood Chapel is a testimony to his faith, to his belief in the future, to his willingness to take risks in the serving of his people, providing a home for them in Fiji.
This was a dream of his. I first met him in 1983 when he was talking about it. After talking with Jione I could see this octagonal concrete building in my mind. That is a great gift, to so describe that which is not yet, that we can see it take shape before us. I heard about the building, and I had always wanted to worship there, and was given the opportunity to do this last August. Jione told me about the major pour of the concrete floor. I am sure that you have heard about it, especially the miracle of that night, when in faith they kept pouring when the engineer was urging caution, holding back. They had committed themselves and went on, trusting God despite what else was happening.
In the traditional blessing, “May your shadow never grow less.” As he stands close to the Lord of Light, his shadow will now stretch to God’s horizon. In Revelations 7:9,10 it is clear that we will all stand together before the throne. “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" Won’t Jione Langi be at home. He spent his whole ministry pointing to the one who now holds him. Salvation belongs to our God, and to the Lamb.