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Muddy water covers a road in New Zealand after Cyclone Gabrielle. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins called it a weather event not seen “in a generation.”
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After disasters, Christians work to meet New Zealand’s physical, spiritual needs

For the past three years, New Zealand has endured lockdowns and strict policies meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. The country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean is still healing from the hardships of the pandemic, Justin Cherry said.

On top of that, New Zealanders have endured a series of natural disasters in recent months — floods, mudslides, earthquakes and a cyclone. Cherry and his wife, Jennifer, are doing what they can to meet their adopted country’s physical and emotional needs.

Justin and Jennifer Cherry

Justin and Jennifer Cherry

The American couple serves with Discover Church in Auckland, which they planted with a mission team in 2008. Jennifer Cherry coordinates the Back2School Project, which provides backpacks and school supplies to under-resourced families. The couple also works with a food bank, the NorWest Care Trust.

As Cyclone Gabrielle approached New Zealand in February, a flood dumped “more rain in four hours than in the past two months,” Justin Cherry said. Discover Church assisted by providing food for the displaced and helping them find temporary shelter.

The cyclone devasted Murwai, a community on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It could be as long as two years before residents there are able to return, Justin Cherry said. On the island’s east coast, the town of Napier was almost completely submerged. At least 11 people died as a result of the cyclone, and thousands were displaced.

Related: Churches and organizations offering relief after devastating Mississippi tornadoes

In addition to the physical damage, the natural disasters left trauma, fear and anger in their wake. Justin Cherry is working with a recovery task force and local schools to provide grief counseling for the community.

Global and local media have moved on from the disasters to other stories, making victims feel that they are recovering alone, Justin Cherry said. His goal is to assure them: “You are not alone. We see you. We walk together.”

The Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City sponsors the Cherrys. Kendon Murrell, the church’s New Zealand coordinator, said, “While it is hopeful to see the community coming together, it is even more hopeful that Justin and Jennifer are well-positioned to show the love of Christ to the community.”

To assist with aid for New Zealand, contact the Memorial Road Church of Christ at mrcc.org or (405) 478-0166.

Muriwai, New Zealand

Filed under: COVID-19 cyclone disaster relief Discover Church Food bank Hurricane International Lockdowns Memorial Road Church of Christ New Zealand News Top Stories

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