Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back in Christchurch

I was not sure what to expect on my return to the earthquake hit city - how much would things have improved in the 5 weeks since I was last here? My overall impression is that we are still at sticking plaster phase - doing immediate tasks, but not yet into long-term rebuilding. Roads are mended, holes and cracks filled in, only to re-appear with the next aftershock. Portaloos and chemical toilets are an improvement on long-drops in the back garden, but a genuine flushing toilet still is my preferred option! The big decisions about the long term future are yet to be made.

In some places, unsafe or partially collapsed buildings have been demolished, and roads have been cleared of rubble. Shops are open, trying to operate business as usual, adjacent to red-stickered unsafe properties, or empty cleared plots.

On our arrival, we stopped at the site of the CTV building, where nearly 100 died - one end remains intact while the rest has been cleared. You can see the height of what was a 6 story building, and the size - a poignant reminder of the terrible destruction suffered. It is a place to be quiet and reflect, and my preference would be that it is left in this condition as a raw memorial. Let's not sanitise death and tragedy and human powerlessness.

We visited the Sumner-Redcliffs area, a beautiful part of Christchurch, now living under the continuing threat from looming cliffs with loose rocks and boulders. Life carries on as normal, and yet of course it cannot.

At some stage houses will be assessed, demolished and rebuilt, or extensive repairs carried out - meaning the residents have to move out. Areas have been found which will become temporary communities, for up to five years, with transient populations. There is an obvious and desperate need for a Christian presence, and the church is aware of this, but unsure how to respond. We visited one such site - hundreds of campers vans parked side by side - in effect, a one room home. Can people really cope in such conditions - I doubt it. We were horrified - imagine living for weeks on end, in a one bedroom house on wheels, with just a few feet between you and the next van. I am not sure what other facilities will be made available, but someone, somehow, has to try and make life bearable by offering community. When asked what ministry his church would offer to one such camp, a Vicar suggested it was more the kind of thing Church Army would be equipped to do. And he is right, but who, and how do we finance them?

Back in the day the National Director would simply send Church Army people to Christchurch and they would find somewhere to sleep at night, and somehow get food etc - but that isn't how we operate any more. Shame, because I suspect that by the time we are ready to respond, it'll be too late!

So, impressions so far - enormous needs and opportunities, but equal frustration because our response feels so inadequate. Who will come and join us?

My next blog will tell you what is happening, and how what we can do and are doing is making a difference.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The last lap?

I have just read an advertisement for "Affordable retirement units in the Diocese of Waiapu" - the blurb reads "Our villages are ideal for the over-55's seeking independent living in friendly and supportive local communities." Excuse me?! Over 55's, that gives me very few years before I can settle down in my comfortable chair and slippers. A sobering thought. I had better get a move on.

My current book is "We have recovered" by Steve Baughan, who is my equivalent in CA USA. It tells how those with full on addictions have recovered using the Common Solution Recovery Programme, with classic AA input. Addicts are particularly prone to procrastination - working through some of the steps, but not all. One phrase caught my attention - "‎"Wait" is often the door to never."

There are countless reasons why now is not the best time, why we should not rush in, why we need to plan carefully, why we need to get others on board, why we need to avoid spreading ourselves too thinly, but when all is said and done a heck of a lot more is said than done. If 55 is the beginning of the end, there really is no time to wait.

Having complained in my last blog about the number of people on the CANZ mailing list who never contact us or send donations, I must praise the number of people who have responded with such generosity to our recent Together magazine - we have had a steady flow of donations large and small, many targeted for Christchurch, which leave me humbled and deeply grateful. We even received a parcel from England containing "toys and treats" - I can't wait to see the kids' faces when we these are handed out when we visit Christchurch next week. I'm excited about going back, and hope to blog more frequently!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What's Director to do?

I am in the final stages of preparing our magazine, "Together", which goes out three times each year to church leaders, churches, friends and supporters. One of the things I've been meaning to do for while was to trawl through our database, and see how many individuals have not contacted us for four or more years - and by definition have given not a cent during that time.
What a depressing task that was - precisely 641 people fall into that category. They receive our magazine year after year, and perhaps read it from cover to cover and use the contents to pray for us and to promote our ministry. But really? Many will give it a cursory flick through, then lay it aside or simply bin it - not considering the wasted resources of time and money.
So each will receive a little piece of paper with the next edition - inviting them to reply and let us know they want to remain on out mailing list. and I hope many will choose to make the effort and do so.
Passivity sometimes infuriates me - how right it is that we ask forgiveness not just for the wrong we do, but for the good we do not do. Tomorrow I shall walk to our local Muslim Centre, find the Imam and seek his forgiveness for the idiot American who thinks it is cool to burn the Qur'an, and explain that not all Christians are like that. What an impact it would have on Muslims in the West of all Christians humbly did the same.