01 Mar, 2023 Can NZ churches shine when it counts? (Napier flood report)
Can the NZ Church unite when it counts?
You bet it can!
A report from Napier/Hastings/Havelock North churches
(Hear what God’s Church is doing!)
(Photo: Bruce talking to his phone — from which this report was written).
Bruce Collingwood is pastor of Napier Elim Church, and also currently the facilitator of the Napier ministers’ network. He reports the following on the impact of cyclone Gabrielle — and the amazing way the churches have responded.
On the Monday Night the cyclone arrived, with high winds and high rainfall. They were largely unprepared, thinking it would just be another storm.
The next morning the reports of devastation began to come in. But the reports came slowly as there was no power or phone coverage in Napier — and many streets were knee deep to waste deep in water.
The Church responds
Every church and Christian went in to a crisis response mode — serving others. Napier city was the recipient of that focus of their own help for the first 7 days. People needed food, showers and housing — and most churches and Christians did what Jesus would do. They got busy!
The Church unites
About a week later — with information lines opening up — Bruce felt strongly that he needed to call the churches of the Hawkes Bay (Napier, Hastings, Havelock North) together. Needs were shifting from an initial ‘crisis response’ to a ‘recovery response’. The areas of need were also shifting from the cities themselves, to the areas around them — sometimes just 10mins drive away, which were highly affected. This included Eskdale, Puketapu, Whirinaki Pakowhai, the back end of Omahu, Twyford and more. Damage in these places was signficant — with reports at the extreme of 7m waves coming down rivers taking houses, cars, animals and bridges in their wake. Streams had overflowed filling valleys, bringing devastation to properties — and lives!
Amazing decisions at first gathering
Upon meeting the pastors of the region immediately agreed to work together — to function ‘as one’, with some very practical action steps in view.
- They identified 3 churches as distribution centres that all churches can access for food and clothing to help families and people in need.
- A lady representing the churches had been appointed as a coordinator for the military effort, so she was able to feed reports and supplies back to the churches, so their ready memberships could be well utilised enabling aid.
- Two Ministers, one of whom was representing the Salvation Army, were invited to be part of the civil defence briefing every morning. They brought reports back to the pastors also, bringing direction to efforts.
- In this process they identified that the Destiny Church was the best equipped amongst them for the needed recovery work. The pastor there was involved with a contracting business, with ready access to bulldozers and diggers… Additionally, Destiny Church’s ‘Man Up’ and ’Legacy’ programmes across the country had mobilised 200 of their people — each leaving their own jobs and homes for two weeks, to travel to help in the area. Other churches therefore worked with their teams, because they were the best equipped for the front line work of removing silt – which was 2m high in and around some houses.
- To conclude that first meeting, they decided to meet weekly, so they could adjust quickly within what would be a quickly changing situation – so their help could be well targeted to the greatest needs.
A second meeting…
At their second meeting, the additional following insightful action steps were implemented (this being this past week).
- The churches appoint a person as a staff to work on their behalf (as a group) for two days per week for the next four months to focus in particular on the housing needs. Their role is to liaise with the Salvation Army, Civil Defence, Ministry of Social development and others – to enable solutions. With many displaced, this includes identifying suitable tent sites with amenities — or buildings, ‘Air BnB’ homes that could be rented for longer periods to house people, and more — to provide accommodation for those with needs.
- With awareness of the emotional toll of the event on people, they also collated a list of counsellors who were wiling to give their service for free to help people — which all churches could then access to offer help to others.
- They are also in the process of considering buying a generator, solar panels and water blaster for a number of their churches — so each is equipped to go out to help.
It is a remarkable example of the church in action when it counts!
Well done to the churches of Napier, Hastings and Havelock!
You are being the hands and feet of Jesus.
You are representing our Lord well — and we are so encouraged by all that you are doing!
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.