Today was my final full day here, and I loved it - all day out with the bus and knocking on doors, meeting families in the low decile community of Rowley. I met loads of great Samoan and Maori people, learnt my first words of Samoan, and felt the presence of God in the conversations.
Most people are coping pretty well. The lack of water is a problem - a "toilet" which is actually a hole in the back garden is rapidly filled with 7 kids contributing! Typically, we've seen numerous portaloos around, especially in the more affluent areas, but not a single one in the whole of Rowley. Louise is onto it, and hopefully the council will fulfill their promise to supply some tomorrow.
Most kids are staying at home, bored, but afraid to go out to play as they normally would. Many folk in Rowley are unable to access the food and water that is apparently available, due to language issues, lack of transport, or simply because they have forgotten how to take responsibility for themselves - though I am probably not allowed to say that. I have literally seen kids drinking filthy silt-polluted drain water.
But what perhaps concerns me most is this - the number of times I have heard how resilient, resourceful and self-sufficient Cantabrians are (Christchurch is in an area called Canterbury for non-Kiwis.) While it would be harsh to call this arrogance, I have been surprised at how few people are turning to God and asking for His mercy and protection. Despite two significant earthquakes, the prevailing attitude is that we can and will rebuild our City, better and safer and stronger than before. While I have no doubt that many church leaders are responding to the disaster with faith, courage and action, those who make it into the press or TV talk of human tragedy,the need for us to pull together, and offer encouragements for us to care for our vulnerable neighbours - all well and good, but not an adequate Christian response. We have an obligation to point people to Jesus Christ, first and foremost, as the ultimate source who alone meets our deepest needs. As I write we again suffer the telling reminder of what may yet happen again, with a sizable after-shock, and our best plans, designs, and building techniques can offer no guarantees.
Christchurch has a place in my memory and in my heart that few other cities have earned. I hope and pray with all I am that this city will turn to the Lord and King whose name she owns.
Cherish them while you can
1 week ago