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By Emily Christoforou

Like many parts of NSW, the area of Blackheath was severely impacted by the bushfires. Andy Collins, Senior Pastor of Blackheath Baptist Church, describes some of the chaos caused: “Fire burned up the gullies that surround the town. Usually only one gully will catch fire, but this time they all caught fire. We actually had to stop our church services the Sunday before Christmas as people received evacuation notices and were told the highway was closing.”

These pressures, plus torrential rains in February, and now Covid-19, have resulted in the closure of many local businesses. Prepared to help in any way possible, Blackheath Baptist Church were able to provide several business owners and residents in the community with around $1,200.00 in gift cards for fuel and groceries, as well as paying a couple of water bills which were the direct result of people using water to fight fires on their property and their next door neighbours’ properties. “When I was told of a family that received a huge water bill because of their need to use water to fight fires, I approached the family,” Andy says. “They were concerned about the high bill, which was triple their last bill, but would never have thought to ask for help, and felt very blessed to receive assistance.”

The money for this assistance has been provided by funding from the Baptist Association’s Bushfire Relief & Recovery Campaign, which Andy hadn’t even thought of trying to access. “At the annual Baptist Pastors & Leaders Day, Kelly Crawford sat near me,” he explains. “As I shared about some of the pressures we were experiencing in Blackheath, Kelly told me about the fund. At first I thought we weren’t eligible for funds as we hadn’t experienced the wide-scale destruction of property that other parts of the state had suffered. But speaking with Kelly, I was relieved to know that our church and local community could benefit from the fund. This was nothing short of divine intervention, as we simply didn’t have the funds to provide this level of assistance.”

Praise God for Blackheath Baptist who continues to provide meals for local families in need – including an elderly gentleman recently released from hospital, and a mother receiving treatment for leukaemia.