On Nov 14, 2016, our little tourist town of Kaikoura was struck by a 7.8 Earthquake! This was one of the most challenging experiences of our lives. The event itself was frightening as it lasted for almost two minutes before it calmed down enough for every one in the house to make it safely outside. Once out of the house we started to realize life wouldn't be the same.
It's been over 7 months since the quake and we'd like to share about the experiences and about God's faithfulness through it all.
The day after the quake was filled with people trying to communicate with family, cleaning houses, and giving people a place to stay since all the hostels and homes near the water had been evacuated. The hospital had WiFi so everyone stood outside trying to connect with family.
Next we went on a drive to survey the damage:
Seeing our town a wreck like this was emotional but it also brought the community closer together. We met so many people just by walking down the street to use the port-a-potty. We're all in this together.
After the first day of clean up and wrapping our heads around the fact that this is our town and this happened to us we had to start thinking about how to live every day life. No water meant using outside toilets. It meant no showers and no laundry. All the water we got was from tanks that were brought in or someone's house that did happen to have water & all of that had to be boiled before we could drink it. Everyday tasks like washing dishes or wiping down a spill became a bigger hassle. We had about 15 people stay in our house. Most of which were tourists who were evacuated within a few days.
Helicopters lined up outside our house bringing supplies in and evacuating people out. The roads in and out of town were completely blocked from landslides. Here's a couple photos:
The local Marae became a welfare center to feed families breakfast lunch and dinner. They also handed out boxes of food for people to take home. The supermarket worked hard to dig out food that was still good and organize so they could re-open.
Even though this was an extremely difficult time, we felt that we were starting to break in to this community. We felt that we got to know more people and on such a deeper level than we did before.
We recognize that Kaikoura will never be the same that it was and it could take years for full restoration but we are learning how to work together to live in this new kind of normal.
Following the earthquake, we were in a position to help out in the community. Most of what we do here involves backpackers, so with the 800+ travelers evacuated, we had an empty town full of locals trying to cope. We partnered up with the Salvation Army. We went door knocking to check on residents and pray for people. We helped move and clean houses. We helped older folks garden and get their lives back in order. Basically, we were available to do whatever was needed. This went on until about Christmas: 6 weeks of uncertainty, service projects and loving people in words & action.
Every day was a new challenge. But we saw God move despite all the hardships. God wants to heal people in this town. He wants to see restoration and a community coming together. We came here with a focus of reaching backpackers and Israelis. Well our focus may have shifted for the season due to this but it's not any less important. We focused on loving our neighbors and helping the least of these. We focused on rebuilding this community and making God's light known. We focused on prayer and lifting God high in this town as it is being rebuilt. We firmly believe that we were meant to be here for such a time as this. As hard as it is and will continue to be we are here for the long haul. "God is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? God is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
YWAM Team after the earthquake
Around the middle of December we had a YWAM team come to serve with us for three and half weeks. Their original plan was to come for a week to do backpacker ministry. After the earthquake we told them how there aren't many backpackers and we'd understand if they need to change their plans. This team wasn't phased in the slightest. They were excited to come help with relief work and even decided to stay for much longer than they had originally planned.
For Christmas, it was still mostly just locals around. We were starting to get a few tourists back in Kaikoura. Catherine and Nicki, with the help of this YWAM team, hosted a family BBQ. We had 50 people show up to share a meal and fellowship on Christmas.
In January two special people arrived in New Zealand! Esther and Matt were our very first volunteers! We were so excited to have these two here. They stayed for three months and worked hard every day serving in the community, gardening, helping at church, and helping us keep the house going to bless more Israelis!
After a couple months serving in Kaikoura we decided to take a trip around the South Island to meet other travelers and see how we could bless people as we traveled.
We traveled south and met some amazing backpackers, gave away books, and coffee, and picked up hitch hikers. We also got to visit Scott and Margie Brown at Dansey's Pass who are also HIT hosts and good friends of ours. We visited YWAM Queenstown and Nicki and Catherine got to share about what they do in Kaikoura. and we also visited Zula lodge, another HIT hot spot and shared a Shabbat meal with them and met the people running the lodge. It was such an amazing trip to see more of New Zealand and God's creation and to meet some amazing people along the way!
What are we up to now?
Catherine and Nicki are away from Kaikoura for the winter. Nicki is back home in Oregon working, seeing family, and talking to her church and friends about what we're up to in Kaikoura. Catherine is currently in Thailand with a Jesus devotional community called Shekina Gardens. She is volunteering at the gardens and taking some rest time. We will be back in Kaikoura hosting again in the summer!
Pray with us!
We would love it if you would join us in prayer. We're still looking for a building of our own. Please pray that God would provide a big house with lots of rooms to host backpackers and Israeli travelers! We're excited for another season in Kaikoura and to see what God does this year.