The Chronicles of Paki – NZ’s Untold Story

a Gospel 2014 initiative

Beginnings

rarotongaOn a holiday several years ago, as I bathed in the natural beauty of Rarotonga and watched the local people going about their lives, I was quite unaware that this trip would lead to the development of a project that would take up a big chunk of my life. My husband and I went along to a tourist attraction one night and it was there that the idea was hatched to write about the NZ story. This was because I saw that the history of this little group of islands had many parallels with our own  history. But there was one big difference! While the Cook Island people are aware of their story, NZers are not!

The Islanders know their story very well. And what’s more, they are prepared to talk openly about it – and even celebrate it by boldly and honestly telling the story to visiting tourists. What made this all so interesting to me was the intrinsic way that the Gospel features in their story, and alongside this, the Cook Islander’s willingness to express it.

At the ‘Island Night’ I was amazed at how frank and unguarded the presenters of this tourist attraction were when they told us about the impact of the Gospel on their old culture. In the Cooks, there is no ‘ducking for cover’ in the way NZers tend to, when it comes to conveying any kind of faith in their Maker. ‘The Island Night’ experience left me thinking, because I knew that the same story had happened in NZ, yet hardly anyone here knew anything about it – and what’s more it’s a marvellous story!

Reinforcement

MEtreatyProvidentially it seems, about a week after having returned home, a Letter to the Editor in The Christchurch Press featured on this very topic.  The letter bugged me. It said that ‘the White Settlers saved Maori from themselves by teaching them how to mill timber, weave cloth and read & write.’  The writer of this letter appeared to have zero concept that it was the Gospel that took the harshness out of the old Maori culture. What’s more, my passion to do something about it was further ignited when I realised that most NZers I came across, shared the same view as this guy did :O

Action

I must have irritated my husband quite a bit as I zealously expressed my concern about the misguided understanding so many NZers had regarding their own story. Determined to do something, I contacted the Bible Society, knowing that they had published the children’s book on the wonderful Tarore story. Offering to help if need be, I asked them if they would consider publishing more books like that one, telling the truth behind other NZ stories.

Their Tarore story was a one-off, but they encouraged me to contact a chap called Glyn Carpenter who was overseeing a number of different Gospel 2014 projects. This was the first I had heard of the bicentennial. It became clear to me that now was the time to be making children’s literature available on the role the Gospel played in NZ’s early bi-cultural history. So I rang Glyn.

pages_smallHe was enthusiastic about the idea that I write children’s stories incorporating the effect of the Gospel in NZ’s history. He encouraged me to start researching and writing. About a year down the track I realised there were so many fascinating stories to be told from our past. As I researched, it was difficult to avoid the fact that the Gospel was responsible for creating a paradigm shift in Maori thinking. The Gospel came, the violence went. It was a theme that kept repeating itself.

I went to the Gospel 2014 Symposium held at Waitangi in November 2012 and Glyn put me in touch with Hope Project manager Dave Mann who shared the same passion as I did about the NZ story. A team quickly came together as he brought in his colleague Alison Condon who is a published children’s author. Alison very skilfully turns my ‘historical accounts’ into  easy twelve year old speak. We were delighted to find Tania Hassounia who’s beautiful artwork illustrates the stories with such appeal. Interestingly Tania can trace her roots back to Ngapuhi where our story all began, which adds to the passion that she too has developed for the project.  With an impossible deadline and so much work for one artist, we were wrapped when Eddie Booth came on board to help us with illustrations.

We look forward to the next stage in the project which faces us – marketing the books.

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