Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 2 - The Village of Montunui

I have spent over a week mulling over how to approach this blog series about my love for the movie Moana, and what I believe God is revealing to me through this beautiful film.  It's hard to know how to approach something that feels so "big" and perhaps it seems crazy to you that I can find SO MUCH in one little cartoon.  And yet, there's just so much in it to unpack.  

I knew immediately that I couldn't write just one or two posts.  As I have continued my beloved "research" as I am calling it, there are at minimum 10 different perspectives to look at: 

Chief Tui
Gramma Tala
Hei Hei the Rooster
Te Fiti
Te Ka
The village of Montunui
The ancestors of Montunui

Perhaps beginning with the legend within the movie is the best place to start.

"In the beginning, there was only ocean until the mother island emerged: Te Fiti. Her heart held the greatest power ever known. It could create life itself. And Te Fiti shared it with the world. But in time, some begin to seek Te Fiti's heart. They believed that they could possess it, the great power of creation would be theirs. 

And one day, the most daring of them all voyaged across the vast ocean to take it. He was a Demigod of the wind and sea. He was a warrior. A trickster. A shapeshifter who could change form with the power of his magical fish hook. And his name was Maui. 

But without her heart, Te Fiti began to crumble, giving birth to a terrible darkness. Maui tried to escape, but was confronted by another who sought the heart: Te Kā, a demon of earth and fire. Maui was struck from the sky, never to be seen again. And his magical fish hook and the heart of Te Fiti, were lost to the sea. Where even now, 1000 years later, Te Kā and the demons of the deep still hunt for the heart, hiding in the darkness that will continue to spread, chasing away our fish, draining the life from island after island until every one of us is devoured by the bloodthirsty jaws of inescapable death! But one day, the heart will be found by someone who would journey beyond the reef, find Maui, deliver him across the great ocean to restore Te Fiti's heart and save us all."

One of the first scenes in the movie is Moana's grandmother, Gramma Tala, telling the above legend to a group of small children.  All of the little ones listening are scared.  All but Moana, who sits there enthralled.  While other kids wail and fall over, Moana claps eagerly.  And as Gramma Tala reaches the end of her tale, suddenly Moana's father, Chief Tui, rushes in and says, "Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Thank you, Mother.  That's enough...no one goes outside the reef.  We are safe here.  There is no darkness.  There are no monsters."  

In a funny moment, he hits one of the window coverings and they all begin falling, covering the room in darkness.  The children are all screaming, "The darkness!" and running around and the chief says, "No.  There is nothing beyond our reef, but storms and rough seas."  He continues, "As long as we stay on our very safe island, we'll be fine."

Moana's grandmother pipes up with, "The legends are true.  Someone will have to go."

Chief Tui (her own son) contradicted her and replied with, "Mother, Montunui is paradise.  Who would want to go anywhere else?"

This is where I want to begin, with the village of Montunui.  As Tui says, it's a paradise.  Look, if I lived in a Hawaiian-type paradise, I think I would find it hard to leave as well.  And yet, isn't that what we do?  We settle into our villages, into our own little churches, if you will.  We find safety and contentment.  I hear a lot of talk in villages churches about getting "plugged in." I'm not saying that this isn't necessary.  I absolutely believe it is an act of worship to get plugged in to a church where you attend and serve the community of believers.

Yet, what I want to propose is that there is a danger in becoming content in only this.  We can become so busy trying to serve in the church that we forget that we ARE the church.  We tend to look inward a lot of the time in general, and this very human trait has found its way into our villages churches.  We can't just live in our own bubble, in the safety of our village church "home" that has the right color carpet, the comfortable chairs, and the kind of programs we want for ourselves and our kids.  I'm preaching to the choir here--I had this attitude for years, especially when the kids were little and needed programs to help their little hearts learn the truth about Jesus.

We settle into our villages churches, and sometimes we forget that there is an ocean of other villages (full of weary villagers!) out there.  When Moana is a child, her father has ONE job.  His daughter will be the next village chief and it's his role to teach her what is important and HOW to lead.  He says to her, "First, you must learn where you're meant to be."  And just like any good cartoon/movie-musical, the village of Montunui is about to break into song!  In the song Where You Are, Chief Tui and the villagers are going to show Moana how important it is to stay in the village, because the village has everything they could ever want or need.

"The island gives us what we need

And no one leaves

That's right, we stay

We're safe and we're well provided

And when we look to the future, there you are

You'll be okay

In time you'll learn just as I did

You must find happiness right where you are"

As the song progresses, you will see Moana through the years as she grows up.  She is being told she has to stay INSIDE the village and never go beyond the reef.  Everything she needs is there and she is well-provided for.  Why would she ever want to leave?  Over and over, Moana finds herself drawn to the water.  While she knows being a chief is important, and that her village needs her, she is constantly rushing back to the water.  And over and over, she is pulled back to the village and reminded that she can find happiness right where she is.

Isn't that the same lie that the world tells us and the same lie that we see creeping into the heart of our own villages churches?  You have to just be happy where you are.  You do you and you will find happiness in that.  Even inside the church, the intentions are well-meaning.  Put down roots.  Serve here.  Find where you belong.  

In and of themselves, these are not bad ideas.  I think there is value in finding a community of believers to do life with.  But I think there is immense danger in bringing the world's ideals into our villages churches.  My previous church and the current church I attend had an outward mindset.  They understood that while community within the church was important, it was far more improatnt to get out into the world, where people are actually living.

Jesus didn't eat with prostitutes and tax collectors because they just happened to come to his house.  


If we are to be the very example of Jesus, then shouldn't we also seek out those who are lost and broken?  Why stay in our own little village church, when there are other islands and villages out there desperately needing our time and attention, and the very light of Jesus that we carry within us?

I'm not saying every church gets it wrong.  I'm not saying most churches get it right.  All I am saying is that we have to start to see it differently.  We have to get out of the us vs. them mentality.  It isn't the village church against the world.  OK, maybe these days it does look that way.  But it isn't supposed to be like that.  All of my life I have heard how we have to bring others into the church, into the "fold."


You can judge me, criticize my thinking, or just tell me I am plain wrong, but it's not about numbers.  It's not about us going and bringing lost souls to the church.

It's about coming alongside someone who is hurting and sitting with them in all the ugly, in all the pain, in all the confusion.  It's loving them.  It's knowing that maybe the only thing you can do is pray and the doing THAT, realizing that ANYTHING God can do for them is far more worthwhile than anything I can physically do.  

What is a village if not a family?

It is a community of people who are working together to share, to know and to be known.

And since this entire series is about finding purpose through the movie, I'll say that I believe that the purpose of the village church is not to see how many seats we can fill.  It isn't about building a bigger building, simply because we have more people attending than we can house.

Start a new village!!  Empower the people in your village to go seek out other islands, or in some cases, entire villages that are just floundering in a harsh ocean.  The ocean is rough.  The wind and the waves can be deadly.  But the end goal isn't to get as many people through the doors.  

At some point, we stopped voyaging across the great ocean.  We started anchoring our villages to the land, looking inward for all we needed, and then we just stopped exploring.  We stopped trying to find new lands, because we were content with the family we had built, safe in our own little village that is protected from the outside world.

But here's the truth:

We are IN this outside world.  We are a part of it.  We can't escape that we live in it, and staying within our own little villages will not change the fact that there is a world around us that is in desperate need of the kind of love and grace that only Jesus can provide.  


  1. In Matthew 28... the passage commonly referred to as "The Great Commission"... Jesus says that he has been given all authority in heaven and on earth... and based upon that authority he instructs his disciples to "GO". Said another way... "Don't stay in your comfortable village... but take this message beyond your boarders... to the world!" This is a very beautiful and powerful mediation Jamie! Thank you! Tony