Reverend Iliafi Talotusitusi Esera, Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
One of the pillars of Whanganui's Samoan community has been recognised in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.
Reverend Iliafi Talotusitusi Esera has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the Samoan community as well as his services to the church and the wider Christian community.
Esera has been senior pastor of the Faith Community Church, now Faith City Church, in Whanganui since his arrival in 1992.
Part of his responsibility as the new senior pastor of the church was taking over as proprietor of the Faith Academy School, which was a Christian school that was part of the church's vision and outreach.
The school was not a big school but under his leadership, the school was rebranded and is now called Faith City School and the largest interdenominational school in the Whanganui area, with 150 students.
"One of the reasons we grew was because we became a state-integrated school which helped us financially without compromising our Christian distinctive. Before that, everything was carried by the church. That's a huge undertaking for one church."
Esera became an executive committee member of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand (AGNZ) in 2001 and was elected Assistant Superintendent in 2003.
In 2011, he became General Superintendent of AGNZ, the first non-European appointment to the role and the first that resided in a provincial town and not a major city.
Esera is a member of the World Executive of the Assemblies of God Fraternal. He is one of 32 General Superintendents worldwide who form the Executive Council of the Assemblies of God World Fraternal.
Esera is the only one from the South Pacific.
"Within this Pacific/Asia region, there are about seven million that attend the Assemblies of God Church, with about 100 million worldwide," he said.
Pastor Esera currently oversees 600 ministers and 231 churches in New Zealand. He provides Apostolic Oversight to the Great Life International Churches in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Samoa.
Esera has helped establish and strengthen Māori Assemblies of God churches around Aotearoa. He established the Samoan Pastors and Leaders International Network in 2001, with more than 300 pastors across Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and the US.
Whilst he has a long list of accolades and achievements over the last 37 years, Esera prefers to fly under the radar.
"The funny thing is I speak publicly everywhere I go, so I live in a very public domain, but I don't like publicity. I even get embarrassed when I go overseas to speak and find people advertising me to speak in meetings and conferences."
Being based in Whanganui promotes his quiet, reserved nature.
"I love being here. It is where my children and grandchildren are. I also now have two great-grandchildren and that blesses me no end. It's nice to come back home and relax."
With everything he has accomplished and been recognised for, there is one thing above all Esera is most proud of.
"Being married to Falefiaoalii, being a father to my children, being a grandfather and great-grandfather. It is my family I am most proud of."