Kereopa and Te Manihera of Taranaki

Martyrs at Turangi


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St Paul's Anglican Church, just off the highway from Turangi to Taumarunui whose cemetary contains the Memorial of Te Manihera of Ngati Ruanui and Kereopa of Waokena, Maori Missionaries.

Poutama of the Tangahoe was an important chief of Ngati Ruanui, from Hawera on the Taranaki coast. He was one of the first to become a Christian. At his baptism he chose the name, Te Manihera. He had been captured twice, first in a Waikato raid and taken to Tamaki, and then in a Nga Puhi raid on Tamaki. While he was being taken north, he was put on a ship taking the Wesleyan missionary, Walter Lawry to Tonga. Lawry had brought his freedom and taken him to Tonga. On the way, Poutama rescued the Lawrys’ young son when he was washed overboard. Poutama was in Tonga for 18 months, but eventually returned to Waokena near Hawera, where he married. He became an Anglican teacher of his tribe for many years. The Rev’d Richard Taylor said of him:

He was always conspicuous for piety and attention to his duties, and instead of his first love growing cold, his appeared to increase with time; indeed, his love of Christ was written upon his countenance.

His commitment to the gospel led Te Manihera to offer to go to Ngati Tuwharetoa his tribal enemies at Taupo to share the gospel of peace. Kereopa of Waokena, offered to be his companion. They knew it would be dangerous as in 1840 two Ngati Tuwharetoa, Tauteka and Te Whakarau, had been killed, and their deaths had not yet been avenged. They left Wanganui on 6 February 1847. They travelled first to Porou-ta-whao, the residence of Te Rangihaeata, then over to the East Coast, and on to Rotorua where they spent several days with Thomas Chapman the CMS missionary. They received two warnings against going to Taupo the second came at Motutere. Here also Te Manihera had a growing sense that he would not survive his mission. He preached an impassioned sermon at Waiariki, and in the morning said he felt that his time was at hand, and that before the sun set he should be the inhabitant of another world.

A group of young men from Waiariki went with them. Ngati Tuwharetoa hearing they were coming sent out a small war party. They waited in ambush, and as soon as the two came within range Kereopa was shot and fell dead, and Te Manihera was attacked with a Maori Tomahawk he was blinded and did not die until sunset, praying for his enemies and assuring his companions that all was light within. Then the dying man with permission of his enemies chanted his waiata poroporoaki, his farewell and his dirge. He died, having given his New Testament and his missionary journal to one of the young men who accompanied him.

Their bodies were carried to Waiariki and buried with great solemnity near the pa. Richard Taylor and Wiremu Te Tauri (Saint, 17 May), spoke strongly for the Spirit of Christ to prevail and no utu was sought. Te Manihera and Kereopa had paid the Utu, the price of Peace, and eventually another young chief from Waokena, Piripi, went with Richard Taylor to Tokaanu as a teacher. When they arrived, a service involving people from Tokaanu was held at Te Manihera’s and Kereopa’s graves at Waiariki. Later their former enemies created a mission base where many became Christians. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of many finding Christ.

BORN: Te Manihera and Kereopa Kereopa (Cleophas), Early 19th Century, South Taranaki, New Zealand.

DIED:1847, near Tokaanu, Lake Taupo, New Zealand.