After months of record-breaking drought, our beautiful country of Australia is now facing a terrible season of bushfires.
Since October, five million hectares of land have been burnt—an area as big as Croatia. Over 1300 homes have been destroyed, and sadly, 17 people have lost their lives. Right now, at least 28 people are still unaccounted for, and as conditions worsen in NSW and Victoria, thousands are scheduled for mass evacuation.
Amidst all the tragedy, there are also many stories of miraculous survival. In the Adelaide Hills where I live, I have heard many jaw-dropping stories of fire licking doorsteps or fence lines but being unable to travel any further.
Some of these properties were protected by our nation’s brave firefighters who arrived in the nick of time. But many were spared by what can only be described as a miracle. A friend of mine from church showed me these photos of her property in Mount Torrens:
One miracle that has gained national attention took place in eastern Victoria. On New Year’s Eve, 4,000 people were evacuated from the township of Mallacoota to the beach and lakeside. David, a local bed-and-breakfast owner, told this story to ABC radio:
“I was praying. I was an atheist. I was praying to God, praying to Jesus, turn the wind. You wouldn’t believe it—but I’m going to tell you the honest-to-God truth. It pushed this thing back against itself.
“Literally we felt the wind come from off the beach, it shouldn’t have, but it did, but it went back at it. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t recognise it. It was unbelievable… I believe [it was] God’s intervention, absolutely, through prayer…”
With such confronting events facing our nation, it’s understandable that people are looking for someone to blame for the fires.
In some quarters, it’s become popular to hold our PM personally responsible for them. Many accuse Scott Morrison of inaction on climate change, believing that a global rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last 140 years has made fire events today worse than they otherwise might have been.
It is difficult to see, however, what ScoMo could have done in his short 18 months in office—especially given that the nation he leads contributes only 1.1% of global carbon emissions.
There are in fact individuals who are personally responsible for some of the nation’s fires. Arsonists have been charged for starting fires on the NSW south coast, in the state’s south-east, the Sydney CBD, and in eastern Victoria.
In fact, The Australian recently reported that in NSW alone, 56 people have been charged or cautioned for bushfire-related offences since August.
The other reality that firefighters are having to deal with is the heavy fuel loads that have been allowed to build up in many parts of the country. For generations before white settlement, indigenous Australians practiced safe fire management to reduce these loads.
For years, we’ve known that heavy fuel loads pose a big risk in bushfire season. In fact, one of the findings of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was exactly that. A fire chief who quit following those fires warned as recently as February that the state’s fuel loads are reaching similarly dangerous levels again.
There is one more factor that most Australians are reluctant to talk about. And that’s the message that God might be sending our nation through these disasters.
In Luke 13, Jesus was careful to point out that we shouldn’t simply assume that people affected by natural disasters are under God’s judgment. Nevertheless, Jesus did point to such disasters as God’s call for us to return to Him. This is a consistent theme of Scripture, beginning with the flood of Noah through to almost every calamity the Bible records.
In the months and years to come, hopefully we as a nation can better address the various human factors that have led to the current infernos. But right now, Australia is a nation in need of prayer.
At this time, please pray. Pray for protection and provision for our firefighters. Pray that the dangerous conditions forecast for Saturday 4th January would instead turn into soaking rain across the continent, and that we’d be blessed with above-average rain in the months ahead.
Pray also for those who have lost homes, loved ones and livelihoods. Pray that Aussies would hear the Good News of Jesus in these times of despair. Pray that each of us would deepen our commitment to God.
As we’ve already seen so many times, our God is a miracle-working God. He can be trusted.
SPECIAL PRAY FOR THE FIRE CRISIS INVITATION
Monday night for our weekly Canberra Declaration ZOOM prayer meeting. We are starting one week early than we inteneded as the fire situation is so dire. The focus this Monday will be on prayer for the fires. Let’s do this together, and see Australia not just covered in refreshing rain, but in a Holy Spirit-lead revival. The details of the ZOOM call are as follows:
EVENT: Canberra Declaration Weekly Zoom Prayer
TIME: 8PM AEDT (QLD 7PM / SA 7:30PM / NT 6:30PM / WA 5PM)
DATE: Monday 6th January 2020
ZOOM URL LINK: https://zoom.us/j/776881184
ZOOM MEETING ID: 776881184
ZOOM TUTORIAL: Watch the YouTube tutorial HERE