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On February 8, 2016 Darla and I got on the plane and flew to Auckland, New Zealand, arriving on the morning of February 10. We lost a day in transit, because we crossed the International Date Line. Later that evening we flew to Christchurch, where we were met by our friend Neil and his wife, Denise.
After a good night’s sleep, we were taken to the downtown area, where we saw the city being rebuilt after the major earthquake five years ago (February 22, 2011). We were surprised that so much repair was still needed after five years.
That evening we attended the Bible study headed by A. Bryden Black, an Anglican theologian. It was a pleasure meeting him, as I had quoted from his book last November in my weblog entitled, “Begotten, Not Made.”
We were able to have lunch with him the next day at a restaurant along the Avon River in Christchurch. We had about a two-hour time conversation, and I must say that he has a very good spirit about him.
As for our subject matter, I found it delightful to be able to converse with a man familiar with church history, as well as one having a desire to see the coming move of the Holy Spirit in the world. He is both learned and humble, and I look forward to developing our relationship in the years ahead.
We also went “punting on the Avon.” Punting has nothing to do with football. It is a matter of riding on a flat-bottomed boat, powered by a man with a pole. It is the first cousin of the gondola in Florence, Italy.
The scenery was beautiful. There was also a garden park along the river, and we were able to enjoy a walk through it.
The Avon River itself is of prophetic interest to us, of course, especially because it flows through Christchurch. Christchurch obviously represents the Church, for which it was named, and so it is pictured in Scripture as Beth-el, the “House of God.” In Hosea 4:15 the prophet calls the place Beth-aven on account of the golden calf that had been placed there by King Jeroboam of Israel. Beth-aven means “house of vanity/emptiness/idols/lies.”
Beth-aven was actually a small town just east of Bethel on the border of the wilderness of Beth-aven (Joshua 7:2; 18:12), but the prophets showed their contempt for the idol in Beth-el by calling it Beth-aven. Perhaps their thought was to make Beth-el a suburb of Beth-aven.
In the same way the Church has become Beth-aven today. So when the earthquake struck Christchurch on February 22, 2011, we saw it as a sign given to the church itself. The news articles showed that Christchurch was built on sand/gravel, another sign of its condition when we study Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:26, 27.
The main Anglican cathedral in downtown Christchurch suffered a great deal of damage. I showed pictures of it shortly after the earthquake in 2011.
Here is how it looks today.
It is still in ruins, as they cannot decide what to do about it. I was told that the Anglican people themselves want to tear it down and rebuild another church. However, the city (non-members) want to preserve it as a tourist attraction. They can’t agree, so there it sits.
It is clear that we were sent there to observe the condition of the church today. Virtually all of the churches in Christchurch were destroyed or heavily damaged by the earthquake. Some are still just a pile of rubble.
A Japanese architect rebuilt one church out of cardboard (other than the metal roof). Note the big cardboard tubes at the front of the church:
Inside the church they were having a Flower show. Along the walls of the church were lined up figures dressed in flowers.
The next evening I conducted a Bible study at Neil’s house with about six others in attendance. The following day we flew to Auckland and from there to Kiri Kiri at the northeast end of the north island.
Next time we visit New Zealand, we hope to spend more time on the south island and perhaps do a follow up visit to Christchurch. There is some very beautiful scenery on the south end of the south island that looks a lot like the fiords of Norway. We saw pictures of it. New Zealand is indeed a beautiful country.
Auckland itself is a fast-growing city on account of a huge influx of immigrants from Asia. The school system is strained. They can’t build roads fast enough. House prices are sky high. As long as this immigration continues at the present rate, the housing bubble will continue to inflate.
This report will be continued….