Still stunned

Still stunned

Life certainly hasn’t got back to normal yet after last week’s disastrous earthquake in Christchurch, even here in quiet Nelson.  Everyone is still deeply affected.

At the start of our Rotary club meeting two days after the earthquake, we had a reading and a prayer from Charles Tyrell, from the Nelson Cathedral. I’m sure he won’t mind if I reproduce it here:

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“As Rotarians we stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered loss in Christchurch because of the devastating earthquake.  We particularly grieve for those who have lost loved ones, whose loss is deeply personal and almost unimaginable.

Please forgive me if I share this thought with you before I say grace.  There is an account of Elijah the prophet running away from his enemies and hiding in a cave, in modern day Haifa.  I have stood in that cave and it has a real presence about it.  Let me just quote from the Old Testament:

‘Elijah – go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.’

As powerful and as destructive as the Christchurch earthquake was, God was not in the earthquake nor did God cause it.  God is being found in the ‘sound of sheer silence’, the peace and wholeness being offered to that community and to all the people at the centre of the suffering.  As Rotarians our job is to work for that peace and assure people that they too one day will experience the ‘sound of sheer silence.’

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I’m still on the e-mail list of my old Christchurch club and it’s great to read what’s going on. One account was typical: Katrina had to get to a pharmacy to collect some medicine. She had to walk a fair distance, I imagine due to the condition of the road. On the way she passed hundreds of volunteers cleaning up: shovelling silt and removing debris. It was hot, hard physical work. So before her return journey she called in to the supermarket and bought as many bottles of water as she could.  50 litres!  She then walked back to her car handing out water bottles as she went.

The voluntary effort going in is quite amazing.  For example, see this news item on the “Student Volunteer Army”, now 18,000 strong!  (I think that report may be out by an order of magnitude, but nevertheless it is an outstanding effort.) My old Lincoln Rotary club has been picking up food donated by a supermarket chain and making sandwiches for the volunteers. 

My own club has turned over the front page of its website to a bulletin board, to help match some of the requests for assistance with the many offers of help. It is heartwarming to read those posts.

On a personal front, my wife is coping very well. All but one of the staff in the Christchurch office of  Relationship Services have survived.  One of them, still in hospital after suffering serious injuries, gave a lengthy interview on national TV.  It was inspiring stuff: quite special people, these councillors.  But now they have had to set up support and counselling services, at a time when their office is being “de-layered” (translation: removed piece by piece in the painstaking search for any survivors amongst the there are many fatalities).  They have done well, systems were all up and running by Friday.

All this positive stuff is important, because the impact of the earthquake is going to be massive. 

A selection of some recent news clips that I found compelling:

One third of  the buildings in the Christchurch CBD will have to be demolished, death toll reaches 145 – ONE News

A dramatic escape story from the tallest building in Christchurch, now condemned. ONE News

Recent views of the iconic Christchurch Cathedral ONE News

some snapshots of the aftermath Youtube

Someone with the right gear and skills to pull off an heroic rescue ONE News

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