Posted by: preshist | June 16, 2011

Walking Door to Door in Christchurch with Supermarket Vouchers

We have fallen behind with posts from Rev. Martin Stewart in Christchurch.  This post combines two posts sent out on the New Zealand Presbyterian List.  One two weeks before the 6.3 aftershock on Monday and one since then.

It is a real pain all this shaking – I really feel for those poor people out east with any hope they might have had of something being closer to normal being erased this week. While the quakes themselves weren’t as bad insofar as the devastating trampoline effect in February (especially the lives lost) in other ways they are more demoralising, especially with winter upon us. There is widespread anger now – wanting some resolution over what will happen with their land and property, but anger at the sense that there may not be any end to this in the medium term. It is scary, hard on the nerves, massively inconvenient, and hugely disheartening.

I do a bit of chaplaincy at a university hostel (we try – it is hard to get there these days) – I was talking to some students last night who are quite fed up. They have missed crucial parts of their semester but also they are in exam mode with exams postponed and squeezed into a very tight timeframe but also their ability to concentrate in any extended way is very difficult. Some are seriously contemplating transferring elsewhere for next year. I cannot blame them, but it will have devastating consequences for Christchurch and the University  of Canterbury who are quite worried about their ability to attract new students for 2012 as it is.

The Presbyterians have had fewer problems in this week’s round of shocks – a disused church to be demolished is now demolished (quite convenient as it had historic places issues), another two congregations that were uncertain about whether their buildings could be repaired are clearer now about having to move on from them, and one minister is probably going to have to move from his damaged house.

I wrote a while back about a trip Anne and I made into a hard-hit area of town to give $1000 to a couple who, with their young children, were struggling (you can track the story on my blog ).

I want to update people on some outcomes of that story. Like many things around here in Christchurch, one things seems to lead to another, and one act of kindness seems to generate other acts. It really is the gospel in action in so many ways, among so many
people. Our cups are depleted and then they overflow – such has been the kindness of generosity of so many.

A week or so after I wrote that story up the members of a trust indicated to me that they would like to donate $15,000 towards works of that nature! $15,000! They did more than indicate – they sent the cheque! I have been preaching in a few churches here (St Stephen’s, St Giles & St Mark’s this week) about a grand idea – to turn that $15,000 into $200 supermarket vouchers and that people of the three parishes walk door to door in a hard-hit suburb one Sunday afternoon and give any people we find a voucher and some home-made biscuits and fruit. I have also indicated that I will be visiting some of the westside supermarkets to buy the vouchers and encourage them to consider matching us – maybe dollar for dollar!

The response has been very warm – even enthusiastic.

I know that there is consistent prolonged help needed in these hard-hit suburbs where I have heard that a recent survey has indicated that about one quarter of people are quite depressed – but maybe our one-off gesture will help people understand that they are in the thought and prayers and consciences of the people in their city – even 3-4 months after the dust has settled. There might be agencies we could donate the money to but I feel very strongly that we need to walk in their streets and meet people at their doors as well.

Anyway – since then, $2,200 has been pledged from some of my parishioners and from a small women’s group in Timaru. And I learned overnight that approximately NZ$6000 is about to be sent from a group of women in Stonehaven, Scotland (where our colleague Fyfe Blair now ministers) – so it is up to $23,000 already – that is $200 to 115 homes. What a week!

I wonder if anyone else wants to help us. Because the cup seems to be overflowing without all that much of a sales-pitch, I want to dangle the idea out there to any individuals who might want to partner with us in the gathering of money. I have a modest target of $50,000 before I talk to the supermarket chains. What if we could get to 250 homes or 500 homes?!

I am aware that people have given sacrificially already to the PCANZ national appeal – I am not asking for more from you and yours… but maybe you can spread the word wider…

Any donations can be sent to St Stephen’s Church, PO Box 29-346, Fendalton, Christchurch – we will offer a receipt for tax purposes!

My little project of having people from St Stephen’s, St Giles, and St Mark’s delivering $200 supermarket vouchers to the homes of people in the Avonside/Dallington area is
chugging along nicely. My target of raising $50,000 is now up to $33,000 thanks to two large donations from a Wellington trust and an Auckland parish, along with quite a few $1000 donations from supportive folk. Once I get the $50,000 I will be approaching several supermarkets on this side of the city to buy the vouchers and invite them to match us dollar for dollar.

St Stephen’s is handling this project for the three parishes – we even have a dedicated
account:

BNZ 020800 0849993 26

We issue receipts and love opening the mail at the moment!

Blessings to you

Martin

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