Christchurch earthquake, 4 September 2010
Little ole New Zealand is getting a bit of a battering from the forces of nature these days; floods, high winds, earthquakes, snowstorms … what next? The insurance companies must be suffering, no doubt our premiums are set to rise significantly.
The photo above shows some of the damage resulting from the magnitude 7.1 earthquake which shook Christchurch awake at 4:35 am on Saturday 4 September 2010. Fortunately nobody was killed in this earthquake, though two people were seriously injured. The repair bill is projected to be up to NZ$3.5 billion, making it the fifth most expensive earthquake for insurers and one of eight to cost over US$1 billion according to the NZ Herald. Add to this the cost of recent floods and other storm damage, plus the ongoing financial effects of the global economic meltdown, and there is cause for concern.
However, the fact I can be concerned about increases in my insurance premiums places me in the category of being one of the wealthiest people in the world. For most people in this world the very idea of insurance policies is a joke — they possess almost nothing to insure, the cost of the premiums would deprive their family of food, insurance companies would consider them too high risk to cover and what is the replacement cost of a shack made of recycled materials illegally built in a slum with rent paid to a gang of thugs? To the family who live there the cost of not having that shack could well be their lives, to an insurance company it might be only a few dollars.
…the hurricane of Agatha swept away the previous clinging tin last May, buried it in dozens of feet of smothering red mud. The children had escaped in the relentless, pounding rain to the shelter of the police station. It sheet rained for days.
And when it stopped, he hauled the mud away with his bare hands, with one bucket, with determination sheerer than these cliffs, right up the side of this mountain. I think this would take weeks. I think this would take something out of the center of a man, to build a house again on the same sliding, swallowing, earth because there is no other place to go. He built this shelter again, what his daughter, his grandsons needed, with materials bought by Compassion.
This is a quote from a blog post written be Ann Voskamp while on a trip to Guatemala to see firsthand the work being done by Compassion child sponsorship. Please read this post, it captures in a unique way the reality of life for many (most?) people. Similarly, Ann’s post about how to make your life an endless celebration celebrates the humble service of Christ’s disciples even when it seems to make little impact on the multitudinous needs around about, and her post about the one word that fixes a broken heart, this broken world. I haven’t been there, I cannot capture the pain of a heart bleeding for the poor in such a poignant way.
Please click on the links in the paragraph above, take the time to read those posts and then consider something about the photograph at the top of this page; there is one very badly damaged building - the others, including some very large ones, are mostly intact. Then consider that on January 12, 2010 a similar magnitude (7.0) earthquake hit Haiti, demolished most of the city of Port-au-Prince and killed 230,000 people. Why the difference?
New Zealand is a very seismically active group of islands, so also is Haiti. Both nations have a history of destructive earthquakes. New Zealand has a seismic testing schedule for buildings, strict building codes, a government funded earthquake insurance scheme, well organised civil defence system, high level of private insurance, low population density and the recent quake struck at a time when few people were out and about. Aside from our population density and the time of the earthquake, a significant factor in our low casualty rates for natural disasters is wealth. It takes a lot of spare cash to be able to make useful contingency plans for events that are unpredictable, may not happen within your lifetime and may not even affect you if they do happen.
I am very thankful for the wisdom of our leaders over the years which has given us such resilient infrastructure in this nation. I have done my share of grumbling about the building consent process and the cost of compliance with building codes. Paying for a modest home is taking a big chunk of my pay each week, but the fact I can actually make those payments illustrates the vast gulf between the wealth I have and the poverty that is inescapable for most of my fellow people in this world.
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)
You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 10:8 ESV)