Listen: Simon Flinders from Scripture Union chats to Clare Bruce. Above: Members of the Culburra Beach Mission team, which was evacuated from their camp due to bushfires. (Picture: Facebook / Culburra Beach Mission)
As bushfires began to close in on the South Coast of NSW across Christmas and New Year’s Eve, among the many people affected were hundreds of Christians camping in holiday parks for Beach Missions.
Run by Scripture Union, Beach Missions are annual family camps held every summer, where residential communities of Christians spend up to two weeks camping, running programs for kids and families, and sharing the hope of Jesus. There are over 40 camps held each year on NSW beaches and some inland holiday locations.
Simon Flinders from Scripture Union NSW told Hope 103.2 today that eight teams on the NSW South Coast, south of the Shoalhaven River, have now been evacuated and sent home – including teams at Bawley Point, Lake Conjola, and Sussex Inlet. Shoalhaven Heads Beach Mission at Holiday Haven, however, was able to continue uninterrupted.
“We’ve had 7 or 8 teams affected to varying degrees, some in very scary situations,” Simon said. “We’re very thankful to God that our teams have all been kept wonderfully safe in some difficult situations. Over the last couple of days we made the decision to evacuate them. They’ve headed back home, there are no longer any teams in that region continuing their ministry.
“It’s a regrettable decision but for the safety of the team member and for the sake of the emergency efforts in those places we felt it was the best thing to do. So they’re all safe and sound now.”
A Mission of a Different Kind
Simon said stories are now filtering in about the ways teams have reached out to help families and communities affected by the fires.
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He also explained that while Beach Mission teams have to prepare Risk Management Plans every year before they head on their trips, nothing quite prepared them for how dangerous the situation would become on the south coast.
“This year in particular we asked all our teams to have a Bushfire Plan, which had to be signed off by our risk management officer, so the teams were well prepared, and team directors have followed those plans and communicated well with our Emergency Response Team.
“But no doubt there are good things for us to learn from this year. It probably has been more serious in parts than we could have imagined.”
Scripture Union will now go about the task debriefing with their teams, and caring for those who have been affected.