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Look for the helpers bringing hope to a nation

Look for the helpers bringing hope to a nation

Look for the helpers bringing hope to a nation

12 January 2020

Volunteers have been serving at the Bairnsdale Evacuation Centre in Victoria for over a week. Photo: Major Bruce Harmer

By Jessica Morris

Where is Christ in the middle of this national bushfire crisis? I found him in the hands and feet of volunteers across the country.

It was the thick, acrid air that covered my hometown of Geelong in Victoria on New Year’s Day that alerted me to the seriousness of the bushfires. Four hours from the closest fires, and we had a literal indicator that they were taking away far more than property – they were taking away the hope of our nation itself. And as a Christian and a Salvo, I didn’t know how to process that.

As a journalist for Others, this was my first time covering a major national disaster. Tasked with contacting Salvo personnel across the country, I was soon overwhelmed by the fighting spirit of staff, volunteers and the communities they were serving in.

I heard stories about members of The Salvation Army serving overnight in places like Bairnsdale and Meredith. I was told about the bravery of people who had been evacuated from Mallacoota. And I was met with the astonishing fact that no matter what happened next, the Salvos would be there to help.

The beauty of this ‘heart to God, hand to man’ attitude is that it does much more than give someone a much-needed meal – it reignites our ability to see the ‘Imago Dei ‘or the ‘Image of God’ in each other. I saw that nowhere more clearly than on a Saturday morning two weeks ago.

At 6.40 I received a call from a colleague. She said: “I have a couple here who have been evacuated from their property near Bairnsdale. They were stranded. They want to tell their story to a journalist – can they talk to you?”

I knew my colleague was in the car, removing herself and her children from the danger of the fires ravaging the South Coast of NSW. It was my turn to serve like so many of my colleagues, friends and family had been doing for the past month.

“Hello, my name is Jessica. Thank you so much for talking to me.”

For the next 20 minutes, Iven and Danielle told me their story, and in them I found hope. With nothing left but each other and their pet budgie, they raved with praise about volunteers – about the Salvo who had ensured Danielle was given a Gluten-free meal, to the staff at McDonald's who provided them with cheeseburgers, and the Sikh community who had been feeding them curries all week.

Their story allowed me to find the common thread of hope amidst the terrifying stories from across Australia – it was in the helpers.

In the face of tragedy, American television personality and Presbyterian minister Fred Rodgers once said, “Always look for the helpers ... there’s always someone who is trying to help” and, in this precarious time, I have never found that to be truer than seeing God’s Kingdom at work in Australia.

Irrespective of colour, creed, religion or political leaning, Australians have united to bring hope and healing to the nation. And, in this, God has shown he is alive and active in our country.

So from one Aussie to another, I say thank you. Thank you for being a helper.

To The Salvation Army Emergency Services personnel, who are working tirelessly with no sign of reprieve, I say thank you.

To the officers, volunteers, corps members and staff who are rallying behind their community – and will do so long after these fires are over – I say thank you.

To the firefighters who are defending their hometowns, or the hometowns of people they don’t even know, I say thank you.

To the medical staff and volunteers working around the clock, I say thank you.

To the services, sponsors, churches, businesses and creatives using their platforms to fundraise and help, I say thank you.

To the people saving, rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife, I say thank you.

And to the people who have lost everything, yet still manage to say “thank you” when we hand them a simple meal – we see you. And we thank you for showing us that the Imago Dei exists in one of our nation’s darkest moments.

As we look ahead with uncertainty, may we hold on to this hope with every ounce of strength we have left – we are not alone. Christ is here with us, and we are his means of bringing hope to Australia.

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