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Letter: Living under God’s blessing

Tuesday 13 June 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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Letter: Living under God’s blessing

Dear Editor, I am enjoying reading the series written by Howard Henry on the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands 200 years. The one on Atiu on Saturday, June 10 2023 was an amazing read.

I know that Howard is a real investigative researcher, writing over the years on many interesting Cook Islands topics. And his detailed research is highly commendable and informative on the interesting and unique topic of the arrival of the Christian message to our Nation in the 1820s.

So no insult intended, but one issue I have with Howard’s series, is a recurring over-emphasis by the writer, whether deliberate or accidental, that our leaders and people turned to faith and belief in the new God, and the Jesus Christ of the Bible, because of all the material benefits that the European Missionaries arrived with. I believe much more was going on than on the physical, natural level. And that is the active, supernatural power of God in action through His Holy Spirit, working on the heart, mind and soul of a person, at the very time they are offered an opportunity to accept faith in Jesus Christ or not.

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With Atiu, Howard Henry correctly records that “as a result of the church service, Rongomatane Ariki made up his mind that he wanted to change his ‘Religious Allegiance’ to that of the Christian faith”. So it was during that morning church service aboard the Missionary Vessel on 19 July 1823, that his mind was changed, all because he heard the Word for the first time, and had a new revelation of and met the one true God, of love, blessing and salvation. It is the very same thing that happened to me in Ngatangiia in May 1997, when I was just a 33-year-old, single, Rarotongan lawyer. My supernaturally blessed life in God began right then. And any born again believer, like me, will tell you that after conversion, all material, earthly benefits thereafter, are so far below that new spiritual revelation and possession of being in Christ, that they actually pale in comparison. Material blessings to a believer come later from being now connected in a real, living relationship to the creator and source of all things, a loving Father in Heaven, active in the life of the born again believer.

So I believe what is more accurate is that what Rongomatane Ariki, and all our Ariki of the Cook Islands chose in the 1820’s, is the same as what any person can choose, even in 2023, to give up our old ways and take on a new, better life with Jesus Christ. My ancestor was Tinomana Enua-rurutini Ariki, the paramount chief of Puaikura, on the western side of Rarotonga, who in 1823 was, I believe, the first Chief on Rarotonga to accept the Christian message from the Missionaries. But his conversion from heathen, warrior tribal leader to a solid, life-long, powerful believer in Jesus Christ in 1823, like mine in 1997, was first and foremost a spiritual, internal, heart and soul decision. No one offered me any European material benefits, which I already had. Something else was missing and that is a hole in a person’s heart and soul that cannot be filled with possessions. This hole in a human life can only be filled by making a decision to begin a new life in Christ.

But even with that significant omission, Howard is writing a great series of the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands. I am looking forward to reading them all. Each of our islands have an interesting story to share, often portrayed in Nuku plays of the Cook Islands Christian church, to whom we have a lot to be grateful for. However, whether we are still truly a Christian nation or not, what is more crucial I believe is whether a person living here, is a true, spirit-filled, born again believer in Christ or not. Because then, they and their families and villages will be truly blessed by God, in both the physical and the spiritual realms. I believe that is why the Cook Islands have been, and remain, a truly blessed nation. And that is what God had in mind and what Rongomatane Ariki, and all our other Ariki, chose two hundred years ago in 1823 – to be a people living under the blessing of our God forever.

Kia manuia,

Paul Lynch (Napa)