Letters from a Maori Chaplain
The following letter was addressed to the Bishop of Aotearoa by one of our Maori Chaplains who has been through the Italian campaign. Part of the letter is in English and part in Maori. The Bishop has now translated the whole letter into English and into Maori so that members of both races may enjoy the vivid descriptions given by this fine type of Maori chaplaincy.
No. 817470 Capt. Wi Huata, C.F., 2nd N.Z.E.F., 28th Maori Battalion.
My Dear Bishop,-
Greetings to you all under the blessings of the Almighty. God is our hope, a very present help in trouble.
When Cassino fell we made a thorough search for your son Alby, but without success. It appears he was taken as a prisoner. During the search we found 27 Maori soldiers who had been killed. I took a burial service for them all. There were also six Kiwi soldiers. I am well, but suffer sometimes from headache. I miss Alby very much, as we shared the one tent. I am praying that God will give us all the joy and happiness of hearing that he is still alive. Give my love to his wife and child, and also to your family. Thank Evey for her long letter, and tell Kura she is a washout as far as letter writing is concerned!
The boys of the Maori Battalion are well. To-day some of the 4th returned on their way to Aotearoa and to their homes. I was fortunate in getting my brother confirmed before he left. "God is Blessing Us". Dear Bishop, I feel sure God is blessing us because of the prayers being offered up on our behalf. On December 13th, 1943, we had 39 boys confirmed by the Bishop of South ...
This year, on July 20th, 1944, an incident almost miraculous took place. It came about this way. The boys has been chasing the Jerries when suddenly we came to a stop. News came to me immediately I had finished my prayers. I had been praying for a bishop to be sent to us so that my boys could be confirmed. We were informed that there was a bishop about 30 miles away from us. So I made arrangements to take the boys to the bishop. It was a long journey, and we were all very tired, but my heart was full of thanksgiving to God. We set out in four big three-ton trucks, but when we reached our destination one truck was missing, with 31 candidates on it. I felt sad, and wondered why our Father in Heaven had allowed such a thing to happen. Then I remembered how God moves in mysterious ways and uses different kinds of seeds. The boys were confirmed in a University at Perugia. This is where the famous St. Francis of Assissi went to the St. Francis famous for his love for animals and birds. The home he was born in is only a few miles away, and I have been to see it. I presented 77 candidates, and there were 400 others, composed of Britishers, Indians and South Africans. The Bishop of Lichfield wanted us to sing a Maori hymn, and we sang "Aue Ihu tirohia."
Selwyn's Children's Children
In his address he referred to Bishop Selwyn, the first Bishop of New Zealand, who was called to become Bishop of Lichfield. He, the speaker, felt highly honoured to be a successor to Selwyn. Today he felt very happy because he was confirming some of Bishop Selwyn's children's children. "In our Cathedral we have a chapel, and in that chapel a stained glass window to the memory of Henare Taratoa, the brave Christian Warrior of the Gate Pa battle in New Zealand," said the Bishop.
His address touched our hearts, and we were all delighted. After the service he mingled with our boys, and was surprised to know that we all spoke English. The other Britishers were also surprised. I told the Bishop that one of our trucks was missing and probably had a breakdown. He said quietly: "Don't worry. Trust in the Lord, and all is sure to come right in the end."
We made our way back to camp, and were just in time to take part in the farewell to the boys of the Fourth who were returning to New Zealand. The next morning being fine, I was sitting under the olive trees talking to my candidates who had missed the confirmation. Then two cars pulled up about 10 yards ahead of us. We wondered who they were, and to our astonishment out walked the Bishop of Lichfield. We were thrilled. We never expected him. A confirmation service was held immediately, and those who missed the previous day had the privilege of being confirmed. There were 30 of them.
We had dinner, and this was followed by a ceremonial welcome, in which Lieut.-Colonel Young, D.S.0., and second-in-command, Major Awatere, took part. In his response the Bishop said: "Chaplain of the Maoris, do you know my son?" I replied, "What is his name?" He said, "Rev. Samuel Wood." '"Yes," I shouted out. "He married Sybil, the daughter of Canon W. G. Williams." "That's right! How splendid!" exclaimed the Bishop.
"Po Atarau". At this stage we were so excited that we formed up and danced a haka and then sang our farewell song, "Po Atarau".
Now that the confirmation is over I am thinking and praying about the future of the Maori race. So far six soldiers have expressed their desire to offer themselves for training for the ministry immediately after the war.
When these boys fight, they do fight. Then when the scrap is over they talk about the days of peace. It is just like a fine day after a storm.
I am glad to hear good reports of the pastorate since I left. I will have much to tell our people. I have been to Rome, that great city, and have seen many of the old historical sights. I have seen the Vatican city, the place where the Christians were thrown into the den of the wild beasts, the catacombs, the place where St. Paul was chained and kept in prison, where Julius Caesar was cremated. I have stood on the spot where Mark Anthony spoke from and where Nero played his fiddle while Rome was burning. I have seen the paintings of Raphael and Michael Angelo and many other interesting and historical spots.
Give my-love to all my friends and especially the children of the pastorate. God bless you all.
This article appeared in Waiapu Church Gazette, Volume 35, Issue 9, 1 November 1944, p 10.