Happy New Year. What an incredible thought, a NEW year. 2011 holds many unrealised opportunities and unforeseen circumstances. It holds so much intention and so much life. So much hope and so much promise. Yet, for some in our very own country, the first 2 weeks of 2011 has held great disappointment and tragedy.
The government has declared a state of emergency in parts of Queensland and NSW. Rivers are overflowing as rain falls in unprecedented amounts, leaving behind disastrous results. The police chief described flash flooding in one area of Queensland today as an ‘inland tsunami’. A literal WALL of water rushed through the town, taking many by surprise. People have lost their lives, many are missing; by the weekend they say 5 of 7 Australian states could be affected by flooding and the human toll is only expected to increase.
The news is showing photos of cars being hurtled down rivers; families stranded on rooftops and evacuation centres overflowing with people who have lost absolutely everything. Emergency services are struggling to keep up with the demand. Electricity, food and basic supplies are being cut off, as necessary roads become literal rivers. A body of water, the size of the Sydney Harbour, is bearing down on Brisbane. The Premier of Queensland has referred to these last few days as some of our darkest hours. Houses, churches, community centers, cars, businesses, farmers fields, years of life and memories are all under water…the extent of the damage no one can predict.
Watching this occur both in person and over the news, my heart has been so very grieved by the unfolding situation. Our hearts and continued prayers go out to all of the Australians who are affected and we honour the many SES workers, firefighters, police and volunteers who are bravely and tirelessly working to rescue human lives – you are HEROES and deserve our prayers and appreciation.
Through it all, I have been struck by the consistent theme that overarches much of the commentating about the floods: Australians are resilient. We WILL rise above this. We WILL rebuild. All over the world, our countrymen are known for ‘mateship’, our teamwork – not just in sports, but also in every circumstance. A popular news anchor said this morning during the ongoing coverage ‘Australia, we are here for you. We will continue to broadcast as long as we have to, to ensure you know what is happening and how you can get the necessary help and information you need’.
As a pastor, I was so very challenged by this – Can the church say the same thing?
This weekend, Hillsong Church and the entire ACC denomination sowed a percentage of our regular tithes and offerings into the work of rescuing and rebuilding these communities and the lives of many people represented there. But I pray we don’t stop there. I pray that the church will lead the way with ongoing solution and compassion. My prayer is that long after the flood waters recede, local churches throughout affected areas will be safe havens for their community, that their ministers and congregations will be equipped with resources from generous believers across Australia, who rise to meet the need of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.13-16 (MSG)
I call on every church across Australia to not only pray, but also feel the weight of responsibility to give generously and respond practically to this situation with both financial and people resources. And I call on our friends, the world over, to join with Bobbie and I and Hillsong Church as we continue to pray for the ceasing of these rains, for the rescue workers and government officials making life and death decisions and for all of those people affected, facing the future with much heartache and pain. God is able.
With love and prayers,
**Photos are from Sky News Australia http://www.skynews.com.au/