The other day I got a text, “Ppv boxing 2nite at rons 5 bucks to cover cost start at 7,” to which I replied, “hmmm sounz gud 2 me.” The boxing was the Shane “Mountain Warrior” Cameron vs Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett fight, which actually ended in the fourth round spectacularly with a TKO to Cameron, winning back the WBO Asia Pacific and WBO Oriental heavyweight titles.
The text came from a Canadian friend and neighbour, and the venue was Ron’s house, our American friend and another neighbour. The other guys who got the text and came to Ron’s were two Samoans. One of them brought his two sons, a Tongan and a Sudanese. All of us are neighbours and have been friends for a long time.
As the evening and undercard fights rolled on with anticipation to the feature fight, it became apparent to me through our conversations that only three of us in that lounge could say we had English as our first language. The repeated questions and answers flowing in conversation or lounge fight commentaries made it plainly obvious.
The two Samoan guys spoke in their language to each other. Even the Canadian and American accents at times made it difficult to understand their English ...you know that saying, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” But, as I’ve said, we’ve all known each other for a very long time, are all good friends and neighbours, and always enjoy any get together.
Other close friends are in our neighbourhood. He has Samoan-Maori heritage, his wife is American. He is the oldest of ten with nine ethnic marriages in the family including his parents; Iranian, Australian Aboriginal, Yugoslavian, Chilean, Tongan, Cook Islander and Australian. They say their family gatherings are a United Nations occasion.
I can imagine the richness of belonging in the mix. In Denise and my parents’ generation, who were raised in more of a rural Maori environment, mixed blood marriages weren’t always accepted so easily. Neighbourhoods were reflective of other values. My parents were from full-blood Maori lines. Against the will of their parents, my in-laws got married (my father-in-law is Maori and mother-in-law Pakeha) because they loved each other too much. This April marked their 59th wedding anniversary.
When I first came into the role as Kaihautu for Baptist Maori Ministries, a colleague asked what my views were on whether there should be Maori-only congregations or integrated Baptist congregations. “Integration” was a trendy word being bandied around denominational circles five years ago. I said there was room for both but I didn’t like the word “integration.” To me it doesn’t have a Biblical feel but more a colonial one. In other words, you have to fit in.
I said I’d prefer the word “blending.” Blending is unifying and valuing what a complete mix brings, and it can always be flavoured with more, unifying a product to produce a desired quality. A further Maori metaphoric mindset could say blending of romanticism with a more detached modernism.
The 1970s pop culture music group Blue Mink came out with the chart-topping Melting Pot (go on YouTube to view this very catchy number with lyrics), which leans into this blending idea for families, organisations, congregations and leadership.
Dr Monte Rereamoamo Ohia, in his thesis Towards a value based transformation movement for Maori advancement argues on page 253 that the advancement of Maori and other New Zealanders is more to do with people and the spirit than with politics, finance or the restructuring of organisations. The segment entitled The Challenge of Time: The Response of Visioning, Kolb (1988) succinctly encapsulates a portion of the innermost (or core) focus of his thesis by this statement from R.G.H. Siu:
If you plant for a season, plant budgets
If you plant for a decade, plant reorganisations
If you plant for a century, plant people (p. 78)
Dr. Monte Ohia added:
If you plant for eternity, plant the spirit ...(Towards a value based transformation) p. 258
I want to take this opportunity to thank Matt Hakiaha and Brad Haami for agreeing to collaborate with me on writing the two previous articles on this series of Multiculturalism from a Maori perspective for the NZ Baptist Magazine - Nga mihi ki a korua.
– David Moko, Baptist Maori Ministries Kaihautu