Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cannibals, Tourists, and the name of Jesus

Several years ago while vacationing in New Zealand, we arrived in the seaside town of Napier. Seeing a large crowd gathered at a dock, we parked our car and joined the throng who were looking at a large (as in 115 feet) Maori war canoe.

Suddenly the crowd surged forward. A man standing next to me asked if we would like to go for a ride, and before I had time to assess the fact his shirtless body was marked with paint, we climbed onboard.

It wasn't until we cast off that I realized a) there were well over 100 people onboard, 80 of whom were bare-chested, war-painted oarsmen, 40 to a side, b) we were headed into the Pacific and there was nary a life jacket in sight, c) we were the only touristy, white-skined people --a fact made all the more unnerving when the hefty warrior next me grinned as he asked, "Did you know up until a few years ago we were cannibals?"

In unison our tattooed warriors roared out a chant and raised their pointed, white-tipped oars in the air, and then plunged them into the water. The leader banged out the cadence for his oarsmen and we set off. Our wide-eyed, six-year-old daughter turned to me and said,"Get me out of here."

The cliches fit: steel cold fear paralyzed me. What had we gotten into?

Just then a man stood, thrust his sleepy, drippy-nose baby into my husband's lap, and banged out a safe-journey prayer--in English--in the name of Jesus.

In an instant everything changed. Fears fled. We were going to live! Salt spray flicked off my face as I noted the happy crowd. It was a beautiful day, and we were having an adventure I could now enjoy because of assurance in that name.

Never had a name sounded so good, so safe, so comforting. Jesus. The name that bears the power of the Almighty to grant safe journeys, deliver from evil, and make cannibals brothers.

P.S. Turns out it was a ceremonial replica touring the country for its 150 year anniversary.

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