John (Hoani) Komene
1992-2005, Kai Whakahaere, Kaumatua, and Tumuaki (Henderson Campus)
This month marks the date Te Rūnanga o te Paipera Aotearoa (the College’s Māori Council) was established (12 July 1991).(1) One of the key outcomes of this new partnership was the formation of a Māori Department within the College and the appointment of evangelist John (Hoani) Komene as Kai Whakahaere, Kaumatua, and Tumuaki (Coordinator, Elder and Teacher). A member of the Ngāti Tautahi hapū of the Ngāpuhi tribe, John was the son of a Rangatira and apostle of the Ratana Church. John’s conversion at age 15 at a United Māori Mission church service greatly angered his father, but John held on to his new-found faith and 20 years later he had the joy of leading his dad to the Lord.
In his 20s John left work in the timber mills and joined the army, working his way up to the rank of Company Sergeant Major. In 1963 John, and his wife Tapita, responded to the call of God to full-time evangelistic ministry. For 30 years John worked in evangelism, church-planting, youth, and camp ministries – firstly among Brethren assemblies, and then conducting large scale evangelistic missions in 40 different countries. He was often booked up two to three years in advance and travelled up to 10 months of the year. At one point he was invited to give his testimony to the Hollywood Businessman’s dinner in front of a celebrity-packed audience. His rendition of a hymn brought applause, including from one Elvis Presley (who said it was great to hear a Kiwi sing). Ill-health finally forced John to give up overseas preaching engagements, but he continued to take every opportunity he could to preach the gospel on marae and in churches in Aotearoa.
His shift to teaching part-time at the Bible College of New Zealand at age 56 in 1992 was his response to the need he saw for more Māori cultural awareness and sensitivity. In an interview in 1992 he noted, “We need more Māori awareness in schools, churches, communities, especially now when we are addressing these bi-cultural issues. People need to have an understanding of each other’s cultural values and to be able to communicate, live, work, witness, and worship together”. (2)
An introduction to te ao Māori and a marae visit became part of the programme for all first-year students. As well as teaching Māori studies, and Christian Belief, John also took fieldwork students into prisons - a ministry he was involved in as National General Director of Te Awhina Ministries. This organisation cared for the needy in the community, in prisons, and in hospitals. In 2000 he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for community service. In 2005 John retired from teaching at BCNZ but continued in his kaumatua role.
A Justice of the Peace, highly respected kaumatua for a number of organisations, including the NZ Police, leader of church services at Waitangi, evangelist, John went to be with the Lord he had served so faithfully on 25 September 2015.
(1) For a fuller account of the beginnings of Te Rūnanga see https://www.laidlaw100.ac.nz/ter%C5%ABnangaotepaiperaaotearoa
(2) “John Komene, Evangelist, Elder, Teacher” article by Rhonda Ballentyne in Reaper, Vol 74, No. 5, Oct-Nov 1992.