As a Church, it’s not uncommon for us to laud our leaders. And that’s fair enough—our preachers, presidents and pioneer missionaries are more than deserving of some recognition. However, in focusing on the work of those in the spotlight, we can so easily forget the efforts of those operating in the shadows—people who serve and slug away behind the scenes. People like Raymond.
I met Raymond Peterpoka almost a year ago in Valasi—a small village in the remote highlands of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. It’s the kind of place in which Raymond spends much of his time, serving the Church and his community. Not by preaching or teaching, but by cutting timber.
I cut timber for the Lord. I can’t preach or be an admin person, but God has given me these skills and I’m going to serve him as best as I can.
Maybe it’s just me being a product of the Western world and all, but I regard what Raymond does as totally insane . . . albeit truly inspirational. Take the trip up to Valasi. It’s a six-hour trek through some of the toughest terrain imaginable—up mountains, down valleys and across rivers. Raymond made this trip alone, in the dark, and with a 20kg chainsaw strapped to his back.
Then there’s the actual business of tree felling. It’s dangerous, especially in the Islands. At least two missionaries have died in accidents since 2011. Yet this is what Raymond believes he has been called to do.
“I cut timber for the Lord,” he said. “I can’t preach or be an admin person, but God has given me these skills and I’m going to serve him as best as I can.”
Raymond Peterpoka—secret service agent of the Lord.
Since 2010, Raymond has cut timber for a number of Adventist churches and homes across Solomon Islands. A few years ago, the local Mission held a big evangelistic series near Honiara. Thousands of people gathered at the event to hear the speakers. I wonder, however, if anybody took notice of the stage they were preaching from—a structure that Raymond cut all the timber for.
Perhaps all of this wouldn’t be so amazing if Raymond was a young, muscle-laden lumberjack. But he’s 63. If he were in Australia, he’d be getting ready for retirement. Raymond, however, has no intention of slowing down.
“As long as I’m healthy, I’m going to serve God in this way.”
This service hasn’t been all give and no return. The work has helped Raymond to support his wife, who has been struggling with an ongoing illness. His faith has also been strengthened in the process.
“Up until 2010 I had many doubts whether what I was doing was making a difference,” Raymond said. “But since serving the Church I’ve seen so many blessings, and it has quieted my doubts. I feel God is very near to me.”
Raymond in action at Valasi.
Raymond is a high school dropout who accepted a call to serve God as a handyman. This sort of profession doesn’t come with the “spiritual glamour” associated with doctors, nurses, teachers or preachers, but it’s no less vital to the mission of the Church.
To the “tradies” and “techies”, cleaners, cooks, accountants and the rest of our brothers and sisters who are faithfully serving as “the hands and feet” of Jesus in the shadows, Thank You. The truth is you may never be noticed, or receive the recognition you deserve. However, know that God “who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (see Matthew 6:1-6).
Nobody walks on the road you’re paving
Nobody sees all the souls you’re saving
Oh, but Love does.—Brandon Heath
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to “aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Raymond and many others like him have embraced the challenge of secret service. Will you?
Linden Chuang is assistant editor of Record-digital.