At the Gathering last year I was among 23 others recognised as a Minister within the Baptist denomination within New Zealand. Over the four days I began to develop a sense of belonging. It was a positive experience to have others come up and congratulate me. I belong to these people and they belong to me – similar to membership in the local church.
But then I began to realise, part of me is not here. That part of me that has brownish skin and loves to say “Kia ora te whanau.” That part of me identifies as Maori. I began to realise that part of me was mostly missing, little pockets here and there, but mostly noticeable by its absence.
This is a challenge to me, as someone who identifies as Maori, to help bring these people into our movement. They are missing and we need them. They are very much part of who we are as New Zealanders and they are mostly not here with us! These people belong to you and we to them. This is a challenge for you, too.
We heard Carolyn Robertson say, “We need to ask, ‘Who is missing? Where do we need to make room?’”
On Friday morning we had George Wieland talk to us from Philippians 2:1 about the downward mobility of Christ, his willingness to give up what he had so we could come into relationship with him and form his body here on Earth. Chosen downward mobility requires humility. Making room requires humility. It means giving up some things (we heard a lot about that at the Gathering) we hold dear.
As leaders what we hold is power. If we want to see more Maori in our movement we have to be prepared to give up some of that power. It starts with us and it starts with me.
One evening I saw David Moko, Kaihautu of Maori Ministries, sitting on his own and I jokingly said to him, “You can’t sit there on your own David – you’re a Maori! Come and sit with us.” Then it dawned on me, that is a picture of how it is for Maori in this movement at the moment. We sit alone. Those of us who identify as Maori need to stand together. This is a call for us to be able to do that.
This is also a call for those of us in leadership, those of us who have power, to ask: “What do I need to give up to help Maori become part of who we are? Who can I be and what can I do to help make room for these people?”
What a great joy it was for me to see Lyn Campbell’s presidency acknowledged in Maori and then, as she lead her first communion as president of our movement, using a song sung in Maori. Kia kaha, Lyn.
• Think about how you might do Waitangi Day next year.
• Learn some simple greetings in Maori. Learn how to pronounce some of the language.
• Read Keith Newman’s book on the Bible and the Treaty. You will be astonished and proud of most of our early missionaries who gave up their power and lived amongst Maori.
Huge numbers of Maori became followers of Jesus and many of them through Maori reaching Maori. Some of the early missionaries, however, didn’t give up their power. If you want to know more about that refer to Murray Robertson’s review of this book in last September’s NZ Baptist (www.baptist.org.nz).
• Begin to pray about how you and your church community might engage with Maori. It might mean you going to them rather than them coming to you. Many of our communities that we want to bless have a large proportion of Maori. My community does in Taupo.
• Go to Te Harenga. This experience is run by Ray and Shanene Totorewa in Tauranga. You give up five weekends and stay on five different maraes.
You will learn what it is to be Maori and Christian in a Maori context. You will learn what a lot of our Maori people have (falsely) believed they had to give up to be Christian. You will listen to people like Sam Chapman and Steve Apirana. You will be out of your comfort zone, but you will be more than welcome. You get to go on a trip to Hawaii (true). Google “Island Breeze” to find out more.
• Begin to develop a relationship with David Moko, our Kaihautu. He is a resource for us.
I don’t have all the answers but I hope the above might help.
Kia Ora te Whanau. God bless new Zealand.
– Wendy Emsley is a member of Taupo Baptist Church.