Seventh-day Adventists are among those responding to the powerful earthquake that struck just north of Christchurch in New Zealand, on what is known as the nation’s South Island.
Effects of the 7.5 magnitude quake were felt on the North Island as well. Early reports indicate two people have died in the earthquake, and many buildings have been damaged.
Tulaga Aiolupotea, pastor of Addington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Christchurch spoke with Australia’s Adventist Record about his experience.
“We are well. We live in [the Christchurch suburb of] Redwood, about a 10-15 minute drive north of the central business district,” Ailupotea said. “[The quake] shook our bed, woke us both up… my wife grabbed my 6-month old girl, while I quickly ran and grabbed my two little girls from their room, at the same time trying to feel through the shake—anticipating whether it was going to stop anytime soon or get worse. But it continued for a while, about a minute long. My mum, who is on holiday with us, was carrying my niece out from their room and we just waited in our room, gathered together just waiting for it to stop.
“It was fascinating… It was quite a shock for us.”
Aiolupotea added, “It was fascinating. The kids kept sleeping, dozing off, wondering why we had gathered. It was quite a shock for us. [We were] more or less scared, anxious really. The sound the house made . . . the walls sounded like it was rubbing against its joints, like [the sound] a wooden swing bridge would make. The house swayed side to side… but no damages were made at home… it’s pretty quake-proof for kids… less stuff on walls… stabled high shelves that will keep itself steady. After the main quake stopped we felt a few aftershocks. They were very gradual climactic shakes and faded away very slowly as it would come.”
At the time of this report, pastor Aiolupotea said he’d not heard of whether any of his church members or the congregations nearby had been directly affected.
Further north, in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, Andre Afamasaga, pastor of Wellington’s Capital Church, shared news footage from his street in the central business district, showing smashed windows and cracks in the street.
He posted this early this morning, “As far as I know we are still safe to stay here in the city although many have sought higher ground. The aftershocks have been continuous and apart from that and a few fallen objects, I’m good. However my thoughts are with families, elderly, kids, and pets who have experienced far worse.”
Afamasaga shared with Adventist Record what he’d done since the quake:
“Yes, our church members are safe, I’ve been using our Facebook group pages to stay in touch with church members and share info. I’ve also been texting everyone. There are some young people and tourists of Adventist background who don’t go to my church who I’ve been staying in touch with. One girl’s pastor in Christchurch texted me to check on his church member who is now Wellington based and thankfully we were already texting. She is at a friend’s house. As far as I know there is no damage to our buildings. Pastors Roger and Jen Lang (Bet Tikun and Lower Hutt Adventist churches) were evacuated from their home for a tsunami warning around 2 a.m. There are hundreds of aftershocks and you get used to them.
“For others it was business as usual. My Pacific ministerial colleagues, Pastors Joe Tesese and Toa Lutu and I had a meeting with another Adventist, Ben Tameifuna, Senior Project Coordinator/Lead for Disabilities at Le Va, a health NGO, who had flown in from Auckland to discuss disability awareness raising for Adventist churches in the lower North Island. Afterwards, the Pastors resumed home visits and calls as per their normal working days.
“A Capital Church member, Shalleen Hern is the Bureau Chief for TVNZ in Central NZ who has been managing the Wellington newsroom, from immediately after the earthquake hit and will sign off after the 6 p.m. news goes live tonight. Another one of my church members BJ, a Building Maintenance Manager has been checking buildings all morning and other members are working from libraries and resuming their responsibilities as [caregivers] at elderly care homes.
“Some senior high school students still had to sit national exams despite a broken and unnerving sleep for those who were lucky to get any shuteye, as well as having to experience ongoing aftershocks during exams. Storms are now expected to hit around 6 p.m. and continue till midday Tuesday.”
— From the Australian Adventist Record