The Bushfire Crisis here in Australia began several months ago and has escalated beyond what any of us has experienced in living memory.
Currently, an estimated 12 million hectares have been burned (almost the size of England), 25 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed and communities ravaged.
The outpouring of love, care and concern and generosity from people from all walks of life both here and overseas, has been staggering and humbling.
Our response as a church in any crisis like this involves a two-fold approach which not just looks after the immediate needs but also looks to the long-term recovery and wellbeing of those who are suffering.
As a church community we have come together over the past few weeks and extended generosity to those suffering and the emergency service workers who are giving up their holidays to work tirelessly to protect homes, land and families in the path of the fires.
In November, Hillsong Men’s Event generously gave towards the Bushfire Appeal which enabled us to send much-needed funds to the Salvation Army and volunteer fire brigades for their on-the-ground emergency work within the affected communities.
Hillsong CityCare was able to immediately reach out to affected communities in several locations to assist shattered families and exhausted firefighters.
Our team in the Gold Coast hinterland delivered emergency relief packs of hand sanitisers, lip chaps, and snacks to the Coomera Rural Fire Brigade base to help volunteer firefighters and State Emergency Services personnel (SES).
In December, our Sydney City CityCare team delivered food hampers and toy packs from our Kilo of Christmas Campaign to the Redfern Fire Service who delivered them to families who had been affected, including volunteer firefighters and their families.
As temperatures soared in early January, the situation across several states became even more critical with thousands displaced from their homes and holed up in evacuation centres.
CityCare Gold Coast dropped off over 2200 items to Foodbank Queensland who will be delivering the supplies to Foodbank NSW this Friday. Foodbank NSW who has been working overtime delivering food and hygiene items to affected families across the region are running low on supplies and called out for help and this week CityCare Hills will being taking our surplus stock from Kilo of Christmas and giving it to Foodbank to deliver to destitute families.
The new year began with terrible fury for those in southern Victoria as Gippsland fires spread with ferocity through the coastal towns.
Our CityCare Melbourne team were contacted to help assist a church in Bairnsdale in East Gippsland whichservices many of the affected areas.
Shannon and Bec Riley, pastors of Riviera CC were initially preparing to be an evacuation point. Shannon worked with the local council to get the items from his church to the various evacuation sites and also people in need could pick up supplies from Riviera CC directly.
Dave Humberstone recalls, “After conversations with Shannon who was on the ground in Bairsnadale, we knew were positioned really well to be able to attend to some immediate needs. Partnering with Shannon and his church to be a shining light in their community now and in the coming months I feel encapsulates who we are as a church.”
After finding out what the most pressing needs were, the team were deliver two pallets of water bottles, 40 packs of nappies, and 512 toilet rolls. We also covered the cost of ten days hire of a water pump and organised donations of over $2000 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“The help from Hillsong Church and CityCare in the East Gippsland region has been so appreciated. The response to farmers and families has made an immediate impact, along with the support in the Bairnsdale Relief Centre, pallets of food and water have gone directly to people who have lost homes and have been evacuated. Something as simple as providing a generator has meant that a family can return to their home and out of the relief centre. Thank you Hillsong Church. – Shannon Riley.
The road to recovery has barely even begun for this particular community while others continue to remain on high alert. And there is still so much to do. Yet the outpouring of generosity from our church and global friends and family has ensured that we can be there for families for the days, weeks and months to come.
Please continue to pray for our nation, our leaders, firefighters and communities affected and for rain that will end the drought in our scorched land.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far to our Bushfire Appeal through the Hillsong Foundation. If you would still like to donate, please click here.