One of the good things to emerge in the aftermath of the September Christchurch quake has been the coming together of neighbours, churches and businesses and seeing New Zealand as a whole reaching out. Perhaps the quake has shaken New Zealand and the church in more ways than one, stirring new thought and sparking change.
One such unified outreach effort to help meet the need of some Christchurch families took place in November and involved a pair of sisters, a group of businesses and a handful of volunteers.
Aucklander Kristina Paterson is the owner of New Zealand Nannies International. After the quake, she was struck with compassion for those in Christchurch and came up with the idea to assemble care packages for struggling families. "I believe that when it comes to any issue of brokenness or hurt or struggle, Christians should be at the forefront of offering a solution rather than looking to the government or sitting back and letting other agencies do all the work," Paterson says. "I think helping broken, hurt or struggling people is what's on God's heart and is God's priority, and we need to start responding to that with action."
Paterson located mums in need using her company's Facebook fanpage and connected with businesses willing to donate their products to the cause. She explains, "The wonderful thing about having a business is the contacts that you have—that you are able to do something like this because of your credibility in the market." She was surprised to learn that many of the donors were small businesses consisting of mothers working from home trying to support and care for their kids. Donations came in from Tommee Tippee, Oh Baby!, Caffe L'affare, Real Nappies, Nature Baby, Green Monkey, Whittaker's, Pixiemoon, Ecostore, Envirosax, Button Love Kids, The Funky Frog and Karen's Kreations.
Paterson then contacted her sister-in-law, Jacqui Strom, who is temporarily living in Christchurch. Strom, along with her husband and children, came to the city for the sole purpose of reaching out to the community after the quake. She agreed to head up the delivery efforts though she was new to the area. Strom collected all of the donations, assembled the care packages and rallied volunteers from a small network of house churches to drop off the packages in their neighbourhoods. Men and women of all ages from these house churches spent time in prayer for each recipient, wrote letters to some families and then split up into teams of two to hand-deliver the packages around the Christchurch suburbs.
There was a positive response from all recipients. The earthquake has put many in a state of fear and anxiety, but Paterson explains, "The response we've had so far has been encouraging. Excited children and excited mums. One described it as something positive to look forward to rather than more aftershocks. All were very appreciative and knew that we did this because we cared about them."
"At the end of the day, it didn't matter what church we did or didn't go to," Paterson says. "In this project, we had unbelievers, church-goers and people from house churches all contributing their donations, time and effort to help the people of Christchurch. We worked side-by-side and accomplished something wonderful. Our agenda wasn't to have them join our particular church or denomination. It was only to bless, to comfort, and to come alongside those who were struggling. In the midst of it, in a quiet and gentle way, God was glorified, and through kindness and generosity, perhaps we turned a few hearts that little bit more towards Him."