13 Mar, 2023 How Gisborne churches united to serve their flood-affected region
How Gisborne churches united to serve their flood-affected region
An update from Ps Lance Rickard, House of Breakthrough, Gisborne
(Copied from the ‘Mahi Ngatahi (Working together) FB page – for pastor committed to the unity groups/pastors’ group of their city).
We are now 20 or so days since Cyclone Gabriel battered Tairawhiti. The common view for most – including those who remember Cyclone Bola, was that this was a storm like no other. The destruction to our infrastructure was unprecedented.
- Many roads became impassable.
- Bridges that have been around for decades are severely damaged, requiring full replacement.
- In many outer villages that were flooded a majority of the homes were affected, most needing substantial work to be repaired – if even possible all.
- Houses in streets in Gisborne that were low lying and built around mainly the Waimata river area were flooded, with a meter or more of silt and water.
- Tonnes and tonnes of silt now needs to be removed, especially through the Gisborne flats where crops of maize, vegetable crops and vineyards once stood. The same applies for sheep and beef farmers, many of whom who sustained significant slipping and flooding – and access issues. A current challenge for many is getting stock out to be sold, with some farmers having lost their feed supply.
- From what we are hearing, those from the Hawkes Bay who visit say this area is more affected.
The work of churches
The House of Breakthrough Church was quickly involved because it has been a Civil Defence evacuation point for many years. People who had to evacuate their homes were directed here by the Civil Defence from Monday the 13th February.
- There was only a small team that could get to the church on that first day because of restricted access around the City, with bridges and many roads closed by the extreme conditions.
- Red Cross was activated and were able to get temporary bedding into the church to accommodate the large number of people that stayed there on that first night.
- By Tuesday we were able to get small teams into the Church to take care of those that needed help.
- From our records 1300 people came through our church doors on the first two and half days of our activation.
The Ready Relief Team – made up of Exclusive Brethren…
The Ready Relief Team (RRT) were able to get to the Church on Tuesday morning where they cooked Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for two days before they had to shift to Wairoa to help in the extreme situation there.
- The RRT team was made up fully by the Exclusive Brethren. They were excellent, and in our brief-debrief they said that they really enjoyed serving in our church environment, in which they saw the care that was made looking after people.
Other churches then joined – local and nationally
- Not long after the RRT came in, local churches who had first gone to check their parishioners were cared for, joined in at our evacuation centre with food and other resources to help – notably including Alive Church, Gisborne AOG and Mangapapa Church.
- For our House of Breakthrough team and volunteers, knowing that they were with us to help serve the people no matter the situation gave us great comfort, and strengthened our resolve together to keep helping the people.
- The level of support from these and other churches – including throughout the nation, has been remarkable.
- Ps Norm (Senior Pastor, House of Breakthrough) – having noted Psalms 133 (“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”), commented on how in all his life in Church, he had never seen such an outpouring from churches in Gisborne and the nation.
- Church groups around Aotearoa have forwarded substantial donations of food and finances to help in the restoration, and in looking after our people here in Tairawhiti – and I am sure that is similar to what is going on in the Hawkes Bay.
And our love was a witness
We as churches were a witness to what Jesus would do in these circumstances – reflecting him.
- We had people who had never been in church who had to be evacuated. Once here they saw what we had to do to help other, and chose to then remain here, helping until things began to calm down (which was about 9 days from when the storm hit).
- The various Social Services that worked with us – including the Gisborne District Council who manned the Civil Defence station here, also commented on how welcoming and ‘humanitarian’ (their word) the environment was in this evacuation centre. In fact, it was so much so that they refused to be shifted to any other site that was similarly set-up in Gisborne.
We did what Jesus would do, but we were able to do this because we were not tied down by too many systems and processes. When there is a need, people are needed who can stand and respond promptly. God’s people here were able to do that. They freed themselves to take initiative themselves, to go and help others.
But they were also helped to do that by the support received from the churches together across Gisborne, as also from churches across our nation. (Thank you!)
It was an abnormal situation, but we hope it reflected a way of living that can be normal in Christ!
For other articles by Dave on the same topic of Church unity
2022 – A vocabulary we can agree on (This one is a particularly important FOUNDATION if coherent national discussions on unity are to one day take place)
2020 – It’s time to take responsibility to educate our own children and youth again (On united direction and strategy – for city change)
2020 – A need for new media platforms – not more voices (How do we address the increasingly left-leaning and also anti-faith bias of public media?)
2020 – A vision for national Church unity (What might REALISTICALLY be within our reach to achiEve – if we merely thought differently?)
2019 – ‘In One Spirit’ – The purpose of the book (Written at the time of the book launch and press release)
2019 – United we stand (A blog just prior to the release of the above book, ‘In One Spirit’)
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.