Project Canterbury


By James W. Stack

Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, N.Z.
Melbourne and London: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1909.

Chapter X. Koro's Last Communion

Before my departure for England in August, 1883, I had a very touching interview with Koro. He had expressed a wish to receive the Holy Communion from me, and I made arrangements for a private celebration on the morning of the day I went to St. Stephen's, to say good-bye to my Maori friends. Everything was in readiness for the service when I got to the house, where a few intimate friends had assembled at his request, to communicate with him.

His little "parlour-room" was covered with new flax mats--and on a mattress placed in one corner Koro sat, wrapped up in clean blankets, looking so pallid that he might have been mistaken for a half-caste.

He was much affected during the service, and so were all present, for all alike realised that this would be our last communion together on earth.

We conversed together for some time after the service was over, and when I rose to go, and put out my hand to take his, he said:

[89] "I know that some of our friends are going to give you a small purse to help you and 'Mother' to pay the cost of your voyage to England. Here is my 'mite' towards it," putting a pound note into my hand.

"My dear friend," I said, "you are too poor to give me so much. It is enough that you have put it into my hand. It is mine now, and I know your necessities. Let me return this money to you to meet your own wants."

"No, no!" he said. "Do not treat me so unkindly. Oh, what can I do, what can I give you more, to show my love for you! Oh that I had a gift worthy of our long friendship." Sobbing with suppressed emotion, he put his hand into his bosom and drew out a brown-paper packet. "Take that," he said; "it is all I have to give you, O my father! my teacher! my protector! Value it and keep it for my sake."

I took the packet and gave my dear friend a farewell grasp of the hand.

On reaching home I was curious to know what the packet contained.

It was just a collection of child's "treasures." There were a few worthless bits of greenstone, a shark's-tooth earring, an old albert watchguard, and sundry trinkets of no intrinsic value. But I would not exchange them for their weight in gold.

They were the valued possessions of a simple-hearted soul, and doubtless associated [89/90] with memories of his past life that were very dear to him, and in the fulness of his heart he entrusted me with the secret of his precious things. They were a child's treasure, and given with the simplicity and trustfulness of a child's affection.

Shortly after I left the country Koro was seized with an apoplectic fit and died suddenly, and so my dear old friend passed away to join the Saviour he loved so sincerely and served so faithfully.

I never met a more striking example of the transforming power of divine grace than in Koro, who was to me an ever-present miracle.

Once a cruel cannibal, he was changed into a kind-hearted servant of Jesus Christ, who, wherever he went, tried to do good to his fellow men.

Once an ignorant heathen, he was changed into a righteous and holy man, a diligent student of the Scriptures, full of faith and of the Holy Spirit--"a living epistle, known and read of all men."

I have reason to thank God for his example of devotion to the service of our common Lord in which I had often, with shame, to confess that he far outstripped me. And it is my earnest hope that we who shared the imperfect service on earth may hereafter share together in His perfect service in heaven.

After my return from England I learnt the [90/91] particulars relating to Koro's death from the Port Levy natives.

Simon, the catechist there, was one of the fruits of his ministry, and one of the oldest and most devoted of his friends; and he arranged that Maori customs should be observed when I was welcomed back, in order that the dead might be publicly honoured on that occasion.

So, when I landed, I was met by several women waving shawls and uttering cries of welcome, who preceded me to the chief's house, where all the people were assembled. As I entered the door they all began the usual loud wailing for the dead, while I went to the end of the room and sat down, with bowed head, on the chair placed for my use.

When the wailing, which lasted about ten minutes, subsided into a moaning sound, some one began chanting in a low monotone a lament for those who had died during my absence:

"My tears flow now your return reminds me of those gone, who will never return.

"The loosened post, which upheld the house, is withdrawn, and, without support, the house totters to its fall. My bark has broken from its moorings and drifted off out of sight, borne by the current, a current it will never stem.

"Borne for ever from me. You went to Europe, and drew my bark after you.

[92] "Oh, where is the pride of my heart gone!"

In this poetic strain the improvised lament was carried on for more than half an hour by several persons in succession, each one carrying it on in the same strain.

When the chanting and moaning ceased, the oldest chief present stood up, and, facing me, said:

"Welcome, spirits of the dead, who have returned with our living friend to-day.

"Your presence recalls those who are gone. In you, we see them. Your eyes, into which they looked, reflect them. In you, we see them once again. Welcome to the place familiar to you, and to those who are gone--those who were always ready to welcome you in the past, when you came here.

"Welcome Ihaia and Hera; welcome Pita and Apera; welcome Wiremu and Koro. Welcome to the spot your eyes have looked upon together, your feet have trodden upon together, and where your voices have mingled together. Welcome, welcome, welcome once more to Port Levy."

After several speeches of the same sort had been made and I had replied, every one came forward and shook hands with me, repeating the words:

Greeting to you present,
And to Koro absent.

When the company had dispersed, and I was alone with Simon, he took the opportunity [92/93] of telling me all I wanted to know about our dear friend's last illness and death, and so brought to a close the chapter of our Mission history which relates to the work of one of its best agents.

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