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Disaster builds community

Mark Dewar cleaning up after cyclone Yasi. Photo by Phil Smith
CHURCH IS like a chainsaw being wielded in an old lady’s backyard.

Church is like new friends sleeping in the spare rooms of your house.

Church is when you don’t speak English very well and you realise bad things are about to happen.

These were only some of the recollections of the ministers in Townsville as they met four days after cyclone Yasi brought down trees, power lines and quite a few buildings.

It also brought down barriers according to Aitkenvale’s Mark Dewar.

“We didn’t know the neighbours on the other side of our place,” he said.

“Their house fronts the next street, but the big tree between us flattened that six foot fence.”

There were nods and grins all round at Mount Louisa House of Praise as the team acknowledged the hand of God in a hard circumstance.

Hospital Chaplain Barry Cox spoke of a family who came home to find the huge pile of branches and litter had been cleaned from their pool, and never knowing who had done that.

Craig Mischewski looked less then liturgical in filthy boots and a sweaty t-shirt as he spoke about “the psalm 91 thing”.

Mr Mischewski quickly established what he called the ministry of the chainsaw, taking a group of young people with him to do what blokes like best: chopping and sawing.

The theology isn’t quite so simple.

“I’ve had people saying, ‘God is punishing us’, others saying they were grateful God protected them,” he said.

“Everyone’s got their own take on it but the glue that sticks us together is the faith that no matter what happens, somehow
God assures us it’s OK.”

At Mount Louisa on the Sunday after the storm Rev Anne Harley noticed visitors from the worst hit townships of El Arish
and Mission Beach.

As members shared their stories, one guest reminded them that the Bible says “do not be anxious”.

“She had a peaceful look on her face that spoke volumes to those of us who have allowed fear to rule our lives,” said Ms Harley.

Psalm 91:2. “I will say of the Lord, he is my fortress and my refuge; My God, in him will I trust.”

Photo : Mark Dewar cleaning up after cyclone Yasi. Photo by Phil Smith