Extreme rainfall across the South Queensland Conference (SQC) and North New South Wales (NNSW) Conference in Australia has seen Seventh-day Adventist churches and schools evacuated and thousands of homes flooded during the last days of February 2022, church leaders reported.
In North New South Wales
Several Adventist-owned buildings have been affected by unprecedented flooding in the New South Wales Northern Rivers region.
According to NNSW Adventist Church president Adrian Raethel, Murwillumbah Seventh-day Adventist Church, Tweed Valley Adventist College, and Mullumbimby Seventh-day Adventist Church have portions or all of their buildings submerged. Blue Hills Adventist College has been closed.
In Lismore, the Wilsons River has risen to more than 14 meters (46 feet) — surpassing by more than 2 meters (6 feet) the benchmark set in 1954. Lismore Seventh-day Adventist Church has reported that despite the high water levels in the area, the church building, situated on a hill, still hasn’t been affected, but waters are lapping at its ADRA-operated thrift store — on the lowest part of the church property.
According to Lismore pastor Tim Merritt, the church is doing its best to assist the community. “We’re at a spot here in Lismore that most of the boats are bringing people to, to then be taken to evacuation centers. We’ve been able to give people some hot soup and hot drinks,” he said. The church’s boat has also been made available to the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) to help rescue efforts.
The NNSW Conference is working on releasing an initial amount of AU$30,000 (about US$21,900) for immediate flood relief for impacted church members. According to Raethel, the Australian Union Conference “will be matching the conference dollar for dollar.”
He emphasized that this amount “is an addition to any support from the state government, ADRA, or any other agency” and that the conference is also planning to establish a conference-wide flood appeal for the Northern Rivers region.
In South Queensland
In South East Queensland, up to 18,000 homes had been flooded by morning on February 28. In Brisbane, the state’s capital, the Brisbane River peaked around 3.41 meters (11.2 feet) at 9 p.m. that day. Flood levels in Gympie have peaked at 23 meters (75.5 feet), and the town is currently surrounded by flood waters that are not expected to recede until March 3 or 4.
According to SQC ADRA director Irena Pule, ADRA is currently planning a response to assist Gympie — one of the worst hit areas. “In addition, we have a team preparing in Toowoomba for a recovery response,” she said.
Pule urged church and community members needing assistance to contact her. “Our church is still responding to evacuees in Gatton and the Lockyer Valley. However, there are still affected areas that we have not been able to connect with,” she said.