Pacific pastor dies, tributes flow

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Dr Graeme Humble with Pastor Wilfred Liligeto (right).

Church leaders from around the Pacific have sent tributes and paid their respects, remembering well respected Solomon Islands pastor and educator, Wilfred Liligeto, who died this past Sabbath (March 11) at the age of 63.

Pastor Liligeto was preaching at Ringi church, Kolobangara, Solomon Islands, when he suffered a serious stroke. He was admitted to Gizo Hospital but passed away a week later.

“With sadness in our hearts and thoughts, this short note is to inform you of the passing away of our Comrade: Pastor Wilfred Liligeto,” said Pastor Lawrence Tanabose, Solomon Islands Mission president, in an email to church leaders. “Please remember his dear wife (Rosellee) and his children (Loanne, Jahrad, Urijah) and his nuclear family members in your prayers. We mourn the passing away of a very faithful and committed leader.”

Pastor Liligeto had a long history of service in Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“Wilfred was a well-seasoned and experienced pastor with an avid interest in cross-cultural ministry,” said Dr Graeme Humble, field secretary and Adventist Mission at the South Pacific Division.

Pastor Liligeto began working as a local church pastor in the then Eastern Solomon Islands Mission in 1975 before being called to Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM), where he worked as a Bible teacher, church pastor and departmental director. He was ordained while working in the Sepik region in 1982.

Pastor Liligeto lectured for a year at Sonoma College, PNG before returning to the Western Solomon Islands Mission as president from 1991-1995. He was called back to PNG as the general secretary and then the president of New Britain New Ireland Mission. “I will never forget my time under his leadership in the Western Highlands Mission and New Britain New Ireland Mission in PNGUM,” shared Pastor Joseph Talipuan, a former PNGUM president now pastoring the Wantok group in Sydney, Australia. “My role model and mentor, I will miss him surely.” 

"Wilfred was a well-seasoned and experienced pastor with an avid interest in cross-cultural ministry."

Pastor Liligeto lectured in theology at Fulton College, Fiji (2000-2003) before going back to PNG to serve as chaplain and church pastor at Pacific Adventist University. From 2007, Pastor Liligeto worked back in his native Solomon Islands Mission as Youth Director as well as taking on stewardship and personal ministries, before applying for retirement at the end of 2016. “Such sad news to hear of the passing of Pastor Liligeto,” said Litiana Turner, from the discipleship team at the SPD. “He was always such a single minded advocate for young people.”

Although looking to officially retire from full time employment, Pastor Liligeto had no plans to slow down. “He began a doctorate in missiology with Fuller in 2014 when he was 60, which unfortunately he was not able to complete due to financial constraints,” said Dr Humble. “His topic was ‘An Investigation into the Challenges of Missiological approach to Relational Stewardship in Marovo, Solomon Islands’. He echoed enthusiasm and vitality, which was evident on his presentation at the Fulton Adventist Mission History “Waves Across the Pacific” Conference last year.”

In his submission to apply for the study, Pastor Liligeto detailed some of his post-retirement plans. He had just been made chief of Babata Tribe of Marovo Island and was hoping to do some teaching at Honda lay training school at Kukudu. He was also hoping to “serve God for the next phase of my ministry helping in my local church, at Chea, Marovo Lagoon”.

“I am an ordained minister for life and will be useful by the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he said. “Education and usefulness in God’s service ends when someone dies.”

Pastor Liligeto is survived by his wife, Rosellee—who also worked for many years as a teacher in Adventist institutions—and their three children, Loanne, Jahrad and Urijah. The funeral is planned for today (March 13).