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 said that 8 teams on the NSW South Coast, south of the Shoalhaven River, were evacuated and sent home.
“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. Due to the fires however 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.”
Simon said stories are now coming in about the ways teams have reached out to help families and communities affected by the fires. Beach Mission teams have to prepare Risk Management Plans every year before they head on their trips, but nothing quite prepared them for how dangerous the situation became this year. “This year we asked all our teams to have a Bushfire Plan, 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 ever imagined.”