Mundubbera: a small town in the Wide Bay-Burnett region, 400km from Brisbane and 200km from Bundaberg. As the self-proclaimed citrus capital of Queensland – farming mandarins, as well as mangoes, blueberries, pecans and grapes – the town is feeling the brunt of the drought that is taking hold of our country.
Recently, Alex Milne from 96five’s Sunday Celebration and his wife Robynne travelled to the 2000-strong town to catch up with Pastor Marissa Cowburn; who along with her husband Pastor Allan, look after the New Life Centre in Mundubbera. Alex and Robynne had a chat to Ps Marissa about their ministry, the town and some of the challenges they face in that area, particularly in terms of the drought.
As they found out, New Life Centre (NLC) is quite possibly the centre of Mundubbera’s survival during testing times, providing food and financial assistance to those who need it most. Although they are only a small congregation of about 40 people, they host community care, women’s and music ministries, as well as conferences.
With the drought sweeping through western Queensland, NLC are finding it tougher every day to provide the necessary support to their town, especially with their Food Pantry initiative. The Food Pantry is a low-cost and emergency food service that NLC provide to help families save money on the essentials so they can get the best out of life and support local businesses, with the ultimate aim of providing for those who have nothing.
As Ps Marissa says, “We have a very high suicide rate here in Mundubbera.” The town has had at least 10 suicide cases in the past five years, which is expected to grow higher with drought conditions worsening.
As unemployment rises, the farming industry suffers and finances become scarce, it is expected that farmers and small businesses will bear the full force of the stress that comes along with this.
“The blueberry (growers) employ over 500 over their season… we’re not going to be able to employ that many people,” Ps Marissa explains; a bleak example of the tough action that is needed to keep the industry alive. Farmers are waiting for the day that their water supply from the Boyne River gets turned off, which will indicate that the drought situation has reached a critical point.
Ways to Help in the midst of the Challenges
Aside from prayer, the town is in need of any financial contributions that can be given. As Ps Marissa mentions, both individuals and the town as a whole struggle financially, more than ever during drought. Although NLC do what they can to rally around and contribute financially, emotionally and spiritually to the community, it gets to a point where church resources can’t be stretched any further, and logistics and overall costs become too great.
Despite the hardship the town is facing at the current time, Ps Marissa remains optimistic for the future.
“The town is a very resilient town, and it always bounces back… The hope is what they really need.”
Check out New Life Centre’s website here including ways that you can support their ministry.