Over Labour Weekend last year more than 100 guests gathered as part of the NZCMS Hui and Pilgrimage, Our Story: Aotearoa, to explore our identity as Christians in relation to the New Zealand story.
The welcome offered by Bishop Kito set the tone for the event. He was clear: “The Gospel was invited to New Zealand. Chief Ruatara was a person who was fully committed to bringing the Good News to his own people and they created space for the Gospel to take root in their lives, minds and hearts… The roots of our nation find themselves in the Gospel.” We were each invited to remember that the main character of our story is Christ and to find our true identity in him as we respond to his death and resurrection.
The theme of the weekend was Te Raranga, ‘the weaving.’ This theme of being woven together, of our stories being shared and our futures being knitted together, came through time after time. It was a great weekend of discovering more about our history as we heard from expert speakers and explored significant sites around the Bay of Islands.
The visit to Oihi Bay was incredibly meaningful. We could see the Holy Spirit at work when leaders of CMS in New Zealand and the UK officially extended their welcome and embrace to the descendants of Thomas and Jane Kendall. It was clear that God’s Spirit was bringing restoration and reconciliation after many years of brokenness.
It was a privilege to hear the story of the Kendall family told in more detail during the weekend, to recognise their contribution to early New Zealand history and to give thanks for the grace of God at work in their lives.
But it wasn’t all looking back at the past. With a global focus we shared stories, hopes and dreams with brothers and sisters from all over the world. We had the privilege of hearing from CMS leaders from Africa, Asia and the UK who shared how God is working around the world. We heard reports from NZCMS Mission Partners who had recently finished their time abroad. And our praise and worship times were led by Taking Back, a Kenyan band from Nairobi Chapel.
A Sunday service on the grounds of Waitangi proved to be once-in-a-lifetime moment as different cultures gathered to share communion in the shadow of native bush echoing with the sounds of Fantail, Shining Cuckoo and Tui.
Drawing our Hui to a close, we looked forward to what God has in store for the future. We were inspired by the vision, passion and enthusiasm of Jade Hohaia. Her message encouraged us to continue trusting in God to restore our land and draw all people to himself. She spoke of how God is using young Maori and Pacifica leaders to make a difference in their communities and how she has seen the power of God changing lives and hearts.
The weekend was an inspiring journey of discovering our story and remembering who the main character is – remembering the goodness and faithfulness of our God of nations who continues to work mightily in New Zealand and around the world.