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Friday, March 11, 2011

Church Website: St Paul's Lutheran

St Paul's Lutheran Church
Christchurch, New Zealand
"Making disciples for Jesus"

Established in 1924 (from local beginnings in 1871)

23 February: The latest earthquakes here, since 12:50pm Tuesday, 22 February 2011 - NZ time, have caused extensive new destruction and deaths of many people in central Christchurch; many more are injured or yet to be found. The full extent of damage in residential suburbs is yet to be determined. Loss of electrical power and telephones, combined with transport restrictions, are making contact with our church members and friends very difficult. There is further extensive damage to our pastor's own house. Structural integrity of our church worship centre is now uncertain, and there is much chaos inside, with many fallen items. Thoughts and prayers from around the world are very much appreciated. Thank you!

25 February: Many members and friends have sustained damage to their homes, some severe; many have properties extensively covered with shin-deep, grey sandy mud. Our poor church building is still standing strong, but bruised! Office equipment, computers, sound-amplifiers, kitchen equipment and food, shelving, books, bibles, lectern, baptim font, and even the altar - were scattered around like discarded toys. Several members have personal stories of very close shaves near collapsing buildings on tuesday; but they survived - praise God!

26 February: This morning, Janine and I spent a couple of hours shovelling deposited mud and sand off the residential driveway we share with an elderly widow neighbour. Then around noon, our spirits were lifted by the arrival of three strangers from across town - two university faculty men and a young son of one of them - who proceeded to unload spades and a wheelbarrow. They asked if they might help us, having been moved by the plight of people living in the severely quake-affected areas like ours; as they had been spared, in their part of the city. They then shifted mud and sand from our neighbour's yard with us for several hours. And during that time we were joined by a happy group of 8 students - part of a several thousand-strong volunteer army of Christchurch college and university students, and others - who were giving time over a number of days to assisting residents with the post-quake clean up. We had shifted several tonnes of sand together by the end of the afternoon, and had a wonderfully uplifting time together. But as we had only removed about 20% of the estimated 20-tonnes total of sand that had been deposited around our house from under the ground, the students said they intended to come back tomorrow to help us again. God is good!

3 March: Well, after several full days of digging, we have cleared most of the deposited mud and sand from the yards of two neighbours' homes and our home. Though we are tired with aching muscles and eyes full of grit, our spirits have been lifted sky-high through the whole experience! You see, we were assisted by an amazing collection of strangers over the last week - most of whom have no church connection, but who simply arrived on our door-step with spade or wheelbarrow and very caring hearts - keen to assist people who had experienced difficulties that they had been spared. And so, over the last 5 days we have laboured and sweated shoulder-to-shoulder in combinations of humanity that wouldn't ordinarily mix with one-another: university professors; high school and varsity students; highly-qualified professionals; unskilled-unemployed men and women; new arrivals from Asia, America and Europe; a heavily tatooed White Power skinhead; a 10 year-old boy; a former prostitute; and a humbled and very thankful Lutheran pastor and his wife. We have been visited by a troup of our Lord's angels in these dire days - and our lives have been exceptionally blessed!

4 March: While our church building came through last week's (and last year's) earthquakes relatively unscathed, the same cannnot be said for many other houses of worship throughout Christchurch, unfortunately - and I'm not only thinking of the main Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in town, that are now apparently beyond saving. Many suburban church buildings are now unusable; and so, we at St.Paul's Lutheran will be sharing our building on Sundays until Easter at least, with our local Catholic congregation and a larger Anglican congregation - both now homeless. This will inevitably mean some compromise for us in order to accommodate the needs of the other congregations; however, I think we can give up some convenience for Lent, to help fellow Christians!
This morning I conducted a simple family funeral service for the oldest member of our congregation - Mrs Anni Grimm, who died at 2:20am, aged 97years. This service was conducted in her room at a seniors' rest home inside the central city earthquake cordon, which - like my pastoral visits with her over the last week - meant me having to convince police and soldiers at the road barricade that I really was a Christian pastor and not just some random leather-clad biker with malicious intentions! (A public memorial service for Anni will be conducted at St.Paul's in a few weeks time, when post-earthquake activities have slowed down a bit.)

7 March: All Sunday worship services at St.Paul's went well - Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican - despite us having a reduced electricity supply, and so, no sanctuary lighting or heating! This week, we will also provide meeting space for a local child-care centre and a parents-support agency, both unable to use their regular buildings due to earthquake damage; and we are also hosting the Burwood Churches' Ash Wednesday evening worship service.

10 March: Post-earthquake, St.Paul's is a buzzing place - with people from various community groups and churches coming and going, all successfully conducting their activities in the safe and relatively undamaged facilities. Our guests are very appreciative of the welcoming environment, even though we have limited electrical power available - and of the unplanned informal networking that has been taking place between groups using adjacent rooms!   Yesterday evening's combined churches Ash Wednesday service here had a better-than-expected attendance, and the reduced electric lighting added a special candle-dim ambiance to the worship and the fellowship supper afterwards.     

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