Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What a week!

Sunday night is my traditional "blogging" night, but what do I want to write about? I have some posts bubbling away in my mind on some topics, but I thought I would complete the story of my week.
Completing Christchurch..
In Christchurch I completed my week of door knocking. We knocked on doors, introduced ourselves as coming from the Salvation Army and wanting to touch base to make sure everyone was OK, and "did they need any assistance"? It was a very interesting week. Here are some observations...
  • The quake on February 22nd must have been an incredibly violent experience. As we knocked on doors we kept coming across people who were still terrified of another quake. One couple had slept in their camper van parked away from any buildings for five weeks, just so they could be safe if another big earthquake hit. Only on the day before we knocked on their door, did they venture to sleep in their house. People living on their own find it particularly difficult.
  • It was great to be working as a team and with my partner. Often I work alone here, but up there I was with a bunch of people. While we were encountering sadness and involved in intense conversations, there were hilarious times of laughter in between.
  • I am not the sort of person that enjoys knocking on doors and establishing a quick relationship with people, but I did it successfully. I felt confident in my ability to say the right thing, listen creatively and give support to people. It was a confirming experience for me. I did well.
  • The impact of the earthquake is very profound. It has cost people quite a bit to just begin to rebuild their lives. (e.g. One mum told us how much it added to her grocery bill having to buy bottled water) We encountered people who had lost employment or who had taken a cut in the number of hours of work. It will take a long time before life is back to "normal" for many Christchurch people. One person made the comment that it is and will be a different kind of "normal".
  • There were some great expressions of solidarity, compassion and togetherness. One family invited people in their street to share a meal at their house. Another elderly lady fed the cats of all who were away. People called on others who were on their own. There was graffiti encouraging people. I hope that spirit is maintained.
  • A lot of the houses in the suburb we visited housed dysfunctional families, heaps of unemployed people, with unhealthy lifestyles and attitudes. While the earthquake had made things worse for them, they were already in a mess. I worry that in NZ we are producing a sizable "underclass" of people whose lives are simply a mostly miserable existence. I guess if I door knocked in Dunedin in a similar way in a number of areas of town I would find the same sort of thing. It is extremely sad!
I had a busy week. We had to be ready to board our vans every morning at 6:30 a.m. and did not get back to the camp until after 7 at night. We were on our feet all day and so physically tired, but in strange beds with sometimes disrupted sleep. After driving the four and a quarter hours home, I was tired. On Saturday I had a four hour Night Shelter Trust meeting, and preparation for Sunday. In Church this morning as I told a story my voice cracked up and I had to hold myself together to stop from weeping in front of people. After Church I simply bombed.

I have a day off tomorrow, but strangely enough I wish I was going back to Christchurch to help out again.
Me "from the Salvation Army"?
As I went door knocking I would say something like, "Hi we are from the Salvation Army". It was actually pretty obvious because we had high vis jackets with the Red Shield on the front and back. As I worshipped with these people I figured that I would probably be kicked out of the Salvation Army for some heretical opinions. They are much more conservative theologically than me. I could not identify with a lot of their religious stuff. I did like their passion for service though and they certainly had a great reputation and lots of respect. I wondered, where were my liberal/progressive Christian colleagues? I guess they were holding candle lighting worship services for Christchurch? ... fair enough. ... yeah right! Somebody once described me as an "evangelical liberal". They said I had liberal views, but the passion of an evangelical.
Anyhow I love this quote from William Booth....

“While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!”

  • An evening photo of a Catholic Cathedral, part of which was destroyed in the quake.
  • My partner for the week. From South Africa originally, a Dutch Reformed Church member, we spent much of our time in good humoured (mostly) arguing, when we were not listening to the needs of people. (Or avoiding guard dogs!)
  • The team heads out from the van in pairs.
  • The team, my colleagues for the week. I had only met one of them before (the CEO of Workplace Support) but pretty soon we felt like a group of long standing friends.


Linda Myers said...

I added Habitat for Humanity to my profile interests today, then clicked on it to find you. Glad I did!

Dave Brown said...

Good to "meet you" via internet. :-)