Fire ripped through the backyard, destroying side and front fences and causing weeks of power loss.
A Pastor assisted frightened residents whilst unsure if his own house was still standing or not.
Private properties were lost or badly damaged for eight different families – some with young children.
This is just some of the chaos that one of our churches, Batemans Bay Baptist Church (lead by Pastor Rob Burton), faced when significant bushfires hit the South Coast of NSW earlier this year.
Despite all this, Batemans Bay Baptist Church decided that they wanted to reach out and support not only their own church members, but also the greater Batemans Bay community – as an opportunity to shine the light of Jesus and share practical love in his name. They have been diligent in this support, providing locals with food and vouchers for groceries, personal care expenses and fuel, and also assisting with new rainwater tank supply and temporary car rental. Many in the church volunteered for an evacuation centre kitchen, with some even opening their homes to accommodate the evacuated. In a video update, the church’s Secretary, Peter Johnson, said, “We’re trying to meet needs on a daily basis, and show the love of Christ in our community.”
In mid-January this year, our Public Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Crawford, met with Cheryl Burton (Pastor Rob’s wife), who mentioned that they wanted to have a church camp in the Milton-Ulladulla area, but planning had fallen wayward because of the fires. Believing that a camp could be a form of much-needed respite for this church, Kelly planned to see if there may be a church in our Association who might be willing to assist. But before she had even put the word out, H3O Church Dee Why (one of our Northern Beaches churches) emailed her expressing their desire to help out a bushfire-affected church – up to as far as the Milton-Ulladulla area!
“To me, this was God’s way of saying that He’s in this and He blesses this…It was an answer to prayer,” Kelly said. Whatsmore, Cheryl had mentioned that they wanted to extend the camp invitation out to their local playgroups (as two of their church services, ‘Messy Church’ and ‘Mainly Music’, focus on families). At H3O, kids serve and are a part of each gathering, so the church will be able to provide experienced people to run kids/family activities at Batemans Bay’s camp post-Covid later this year. They will also provide a team to lead praise and worship (as Batemans Bay lacks enough church members to do this on their own) as well as baked goods, a coffee machine, and non-perishable items for the community.
The good doesn’t stop there. A team from Hurlestone Park Vietnamese Baptist Church (one of our Inner West churches) also chose to aid Batemans Bay Baptist by donating bread, potatoes, lettuce, beans and cucumbers back in early February that grateful church members could take for themselves or share with neighbours and friends.
A women’s group from Gymea Baptist Church decided that they too wanted to help those impacted by the bushfires. “We got in touch with the Baptist Association,” group member Janine Johnson explains, “and asked if there was something our ladies could do.” In late February, they held an event where 40 women created 330 cards, 100 bookmarks and 6 mini calendars decorated with bible verses and messages of love and hope. They also donated pampering goodies and made 50 pampering packs for fire-affected ladies. Cheryl Burton said, “Thank you for your kind and loving gesture of carefully creating beautiful handmade cards for us to share with the people around who are deeply in need of encouragement, and for the pampering packs. Many of the families here had no electricity for weeks, and have been under a lot of stress – so, as us ladies know, a little bit of pampering goes a long way!”
Kelly said, “I love seeing our family of churches working together.” In light of the bushfire crisis, she added, “It’s often in times when we’re in an intense amount of sorrow or need that our connections form and deepen…When we have opportunities to show love and support, that’s always a good thing – no matter what it took to get us there.”
After Batemans Bay Baptist Church had spent months striving to help people in their community, it’s wonderful to see our church families come and help them!
“Give, and it will be given to you.”
– Luke 6:38