My story—David Tovirika

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I was brought up on the island of Bougainville as part of a strong Adventist family. I was blessed with physical strength and agility and, during the 1980s, I was a successful boxer who competed on the South Pacific circuit. 

But just after I was selected to compete in the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, war broke out on my island as a rebel army began to fight for independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). My sporting career came to an end as I joined the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), supporting my brother, Glen, one of the main players in the rebel movement. 

The bullets were all around us and three of my men were hit and died there on the beach.

One night I led my unit on a raid of Bougainville’s northern island, Buka, which is separated by a channel of less than half a kilometre. We made the crossing and the boat dropped us off on the beach—there were 12 of us. Somehow the PNG soldiers were waiting for us and opened fire. There was a patrol boat at each end of the channel—they were both firing. The bullets were all around us and three of my men were hit and died there on the beach. We were terrified and unable to do anything except jump back into the water and swim back to the mainland. I decided after that to forget the fighting. 

I got married and was involved in the Church during the 1990s. In 1997 I participated in the Bougainville peace negotiations. But even though God was blessing me, I made some serious mistakes in my marriage and was removed from office and disfellowshipped from my church. 

In 2009 I went to Port Moresby for a serious operation. I nearly didn’t make it. My heart stopped during the operation and they had to work on me for two hours to get it beating again. The doctor said he couldn’t believe I’d managed to survive. During that time I recognised how God had been leading in my life and I finally made up my mind that I needed to serve the Lord. 

So in 2010, I tried to solve all my problems at home—I consider this my restoration period. I’ve been studying ministry for the past few years at Sonoma College. I feel God is moulding me here—there’s a big challenge waiting for me when I finish. I look forward to returning to Bougainville, this time to be a soldier for the Lord.—as told to Kent Kingston