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Letter to families post Christchurch terror attack

Dear families 

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you this morning after a weekend of tragedy that has rocked our nation. While acts of terrorism have been rife in other parts of the world it is now with huge dismay for us all that New Zealand joins the list of countries where hate has reared its face. Over the coming months and year’s we will see if our age of innocence has past and what consequences may come.

It is important for each of us to remember that while the act of either one person or a group of people bullies its way into our lives and our collective conscious, this does not change who we are or the fact that God sits firmly on the throne. The outpouring of love around the country over the weekend is a clear expression of who God created us to be; people who love and need to be connected as community. Regardless of the target of these hate crimes this is not what God created us to be. It is important that we unite to show God’s love and show compassion and serve our communities in these coming days.

For those who would ask how God can let something as horrendous as this take place let me remind you that this is not an event from God. God has not sanctioned or enabled this. This is the act of hatred by one or more people as a result of a fallen world with their own freewill to make choices in how they behave and act. Freewill is an incredible gift granted to us by God. But it is a gift that can be abused and misused and have unbearable consequences on others.

There is hope through this though. God can and does use horrific tragedies, seemingly devoid of hope, to bring about good. Over and over again through different events you will see God bring good out of something meant for bad. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph explained to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  We can all be part of God using this for good now. This is an opportunity for us to reach out to those who are hurting, those who feel vulnerable, and to help. We will see God bring about good from something meant for evil. In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Already we see good coming as we see communities reach out to each other and our emergency services become more appreciated. Watch and pray for more.

These events have possibly made you wonder about your own families safety in different circumstances, and especially the safety of your own children when they are not with you. Our school, along with all schools has procedures in place for emergencies from fire and natural disasters to lockdowns in such events. Being a fenced school with locking gates and set back from the road we are possibly less vulnerable than most schools. Our students practise, and have practised again today, what to do in a lockdown situation. We have distinct alarms in place and staff and students alike react swiftly when the signal is given. From Friday afternoon’s events and the lockdowns across Christchurch we have had the opportunity to pick up a few more tips to plan for which we are currently doing. Can I please point out to families though that during either a drill or a real event we have to take safety seriously. There is a total ban in place for communications going in and out of the school by staff, visitors and students. Phone calls are reserved between Police and the school and between the Principal, or whoever is in charge, and staff. This has to be in place for the safety of all and to prevent unnecessary harm or anxiety. On Friday there were also reports in Christchurch of some parents trying to ignore the lockdowns to retrieve their children. I understand this anxiety but staff have to keep everyone safe and calm. Please do not try to come in if an event happens and wait for Police to give the go ahead to do so.

This is also a timely opportunity to point out some of our other safety protocols in place. Please we must:

  • be told when your child is away at the start of the school day. You can do this by phoning the school on 07 888 5444, texting on 027 361 7004, or by emailing the school office at office@matamata.school.nz or by emailing the classroom teacher. This is so that we know the whereabouts of each child. If we don’t know their whereabouts we will ring to find out to ensure student safety and that you as parents or caregivers also know where they are
  • if you are picking up your child early or for an appointment please sign them in and out of the school in the office. This is again so we know where a child is including accounting for them in the event of an emergency
  • if you are picking up your child at the end of a school day when they normally travel home on the school bus please let the office know before doing so. Sometimes when this has not happened we have had staff searching for children after school

The safety of every student and adult on the school grounds is paramount to us. We really appreciate your help in sticking to these procedures with us.

Around the country the Ministry of Education has set up facilities and agencies to assist with trauma as a result of Fridays events. If you or your family are in need of any help because of what has happened please feel free to come in and talk to us about how this may be accessed.

This is a poignant moment for us to be reminded of the things that matter in life, to trust in and lean into God. We have a number of amazing people attached to our school to help you talk through any of this if you would like this and Matamata has a lot of amazing churches. Please do not feel alone or bottle up any wonderings you may have about God. Come and see us or any of our excellent churches.

Finally, this week the teacher’s union had set aside the afternoon of this Wednesday the 20th of March to meet with teachers and we had asked you to pick up your children at lunchtime. As a result of Friday’s events the union has acknowledged that this week teachers need to be with their classes and have postponed this date. We are not yet sure when a new date is set but for this week there will be school each day as per normal.

Thank you for all the help many of you give us each day. We are praying for all of you and we are praying for this nation. Join us in prayer for our people and for our government and services to have wisdom in how they handle this event.

Wishing you God’s peace

Alistair Paterson



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