A visiting American missionary sees much of his own Apache roots in Aotearoa's Maori culture.
Half-Native American, half- Mexican Cornelio Perez was overwhelmed by the similarities between the two cultures when honoured at a special powhiri in Masterton last week.
Soulway Church pastor Rick Edmonds welcomed Mr Perez and his wife Deborah to Wairarapa last Wednesday with a hongi and the gifting of a large greenstone pendant a gift as valued to him as his own people's sacred eagle feathers.
After introducing himself, Mr Perez used his natural talent with the classical guitar to return the gesture and performed the traditional Spanish song Maestro.
"We just found it all so special," he told the Times-Age.
"There were many similarities with the Apache culture too. After the ceremony, we had fried bread.
"It's almost exactly the same as what Native Americans serve, except they call it 'fry-bread'."
The couple are briefly staying in the country as an extension of their work across Southeast Asia with Texas-based groups Church of the Nations and World Missions Advance.
"It is so good to see that much of the Maori culture is still intact here. The native culture is still strong.
"In America, a revival of Apache culture has been going on since 1953."
As well as cultural crossovers, Mr Perez has observed that both Maori and Apache face the same social challenges with alcohol, drugs and abuse.
"Both cultures have their hard times.
"It's something we notice with many indigenous peoples and it's something we can connect with."
Mr Perez, who has strong ties to the Apache White Mountain and St Carlos reservations in Arizona, was raised on his father's Mexican ranch, named "A New Palestine" as a nod to his paternal family's Jewish heritage.
After a childhood spent on both sides of the border, he quit smoking, drinking, drugs, violence "and other immoral vices" to join the church.
He met Deborah through the same ministry in California in 1979 and the couple married five years later.
They now spend most of the year working out of Singapore and Malaysia, which they have canvassed during missionary work in jungle villages.
This is their second visit to New Zealand and on their third tour later this year after travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam they hope to work with Wairarapa Maori.
"We've found the people to be quite friendly here.
"And the country is full of beautiful scenery the cloud formations, the mountains, the green pastures, the valley filled with sheep and cattle ...
"This land is truly blessed."