Photo: Flood victims gather at Tweed Heads Salvation Army Centre at Banora Point.
 
By Josh Gibbon
 
In the midst of this week’s flood crisis, Mission & Ministry team members Jessie and Abi Skelly have found themselves serving as informal disaster relief coordinators for the local community in Tweed Heads/Chinderah.
 
They have been working out of Tweed Heads Salvation Army Centre at Banora Point with volunteers from five different church communities to provide relief, shelter, and communications for rescued families. More than 200 people have come to the evacuation centre needing support.
 
While the Skellys’ own home has been untouched, they are surrounded by need.
 
“In two days, we’ve had a year’s worth of rain,” Jessie said. “All the levies and walls that were put in place just broke, and within 24 hours, people were being rushed out of their homes and into evacuation centres. 
 
“A lot of people haven’t had power for days – most of the people in the evacuation centres are at the point of last resort. No food, no water, no anything for the past day.”
 
Many people have offered to volunteer and have donated clothes and supplies, but the greatest need is leadership to coordinate volunteers to know how to help best.
 
“About five different churches have been running the evac centres. Basically, churches are the ones getting in and making systems and getting volunteers in the right places, including an online system for potential donors to provide for the practical needs all around them.
 
Jessie has been using a Fresh Hope bus to shuttle people from homes to the evacuation centres. When they arrive, they are greeted with tea, food, clothes, and a bed to sleep on for the night if necessary.
 
John Latta, pastor of Tweed COC, and Abi have been providing pastoral support and counselling for those who need to talk.
 
One of the most challenging aspects of coordinating relief is communication. Phone lines and towers are inactive in many areas, preventing people from checking in on friends and loved ones in inaccessible neighbourhoods.
 
“There are people right now in their homes who’ve probably been in there for a couple of days. People are wanting to swim across rivers to help their friends and families. I’ve had mates rescue people at 2am in their boats.”
 
Last Thursday, dozens of volunteers, including the Gold Coast Suns AFL team, are descending on Tweed Heads and surrounding areas to take part in community action, clearing debris for local residents and Tweed Church, which suffered flooding damage.
           
 
Funds raised from the Global Mission Partners Flood Appeal will go to local churches and ministries to purchase supplies and resources they need.  Donate HERE.