Seventh-day Adventist schools, churches, campgrounds and family homes in New South Wales and Queensland continue to be under threat as devastating bushfires spread across these regions.
With 72 fires—36 of which are “uncontained”—currently burning in NSW alone, three people have been reported dead, five missing and 40 injured, as well as 150 homes destroyed and hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland lost.
To address the widespread devastation, multiple Seventh-day Adventist churches in northern NSW have opened their doors to the community. Dorrigo church is currently accommodating 50 people and Forster church 19 people, while churches, including Nambucca Heads, Taree, Tuncurry, Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Wingham and Gateway, are offering food and water to displaced residents.
Guyra and Inverell churches are doing the same, also pulling resources from their local ADRA op-shop and “God’s Closet” ministry to provide clothing and other household items to locals.
Stuarts Point Convention Centre (northern NSW), which faced its own bushfire threat on Friday (November 8), and Watson Park (Qld) campgrounds have partnered with police and local councils to be on standby as registered evacuation centres.
Adventist schools in fire-affected communities are on high alert. On Friday, Manning Adventist School was evacuated as a precaution. Today, Kempsey Adventist School has encouraged families to keep their children at home if possible due to low-lying smoke.
Despite more than 100 fires currently burning across New South Wales and Queensland, North New South Wales Conference president Pastor Adrian Raethel reports that no known severe damage has occurred to church members or property at this stage.
“The situation is being constantly monitored and we will be in regular touch with pastors of the areas affected and certainly providing any immediate support that we can for families and members,” Pastor Raethel said. “[However] there are some preliminary reports that members may have lost property or equipment, but we can’t confirm anything at the moment.
“We certainly solicit the prayers of members across Australia for those communities that have been impacted,” he added.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Australia is partnering with local churches across the country to provide assistance to families in need. Currently, local churches within the fire zones and who are actively supporting their community can apply for $A2000 to assist their efforts. More funds can also be provided, if necessary.
On top of this, local church pastors and members can apply for funding for families and individuals in desperate need. One-off cash advances of $A500 are available from ADRA to supplement other handouts and subsidies from the Australian Government.
Director of Adventist Community Services (ACS) in Northern NSW, David Haupt, has encouraged residents to contact their local conference ADRA director to apply for funding.
“All [church pastors and leaders] need to do is send us an email with a short description of what is happening [and] give us the details of the church’s [or person’s] bank account, and that money will be deposited as soon as possible or within a day,” he said in a video.
ADRA Australia CEO Paul Rubessa also encouraged local churches to get involved and seek ADRA’s assistance.
“This is a time when communities really need support,” he said. “Local Seventh-day Adventist churches are just so wonderfully placed to offer that support and ADRA is proud to be partnering with them to help communities at a local level and in a practical way.”
At midday today, ADRA is launching a website to kick off its “Summer Fires in Australia” appeal campaign, urging people to give generously to drought and fire victims across the country.
ADRA national program senior manager Simon Lewis described the situation across NSW and Queensland as “touch and go”.
“The situation could change at any time, especially where fires are out of control,” he said. “ADRA is viewing these fires as an extension of the drought, and the lack of rain and moisture we’ve had this season. With no rains predicted, there’s really no end in sight.”
While northern NSW has been worst affected by the fires, the news media is currently warning Sydney residents to brace for unprecedented conditions tomorrow as the fire warning reaches “catastrophic” for the first time in history.
Greater Sydney ADRA director Malcolm Rea is updating local pastors and church leaders and urging Sydneysiders to be alert and stay safe.
To donate to ADRA’s current appeal, please visit their website.