G’day. Yup, after our quasi-furlough we are back in Australia.
It was undeniably refreshing to experience a healthy dose of the familiar over the past months. In addition to the encouragement and joy from precious time with family and friends, we were completely embraced by Community Church Edinburgh as well as Ballywillan Presbytarian Church in Portrush. What a difference it makes to know the backing and enjoy the fellowship of a community of faith-filled people. And so, apart from the remote work undertaken to uphold our RescueNet responsibilities, we were able to somewhat disconnect and reassess the mission we have lived this past year in Canberra. Simply put, our time in the UK did us good. We return to our work now with a renewed sense of God’s purposes and a better understanding of what we are called to in the season ahead.
One of these things is our hope to see more people reached by the work of RN globally. You may remember us describing the Disaster Preparedness Program in a previous blog post (see February 2017: ‘Preparing for the worst’). In short, Dani developed this project with the aim of helping communities in low-income countries better prepare themselves for the ever-increasing number of disasters.
Although we were a bit too preoccupied to attend in person, a group of RescueNet members volunteered for the task of piloting the project in Malawi. This seemingly hand-crafted team represented a wonderful mix of skills and nationalities, and together they worked to serve the people of Agabu, an area south-west of Lake Malawi. The community there lives in homes made of mud and straw or tin. There is no electricity and every year, flooding steals both lives and livelihoods.
Jumping straight in, the team spent the first week helping in a clinic and teaching first aid in schools. This was a good opportunity for them to observe local customs and prepare for running the program the following week. Twenty-eight participants completed the 5-day program. The team reported that at the end of the first day of guided group discussions and classroom teaching, there was a palpable shift in attitude towards the losses this community experiences each year: they did not need to be accepted as inevitable. During the remainder of the days, the team led the participants to create ideas and develop plans to help the community prepare for and cope with disasters. They taught practical skills in survival techniques, search and rescue, medical and psychological first aid whilst the community came up with an early warning system using a bell and flags. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and the team was asked if they could return next year.
It is fantastic, after so many months, to see some of our work come to fruition and directly benefit people who need it most. Small changes can mean the difference between life and death, or poverty and resilience, in so many areas of the world. With the RescueNet council having decided to give the DPP its full backing, we now work to develop this initiative further, and hope that more and more communities will be reached. One area which Dani will particularly be focussing on is program monitoring and evaluation – if you happen to have any knowledgeable contacts willing to provide advice in this area please get in touch!
Despite seeing this progress and having been ‘topped-up’ through time at home, stepping on that plane was admittedly, still not easy. Yet how wonderful that it should be so! As I sit here and ponder the sad goodbyes and warm welcome, our daily provision, and the wonder of knowing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves I can only say that we are richly blessed indeed 🙂