Attend a service at St Faith's and that confident young bloke leading prayers or reading the lesson is Cruz Karauti Fox.

Cross the geothermal grid to Whakarewarewa and expect to do a double take. Surely that must be his doppelganger?

Hand on heart Our People can report is one and the same person.

Put it another way, Cruz's career path is a dual carriageway; at Ohinemutu he helps guide the faithful, at Te Puia his secular side comes into play as a thermal valley guide.


It's his spiritual side that's taking him down a pathway rarely trodden by someone his age in these modern times.

In August he is to become ordained into the Anglican Church, a calling where the average age is generally double his 25 years.

Both his lines of work are blessed with an asset Cruz has in spades, he's a brilliant verbal communicator. In 2010 and 2011 he represented Te Arawa at the secondary schools' Manu Korero speech competitions, bringing home the Sir Turi Carroll trophy. At the time he was at Taupō's Nui A Tia College, his last year there as its head boy.

He's a natural-born leader with accomplishments so varied we wonder out loud if there's anything he can't do. "I can't drive a digger" he whizzes back.

Public speaking has given him a rich resource in pithy one-liners.

Disregarding digger driving, his skillset is impressive, incorporating a singing voice that's been formally trained since he was 7. He's one of that rare species, a countertenor.

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His vocal career began at Nukuhau's St James' Church, the ante was upped when, during his university years, he joined Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral choir.

Outside the church he has performed in musicals, belonged to Taupō's Centre Stage company and is a soloist with the Taupō Choral Society.

His ultimate aim: a scholarship to one of the great British cathedrals.

" . . . Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, but realistically I'll have to pay my dues before I can get in there."

His feelers are out for entry into cathedral choir schools across the UK.

While still on the subject of his church involvement and, despite spending five years on a residential scholarship at St John's Theological College, don't expect to find him spouting the doctrine of divinity.

It's not Cruz's style, nor is it ever likely to be. He's a down-home realist who baulks at the question Our People regularly poses to those we've featured from across the faiths. Did his decision to enter holy orders come accompanied by thunder claps and lightning bolts, one of those biblical Road to Damascus moments? No way.

"I've always had a calling in that [the church's] direction, I come from a very spiritually functional family, my great-great-grandmother was highly influential in establishing the Baha'i faith in New Zealand."

While the end product of his Auckland University studies incorporates a bachelor of theology centred around Christian thought and history, Cruz is also an anthropology and archaeology graduate. It's a side of him that's been invaluable in his guiding role.

He wasn't far into his post-university gap year when a friend suggested he apply for a Te Puia summer job.

"I was living in this raupō wharepuni [camp] I built on the banks of the Waikato River at Reporoa. Fishing, writing songs, contemplating my future."

After an interview he consigns to the "very tough" category, he didn't think he stood a chance of joining the ranks of those he'd spent a lifetime in awe of.

"It was like being in this executive environment sitting at a board table with people firing questions at me. I didn't think I'd done very well at all then I got this call to go to an initial training period, it was like 'wow, I can't believe it'."

Whakarewarewa is his happy place.

"Since I was a child coming here for tangi or to church I've been in love with it, its mystique, geysers, the culture, everything that's so inherently Māori about it yet moves in synch with the Pakeha world.

"I was always inspired by the stories of the guides who have been such amazing ambassadors, educated people walking in both worlds. [Māori and Pākehaā]. [Guide] Maggie Papakura's my idol, my inspiration.

"For someone who didn't grow up in this valley I feel incredibly privileged to be part of it, to have been given the chance to reconnect with Whakarewarewa whānau."

Although Rotorua born, "I was a prem baby, my mother was rushed here from Taupō", the majority of Cruz's growing up years were with his grandparents in Tūwharetoa territory, plus a spell in Auckland where his dad was in the navy.

Between guiding shifts he spends time at Te Puia's weaving school. "I started weaving when I was about 7, since coming here I've learnt a lot more advanced techniques, next I want to learn the basics of carving."

Te reo Māori flows off his tongue but he's not as fluent as he'd like.

"I think we all should learn it, Māori and Pākehaā. I'm saddened I didn't learn it more at school, I'm still not very good outside formal settings, I'd love to be so much better."

We can't resist probing how others his age view his "churchy" side; surely delight in taking the mickey?

"Absolutely not, it's them who've encouraged me. When Taupō Nui A Tia's head boy died of cancer I was asked to officiate at his service. It was that which made me realise the church was a career I should be taking a lot more seriously.

"In Spanish my name means crucifixion, I've grown into that name following the cross of Christ."

Born: Rotorua, 1992
Education: Stanley Bay Primary Auckland, Taupō Primary and Intermediate, Taupō Nui A Tia College, Auckland University, St John's Theological College (Diploma of Anglican Studies)
Family: Mother Patricia Karauti, father Ryan Fox; grandparents James and Miriam Fox, Patrick and Roura Karauti
Iwi affiliations: Te Arawa, Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Pirou, Ngāti Manu, Kaitahu; Portuguese Spanish and Scottish links
Interests: Fishing "lakes and rivers", game bird shooting "I guess I'm a hunting, fishing kinda of guy". Music "not just the church type I love modern music especially R&B". Māori weaving and carving
On Rotorua: "It's where tourism and culture live as one."
Personal philosophy: "Accept things as you go, always try for the best."