Moving Boundaries, Making Impact
By Adrian Ales
Joel James, also known as “Rawi” by his many friends and family, is a local missionary, and like a few before him, was a local from Markham, who in his early days, helped paved the way for early Adventism in the vast Markham valley.
Joel was born in Ragiampun village, (the now Markham 2 District headquarters), in the year 1949. He was brought up in a village where the Lutheran mission’s influence is the greatest, with the only Adventist influence being the community Ragiampun Adventist Community School. The only Adventist institution and early influence in whole of the Umi Atzera LLG in the Markham District.
Joel started his primary level of education in the year 1960, at his village (Ragiampun), where his interest and love for the gospel was ignited. In 1961, he was transferred to Gebensis Adventist Community school in the Huon LLG and later to Bulolo where he completed his primary education at Homipiri Community School in 1965.
In 1966, Joel applied to the Omora Adventist School of Ministry in the Eastern Highlands Province, and was accepted, along with five other fellow boys from Ragiampun village. His fellow kinsmen and him returned home in late 1967, after completing their level one missionary certificates.
1968 dawns as Joel, his newly wedded wife and his fellow colleagues set out for Menyamya following a call from Morobe Mission. Life was very challenging for them both, as a couple and as missionaries. As the year drags on, most of the missionaries were forced to return back to Lae in mid-year, as food supplies ran low. Joel and his wife were also affected, but kept on pushing. Joel and his wife finally had to make up their mind on returning, as his mother-in-law passed away.
Returning from Menyamya, Joel and his wife were then posted to Sakarak Adventist church in the Markham district. While serving in Sakarak, Joel and his wife had their first born, Solomon was his name. In 1969, his wife planted a peanut patch, to sell, but was later reported to the mission by the locals and her husband (Joel) was removed from his posting.
With a heavy heart, Joel left for Bougainville seeking employment. There he works as a driver at the Panguna copper mine. He was later sacked from work for not working for two consecutive Saturdays. He then flew to Port Moresby.
Joel and his wife finally returned home from Port Moresby. From 1970 - 1973, Joel worked from home, doing slideshows with his projector, from village to village, using family connections to access villages and Lutheran strongholds. On one of his visits to Wankun village, the elders threatened Joel, and threw his generator out, telling him to leave or he will die but he continued. Making his way to Watarais and Bubirumpun Villages, where he did slide shows and preached to the villagers. At Bubirumpun, he made an awareness on building a community school, which the was later built by the mission.
Making the first contact is almost impossible, in areas where only one mission has survived for years. Joel also travelled the Markham highway, to villages where his blood relatives are living in while doing slideshows. Villages like Zumim, Sauf Sauruan, Ngaruburuamp, Mampim, Tsuyac and Zumangurun are some of the villages travelled, carrying the advent messages. Most of which sprung new churches.
Joel is now 71 years old, living with his wife and children at Riara Village, Markham 1 District of Morobe Mission.