A long walk in one direction

A long walk in one direction

Over a ten-week period in early 2017, Phil Pawley walked from Waitangi to Waikanae. As Senior Pastor of Morrinsville Baptist Church, Phil had fifty-five days of study leave owing to him. He wanted to do something that would be good for his spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being, and that also would benefit his church in some way. A hikoi seemed to him like the ideal solution to achieve these outcomes.

He first had the idea of a hikoi in 2016, but in some sense the motivation for it began much earlier. After returning to Aotearoa from England in 2009, he had become troubled by what he was beginning to learn about the early government’s treatment of both Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. Wanting to learn more about Māori language, culture, and history, Phil began te reo Māori lessons in 2013, and in 2015 undertook a Level 3 Tikanga Māori course with the Open Wananga.

Despite these classes, Phil still felt there was more to learn and appreciate. That was when he wondered if a hikoi might be part of the answer. He began to consider following the remarkable journey that a young girl’s copy of Te Rongopai a Ruka (Gospel of Luke) took in the early nineteenth century.

Tārore’s gospel booklet travelled from Paihia where it was printed, to the Waikato where she was murdered, then to Rotorua where it led to the conversion of her killers and to intertribal forgiveness and reconciliation. The booklet later was sent south to Waikanae where it was used to teach Tāmihana Te Rauparaha and Mātene Te Whiwhi to read and write. These two men took the booklet to the South Island, where they shared the gospel with their former enemies, Ngāi Tahu.1

Phil decided to retrace part of the journey of that gospel booklet, from Waitangi to Waikanae, praying for the land as he went. Coincidentally, in 2016 Phil discovered that a couple in Bethlehem, Tauranga were in talks with the Bible Society about creating a bilingual copy of both Tārore’s story and the Gospel of Luke. The booklets were eventually produced, and the couple gave Phil as many copies as he could pass out along his way.

“I set off not knowing quite what I would encounter along the way, or what God wanted to bring about through my journey. As a minimum, I would be a postman for the latest version of Tārore’s story and the Gospel of Luke,” says Phil.

However, the hikoi proved to be much more than a Scripture distribution project. Through many seemingly God-orchestrated conversations and experiences along the way, Phil was reminded of the importance of mission, of community and unity within the church, and of welcoming, inclusive love for those on the margins of faith and society. On a personal level, Phil says his hikoi also taught him that his faith is a long walk in one direction.


Story: Phil Pawley

Photo: Katrina Tania/Stuff



  1. To find out more about Tārore’s story go to nzcms.org.nz/200-years/2014-pilgrimage/2014-tarore/
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