Tag Archives: christchurch
15. Jun, 2011

The Most Afraid I’ve Ever Been

“Have you heard about what happened in Japan?” my friend asked as he came through the front door. “There’s been a huge earthquake and tsunami wave.”

Are you kidding me? What is going on?

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It had only been a matter of days since a devastating earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 180 people and causing 12 billion dollars of damage. I had just spent a week there, witnessing the devastation firsthand. Over in Australia, they were experiencing terrible flooding, and now the news from Japan. It was nearly too much to bear. And on top of all that, there were predictions of another major earthquake happening in New Zealand that next week!

My journal reflects how I was feeling:

“Right now, I’m legitimately concerned for my physical safety…”

“I feel troubled…”

It seems a little silly now, but I remember seriously thinking that I might not make it out of New Zealand. I might never walk through the garden and Grandma and Grandpa’s house again. I might not get to drink another 9 Fruits smoothie again. I might not get to hug my little sister again. But can you blame me? I felt totally helpless, like I was center stage for the unraveling of the world. Fear was waiting on my doorstep, begging me to give in.

“God, you’re in control. I trust you, even as the world seems to be in utter chaos…”

“I’m learning finally to just enjoy each precious moment…”

Somehow I made it through. Dozens in Australia didn’t, hundreds in Christchurch didn’t, and thousands in Japan didn’t. I grieve for them. But life goes on. And I do my best to enjoy each precious moment.

09. Apr, 2011

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Blenheim

On Friday, March 25th, a routine day of travel turned into one of the most miraculous days of my entire life. I had booked a bus ride from Christchurch to Blenheim, a beautiful drive along the west coast of the South Island. It’s a 195 mile trip that normally takes 4 and half hours. That meant I would have 6 and half hours to wander around Blenheim until I had to catch another bus for Nelson.

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Following along so far? Worn out from 3 weeks of intense travel and adventures, I was looking forward to catching up on some much needed rest. But apparently, the Lord had other plans…

7:15 a.m. – My friend Mike drops me off at the bus stop in Christchurch. Because of the earthquake a month earlier, the bus stop had been moved to a different location. I locate my bus and give the driver my confirmation number. He searches through his list long enough to make me uncomfortable. “This is the bus to Blenheim, isn’t it?” I ask. “No, no, no. That bus departs from the mall across town.” Are you kidding me? There’s no way I’m going to make it there before the bus leaves.

7:27 a.m. – Frantically, I call Mike and explain the situation. He graciously turns around and rushes me to the mall, but by the time we arrive, it’s too late and the bus is long gone.

7:45 a.m. – After assessing the situation, we decide that my best option is to try to hitchhike all the way to Blenheim from Christchurch!(Hitchhiking is still considered to be safe in New Zealand.) Mike takes me to the edge of town near the highway and drops me off. He offers his encouragement before heading off. The adventure I never wanted has officially begun.

8:00 a.m. – I have 10 hours to make a 4.5 trip. At this point, my tank of optimism is pretty full. I’m fairly confident that someone going to Blenheim will stop and offer me a ride. Half an hour later, I’m still standing there, thumb out, heavy backpack on. Finally, a man pulls over in a minivan with his daughter in the backseat. He offers to take me to Kaipoi. That’s only 10 minutes up the road, but it’s in the right direction, so I oblige.

9:30 a.m. – I’ve walked all the way to the edge of Kaipoi to set up shop again. In the rising sun, I wait another 30 minutes and watch dozens of cars pass by. I make eye contact with a woman in a sedan as she drives by. A few minutes later, she shows up and offers me a ride. She says she’s just going to the next suburb a few minutes away. We end up driving for an hour! She starts telling me about her son and apparently loses track of time. I’m not going to complain, and she gets me all the way to Cheviot. The optimism tank is full again!

10:30 a.m. – Time is slipping by, but I’m hopeful I can make it the rest of the way. I wait for almost an hour in Cheviot. Some people wave, some give me a thumbs up, but no one pulls over. My arm is getting tired from being held out and ignored. Just when I’m ready to give up, a delivery man pulls over and opens his door. At this stage, I realize I’m going to have to make this journey in increments. When I ask if he can take me to Kaikoura, he says he can get me almost all the way. He turns out to be a nice man with a crazy theory on how the trees will take over the world some day. On the way, we drive past a huge hillside which he happens to own. “See that hill, that’s my hill.”

11:30 a.m. – Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, he pulls over and informs me that this is the end of the line for him. “I bet you’ll have a ride in 10 minutes,” he assures me, and then he’s gone. Looking around, I laugh to myself at where I’ve just been abandoned. I’m standing on the side of the road 15 miles from the nearest town!  Surveying the scene, I realize that there are much worse places to be stuck. It’s a gorgeous day, and across the street is a fabulous beach with huge waves crashing ashore. Tired and hungry, I ignore the passing cars and enjoy a picnic lunch by myself on the beach.

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12:30 a.m. - I’m back on the road, thumb out and practically begging for a ride at this point. Who could possibly drive by me out in the middle of nowhere and not offer me a ride?!

1:00 p.m. – Finally I’m in luck as an old SUV pulls over. It’s 3 young Europeans who have been staying at a farm down the road. They’re heading into Kaikoura for the day. I’ve been picked up by 4 different people already! Kaikoura is the last major town before Blenheim. At the information center, I learn that a bus is leaving Kaikoura for Blenheim later that afternoon. A huge wave of relief sweeps over me. I excitedly phone the bus company to book a ride, only to learn that the whole bus has been chartered and there aren’t any seats available! What do I have to do to catch a break today?!

2:00 p.m. – For the 5th time, I trudge back to the road and throw my thumb out. In one day, I’ve become a hitchhiking expert. The afternoon sun is waning as I formulate my plan B. If I can’t get to Blenheim tonight, I’ll stay in a hostel in Kaikoura and try to catch a bus the next day. It’s more like plan Z, because I really need to get to Blenheim and stay on my tight travel schedule. Another 30 minutes slip away as car after car fly by. It’s been a wild ride so far, but it appears to be falling just short.

2:30 p.m. – As the last few drops in my optimism tank burn up, a man in a sports car swerves over and nearly runs me over. He stops a few inches before me and asks where I’m headed. “I’m trying to get to Blenheim.” He fires back the most delightful words I’ve heard in a long time: “Hop in.”

YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

As long as this guy isn’t some psycho killer, I’m going to make it to Blenheim on time…or am I? When he starts talking about spending 10 years in jail, I start to get a little nervous. His next story is about the time he tried to smuggle steroids back from Tijuana. Now I’m very nervous. What have I gotten myself into?  I’ve been praying all day, but now I’m begging God to keep me safe. Finally, this man tells me that he’s driving to go visit his 8-year-old daughter. My relief returns as he explains his plans to buy her a bike and spend the weekend teaching her how to ride it.

4:00 p.m. - We roll in to Blenheim and I have to jump out in a hurry. My ride is already late to meet his daughter and can’t wait around. I toss my bags onto the curb and take a deep breath…..I made it.

I kid you not, each step of the way I prayed, out loud, asking God to provide just one person to pick me up. It was a stressful and challenging but rewarding day. It was a huge test of my faith as well. Looking back, I’m still in awe of how I believe God provided:

195 miles

8 hours

5 different rides and awesome stories

1 incredible hitchhiking adventure


Question: Has this story inspired you to try hitchhiking, or do you think I’m crazy for doing it?

05. Mar, 2011

Stories from Christchurch

The last 3 days have passed like a blur. I arrived in Christchurch on Tuesday, a week after the city was devastated by the second major earthquake in the past 6 months. The latest quake has crippled the city: over 150 are dead, and the damage is estimated to be around $15 billion. Not many people are coming to Christchurch right now. Indeed, many people have simply left everything behind and fled. Despite the earthquake and the uncertainty surrounding it, I made the decision to continue with my travel plans and try to come and help out with earthquake relief.

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I was able to get connected right away with a church called Grace Vineyard. They’re operating a distribution center in one of the suburbs of the city, offering basic food and survival items for free to distressed people. I just showed up and they put me to work for 8 hours a day for the past 3 days. Wow. Just wow.

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Frantic. Exciting. Saddening. Inspiring. Exhausting. These words describe my experience over the last 3 days. What has impacted me the most are the stories. I stayed pretty busy stacking boxes and coordinating volunteers, but every once in a while I’d get the chance to help people out to their cars with their boxes full of essentials. I didn’t even have to ask them, they would just start telling me their stories. My heart broke over and over again. Many of them have had their houses ruined. Many are without power and water and haven’t been able to take a shower in over a week. These people are tough. Most of them drove decent cars, and it was obvious that they don’t normally need to depend on anyone for survival. But behind their dignity I could sense the desperation.

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One lady came with her young daughter and son, and it was clear that she was exhausted from dealing with her son’s energy. While we were talking, she got a phone call and found out that she’d been released from $500 in student loans because of the quake. She broke down and started crying right in front of me. I told her about a free kids club where she could take her children and have just a few hours of solitude. She gave me a huge hug before she left.


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Another woman told me a story about her friends who lost their son in the earthquake. He had turned 14 the day before the quake and took a bus in town to spend his birthday money. Apparently his dad had offered to give him a ride, but he chose to take the bus instead. The bus was crushed by debris and no one survived. He was their only son.

What do you say to these people?

They were so thankful, each and every one of them. As I’d walk back, I found myself trying to imagine what it must be like for them. I struggled to do that. These people have had their lives broken right before their eyes. The earthquake lasted for just 60 seconds, but the pain and destruction it caused will take years to recover from. However, through the chaos and the crying out, I’ve witnessed something remarkable. I’ve seen love in action. I’ve seen people lean on each other for help in the most difficult of times. Dozens of volunteers have showed up every day to offer their services. I’ve watched as truckload after truckload of donated goods came rolling in from all over the country. I saw a box of liquid sanitizer bottles with a hand-written sticker saying “Stay Strong, Kia Kaha” on each and every bottle.

I am moved by what I have witnessed here in Christchurch. Simply put, this has been an incredibly humbling experience.

22. Feb, 2011

My Reaction to the Christchurch Earthquake

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It’s 10:45pm on Tuesday and I’m getting ready for bed. Today a massive earthquake struck the city of Christchurch, NZ causing widespread damage and claiming at least 65 lives so far. It’s the second major earthquake that’s happened in the city in the last 5 months. The last one was in September, which was just one month before I left for New Zealand. Now, in just one week, I’m scheduled to fly to Christchurch to begin what is shaping up to be the adventure trip of my life so far, and that was before the earthquake. Suffice it to say, between hearing the news of the devastation and watching videos on the news, it’s been a sobering afternoon and evening.

I have a confession to make: my first thought upon hearing about the earthquake was a selfish one. The first thing that came to my mind was how inconvenient this is for my travel plans. Can you forgive me for that? It’s not often that I take the initiative to actually plan out my travel, but this is one instance where I’ve done a little bit of leg work and booked some bus tickets, accommodation and fun activities for my trip to the South Island. At this point, my trip is up in the air; there’s no guarantee that things will go as I’ve planned.

Confession aside, my thoughts and focus have moved appropriately to the people of Christchurch, and to their family and friends. Tonight I heard someone say, “Houses and property can be replaced, but lives can’t.” How true that is. I think of the widows and orphans in that city. Their lives are already difficult on a regular basis. A disaster like this takes a life that’s already turned upside down and increases the struggle even more. Power was out, phone lines were down, the streets were filled with gas. Frantic situations like this are scary for everyone, but who is there to support the ones who aren’t as capable? Please join me in praying for the well-being of everyone who’s been affected.

For me, this earthquake hits “close to home.” That is to say, I don’t really have a “home” at the moment, but this natural disaster will affect my life in the coming weeks. It serves as a very clear reminder that this world is not my home. What plans I make in life are never sure to work out the way I want them to. I may have to cancel plane flights, train rides and glacier hikes that I was really looking forward to. Insert reality check here. Personally, I’m aware of a feeling that’s lurking dangerously around the corner in my mind. It’s a feeling of unsettlement, of fear, of anxiety. You may be thinking that such a feeling would be well warranted given my current circumstances. But I don’t think that’s true at all. The truth is this: God says that he does not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self control.

In this moment, during these times of uncertainty, I’m choosing to reject fear and embrace the Lord’s promise to be faithful and to keep watch over me.

29. Jan, 2011

Flying South for the Sake of Adventure

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I’m soaking up the summer sun here in Tauranga and loving every minute of it. It’s been a great place to hang for the summer months and catch a breath after my tour of the North Island last November. However, I’m excited to say that I’ve just purchased my plane ticket for Christchurch, and I’m headed to the spectacular South Island in March! Ask anyone in New Zealand, and they’ll tell you that the North and South Islands are like completely different countries. The North Island is nice, they’ll say, but the South Island is where it’s at.”Don’t leave New Zealand until you’ve seen the South Island.” If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing everyone talk about the South Island and all of its majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery. I’m ready to go and see it for myself!

I get the feeling that all the amazing sights I’ve seen so far will pale in comparison to what awaits me down there. Make no mistake, moving on is going to be bittersweet. I’ve been blessed with a great place to live here in Tauranga, an awesome church home, and a few amazing friends. I haven’t had nearly enough time here.

But the South Island is calling my name, and I’ve got to get down there before it starts to get too cold. This traveler prefers warm weather all the way! If you live in New Zealand and know anyone down South, I’d love to connect with them when I’m down there.

What’s that you say? Don’t I know they’re having earthquakes in Christchurch? Of course I do, bring on the adventure!