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God is reachable

Steve Apirana is a musician with the talents to make people laugh with songs like It's Inevitable and to let them reflect on their own lives through his music. His love for God comes through in his very popular song No Turning Back. Steve does some beautiful duets with his wife Ainsley with songs like When Morning Dawns. Steve's humility and his willingness to give of himself comes through in his 'live' performances.

 

God is reachable

Life in a large Maori family

My mother had married a carpenter turned soldier who had just returned home from the war and was trying to rebuild his life, and that of his four-year son. For the first three years of their marriage my mother tried to have a baby but could not conceive. And so as is normal in Maori culture, my dad's cousin offered my mum her next baby, as a gift and perhaps a gesture to God. My dad's cousin already had two children herself and she went on to have four more. So Charlie was gifted to my mother on April 1, 1949 and Paraone, seven by this time, had a younger brother to dote on. Finally three years later, I popped out on February 23, 1952 looking for something to eat. Four more children were to follow me, two adopted and two the hard way! We settled into a normal family life, two adults and seven kids in a four-bedroom state house in Rotorua.

Life from outside the Principal's office

School was two miles away, with many distractions along the way for a five-year-old hyperactive child so that actually getting there was an achievement in itself, let alone getting there on time. It wasn't unusual to see me turning up at around 10:00 am. There were some days when I gave up completely and went home after eating all my lunch up. I wasn't a star pupil or very well behaved and I often found myself standing outside the Principal's office with my chin sunk deeply into my chest. I didn't do very well at school and I couldn't wait to get out of the place. But one thing made life almost bearable and that was … music.

My drive to become a singer

I loved everything about music. This included the instruments, solos, vocals, harmonies, the emotional effect it had on me, the promises it suggested for the future and the glory given to singers. All these and many other aspects of music in the 1960's contributed to my one and only desire to be a singer. So that was settled and everything I did from then on was just gathering material for when I was to grow up and become a singer. Fortunately my favourite singer happened to come from my hometown, Rotorua. His name was Howard Morrison. Television came into its own in New Zealand in the 1960's, so not only could you hear your favourite singers but also you could actually see them perform. I soaked up everything that came my way. This included all styles of music, artists like Louis Armstrong and Doris Day and as the contemporary singers of the day like the Beatles, Stones, Lovin' Spoonful, Kinks, Cilia Black, Cliff Richard, and Elvis Presley.

The late sixties - a time of change and experimentation

Then came the late sixties with all the flower power, the anti-war movement, a new era in music, as well as experimentation with drugs. By this time I had left school and was working in the forestry, planting trees, which I hated. I was soon thrown out of that job for stealing from the canteen. I told the authorities I was hungry, but they didn't believe me because I had stolen mostly cigarettes!

The shock of prison

What followed were my worst years from 1967 to 1970. Starting with a prison sentence for car conversion, which was ridiculous because I couldn't drive a car. I know I got in it but I don't know who drove it. In those days, it was cool for one person to take the rap and I don't know how I got talked into it but I was the one who went away for three months in the Waikeria Detention Centre. In this place you did everything on the double and called the officers, "Sir", while they called you every name under the sun. It was a short, sharp shock for me. The program was simple. You were sentenced to two months and every time you did something wrong you lost a point. If you lost more than three points in a week, you lost one-day remission right up to 28 days, which was the most you could lose. Many people got through two months without losing a day. I started off OK but ended losing all my remission. It was comforting to know that you couldn't do more than three months or I would still be there now!

Girls and more girls

When I got out of prison, I headed south to pick tobacco in Motueka and from there six of us decided to head further south to Christchurch, instead of going back home to Rotorua. Not considering we had nowhere to stay, we ended up sleeping in parks, parked cars or just crashing anywhere we could. One thing I noticed was that many of the local girls would go out with us. Maybe it was a novelty, but we had heard that there were many young white girls who went for the Maori boys, and our experience proved the theory to be true. Now for a boy who was always being turned down by girls, this was a turn for the better and I spent the next two years going out with as many white girls as I could.

Low self-esteem improved in 'cruise' mode

Because I had a complex about white people being superior to darker people, I never considered the girl's feelings and I was very selfish in these relationships. Sometimes I would go out with two to four girls at the same time. My ego went up very high in the inflation department and for a while everything was in 'cruise' mode.

A door opens

Saturday afternoon band practice was at the "Open Door" which was the drop-in centre of one of the local churches, which was held in an old-condemned pub given to the church and made available to street kids, gang members, drifters and the general working class unemployed. Like most drop-in centres, it had your basic tables and chairs, TV, lounges etc. But this one had one thing that drew our particular crowd and that was band gear one very dilapidated set of drums, a bass drum snare, hi-hat, tom-tom and cymbals, all in various states of disrepair; and one 50 watt Amplifier with two speakers and four inputs. It wasn't much, but compared to our combined effort, which was nought, it was heaps! So we turned up every Wednesday and Saturday night and played to our hearts content before we went off to the nightclubs where the real musicians play and we'd get inspired and determined to start our own band.

The shock of being trusted

One night, I asked Reverend Goodall who had just taken over from Reverend Roger Thompson, if he would allow four disreputable young lads into the centre when it wasn't open in order to practice as a band and maybe provide a better quality of sound when the centre was open. I didn't hold much hope as I had never been trusted with any kind of responsibility in my whole life and I didn't expect to be given the key to the building with all the shop equipment and stock at my mercy. So, you can understand my surprise when he immediately agreed! So the four of us, Heidi, Angel, Hori and myself felt greatly privileged as we rehearsed and as we eyed off the foodstuffs in the shop, knowing how little we had in our bed-sitters. Andrew Thompson, the son of Reverend Thompson, offered to be our manager even before we started playing. So here we were - one band, no gear, no experience, no songs, no work, no references and one manager. Andrew Thompson's input into the band not just as musicians, but also as people, was to prove invaluable and he became one of the most important people in my life, and still is one of the most respected.

Young love shattered

The band was starting to make a name for itself and I suppose things were great apart from another two-month sentence for "idle and disorderly" and a friend of mine being killed in a car crash. And then it happened! My girlfriend, who I was very much in love with, dumped me for someone else. This was exactly what I deserved and it brought me right back to earth. In fact it took me straight past earth and into hell. I was absolutely devastated and it was very hard for me to hide my feelings and word got around that Steve was a "broken puppy" - poor thing! My friends, while sympathetic to my face, were smirking behind my back because I wasn't handing the situation very well. So by the time it got to band practice on Saturday afternoon at the "Open Door" I was in no shape or frame of mind to learn songs.

One simple question

And so our practice session slowly drifted off into conversation mode and I asked Andrew Thompson; "What's this Christianity all about?" I was only half there and wasn't totally concerned about this reply. I was feeling miserable and little did I know that asking that question would turn me completely upside down.

Christianity is more than believing God exists

I had always thought that I was a Christian because I believed that God existed. During my whole childhood chapters, I remember praying a lot, mostly selfishly, like, "Please God, don't let me be punished for being naughty", "Please God, let my dad allow us to go to the movies, " and "Please God, let Suzi Morris fall in love with me." I was always certain that God heard my prayer, but whether He would heed my request was another matter. Now Andrew Thompson wasn't exactly what I would have called the best Christian I had ever seen up to that point. He smoked cigarettes, he often complained about things, he showed signs of laziness and he was quite scruffy. I was guilty of these things but I wasn't calling myself a Christian, was I? Andrew seemed to be too human to be a Christian. When I confronted him on this, he simply said "Steve, I know I have many faults and I don't try to hide them but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ that is more important to me than anything else in the world. God is still dealing with my faults and in the meantime I love Him very much and have chosen to serve Him for the rest of my life." Then he started sharing with me from the scriptures and from his experience, about the love of God and suddenly I was aware that I didn't have to clean up my act or give up this or that before I came to God. For the first time in my life, God didn't seem that far off ... in fact, that day as Andrew spoke, and as I listened, everything within me was saying, "yes"!

God is reachable

He must have spoken for four or five hours and we were just spellbound as he shared of a God who loves and doesn't just judge and who actually cares and wants to help. And suddenly for me, God was reachable. He wasn't too busy to listen to a hairy Maori boy with a busted ego and a broken heart. That night I spoke to God as honestly as I could and I told Him I was looking His way. "So please God don't let me get run over by a bus or let a tree fall on me, at least until I have a chance to choose either way!"

Surrendering our lives to God

Even though I hadn't made any decision, the next day things had changed dramatically. My swearing had stopped, I was noticeably more considerate of others and there was an unexplainable peace inside me. And most importantly, I felt as if I had a private phone line to God who was always within earshot or a whisper. For the next week there was a continual dialogue, with me doing all the talking, but definitely receiving replies. Also for the next week all four members of the band stuck very close together, discussing all the changes that were going on and which direction we would take. Finally we all decided we would give our lives to God, become Christians, get born again, whatever you like to call it. We approached Reverend Rodger Thompson on a Monday morning and he told us to come back on Thursday night. I think he was testing us to see if we really meant business. But sure enough, come Thursday night, we turned up: us and our girlfriends - those of us who had girlfriends that is! And about an hour later we were kneeling on the floor accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. For the next year or so that minister and his family nurtured us spiritually, physically and socially. Many was the time when we would just happen to turn up at meal times and they would share their meal with us.

I want to be like Jesus

What was to follow after we made our decision to follow Jesus was turmoil, problems and persecution from friends, family and much more. There were times when I almost gave up. Indeed I did give up. But God was faithful and I always received help when I needed it. That night I became a follower of Jesus Christ and I have been ever since. There have been a few times I have regretted making that decision but there has never been any doubt in my mind that it was the right decision. I love Jesus. I admire Jesus. I respect Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. Since becoming a Christian, many crazy things - good and bad, happy and sad, sane and mad have happened to me. But that's another story again, which I would love to share with you one day...

Best Wishes
Steve

Steve's wife life story

Email Steve at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Steve's CD's can be ordered by sending 25 dollars Australian plus money for postage to:

Steve Apirana
P.O. Box 433
Cooroy. 4563.
Queensland,
Australia.

 

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” (video clip)

Come to know your Creator (animation)

The Reason (music video)