Christmas and New Year's Day often turn the thoughts of expats to "home", but it's not those special days that has my heart turned to home at the moment. A very large proportion of my home state has been inundated by floodwaters, including towns which have been completely evacuated (yes, 100% of the population has had to leave town) while others are isolated by all usual means of transport (road, rail and air). One major town (population 75,000 people) is still waiting for flood waters to peak. Much of the airport runway is under water, and supplies routes are likely to be cut for up to two weeks. Many people are losing everything, while others are philosophically saying "at least we're still alive". In a "rich" country like Australia, many people have wealth beyond the imagination of many of Cambodia's poor, and there are also many people who don't have a lot in comparison, but no matter how much you have or don't have, it's hard to comprehend losing everything. Check out this amazing photo story to see some of what's happening. Check out the ABC (Australia) website for up-to-date info.
The clean up from this disaster will take months, and it will take years for many of our farmers to recover, but at the same time, I think of previous disasters in Australia and remember the resilience of the Australian people, especially country folk. We will look back in the months to come, and we'll see markers for the 2011 floods on people's walls, and we will see people getting on with their lives.
Australians are already rallying to support those affected. The southern states are sending SES workers north. North Queensland SES workers are heading south. Governments are making plans for recovery, and organising supply flights. Life will go on.
There's a famous Australian poem, called My Country, of which I will quote just a few lines:
"I love a sunburnt country,
of droughts and flooding rains,
her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!"
Australia is my country, and I love her. I've seen her in drought, and I've seen flooding rains, but she's home.
Twelve months ago, the dams supplying my home town of Toowoomba had less than 8% of their capacity, and water restrictions were major. Today they are at 62.3% of capacity. There has been a rise of almost 20% of capacity since Christmas. Australia is a land of extremes.
As you read this, pray for the people of Queensland. Pray for the leaders making decisions for the state's recovery. Pray for the people who are devastated. Pray for the people who are helping out. Above all, pray that people will turn back to God. I cannot do anything else, but I do know that God will hear my prayers for the people of my country.