Steven and Marilyn Pokere of Invercargill, New Zealand
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“Steven and Marilyn Pokere of Invercargill, New Zealand,” Friend, Mar. 1999, 21

Making Friends:

Steven and Marilyn Pokere of Invercargill, New Zealand

Steve Pokere is famous in New Zealand. A star of the All Blacks, the legendary national rugby team, he won glory for New Zealand all around the world.

Now he plays a more important role. He is the father of Steven (9) and Marilyn (7) as well as their sisters, Emma (13) and Anne-Maree (14). They live in Invercargill, a pleasant coastal city near the bottom of the south island.

Steven and Marilyn each have enough energy to power all of Invercargill, if only they could be hooked up properly. Steven enjoys sports of all kinds, especially rugby, running, and cricket. He has great skill with any ball of any shape and size, and he often practices rugby with his dad. He is learning the fine points of passing and sidestepping from the master. A fierce competitor, Steven plays fair but plays to win, and he plans to be an All Black like his father someday.

Steven has attended several All-Blacks matches with his dad. One of the highlights of his life was going to a match in Dunedin, where he met the whole team and watched a practice. He came away with a treasure trove of autographs and had a nice visit with his favorite player, Geoff Wilson.

Steven also enjoys camping, hunting, and fishing with his dad. He states emphatically that he does not enjoy being the only boy in the family, because he gets picked on by the girls—a charge his sisters deny.

Steven is good with tools and loves to build things. One day his parents came home and found that he had cut the middle limbs out of a beautiful young tree in order to construct a tree house. “When we drove up and saw the branches on the driveway we said, ‘Oh no!’” his dad recalls. “But now we look back and laugh and have joy in seeing what he created. It’s all part of being a family.”

One year when the family had a bountiful garden, Stephen set up a little table on the curb and sold tomatoes and cucumbers. “He earned thirteen dollars and came back in with a worldwide grin,” Brother Pokere says. The young businessman immediately set aside money for his tithing.

Marilyn is an outgoing girl and a champion at making friends. She can name twenty or thirty of them before pausing for breath, and then go on naming. Everyone she meets becomes an instant “old friend.” She doesn’t feel shy about talking to anyone, whether it’s a child or an adult. She is so friendly that the rule against talking to strangers is a hard one for her to remember. She is a caring person who is a good friend to all her friends.

For an independent girl like Marilyn, it’s sometimes hard being the youngest, because she feels ready to do anything anyone else can do. She enjoys swimming, riding her bike, jumping on the trampoline, and cooking, especially potatoes, meat, and cabbage. She likes going to the beach, where she digs holes and makes sand castles. Unfortunately, the water is far too cold for swimming. She is a fast runner and plans to compete in athletics (track and field). She and Steven are both sorry that so many competitions in New Zealand are held on Sunday, because they refuse to compete on the Sabbath.

A good dancer, Marilyn isn’t a bit afraid of performing in front of an audience. Her older sisters are dancers, too, and they make up little dance routines to do with her. Marilyn is an avid reader who prefers books that are funny. Her favorite is Silly Willy. She hopes to be a librarian and live surrounded by books. In the meantime, she studies hard and gets good grades.

Steven doesn’t always study quite so hard. His heart just isn’t in it yet. “He says, ‘I’m going to be an All Black, so what does school matter?’” his mother, Lesley, reports, “but I tell him, ‘you’ll have contracts to read, and if you can’t read them, somebody might cheat you.’” Steven is thinking it over.

Both Steven and Marilyn love climbing trees. Steven climbs up to the very top and swings like a monkey, frightening his parents.

The Pokeres like to go places together. Sometimes they visit beautiful Queen Park in Invercargill, where Steven and Marilyn stress-test every piece of equipment in the large playground. Sometimes the family travels to scenic locations such as Queenstown, Alexandria, or Bluff. Bluff is on the very bottom of New Zealand (except for a few small islands) and has a signpost on a cliff above the sea, pointing different directions to the major cities of the world.

Brother Pokere is the branch president. Although the children think of him as Dad, not as President Pokere, they have learned about service and responsibility by seeing him serve others. Emma and Anne-Maree have taken it upon themselves to serve by befriending the less active teenagers in the branch.

Brother Pokere’s personal experiences are an inspiration to his children. In 1978 he was about to be selected for the All Blacks—his lifetime goal. Instead, he accepted a mission call. Some fans thought he was crazy, but many admired his devotion to his religion. He returned in 1980 and became an All Black in 1981.

He has passed on many of the lessons he learned in rugby to his children. One of these is the importance of preparing themselves to achieve their dreams. “A lot goes into preparation that fans aren’t aware of. You’re out there slogging your heart out in practice. Your lungs are popping while everyone else is inside next to the fire. It’s the price of success. And once you reach the top, it doesn’t give you the right to remain there. It’s a continuous thing that you have to keep working on.”

The family applies these principles in their everyday lives. “We often have family sessions to evaluate where we are and to set goals,” Brother Pokere explains. “For example, we set a goal never to raise our voices in the home, and that includes parents. If we want somebody who’s not nearby, we go and get them—we don’t yell. We’ve really noticed a difference, especially when tempers are starting to rise. If you can maintain that level of reverence in your speech, it makes a huge difference. Of course, it doesn’t take the younger ones long to forget, but they’re trying, and that’s what matters. They’re good children, and they bring us a lot of joy.”

If people were punctuation marks, Steven and Marilyn would be two bold exclamation points!! What a great way to live!

Photographed by Melvin Leavitt

1. Steven hones his rugby skills against Dad.

2. Marilyn gets a cooking lesson from Mum.

3. Marilyn and Steve have many friends, including the missionaries.

Marilyn especially likes to read; Steven, to build things. They both enjoy taking trips with their family to places like Bluff, where a signpost points the way to the whole world.