Despite the Earthquake, God is Here

On November 14th, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Kaikoura. Given the strength of the earthquake it was a miracle that only two people lost their lives. A holiday weekend with lots of tourists visiting here had just ended, and most people were at home instead of the hotels or other common areas that were among the most damaged. Nevertheless there was a lot of damage: particularly in the commercial district that was gearing up for what would usually be a peak tourist season. But the road northward was blocked, and few tourists came.

This was the setting that my cohort of CCSP entered. I, for one, was largely naïve of the impact of the earthquake. Our program was relocated, but it was to a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean and close to town. I had nothing to compare it to, and thus no sense of the loss that occurred. The loss first began to hit me when I biked out to see the old convent with Kelly, one of my friends from the program. As we carefully walked around the outside of the building, I saw what a beautiful place it was. It was large with balconies and porches, and surrounded by flowers and fields. Sanctuary seems like the only word to describe it: it was a place set aside for the work of God, a place of peace, healing, and contemplation. Even in its brokenness it was beautiful; there were still vegetables growing in the garden and at a distance through the windows we could see artwork on the walls and a bowl of fruit sitting in the living room. But now there was glass on the ground and caution tape surrounding the parameter. Like the pictures you see on TV, I saw a perfect place frozen in time by a natural disaster. I started to understand the deep impact of this event on those around me, and saw how deep the hurt ran.

I see God in the eyes of the Christians of Kaikoura. Their eyes sparkle and glow as they talk about the work of God in this town and in their lives. They talk about how fear tried to enter their lives with the earthquake, but how they know that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power. Therefore, they refuse to let fear enter their lives.

This past break I had the opportunity to stay local for a part of it and get to know the people here. One woman, Fiona, learned that we were staying out of town and welcomed us to stay at her home since it was closer to church and town. I’ve seen a lot of homes and businesses that are still in disarray, but her home was filled with peace. For a while she didn’t put back up the fragile decorations hanging on the wall in case an aftershock knocked them off again. But she decided that she wanted her home to be a place of healing and of peace, so she decided to hang up her decorations anyways. Her warm welcome to us and the peace of her home was such a blessing. As she talked her eyes glowed about God’s provision during the earthquake, the Holy Spirit’s work in her family, and how God has brought her beautiful, full household together. There is life here, and new beginnings despite the pain.

You know that feeling of excitement you get when someone’s eyes light up when they talk about their passions? I’ve never met a group of people so alive that they bring Jesus into every conversation, and found so many people with sparkling eyes. So if you ask me where I see God here: He’s so clearly living in people who see hope amid chaos, and the Sprit working within pain. I see a people who are passionate about how God has redeemed their lives and their pasts, and who desire for others to find the same joy that they have discovered. It’s contagious really, and so far beyond what would be expected given the circumstances. This contagious joy and peace might just be the most beautiful thing I have experienced in New Zealand so far.

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Me with Lisa, one of my favorite faith-filled Kiwis! This post is dedicated to Lisa, Fiona, and Dawn. 

~Christine

This Place is Different! (in a good way)

Kaikoura, New Zealand is very different from where I live near Boston, Massachusetts. But it’s also similar in smaller, more subtle ways. Something I’ve noticed is that even though the ocean looks so different from the ocean I live near back at home, it feels just the same. Near Boston, the ocean is a dark navy blue with bright sandy beaches. Here in Kaikoura, the beach is made up of small gray rocks, and the water is bright blue. However, it smells the same, and has the same peaceful and calming effect that I feel when I’m sitting on the beach back at home. It’s amazing to me how something so far across the world and so different can make you feel right at home.

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Something else interesting that I’ve noticed is that the culture here is so different. Where I live back at home, people are generally very independent and are always moving quickly from one thing to the next. However, here in Kaikoura, people are a bit more laid back, and things generally move a little bit slower. Nearly every person I’ve met has been so kind and welcoming towards me, even though at times it is clear I am not from around here. I had a particular encounter a few weeks ago that made me realize just how different that culture is. I was biking along Beach Road, and a woman in her car was driving behind me. I slowed down to let her pass around me, not realizing that she was also slowing down to turn. Eventually she turned and rolled down her window to say something. I was fully expecting her to reprimand me about not knowing what I was doing (you New Englanders know what I’m talking about). Instead, she rolled down her window, and with a smiling face she apologized and went on her way. I’m sure she could see the surprise on my face!  It’s clear to me now how each individual community member has the incredible power to change and define a community.

~ Heather Sweeney (Gordon College)

Life at Dolphin Lodge

Those of us at CCSP this semester are the first group of students to call Dolphin Lodge home. We have the privilege of being the group who can first form traditions here, and notice the quirks that make it special to live here. Living in a house with eighteen other people can take some time to adjust to. But now that I’ve been here for a month, I can say without hesitation that the positives outweigh the negatives. Life at Dolphin Lodge is very centered on shared work and shared fun. A tour through the house and property will give a glimpse into all the different aspects of life that we share with each other. Beginning outside in our backyard where there’s a lemon tree, an apricot tree, and a Pohutukawa tree (also known as a New Zealand Christmas tree). There are wash basins where we do our laundry by hand. A laundry line where we hang our clothes out to dry and hope that wind doesn’t blow our underwear away or rain fall and soak everything all over again (both have happened). Outside is our back deck where we eat meals gathered around picnic tables. Doors lead into the kitchen where we take turns washing dishes after meals. In the kitchen there’s lots of things to share besides responsibilities. There’s always someone to split a pot of French press coffee with. There’s always someone to talk to about whatever might be tumbling around in your mind after a thought provoking class session. Sometimes we use the kitchen to make late night desserts without recipes, throwing ingredients into the bowl and having it still turn out delicious in the end. Upstairs we have our classroom space, which we also use as a common area to sit on sofas and read. There’s a little cozy library filled with books about New Zealand history, Maori culture, gardening, ecology, community development, or whatever other fascinating subject you want to dig into. Also upstairs is a deck that looks out over the ocean. If you pay close attention, you can spot a pod of dolphins from up there. The beach is a three-minute walk down the hill and across the road, so spontaneous swimming is almost a daily occurrence at the Dolphin Lodge. We swim out to a rock that we can climb on and sunbathe and jump off of. Dolphin Lodge is often full of laughter, good food, good friends, and learning. We learn in classes, but we are also learning much from simply living with each other. We’ve been learning how to live well with each other and how to manage conflicts. We’ve learned the abundant joy that occurs when you share life with others.

~ Emma Buchanan