(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
While serving in Gisborne, I lived in the home of a fine Maori man named Henere Hamon, or "Pop," as he was better known to everyone. He was nearly seventy years old and lived alone; his wife had passed away and his children were all married, with the exception of one boy who was serving in the war.
For years, missionaries lived in Pop's home. One room in the front of the house, which housed only a double bed and a large chair, belonged to the missionaries. There was also a large table and two benches in the kitchen. Other than that, the house was virtually empty, except for Pop's small bedroom, and bed which was almost on the floor. As far as I know, he had only one pair of pants, one pair of boots, a couple of shirts, one old coat, and a funny old hat that he wore everywhere.
Pop was the district president. He rode his bicycle all over the east coast visiting the saints and carrying out his Church responsibilities. If he had to travel more than thirty miles, he was generally able to arrange for a member to take him in the car.
Pop was a man of great faith and appreciated his priesthood. Once I asked him if he wouldn't like to be a high priest someday. And he replied, "Oh no, I'm not good enough to even be an elder, let alone a high priest." To me, Pop was one of the greatest and most humble priesthood holders I ever knew.
On one occasion, Pop had a tremendous experience with an evil spirit. He cast it out of a sister of the Church, only to have it come back and ridicule him. After much prayer and fasting, he again cast it out with authority and commanded it never to return; and it never did.
Pop's father, Arepata Taniwha, led the Maoris during a time of many Maori wars. Once, a group of Maori warriors came from far away to capture and kill Taniwha as revenge for the death of one of their chiefs in a war. When Taniwha heard they were coming, he ran for home in Gisborne. One of the enemy warriors, a huge man over 7' tall, tried to catch him. Old Taniwha himself was 6'4", and they had a great foot race. The enemy finally caught him, and they battled with each other for almost an hour—Taniwha with a sharp spear and the other warrior with an ax—and Taniwha killed the man. He cut his head off, put it on a pole, and left it for his companions to find when they caught up.
He then cut the man's leg off and carried it back home to share with his many friends. (In those days, some of the Maoris were still cannibalistic.) He offered some of it to his eight-year-old son Henere, who refused to eat it. Pop said that it was about the only time he ever offended his dad.
Taniwha changed his cannibalistic life and joined the Church. He and his wife became stalwarts in the Church. And Pop was raised under their spiritual direction.
Pop had seven children, including Hixon, whom I knew well on my mission. Hixon lived with his large family on the east coast in the wild bush country, where they worked hard and learned to survive. They were all taught the gospel well. While attending a stake conference years later, I was able to present one of his sons as a stake president, and he served faithfully and well. Another son, Trevor, has been on several missions and is an outstanding individual. The oldest son Rei, is probably the most famous artist in New Zealand. Another son, Roger, is also a fine artist and a wonderful friend to the missionaries. He now lives near the temple and has reclaimed a large area of beautiful trees and made it into a lovely tourist attraction.
I had the privilege of being with Hixon and his family when he, Hixon, celebrated his eightieth birthday. In 1989, his posterity numbered 14 children, 80 grandchildren, 145 great grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren.
From cannibalism to stalwart priesthood holders, all these wonderful people have been raised in the church with many opportunities to serve.