By Scott Radway

KOROR, Palau (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 30) - A wrenching, nearly four-hour state funeral for a slain missionary family climaxed last night as the mother of the murdered pastor suddenly asked the mother of the alleged killer to join her at the altar.

"Here we are two mothers," said Ruth DePaiva, her arm around the mother of the man charged with the brutal murders of her son, Ruimar, her daughter-in-law, Margareth, and her 11-year-old grandson, Larisson, her eyes on their coffins.

"The mother of the victim, the mother of the perpetrator. I am sure the mother of Justin (Hirosi) has prayed so many times for her son and I am sure her heart hurts terribly. We train them, we educate them, but they have their own minds," she said.

Then Ruth DePaiva, a missionary, forgave.

"I just want to take Justin's mother and let her know we will be praying for her ... and for Justin."

That was the culmination of a funeral service at the Palau National Gymnasium attended by hundreds and marked by speeches that celebrated the joyful, loving lives of the dead, called upon their religious faith to accept their death, and by Palauans, who expressed regret that the missionaries lost their lives here in a country they set out only to help.

On Dec. 22, Ruimar DePaiva, 42, Margareth DePaiva, 37, and Larisson DePaiva were killed in their home in Airai State during an apparent burglary. All three appeared to have been bludgeoned or stabbed to death, according to a court affidavit. Their 10-year-old daughter was the only survivor.

Ruimar DePaiva was a pastor for the Koror SDA church and coordinator of the Seventh-day Adventist work in Palau. The family was originally from Brazil and had come to serve in Palau in August 2002.

Justin Hirosi, 43, was charged with killing all three DePaiva family members. Hirosi told police he had smoked methamphetamine, or "ice" after work on Dec. 21 and forcibly entered the DePaiva home to steal the TV and the VCR.

But when the DePaivas turned on the lights, he allegedly attacked the pastor, wife and their son, court papers state.

Hirosi found the last member of the family, a 10-year-old daughter, as he ransacked the house. Hirosi took her to his home and sexually assaulted her, according to the court documents, for which he is also charged. Later, Hirosi took her to a secluded roadside, strangled her and threw her from the car. She was found there by two local residents.

Ruth DePaiva visited Hirosi after arriving on island, and asked him to accept Jesus in his heart. But her sudden request for Hirosi's mother, who attended the funeral, to come to the altar, was spurred by the deep regret shown by Hirosi's family.

As according to Palau traditions, High Chief Raphael Ngirmang brought the uncle of Hirosi before the Ruimar DePaiva parents to somehow compensate the family. He provided $10,000 for a trust fund for the surviving daughter, also pledging to provide more.

Much of the service though was a tribute to the lives of the deceased. Dr. Mesubed Yuji remembered a pastor who impassioned the church when he arrived. Marilyn Whipps talked about a pastor's wife who taught eagerly at school and seemed to have an endless well of compassion for people. Sixth-grader Sherwin Nobuo talked about a young boy who was good at computers and always made him smile.

"I have learned from talking to those close with the DePaivas, that they truly were blessed with enthusiasm, good will and energy and the drive to promote peace, love and harmony," said President Tommy Remengesau. "I extend my apologies and regrets to the DePaivas that this tragedy took place here in Palau and we could not prevent it."

Remengesau said in honor of the slain DePaivas, Palauans must fight harder against drugs and redouble their dedication to family and community. Remengesau added that, like many, he was awed by Ruth DePaiva's decision to visit Hirosi and forgive him.

"This is the kind of heart we all should have," Remengesau said. "For if we all had this heart my fellow countrymen, none of this would have happened."

Prayers were also said at the Seventh-day Adventist Guam Micronesia Mission in Agana Heights yesterday.

Reginald Leach, 42, treasurer of the mission, said the church wanted to have a prayer service to support the DePaiva family and to support Palau.

"The entire nation of Palau is going through a hard time," Leach said. He said the service on Guam, which started at 4 p.m., was timed to coincide with the 5 p.m. funeral service in Palau.

John Youngberg, a church member and principal of the Guam Adventist Academy, described Pastor Ruimar DePaiva as one who helped build lives.

"His leadership style was one where instead of trying to be the preacher and have everyone listen to him, he encouraged local talent. He encouraged them to rise up to leadership with their church," Youngberg said.

"The greatest legacy to Rui will be that those people continue to grow in their communities the way he was encouraging them to.

Pacific Daily News reporter Oyaol Ngirairikl contributed to this report.

December 30, 2003

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