Mission enhanced love, gratitude for te reo

COLUMN

“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to labour in the Argentina Buenos Aires East mission and will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language.”

Many thought that because I already spoke two languages, it would be a piece of cake. While that did help with pronunciation and reading the language, it was so hard! I literally cried myself to sleep many nights out of frustration.

I was there to teach people, but couldn’t even speak to or understand them. How was I meant to teach them?

I spent six weeks in the missionary training centre learning the language and how to be a missionary. My third day there I was asked to say a prayer in Spanish in front of a congregation of about 200 people.

A feeling of anxiety engulfed me. I walked slowly to the pulpit, nervously closed my eyes and began to pray, “Padre Celestial” (Heavenly Father) . . . a 10 second silence occurred before I began to cry, then continued to pray in the language I was most comfortable with, te reo Māori.

When I said “Amine”, I looked up at the crowd and everyone was just staring at me in silence. The training centre president came and thanked me.

Afterwards everyone said that although they couldn’t understand what I was saying, they felt the spirit that was emitted.
The experience strengthened me and I realised that there is one universal language we all understand, the language of the spirit which is the language of love.

This helped me to grasp the Spanish language as I focused on loving the people. It was still hard, but I was more confident to get out there and not be afraid to make mistakes as I relied on the Lord and prayed constantly.

By five to six months I was very competent teaching and communicating in Spanish, and continued to study and improve daily as I spoke to everyone on the streets and in their homes. I really wanted to immerse myself in the language and culture to be able to connect with the people.

Finally, eight months into my mission, I was asked to do a karakia in Māori. I accepted gladly, only to pause a couple of sentences in because all I had were Spanish words in my head.

The confidence that no one understood what I was saying got me through. But that night when I knelt down to say my prayers, I cried again! Only this time because I felt as though I was losing my ability to speak Māori.

“I will never lose it,” I said, “I was brought up speaking Māori my whole life! I will not lose my reo,” I exclaimed in my heart.

There were other missionaries to speak English with, so that wasn’t a problem.
From this experience I came to really appreciate te reo Māori and realised I had taken it for granted. It allowed me to reflect on and appreciate the struggles our tīpuna endured to keep our language alive.
What allowed me to appreciate the connection between speaking the Spanish language and te reo Māori was the spirit.

The common principles of aroha, manaakitanga, kia ngākau māhaki (meekness) and ngākau iti (humility) that our ancestors taught through the language as part of Māori customs. These are principles that we strive to live by each day as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I believe that maintaining those principles our ancestors taught is equally as important as revitalising te reo — allowing te reo Māori not to simply change our behaviour, but change our nature. I believe being true to the customs of our ancestors, such as karakia and waiata, are key to keeping our language alive and thriving. No matter what the kaupapa was, our tīpuna always prayed. As we do so humbly, we draw down the powers of heaven to help us in our pursuits.

I also have a huge admiration for missionaries who served here in New Zealand during the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as Matthew Cowley who served for five years among our people, learning te reo Māori and immersing himself in our culture. A monument was erected in the Matiu Kauri Grove, Tauranga in his recognition.

Through continued service as a member of the church I hope to make available all church resources in te reo Māori.

Before I left on my mission I translated my own mission call in te reo Māori, and said that would be my next mission. So that is what I’m going to do.

To all who may be sitting on the fence about learning te reo, or who have the desire, I encourage you to do so! I understand learning another language may not be easy but I can promise you it is worth it!

“. . . kia puritia e tātou te reo o o tātou Mātua mō ā tātou tamariki”. (Ko te pukapuka a Moromona – 1 Niwhai 3:19)
“. . . that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers.” (1 Nephi 3:19 - The Book of Mormon).

  • Cherie Mangu lives in Ruatoria and is of Ngati Porou, Ngati Whatua and Ngati Hine me Te atihaunui a Paparangi

“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to labour in the Argentina Buenos Aires East mission and will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language.”

Many thought that because I already spoke two languages, it would be a piece of cake. While that did help with pronunciation and reading the language, it was so hard! I literally cried myself to sleep many nights out of frustration.

I was there to teach people, but couldn’t even speak to or understand them. How was I meant to teach them?

I spent six weeks in the missionary training centre learning the language and how to be a missionary. My third day there I was asked to say a prayer in Spanish in front of a congregation of about 200 people.

A feeling of anxiety engulfed me. I walked slowly to the pulpit, nervously closed my eyes and began to pray, “Padre Celestial” (Heavenly Father) . . . a 10 second silence occurred before I began to cry, then continued to pray in the language I was most comfortable with, te reo Māori.

When I said “Amine”, I looked up at the crowd and everyone was just staring at me in silence. The training centre president came and thanked me.

Afterwards everyone said that although they couldn’t understand what I was saying, they felt the spirit that was emitted.
The experience strengthened me and I realised that there is one universal language we all understand, the language of the spirit which is the language of love.

This helped me to grasp the Spanish language as I focused on loving the people. It was still hard, but I was more confident to get out there and not be afraid to make mistakes as I relied on the Lord and prayed constantly.

By five to six months I was very competent teaching and communicating in Spanish, and continued to study and improve daily as I spoke to everyone on the streets and in their homes. I really wanted to immerse myself in the language and culture to be able to connect with the people.

Finally, eight months into my mission, I was asked to do a karakia in Māori. I accepted gladly, only to pause a couple of sentences in because all I had were Spanish words in my head.

The confidence that no one understood what I was saying got me through. But that night when I knelt down to say my prayers, I cried again! Only this time because I felt as though I was losing my ability to speak Māori.

“I will never lose it,” I said, “I was brought up speaking Māori my whole life! I will not lose my reo,” I exclaimed in my heart.

There were other missionaries to speak English with, so that wasn’t a problem.
From this experience I came to really appreciate te reo Māori and realised I had taken it for granted. It allowed me to reflect on and appreciate the struggles our tīpuna endured to keep our language alive.
What allowed me to appreciate the connection between speaking the Spanish language and te reo Māori was the spirit.

The common principles of aroha, manaakitanga, kia ngākau māhaki (meekness) and ngākau iti (humility) that our ancestors taught through the language as part of Māori customs. These are principles that we strive to live by each day as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I believe that maintaining those principles our ancestors taught is equally as important as revitalising te reo — allowing te reo Māori not to simply change our behaviour, but change our nature. I believe being true to the customs of our ancestors, such as karakia and waiata, are key to keeping our language alive and thriving. No matter what the kaupapa was, our tīpuna always prayed. As we do so humbly, we draw down the powers of heaven to help us in our pursuits.

I also have a huge admiration for missionaries who served here in New Zealand during the late 1800s and early 1900s, such as Matthew Cowley who served for five years among our people, learning te reo Māori and immersing himself in our culture. A monument was erected in the Matiu Kauri Grove, Tauranga in his recognition.

Through continued service as a member of the church I hope to make available all church resources in te reo Māori.

Before I left on my mission I translated my own mission call in te reo Māori, and said that would be my next mission. So that is what I’m going to do.

To all who may be sitting on the fence about learning te reo, or who have the desire, I encourage you to do so! I understand learning another language may not be easy but I can promise you it is worth it!

“. . . kia puritia e tātou te reo o o tātou Mātua mō ā tātou tamariki”. (Ko te pukapuka a Moromona – 1 Niwhai 3:19)
“. . . that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers.” (1 Nephi 3:19 - The Book of Mormon).

  • Cherie Mangu lives in Ruatoria and is of Ngati Porou, Ngati Whatua and Ngati Hine me Te atihaunui a Paparangi

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