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Kia Kaha Christchurch!!! – A Reflection

By March 29, 2019Culture5 min read

O Lord, God,
Of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow
Defend Aotearoa

Kia Kaha Christchurch!!! A phrase that has been heard many times in the difficult days following the tragedy in Christchurch last week. Kia Kaha is a Māori phrase used by the people of New Zealand as an encouragement to stay strong, its literal meaning, “forever strong,” popularized by the 28th Māori battalion during World War II.

The events that we witnessed unfold in Christchurch on Friday so far resulting in the loss of 50 lives, all who are precious to God, irrespective of race, gender, age, religion and ethnicity, is an act of true and unmitigated evil.

It in no way represents the heart of God.

As someone born and raised in England, who has lived in New Zealand now for 10 years and naturalized as a New Zealander, or Kiwi, as we are called, it has been difficult to see our nation grasp the magnitude of what has happened. It is not uncommon for Kiwi’s to wear black, but today many are wearing black for a very different reason. Our hearts go out to all those touched by this terrible tragedy.

“This is not us “- This has been the cry of the soul of the nation: “This is not us.” “We are not like this.” “This is not our heart.” “This is not our land.”

Something that we have tragically seen over the world has come here to dear, “Old God’s Own,” not only a terrible and unnecessary loss of life, but also a loss of innocence; truly, it is unlikely that New Zealand will ever be the same again.

The response and emotion are hard to express and quantify, especially for a people who are not quick to share the inner workings of their heart.

Yet, our people’s heart is being expressed through the frequent and wonderful, passionate expressions of the Haka giving respect and honor, the Sydney Opera house gloriously lit with the solitary emblem of the New Zealand Silver fern. The tears of a trauma surgeon on national news as he tells of repairing the heart of a young girl struck by an evil bullet, and that being the most important thing he has ever done in his career. All these expressions of the heart have moved many the world over and within this Aotearoa- this land of the long white cloud.

For me, the seminal moment was in a small church service in Mount Maunganui, in the Bay of Plenty on Sunday. The message preached a refrain:

There is darkness, but God is Light.
There is hatred, but God is Love.
There is death, but God is Life.

After the message, we prayed, and I had never heard so many native to this land cry out to God with tears and such tangibly broken hearts. “This is not us,” was part of the cry, but it was so much more.

It wasn’t a discussion on religion or gun control, immigration or ethnicity, though these are things that should be talked about.

It was so much more. It was the recognition of something, in essence very simple, but at the same time inordinately profound.

The refrain of a single scripture was heard and repeated.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).

God moved upon all our hearts, and there was one more song of prayer and worship to be sung that day.

The words of that prayer and song are below; it is sung by all New Zealanders, and often we sing just two of its verses. The first in Māori and then in English; it is the translation of the Māori verse that heads this little reflection.

I have written below a few more of the verses, “Let our love of thee increase,” “Make us faithful unto thee” are words that ring out:

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love, we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonor and from shame,
Guard our country’s spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom’s ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations’ van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

I personally can’t solve any of these problems. I can’t give definitive answers to the gun debate. I am not a man who has the influence to discuss immigration, ethnicity, all these issues that truly need to be discussed.

Yet, I can do something. I can humble myself and pray and turn from my wicked ways.

Isn’t that how revival begins and a land becomes whole?

Credit to WOWstockfootage

Mark Walsh is the lead pastor at Calvary Chapel Bible Institute in New Zealand. He is married to Gwyneth, and they have two children, Jordan and Rebekah.