25 February 2011

my third home

Something has been on my heart all week. I have hesitated to write about it because I was afraid it would come off trite. There is massive political, social and economic unrest all over the world. There are wars, famine and death all around. People are kidnapped, children are killed and families torn apart. It is safe to say that you could pick almost any country and find a horrible tragedy.

But one in particular has stood out to me.

I hesitate to devote a post to it because perhaps it is selfish that this particular place has stood out. Perhaps I am focused on this one place because places like Lybia and their unrest really frighten me about the future. Perhaps I care more because I have a connection. I suppose in life we do that. But I can't seem to get this tragedy out of my head.

On 22 February Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a 6.3 earthquake. As of 5 minutes ago, the death toll has risen to 113. I imagine that number will continue to increase as the recovery work continues and the ruble is cleared. No one has been pulled out alive from the wreckage since Wednesday. There are still close to a hundred missing. I am fighting the tears as I write this.

New Zealand holds a place in my heart that no other place can ever fill. Just as much as London and Oklahoma are my homes, so is New Zealand. I truly discovered the Kristina I am today in New Zealand. I met my husband in New Zealand. I got my masters degree in New Zealand. I fell in love with a culture, a people, and a lifestyle that I have forever tried to emulate because of New Zealand. My heart truly came home and settled for the first time in New Zealand.

Buildings, memorial bridges, churches, the Cathedral, pubs, and homes that all hold special memories are destroyed. And my heart is sad because of it.

I have dear friends in New Zealand who have lost their loved ones in the earthquake and my heart is breaking for them.

A friend of mine who runs a hostel in Christchurch escaped with her life, but her livelihood is gone. And my heart is aching for her.

I cant imagine what life will be like in New Zealand now. It is an interesting culture to try and explain to people who have never been. The entire country, comprised of two small islands, is roughly 2/3 the size of Missouri. The people are very tight knit. It doenst matter if you live in Auckland, you are hurting for Christchurch. I have never been to a place that whole heartily embraces the idea of 'brotherly love' more completely than New Zealand. Even states known for their southern hospitality pale in comparison to the generosity and compassion New Zealanders show for their fellow man.

I have said it before, and it still holds true, that although New Zealand is not an overly religious country, Christians could learn a lot about how to act just by observing their culture. New Zealand is a visual explain of what the Church, the body of Christ, should look like. Compassionate, selfless, forgiving, giving, caring, helpful, and living in kindness. The people are open and willing to lend a hand. This is not an exaggeration; I have never encountered such wholesale kindness by a people in all the 30 countries I have been to.

I could list example after example of people going out of their way for me during my months in NZ. Like the time my credit card wouldn't work at the rental car company and the owner let me take the car anyway, saying he would trust me to come back and pay later in the week, because knew I needed the car and was willing to help. Or the family that overheard me at a payphone one day about how I was lonely and missed my family and promptly invited me back to their house for dinner. Another time a couple offered to pay for my groceries because they knew what it was like to travel and be on a budget. Then there were the girls who invited me to their table for coffee and snacks because I was on my own; the National Archives worker who did whatever he could to help as he knew I was on a limited time frame- even though it meant putting off his own project. I could go on and on with story after story of New Zealanders showing examples of love, charity, hospitality, and generosity.

I vividly remember an email I sent out to my friends in 2005 when I was still in NZ describing the culture. I compared it to the church then, but even as I do the same now, I am still struck by the comparison. I am called to help out those in need, to love unconditionally, and to act in kindness because I love and follow Jesus. The Bible tells us to do those things, and as a follow of Christ, I should do my best to live by Biblical standards. Sadly, I fall short more than I would like to admit. The church as an institution is called to do those same things as well. Like me, they too fall short. I am not saying that New Zealanders are perfect. Heck they have more bars than any other place I have been too and a fairly high percentage of people with drinking problems. The islands have their fare share of shortcomings as does every place. But I am saying that if you look at their lifestyle- they seem to get it right. (And we could learn from their culture.) And it makes me sad that tradegy has struck.

I have no doubt that they will rally around each other and do what they can to move forward. I have no doubt that they will pull together and make Christchurch what it was before. But my heart hurts for them.

Selfishly my heart hurts a little because the places that hold some of my dearest memories with Rhys are now gone. We walked together in the Cathedral which is half missing. We shared many a pint and laugh (and even a cheeky dance and kiss) in a famous pub, which is now destroyed. I know I still have the memories, but part of me wanted to go back and visit- walking in those same spots. And I will no longer have that chance.

I am sad that people are dying. I am sad that so many lives are being ripped apart. I am sad that homes and families are forever changed because of one afternoon. I am just sad.

Please, if you haven't been doing so already, join me in praying for the people of New Zealand. Please pray specifically for my friends John and Elizabeth who have lost their home, their hostel and their way of life. Please pray for all the families and friends of those dead and missing. Pray for God's power to come and take over the situation. I may not understand the situation, or why it had to happen, but I do believe that God is in control.

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