Heather is 91 years of age. Her body is so frail. Her bones protrude as she clasps my hand. She is bed-ridden and a worrying sight. Heather lives with her unmarried son; he too is on a pension and unlikely to ever be employed. They live in the shell of a house ravaged by the Brisbane floods in early January. They have floor-boards, stained walls, two beds and an old TV set at the foot of Heather’s bed. The electricity has recently been re-connected – we were shocked at what the electrician charged! Heather and her son think they have applied for the right grants, but they can’t be sure. Phone calls don’t seem to help clarify anything for them. We will walk their journey with them.
Next door the couple lost his business as well as his home. Devastated, they used up all their savings to repair the bathroom and the floor and walls of the living area. They have just been informed that they cannot now receive the Government Grant because they should have waited. The assessment has come in, they would have received just $9,800 to rebuild the home – this has now been forfeited.
Joe spent 12 hours on his roof as the floods filled and then submerged his house. The current would have swept him away. He thought he wouldn’t make it. He lasted the night and was rescued the next day by canoe. As he recounts the story to us, he takes us up onto the roof where he feared his last moments would be. He survived but now comes the challenge for a man senior in years to rebuild his life and home.
A couple we have provided a caravan for have only the most basic shell of their house remaining. They bought it just 3 months before the floods! The only things that remain are the hard-wood beams and joists, the roof and brick walls. The plumbing and electricity have only just been re-connected. We all laugh at the toilet and bath sitting proudly in place with no walls to hide their activity! The husband is Irish and not short of a wise-crack or two – he tells us he is thinking of hanging the door back on to increase privacy!
These are just some of the real people facing immense challenges who I met this morning. There are thousands more like them across flood-ravaged Brisbane.
Please don’t think that because we gave millions of dollars to the appeals that people’s lives have now returned to normal – they haven’t! There is a long road ahead for many people and a long road ahead for us at Hillsong CityCare to support these people through to a time when they can at least cook a meal, sit at a table, have a functioning bathroom and get back to living a normal life.
We are closely involved on a weekly basis with many of the flood-affected areas and have multiple families who we are helping and hope to help more once final decisions are made on their standing with the grant-making bodies and insurance companies. We are with them for the long haul.
What needs to happen? Government grants, the Premiers Fund and Insurance payments all need to be released so people can make a start; know what they have and what they haven’t got. Rather than jump on the band-wagon of blame, it is worth noting that the authorities have a massive task on their hands and they will never be able to please everyone or give sufficient funds to completely cover everyone’s costs. Our church is praying for those in authority as well as for those in need; there is still a big job ahead.
Please don’t forget Heather, Joe or the many families of Brisbane who are displaced and must continue to deal with the ongoing consequences of the floods. While we return to our home at night and relax on our lounge, they cannot. At the end of our day when we wearily retreat to the comfort of our beds, many lie anxious and restless in makeshift and unfamiliar surroundings, dreaming of the day when they can return to their homes.
Keep praying for them and if you can help
For more information on Hillsong CityCare and how you can get involved please visit citycare.hillsong.com