Bushfire Relief Update 4: East Gippsland – Greetings from Orbost

7th August 2020

G’day friends.   Greetings from rainy Orbost!

Much has happened since the first week of January, let me tell you some of the story.

I started the year watching the glow in the sky of an approaching fire which, in the hours that followed, narrowly missed my parents’ property where I was living and proceeded to obliterate much of the region I call home – I wasn’t really ready but was mostly willing and certainly available.

We were faced with a very present need and shortly thereafter I found myself with a mandate:  To find fire affected people, find out from them what they need and do my best to meet that need.

It’s fairly simple in words, unfortunately less so in action.  So, what have I achieved?

I have built fences, cut down fire affected trees and even rebuilt a bridge restoring primary access to a home, just in time to allow Grocon to clean up the sheds that had burnt. Oh, and drunk lots of tea.

These are all hands on, quantifiable things (except for the tea) – I’m a practical guy, I like to see what I’ve achieved – but I’m slowly learning that God sees things I don’t.

Over these months I have accumulated a total of 49 people/couples/families on my list of those I’ve sought to engage and of them have 22 ongoing relationships.

There have been evenings when I’ve sat in my 4wd on the side of the road and just prayed,

‘Lord, is that all You had for today?’

‘I’ve been out for 10 hours, driven 150kms and You’ve prompted me to stop in places that have led to 3 conversations. Jesus is that enough? Can I go home now?’

Yes.

In His eyes and economy spending time with people is time well spent even if the only thing I built was trust.

One guy whom I’ve had a dozen different interactions with since the start of February said the last time I saw him, ‘you’ll be back before then,’ speaking of a fencing job he might need a hand with. It may have taken a dozen visits and phone calls over months but he knows that sooner or later I’ll show up, ask him how he’s going and offer him a hand – and he appreciates it.

He’s not the only one who appreciates me dropping by semi-regularly. People generally seem to be getting tired and they’re lonely and COVID 19 isn’t helping.

I hadn’t spoken to this particular older lady for a number of weeks when a mutual friend called and said she was talking about leaving this world and they were worried for her. She answered my second call and spoke for over an hour. I visited the following day and she spoke for another 2 hours. She seems stable but really needed someone to talk to and again, I’ve visited or called her more than a dozen times since early February building a friendship where she’s comfortable to actually invite me in, offer me a cup of tea and just talk.

In response to the question, ‘what have I achieved?’ I could give many answers but I think the best answer is simply, ‘I have been there when people needed me,’

Lord willing, by the generosity of the Baptist family, I’ll continue to be.

Thank you!