Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Stages of Grief.

Nearly three weeks on from the big quake and, the reality of the horror of what we have all been through is starting to sink in for a lot of people. 

The first phase I think of as "Survival Phase", where everyone is focussed on cleaning up, getting food, boiling water and just struggling to do the basics.

Phase Two is "Processing Phase" where we take time to process the trauma of the event and realise that for most of us life is going to be different now in many respects.

Phase Three is the "Rebuilding Phase."

I feel as a city we are probably coming into Phase 2. Most people have their power, water and phones back (although many still don't have toilets!) and so life has come back to a form of normality.  Also, many who left town for a couple of weeks are coming back to the devastation of broken homes, lost employment and a broken city.

After a huge amount of work in the first couple of weeks, coping with family and church issues, I have had the time in the last few days to begin to process all that has happened, and the gravity of the shock we have all had. In that one day of the big quake, there were so many traumatic things happening, that I feel as though I almost have to go back and work through each one.

I really miss "normal" and know that nothing will ever be normal again the way it was. I have to get used to the fact that there is a "new normal" to work towards.

It is so important after a trauma or crisis, that we do take the time to deal with the pain and shock of what we have been through.

It is really important to grieve, to ponder the losses, to pray and ask God for comfort and healing from some of the trauma, and to spend time talking and hanging out with good friends.

Talk is healing. Telling others how you feel. Tears are also God's way of releasing tension, anxiety and emotions. It is very healthy to cry.

Most of all, we need to stick close together as a church. We need to love one another and be there for each other. We need to ask for help when we need it.

This is where community is so wonderful. We have a huge army of friends who can be there in our time of need.

If we spend time sorting through Phase Two, then we will be ready to think about Phase Three... rebuilding our lives and our City. 

While I feel grief at losing so many of our wonderful heritage buildings, I know we have some incredibly talented and creative people in Canterbury, who can build another beautiful and unique City Centre that will be stronger than before and safer for our people.

We are in for a long journey, but the destination is a good one!

Monday, 28 February 2011

Our Mission... Helping the East Side of Christchurch!

Immediately after the Earthquake on February 22nd, Grace Vineyard set up a Welfare Centre at our Beach Campus in New Brighton. This Centre was quickly overwhelmed by the need,  and together with other church teams, local volunteers and a large group from our own church we quickly started helping to provide vital supplies for locals.

The East side of Christchurch is mainly lower socio-economic, consisting of various suburbs like New Brighton, Aranui, Wainoni, South Shore, North Shore, Parklands, Linwood, Avondale.  This area has had many houses destroyed,  and most streets have potholes, are extremely bumpy and covered in sewerage, mud and water.  In short, it is a real mess which will take months to clean up. 

Most houses in this area still have no power, water, phones or toilets, and many of the residents on low incomes don't have cars, or struggle to afford petrol. People can be seen wandering around in a daze, frightened and feeling hopeless.

With encouragement from the local Police, and  MP, Lianne Dalziel, we moved the Welfare Centre a few metres down the road from our Beach Campus,  to the Roy Stokes Hall at 140 Seaview Rd, New Brighton (opp the Police Station).

This Hall is now the major distribution centre for the East side of Christchurch, stocked with food, drinking water, clothes, sanitary needs, cleaning products, toiletries and candles.

Open every day from 8am till 6pm, many thousands of people are queuing to collect these free supplies, and we also have friendly people to advise and encourage them.  At different times we have various social services, like WINZ, the Dept of Social Development, Free Law Advice, Counselling, Prayer,Physiotherapists and even the local MP, all set up to help people.

We are getting huge help from the New Brighton Police, Civil Defence, the NZ Army, the City Council, different church groups and other volunteers, who are helping in various ways.

Food is arriving from all over New Zealand in Helicopters, Trucks, trailers and cars!

We are also sending teams door to door, street by street, to assess the needs of dozens of homes where there are many frightened, elderly and insecure people. Many  people break down and weep when our teams arrive.

We also have teams delivering groceries and supplies, digging silt and mud from properties, and also moving peoples belongings out of damaged houses.

Our Beach Campus (111 Seaview Rd) down the road has now become a lively drop-in Centre, and also the hub for our administration and volunteer support. There are places to sit and chat and meet others, a TV to watch, games, free hot food served, and even live entertainment.

Our Youth Alive Trust has set up a daily Kids Programme in the local school grounds for the many kids who can't go to school.

We were continually hearing of people in other areas of the East who were in desperate need of supplies, so we have started to help two other small Help Centres by sending supplies and teams of people to help. These Centres are located at Aranui Primary School (Breezes Rd) and Hampshire St Shopping Area in Aranui.

Every day we have new needs for various supplies, which you can find out by visiting our Grace Earthquake Help Page. 

If you would like to donate supplies, or volunteer to help in any way, please call us on (03) 388 54 59 or email us at

We are excited to think that working together as a large army, we can really make a difference in so many peoples lives.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Destruction... but Hope!

Saturday dawns over Christchurch, and I am sitting typing with my family asleep around me in the lounge where we have slept each night since the big Earthquake on Tuesday.

Our beautiful city of Christchurch NZ, has been really devastated by the 6.3 Magnitude quake, which has caused significant loss of life, and massive damage everywhere.

We have a two storey house and it feels much safer in our lounge downstairs, and it is nice all being together.  All through the night there were shakes, and with each one I wonder "will this one be big?"

We are fortunate that our house has not had too much damage, just a lot of fallen and broken things inside. We got our power back late Thursday night, but still have no phones, water and consequently toilets... but hey ..we are alive and we have each other.

We live on the East side which has been really badly hit, and driving around our suburb is like taking an off-road 4WD track through water, mud and holes. It takes ages to get anywhere!  The first time I ventured out, I found it quite distressing and unsafe and really wanted to rush back to the safety of my home and family.. but kept going... and wondered all the time if I would be able to get back again.

We have had extra people staying, and the night after the quake we had 17 people staying for the night. This was a challenge for doing basic things.... getting food, boiling water.. and especially the toilets!!

Since Tuesday, I think most of us have been coping on adrenaline, and everything has felt incredibly surreal. Because we didn't have TV we didn't start watching all the images until yesterday, and we found it so distressing we had to turn in off.

Hearing the horrific stories of people dying and getting injured feels so hard to bear, and unbelievable that it is all in our own city that we love. Seeing the devastation of peoples houses and lives... and the destruction of our beautiful familiar landmarks seems quite overwhelming.

Yet in amongst all that, there is something very beautiful rising up.  We are hearing amazing stories of incredibly courageous rescues, and acts of sacrifice.  All over the city, people who usually are oblivious to each other, are sharing resources and manpower.

Driving round the city you see teams of ordinary people helping others, signs on fences offering various help, people warning others of potholes and dangers, and everyone going and checking on neighbours.  I have never before experienced such a community spirit (outside church!).

Many people are sharing their homes with others, one home is sharing their generator with all the neighbours, many strangers are making combined neighbourhood meals and BBQs, sharing what food and resources they have.

One or two have asked me "where do you think God is in all this?"

I think God can be visibly seen pouring His love out through all the acts of sacrifice, kindness and courage being shown around the city.

And this is the time for Christians to put our faith into action. We have the great advantage of being able to contact and organise an army of helpers to serve the city in its time of need.  I have been in contact with so many Pastors who are all keen for our churches to work together to achieve the most effective results.

I have been so proud of our Grace teams who have started a fantastic Welfare Centre in New Brighton, which has become a significant source of food, water and support in the area. Also other teams have been doing clean ups, repairs, shifting households and praying and loving people all over the city.

People we meet are not only desperate for food, water and practical help, but also want to talk, be hugged and just have people around them for company.

I hope as the City asks the questions ... where is God? ... they may experience his love flowing through all the Christian Army serving our city.