January 4, 2002
Elim Heights, Mellong, NSW—Bush fires raged causing moderate damage as 24 people were evacuated from the church’s Elim Heights Youth Camp on Thursday, January 3. The approaching blaze interrupted a worker’s meeting and summer school in progress at the camp, located near Sydney, Australia.
A week earlier, area roads had closed and reopened intermittently, causing inconvenience to those traveling to and from the Australasian Union Youth Convention, held at the same location from December 24 to 29. By God’s providence there was no immediate danger and all were able to travel home safely from the Convention.
Those who remained were to have a different experience, however. The fires, which had been burning for nearly two weeks in various places around Sydney, were seen steadily advancing toward the camp.
By Wednesday afternoon, January 2, an alert was received from the fire brigade, and mid-afternoon a police escort arrived to assist in evacuation. Meanwhile, the fire again blocked the road, forcing the police and evacuees to stay put, as clouds of smoke loomed over the area.
Early Thursday morning around 5:45 a.m., students and staff were awakened by sirens. Fire brigade vehicles rolled in, and firemen swarmed the campus ordering everyone to leave immediately. By 6:30 everyone was packed and in vehicles leaving the premises.
Passing safely through the line of another fire 50km to the north, the group traveled about five hours via a circuitous route to the Union office in Sydney (normally just over an hour away). From there they dispersed to homes of various brethren, awaiting the fire’s subsiding.
Friday afternoon two Bible workers were able to travel to the camp to assess the situation. They put out a small fire still burning, and found that while fire had lapped at the edge of the main hall, it and the rest of the buildings had all been miraculously preserved. Some personal property on the edge of the clearing was lost, as well as the shed housing a diesel generator which supplied electricity to the campus.
Elim Missionary College director Paul Chapman and his family were grateful to the Lord that their residence on campus sustained no damage, and that all school materials were safe.
“We can see how the remarkable power of fire can devastate an area in such a short time,” remarked Michael Stoyko, president of the Australasian Union Conference. “Thank God for the fact that He has preserved life even though some property has been lost.”
“When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43:2.
SDARM SEUSF Media