New Zealand Salvation Army Mourns Loss of Maori Leader

Auxiliary-Captain Joe Patea at Mission 2010 Congresss

New Zealand – The Salvation Army in New Zealand is mourning the loss and celebrating the life of one of its most influential members after Auxiliary-Captain Hohepa (Joe) Patea, co-leader of The Salvation Army’s indigenous Maori work, was promoted to Glory.

Aux-Captain Patea – together with his wife, Aux-Captain Teao Kauirangi (Nan) Patea – played a pivotal role in strengthening The Salvation Army’s Maori work, assisting Salvation Army corps (churches), social service centers and Salvationists across New Zealand. His fluency in te reo Maori (the Maori language) and understanding of Maori tikanga (culture and protocols) were critical factors in helping The Salvation Army better serve within the bicultural context of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Joe Patea met The Salvation Army in 2002 when he took part in a Salvation Army stage production called The Homecoming at Wellington City Corps (church) that toured internationally. Although Joe was from a Catholic background and his wife Nan from an Anglican one, neither was a practicing Christian. But the seeds of commitment were being sown in their lives.

The couple became adherent members and then took the step of becoming senior soldiers. Joe said “We wanted to be uniformed soldiers but, more than that, we were called to be soldiers. We wanted to be immersed in The Salvation Army.”

Joe and Nan were appointed co-leaders of Salvation Army Maori Ministries on 22 June 2006, serving part-time and then full-time. He led numerous powhiri (formal welcome ceremonies) at major Salvation Army events, always with great dignity and humor. Joe and Nan were commissioned as auxiliary-captains on 15 February 2007.

Joe was the respected kaumatua (elder) at The Salvation Army’s Booth College of Mission, home to the Officer Training College, where he made a considerable contribution in building future Salvation Army leaders. He enjoyed sharing his faith with inmates at Rimutaka Prison’s Maori Focus Unit and in Wellington Prison.

Together, Joe and Nan became a taonga (treasure) to The Salvation Army, giving themselves as cultural resources to Salvation Army leadership and the wider Army, but Joe said he simply saw himself as a “pononga o te Atua” (servant of the Lord).

Confronting ill health in recent times, Joe’s faith in God remained strong and his strength came from the knowledge that God was with him. He did not let his health concerns hold him back from his calling and ministry. Joe said his calling could be found in John 15:16: “You did not choose me, [says Jesus], but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” He was promoted to Glory, aged 62, on 4 April 2011 from a Wellington hospice.

“Kua whawhaitia e ahau te whawhai pai, kua omakia toku omanga, kua rite i ahau te whakapono” – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).”

Well done, good and faithful servant of Jesus!

Report by Major Christina Tyson