Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, declared February 15 a National Day of Prayer. Thousands filled Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to pray for and to offer support to those affected by the tragedy.
Australians are demonstratively seeking God by attending churches in droves and providing emotional and practical support for one another.
Warren Barnett, a native Australian who came to know Christ as a boy at the 1959 Sydney Crusade, sees an unprecedented spiritual stirring through these events.
“This has been the greatest devastation in the history of the country. Whole families were taken in a flash. People are empty – they have lost homes, livelihood and loved ones,” he said.
“But we have also seen a great unity with God’s arms around our entire country through the love and fellowship of those outside Australia. The Rapid Response Team is one great example of this in lending their support.”
While Barnett has seen the hand of God amid tragedy from a distance, he has also witnessed it up close. Before the fires began, his pastor’s wife and children went to Victoria to visit her brother.
During their visit, the fire reached the pastor’s brother-in-law’s home. The pastor’s wife and children were pushed into the pool so that their lives were spared.
The pastor’s brother-in-law went to turn off the pool pump. It exploded, killing him instantly.
On the heels of the death within his family, God gave this pastor the opportunity to identify with others and touch them through his story; he was given the task of conducting the first church services of the only church left standing in that community.
Through his pain, he is able to testify of God’s grace and saving power to those who rarely, if ever, attend church services.
Looking beyond this tragedy in Australia’s history, Barnett has prayer and a vision for his country. “My desire is that more people will continue to see there is a God, that there is Someone on whom they can lean and trust. I pray that Australians encounter Him because of this event and grow spiritually.”
He continued, “the church will unite and we will be a more powerful force for the Kingdom than before.”