Prayers and donations from our Lutheran family are bringing hope, love and care to people in flood-ravaged communities in central New South Wales.
The LCANZ launched a churchwide appeal in mid-November for donations to assist individuals, families, businesses and community groups affected by the severe flooding, particularly around the towns of Forbes and Eugowra. Some locations have experienced three flood peaks this calendar year. More than $19,000 has so far been raised by the appeal, with donations being deposited in the LCA Disaster & Welfare Fund and assistance distributed under the direction of the NSW and ACT District.
Along with his wife Adele, Pastor James Leach from the Central West Lutheran Parish which includes St John’s Forbes, St Paul’s Parkes and St Peter’s Orange, has been offering support, listening and talking with people worst hit by the emergency and taking them home-cooked meals, other food and drinks, gift cards, tracts and other items they needed. He said the support of the wider church had been both ‘humbling and empowering’ as they have reached out to those in the community with practical and moral support.
‘We are so thankful for the support that we’ve already received’, said Pastor James, who added that he was ‘blown away’ by the response to the appeal to date. ‘It means more than I can express. The encouragement that has given me that the church was praying for us – it’s uplifting, humbling and empowering.’
Floodwaters entered the Forbes church with the third 2022 peak on 18 November and one parish member’s house was flooded. Many others in the community, though, have sustained damage to their homes, business properties and farms. He has had direct contact with more than 60 families and many others indirectly.
With gifts of food and on gift card envelopes, Pastor James attached the following wording, along with the LCA logo:
‘We know you must be dealing with so much right now, but we just wanted to reach out and tell you that you are in our hearts. Please know that there are people throughout Australia praying for you and for your recovery and clean-up efforts, know also that they will continue to do so throughout the coming months. I, too, will be thinking and praying for you. If there is any way I can provide assistance, please just ask. Stay strong and know that we are here to support you if ever need it.
–Pastor James Leach, and St John’s Lutheran Church’
Adele Leach said beyond the devastation they had seen, and the heartache felt as they headed around Forbes to see people, offering sandwiches, water, tea and coffee, they were left with a ‘feeling of privilege’. ‘That we were welcome to step into people’s lives at their most devastated’, she said.
One example was when Pastor James was contacted on Friday by the single mum of a three-year-old foster daughter, who was asking for help.
‘She told me how her daughter was really struggling because she’d been seeing Christmas stuff everywhere and was wondering how Santa was going to work out where to put the presents this year, as their Christmas tree had been washed away with everything else and all the decorations were damaged’, Pastor James said.
‘It just broke my heart to hear this lady. She said she’d heard from a friend that we’d been around town helping people out and was wondering whether I could help her. So, I organised for a Christmas tree, we got decorations, and I went over to this family’s home on Sunday after church and decorated the tree with the daughter.
‘All of the drywall and insulation has been removed from their brick house due to the flood damage, so you can see from one side to the other. When I asked the little girl where she wanted the tree, she said, “Right here”, pointing to the middle of the house. When I asked, “Why’s that?”, she said “Because no matter where I am in the house, I’ll be able to see the Christmas star and that will make me happy”.’
NSW–ACT District Administrator Russell Veerhuis said what has been happening around the Central West Parish is ‘the church in action’.
‘This is an example of the church getting out there and loving people; fulfilling our call as Christians to love all people, not just other Lutherans’, he said. ‘This is the church in action.’
With the clean-up, repair and recovery effort around Forbes expected to take many months, and with floodwaters set to inundate towns in the South Australian Riverland, more support is likely to be required. Under the terms of the LCA Disaster & Welfare Fund, any funds not used to support the Forbes appeal will be held until required for another purpose. This might include other flood- and storm-affected areas across Australia, as needs become apparent.
Ways to donate can be found on the LCA website www.lca.org.au/disaster-welfare