Grassroots ministry: Local churches bring much-needed bushfire relief

ADRA volunteer coordinator Merilyn Beveridge with an Afri-Aus Care representative who donated 1000 bottles of water. (Credit: ADRA in Victoria Facebook)

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As Australia reels from the on-going destruction caused by multiple bushfires across the country, Adventists have rallied together to make a difference. Below is a list—that will be continually updated—of churches and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) teams battling the devastation the fires have caused.

Kangaroo Island crisis

Kangaroo Island. (Credit: ABC News, Trent Murphy)

Story sourced from ADRA Australia Facebook.

ADRA, in collaboration with Rebekha Sharkie MP, have distributed food vouchers to the firefighters and affected individuals on Kangaroo Island. The vouchers, which can be claimed at local shops, are a first step in ADRA’s plan to respond to the crisis on the South Australian island.

“Our team has been deployed to assess what the needs are and to identify gaps for ADRA to fill,” says South Australian Conference ADRA director Charlene Luzuk. “We are currently working with CFS personnel identifying what is urgently needed by some of those who lost their houses.”

Nunawading church (Victoria)

Story contributed by Shirley Tarburton.

Responding to an appeal made by ADRA (Victoria) director Rebecca Aurient, Nunawading church have contributed a shipment of personal care packs for victims of the Gippsland fire disaster.

Led by Nunawading ADRA leader Mike Tarburton, and supported by Casey and Pakenham ADRA teams, a Facebook callout was made to church members requesting that personal care items be brought to the church the next morning (Sabbath, January 4) for collection and delivery. Dozens of care packs were assembled.

Many others—who did not see the announcement—contributed cash that was used to purchase apples, apricots, strawberries, plums, tomatoes and cucumbers to satisfy the cravings of firefighters and victims for “something fresh”.

A retired pastor and member of Nunawading church sourced donations from church members in Melbourne’s eastern area, to purchase and deliver eight portable generators at a cost of several thousand dollars. Further cash donations from church members were sent with the generators to provide them with fuel.

“Active ADRA teams and responsive church families produced an astounding amount of needed items in a very short span of time,” said Nunawading member Shirley Tarburton. “[We are] thankful to have an opportunity to supply a need and hopefully make a difference.”

Group sews fabric pouches for burned animals

Story contributed by Josh Wood, pastor of North Fitzroy church (Victoria).

A group of Victorian Adventists and friends banded together to sew pouches and wraps for animals burned in the bushfires.

Emma Wood, a home economics teacher at Edinburgh College, was first introduced to the idea after being added—alongside others who could sew—to an online animal welfare group.

“Thankfully, many in Emma’s family can sew and so she made a few phone calls and we all met at the school classroom where there is much fabric deemed ‘too ugly’ for people but perfect for animals,” said her husband, Pastor Josh Wood.

Five sewing machines were set up, as well as ironing stations and cutting-out stations, and the group spent five hours making 13 pouches (a total of 52 pieces sewed altogether) as well as nine bat wraps.

As the pouches were made from summer-appropriate material, Mrs Wood has purchased additional fabric and plans to make some “winter pouches” as well.

ADRA volunteers provide essential items to worst-affected communities

Story contributed by ADRA (Victoria) volunteer manager Merilyn Beveridge and Andrew Wilson, pastor of Cann River and Bairnsdale churches.

ADRA in Victoria, in conjunction with Red Cross and the Salvation Army, have been supplying personal hygiene packs to relief centres and contributing food to families in need.

With more than 24 volunteers volunteering with ADRA—a third of which who are non-Adventists—the team have quickly outgrown the ADRA premises due to an influx of donated goods.

“We had two businessmen offer us two warehouses,” said ADRA (Victoria) volunteer manager Merilyn Beveridge. Forklift drivers have offered us their forklifts [to transport goods onto trucks]. It’s been amazing!”

With three vans available, ADRA volunteers have been transporting supplies to the worst-affected areas.

“It’s challenging because we have to get permission each day to go on those roads; sometimes they’re open, sometimes they’re not,” Mrs Beveridge said. “We’ve mainly done food, water, personal hygiene packs and generators for communities that have lost power.”

Due to light rains yesterday, the roads in Victoria are accessible once again, allowing some families to return to their properties and assess the damage.

“One of the critical needs now is cleaning packs,” expressed Mrs Beveridge. “Dishwashing, clothes washing and household cleaning especially. There’s a lot of silt and grime. Also generators for people who have lost power. Crisis fencing is also a big need because some cattle have survived but the fencing is destroyed, as well as feed for sheep and goats.”

As well as food and hygiene packs, ADRA is providing furniture to people who have lost their homes, as well as temporary accommodation.

“We’ve been able to respond and have a significant impact because for a year now we’ve been running a food bank program and reaching the community,” shared Pastor Andrew Wilson. “They trust us. We don’t care if they’re Christians or not, we just care for everyone.”

Hills Adventist College students sew animal pouches

Story sourced from Hills Adventist College Facebook.

Under the direction of home economics teacher Ms Annali Baxter, Year 9 textiles students at Hills Adventist College have sewn 30 pouches of different sizes and donated them to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to help injured animals.

“They were all very excited to be using the skills they have learnt in class to help the animals in such a practical way,” said Miss Baxter. “Many of them gave up their lunchtime to sew, with some of them so inspired that they took extra fabric home to sew more pouches over the weekend. In all 30 pouches, complete with 2 liners each, were donated to Port Macquarie koala hospital.”

An estimated 500 million animals have been lost during the bushfires, with millions of others injured.

“We hope they can be of some comfort to some of the littlest victims of the recent bushfires,” the Facebook post said.

ATSIM coordinator prays for firefighters

Story contributed by ATSIM (SNSW) coordinator Julie Nagle.

Despite the sense of hopelessness, many volunteers and displaced people have been encouraged by prayer. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) (SNSW) coordinator Julie Nagle has been actively sharing her faith by praying for the firefighters and volunteers who are putting their lives at risk.

“I was driving along and saw a fire truck, and had to pull up,” she said. “I walked up to [the firefighters] and said, ‘This might be a bit crazy, but I feel impressed to come and pray with you guys and your trucks.’ One bloke turned and said, ‘Yes please!’ I had no idea what I was going to say, but once I laid my hand on that truck, the words came: ‘In Jesus’ name, wherever these wheels travel and wherever these feet walk, may you bless their generosity and compassion.’ I’ve been doing it for each truck and they’ve been really grateful.”

Currently, Mrs Nagle is working to ensure that Indigenous—and non-Indigenous—people from the Wallaga Lakes and Cobargo district receive financial assistance from ADRA while they wait for insurance payments.

“I just want to make sure the money gets to where it needs to go,” she said. “Around 40 Indigenous people have received money so far so that they have support in the initial stages of rebuilding their lives.”

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