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SAES – Jesus in the crisis centres


Daryl Crowden with Commissioner Miriam Gluyas at the Upper Coomera recovery hub on the Gold Coast last week.


Daryl Crowden, General Manager - Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES), spent four days last week in the disaster-ravaged Queensland communities of Cairns and Port Douglas in Far North Queensland, and the Gold Coast, Scenic Rim and Logan regions in the south-east.


He began his visits in Cairns and Port Douglas, meeting with the SAES teams serving in recovery hubs, assisting those impacted by Tropical Cyclone Jasper and the subsequent floods and widespread destruction. Daryl also participated in the teams’ nightly online catchups. “This gave me an opportunity to meet a whole lot of volunteers that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” he said.

As General Manager of SAES, a role he took up in July 2023 after many years of experience overseas with World Vision, Medical Teams International and The Salvation Army International Emergency Services, it was also Daryl’s first opportunity to see the SAES recovery teams actively responding in a significant emergency and The Salvation Army’s model at work.


“While I think there are some processes and systems which can probably be updated and improved over time, the attitude of our people – officers, staff and volunteers – is just amazing,” he said.


“In most cases (like Jasper) our people were there before and during the crisis, and as members of the impacted communities, will be there for the long haul of recovery. Thanks team – your compassion is a true reflection of the Christmas season.


“Also thanks to partners like Queensland’s Department of Communities, Woolworths, and the public who have donated, enabling us to see our new friends through a tough time for the long haul.”

In South East Queensland, Daryl visited most of the recovery hubs in the area, including Mt Tamborine, Upper Coomera, Jimboomba, Labrador and Coombabah.

Unfortunately, volunteer numbers are not keeping up with the increased need in these impacted communities. When Daryl visited Mt Tamborine there weren’t enough volunteers, so he spent two hours interviewing, hearing people’s stories and pre-screening. “I love being hands-on,” he said. “Having the chance to do this just gives me great emotional energy to deal with the other aspects of the role, such as strategic and external engagement.”

As part of this aspect of the role, Daryl met with local councils and the Mayor of Mt Tamborine – higher level connections which are often easier to make in a crisis.

In their regional SAES roles, Adam Cole (South Queensland) and Major Lincoln Stevens (North Queensland) and Major Leanne Stevens, Recovery Team Leader (national), have been working hard over the long term to establish deeper relationships with the government.

“This has really paid off and we have been deployed into areas that probably even a few months ago we didn’t think we’d get into,” explained Daryl. “And that’s in part because our workers have just turned up and done well. As a result, people from the Department of Communities and others are really positive about wanting us here.

“People are very keen to work together, so being able to connect with some of those people and understand what they're looking for then helps us shape what we do. We make sure we're delivering what they want, but we also make sure that we can develop design processes and protocols that are compliant with whatever the standards or the expectations of government are.”

Jesus with skin on

People both inside and outside The Salvation Army often ask why, as a church, is The Salvation Army so involved with emergency services?

“I think it’s for the same reason as I do it,” Daryl explained. “During my 24 years as a Salvation Army officer, I had numerous opportunities to run a corps, to preach and to run what I guess most people would consider the normal model of Christianity and mission. But when I started doing this kind of stuff, when I got to sit with people at their worst and not necessarily pray with them, not necessarily talk about Jesus, but just be, it was like, as someone said, a framework of ‘being Jesus with skin on’. I believe I have had more opportunities just to be that, more opportunities of genuine relationship and connection with people in this world than I did as an officer. My style of ministry is reflected in this work and it’s also why The Salvation Army does it.

“Our roots are about sitting down with people in crisis – the messy people, the chaos - and bringing, even if it's momentary, sense out of that for people. And I think that's why The Salvation Army does it.

“I can't give statistics of people who go to the Mercy Seat, but I can tell you stories of people who walked away lighter, not necessarily because they got a voucher, but because they got half an hour of someone's undivided attention. And I think that's Jesus in the crisis centres.

“And for me personally, although I'm not sure everyone in The Salvation Army would agree, we have volunteers that are both committed Salvationist Christians and not Christians, but whether they profess Christianity or not, the same effect happens. People walk out of that place knowing that someone cared for their life. And it gives me that opportunity to sit with people who don't profess religion or like church but want to be part of what Jesus did.”



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