I drove to Christchurch on Sunday night through heavy rain all the way, and am lodging at a Holiday Park in bunk rooms. (Unfortunately on the top bunk with a guy below who is the loudest snorer I have heard in my life! )
Today I was assigned team of about ten people. We were driven out to a suburb and we were paired off. Each pair went visiting houses, knocking on the door and asking the people inside how they were coping with things after the earthquake. We had lots of things we can offer them. It has been a truly good day. There are several things about it.
· The people we are working with are great. There are people from all over NZ and people from Australia. There are Salvation Army people and there are other denominations and no denomination. But we are doing serious work, but also having fun. There is a lot of joking, but when we are in contact with the people there is just love and care.
· I am impressed with the reaction we get. I am wearing a Salvation Army high viz vest. People see the Salvation Army shield and they respond with admiration, appreciation and a willingness to share.
· I am often frustrated with Churches which get into a whole lot of religious stuff. They get wrapped up in religious studies, worship and Church growth etc. But here I am working with a bunch of Christian people whose aim and purpose is to serve people. We stood and sang this morning “Brother Sister let me serve you” and it rang bells because the people were here to serve, to serve God and to serve people. It is really refreshing, here is “Church” as I dream of it.
· I am impressed with the logistics, administration and planning that has gone into the who process. There are the teams in the field. There are people in each team who resource the people doing the visiting. Then there are others who resource and help them. The whole process runs very smoothly but is still human and love based.
Of course it is only day one and I have four days to go, but so far it has been a great experience of doing something truly human, truly connecting with others and in an atmosphere of unity and love.
We had a very full day of sharing with people today. We of course were out pounding the footpaths and knocking on doors a lot earlier than yesterday so the day has seemed long. But once again it has been so rewarding. I share two visits;
We called on one lady we met her at the gate and she led us inside. She told us how her grandchild was killed in the quake, how her husband had a terminal illness and a whole host of woes. What do you say? We listened. We arranged for some support and a food parcel but we felt so sad for her and the burden she was carrying. It was a strange feeling. We went in and sat down and she told us her story, and stopped waiting for a response. We just looked at each other and both of us stammered something, not really knowing where to start.
The last visit for the day was an elderly man. I had peered over the high fence and saw him sitting in his backyard pulling copper wire out of appliances. (we were to learn he sold the copper to raise funds to visit his son in Australia.) We walked up to him and he cautiously accepted our greetings and approach. He was fearful of earthquakes but did not want counselling. I got on my hands and knees and the two of us listened as he told of illnesses, bereavements and hard times. He was angry at God who he was not sure he believed in and angry at Welfare, and had had lots of set backs. He wept as he told us but did not want to receive help. We listened, said we would come back with a food parcel. After a time we came back and knocked at his window. He let us in. We gave him food and four bottles of water. He beamed and thanked us. As we left he said, "And hey, may God go with you!" He was deeply lonely, I felt sad we had to leave, but he was a changed man when we left.
Day two over... time for rest.