Many people needed the help of professional volunteers and assistance from the state government to clean up, repair damage and manage financially. Staff from a well known retail store managed to get through the flood soaked roads, enter the township and set up the free use of washing machine facilities and clothes dryers at a local hotel. These services were much appreciated by those who were left with no electrical appliances, such was the damage.
Many neighbours and friends of the district rallied to volunteer their services too, assisting where needed.
I overheard an elderly lady in one of the banks exclaim to the teller, “Poor buggers, I’m going to withdraw my bank interest and give it to the local hospital.” Everyone turned to smile at this lady’s goodwill.
A group of parishioners from St. Mary’s Church, Dungog, asked the question, “What can we do?” They live in the township of Dungog and were some of the lucky ones, who were not badly affected.
Former parishioners from St. Mary’s drove up to two hours to render their help wherever it was needed. It became a mission of love from past and present day parishioners.
Father Paul Hopper CSSp, the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s parish, made the parish hall available with its facilities for these parishioners who wanted to do something. Together, these parishioners and some children, put into action a team of workers to buy bread and ham to make plates of sandwiches and when power was available, made hot beverages and soup for a meal.
Upon reflection, the literal meaning of Jesus’ words, “ Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” came to be quite true in Dungog. But this action from the parishioners of St. Mary’s, reveals something far greater in its depth of meaning. These parishioners offered ‘a food bowl of spiritual love’.
These men, women and young people became the Body of Christ. They answered YES to Jesus’ timeless question, first asked of St. Peter, “Do you love me?”
Whilst mother nature leaves Dungog to ‘drip dry’ after such a deluge, we can offer our thanks to God, that these parishioners and friends acted in accordance with Jesus’ Gospel message of love.
Long after Dungog has returned to normal, the people of Dungog will be forever grateful to all the volunteers. After all, in the words of St. Mary MacKillop, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” This township won’t forget these good hearts.
Photos courtesy of Fay Smith.