by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
THE home church of the local woman who died in the Christchurch earthquake is to hold a memorial service and establish a relief fund in her name.
Julie Wong, formerly Johnston and originally from Lisburn, died when the Pine Gould Guinness building where she worked in the financial services industry collapsed in the February 22 earthquake that devastated the city.
She had emigrated to New Zealand five years ago to Christchurch where she lived with her English born husband David and four year old son Ethan.
Now Lowe Memorial Presbyterian Church in Finaghy, where Julie was a member for many years before she emigrated, is to hold a memorial service on Sunday April 17 at 7.00pm to enable friends and family to pay tribute and give thanks for her life and all that she achieved.
In addition the Church has decided to establish a memorial fund in Julie's name to assist the churches in Christchurch support their members and rebuild their work and witness.
Lowe's minister, the Rev James Burnett, attended Julie's funeral in Christchurch and was shocked by the devastation.
"What I saw in Christchurch is the worst thing I think I've seen in my whole life," he said. "I wept for a city gone in a matter of minutes. "What struck me profoundly was the sight of tens of churches from across all denominations lying in ruins. And yet, there remained a deep level of fellowship and support among Christians as they lived in and out of each other's houses and pockets."
It is estimated that 70,000 people have left Christchurch and of those remaining many cannot stay in their own homes, water has to be boiled and many thousands of people do not know if they have jobs any more. Citizens paid an 'earthquake levy' on their property insurance and while some funds will be available it is estimated rebuilding could take at least five or six years.
"I was deeply moved by what I witnessed in New Zealand and feel God wants us, as Christians in Northern Ireland, to stand with the Christians and churches in Christchurch and so Lowe is setting up this fund in memory of Julie to help and assist them in their time of desperate need," explained Rev Burnett.
The fund will be launched at the memorial service for Julie and congregations who wish to are being encouraged to have a retiring offering at their Easter Sunday services.
More information can be found on the Lowe website at www.loweonline.org, together with details of how individuals can donate.
"When I spoke at Julie's funeral service in Christchurch I said it is our prayer that God will heal your city and bring a blessing of hope and revival like you have never seen before," added Rev Burnett. "Maybe, through this fund in Julie's memory we can be part of their healing and future blessing."