As readers may have heard, a monster cyclone (or hurricane for northern hemisphere readers), more powerful than Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans, has crossed the north Queensland coast between Cairns and Townsville and is proceeding inland. Amazingly, initial reports this morning are that there has been no loss of life and the damage to property, while considerable, is not as bad as was feared. This is because the cyclone crossed the coast over the communities of Mission Beach, Tully and Cardwell, where most, if not all, of the population had been evacuated in advance. We can be very thankful that the point of impact with the coast was in this area, and I do indeed believe that the intercessary prayers of many Christians over the last several days have been favourably answered by God on this occasion.
Damage to buildings, along with the banana and sugar cane crops and the sugar mills which form the economic backbone of the area, is considerable, however, and will draw down extensive resources from government and private enterprise in the re-building effort. It is a particularly hard hit for this region, which is just now recovering from the impact of cyclone 'Larry' in 2006, which likewise devastated the banana crop, most of which is grown on family farms. For overseas readers, this has all happened about 1500 kms to the north of where I am in Toowoomba (see map) - Queensland is a big state, bigger than Texas, several times over in fact, but with a big heart to match! As the cyclone season still has another two months to go, and this is a 'La Nina' year (see Wiki for information on the 'southern oscillation index' and how it affects weather down here), we could still be in for more extreme weather this summer, so please keep our state in your prayers.
Our Premier (= state governor for US readers), Anna Bligh (yes, she's a descendant of Captain Bligh of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame, as it happens) has already, in layman's terms, raised the question of theodicy, which I'm sure will be on many peoples' minds, and will in turn be addressed in many sermons (including mine this Sunday). I had an elders' meeting last night where half the time was devoted to discussing the question of theodicy and praying for the protection fo the lives of those in harm's way. There are Lutheran congregations in most of the major population centres in this area (along, of course, with congregations of other denominations), and I expect the Queensland District of the Lutheran Church of Australia, with the help of Lutherans across the country, will be extending various kinds of support to those affected by this cyclone, as they have already done for the flood victims.
Click on the post title to view some pics of the cyclone's impact.