FORMER Methodist Church president Reverend Dr Daniel Mastapha believes the late Reverend Dr Tuikilakila Waqairatu was a humble and patient man.
Dr Mastapha, 84, the church's first and only Indo-Fijian president in 1977, sent his condolences from Sydney in Australia to the church and Dr Waqairatu's family.
"Our president was a person of great humility, patience and understanding," said Dr Mastapha.
"The church has lost a great leader and a faithful servant of God."
He said he remembered how Dr Waqairatu was his student in religion and Hindu in 1971 and 1972 at Davuilevu.
"On quite a few occasions, we have worked together.
"It was with deep regret and sorrow we received the news of the sudden death of our beloved president.
"Our heavenly Father has called him to eternal rest too soon, perhaps he has a purpose for him.
"He will wipe away our tears and comfort us in this time of sorrow."
Meanwhile, the church will begin the traditional condolence gathering from today at 10am.
Church communications secretary Reverend James Bhagwan confirmed among scheduled to present their condolences today were the Fiji Council of Churches, ECREA, Interfaith Search Fiji, Pacific Theological College, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva and the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia.
Dr Waqairatu will be buried at Davuilevu on Thursday.