When devastating floods saturated Townsville in northern Queensland, Australia, in February, more than 1,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes. A monsoon dumped a year’s worth of rainfall over the city, killing two people and causing extensive damage. Now, homes are being cleaned out, but people’s lives are far from back to normal.
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) is ministering in the area alongside Samaritan’s Purse to offer emotional and spiritual care to those affected by this “once in a century” event.
“People are still in a state of shock and dismay,” crisis-trained chaplain Stewart Beveridge said. “They talk about the water sweeping through their homes … and being snatched out of the rushing water by the army.”
Beveridge deployed to the area just days after the rain stopped and spent over a week visiting homes in the region and offering a listening ear to the community. He’s now serving as a chaplain along multiple stops of the Graham Tour while four other chaplains are in Townsville, partnering with the city to comfort the community the best they can.
“The city has asked churches to connect with people to see how they’re doing,” Beveridge continued, explaining the chaplains have been asked to participate as well. “The purpose is so no one gets left behind or overlooked.”
Beveridge helped brief over 200 people from local churches on how to share God’s hope with those facing difficulties from the flood.
With 1,200 homes flooded with water about 10 inches high, 660 infiltrated with water up to 3 feet and another 128 homes inundated with water above 3 feet, the damage has been staggering.
While Samaritan’s Purse has been helping with cleanups, mud-outs and mold treatment in homes, Beveridge has found many people motivated to keep going in the midst of crisis.
“They’re very focused on getting their lives back on track, not realizing life for them has changed,” Beveridge said. “We are about to see an increase in distress,” he continued, acknowledging some will soon be notified by their insurance companies that they don’t have flood coverage.
Samaritan’s Purse and the Rapid Response Team are there to help meet the needs that will arise in the coming weeks and months.
Since the flood, chaplains have prayed with more than 120 people. They’ve also witnessed life-changing decisions for Christ. In the midst of hardship, residents are inviting hope and peace into their lives.
Now, as Beveridge said, they can know the truth: “they are not alone, and God has not turned His back on them in this crisis.”