Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake February 22nd 2011

The First 18 Hours

12 Noon I have a few things to do in Riccarton. I pick up a cheque for Kirstin, post some Trade Me orders and draw some cash. It’s Tim’s 21st tomorrow but he wants a celebration dinner tonight. My next stop is Northlands Mall where I pull out my shopping list and head to one of the stores that sells cheap novelties.

12:51 I pick up some balloons, a party banner and a badge saying Birthday Boy. Tim will like that I think. It will appeal to his sense of humour. I’m heading to the till to pay when there’s a low rumbling sound and everything starts to shake. Aftershock! The motion increases and people start screaming. I grab onto the shelving unit next to me as the floor heaves beneath my feet. Then a lighting panel crashes from the ceiling, missing me by inches. It sways in front of me, suspended by a power cable. I look up, try and keep my footing.

12:52 The shaking subsides and people stream from the stores, crying, shaking, alarms shrieking all around. I drop my shopping on a shelf and follow, snapping a few photos as I head to open air. People are orderly as they head to their cars but a big group clusters around the entrance to the mall. A lady is helped out by work colleagues and sits on a stone under a tree. Another woman lies on the floor in a foetal position, sobbing, face covered. My arms and hands are tingling with pins and needles and feel numb and strange. It must be the shock.

13:02 I try to text the children and call Kevin but the phone lines are jammed. I walk down the ramp to the underground parking to find my car. A dozen alarms echo through the air and I can’t wait to get out. Traffic is backed up and as I wait in a queue to leave the mall area, another shock hits. I find out later that it’s a 5.7. I watch in horrified fascination as the gigantic 3 storey concrete wall to my right waves and bends like a piece of plastic. It’s a wonder of modern architecture that it doesn’t shatter.

13:30 Home after spending ages in traffic. The house appears undamaged but speakers have fallen, cupboards are open, the contents of my sewing box are strewn across the stairs, bottles and pictures have fallen. The dogs are subdued and distressed.

14:30 The children are all accounted for and Kevin is safe. I get a text from Chantelle saying the school won’t let them out unless they are collected. Jason comes and we drive down to Burnside High. As we walk across the field, a 5.5 aftershock hits and the trees, cars and grass undulate. Pupils mill around. Girls are red-eyed and clinging to each other and staff are trying to organise them into divisions. 3000 pupils to account for is no laughing matter. I finally get a text to say Chantelle is at a friend’s house opposite the school.

15:30 Watch the non-stop footage on TV and mourn for those who’ve died today. The city centre is shattered.

18:00 With my afternoon shopping trip sidelined, I have to use what’s in the house for Tim’s dinner. Two chickens, rice, potatoes and a few frozen vegetables. Cans of peaches and pears are our dessert. We have no bread and two boxes of milk. The stores are closed and our local supermarket is in a devastating mess. I worry about food for a while then place it in God’s hands.

23:30 I know I need to sleep so go to bed. I doze on and off but aftershocks rattle the house every 15 minutes or so.

04:30 I give up the battle and go downstairs to make tea for Kevin and coffee for myself. At the same time I dig the bread-maker out and dump ingredients into it.

06:00 Inspect the bread and see I forgot the yeast. I was the same after the September earthquake. My mind turned to mush and I struggled to remember simple things. Toss the bread away and head out with Kevin. We drive through the suburbs and along the edge of town. The damage is overwhelming. Roads are cracked and sunk, homes destroyed, buildings shattered, cars crushed.

Please pray for Christchurch.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Great Thou Art

Daniel and I were asked to go on an extended road trip earlier this week - 1500 kilometres in two days to be precise. It was loads of fun and between us we managed to lock the keys in the car and leave my suitcase at the motel! (We're still arguing over who was really to blame)

It certainly was an unforgettable trip, but also because of the scenery. New Zealand is a tiny country but beautiful - and we passed such a variety of landscapes along the way. The words of How Great Thou Art were in my mind as we drove through rocky mountains and fern-encrusted hills, over sparkling rivers and along golden shores. Have a look at some of the areas we visited and ponder on the words of this magnificent old hymn.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power through out the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,

And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Walk through Cave Stream

Have you ever waded through a stream in the depths of a cave, climbed up a waterfall or stared at the vaulted roofs of rocky caverns? There’s a spot in the Southern Alps where Kevin and I have done this several times. Cave Stream Scenic Reserve sits in the Castle Hill basin approximately 100 kilometres from Christchurch. To reach the cave, you follow a path down the mountainside to the Broken River - and then around a bend to the cave mouth. The walk takes you upriver though the cave – and although it is only 600 metres long, it takes about 45 minutes to complete.

When planning our last visit in January 2011, we decided to mention it in church and invited everyone to join us. We were amazed when a crowd of about 60 gathered on the morning.

The entrance to the cave is the most challenging part for some people. As you wade into the stream, light fades and water levels rise until they are almost up to your chest. Even in midsummer, the water is ice cold and a great shock until your body acclimatises to it.

On this warm January day, we posed for a group photo inside the cave and then set off on our adventure. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack and was amazed at how barriers fell away in the rushing water. People were laughing and interacting, pulling each other up waterfalls, and splashing in pools. The floor of the cave alternates between large rounded rocks and smooth patches of rock and children were lifted over difficult stretches and older folk checked on.

What a wonderful picture of the church, I thought. We’re like a family working together, looking out for each other and helping each other through rough patches. Our headlamps gave a funnel of light but although we couldn’t see too far ahead, we all made it to the end. The last part of the cave involves climbing up a rock face with the aid of metal rungs set into the rock. This is followed by crawling through a narrow space to reach daylight and fresh air. Some struggled with the climb but with encouragement, they made it up the ladder and through the crawl space.

Exhilarated and tired, the whole group then headed to Castle Rock where we had a picnic lunch and explored the unusual rock formations. Altogether it was a fantastic day – but for me it was more than just a walk through a cave. It was a lesson in life.