IF HOUSES could walk, then Laini Inivale would be a tower built of rebar and brick. In a crowded room, he’s rather difficult to miss. This is the story about the year we met. On the 26th of October, 2016, nearly 5,000 athletes gathered in Perth, Australia, to compete in the twenty-second World Athletics Championships. Laini Inivale was a hulking 286-pound kiwi. At 49 years of age, Perth would prove his last shot-put competition in the 45-49 age group. Laini Inivale had trained for this very moment. He needed a win.
“And I came in sixth,” Laini told me over the home.
Laini wasn’t happy.
The kiwi, whose parents originated from the island of Samoa, had only recently quit work in order that he might look after his ailing mother in Brisbane, north of Sydney. “So, I fly a lot,” he said. New Zealand to Australia. “I stay one month in Auckland with my wife and kids, and then I go to Brisbane, and I would look after my mom full time and give my siblings a rest.”
Earlier that year, in April to be precise, Inivale ended up talking about climate change and population control with one of his old mates, and he said, “Look, if you really believe the global population needs controlled, you’ll go and kill yourself. But you have this idea in your head, that we’re overpopulated, and you want everybody else to pay for it?” Suffice to say, he wasn’t a fan of Ted Turner or Bill Gates. It came with a shrug, but Inivale finally agreed to research climate change and, at the very least, consider an alternative position.
Laini remembers the very day.
It was May 2nd—a Monday. Laini turned to YouTube, and within minutes he stumbled across the 2013 United Nations address by United States President Barrack Obama, in which the POTUS pointedly said:
“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”
There was a time when the man from down under had relegated the flat earth as a conversational insult. But this was different. “It just blew my mind that he’d given it such a high profile. And it made me angry that he would elevate them to such a high level, even though he was using it as mockery.” And another thing, “I’m angry at Barrack Obama for saying this, and then I realized, ‘Hey, I’ve tested all these truth claims for all these belief systems all through the years. I’ve never been afraid to challenge my core beliefs, because all truth is God’s truth.’ You don’t need to be afraid to look at things. Even though I had used flat earth as a mock myself, I realized I had been unfair because I had never tested their truth claims. I’d never bothered to go and find out what they believed.”
Fifteen minutes should do—right?
“I can give fifteen minutes of my time to flat earth,” Laini assured himself.
Set the timer.
FIFTEEN MINUTES later and Laini Inivale was angry—again. How dare they. “I was in shock by people who supposedly called themselves Christians, quoting Bible verses.” Some thirty-two years earlier, on the 15th of September, 1984, to be exact, Laini had declared himself a Christian. At seventeen, the person who led him to the Savior wasn’t like the others. He walked the talk. “I realized the Bible is reliable. There is a God. And that I needed to bow my knee and submit my life. Knowing what you believe and why you believe has always been important to me. You’ve got to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul.”
Point being, the Bible talks about a ball. Everybody knows that. Laini Inivale was certain of it.
That blatantly obvious fact is why Laini didn’t even want to consider the Bible while researching these claims. “I wasn’t interested in that, because I knew the Bible talks about a ball. In my arrogance, it was because of my Creationist exposure. The Bible was too much noise. All I was interested in is what I could observe, test, and repeat. And so, that made it a lot cleaner in how I was going to approach the flat earth.”
A quarter of an hour became half an hour, which quickly slung back around the face of the clock to complete an hour. Tack on another dozen hours. A day. Two or three days—a week even. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Flat Earth. And from the very beginning, there was one observation in particular which nabbed at his attention. The horizon always rises to eye-level no matter how high one climbs in altitude. “On a ball, everything curves away from you, and you’d have to look down at the horizon.” And yet, “one thing that kept me to the globe, even though I was becoming more uncomfortable with the things that I was researching; I was adamant that I had seen curvature with my own eyes. Because I was flying so often, I knew that, once I was in the air, I could test this curvature thing for myself.”
On his return flight from Auckland to Brisbane, Laini had difficulty adjusting to the reality of his own perception. After researching the flat earth for four consecutive weeks, and spending a lifetime mocking it, he finally saw it with his own eyes. It was a perfectly clear day, and there was no curvature at 35,000 feet. The earth was flat. “I had told myself that I’d seen curvature, because that’s the narrative. That’s how they train you. That’s how they indoctrinate you. And then I realized that I had indoctrinated myself. And I had seen, because I wanted to see curvature. And it wasn’t real.”
“I said I had to stop kidding myself. The earth is flat.”
For Laini Inivale, it was a terrible crisis of conscience, “because I observably, test-ably, repeatedly, believed the earth is flat. But I knew that the Bible says the earth is a ball.” On the 3rd of June 2016, the very day in which he succumbed to the shape of the earth, Laini was admittedly a globe Christian and an agnostic flat earthist. A house divided cannot stand. One or the other had to go.
So, he turned to Yahuah.
Laini prayed, “I’m going to spend a week availing myself only to what Your Word says, because if it still says the earth is a ball, then I have wasted so many decades of my life being a fool, talking to somebody that doesn’t exist, and I just need to go back to being the person I was before. But—if it says the earth is flat, then I’ll never deviate from Your truth.”
“No other belief system had induced this sort of trauma, spiritually, for me.” Laini smiled with relief. “And God is gracious. When I examined that presupposition, it wasn’t even real, and I was so joyful.” Globe earth had been wedged into a square peg. Contrarily, Scripture gave Testimony to what he could see and feel with his own God-given observations. It was the final nail in the coffin. “If you just accept His Word, it makes sense. It just makes sense. I cried, and I thanked the Lord for his graciousness, and I was so thankful that I was 49, and that I had woken up to the lie. I was angry. I was angry that I was deceived, and I didn’t know how far this deception went.”
On the 10th of June, one week after becoming an agnostic earthist, Laini Inivale became a Biblical earthist.
In Brisbane he phoned up his wife.
“Honey, I’ve got something important to tell you. I’m a flat earther.”
Mrs. Inivale laughed.
“We’ll talk about it when you get back,” she said.
THE SEVENTH World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships, intended for athletes 35 years and older, was held from the 19th to the 25th of March, 2017, in Daegu, South Korea. Laini Inivale came in fourth. “And I wasn’t very happy with that. But it’s the only time I’ve lost as a fifty-year-old, in Daegu, Korea.”
Laini’s immediate family hadn’t taken too well to the flat earth news. His wife had questions to which Laini didn’t always have answers. “My boys—I’m blessed with five very smart, academically gifted sons, and they were more or less disappointed in me. And for a little while, and to some extent even now, I’ve lost the ability to speak into their lives. And I’m ashamed that I sent my boys to school. I neglected my duty as a father to keep them safe from lies. People whom I respected had told me that I should home-school, and I didn’t see any reason why.” Laini considered the alternative for a moment. He then concluded, “There’s so many lies.”
That’s not to say that at least one of his sons didn’t acknowledge Laini’s astonishing new peripheral vision. For Christmas 2016, he gifted his father with a singlet cut from an AE Gleason map. It would be the very singlet he wore to the World Masters from April 21-30, 2017, which Auckland hosted. Finally, Laini was on his own home turf. “I was very fortunate, there were quite a few good throwers. I think there was maybe eleven throwers. And I was one of the short ones. And I ended up prevailing.” Laini laughed with pleasure. “I had to beat an American. And I don’t even know what country the other guy was from.” He thought about it. “He was Slavic.”
On the day in which he broke the New Zealand record for the 50-54-year old competitive range, M50 Shotput, a distance which hadn’t been toppled for thirty years, Laini threw 14.63 meters.
A newspaper reporter took a photo of Laini’s champion throw while wearing his flat earth singlet.
That photo went viral.
I met Laini at the first Flat Earth International Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, several months later. It was November of 2017. The following picture documents the very moment of our meeting. He was wearing the singlet which he’d won the World Masters with and the glow he’d championed it in.