In the 1830s a Maori girl called Tarore lived in the Waikato (New Zealand). She was about 12 years old. Her father, Ngakuku, was a rangatira—a Maori chief. Life was uncertain. People traded for guns. There were tensions. War parties could strike at any time. If people were killed revenge was expected.
Some missionaries arrived with God's written Word, the Bible. These missionaries, Rev and Mrs Brown, wanted to teach people to read, so that they could read the Bible and learn about God's love. Tarore had heard about their school, so she asked her father, “Please, can I go? I'd like to learn from the book.” Ngakuku agreed.
At school Tarore learned about Jesus. Jesus was different. He had great mana. But Jesus didn't fight back, even when his enemies were going to kill him. Instead, Tarore learned, Jesus loved people. From the Bible, Tarore learned that Jesus helped people love each other and taught them to love God. She learnt that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he died on a cross and rose again. She learned that, by his death and rising to life again, Jesus defeated the dark powers of the world and made it possible for us to be right with God. Tarore decided to follow Jesus.
At this time the first parts of the Maori Bible were being printed. One of the first was Te Rongopai a Ruka-- the Gospel of Luke. The Browns gave a copy to Tarore.
As Tarore read from her book to her people, Ngakuku her father stood nearby and listened to his daughter. The message about love and peace was new, but it had impact as Tarore's people thought about the hate and pain of war. Fighting was never far away.
Ngakuku decided to take his young people over the Kaimai mountains to Tauranga. They stopped to spend the night by the Wairere Falls. The group gathered around the campfire. Perhaps Tarore brought out her Gospel and read to the group. Then, putting her book under her head, she slept.
But up the valley warriors watched smoke from Tarore's camp rising above the trees and made their way quietly towards the sleepers.
Crack! A branch broke. Ngakuku was instantly awake. “What was that!?”
Crack! There it was again.
“Quick!” shouted Ngakuku, “Into the bush and hide!”
Ngakuku grabbed his little son and led the way. But where was Tarore?
When it was safe Ngakuku went back, afraid about what he would find. By a tree where she had slept, Tarore lay dead. Ngakuku wept.
“Revenge!” cried others in the group.
“No!” said Ngakuku, “there's been enough killing!”
“Where is Tarore's book?” someone asked. But it had been taken.
Uita had taken the Gospel. Thinking it must be a great treasure, he took it back to Rotorua. But no one could understand the strange marks. No one, that is, until Ripahau arrived. Ripahau was a slave from Otaki who had been taken to the Bay of Islands. He had been taught to read by the missionaries there. His master had died and now he was returning home.
“I will read it.” said Ripahau. Others gathered around to hear.
As he listened Uita found the words were a special message for him. “Love my enemies? But I killed the wahine (girl) who had this book...I want the peace Jesus brings.”
So Uita sent a message and asked forgiveness from Ngakuku. And there was peace, not through force, but through the power of God's Word.
Ripahau left and went on to Otaki. There he taught Tamihana, son of the great Otaki rangatira Te Rauparaha and his cousin te Whi-whi. He taught them to read from Tarore's Gospel. But Te Rauparah himself was a fierce man of war. People feared him.
One day Te Rauparaha's son, Tamihana said, “I do not want war! I want to follow the way of peace.”
He taught his people from Tarore's book. Te Whi-whi went to Paihia to bring a missionary to teach them more about Jesus. Even Te Rauparaha began to change his ways.
Tamihana looked across at the South Island. People lived there in fear of wars and revenge. He said, “I will take them the message of peace.”
So he set off in a canoe to the very places where the name of his father was enough to make people grab their weapons. There he told the people the things he had learned from Tarore's book—how Jesus had taught that the way of peace was better than the way of hatred and war.
Six years later Bishop Selwyn took his missionary journey through New Zealand. No European missionary had been to the South Island, but Selwyn found the people living in peace and following Jesus. Many people had learned to read and write. The only textbook they had known was Tarore's Gospel of Luke and two pages from the Maori Prayer book.
What about Ngakuku and Uita? Rev Brown records in his journal that, in 1842, Ngakuku and Uita met:
“In the evening, they were engaged together in worshiping God at their prayer meeting and were apparently on the most friendly terms.--Who but the Christian loves their enemies?” wrote Brown.