We are here for the long haul supporting those hit hard by disasters
After another dreadful disaster season in Australia, I barely know how to start this letter to you. Word from our Bush Chaplains about the destruction caused by floods and bushfires this summer has torn my heart. Areas in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have been hit hard. It would be bad enough on its own. But coming off the back of a ‘perfect storm’ of emergencies, including a dreadful mouse plague and a pandemic, it’s just catastrophic.
As usual, we are on the ground in all of those areas. Our Bush Chaplains across the country are on the road and at farm gates, knocking on doors and providing practical and pastoral support to those who have lost homes, buildings, fences, property, crops, stock… and their hope.
But even in the darkest of times there’s light. The light I always think of is you and your support. I feel humbled and grateful to remember your kindness, how you’re there with people through your donations, giving them a hand when they need it the most.
It costs $130,000 on average to keep just one of our Bush Chaplains on the road for a year. We are hoping to raise $250,000 from this appeal. It is only through your generosity that we can continue to help people rocked by the recent disasters that have ravaged rural and remote Australia.
Because we need your urgent support to recruit a new Bush Chaplain in WA for people recovering from the devastation left by Cyclone Seroja. Everything is in place to go ahead, except vital funds. Once again, we’re relying on our kind-hearted supporters like you to help.
People need our specialised Bush Chaplain to assist with their trauma, grief and loss. The community has approached us as their needs are high. They want a Bush Chaplain to assist with the physical and emotional rebuild and you can make this happen by making a generous gift of what you can today.
All our Bush Chaplains are trained to respond in disasters and emergencies as members of the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network, offering understanding and the comfort of someone to talk to.
Because they are based within remote communities, they can build relationships of trust with survivors over time and encourage even the hesitant to reach out for support.
Where other support services are often simply non-existent, our Bush Chaplains fill the gap.
The importance of them being on the ground comes across loud and clear in these words shared with me by Pastor Benjamin Quilliam, our Bush Chaplain in Alice Springs who serves the NT and parts of WA and SA:
“It’s normal to have bad years here. But the recent floods have had a massive impact on people. Their routes to get food are cut off. This is when I spring into action. I go to the supermarkets to start buying essentials on behalf of people who need them. I load everything into my vehicle, bring it back and wait for people to pick it up. Some I’ll send on the mail truck to those living further afield. For this, incredible coordination is required on the ground.”
“We learn to network to get help for people. We learn how to sit with someone who is in shock, agitated and frightened at the enormity of the situation. We learn to calm people down and help them feel safe.”
Our Bush Chaplain based in Carnarvon WA, Pastor John Tomkins, has been helping people after floods last year (which impacted him personally) and now the recent bushfires in his area. He tells me:
“The fires have affected many people on the stations. The flood affected properties along the river. There has been a loss of income, loss of soil. The government has provided top soil but this took a really long time. It is very important to keep visiting people, let people know you are available, that they have got the ongoing chaplaincy support they require.”
Pastor Lindsay Ginn, who is Bush Chaplain in WA, based in Kalgoorlie, was assigned as Duty Officer for the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network last year when a bushfire broke out in Gidgegannup that destroyed 87 homes.
He says the sadness and rebuilding are continuing today:
“Responding to the fires as Duty Officer, I heard and saw first-hand the shock, the pain, the questions people were experiencing. Questions like, ‘Why was my property saved and my neighbour’s wasn’t?’ ‘We were out saving the township knowing that our own properties were being destroyed.’ The pain in people’s eyes was clearly visible.”
“They are still in the rebuilding process even now. I could even smell smoke in the air when I went to the anniversary service of the Gidgegannup fires a few weeks ago. I led the church service and encouraged their hearts with some music. People gave thanks for all they have and we shared in the pain together.”
To give you a sense of the gradual pace of recovery, I also want to share the experiences of John, a property owner near Bombala in the far south of NSW near the Victorian border. When bushfires ravaged John’s community he managed to save his best friend, his dog Ned. But he lost his home, vehicles, water tanks, outhouses and sadly, many of the animals on his property. Last year our Outback Links volunteers visited to help him work on rebuilding a place he can call home. This included insulating and gyprocking a shipping container.
John was beyond grateful. But in spite of the difference that help made, he is still rebuilding, and he’ll be doing so for the foreseeable future.
“The help I’ve received from Frontier Services, I’ll never forget – I’ve made friends for life and we got a heck of a lot done – but recovery is a long journey,” says John.
“People like me in country areas need to know disaster support will continue well after the emergency crews are gone. That’s the support Frontier Services Bush Chaplains are giving and it’s worth its weight in gold.”
Rebuilding properties and fences for people like John is about providing hope. Because we work in the remote areas where most people don’t go. Residents there often feel forgotten. So sometimes the small gestures are just as vital as the big ones. In the slow process of trying to recover after a disaster, people need to know that we care and there is always hope.
As you know, people in the bush are resilient. But when they’re burdened down by grief and the immense task of rebuilding after a disaster along with their usual workload, it’s completely overwhelming. The process is painstaking and can be incredibly isolating. To have some hope of recovery, they need us to be there. Not just immediately after disaster strikes, but for the long haul.
Your kind donation today can help us fund a new Disaster Response Chaplain in Western Australia and provide the continuing support of our Bush Chaplains to those across rural and remote Australia who are recovering from floods, fires, cyclones, drought and other disasters right now.
Please help if you can and thank you so much for being the backbone of our work at Frontier Services. Your generous gift today will change lives and help us rebuild communities that want our help. I hope that you will consider supporting us for the long haul.