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Straight Outta Otara.

The Story of Niko Apulu.

I grew up in Otara. I had 2 older brothers, but only one lived at home. Mum was a single parent and did her best to make ends meet and raise me, but she wasn’t well and ended up in hospital. I was placed with another family member.

During this time, I started to rebel; wagging school and hanging out with the wrong influences.

I moved around to a lot of different family members, but I didn’t treat them well and ended up being kicked out onto the streets.

I lived as a street kid in the CBD of Auckland. I had two options: beg or steal. I choose to steal.

I got good at stealing and graduated from snatch and grabs and shoplifting to home invasions and aggravated robberies. I had no care about what I was doing. In my mind, I was stealing to survive.

I was on the streets and in and out of Youth Prison units for 2 and a half years.

My girlfriend and I were living together off her dole money. She was pregnant and I couldn’t get a job, so I decided to rob banks to provide for our baby that was on the way.

I went on a spree of bank robberies over a period of 6 months. I robbed 5 banks and stole close to $30,000.

I was a regular on Police Ten 7 watch lists and a notorious thief in Waikato and Auckland.

I used the stolen money to buy a car and lots of baby gear, but mostly I smoke or drank the money away. The week baby was due, the Police raided our home and I was arrested.

I was convicted of armed bank robbery in 2009 and sentenced to 3 years in 2 different prisons: Waikeria and Spring Hill. I was 22 years old.

During the time I was in prison, I learnt the ins and outs of prison life and made some connections which I was committed to using when I was released.

I completed four programmes , but I just did them to tick the box and position me for an early release.

There was no depth into looking at why I stole or helping me understand the pain of my upbringing and life on the streets, no real tools or follow up offered and no connection or relationship developed between me and the facilitator.

On my release, they gave me $350 for my ‘Steps to Freedom’, but really it was $350 for my steps to re-offend, cause that’s what I did! It was a joke! It cost NZ government and taxpayers $280K to house me for those 3 years.

I was released and placed on 24-hour home detention in Otara. During this time, I met a new girlfriend. She was unlike anyone I had known before. I was in love and we got married.

I took all of my 25 years of dysfunction into my marriage and pretty soon, cracks began to show in our relationship.

We had a daughter and another on the way when I failed a random drug test at work. My wife wanted to go back to church and wanted change, but I was far from it and started to sell drugs to maintain my habit. Our marriage and home life got worse and worse and I knew my wife was ready to walk.

I had to make some drastic decisions if I wanted to keep our marriage and family together.

I went with my wife back to church. She had close connections with leaders in Destiny Church and had been part of the church before she met me. She had always spoken highly of Bishop Tamaki, but I had made my own assumption of him and the Church from what I had seen and read in the media.

I felt insecure and had my walls up from the start. I asked myself why would she want to bring me here? I felt like this for the first couple months until I started Man Up with Elder Caine and General Kaiui.

My motivation to go to Man Up initially was, that if I did this, my wife would be happy and get off my case, but Man Up totally changed my world!

I really engaged with the content of the programme and I started to identify and connect with what a lot of the men were sharing. Week by week, as I continued to go, I started to expose the dysfunctions in my own life and slowly but surely started to overcome.

I felt more confident in myself and I made a decision to get to everything I could out of the Man Up programme and facilitators.

The Brotherhood became a reality for me. Seeing the other men that had come from similar backgrounds start to forge a new life, gave me a sense of purpose. I believe I started to re-gene and recondition my heart, as much as I was knitting my heart towards Elder and General, I was spiritually knitting my heart to our Man of God too.

At a Covenant camp, I had my first spiritual encounter. It was such an overwhelming feeling that I couldn't control my crying (and I don't cry; ask my wife!)

I made a decision that day to be the interruption to my bloodline and to make a stand for my family and the generations to come.

That same weekend, I also choose to be water baptised with the Brotherhood as witnesses. I've been planted and committed to Destiny Church ever since.

The Church have embraced me and truly taken me in as a son.

My wife and I have forged great friendships within the church that will last a lifetime. I've come to understand kingdom principles such as tithing and that's been our foundation for financial blessings.

Since completing my first Man Up programme, my life has gone to new levels.

I’ve dropped the drugs and alcohol, my relationship with my wife is at an all-time high and are giving our three kids the best start in life. I have a successful career in the biggest quarry in N.Z, and most importantly me and my wife have taken on the honour of being Generals for the suburb of Mangere where we lead a number of Man Up and Legacy groups that are making a real difference in our community.

God has been so faithful in all areas of my life. I am truly grateful for the ministry of Bishop Brian and Hannah Tamaki. I am a fruit of their dedication to see transformed lives through Christ.

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