Ahead of the day of prayer for the bushfires on 1 December, Duncan Barlow reflects on the impact of the recent events in the Laidley and Hatton Vale region.
An early and extreme fire season raises concerns for rural communities and towns which run right up to bushland. Laidley, while near bushland, has not normally been associated with bushfires as the Lockyer Valley has much cultivated land for crops or grassy areas for grazing cattle. This year however we have suffered fires both in the town and in the surrounding areas.
During the fires which have impacted the Lockyer Valley and surrounds, it is heartening when people pull together and support each other. We’ve had some members of our congregation be evacuated and they were quickly offered beds for the night. We’re thankful for the fire fighters, State Emergency Services and other emergency personnel who give their time, often voluntarily, and who take risks to help others in need. As we stay on a heightened state of alert with continuing high temperatures and strong winds, we have to watch out that we don’t lose perspective or fail to take good care of ourselves.
However, the fast-moving disaster of fire in our location is predominantly due to the slow-moving disaster of drought which has gripped much of the country. In our area, Laidley Creek hasn’t run in six years, crop farmers are going multiple seasons without a harvest, some cattle grazers who have endured drought in the past are this year needing to buy hay for the first time. Though less intense “in the moment” the drought is causing a longer and deeper pain in our communities.
Please pray for us. Please pray that from the national to the individual level that people will care for the land, knowing that it is God’s good creation. Please pray for many in the rural communities who are struggling mentally and emotionally. Pray for churches that we would be beacons of hope, pointing to the One who promises to send the Comforter, and safe places for people to be honest about our struggles. And finally, please pray for rain.
Here is a prayer which our congregation and others are praying:
“Heavenly Father, you are the Creator of this good world and you are the One who sustains it. We know that you promise to send rain upon the just and the unjust and so, not trusting in our own worth, we ask you in your mercy to send down rain upon this dry earth.
We pray that your Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will sustain and strengthen our struggling farmers and rural communities. May your Spirit work in all our hearts to see our own need of refreshment from you and to soften the parched hearts of Australians.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our only hope in times of dry and times of plenty. We ask that we may receive the living waters which Jesus promised to those who ask of him. Amen”
Duncan Barlow is the Minister at Hatton Value Community Uniting Church and Laidley Uniting Church. Duncan is also the author of The Big Questions: “Converting the heathen”.