On the NSW South Coast the sky turned a hazy red from the bushfires. (Photo: Carol Hawken, Facebook)

Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia have expressed their heartfelt sympathies for those affected by the bushfires currently raging across Australia.

Jorge Muñoz, president of the Adventist Church in Australia, said he is shocked and saddened by the unfolding tragedy.

“I extend my deepest condolences to those who have lost loves ones in these devastating fires,” Muñoz said. “There is so much suffering; it is absolutely heartbreaking.”

In the state of New South Wales, the fires have claimed eight lives since December 30, 2019, and more than 400 homes have been destroyed. A state of emergency has been declared ahead of what were predicted to be catastrophic conditions for January 3, 2020.

In the state of Victoria, two deaths were confirmed, while at least 28 people were unaccounted for. A state of disaster was declared for six local government areas. Fires are also impacting communities in South Australia and Western Australia.

Volunteers of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the state of Victoria, Australia, are providing essential supplies to local communities affected by the raging bushfires. [Photo: courtesy of ADRA Victoria Facebook account]

Muñoz expressed sympathy for the many people who have lost their homes, including at least seven church-member families.

“I want to recognize the extraordinary efforts of the brave firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, and also the invaluable work of our ADRA volunteers who have responded swiftly by providing essential supplies to families who have lost everything,” he said in reference to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the humanitarian arm of the Adventist Church.

Muñoz added, “You are doing a tremendous job in difficult conditions, and we are very thankful for your role in helping those in desperate need.”

South Pacific Division president Glenn Townend also expressed his sympathy to the families and friends who have lost loved ones.

“We pray for God to comfort those affected by this tragedy,” he said. “I would encourage our members around the South Pacific to please keep those affected by these devastating fires and the emergency services personnel in your prayers.”

Due to the fire crisis, the South New South Wales Big Camp, scheduled to begin on January 5, was canceled. Some churches were considering closing at the weekend also.

Church leaders said emergency funding is available for church members who have been affected by the fires. “Church members affected should contact their local conference for more details,” they advised.

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