While the whole world is rapidly changing before our eyes it almost seems out-of-tune to talk about the bushfires that affected the Victorian communities earlier this year. However, for those impacted by the bushfires, COVID-19 comes as something of a double-hit. The last thing they need is to be forgotten. Whilst we are all struggling with our own new realities, many of those who are bushfire-affected are having to do so within a different new reality they were forced into just weeks ago.
We will continue to update you on the stories from these areas for two reasons:
- Your generous donations have and are still continuing to make a significant difference for lives in these affected areas.
- We need to be praying even more for those affected and also for our local pastors and churches who are working out how to continue their support and work within the changing parameters of our current world crisis.
It seems very odd, based on our new way of living with social restrictions, that just a couple of weeks ago I, (Andrew Naylor, BUV Partnership Development Pastor) along with Chris Piper (Bushfire Recovery Advisor) were out visiting the affected areas of Corryong and East Gippsland. However, these were fruitful trips where we met with local pastors and those who have been engaging out in community as well as community members themselves.
In our Gippsland trip (and we will update you on Corryong next time) we gathered the pastors and workers together from Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance Baptist Churches where we shared ideas and heard stories from the local areas (photo attached). We also talked about the next stages and best long-term strategies that we believe are emerging (which are of course changing and adapting in light of COVID-19).
We also visited some of those impacted by the fires. Local Lakes Entrance Pastor, Michael Carlisle, himself a local firefighter, told stories and introduced us to locals just out of Lakes Entrance in Wairewa, where 11 out of 23 homes were destroyed. A couple who lived in this area told us how they had defended their house for a while then decided to leave. They returned two hours after the fires had swept through and were fortunate to see their house still standing while all around them houses, cars, sheds and other property had been decimated. The water they had left in buckets inside their house was still too hot to put their hands in, two hours after the fires had been! This showed how fierce the fires and their consequent ambient heat had been.
Another couple we visited who were in their 70’s had also been fortunate to not lose their house, but everything else had been wiped out. Tragically this included generations’ old tools (grandfather’s chisels etc), specialised wood and wood working machines for a specific hobby. Not only was the story heartbreaking, but seeing the complexities and difficulties involved in working out insurances became evident. Another couple we visited had lost everything, after nearly completing the (self) building of their house. Seeing and hearing these stories was difficult, but it was great to see our local teams on the ground having such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many community members.
It is clear that although many people are doing their best to be philosophical as well as courageous, the realities of what lies ahead sit just beneath the surface and that there is still a long road to be negotiated. Just like the trees and grass that, after years of brown drought and then the fires, has so rapidly regenerated, what lies just beneath is a harsh reality and the road to recovery is long.
Baptist Family, thank you again for your amazing generosity. Because of this we’ve been able to help with many immediate needs, whilst still keeping our eye on what it is that we alone can offer that others may struggle with. This is clearly a relational and situational long-term approach. Where many agencies come in and help with specific things and then leave, our churches and teams are situated and geared toward long-term relationship which can include any number of things from pastoral care to advocacy, both of which will be needed during and after our current COVID-19 pandemic.
Please continue to pray for our amazing teams on the ground. They have been working tirelessly and will continue to do so now, in adapted ways, to serve the community around them. Pray also for those who have been affected who now have to negotiate another trauma with the COVID-19 impact.
We’ll keep you updated.
BUV, Relationship Development Pastor