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Together, we can overcome

By Richard Barter
17 June 2024

The media have recently given considerable space to reports of how we and the authorities managed during the Auckland Anniversary weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle. Where were you during the Anniversary weekend floods? My most vivid memory was driving down a flooded street in Auckland in our Nissan Leaf wondering what happens when an electric car goes underwater? What could go wrong? Those thoughts were banished when I was confronted with cars floating sideways across an intersection. It was time to turn around. I will confess the reason I was out that night was to pick up fish and chips the family had ordered. Duh!

  • Were any of you directly involved in supporting those affected?
  • What were some of the hard things you experienced during either or both of those events (and maybe the COVID lockdowns)?
  • Do you have any good memories of those times?
  • What comes to mind when you reflect on the future, given predictions of greater frequency and severity of such events?
  • What confidence do you have in the ability of the authorities to manage future events?
  • Has your church talked about ways it could assist, or is you church already helping the communities it is connected to? What have been the outcomes of these discussions and activities?

This reflection emphasises the importance of preparedness, compassion, and collective action in facing such challenges.

Wesley, which is part of Mt Roskill/Puketāpapa was badly affected by the Auckland Anniversary weekend floods and over 200 families had to leave their homes. A Christian youth development organisation, Global Hope Missions, led by Peter and Tili Leilua rallied the rangatahi they work with and swung into action. They set up an evacuation centre in the Wesley Primary School hall and soon donations from the community and local businesses were pouring in. It took almost a year before permanent accommodation was founds for all the households.

Food distribution centre in full swing during 2023 Auckland Anniversary weekend floods in Wesley, Mt Roskill.
ARK Volunteers cleaning drains to reduce flooding

However, out of the pain and suffering during the aftermath of that night, good things emerged. Given the likelihood of future weather-related events, it was felt that a new organisation was needed that would be equipped to meet the needs of the community and to assist other organisations and churches in the area to do the same. Acts of Roskill Kindness Trust (ARK) was established and is underway assisting local churches.

The needs for those affected by the floods were updated daily.

The leadership knew that listening to our community was the first step in developing an Emergency Management plan for the area. We were told how crucial it was to communities in the Pacific Islands during cyclones and hurricanes to see evidence of good disaster management. What gave them reassurance and motivated them to help were workers in recognisable uniforms with equipment and supplies to give support to those affected.

Could you see your church providing the same reassurance to your communities, who in our case are scared about future climate events?

One of the consistent statements in the various reports about the management of the recent disasters was that people did better in communities that were connected. It becomes evident that the church has a crucial role in providing assistance and support to its members and those they know during these crises.

Biblical Mandate for Compassionate Action

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is a powerful example of compassion in action. Jesus tells of a Samaritan who, upon seeing a wounded man by the roadside, “took pity on him” (Luke 10:33). Unlike others who passed by, the Samaritan stopped to help, bandaging the man’s wounds and ensuring his safety. This parable calls Christians to actively engage in helping others, especially during times of crisis. It reminds us that our faith must manifest in tangible acts of love and care. Such tangible acts are particularly important when we encounter those suffering from the impacts of climate-related disasters.

Community and Solidarity

Galatians 6:2 urges believers to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.” This verse underscores the importance of community support and solidarity within the church, especially when individuals and families face displacement, loss, or trauma due to climate-related disasters. The church is called to be a refuge, providing not only physical assistance but also emotional and spiritual support. By carrying each other’s burdens, we embody the love of Christ and strengthen the bonds of our community.

ARK Volunteers taking away flood affected furnishings

Preparedness and Proactive Response

The story of Noah in Genesis 6-9 is a testament to the importance of preparedness. God instructed Noah to build an ark in anticipation of the flood, and “Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). Noah’s obedience and foresight saved his family and the animals from destruction. Similarly, I believe the church must prioritise preparedness and proactive response strategies. This includes developing emergency plans, providing resources for disaster relief, and offering ongoing support to those affected. By preparing in advance, we can mitigate the impact of disasters and respond more effectively when they occur.

ARK Food Bank that is still operating assisting families affected by COVID and the floods.

In summary, our response to climate-related disasters must be rooted in compassion, stewardship, community, and preparedness. As followers of Christ, we are called to help those in need, support one another, and prepare for challenges.

It is all too easy to take on the role of the victim when faced with climate change. By fostering a sense of collective responsibility and action, we can become a beacon of hope and resilience in a world increasingly affected by climate-related disasters.

Let us reflect on our roles within the church community and consider how we can contribute to readiness and support in the face of climate-related crises.

What can we do as individuals and churches to provide to the communities we are part of, in times of need, reassurance that together we can overcome?


Media Coverage of what ARK was doing during the Anniversary Floods in Mt Roskill 2023


Richard sees glasses half full, opportunities where others see adversity. Twenty years of working for Tearfund in developing countries connect him with the brave who chose to leave their homelands to create abundant futures for their children in Aotearoa. As a beginner in the te reo Māori journey, he has learned that the te ao Māori worldview points to the urgency of passing on to our mokopuna a world where they will not be harmed by climate change. Richard believes there are great opportunities for living healthy lifestyles with minimal carbon footprints. Forty years of community work in Puketāpapa/Mt Roskill Auckland has convinced him that the hope we carry in the example of Jesus can enable us to nurture creation for the next generation with confidence and joy. He has a Masters degree in International Development and is a qualified lay preacher. A member of St Augustine’s in Auckland, he manages a number of projects that enable low carbon lifestyles and climate resilience for Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Waka Kotahi.