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Dedicated Salvos at heart of ongoing recovery in flood-hit Lismore

Dedicated Salvos at heart of ongoing recovery in flood-hit Lismore

Dedicated Salvos at heart of ongoing recovery in flood-hit Lismore

14 September 2017

As part of their assistance in the community, the Salvos team, and helpers, worked to repair roller skates at the local rink so they could re-open to school groups.

By Kevin Elsley

Practical hands-on help instigated by the Lismore Salvation Army since the city’s devastating flood on 31 March in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, has been described as showing a heart for the hurting, and that fits well with the many heart-shaped flags and banners on display in shop and office windows.

As this Northern NSW city continues the recovery struggle, a small band of local Salvos and friends has been undertaking minor repairs to buildings at no cost to the occupiers/owners. The urgent tasks have come to light as the result of doorknocking by strategic disaster management case workers Samuel Bacon and Renai Ross.

Their band of willing volunteers has helped one home owner reline internal walls, repair hundreds of skates for the owner of a skating rink, and rebuild a fence at another residence, but more tasks are coming to light as they continue to doorknock.

Out of a disaster is emerging what Samuel and Renai describe as another great opportunity for The Salvation Army to engage with the community. They believe that while there are many avenues for outreach, this practical approach could be the launching pad for a new type of ministry in their city.

Samuel says it’s connecting with people with one’s heart. “It’s a Jesus thing; it’s what Jesus would do, Jesus knocking on our heart’s door,” he said.

And Renai describes it this way: “You hear their story and get closer to them. Practical help makes a lot of difference to them.”

It’s a one-on-one approach, meeting people on their own piece of turf that they love and which is working, while not down-playing the work of agencies, including The Salvation Army, in filling out forms and checking people's eligibility to receive financial aid.

“Going to where the needy are, talking with them and listening to their pain – that doesn’t fit into a form and it’s not governed by some set of criteria,” Samuel said.

From left to right: Samuel Bacon, Glenn Shume, Renai Ross, Kevin Elsley and Val Bennett provide practical support to locals.

It’s been an emotional ride at times for the two case workers, with tears shed and hugs as they have listened to the plights of flood victims. Prayer is offered during the initial contact and again while on the repair jobs. Where practical support is not needed, people are grateful for a listening ear and an offer of financial help.

Samuel and Renai recount what was to them a God event when they were meant to visit a house in a flood-affected street but their attention was drawn to another dwelling nearby. Their knock was answered by a distraught woman who had been trapped by floodwater in the house with her daughter. The family had decided to move to a flood-free location and The Salvation Army was able to provide some financial assistance for the relocation.

They shared with the couple their belief that God had intervened in what was a random event and had planned the meeting because of his care for them.

The plight of the Lismore skating rink owners was so moving that the Lismore Salvation Army congregation took up an offering to be put towards the cost of a mini holiday for them.

Where the Salvo team patched up internal walls of a house, an initial contact with the owner was followed up when corps members, with the band and a barbeque, visited the area to knock on doors inquiring if help was still needed.

Then there’s the story of a woman who lost all in the flood and was reminded during prayer that God will take all the broken pieces in her life and make something beautiful by putting them all back together again. As a result, the person made a cross of mosaic pieces as a symbol of God putting everything back together for her and presented it to the Lismore Corps.

To Renai, practical help represents a closer connection with the needy. “You feel you have accomplished something worthwhile, that you are not just a money machine,” she said.

And to her the work is rewarding, especially when people who have been helped stop by for a chat in the Community Corner created in the refurbished Red Shield Family Store following the March flood.

Renai’s desire to help the needy led to a certificated course in community services, plus assisting with Christmas gift and hamper distribution for needy individuals and families.



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