ACC BUSHFIRE RELIEF REPORTS FIREFIGHTING
ACC pastor Peter Smith leads a local volunteer fire brigade in Tasmania, and in January was deployed to help fight fires interstate, near Canberra.
ACC pastor Jeremy Fernando, senior pastor of Sapphire Life church, and ambulance chaplain, supporting local communities on the NSW south coast.
EMERGENCY RELIEF SUPPORT
Riviera CC, pastored by Shannon and Bec Riley in East Gippsland, Vic, has been actively involved in relief efforts in the Bairnsdale community.
Local ACC churches everywhere across our nation, responding to appeals from providing meals, managing emergency collections, and taking up offerings.
INSIDE: NEWS & REPORTS FROM ACROSS ACC STATES, CHAPLAINCY AND ACCI
ACC Bushfire Relief Efforts After such a sombre start to the new year, as catastrophic conditions caused bushfires to escalate across Australia, it has been so uplifting to hear the many reports of how the ACC family has stepped up to help, support and care for those in desperate situations. From September 2019, raging fires have claimed the lives of 28 people, with around 2,000 homes lost, over 10 million hectares of land and millions of animals destroyed across all our states. These unprecedented fires, compounded by the ongoing drought over the past decade, have been utterly devastating to our nation, yet in the midst of it, light always shines brighter in darkness. Rebuilding what has been lost will take a long time, but we bring a message of hope that no-one needs to face the future alone. In times like these, the Church is the hands and feet of Jesus, showing the kindness of God in how we reach out and love people. So let’s love our neighbours through the devastation of bushfires and drought; by being a blessing and going shoulder to shoulder with those doing it tough. As we start to see answers to our prayers for rain, let’s keep praying and support the appeals that will help people. To everyone who has put their hand up to help – from those physically fighting the fires, to others running evacuation centres, to many sending emergency supplies and making meals, to our chaplains who come alongside those in grief and trauma, and to the thousands who have prayed fervently and taken up donations for much needed finance to help those in communities who have lost everything ... THANK YOU SO MUCH for your love, kindness and generosity. – Wayne Alcorn ACC National President
CLICK HERE to donate to the ACCI Bushfire Appeal
LET’S LOVE OUR NEIGHBOURS THROUGH THE DEVASTATION OF BUSHFIRES AND DROUGHT, BY BEING A BLESSING AND GOING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH THOSE DOING IT TOUGH. – WAYNE ALCORN
ACCI Bushfire Appeal ACCI launched the Bushfire Appeal in September 2019, following the bushfires in Queensland and northern NSW. A national call to prayer by ACC National President Wayne Alcorn at the beginning of the new year has seen ACC churches across the nation taking up special bushfire offerings through the month of January. The finances raised through this appeal are being used to provide much needed relief during the initial emergency, and will also be used to support communities to recover and rebuild in the months following the devastation.
DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS Funds disbursed for immediate crisis responses so far, include: • Emergency supplies of clothing and food were provided to families affected by bushfire on Kangaroo Island. (Kangaroo Island Assembly of God, Kingscote SA) • Support given to the Bairnsdale relief centre, food distributed to the community and livestock feed delivered to farmers. (Riviera Christian Centre, Bairnsdale, Vic)
ACCI MISSIONS & RELIEF BUSHFIRE APPEAL UPDATE
• Practical support for farmers, including livestock feed, fuel and fence repairs, meals provided to CFA members and emergency supplies given to affect families in the border region of Victoria and NSW. (New Life Chapel, Wodonga)
The ACCI Bushfire Appeal has so far raised $405,574*, to support responses to this crisis by our ACC churches and chaplains. We are so proud of how our pastors, churches and volunteers have stepped up to give time, money and effort as well as their willingness to work as part of the coordinated responses that are taking place in their communities.
• Support for farmers to replace essential equipment in the Blue Mountains. (Vineyard Church, Hawkesbury NSW)
* This figure is correct as of 17 January 2020 and is increasingly daily as donations come in across Australia.
CLICK HERE to donate to the ACCI Bushfire Appeal
• Crisis centre supported and food distributed to affected families on the NSW south coast. (Sapphire Life Church, Merimbula NSW) • Counsellors to be provided to support chaplains and pastors working in the disaster region and emergency supplies provided where chaplains have identified need. (Chaplaincy Australia) • $18,500 allocated to continuing crisis responses, as we know that the bushfire season has not yet passed • $20,000 allocated to supporting post-crisis chaplaincy responses and deployments • $50,000 allocated to supporting ACC Churches and Pastors in bushfire affected areas that are facing hardship, to keep their doors open • $200,000 to stage 2 clean up and recovery efforts based on needs assessments, being coordinated through the ACC States. We know this will be a long-term recovery, especially for those communities that have been hardest hit. Additional funds raised will continue to be allocated to support these long-term recovery efforts. Thank you to everyone who has so generously given to this appeal. Report by Alun Davies, ACCI Missions Director
NEW SOUTH WALES/ACT CLICK HERE to see the video of Paul Bartlett in Cobargo, NSW
NSW Disaster Relief The bushfires disaster response has been quick and wellcoordinated across NSW/ACT. An initial meeting to plan our response confirmed that no ACC churches or pastors have lost their houses or their lives in the south coast disaster; however members of some of our churches have been left devastated. To support the NSW south coast, a local Disaster Relief Team has been formed, under Jeremy Fernando (Sapphire Church & Ambulance Chaplain) with Benaiah Halliday (South Coast Regional Leader / Celebration Church); Lionel Rattenbury (South Coast Regional team member / Hope 2508); Deb Kuhna (Regional Chaplain South Coast / Lifehouse); Joel Mitchell (Celebration Church) & Danielle Bate (Life Unlimited Community Care Operations Manager). They will meet weekly to discuss the outworking of support and assess the immediate and ongoing needs. I personally visited some of the affected areas and being honest, I was impacted and a little overwhelmed after seeing and speaking to many who have been personally affected. Jeremy Fernando, introduced me to John & Anne who attend Resonate Church and who live near Cobargo, one of the worst hit bushfire areas in NSW. Their story, which is one of great loss but also great survival, brought me to tears. They lost their farm and all their equipment but miraculously their house remains. With funds donated via the ACCI Appeal, we were able to comfort and encourage them, as well as give them an initial $1000 to help them purchase essentials. Click here to view their story. Ken Fischer oversees the NSW/ACT ACC Disaster Response, which is a new initiative, and we are working, alongside Chaplaincy Australia, to deploy trained chaplains, engage with people on a spiritual, emotional and practical level and resource individuals and organisations with the funds they need to rebuild their lives. Discussions continue regarding the distribution of funds with ACCI. At this point some funds have been provided by ACCi and distributed to meet immediate needs of people affected by the fires. This includes a generator to a family in Batemanâ€™s Bay, donations to farmers in Bilpin who have lost their apple farms, and assistance to chaplains and other professionals and care providers. Andrew Harper (Community Engagement NSW Leader) is in ongoing discussions to plan for ongoing support for the coming months and even years.
55 chaplains deployed in NSW Chaplaincy Australia is part of the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network that have been deployed throughout NSW/ACT over the past few months in response to the bushfire emergency. Since the 1st of January, 55 chaplains have been deployed at 34 points of service, including evacuation and recovery centres with a total of 1400 hours on shift. One of our regional chaplains, Ray Lemon, became the Lead Chaplain at Batemans Bay Evacuation Centre where 3500 people sought support as a firestorm approached. Illawarra regional chaplain, Deborah Kuhna and chaplain Rachael Ridding were among those deployed to the evacuation centres on the South Coast. They also had the opportunity to meet the NSW Premier Gladys ACC pastor and chaplain, Jeremy Fernando from Sapphire Life Church has been working tirelessly supporting local communities affected by the bushfires and providing support in evacuation centres. He was also invited to speak to community volunteers on how to stay mentally healthy after experiencing the bushfire disaster. ACC regional pastor and chaplain for ACT, Sue Miller, has been coordinating the DRCN response in ACT as well as providing support for the family of one of the RFS firefighters whose life was lost while fighting the fires. Along with her husband Syd, she has arranged for supplies to be delivered to churches on the South Coast to be distribute to the local communities affected by the bushfires. Report by Susan Marcuccio, NSW/ACT State Director Chaplaincy Australia
Report by Paul Bartlett, NSW/ACT State President
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, chaplains Rachael Ridding and Deborah Kuhna and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
Paul Bartlett with John on his property near Cobargo
Victorian Bushfire Response ACCIR ($30,000) and ACC Victoria state have allocated $34,000 total to bushfire projects to date. The funding from ACCIR is a good percentage of the $70,000 released nationally so far. Approximately 40 ACC chaplains have been deployed through both the ADF and VCCM (Victorian Council of Churches Ministries). Reports are that many ACC people are engaged with community organisations and councils addressing various needs. ACC churches have also responded in kind with emergency food and other provisions in the initial phase of the emergency. ACC Victoria and ACCIR have worked through the Bairnsdale (Riviera CC) and Wodonga (New Life) churches who have responded to the disaster relief. on the ground in the midst of their communities. These churches have; • Provided meals for fire fighters in the initial phase at the request of the CFA before their systems were up and running. • Provided emergency relief through hundreds of meals, and food and toiletries parcels in the immediate aftermath of the fires,.
Relief efforts in Bairnsdale
• Provided for the mental and emotional health of farmers by providing truckloads of feed to keep their cattle and futures alive,. • Provided for emergency accommodation, power through providing generators, and other means. • Provided for the boarding of Samaritan’s Purse property clean up and repair crews. • Supplied medical needs to doctors in relief centres. • Made their properties available for people who lost homes or were forced to leave their homes but had caravans to live in or needed animals accommodated,. • Conducted grief and loss sessions for affected people as well as training for their people who are interacting with those who have lost their homes or property. Future funding will be allocated in the recovery phase as the need and opportunity arises. Reports are that the call for immediate emergency aid has been satisfied by the large donations being received through all agencies.
Report by Shane Baxter, Victorian State President (16 January 2020)
Victorian chaplains deployed With the intensity of the fires in Victoria and the emergency for chaplains to be deployed into relief centres, CA-Vic was invited to partner with VCC Emergencies Ministry (VCCEM) combining efforts for a more effective deployment of fully trained chaplains into the fire affected areas. To date over 20 ACC chaplains have been deployed under VCCEM and a further eight assigned from 8th January. The call out to CA-Vic chaplains has been met with an awe-inspiring response; so, as we move through the vetting process, more chaplains will be deployed over the coming weeks. I have also been in touch with ACC Pastors to offer further assistance in the way of de-briefing and/or any training of people associated with their church or local community, such as Mental Health First Aid, Grief, Loss and Trauma, Suicide Intervention/ Prevention or topics appropriate to their respective challenges. Report by Glenise Dedrick,Vic State Director, Chaplaincy Australia
Pastor Bec Riley from Riviera CC in East Gippsland, Vic, hands over a cheque to the Country Fire Authority while bringing cheer at a festival for the local CFA and farmers doing it tough over Christmas.
CLICK HERE to see the video of Island Care relief on Kangaroo Island, SA
Fire Destruction in South Australia Damaged home Graphic images show the damage to the home and property of ACC pastor Geoff Glanville during the December bushfires in Adelaide. “It’s been a devastating two weeks,” said Geoff at the start of the new year. “Fortunately our stock are at Yorke Peninsula on agistment so they are safe.” The Glanvilles have been primary producers on the property for 31 years. They are involved in the Second Chances Prison Ministry and fellowship at Lifepoint Church. Lifepoint Church at Modbury Heights took an offering the Sunday before Christmas.
Kangaroo Island devastation Beautiful Kangaroo Island with its natural bushland and wildlife have been devastated by the bushfires, resulting in: • Two lives lost • 82 homes destroyed • Entire farms wiped out with thousands of livestock destroyed • 25,000 koalas killed along with countless other wildlife • Key tourist hotspots devastated I visited Kangaroo Island on 16th January and met with locals on the ground. Our ACC church there, Kangaroo Island ACC, runs a charity called Island Care which has been serving the local community for 17 years. I met with Pastor David & Eunice Gibson and visited Island Care to see first hand what they are doing as part of the relief efforts. They have a large facility that is a drop in centre for clothing and food items. The needs they are responding to daily are diverse ranging from help with prescription medications, toiletries, tents, sleeping bags and water. They are mainly responding to the basic needs as it is initially all about emergency relief. Island Care are well connected and are working together with the Defence Force Chaplains as well as the Lions Club. Island Care has become a major provider on the Island and are doing an amazing job. The great need at the moment is for generators as many farmers have lost homes, or lost parts of their home and are without electricity. As a State, we are rallying to get generators in their hands and have called on ACC churches to donate $500 as this will purchase a brand new generator and jerry cans. This appeal is underway and already we have seen great generosity from churches and individuals. Report by Joshua Brett, South Australian State President
TASMANIA Numerous fires have resulted in emergency warnings and evacuations of small communities in Tasmania this season. Property loss has thankfully been minimal with fire crews working hard to battle and contain blazes. Tens of thousands of hectares have been burnt, and the State’s midlands and east coast remain dangerously dry. ACC churches have been active in recent disasters across Tassie and are ready to serve again should the need arise. About 15 ACC people are part of the local emergency Chaplaincy service, TCC Emergencies Ministry, which is run by ACC pastor, Gus Yearsley. Another ACC pastor, Peter Smith, leads a local volunteer fire brigade and has just left Tassie again to help fight fires interstate. He is currently on deployment near Canberra. Report by David Morse, Tasmania State President
WESTERN AUSTRALIA This summer Western Australia has experienced a number of threatening bushfires that have flared up that caused emergency evacuations, but we’re grateful to God that these did not result in the devastation and loss that has affected the eastern side of the nation. Our churches have responded to the crisis through calling congregations to pray and taking up offerings to support for the national ACCI Bushfire Appeal in our local churches. We also continue to pray for those in the drought-stricken communities who are doing it tough, and churches have shown interest in supporting the Adopt A Church campaign to assist those struggling in extremely tough times. Report by Joel Chelliah, WA State President
Fire & Drought in QLD Whilst Queensland has also experienced serious bush fire activity over past months, it has been not been on the scale experienced by other states in recent weeks. Drought continues to devastate many areas in Queensland, and with the ongoing drought situation, our ACC churches have stood tall in responding to the needs of their communities in crisis. Vineyard Christian Church in Stanthorpe In an area that suffered from bushfires in September, and is seriously impacted by drought, the church has been proactive in supporting those affected. Most recently the church distributed 40 well designed Christmas packs to families in need. The packs included things such as fuel vouchers and local supermarket vouchers in addition to special Christmas items. The feedback from recipients has been outstanding, and life impacting. New Hope Church in Toowoomba has for some years been outreaching to a sparsely populated region called Cooladdi in the far west beyond Charleville. Cooladdi is the smallest place in Australia to have its own postcode - with a population of three. Among other activities, New Hope put on the ‘The Christmas in the Bush Bash’ at the local pub and paid for dinner for all who came. Some 45 locals attended with one couple driving two & a half hours to be there. Springsure Christian Family is our ACC church in a small town of approximately 1,100 people. Located in Central Qld and a region drastically effected by drought, the church has worked with the Lions Club distributing hay to desperate farmers. The last load of hay cost $18,000 for freight alone.. that’s $250 per bale. In addition the church has distributed assistance packages with food, vouchers and personal items, as well as special boxes for kids. They are now also focussing on mental health issues. An increasing number of larger city and regional churches are now seeking to engage with smaller country churches through the ‘Adopt a Church’ initiative to come along side and provide support in whatever way can be of best value. Report by John Hunt, Queensland State President
Fresh food supplies
Stanthorpe community impacted by local church
CLICK HERE to see the impact on those helped in Stanthorpe.
Pastor Jeremy Greening is the senior pastor of Vineyard Christian Church in Stanthorpe, a rural town south west of Brisbane. The church has been actively assisting their community through the severity of the drought, and more recently, the bushfires. “Our church has been responding to the current drought situation as best we can, as well as dealing with the effects of fire on our community that happened back in September 2019,” said Jeremy. “We were contacted by three different churches (two ACC churches and one other) that gave us $22,000 directly to use for drought relief in our community that Jesus may be glorified through the local church in the midst of challenge.” Jeremy and Anita were invited to speak at the Christian Qld MP’s breakfast last year and share on their work with the local community in the face of drought. Following the bushfires, at a Stanthorpe town emergency meeting, Jeremy connected with Kim Vogel, who was one of three people who lost their homes. “Kim literally got out with the clothes on his back and lost everything,” said Jeremy. He continued, “I learnt very quickly that the church truly is the best to immediately respond in a crisis given that other forms of support require stacks of paperwork and quite some time to actually provide any immediate relief. Our church was able to provide $1000 immediate emergency relief, as well as a donation of clothing.” Left: Pastor Jeremy Greening handing over emergency clothing and financial support after he lost his home and all his possessions in the bushfires.
The support in the midst of the drought continues, and In January Jeremy organised with a local hair salon to provide free back-toschool haircuts for a day on 23rd January which would get 60 kids haircuts for families needing that assistance because of the drought.
DROUGHT RELIEF NEW SOUTH WALES At the 2019 NSW State Conference, a percentage of the donations received for a special offering were allocated to help churches in NSW who are living throughout the drought. Three churches (Leeton Community Church, GC Narromine or Cobar and Westlink Church – Peak Hill) were given $2,500 to help them run community fun days to inject some cheer into the community. Nine churches were given $500 gift vouchers for them to use as a blessing - Tenterfield Community Church, Christian Community Nyngan, Westlink Peak Hill, Generocity Cobar, Generocity Dubbo, Generocity Narromine, Harvest Quirindi, Lifehouse Moree and NCF-Narrabri. Some of the great stories of how these gift cards have been used: Narrabri Christian Fellowship Pastor Renee RItchie shared how they used the gift card to buy trestle tables and decorations for Christmas lunch together for 70 people on the Sunday before Christmas, and filled the cool room with drinks for a NYE Party in 40 degree heat ! Creating community and fun is so important at this time, as between the drought and fires, going away on holiday isn’t really an option . Generocity Church Dubbo & Narromine gave over $360 to a farming family in their church who, despite their own hardships, have been courageously generous themselves towards neighbours and our church community. We were able to put the funds on an account for them at their local AGnVET to help them access machinery parts and/or stock and crop supplies. Generocity also provided a $300 IGA grocery voucher for a farming family in the church doing it tough due to the drought. They spent the rest on putting together four ‘We Love You’ gift hampers for families in our church who have continued to serve and give of their own time and energy despite facing health concerns.
Tenterfield Community Church Yvonne of Logan Lea Nursery and Florist, Tenterfield has been in business for about 30 years and have never experienced such hardship. Not being able to sell many plants and other products because of the drought, with water restrictions and ash from fires as well, her husband has had to cart water to the nursery for two years. To top it off, a few weeks back they had a ferocious hail storm that decimated most of the plants in the nursery. For a woman who shows little emotion, she was none the less overwhelmed and teary by the generosity of the Church. Report by Paul Bartlett, NSW State President
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
VICTORIA Farms represent people, families and livelihoods. Our little family was preparing for an ‘ember attack’ - the car was packed with photo albums, documents and a few of our favourite things... thankfully though, it never came. And yet for other families, horror and destruction did come, and the flames ripped through their land. The terror and exhaustion that many have faced for too long now - it’s unimagineable. One way we can help make hope a ‘now’ reality is to help get people back on their feet. If we save farms, we save families, we save lives. This is why Riviera Care is providing hi-protein pellets of stock feed to farmers so they can feed the livestock that has survived. As well as responding to immediate need others have, such as replacement of uninusred necessities. We are so grateful to every person, church, business and organisation who have already given so generously. The first semi trailed load is here and is going to make a huge difference. The more we have, the more we can do. By Bec Riley, Riviera CC East Gippsland Vic.
CLICK HERE to donate to the ACCI Drought Appeal
UNITED IN PRAYER Praying for our nation OUR PRAYERS MAY BE AWKWARD. OUR ATTEMPTS MAY BE FEEBLE. BUT SINCE THE POWER OF PRAYER IS IN THE ONE WHO HEARS IT AND NOT IN THE ONE WHO SAYS IT, OUR PRAYERS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. – MAX LUCADO
21 DAYS OF PRAYER This is the three week prayer focus of LIFE UC to start the year. For those pastors and churches who want to launch a similar 21 day prayer campaign, you are welcome to use this framework for your congregation.
rayer has always been the foundation of any of our efforts and endeavours to love and care for people in our churches and our nation. As a movement, we have had calls to pray for many vital concerns and issues across our nation in recent times – most pressing the prayer for rain to break the severe drought that grips of Australia, and the bushfires that have devastated our land. As we start to see the answer to our desperate cries and rain begins to fall on our dry and thirsty land, let’s continue to press in for the healing of our country. Our country needs our prayers more than ever as we face the future, and communities in the midst of devastation start to rebuild. 2 Chronicles 7:14 reminds us the words of the Lord that “...If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Pray for the year ahead I encourage all our churches to pray for the year ahead, as well as the pressing needs of the moment. You can fit this into your church program as you see fit, with many using the Australia Day weekend to focus on prayer for the nation. I am so grateful to lead a congregation of faitful people who pray. Every January, we cover the year ahead with a committed time of prayer. Our church, Life UC in Canberra, embarks on a period of 21 Days of Prayer with a different focus for each of the weeks: National, Local and Personal. If you want to adopt a similar format you are welcome to use this framework for your congregation. National Day of Prayer & Fasting If you wish to align your prayer around the annual National Day of Prayer & Fasting, which is a unified effort invovling all the denominations in Australia, it starts five days before the start of Lent and includes a 40 day period of prayer and fasting until Easter. This year the National Day of Prayer launches on Saturday 22nd February. Register to be part of it at www.nationaldayofprayer.org.au There is much work to be done in the days ahead. Let’s start doing the work of the ministry on our knees knowiong where our help comes from. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18) – Sean Stanton ACC National Secretary
Register to be part of the National Day of Prayer & Fasting
Reports, news and updates from ACC States and Ministry Departmetns in the midst of the 2019/2020 Bushfires and Drought.