The General Church Board has authorised the launch of a flood appeal to help alleviate the suffering of people and communities in south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.
While it appears that the properties of Lutherans and Lutheran communities have largely escaped long-term damage, many are aware of immediate needs in their neighbourhoods. In addition, as with most natural disasters, support is required for the medium- and long-term, as people struggle to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
On behalf of the Queensland District, District Administrator Trevor Ruthenberg has thanked everyone who responded when the call for donations was first made. Some of these funds have already been approved for distribution to affected people and communities.
Mr Ruthenberg points out, however, that the longer-term impact will only be discovered as Lutherans get back into their neighbourhoods and help with the clean-up and restoration efforts.
‘This is going to be a long-haul healing process for many people’, he says. ‘This is why funds are going to be needed, not only for emergency support now but also for longer-term hardship relief and psychological assistance.’
Another unusual rain event is causing flooding or re-flooding in parts of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, adding to the recovery challenges. In Queensland’s Darling Downs region, Pastor Ken Schultz of the Oakey parish says ‘things are as bad if not worse than a month ago’, with ‘the whole of the Norwin/Bongeen plain awash with water’.
‘Farmers are facing their third major harvest loss in a row, or severe downgrade of quality, or total loss for some, following on from three or four years of major drought’, Pastor Schultz says. ‘I’m not sure how they are all hanging in there, but they are.’ At the same time, not far away, very little rain has fallen, and there are brown paddocks.
Mr Ruthenberg encourages congregations and communities to look around them and reach out to people in need.
‘It’s at times such as this that we can be a church “where love comes to life”’, he says. ‘There are so many opportunities for people to see the love of God come to them through us. We’re praying that donations to the flood appeal will help Lutherans reach out to their communities and thereby allow people who don’t know God to experience what his love looks and feels like.’
An example of this is the Lismore congregation, he says. ‘Their church was undamaged, and they are making it available during the week for a disability support organisation to use at low rent so they can continue to operate.’
At Rochedale in Brisbane’s southern suburbs, a school family from Redeemer Lutheran College received a gift of money from the LCA Disaster and Welfare Fund. The family, who did not have flood insurance, lost everything in the deluge, but the gift helped them manage their immediate devastating situation.
‘When I called them to let them know we wanted to help them in this small way, there was silence and then some tears as they realised they were not in this fight alone’, Mr Ruthenberg says.
Applicants for funding will need to meet certain criteria, one of which is agreeing to a face-to-face visit by a local Lutheran leader. ‘In this way, we can make personal connections with the people we are caring for’, Mr Ruthenberg says.
Donors should be aware that in the event of funds not being fully drawn down for flood recovery support, the money will be retained in the Disaster and Welfare Fund for use in the future.