Saturday, June 25, 2011

Through the Heart of the City

I don’t really know where to begin with this blog entry. I’m not sure what to say, how to say it, and the words needed to describe what I saw yesterday. I don’t think I have ever been so somber and speechless for such a long period of time. Sorry, I have to get off topic right now because as I finished typing that last sentence, the ground shook. My heart is still racing, adrenaline is still flowing through my body. I was sitting in a chair in my room with Lindsey and all of the sudden I felt my chair rocking back and forth. We connected eyes and didn’t say a word, and as quickly as the ground began quaking, it stopped, and all became still again. I just felt an earthquake that was only a small magnitude compared to previous ones in Christchurch, yet I am scared out of my wits. Oh, and if you didn’t catch on yet, we are in Christchurch right now. We were supposed to leave today for Fiji but the volcanic ash cloud is keeping us in New Zealand for a few more days. Anyways, yesterday we walked around the heart of Christchurch, and saw the destruction from the three recent major earthquakes. Right away, the entire group became silent and walked around individually like zombies. None of us muttered a single word in the span of three hours. At first when I saw the destruction, I couldn’t turn my camera on and bring myself to photograph the piles of rubble. I felt like an intruder taking snapshots of stranger’s fallen homes; where they lived and grew up, where they played in their front yard, and where they laughed on the tire swing hanging off of their tree branches, all gone. I thought that I was an intruder, until I realized that people around the world haven’t seen the damage from the recent earthquakes, and that, in a way, it was my job to document everything and share the city’s story with people who haven’t seen the damage. What I saw was devastating, desolate, corrupt, isolated, abandoned, ghostly, and depressing, but at the same time, beautiful. Beautiful in the weirdest of ways, beautiful in the sense that God was behind everything. This town is still united. This town still has faith and hope. This town, even though all of their churches are torn in half, still come together and worship. I saw weird beauty everywhere I looked. One church, which I can imagine was the most gorgeous church in the entire city, was the most destructed. An entire wall was ripped off the side of the building, leaving exposed rooms with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and furniture still somewhat in place. This church had a Virgin Mary statue on it’s highest point, turned away from the street and looking down on the chapel inside the building with two angel statues leaning against it. After the first earthquake in September, the Virgin Mary statue turned 180 degrees and ended up facing the street instead of the chapel. The strangest, but most amazing thing about this occurrence is that right below the statue, engraved across the entire front of the church is the phrase “Ecce tabernaculum dei gum hominius” which translates from Latin into “Behold, the house of God is with man”. Incredible isn’t it? The statue, which originally had it’s back facing the streets of man, turned around completely during the first quake, didn’t fall down, and proceeded to face the streets of man, which completes the engraving in stone, “Behold, the house of God is with man.” Unfortunately, the statue was taken down for safety reasons in preparation for other earthquakes, but the two angels that leaned against Mary are still standing. Fences lined the streets, in order to keep people far enough away from the piles of brick and rocks. On one of the fences, there was a piece of paper with a prayer titled “Prayer for Peace” written in English, and at the bottom of the paper, an anonymous person asked any one willing to translate the prayer into different languages so anyone who comes across the fence can pray and understand the prayer. Below the original prayer there were, what it seemed like, 15 different translations. The prayer read: 
“God of many names, lover of all peoples; we pray for peace in our nations and in our world. We pray for all who have the awesome responsibility of power and decision-making, we pray for the innocent victims of violence and war. Lead us and all the peoples of the world from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace with justice fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen.”

Another weird thing that happened was that as we walked around the deserted town, there were some shops that still haven’t been touched since the earthquake in February. I walked past one coffee shop that had a dust covered newspaper falling half way off of a chair, with the date February 22, 2011 (the date of the second major earthquake) at the top. There was also other newspapers spread out on different coffee tables and some wrinkled on the floor, along with spoons and plates covering the ground and napkins still resting on tables. As I photographed this store through the street window, I imagined what it was like the day of the 22nd. I imagined people going about their normal days, and all of a sudden having to run for their lives, with no general direction in mind, just running, newspapers around them flying to the floor and metal silverware crashing to the ground. Walking around Christchurch was unlike anything I have ever witnessed, and at times I convinced myself that a bomb had dropped on the city, leaving nothing. Even though the heart of the city is ruined, the people still continue on. Even though this time might seem dark, I believe it is an opportunity for God to show the world what a light He is, and how He can do anything, and how we can do anything through Him. Through God, the earth trembles and the ground shakes. Through God, the city still shines and is beautiful.

“Let love explode and bring the dead to life,
Love so bold to see a revolution somehow.
Let love explode and make the darkness shine,
A love so bold to bring a revolution somehow.
Now I’m lost in your freedom,
O this world I’ve overcome.
My God’s not dead, 
He’s surely alive 
and He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion.
Let heaven roar, and fire fall
Come shake the ground
With the sound of revival.”
        -David Crowder Band

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