For weeks Keith had been watching the smoke across the river in Nelligan, listening to the water bomber pilots on the scanner. At 6 AM on New Year’s Eve, a friend called him. Her and her disabled husband had been told to evacuate.
“An ambulance had to get him out,” Keith said. “They can’t move him. I was lucky that she rang me, otherwise I probably would have slept through it. I’d only been to bed for a couple of hours. I walked outside to have a look. It was coming from the North. It was coming from the West. It was coming from the South. The only place it wasn’t coming from was the big green watering hole out here.”
Keith had been living in Canberra during 1983’s Ash Wednesday bushfires. “To me it wasn’t as bad, because with that one, we got trapped twice within an hour. The fire went over us. And that’s the most horrendous thing you can have. Pitch black. The noise was incredible.”
“But I was on our veranda, and it was blue sky, and the choppers were flying around, and when they started filming up close, you know things are starting to happen.”
On the scanner, an air traffic controller was asking for assistance from other aircraft in Fisherman’s Paradise. Keith could hear the stress in his voice. But as the fire passed Batemans Bay, his connection to the world was cut. “We lost power. We lost the radio. We lost the scanner, and lost all mobile communications.”
“After all the lights and sirens went past, it was just an eerie, deadly silence for about half an hour, until it started to come back from the south, and a huge orange cloud just rolled in. And you know, yeah, we’re in trouble here.”
Thankfully, Keith’s property was spared, but six houses in his street were destroyed, and all the bush within a few hundred meters was burned away. Keith says that’s partly down to God’s gentle guidance, leading him through his shed to parts he thought he’d never use, helping him rig up a sprinkler system to fight the flames.
“I just had a faith, not to stress. When you stress, you get impaired judgment, make unwise decisions. So that definitely got me through. Even though I was physically on my own, in reality we’re never alone.”
Keith used to live just down the road from Vision’s studios, but he first tuned in after he moved to Batemans Bay 11 years ago to become a full-time carer for his parents. At the time, he was struggling with loneliness, and Vision and the Word for Today offered him the fellowship he needed. “It pretty well stays on that channel ever since,” he said.
Keith shares that story in the video below.
“When I was in Brisbane, you’ve got plenty of friends, you’ve got a network. Come down here, and you’re on your own. Nobody wants to know you. You can’t get out and socialise.”
“So Ravi of an afternoon, he always comes through with the right word at the right time. And others two. Even the ones that they have on the chats during the day, people telling their stories, you can sort of listen and say yeah, I can relate to that. I can’t express in words how helpful it’s been to me.”
Keith says supporting Vision can make as much of a difference as working as a volunteer firefighter, or with the Red Cross, as he once did. Peace and hope during tough times can be lifesaving, like it was for him.
“You don’t know who you’re helping,” he said, “and it doesn’t matter. You’re not doing it for yourself or the grandiose, but you’re doing it for God, and that’s the main thing. Give him the glory.”
Since we spoke to Keith in March, times have gotten tougher for everyone. All over Australia right now, people are feeling isolated and scared, and facing a lot of hard decisions. But the right word at the right time could give someone the Faith to stay strong and make it through. You may not be fit enough to fight fires, or have the skills to be a paramedic. But you can help God save lives, by reminding people they’re not alone.