Tell me about what happened after you finished school.
Well, for any young person that is currently at school: stay in school! Do not be like me and drop out at Sixth Form [Year 12]. School wasn’t easy for me. I found it hard. So, after leaving I went through multiple different jobs, from waitressing to working with a sea freight company. In 2008 I joined a courier company called FedEx. I ended up spending 11 years with them. My grandfather had encouraged me to go and work for FedEx, because he had used their services. And he said, they’ll look after you. They’re a global corporation. They will encourage you and invest in you to climb the corporate ladder. And he was bang on. I spent most of my time on customer services. Any opportunity to progress further, I’d take the interview—I was nervous, but I did it. I became a team leader in customer services. Then I was headhunted by the sales manager to come and join sales, and this is where—and hindsight kind of kicks in—I believe God was shaping me and equipping me for evangelism.
I was told by other whānau members who have been in sales that you’re either one of 200 sales reps, you’re an account rep taking care of existing business for the company, or you are a hunter for new business. At FedEx, the requirement for me was that I would be both. So here I am now as a priest in the Anglican Church, as well as evangelising to go outside. Isn’t God smart?!
Tell me about the transition from FedEx to ministry.
I had five years in sales, and I absolutely loved it. They trained me how to break down barriers before speaking with customers, and how to build relationship. I bleed purple and orange blood. Those are the colours of FedEx. I say that FedEx are Anglican, because they have order. So, there were some really beautiful things about that whole time; and travel to China and Australia with it. I was really, really blessed in that work. And I loved it.
My manager at the time, an Australian manager, he said: Come and join my team. And I said why? I have no qualifications. And I was the only Māori. I said, I don’t know how to speak with CEOs and CFOs of companies: I’d let you down. And he said: No, I can teach you all of that. We can teach you all of that. But what we can’t teach someone is how to have people skills, and you have that naturally.
This would call me to move to Sydney, Australia, again. It would allow me to climb the corporate ladder more. I thought that was deeply important as a female in the corporate world, as well as being a Māori with no qualifications, to retell the narrative for some of my people: to say, you can do this, look at what the possibilities are. Also, this offer of a promotion with FedEx meant that I could financially get myself debt free, perhaps buy a home in New Zealand for my family and be the first out of my siblings and my parents to get us on the property ladder.
But that same day that I had the invitation for a promotion…. Yeah. Same day! I’m like, God, you set me up, man!…. I get a call from Lyndon Drake. And he says to me, Keri-Ann, I’m aware of where you currently work, and I understand how well they’ve taken care of you and your whānau. But Lyndon proposed two roles that would be based here in Auckland. These would be in partnership with our local church, our local Pīhopatanga and Bishop Kito, and the New Zealand Church Missionary Society [NZCMS].
Lyndon said: I don’t know if you know the gospel story and its arrival into Aotearoa and the partnership that the Māori Anglican church have with the CMS. But there were once Māori Evangelists. And there was a beautiful flourishing of Māori coming to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of having Māori Evangelists in the 1800s. So, in the 19th Century in Aotearoa, we had a lot of Māori converts to Christianity—Karaitiana. And Lyndon said: I would like us to revisit those roles for Māori to evangelise to Māori the good news of Jesus Christ.
How have I come about this? says Lyndon. He had a look at the steps on the census forms and could see that a lot of Māori within Manukau alone claim to be either non-religious, or part of the Māori Anglican church. And he said: Oh, those statistics don’t match what we see physically in our churches, because they’re actually quite empty. So, we need to know where our people are going, and if they’re being looked after. Do they know the goodness of Jesus Christ the way that you and I do, Keri-Ann?
So I sat there, like: Yeah, and, what does that have to do with me, Lyndon? And he said, I’ve been praying and praying about who can fill these two roles. I’ve managed to get funding for two of these roles. One has been taken by the Reverend Howard Karaka. The other role: I believe the Lord has placed your name on that role, Keri-Ann. And I can promise you more work, less money, and no thanks! And I laughed, and—oh, actually, I didn’t laugh. I thought, Yeah, you’d probably be a terrible sales rep, Lyndon. But what he did promise me was how God would honour me for all eternity as I seek to be obedient to his call upon my life as an evangelist.
What happened next?
So, at that time in my life, all I would do in terms of volunteering my time for my local church was to go on Sunday with my siblings. I’d play the guitar, and lead the hymns. And I was quite bored—as a young person, I thought, come on, there has to be more than this. Our church was quite old. I was one of the youngest ones, and I was in my 20’s. But at that time, that’s as far as I went in terms of volunteering my time for the church every Sunday.
After Lyndon’s invitation, I struggled for a whole year, in all honesty, to let go of the finances, and also for those very reasons I shared with you as to why the promotion would be good for my family. But throughout that year, Sister Jannah, people at FedEx, who were not only Māori—they were Pākehā, Indian, Asian, some non-religious, some religious, some Mormon, some Catholic, some Baptist—when they heard about the choice I had to make between the two options I had, they would weep. They’d come and see me and say: You’d be fantastic as a sales rep, Keri-Ann. But we just feel deep in our heart that your vocation is with the church. And I’m like, what the heck is a vocation? I had to Google it.
Google said, “your destiny; you’re born for this”. And this was alongside praying to God, wrestling with him. Why now? This is a sacrifice to have to make—I will not get this opportunity again, in all honesty, with a corporate company, Lord. Is this of you? If so, give me the courage to let go and trust you. My family never pushed me to make a decision I didn’t want to make, but they said, we stand by you and support you with whatever decision. You choose, Keri-Ann. And here I am, three years later, and I don’t want for anything. We’re on the pathway to homeownership. God has been faithful in taking care of not only me, but my whānau.