Paul Siaki was born into the royal family of the beautiful South Pacific Island of Samoa, but his grandfather was banished from their island for falling in love with someone who was not royalty. “My grandparents were accepted back into the royal family when my father was born. He is the oldest of 13 siblings and was named Ikefoafoa which means 'Lord from the beginning,'" he says.
“When my father was 14 years old, he ran away from home, leaving the island on a banana boat and travelling over 3 000 km to New Zealand.”
Paul describes his father as angry and rebellious. He became a professional boxer to channel his frustrations, but things changed when he converted to Christianity on the eve of a championship game in London. Ikefoafoa quit boxing immediately, at the peak of his career.
When Paul was born, his father was working as a missionary in the Philippines and his mom was a language teacher.
“He pastored at a Chinese church. My nanny was also Chinese, so my first language was Chinese!” Paul says with a chuckle.
Personal faith journey
Later, while studying in Los Angeles in the US, Paul says he was somewhat rebellious, but not for long: “In university I fitted in with the cool crowd. I had a high IQ and didn’t care much about studying. I also played basketball and fooled around, but while I was on a brief stint in Israel, God got a hold of me and this changed my life” he says.
He obtained a BA degree in Interracial Studies, a Master’s in Theology and a PHD in Missiology.
“Despite having conservative friends in the US, I became an Anglican priest,” he says.
“Nobody in my circle knew about Anglicanism. They thought I was joining a cult, but my faith opened up my horizons and I saw a lot more in life than I did previously.”
Move to Soweto
In 1995, Paul and his wife visited his parents who were working as missionaries in eSwatini, it was then they felt a call to move to South Africa to work as missionaries and raised their own funds to make it happen.
“In 1998 we moved to Soweto and I led the Holy Cross Anglican Church in Orlando West and became the founding chairman of the Soweto Ministers’ Fraternal, as well as the chairman of the Johannesburg Transformation Movement, a city reaching movement,” he says.
“South Africa was recovering from apartheid and struggle icon Walter Sisulu and his family were members of our church., We were highly respected and it was a great honour to shepherd his burial when he died,” he says.
When Paul joined the Heartlines team to promote the What’s Your Story? programme, he saw it as a great opportunity to reach major Anglican platforms and to connect with other denominations.
“It is a great way of reaching out to communities with just our stories and God’s story. My dad was an evangelist and I’ve always had an evangelistic heart. What’s Your Story? has been a great tool to connect with people and bring them to God,” he says.
Today, not only does Paul work as a champion for Heartlines, he is also the author of two published books: No Quick Fixes, Becoming Church Unusual and a third book about how the church has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Heartlines team live out positive values and believe in their own campaign doing what we’ve been called to do as Christians, which is to reach out to others.”
Paul reflects on his life with gratitude, joy and acceptance.
“As a family we are very happy to be in South Africa and my children are thriving. I look forward to continuing on my journey and to seeing the Heartlines message spread far and wide.”