The Federal Government has increased its national drought spending to $1.8 billion with funding directed towards farmers, local councils and businesses dealing with one of the worst droughts in a century. In Queensland, 57.4 percent of the state has been classified as in drought (see map). www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/drought/drought-declarations/
South Western Queensland Lutheran Parish, which covers Chinchilla, Down Fall Creek, Miles and Charleville, and St John’s Lutheran Church in Emerald in the Central Highlands are located in two regions which have experienced no significant rainfall for years – in some cases not since the 2010 floods.
How to keep people in the community from turning their backs on God is a challenge for the local pastors.
South Western Queensland Lutheran Parish locum pastor Noel Noack said it was important to focus on the “good things that God has given to us”, to remind people that “God looks on us with compassion” and to encourage people to pray, citing Matthew 6 as an example of how to pray.
“We do not cease to ask and we do not lose hope. We seek the blessings of rain”, he said. “It is quite easy to be anxious. God recognises that struggle but answers us through His word that He will care for us.”
St John’s Lutheran Church Pastor Stephen Jaensch agreed prayer was the most important thing people could do for each other.
“It’s interesting how God is saying to us and all other churches that we have to turn back to prayer”, he said. “We have to learn how to pray and turn back to God. We all know how to say a prayer but we don’t know how to pray. Prayer is having a relationship with God and relying on Him totally.”
Pastor Jaensch said it was important to declare our total dependence on God and humbly ask: “Lord, help us. We haven’t got a clue.”
Pastor Noack said in Matthew 7 verse 7 God says to ‘Ask and it will be given to you’.
“This is a wonderful encouragement to prayer”, he said. “Prayer means we humbly rely on our mighty God. Humble trust is necessary when everything looks so awful. Farmers don’t have the ability to produce rain. They rely on God for the good seasons.
“Our faith doesn’t depend upon rain. It depends upon God. God is a compassionate God who gave His Son in death for us. God has demonstrated His compassion. If He has given us those things, won’t He give us other things?”
Pastor Jaensch said the farmers he speaks to are amazed that with virtually no rainfall for years that they are coping. “It has to be God working”, he said.
He said the 11 churches in Emerald are organising a prayer service for drought in the near future. A community service of prayer for the drought was held on 19 August in Chinchilla, which Pastor Noack said was a positive reinforcement of people encouraging each other and “relying upon God and trusting in his promises in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 and 7”.
“It’s a lovely community spirit here”, he said. “They watch out for each other. They tell me who is struggling. I’ve been extremely impressed with how they look after each other. They are aware of mental health issues and follow it up.”
And even though people are struggling, they share what they do have with each other. Pastor Jaensch said one farmer he had spoken to said there hadn’t been a normal season for seven years but he was more worried about farmers in Queensland’s western regions who were in dire straits and had donated feed to a fellow farmer.
“That’s how the farmers cope”, Pastor Jaensch said. “Their thoughts are for those who are really suffering because there is always someone worse off than them.”
But it is also important to remember that every drought has been broken.
“Rains have followed and we pray that God will, in His own time, give the refreshing rains that are required”, said Pastor Noack.
Michael Turner, Queensland District Administrator, reminds congregations who wish to financially help those affected by drought to contact the following four organisations