As there is always two sides to a coin, two sides to a story and both negative and positive terminals are needed to produce a spark off a battery. Yet the Word of God in Thessalonians still boils it all down to these powerful and profound words, “In everything give thanks…”.
Despite both the negative and positive comments published in both newspapers, the Cook Islands people still enjoyed and attended the many functions organised throughout the July-August festive season. Many thanks to both Bluesky and CITV for providing a service to our home viewers both on Rarotonga and the outer islands and even further abroad to wherever our Cook Islands people live – as well as our many tourist friends who hold fond memories of the Cook Islands.
I wrote this Church Talk article on the island of Atiu, where I heard many positive comments from the many local people I met. Many caught up with the Te Maeva Nui performances in the comfort of their own homes, whether it was on TV or Facebook, thanks to Bluesky, CITV and modern technology.
Meitaki ranuinui to Nick Henry (chairman of our anniversary celebration committee) and all members of his team who organized the many guest artists and key personnel involved in each event.
Special thanks to Ministry of Culture secretary Sonny Williams and his dedicated and hardworking team of security personnel, judges, cleaners, ushers and usherettes and the people who looked after sound, lighting, camera and video coverage. All staff were in clearly identified uniforms and were on duty throughout the entire Te Maeva Maire Nui celebration.
Thanks also to the Te Aponga Uira staff who hung up strings of brightly lit up colored lights through downtown Avarua and Puaikura we were given awesome and breathtaking sights. Our ‘Action Man’, Tupapa MP George Maggie also added to the neon light spectacle – it was almost like driving up through Beverly Hills in Los Angeles at Christmas or on New Year’s Eve.
And why not? For once in 50 years of self-government, ‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’.
Aue te Humaria e te Sumaringa (awesome and beautiful sight) watching our Northern Group tere parties arrive at Avatiu harbour and straight into the welcoming, loving and embracing arms of the ‘Patai Custom’ by the village people of Avatiu and Ruatonga’, before being led to a brief prayer service and kaikai at the Avatiu meeting house.
This was a rich re-enactment of an old custom and tradition of welcoming special guests ashore by the guardian people of the harbour. In the same spirit, and only few weeks earlier, we witnessed another big part of the celebration heralding the arrival of the first vaka flotilla at Avatiu. Again there was a formal welcome amidst showers of blessings from above and the thunderous turou, pe’e, songs and dances of hundreds of school and college pupils and people from all over Rarotonga. They joyously gathered at Avana Passage to welcome the vaka based on the ancient voyaging canoes of Polynesia and Melanesia (from Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Ao Te Aroa and our very own Te Marumaru Atua) finally arrive to join with our Cook Islands 50th anniversary celebration.
“In everything give thanks…”, Our 17 or 18 international flights suddenly increased to 25 and landed several hundred visiting dignitaries, VIPs, members of the diplomatic corps, tourists, locals and especially invited guests.
As I addressed at the opening prayer service on Constitution Day, August 4, I thought, never in my life, and in the history of the Cook Islands have we ever seen such diverse representation of leadership at one time and at one grand occasion.
The next minute, at a special luncheon hosted by the Government of the Cook Islands at Tamarind House in Pue, I found myself rubbing shoulders with heads of state, presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors, high commissioners, consulate staff and government representatives from all over Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and the South Pacific. I remarked at the closing ceremony prizegiving that the presence and attendance of all these overseas leaders was to me the icing on the cake at this anniversary celebration – we, the people of the Cook Islands being the main cake, proudly claimed ownership of it, but our Almighty God Jesus Christ (the Light of the World) was the candle on the cake who blessed us with the best wather we could have expected right throughout the entire two weeks of cultural activities and celebration.
The aroa demonstrated in all our kia orana greetings, songs, dances, drum symphonies and kia manuia farewell expressions of peace and goodwill must have left a lasting impression in the minds of all our guests and visitors. The same goes for our gift presentations by all our outer islands teams to all of the leaders present.
Lastly, but not least of course, was our very own Prime Minister, Henry Puna upon whose shoulders the whole nation rests. He withstood the many tests and challenges of the time and closely watched every aspect of delegated duties, responsibilities and obligations, even down to last minute changes.
Together with his trusted cabinet ministers, caucus and heads of ministries he stood at the helm of our symbolic Vaka ‘Te Marumaru Atua’ (The Shade/Shelter/Shadow/Protective Covering of God), took the brunt of many contrary storms of criticism, but still steadily steered our nation and people of the Cook Islands, facing up to the world with united solidarity, credibility and integrity. Puna then flew on to Aotearoa and continued that same celebration mode with the 62,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand. And who knows, the 20-30,000 Cook Islanders living across the Tasman in Australia might call on him to also fly across for their turn at celebrating.
All in all, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us”, te iti tangata Kuki Airani; our time, our celebration and our blessing.
All glory, praise and honor be unto our Great God and Savioir Jesus Christ. Oh! What a celebration, what a time like no other, as King David in Psalm 133 declares: “Oh how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity…and there the Lord commands His blessings”.
Meitaki maata and thank you very much to each and every unsung hero and heroine of the Cook Islands who played an equally important part in the celebrations, whther seen or unseen, known or known, acknowledged or not. Nothing goes amiss in the eyes of the Beholder, and most certainly in due time He will reward you a hundred and thousandfold.
God save, bless and preserve our beautiful Cook Islands, our lovely paradise, forever.
Kia Orana e Kia Manuia rava!
Bishop Tutai Pere