New TV series illustrates how gospel came to Māori people of New Zealand

An actor playing Reverend Samuel Marsden.

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About 50 Seventh-day Adventist volunteers have helped to create Te Harinui, a television special that tells the story of how the gospel of Jesus Christ was delivered to the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

With filming commencing in early 2020, the program was developed in response to a live Christmas performance at Ilam Seventh-day Adventist Church in Christchurch at the end of 2019, which told the story of the birth of Christianity in New Zealand.

“We’ve done everything!” explained producer and Ilam church member Gina Taggart. “There was some real talent in the team, great singers and songwriters, people making props and costumes, musicians, technical people, actors. Adventists from several churches throughout Christchurch were really dedicated to the project.”

Te Harinui tells the story of a friendship between a Northland chief named Ruatara and the Reverend Samuel Marsden from Port Jackson, Australia. Their chance meeting onboard a sailing ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean led to the development of a strong bond between the two men. Ruatara was extremely ill and Marsden and his family were able to nurse him back to health.

On arrival in Port Jackson, Marsden invited Ruatara to stay on his farm. The young chief quickly developed a fascination for the agricultural practices he saw while working there, and greatly desired to establish the wheat industry in his homeland.

Ruatara also attended Marsden’s church services and quickly saw the benefit of a religion that taught forgiveness and peace rather than the custom of utu that prevailed in his homeland. Utu demanded payback or the obtaining of satisfaction for a wrong, which often resulted in warfare.

The friendship between Ruatara and Marsden was crucial in opening the door for the gospel to be shared with the Māori people, and resulted in Ruatara inviting Marsden to bring missionaries to New Zealand. Marsden duly responded and arrived on the shores of New Zealand on December 23, 1814. He preached on Christmas Day of that year, expounding on Luke 2:10 which declares the birth of Christ to be the tidings of great joy, or Te Harinui.

Te Harinui covers the outcome of that day, which over the next couple of decades resulted in a paradigm shift for the Māori people. By the 1840s virtually all Māori were aligned with Christianity and before long many of them became missionaries in their own right—Māori teaching Māori about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Māori woman sharing the gospel with her community.

Te Harinui is narrated by a kuia (Māori grandmother) and a young mihinare (missionary) woman, who explain the story. Re-enactments and songs interspersed between their dialogue help to illustrate the story.

“Our church team has had a great time working together to produce this program. It’s amazing how doing something like this pulls people together. It’s an in-reach project as much as an outreach one! Everyone has been so enthusiastic and helpful. It’s been such a blessing to everyone involved,” said Mrs Taggart.

Te Harinui was filmed and edited by Revelation 18 Media and will be screened in the week leading up to Christmas.

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