>> Friday, February 6
I'm a day late for Friday Fiction, but I'm here!
For the Faithwriters topic "Australia/New Zealand, I set out to write about the first person evangelized to by the first missionaries to New Zealand. After extensive reading of online journals and official reports from the time period, this is what my original idea morphed into. I hope you enjoy it.
Her First Letter Home
Rangi Hoo, New Zealand
Dearest Mother and Father,
My apologies for not having written sooner. The "Active" returned to dock only yesterday, bringing livestock, timber, cloth, and miscellany sundry goods including...finally! Paper and ink! I am now able to impart we arrived in New Zealand safely and in relatively good health this July past. Rev. Butler took ill for a time on the passage, which put our hearts at ill ease to be sure, (after all, who would lead us, and what would we do without his guidance after we’d arrived?), but by God’s Good Grace he has rallied and is in as near robust health (if not weight) as when we set sail.
It is also surely God’s grace that has allowed the Mission Society to acquire such marvelous land from the natives, not to mention for a very good sum. I must admit to being skeptical when I first viewed from sea where we were to land. A paltry rock and dirt beach, backed by a forest so thick with blossoming underbrush and trees bearing new leaf I could see neither passage nor promise of one.
After debarking, however, we were led along a path, which before had been hidden to me, into a bright clearing and the mission settlement. Tho t’was only a short distance through the thicket, I was made to help carry baggage, which wearied me considerably.
You will be comforted to know that the natives (who are called the Mowri) seem quite peaceable. I know one of your concerns over my making this trip was danger from the native peoples, but your mind may now rest over that matter. With one exception, the Mowri people have proven agreeable and, more often than not, quite helpful to us.
In appearance, they are not at all like I had expected (although what that might be I’m not quite sure.) They are a tall people: long, lean, and perfectly proportioned. They carry an aspect of peace, or joy. On the whole, they are not easily impelled to anger, nor do they act in a forward manner. Much to my consternation, they are also quite immodest, and walk about in a state of near undress.
We have employed many locals to help with the work of the mission. I’ve befriended the native girl who helps me in the main house. (I’ve had to instruct Kura to dress properly when working in the house, as it is her misguided nature to go about uncovered.) In addition to household duties, Kura is teaching me the native tongue and the local culture. If I am to make a difference in this God-forsaken world, I must be able to communicate with the peoples.
For compensation in axes, hoes, and fishhooks, natives help till and plant our garden and construct the buildings necessary for the mission – a church (of course), school (to which I’m told the chief has already agreed to send his children), and other various lodgings and establishments.
I have previously alluded to an incident (isolated and not cusomary I assure you!) that I feel I need share with you so as not to withhold truth and in so doing commit a sin of omission.
One afternoon whilst Rev. Butler was away preaching at a sister mission, a Mowrie chief made a scene outside the house by climbing and standing atop the fence demanding axes and hoes. He was quite adamant, and for the sake of pure honesty I must tell you, also quite naked. (I promise I only caught a glimpse and from that moment on I busied my eyes elsewhere.) He ranted on for quite some time, refusing to listen to reason.
That this chief was an exception among the natives was impressed upon me by the chagrin of the other Mowrie present to witness his antics. He was in time convinced that because the Reverend was not in residence we were unable to help him, and he departed peaceably.
The natives come to us only for what goods they can acquire. They listen politely when we endeavour to teach them of the Gospel of our Lord, but God has yet to open their ears to hear the voice of His Holy Spirit. We covet your prayers that our labours may bear fruit for His Glory in the fullness of His time.
The hour grows late, and I must conserve the oil.
I miss you all terribly.
With Enduring Love,
* * * * *
This letter is a work of fiction. The letter writer’s experiences and the places she describes are real; however "Angelica" herself does not exist in New Zealand’s history.
“Reverend Butler” refers to Reverend John Gare Butler, the first ordained clergyman to reside in New Zealand.
New Zealand Electronic Text Center: http://www.nzetc.org/
New Zealand History Online: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/