A hero among us

IN the 1930s, one man fought for liberation and freedom from British tyranny, oppression and rule. He was imprisoned for many years and despite all he went through, Mahatma Gandhi engineered India’s independence.

At the height of the apartheid system, one man stood up and fought for equality. The late Nelson Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prizewinner, achieved the unthinkable and impossible by spearheading a new democratic Republic of South Africa and the Rainbow Nation received international recognition and global applause.

At a time when blacks could not attend the same school as whites, when the colour of their skin limited their access and freedom, Martin Luther King Jr stood up for egalitarianism. He was best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Gandhi.

On July 19, 1972 in South Oman, ambushed and outnumbered the late Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba put his body on the line by firing a 25-pounder machine gun (usually operated by three men) in the Battle of Mirbat. Shot by guerrillas, his determination was enough to hold off the guerrillas before reinforcements arrived.

He lost his life in the battle protecting his comrades, but he won the hearts of many and, to this day, his story continues to be told over and over again. Labalaba was awarded a posthumous Mention in Despatches for his actions in the Battle of Mirbat.

The fact of the matter is that there are heroes among us, those who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to do great things for the service of others. Some have gained international recognition, whose narratives are now in novels and even shared as part of history classes in schools.

Then there are those who remain humble, and go on with their daily chores without much pride and recognition, the unsung heroes.

One month after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc across the Fiji group on February 20, 2016, the Ministry of Education called for all students and teachers to return to school.

Koro High School was one of the worst-affected schools. Teachers had lost their quarters, students were in despair and the future looked bleak.

When all hope’s lost, when the evening sky brought with it an air of misery, pain and anguish, one man stood up and told them “this is a merciful God, let’s continue to praise him and thank him and be grateful that we live to see another day”.

In villages across the island, many talk about the selfless acts, embracing heart and words of wisdom of the school chaplain, the Rev Josefa Taukave.

“I only give glory to God, who empowers and encourages me and despite all the circumstances we go through, we need to keep our faith,” he said.

When tears were the order of the day for students in their tent dormitories, Mr Taukave was willing to cry with them. When they were down and had lost faith, he was there to guide them through and lift them up.

“It was quite difficult after Winston, so I used the word of God and prayed for them every day and fasting for them, continuing to give them Bible verses to take home, recite and share with their family, encourage them and help change their mind-set to focus on their targets so God can fulfil their hearts’ desires.”

Mr Taukave’s efforts coupled with of the resilience of teachers of Koro High School and support of parents saw a 100 per cent rate for their Year 12 for 2016 and today their school grades continue to improve.

“We work together, through prayer, encouraging students that they can improve in their academic studies. That they are much strong than Winston and we managed to use Koro High School to glorify God.

“We were one of the less performing schools so we put God first and we worked together in unity to be part of this journey together with the teachers and the students.

“The main thing for us at Koro High School is working as a team and glorifying God.

“I thank God, thank the teachers and the parents and like I said, it is teamwork.

“We had boarders staying in tents and we kept encouraging them, all this will be over, pain will heal and we will need to be strong and look after each other and we managed to pull through.

“We had to build the spirit of the children to love education and most importantly I always love to share with them, whatever your results, you glorify God that is our main target at Koro High School, to glorify God.”

A former shot-put champion at Marist Brothers’ High School, Mr Taukave sacrificed an educational scholarship to study aircraft engineering. And ever since he made the decision after his 21st birthday in 2008, he he has never regretted his decision to study theology and continue the Lord’s work.

“I love this God, I thank him for saving my life and I just want to share this loving God to the students so that they will love God and accept Jesus Christ as their saviour and move forward.

“I was about to be enrolled for aircraft engineering when I decided to attend Davuilevu Theological College, so I left the scholarship for engineering and turned to God, and this is his purpose for me to serve him.

“I don’t regret making this choice, I just want to thank God for saving my life.

“Later on I hope to further my studies for a Masters of Theology (degree), and wherever God calls me, I am willing to go.

As American historian Daniel J Boorstin said: “In our world of big names, our true heroes tend to be anonymous.

“In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicised jobs.”

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