Churches step up as clean up continues
The enormous clean up is well underway in Central and South East Queensland after the region experiences the worst flooding in 30 years.
Thousands of volunteers turned out to scrape mud out of flood affected properties on the weekend of January 15-16. Volunteers also fed those cleaning.
Despite tragedy in some places, communities have banded together on the long road to recovery.
Downs Presbytery Minister Sharon Kirk said some places will find that harder than others.
“Our communities will put themselves back together again, but they will never be the same.
“There will be gaps where people and things once were. This will be even more noticeable in small rural communities.
“Some people may become even more isolated and disconnected from community life.”
As the lines of communication reopen the human cost of this tragic event is coming to light. It is in this area that perhaps the churches will need to assist their communities the most.
The Crows Nest congregation, north of Toowoomba, are grieving the deaths of two of their members.
The St. Stephen’s congregation in Toowoomba are grieving the death of one member.
A number of ministry agents have been sent to the Lockyer region and South East Queensland to assist in community recovery and to support local congregations.
The Queensland Synod also sent two supply ministers to the regional communities of Emerald and the Dawson Valley, which have been without a ministry agent, to assist the communities and local churches through this event.
Lifeline Community Care Queensland has also sent counselling staff to grieving communities.
To date the Lifeline Flood Appeal has raised over $330,000 for their Community Recovery Program which is designed to provide support to individuals and communities affected by disasters or events.
The program aims to make an immediate impact on the trauma and stress experienced by communities through counselling, as well as spearheading longer term recovery through a coordinated approach to rebuilding or re-establishing key community networks and support structures.
The Wesley Hospital, in the central western suburb of Milton, managed being virtually inaccessible for four days, with only pedestrian access via a local railway station.
Built three years after the devastating 1974 floods, the hospital itself was not in danger of flooding but the roads that access it were cut by flood waters.
During the height of the flood over 280 patients were accommodated and cared for by about 200 staff who had volunteered to stay overnight and throughout the crisis, sleeping in vacant ward.
As at 9 am on Monday January 24, the Uniting Church in Queensland was aware of 80 properties that have been damaged due to floods. The properties are located throughout the State from Central Queensland to the South East corner.
Uniting Church property and insurance officers said the damage has been from flooding which started just after Christmas and has continued in other parts of the State until early January.
Affected properties includes: six Lifeline retails stores and four Lifeline properties; six Wesley Mission Brisbane premises’ including a commercial kitchen at Moorooka and a social enterprise at Rocklea; 48 Blue Care facilities; seven Uniting Church congregation properties including churches, halls and manses; five hospital properties and enterprises; and damage to a youth centre, two university colleges and one of our schools.
Several vehicles have also been damaged by flood waters.
In Central Queensland the affects of rain and flooding also means the loss of crops and stock in yet another blow for Australia’s farming community.
Uniting Churches throughout the State have been working with other churches and organisations to provide for affected communities.
In Central Queensland members from the Banana and Biloela congregations are just two of the groups to provide assistance in Theodore.
In Brisbane’s western suburbs the Moggill Uniting Church was set up as an evacuation centre providing food and company for many people in the suburbs of Moggill, Bellbowrie and Anstead which was cut off for four days. Many residents were without power for over a week.
The Sherwood Uniting Church and hall provided short-term emergency accommodation. Congregation members were also organising food and bedding for people in need in their community.
The Wellers Hill – Tarragindi Uniting Church, around 7 kms south of Brisbane’s flooded CBD were just one of the many church groups who registered as volunteers with Volunteering Queensland and partnered with their local evacuation centre to provide bedding, food and a friendly face.
Many church groups were also instrumental in clean up efforts and supporting volunteers.
Oxley Uniting Church, in Brisbane’s west, provided a child minding service for people needing to clean their homes.
And from Ipswich to Toowoomba and beyond congregation members have been working had to restore a kind of normality to life.
To date (Monday January 24) the Uniting Church in Australia Flood Appeal has raised over $100,000 for flood affected communities all over the country. This figure continues to rise. The Assembly has donated a significant amount of money from its Disaster Relief Fund to assist this important work and many Synods have also offered financial assistance.
While people begin the clean up, the pain of this event will be felt for years to come.
To donate to The Uniting Church in Australia Flood Appeal click here.
Mardi Lumsden, Journey