I sit in the safety of my house processing the events of yesterday. 15th March 2019. 49 shot dead while worshipping, praying. More injured, fighting for their lives. In Christchurch. In my city. My ground, my people. Even my children express anger for the man who rampaged. They, like me, express sadness, and feel the loss for families broken apart. How can there be so much anger in a human? As our Prime Minister, Ardern talked about, we condemn this hatred. It is NOT New Zealand, and it is definitely NOT Canterbury, Christchurch!
Lying on my classroom floor (luckily I had a carpeted room), with the half of my class, I felt a great sense of responsibility. These young people didn’t manage to go home in time before lockdown, and so there we were stuck together. As news of things coming closer to Papanui, my sense of responsibility grew. The young people in my care were brilliant. We prayed together, chatted, some watched a movie, some did strange things like build card towers and covered a friend’s head with toilet paper. It brought happy relief. 3 hours of up close and personal with the carpet and each other (it was nice how we all just clumped together), and we were sent home. Hungry and tired, we battled the traffic home. It was lovely being home, even lovelier being north of the Waimakariri River, north of Christchurch!
This morning I decided we needed to be at church. We all needed people this morning. As I sat in church today, I felt a sense of community, togetherness and love. It was good to be there. It reminded me of the first Sabbath after the earthquakes in 2011 when we had church outside, on a property opened up for us, simply for the love of the people. We had the sense of needing to be together. I felt that again today. Despite the encouragement to stay home, many turned up today, and we sang, prayed, hugged and talked. It was good. It was needed.
So as a city, we once again reunite. We feel a sense of ‘been-there-done-that’, as we rally around. Stories of heroes are emerging, and I feel a strong sense of needing to praise the stories of those involved – especially some stories of those who sheltered others and sacrificed their life for someone else. Our police force, first responders, St John, hospital staff, counsellors, forensic teams, everyone who has responded in some way – we thank you for your bravery, your courage, and for doing what needed doing at the time.
I turn to my Bible, and pray for those grieving, that God would fill their void. That the spirit of all comfort would be right in the mess now, and in the days, weeks, months and years to come, as healing takes place.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Love one another as I have loved you
Seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.