The Rātana church started 100 years ago when Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana had a vision to preach a form of Christianity to the Māori people.

Arahi Hagger is a historian and researcher of the Rātana church. He visited the church for one day 38 years ago and hasn't left. He says Rātana became known as the 'Māori Miracle Man'.

"Mr Rātana was the most famous person in New Zealand," he said. "In fact he was more famous than Brad Pitt. Everywhere that he went in New Zealand, Queen Street used to be chock-a-block and we used to be 'who is this Māori prophet'."

Nowadays, the Rātana celebrations mark the first day of New Zealand's political calendar but Hagger says in its early years the church became famous for Rātana's prophecies, miracles and the strength of his spiritual message.

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"You know when God calls you out, you have to do it and some of us people see the bigger picture. So it's important to have a relationship.

"If you want to call him God, if you want to call him Jesus, if you want to call him Allah, if you want to call him Krishna, we need to have a relationship with something that is more divine than us."

It's a message that resounds still for the vast majority of visitors to this small but powerful church tucked away in a small village near Whanganui.

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