Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yesterday, Saturday, 23 June 2012, we were invited to a special program at a marae in Korongata (Bridge Pa).  The occasion was a visit from President and Sister Bleak (pronounced "Blake" but is the Irish spelling of that name), who is the New Zealand MTC President.  Along with them were one of his counselors, President Armitage, and his wife, who is a Maori from Bridge Pa.  The NZ MTC is closed for three weeks for cleaning, etc., so they have some free time to do a little traveling and wanted to come to the Maori origins of the LDS Church in New Zealand, which are both in our area:  Bridge Pa and Te Hauke.

This turned out to be one of the most incredible memories we will have in New Zealand, turning into a very tender experience as the Maori people here shared their traditions and their hearts with us.  When you've never been on a particular marae (and they're all over the country but run by different tribes), you must first be welcomed onto the marae with quite a formal ceremony (a Powhiri, "poh-fir-ee").  We, along with the Bleaks and the Armitages, were those being welcomed.  We were led in by someone who could speak Maori...and greeted by chanting done by senior members of the tribe.  This is shown below.
This is President and Sister Bleak.  Prior to being the NZ MTC President, he was Mission President in the Marshall Islands.  Sister Bleak is President Gordon B. Hinckley's niece.
Here is President and Sister Armitage.  Behind them is the lady, Agnes Nuku, who  led us onto the marae and chanted in Maori who we all were (the response is called the Karanga).  This particular marae is on land donated by the Reid family and is called the Mangaroa Marae (on Ruakawa Road).  There is an older marae in Bridge Pa, too, called the Te Aranga Marae (on Maraekakaho Road).  We have been welcomed on both of them now.
Not the best picture, but these are the ladies chanting and motioning us onto the marae. Women almost always do the welcoming, and the men do the speeches after we go inside.  Once we were in the marae, those who belong to the marae are seated on one side, and we were seated on the opposite side (men on the front row, women in the back).  Then two different men gave welcoming speeches, which were all in Maori, not a word of English, but they were just incredible, and we could feel their sincere love and respect for us.  One of them was an LDS bishop, Bishop Jerry Edwards; the other man the Mission Leader of the Hastings 2nd Ward (our master carver, Taka Walker).  Their messages were so touching that all I could do was cry.  Then the spokesman on "our" side spoke in Maori, too, thanking them for their hospitality and promising continued friendship from us.  When the speeches were over, we shook hands and "rubbed noses" and are now considered "part of the family", which is tangata whenua, meaning "we belong".  From this day on, all of our family are welcome on this marae and treated like family.  When the Maoris greet each other, they don't really rub noses; they press their foreheads and noses together for a brief moment, sharing in the same air, which then makes them kindreds.  It is not uncomfortable at all and, actually, is quite meaningful.

Following the welcoming ceremony, we were invited for snacks over in the dining hall...and when Maoris serve snacks, they always serve a feast.  These people live so simply and have so few material goods, but they love to share what they have...they're the most generous people we have ever met anywhere.  I wish I had taken a picture of the huge table filled with all kinds of food.

While we were eating, we were also entertained by a choir of Maori singers, along with a wonderful man, Tommy Taurima, who shared with us the history of the LDS Church in New Zealand.  During the years long ago, when Christianity was first brought to New Zealand, there were a lot of different churches coming here.  The Maori people asked their chief which church they should join, and he said he would meditate about it.  After several days, he told them that the true church had not yet come to New Zealand but when it did, their preachers would come in twos and teach them in their own language in their homes.  When the LDS missionaries arrived, they were recognized almost immediately from the chief's description, and Maoris joined the church in droves.  This dear narrator shed tears almost the whole time he was telling us about the church's history here; so, of course, I cried, too!  Here's a few more pictures of those who entertained us.
Many of their songs have hand gestures; you can see that Sister Armitage joined the singers.
This was their very poetic spokesman and music director, Tommy Taurima, who had all of us enthralled. He also shared with us various Maori words and their meanings...they love rainbows and have six different words for "rainbow".
One of the singers is a good friend of ours, Poppy Maere, who everyone calls "Auntie".  Her mother is our friend, "Mother Marae", who is 93 and still going strong...does a radio show on Fridays and works at a youth facility for troubled teens on Thursdays.

The young missionaries knew President Bleak was in town but were not allowed to come to the marae, so President Bleak was invited to a baptism in Napier that evening, which we also went to.  All the young missionaries from any of the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand and Australia come to the Missionary Training Center in NZ, which is located in Auckland, so they were all quite excited to see President Bleak and his wife again.  Here are some of the pictures we took last night after the baptism.
BACK ROW:  Elder Levy (Samoa), Elder Aiono (Tonga), Pres. Bleak (Nevada), Elder Aumua (Samoa), Elder Heinricks, ZL (Alberta Canada)
MIDDLE ROW:  Sister Hemi (NZ), Elder & Sister Armitage, Sister Bleak, Elder Haiane (NZ), Elder Tamale (Tonga, now Hamilton NZ), and Elder Barnes (Farmington, UT).
FRONT ROW:  Elder Eneri (Kiribati), Elder Hunt (Samoa), Elder Wehipeihana (Hamilton NZ), and Sister Tito (New Zealand)

President & Sister Armitage, Sister & President Bleak, Sister & Elder Farnes, Sisters Tito & Hemi.

No comments:

Post a Comment