maori martyrs

Te Manihera and Kereopa.

It is Keith Newman (in Bible and Treaty) who introduced me to these two Christian Maori men, martyred near Tokaanu (situated 'at 6 o'clock', on the southern edge of Lake Taupo) in 1847. When our family took a holiday earlier this month in nearby Kuratau ('at 7 o'clock' on the lake), I became consumed with the need for pilgrimage. The graveside was only 15 minutes away, by car.

The memorial lies in the cemetery of St Paul's Anglican Church, just off the highway from Turangi to Taumarunui. By 1850 there were more Maori Christians in New Zealand than European Christians. The vast majority of these Maori had been brought to Christ by other Maori. There are stories of European missionaries pioneering the gospel into new regions, only to find little churches, reading the Bible and singing hymns, already functioning - planted by Maori missionaries who reached there first. At his conversion,
Te Manihera is said to have spoken of how they had received the Gospel and the Christian faith from English missionaries; if the missionaries could leave their homeland to go out to the world and preach the Gospel, then it was the duty of Maori missionaries to go among their own countrymen. (Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)
Te Manihera and Kereopa were early Maori missionaries. Their tribe in South Taranaki was mired in a cycle of war with a neighbouring tribe. Rather than exacting vengeance, they headed off, motivated by the gospel, in a spirit of peace and reconciliation - and it cost them their lives.

Someone needs to respect these graves a little more and make the script a little clearer! But I suspect the phrase at the bottom is echoing the words from Revelation:
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb 
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death (Revelation 12.11).

The fuller story of the martyrdom can be read in Newman's book, but also in Manihera's Farewell (Hero Stories of New Zealand). Some years later, in 1916, the New Zealand Herald adds one consequence of the story:
A native teacher, speaking of their death, likened them to a lofty kahikatea tree, full of fruit, which it sheds on every side around, causing thick grove of young trees to spring up; so that although the parent tree may be cut down its place is more than supplied by those which proceed from it—this is but a Maori way of saying the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. The Rev. R. Taylor tells us that Huitahi, the murderer, afterwards gave land as a site for a mission station, and built a nice little church upon it, and when Mr. Taylor went to conduct the opening service at it, he found some thirty Maoris asking for baptism. 

One little personal aside. Part of my wider family/whanau married direct descendents of Edward Lawry, the early missionary to Tonga. Te Manihera's name before he became a believer was Poutama. Look at this story in Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
Poutama was born in South Taranaki, probably early in the nineteenth century. He was captured during a Waikato raid near the mouth of the Tamaki River. From there he was taken captive a second time, by Nga Puhi. They were travelling north when, off Cape Brett, he was put on board a mission schooner carrying the Reverend Walter Lawry from Kororareka (Russell) to Tonga; his release was secured by the gift of a few biscuits. On the voyage to Tonga, Poutama rescued Lawry's son, Henry, when a wave washed the child overboard. For 18 months in Tonga Poutama was educated by the Lawrys; he transferred to the CMS station at Norfolk Island when they returned to England. Eventually he made his way back to Waokena, near Hawera, where he married Harata ...
nice chatting



Paul Windsor said…
My cousin (Jeff) responded to that final paragraph. How cool is this?!

"Yes, the life (Manihera) saved was that of Rev Walter Lawry’s son Henry (later Rev HH Lawry) who in turn was my mother’s great-grandfather. During my last visit to Tonga about 5 years ago I enquired about Rev Walter Lawry and was delighted to be taken to the little bay where he landed and where a plaque has been placed marking the place where he landed in August 1822!"

I love it when this kind of thing happens.

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