The Comforter is Here

This is not supposed to be my first blog. I have read many over the past few weeks but have not felt lead to contribute a blog of my own. Instead I have tried only to offer a few words of encouragement as I felt inspired. Now, however, I write from an emotional rollercoaster of grief having just heard some of the details of a tragedy here in New Zealand. Within the last 24 hours 7 young lives - six 16 year old students and a 29 year old teacher - have lost their lives while canyoning in one of New Zealand's beautiful parks. The families, pupils and staff of Elim Christian College in Auckland have been dealt a blow that will never be forgotten, and I sit here feeling some of that pain. How does one come to terms with such tragic circumstances? There is only one way that I know of that can be successful; the power of prayer. An old hymn flickers through my memory. I think it says that "Prayer is the hearts sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed". Whether I have the words exactly right or not I don't know, but I thank God for the open arms of Jesus, the presence of The Comforter, and an open door to the throne room of God.

John B. Abela @abelajohnb ·

Yeah, I caught wind of this a few hours ago...

For anybody interested, here is the [url=]main news source[/url] for this whole tragic situtation!

The school, [url=]Elim Christian College[/url] has shared with the New Zealand Herald a brief bio and photograph of [url=]the seven students[/url].

The priciple of the college, Murray Burton, has posted this at their website:
[quote=Murray Burton]
We stand with the families of our school community who lost their loved ones yesterday in the waters of the Mangatapopo River. It is a tragedy which defies belief.

We can confirm that 6 Year 12 students and one teacher from Elim Christian College lost their lives on the 15th of April whilst gorging and canyoning in the Mangatapopo River as part of their week-long guided activities at the Sir Edmund Hillary Pursuit Centre in the Tongariro National Park. Elim Christian College makes 2 visits to OPC each year for outdoor education activities and leadership training.

All other students from the original 40-strong party are safe. One student was kept in Taupo Hospital overnight for observation. All students have been accounted for and Police have made contact with next of kin.

A bus with 2 staff members (Girls & Boys Deans) arrived at OPC at around 7.00am this morning to bring the other students and teacher back. To our knowledge 4 parents also travelled to OPC last night to assist and comfort the party. The party arrived back at school early this afternoon.

We held a staff briefing at 8:15am, and a Y7-13 Assembly at 8:40am. A number of school, pastoral staff from Elim Christian Centre, local counselling professionals spend the morning supporting students and staff and in the coming days will continue to work with students and staff as required.

Our prayers are with students, teachers and their parents.

Danie Vermeulen, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Coping with Grief and Loss

It's okay if you are not feeling okay...

There has been a terrible tragedy. Everyone at Elim has been or will be affected in some way. You may be feeling some of the following things depending on how close you were to those involved and on how you yourself respond to such a tragedy. There will be lots of feelings you may be feeling now and in the weeks and possibly years to come.

You or your friends may be feeling some of these things:

  • Denial- I can't actually believe this is for real. I actually don't feel like this is real. I don't accept this is true.

  • Emotional numbing- I feel nothing- no sadness, no relief, no pain, no joy- just nothing. In fact I feel numb.

  • Anger- Someone must be responsible and I am so angry at them. How dare they let this happen!

  • Fear and anxiety- A sudden worry about all those close to you- like you don't want to let them out of your sight in case something happens to them.

  • Difficulty sleeping or a desire to do nothing but sleep

  • Physical complaints such as "stomachaches" or headaches

  • Changes in appetite (overeating or lack of interest in food)

If you don't know how to react, that is okay too. Whatever you are feeling, remember it is okay to not feel okay right away or even soon. It is okay to cry, and okay to not cry. Of course, one day, things will begin to feel a bit more normal but it is okay to just allow yourself to feel as you do for now and to take one step at a time to work through those feelings.

Some people like to talk about it. What happened? Why? What could have been done differently. It is fine to talk but just be careful to be sensitive to those around you who are disturbed by the details and are experiencing their grief differently from you.

Some people like to be quiet. You may feel awkward not knowing what to say to them. Allow them their time to just not talk and perhaps offer your support to them with a simple phrase like "I understand this must be really hard for you" or "I am so sorry for your loss".

Sometimes the pain of losing someone comes in waves, God helps us deal with each wave of grief. Sometimes you think- "I am okay now" and ten minutes later, you feel the tears filling your eyes again or your heart aching again. It is good to recognise that the pain will come and go and come again and with God's help will fade eventually.

We do have a hope- God is our Comforter, God's love surrounds us, and we do have an eternal perspective that death is not the end. This may be little comfort now as you miss your friends so much but in the big picture of life, we can be so thankful for our hope in Jesus- it truly makes all the difference.

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Psalm 46:1-2
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Psalm 48:14
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 71:20-21
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Isaiah 40:18-31
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God


Andrea Lynn @allforhim ·

A very tragic situation, thanks John for posting the links and everything else. I shall be in prayer for those families and the school. Very sad, indeed. Blessings, Andrea

Shirley Hooper @mumbly ·

Thank you Kiwibird for your blog about our NZ tragedy. What a shock it has all been, but also a wonderful tribute to how much news time has been given to our Christian faith and most of all to God, who is our Comforter and Helper in such times of need. Did you watch "Close up" last night, and hear the presenter say that it is not often that they see people coping so well with such a situation as this.


Shirley Hooper @mumbly ·

Hi John,

Thank you for giving the NZ tragedy such publicity in here, in your comments to Kiwibird's blog. Much appreciated.


Erica Vega-delgado @paprika89 ·

That's very tragic. So sorry for the families that have to go through this. But very true that God is comforter. All we can do is pray for the families of these young people and pray for God to give them comfort and bring them closer to him. I'll be praying.

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