While I can’t go anywhere because of the Covid-19 shut down, I’ve been blogging about my walks. One of my walks was to Wairere Falls in the Kaimai ranges, it’s the highest waterfall in the North Island of NZ.
You can come with me if you like. You can admire the scenery, it’ll get you out of the house and I’ll tell you a story before our walk. I’m a bit awkward in front of a camera but it’s a story worthy of hearing. It’s about a young Maori girl called Tarore and the power of forgiveness. You’ll see why, besides their grandeur, Wairere Falls is an important site.
Amongst the earliest missionaries to arrive in New Zealand were a husband and wife who settled in the Waikato and started a mission school near Matamata. In 1835, the Bible Society published 100 copies of the Gospel of Luke in the Maori language. Tarore was one of their students, and as she began to learn to read, she was given one of these Gospels. She took the Gospel back to her village and read it to her tribe – and what followed has become one of the most important stories in the history of New Zealand.
Under threat of a neighboring warring Rotorua tribe, the mission school was in the process of relocating to Tauranga and Tarore went with them.
On October 19, 1836, while camped at the base of Wairere Falls, a raiding party killed 12-year-old Tarore and took her treasured Book of Luke. Ngakuku, Tarore’s father did not seek utu (revenge), for he had become a Christian.
Later, unable to read, the other chief – the Rotorua chief discarded Tarore’s book until Ripahau, a slave boy read the text aloud to his fascinated listeners and the people understood its true value.
Convicted by the gospel, Uita, Tarore’s murderer also became a Christian.
Risking the customary tribal response of utu (revenge) – Uita sought for and received forgiveness from Ngakuku, the father of Tarore and peace came to the two warring tribes of Rotorua and Waikato.
A local re-telling of this story claims that as the men approached one another tears were shed and they embraced. After Uita humbled himself and repented peace prevailed between the two men and a church was built to honour the message which brought about this reconciliation.
This led to the conversion of many of the Maori tribes. When missionaries visited both the North and South Islands, they discovered that many of the Maori tribes had already been converted to Christ due to the story of Tarore and her copy of the Gospel of Luke making its rounds…
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
The Word Of God was sharper than any taiaha (maori spear) club or double-edged sword and by it the power of utu was broken.
When Tarore’s little book came down to Otaki, the warrior chief Te Rauparaha heard the message and built the Rangiatea Church in Otaki.
A hidden gem
The height of the Wairere falls is 153 metres.
When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:17-18)
The miraculous catch of fish was the last miracle Jesus ever performed. 153 fish were caught and the net didn’t tear. (John 21:11)
153 is an odd number. What did Jesus mean by 153 fish?
153 means people.
153 adds from 1 to 17: 153 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4+ 5+ 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 +13 + 14 + 15 + 16 + 17.
17 means nations.
17 is the number of nations present at Pentecost.
It reminds me of the Bible verse from Psalm 42, “Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls.” The significance is not lost on me. I hope you liked the story and the trip to the falls.
Tarore’s story: The story of Tarore is a taonga – the maori word for treasure or gift. It is a treasure of the church in NZ. NZ history and culture is built on it. When Tarore’s little book came down to Otaki, the warrior chief Te Rauparaha heard the message and built the Rangiatea Church. Sadly an arsonist burned it down 1995 but a replica was rebuilt and completed in 2003.
The number 153 represents the Kingdom of God and if you want to read another blog post, Number 153, signs and symbols, I’ll show you why.