New South Wales floods impact Adventist schools and churches

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Extreme rainfall across Greater Sydney Conference (GSC) and North New South Wales (NNSW) Conference over the weekend (March 20-21) has seen Adventist schools and churches evacuated and homes flooded.

North New South Wales

The Macleay River and Hastings River on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast have overflowed, forcing hundreds of schools to close, including Kempsey Adventist School (KAS) and Manning Adventist Bush School.

According to NNSW Conference president Pastor Adrian Raethel, KAS has been closed since Thursday last week. It will also be closed tomorrow, with no staff or students able to access the premises due to floodwater blocking access to the site from both directions.

Head teacher at Manning Adventist, Dianne Hillsdon, says that although the property is on a slope and should be mostly safe from flooding, that it’s impossible to tell.

“One teacher who lives quite close to the school can’t even get in. The bridge is quite damaged so structural engineers will have to look at it before we can travel over it,” she explained.

“This time last year, we were putting out spot fires, then we had COVID-19 all of last year, then now floods. We’re over it. It’s probably been about 18 months of natural disasters and disease and it’s stopping us from coming together as a community.”

Port Macquarie Adventist School is operating on skeleton staff, with many staff and students trapped at home due to flooding. The school hasn’t had to close yet.

While it was hoped that most schools would reopen by Wednesday, Manning Adventist School reopened its doors on Thursday (March 25) with about 75 per cent of students able to attend, while Kempsey Adventist School will remain closed until at least Monday next week due to road closures.

Manning Adventist School has reported that while there has been some land and pathways washed away in the floodwaters, there has been no severe damage to any buildings on their site.

Road closures have also affected many church members from accessing necessities, and several homes have been inundated.

“We know that one Macksville church member has been affected but are awaiting further updates at this stage,” explained Pastor Raethel.

Raymond Terrace church was sand-bagged yesterday in anticipation of flooding, and that situation is being monitored.

To help the relief effort, members of Port Macquarie Adventist Church are collecting donations of non-perishable food items, pillows, blankets and other necessities for those evacuated or otherwise affected. They are also encouraging people to pray, and to reach out if they need accommodation. For more information please call (02) 6582 0409 or to provide financial assistance go to their Go Fund Me page: 

“We have asked pastors to contact any vulnerable members, which they’ve been good at doing,” explained Pastor Raethel. “ADRA director Pastor David Haupt is working with local churches to be available as evacuation centres.”

The NNSW Conference is working to provide immediate cash grants to church members who have been affected. NNSW has also partnered with the Australian Union Conference, who will match emergency funds dollar for dollar.

“We already had the application document all done due to the fires last year. So we’re just in the process of editing that and getting it out to David and church members so they can apply for funding through their church pastor,” said Pastor Raethel.

In addition to churches and schools, Stuarts Point Campground has been moderately flooded, resulting in grounds and road closures, however water has not entered the buildings at this stage.

Greater Sydney

In Greater Sydney, flooding of the Hawkesbury River in Sydney’s west has flooded Penrith, Windsor, Richmond and surrounding suburbs, and is threatening Pastor Lloyd Grolimund’s “Aussie Pastor” studio. More than 3000 people have been evacuated and there are fears that up to 54,000 more could be affected.

Despite this, Crosslands Convention Centre, which has creek frontage on Berowra Creek that flows into the Hawkesbury River, has remained untouched by floodwaters.

“We have totally witnessed a miracle,” explained site caretaker Bruce Hill. “It’s boggling my mind actually because everyone around us is being evacuated and flooded and I know that heaps of people have been praying for us.”

With the entire site submerged under 1.2 metres of water this time last year, this comes as welcome relief. Currently there are nearly 60 centimetres of riverbank at the Crosslands site.

“It can only be God, nothing else. On Friday in anticipation of what was to come, we moved everything that would sink or float, and it hasn’t affected us at all. I’ve been enjoying sharing God’s miracle. Everyone has expected us to be underwater, but we’re not!”

Crosslands is safe despite families being evacuated from their homes just five kilometres up the river.

“We have one family that has been evacuated that we are aware of in our office staff and we believe everybody else is okay,” adds GSC president Pastor Terry Johnson. “We have sent out information to all of our ministers. They’ve got ADRA information as well as support material and if they let us know that some of their church members have been affected, we will then pass it on.”

ADRA is also providing assistance to non-church members across New South Wales. To support their emergency flood response, you can donate via their website.

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