The impacts of the bushfires coupled with Coronavirus closures mean that there are plenty of people in our country still hurting. Businesses haven’t been able to bounce back and those in towns that rely on the tourist trade still need our prayers.
Trusting God with two empty theatres
Peter Cotter runs two cinemas in the Shoalhaven: Huskisson Pictures and Inlet Cinema at Sussex Inlet. The usually roaring trade over the summer holidays vanished as the streets resembled a ghost town. Closed roads turned visitors away from the village.
“Business went from very busy, to not busy, to none at all,” says Mr Cotter, who attends church at Huskisson. Due to social distancing measures, theatre doors shut completely from midday, March 23.
“When the Government decided to close cinemas, we were thankful,” he says. “We were worried ourselves [about the virus], so we were thankful that the Government made that decision for us.”
Insurance, government allowances and savings mean that their situation isn’t as bad as it could be. “We are very dependent on God and turn to him in times of trouble,” Mr Cotter says. “We’ve had to depend on him to supply our needs financially to keep the business open and he’s done that in various ways. We have no doubt God has been taking care of us.”
“We pray each day for his protection and every day so far he’s answered our prayers…”
The Cotters have still served their community amid the uncertainty. New Year’s Eve road closures meant that people couldn’t leave Huskisson. “When we learned people were stuck in town with nothing to do, we opened the cinema and put on a free movie,” he says.
Reopening will be complicated with the movie industry at a standstill. ”It’s okay for us to be told we can open, but if there’s no film around… It’s like a pub with no beer. You can’t open,” he says. “If we don’t have films to show, people aren’t going to come.”
However, the Cotters aren’t feeling anxious about business. “God has provided for us every step of the way. There’s been a little anxiety over catching the disease, but again we pray each day for his protection and every day so far he’s answered our prayers. Please pray for wisdom to know how to operate safely for both ourselves and our customers. And we would love others to pray for us to serve God and glorify God through our work.”
Praying for security and security screens
Teri Johnston, a member of Sussex Inlet Church, purchased the Wandandian-based Bay and Basin Security Doors six years ago. Like so many other businesses, the summer trade is especially important, but in the 2019-20 summer they came very close to losing their workshop all together.
“I was in the middle of a Christmas Bible study when the boys at the workshop phoned,” Mrs Johnston says. “There were fire trucks gathering across the road and we had to secure the shop. The bush literally across the road burned. The workshop was next to the community centre and the fire station, so the area was protected, but we didn’t know that for a couple of days. We live in Sussex Inlet, so we lost power and communication. It was pretty scary.”
“This will be felt for months and months, potentially even years.”
When one part of the Sussex Inlet community suffers, the whole community suffers. “When tourists were sent home, we lost all of that income into the community,” she says. “There’s a flow-on effect. Many businesses rely on the summer months to cover the year’s worth of operating costs and wages. Unfortunately much of that trade didn’t occur this year. This will be felt for months and months, potentially even years.”
The pandemic was a double blow for businesses who had been longing for the boost from April holiday trade.
“There was a double whammy of looking towards Easter trade as a saviour, and then seeing that disappear,” Mrs Johnston says. “We are thankfully still ticking along. A lot of people have helped us out. It will be a long journey back to feeling secure. My prayer request would be that people reflect on this and try to support these small towns and businesses as much as possible.”
“Keep us in your prayers long term.”
“Keep us in your prayers for the long term. This won’t be a quick recovery. The ongoing effects are longer and we need extra support. People who have lost their homes are still dealing with that, plus COVID-19.
“Many of us have spent the last six months at a high level of stress. It is not merely a financial toll but, more importantly, an emotional and mental toll.”