Understanding and action through faith
Pastors Maria and Apolo Simeona of Kings Lake Living Waters and Rev Masunu Utumapu, Samoan Methodist Church Auckland South Synod are both passionate about finding solutions to the issues of family violence within their congregations and communities.
Despite their differences in beliefs and faiths, they share some key messages on the issues.
One such message is addressing family violence within churches by first understanding families within their congregations through talanoa (communication).
Pastors Maria and Apolo Simeona founded Kings Lake Living Waters in Taupo a decade ago. Maria says that “it’s about acknowledging who they are as people, and not just as part of our church.”
The Tokelauan/Samoan speaks both languages fluently. Having come from a Samoan church to pastoring a multi-ethnic one, with her Tokelauan-born husband, she understands the need to have healthy dialogue with her congregation, including being open about subjects such as family violence and sexual abuse.
“We all need to go back to basics by going to the families to try and understand why there is violence. Learning more about their backgrounds assists us in what we can do as a church to help them,” she says.
Pastor Maria, who’s also a whanau worker for Family Start in Taupo, has worked with families at risk of drugs, alcohol and family violence. She stresses the importance for churches to respond to the needs of vulnerable Pacific communities.
“We helped a family in our own church who had been through family violence,” she recalls.
“We didn’t know about it (the family violence) as a church, but I was aware through a social worker within the community. I was able to dip into it via the church and provide the church perspective in helping them out. They are now getting counselling from a Fijian pastor who we work closely with.”
That’s how, Pastor Maria says, our churches should be involved – first understanding what and how they can help before getting the help they need. In some cases she says extra measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of those involved.
“It’s not until we take their loved ones out of their home into a safe house and cannot find the family anywhere that they tend to come back to the church and ask for help.”
Rev Masunu Utumapu, from Samoan Methodist Church in Auckland South Synod, runs various groups and activities for each age group in his church, dedicating his time outside of church hours to building relationships between them.
“As a minister, I’m trying in so many ways to help my congregation, especially parents. We have small group discussions on Sunday. In the morning the preacher preaches the gospel,” he says.
“During the evening session the group of matais (chiefs) and kids sit together to discuss and try to explain and clarify what has been said by the minister.”
It’s one way his congregation attempts to strengthen relationships within families to address family violence.
The Reverend says that it’s important to help parents be more understanding, and “to become more educated, so that they know how to properly discipline themselves towards their kids”.
“You can’t help unless the parents understand.”