It’s 5 months since the floods in Lismore and surrounding areas and we still have more than 1000 people living in emergency accommodation and many more in ’temporary’ arrangements with friends and family. It’s just tough for lots of people – many of whom are struggling to navigate life without safe and secure accommodation, dislocated from their community and networks, perhaps having lost work or trying to resurrect a business, trying to rebuild without the resources to do so. We hear stories of people trying to service the mortgage on a house that has been destroyed, while simultaneously having to pay rent. The ‘recovery’ is going to continue for a long time yet.
The sense of being in ‘limbo’ is a very big thing for so many. The government is working towards a range of medium to long term support options including ‘pod’ villages and ‘buy-back’ schemes, but none of them are as simple as they may sound and hurdles keep emerging. The mental health issues are massive, even for those affected indirectly by virtue of being a part of this community.
The food-bank that has operated out of Lismore Baptist Church with many volunteers and the invaluable support of BaptistCare, has provided basic non-perishable groceries for free for many, as well as a place where people can find a listening ear. As we approached the end of August when it wound up, we provided vouchers to encourage people to transition to another food-bank in the community that will operate on a ‘cost recovery’ basis, which allows it to continue long term. All the reasons people needed this kind of support before the floods continue but are multiplied for many.
We are very thankful for the support of so many regular people across our Baptist Churches who have given generously so that we can provide this and a whole range of other ongoing support.
We were recently able to prepare 20 ‘care packs’ made up of vouchers from local businesses seeking to rebuild (electrical and appliance store, home furnishings, bedding, pharmacy, hairdresser, cafe, fuel, groceries and more). It’s been such a privilege to build positive community connections as I’ve been able to go into local businesses to purchase these vouchers paid for by our generous wider Christian community. Ask me sometime about the reaction when I walked into the hairdressers with my bald head! They appreciate the cash, the new customers the vouchers may encourage, as well as the show of support. We won’t be able to ‘fix’ anyone’s situation with assistance like this, but we are able to give the packs out through relational connections that have formed through things like the food-bank, to provide some assistance and hopefully encouragement to those struggling.
We’ve been able to give out a range of other vouchers or assistance to address specific needs, and we contributed to a ‘community fun day’ recently (and hopefully future community fun days) that aim to bless the local community as a ministry of combined churches.
One great story comes from a church in the Canberra region, Queanbeyan Baptist, who fundraised for 5 x $1000 fridge vouchers which we are in the process of giving out to some very appreciative people. Dural ‘men’s shed’ are dismantling and sending up good quality kitchens with appliances in very good condition. So many people and churches have helped and offered to help however they can.
We have volunteers partnering with BaptistCare Hopestreet to support and extend their services when they take their ’trailer’ out with a mobile food-bank and more. A team from Alstonville Baptist led by their pastor, Trent Minton, took on a wonderful project recently, blessing one family whose home had been devastated, by stripping and re-lining walls and the like. Ballina Baptist have sought to be present in the Wardell area where people have been doing it tough. And there are more examples of local churches responding as best they can to the needs they see around them.
Please continue to pray for our community, for wisdom for community leaders and those seeking to provide the needed support, and that the light of God’s love would shine through the practical care we are so privileged to be able to provide in Jesus’ name.