An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
THE late Pastor Tom Waula was a son of the Korul clan of the Dinga tribe in the Suwai Local Level Government, Sinasina Yongomugl District in Simbu Province.
He was born in 1965 and died last Sunday, leaving behind his wife from the Mian tribe of the Gumine District and six children, the youngest of whom is ten.
He left his Giuemai village and his tribal people to serve as a pastor with the Papua New Guinea Bible Church in Simbu and Jiwaka provinces then settled in Goroka until his death parted him from family. He worked with the church for more than three decades.
His wife remembered their church wedding in 1989 and described her late husband as a person who loved his family and toiled hard to feed and educate them.
“I am so sad and confused that he’s left me behind with six children,” she said. “How can I look after them.” She paused and broke into tears.
The haus krai was silent. Some people shared tears with this woman and the 10 year old son who was also crying.
Tom had sustained an injury to his jaw in a car accident in mid-2014. He sought medical treatment at Kundiawa, Goroka hospitals and Kudjip hospitals until a few weeks before his death. For some reason, he never fully recovered.
In his pastoral work, Tom Waula provided counselling and assistance to many people who needed his help. In doing so, he realised he needed to acquire additional knowledge and skills. He had always wanted to go to school and undertake further study.
At the end of last year, his life time dream came true when he was accepted to do a Diploma in Guidance and Counselling at the University of Goroka. Pastor Steven Bomal, an employee of the University of Goroka, invited Mr Waula to live with him while studying.
Sometimes, Tom would be weak and in pain and lacked the strength to attend to his family commitments and studies.
On Saturday, the day before he passed away, Steven saw him do his school work and assignments. After that, Tom grew weak again and Steven rushed him to Goroka Hospital where he passed away at around two o’clock on Sunday morning.
The students’ patron asked Tom Waula’s relatives to say what they wanted to staff, students and members of the university community at the haus-krai.
My wife and daughter accompanied me to the haus-krai. I sat among the students and some Simbu colleagues.
“Please, remember the rules of the Simbu haus-krai”, said Simin Carter, a student leader. “Everyone must endeavor to follow the rules.
“Hugging and crying with immediate relatives of the dead is central to a haus-krai”, Simin reminded us.
I listened to Simin and tried to work out when the University of Goroka had adopted the haus-krai practice and the way in which staff and students from Simbu naturally came together at the haus-krai.
My thoughts were disturbed by the voice of the Simbu Student Association patron. “The university will do what it can to keep the body at the funeral home for repatriation to Simbu,” he said. “However, we have to delegate the duties.
“Some people have to be casket carriers; some will keep the fire burning and stay around to welcome visitors; some will arrange the funeral service; some will be responsible for handing the body to family members,” the patron said as if reading the list from a paper.
He encouraged students, saying that learning is not just what you do in the classroom but engaging and participating in gatherings like this.
As the clock moved to nine at night, a number of buses started to arrive and park near the haus-krai tent. They carried Tom’s family and extended family members. The students and staff organised themselves and walked to the front of the tent to welcome the family.
There were a few cries and then more cries. Student and family members hugged each other and raised their voices. The entire hilltop on which the university is located was quiet, as if listening to the cries.
After a few moments, the students led the people into the tent and asked them to sit on the chairs. They included a slim woman dressed in black with a crying ten year old boy, Tom’s wife and son.
The patron of Simbu Students Association formally welcomed the relatives and asked a woman to make a short prayer. The woman prayed, burst into tears, recovered her strength and completed the prayer. The patron then asked Pastor Bomai, a close relative of the deceased, to relate a brief history of how Tom met his fate.
The Dean of the School of Education, Dr Kapa Kelep-Malpo, greeted Tom’s relatives in Kuman and then continued with her speech. She passed on the condolences of the School and encouraged Tom’s wife and children saying that God will grant them comfort and strength at this time of sorrow and told the haus-krai that her school would make a contribution the next day.
The relatives and Simbu Students Association was humbled at the gesture of humility and kindness from Dr Kelep-Malpo.
The President of the Simbu Students Association said it is a Simbu way to share loss and triumph together. “It is at times like this that we are challenged with our cultural obligations in a modern institution,” he said, assuring the relatives that the students would to assist until Tom’s body was taken home for burial.
The Patron of the student’s concluded that, at tragic times like this, when a student dies in the course of working for the degree, the University pays ultimate respect in ensuring the body travels to its burial destination.
The University of Goroka will organised yesterday’s funeral service for Pastor Tom Waula and handed his body to the care of his relatives who have taken him home for burial.