Dine in or walk away? How to tell if a venue is COVID safe in NSW



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Lisa Bricknell, CQUniversity Australia

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has called for more businesses to register as COVID Safe, as the state recorded 19 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday night. Berejiklian said:

If I walk into a venue and I’m not comfortable with how COVID safe that venue is, I’d leave. I expect patrons to do the same.

Good advice — and timely, too. As NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty said on Wednesday, NSW is “at a knife’s edge, a critical point”.

Here’s what to look for when you walk into a bar, cafe or restaurant to know if it’s COVID safe — and how to know when to walk out the door.




Read more:
How to stay safe in restaurants and cafes


What to look for

Familiarise yourself with the rules business must follow to register as a COVID Safe business in NSW. The rules are here.

Screenshot of the steps to become a COVID Safe business.
Steps to become a COVID Safe business, according to NSW Health.
NSW Health

Check to see the venue’s COVID Safe certificate is clearly displayed and that they are taking every patron’s contact details. If a patron is dining in, the venue must be recording their contact details or checking they are registered with the COVIDSafe app.

If they’re not recording people’s details in some way, leave. If a COVID-19 positive case visits that venue, contact tracers are unable to do their job unless all patrons’ details are recorded.

Check if tables are appropriately spaced and that cutlery, napkins, glasses, plates, bowls or straws aren’t left lying on tables — even if they are disposable. Nothing should be on the table for people to pick up (or in a tub for patrons to collect themselves). Cutlery and other utensils should be brought out by staff when your order is ready. The idea is to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 positive person handling your utensils.

Your table should be 1.5m away from other tables but I’d even be trying to keep 1.5m from friends at my own table. Personally, I’d also want to see my friends wearing masks (it’s different if you’re dining with people with whom you live). Even if you or your friend had a COVID-19 test yesterday and it came back negative, that doesn’t mean you’re negative today. You could have been infected in the past 12 hours.




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Watch what happens when a patron leaves. Are staff appropriately sanitising tables and chairs with spray and, ideally, disposable paper towel? They should be.

Look around to see if the venue provides hand sanitiser for patrons — and keep an eye on the staff to make sure they are using it too.

Staff, ideally, should be wearing masks, in my view. I know that’s not yet compulsory in many places, but masks provide a barrier if a staff member is unknowingly positive. It’s hard to make patrons wear masks, because they have to eat, but I’d be looking for the staff to be wearing them (all staff, not just a couple).

Check if the venue is enforcing contactless transactions to reduce the handling of money, cards and pin pads. I know the evidence about the role of surfaces in spreading this coronavirus is still emerging but we should stick to universal precautions — if something can be avoided, it should be.

Staff should be limiting the number of patrons at the venue, and the number of patrons allowed in the venue at any one time should be clearly displayed. If people are lining up outside, make sure they are being spaced out too.

In general, aim for an open-air setting if you can, such as a beer garden or an open-air cafe. The more fresh air flow you have around you, the more transmission risk is reduced. Any sort of indoor socialising, where air flow is limited, is inherently risky at the moment in NSW.

People sitting in a restaurant with coronavirus restrictions
Eating out? Check to see if staff are sanitising surfaces, wearing masks, using contactless payment, and spacing out customers.
Shutterstock

When to leave

Breaches of any of the above would be enough to make me want to leave. But here are some more triggers that would make me think, “I’m getting out of here.”

If you see staff or patrons with symptoms — they have a cough, or cold, or seem unwell — leave.

If they are not wiping surfaces or tables, or allowing patrons to come in and seat themselves, leave. Patrons should be shown to tables that have been sanitised.

If the place is starting to fill up and you sense physical distancing is not being observed — leave.

A critical point

NSW is at an especially critical point. I’d be very, very careful right now. If I was in a Sydney hotspot, I wouldn’t be going out to dinner at all.

NSW is doing a good job of putting out spot fires but any one of those spot fires can flare up if people aren’t taking precautions.

If you thinking of going out, and you are wondering if it is risky, then you are better off not doing it. If you feel you have to go, then mitigate your risk by moving the event outside or making sure everyone is distancing and wearing masks.

COVID-19 is a really serious disease that affects young and old. You can get sick or even die, even if you are young and healthy — and the evidence on long term effects is worrying. And of course, healthy people can pass it on to someone who is in a high risk category. It’s so important that everyone continues to observe the appropriate protocols — today. This week. This weekend.

Until COVID-19 either burns out globally or we get a vaccine — and neither of those are right on the horizon and may not happen at all — then this may become the new normal, sadly. Infection control measures remain our best chance of keeping the pandemic in check.The Conversation

Lisa Bricknell, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Giving your details to restaurants and cafes: your rights, their obligations and privacy concerns



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Mahmoud Elkhodr, CQUniversity Australia

While lockdown restrictions have eased in many places, the coronavirus threat isn’t over yet. The number of cases globally has surpassed 9 million, and infections have slowly crept back for Victoria.




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In many countries the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, not slowing


Restaurants, pubs and cafes have been among the first places to which people have flocked for some respite from social isolation. In many cases, diners must provide their personal details to these venues for potential contact tracing later on.

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of clarity regarding what the best options are for businesses, and many aren’t following official guidelines.

Keeping records

In the rush to reopen while also abiding by government requirements, many businesses are resorting to collecting customer information using pen and paper.

This entails sharing the stationery, which goes against the basic principles of social distancing. Your written details can also be seen by other diners and staff, triggering privacy concerns.

You wouldn’t normally leave your name, phone number, email, address or any combination of these on a piece of paper in public – so why now?

Businesses collecting personal information from customers must abide by the Australian Privacy Principles under the Privacy Act 1988. This requires they “take reasonable steps to protect the personal information collected or held”.

The federal government has also released an updated guide to collecting personal information for contact tracing purposes. Establishments must use this guide in conjunction with individual directions or orders from certain states and territories. See some below.

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QLD Must keep contact information about all guests and staff including name, address, mobile phone number and the date/time period of patronage for a period of 56 days.

More details here.

ACT Businesses should ask for the first name and contact phone number of each attendee.

More details here.

SA Only real estate agents, wedding and funeral businesses should collect personal information from customers. But not restaurants.

More details here:

NSW Keep the name and mobile number or email address for all staff and dine-in customers for at least 28 days.

More details here.

The guide also outlines how businesses should handle customers’ contact information. The relevant parts are:

  1. you should only collect the personal information required under the direction or order

  2. you should notify individuals before you collect personal information

  3. you should securely store this information once you have collected it.

One point specifically notes:

Do not place the names and phone numbers or other details in a book or on a notepad or computer screen where customers may see it.

Thus, many establishments are clearly not sticking to official guidance. So could you refuse to give your details in such cases?

Venues are required by law to collect the necessary details as per their state or territory’s order. Venues can deny entry to people who refuse.

What would a comprehensive solution look like?

For contact tracing to work effectively, it should be implemented systematically, not in a piecemeal way. This means there should be a system that securely collects, compiles, and analyses people’s data in real time, without impinging on their privacy.

It’s perhaps too much to ask hospitality businesses to take the lead on this. Ideally, government agencies should have done it already.

The COVIDSafe app could have provided this service, but with it being optional — and contact tracing by businesses being mandatory — it’s not a viable option. That’s not to mention the issues with the running of the app, including Bluetooth requirements, battery life drainage, and history of problems with iPhones.




Read more:
How safe is COVIDSafe? What you should know about the app’s issues, and Bluetooth-related risks


Nonetheless, there are some free technologies that can offer better alternatives to the manual collection of customers’ details. These include:

All these tools have a similar set up process, and provide similar services. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular ones, Google Forms.

Using Google Forms

Google Forms is a tool that comes free with a Google account. The “contact information template” is a good starting point for businesses wanting to make a secure log of visitor details.

In Google Forms, you can create a workable contact tracing form within minutes.

Once you create a form to collect customers’ information, you just have to share a URL, and customers can fill the form on their own device.

You can generate a shareable URL for your Google form.

Data gathered via Google Forms is stored securely on the Google Drive account and can only be accessed through the same login that was used to create the form. The transmission of data from the customer’s device to Google Drive (where the data is then stored) is also secure.

Or use a QR code

If you want to make the whole process even easier, and not use a clunky URL, then using a QR code (linked to the URL of your Google form) is a great option. For this, you can use any free external QR code generator. These will generate a QR code which, when scanned by a smartphone, will direct the user to your URL.

This code can also be printed and hung on a wall, or stuck to tables where it’s easy to access without any human-to-human contact. A comprehensive guide to creating and accessing Google Forms can be found here.

QR code created using the website https://www.qr-code-generator.com/

That said, although the process of setting up and using such tools is very simple, there may still be people who are too mistrusting of the way their data is used, and may refuse to hand it over.The Conversation

Mahmoud Elkhodr, Lecturer in Information and Communication Technologies, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to stay safe in restaurants and cafes



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Lisa Bricknell, CQUniversity Australia

Now we have fewer cases of COVID-19, and restrictions are lifting, many of us are thinking of rejuvenating our social lives by heading to our local cafe or favourite restaurant.

What can we do to reduce the risk of infection? And what should managers be doing to keep us safe?




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How cafes, bars, gyms, barbershops and other ‘third places’ create our social fabric


COVID-19 is an infectious disease spread directly from person to person, carried in droplets from an infected person’s breath, cough or sneeze. If the droplets come into contact with another person’s eyes or are breathed in, that person may develop the disease.

Those droplets can also fall onto surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 72 hours. If someone touches these surfaces, then touches their face, they can also become infected.




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Eating out has led to several clusters

We know people around the world have become infected while eating out.

Back in late January and early February, three clusters of COVID-19 cases in China were connected to dining in a single restaurant. A total of 10 people became ill over the next three weeks.

The air-conditioning had apparently carried contaminated droplets from an infectious diner to nearby tables. This prompted the researchers to recommend restaurants increase their ventilation and sit customers at tables further apart.




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In Queensland, more than 20 people connected with a private birthday party at a Sunshine Coast restaurant contracted the virus. Four were staff, the rest guests. We don’t know the source of infection.

Other outbreaks have been linked with restaurants in Hawaii, Los Angeles and a fast food restaurant in Melbourne.

Here’s how the coronavirus can spread in a restaurant.

The path to infection

Let’s consider the risk of infection from the moment you arrive at a restaurant or cafe.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

When you open the door, you may have to put your hand on a door handle. If that handle has been touched by a person while infectious, they may leave behind thousands of individual virus particles. If you then touch your face, you run the risk of the virus entering your body and establishing an infection.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-SA

If you avoid the doorknob trap, you may pick up the virus when you take your seat at the table, by touching the chair or the tabletop. Again, if you touch your face, you are risking infection. Similarly, you risk exposure by touching the menu or the cutlery.

When the waiter comes to take your order, they will likely enter your breathing space. This is usually considered to be a circular zone of about 1.5 metres around your body.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

If the waiter is infected but not yet showing symptoms, you may be exposed to droplets containing the virus on their breath or the breath may contaminate the tableware in front of you.

Now, your food is delivered and there’s good news. The virus is not transmitted through food.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

But wait. The air-conditioning can help the virus travel through the air from the infected person at the next table who has just choked on a crumb and is coughing uncontrollably.

Later, on a quick trip to the bathroom, you again open yourself to the risk of infection by touching the door and other surfaces. However, this trip allows you to take one very important step to prevent infection. You wash your hands with soap, taking care to hum Happy Birthday twice as you scrub and rinse.


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Unfortunately, you fail to dry your hands thoroughly. Wet hands are much more likely to pick up microbes, so you may recontaminate your hands as you open the door and go back to your table.

When you go to pay your bill, you may be worried that cash may be a source of infection. While there were concerns about this initially, there is no evidence to date of any cases linked to handling money. Just in case, you use your credit card, but inadvertently transfer the virus to your finger as you type in your PIN.




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You don’t need to worry about spreading the coronavirus with cash


On your way out the door, you not only pick up more virus from the doorknob, but transfer some of the ones on your hand in return, ready for the next unwary diner.

How can I protect myself?

There are some simple (and familiar) things you can do to protect yourself as venues reopen.

Keep washing and drying your hands, thoroughly and regularly. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Wash or sanitise after handling money, touching surfaces, before eating and after visiting the bathroom. Avoid touching your face, including wiping your eyes or licking juice off your fingers. If you must touch your face, use hand sanitiser first.

Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people, unless they are people you share close contact with.

Sit outside if you can. Direct transmission is much more likely indoors.

Finally, think about using a credit or debit card with a contactless transaction, rather than having to enter a PIN.

To avoid infecting other people, stay home if you have any symptoms or suspect you might have been in contact with a person who has tested positive.

What should cafes and restaurants be doing?

Regulations about the number of patrons allowed in cafes and restaurants vary between states and territories. But there are certain common rules of thumb.

First, tables need to be spaced at reasonable distances. This allows patrons to be outside others’ 1.5-metre breathing zones and also takes into account the potential effect of air conditioning.

While COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be spread through air conditioning systems, they do boost air flow. This means droplets may travel a little further than 1.5 metres. This spacing will also reduce the number of people in the venue at the same time.

Some venues overseas are using plastic screens to separate diners to try to reduce the risk of person-to-person spread. This should not be used as a substitute for correct distancing if there is sufficient space.

Tables and chairs need to be sanitised, using a chemical sanitiser such as diluted bleach, between patrons.

Social distancing is important and will limit the number of people in a venue.
from www.shutterstock.com

Cutlery and tableware cannot be left ready on the table. They must be stored to prevent contamination in the kitchen and brought to the patron with their meal. Afterward, they need to be cleaned and sanitised as usual.

Disposable cutlery should never be left out for self-service; it should only be provided with food or on request.

All frequently touched surfaces must be regularly sanitised – including door handles, refrigerator and freezer doors, taps, light switches, hand rails, PIN pads and touch screens.

Staff must maintain safe distances from patrons at all times and must never be allowed to work if they have respiratory symptoms or are suspected to have had contact with a COVID-19 positive person.




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How to lower your coronavirus risk while eating out: Restaurant advice from an infectious disease expert


We need to be vigilant

Coronavirus cases in most states and territories are now very low. So, the chance of coming into contact with an infectious person is unlikely and is why restrictions are now gradually being lifted.

However, we musn’t become complacent. We need to continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection via our cafes and restaurants. It only takes one instance of carelessness to start the viral ball rolling again.




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The Conversation


Lisa Bricknell, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

4 ways our streets can rescue restaurants, bars and cafes after coronavirus



Nils Versemann/Shutterstock

Thami Croeser, RMIT University

As Australia re-opens, the bars, cafes and restaurants that give life to our streets face a tough ask: stay open and stay afloat with just a fraction of the customers.

From June 1 in Victoria, for example, the limit will be 20 patrons, with 1.5 metres between tables or four square metres per patron. If that goes well, it’ll be 50 patrons from June 22 – if they can be seated the required distance apart. Many smaller businesses won’t be able to do that.

With the Jobkeeper package due to expire in September, the next couple of months is a critical window for traders to find new ways to seat patrons. Fortunately, street space can help a lot with this.




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Here are four proven ways to quickly reconfigure street space. We might even find them nice enough to keep. Have your say in the poll at the end of this article.

Footpath trade

Footpath dining already gives many iconic streets their character. Even two or three tables outside a small bar in the evenings can give life to a street.

Chairs on the footpath are part of the experience of dining out in Crossley Street, Melbourne.
Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Putting out tables sounds simple, but the permit process is the real hurdle. It can take weeks or months of waiting and uncertainty while a small team assesses a long list of details.

Councils could employ more assessors to fast-track the process, but there is another option. In the post-COVID environment, it may be time to trust traders and embrace more of the informality we see in cities with great street food. Councils could trial a system where dining is permitted by default in front of each establishment, subject to a few simple rules.

Traders must understand that their permits depend on not blocking thoroughfare. Disability access in particular must be maintained.

However, many footpaths are wide and quiet enough that dining tables could be up and working well in a matter of days.

Parklets

One roadside parking space in front of a café or bar might mean one or two customers – assuming they come to that business. A car park can instead become a “parklet” with space for six to eight people, while looking a lot more inviting. Put two or three parking spaces together and you’ve got a miniature dining area or a parklet.




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The parklet idea came out of San Francisco. Examples from there show how diverse and successful these can be. From weirdly sculptural to classically European to high-end and polished, they all add character to the places where they spring up.

Noriega Street Parklet outside a bakery in San Francisco.
Photo: Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders & Wells Campbell photography/San Francisco Planning Department/Flickr, CC BY-SA

In Melbourne, Moreland Council has one long-term parklet in Brunswick. Its simple, neat design fits plenty of patrons and includes a bit of greenery. Perth and Adelaide have examples too, but the potential seems to be mostly untapped in Australian cities.

And the benefits are significant. A recent parklet study in Perth found a 20-35% increase in local footfall, and 89% community support.




Read more:
People love parklets, and businesses can help make them happen


Grandview Hotel Parklet in Brunswick.
Google Streetview

Again, a bit of sanctioned informality may be the best way to get parklets working quickly. Each trader could be allowed to use, say, one or two parking spaces outside their business if some simple criteria are met.

If we decide the approach is worth keeping, San Francisco shows how to go from pop-ups to something bigger and better. The city’s first parklet was a roll of astroturf, a park bench and a tree in a pot. It lasted just two hours. Now there are over 50 parklets, a “how to” manual, a clear application process and case studies of the benefits.

This parklet popped up for a day on Park(ing) Day 2009 in San Francisco.
Tom Hilton/Flickr, CC BY



Read more:
A day for turning parking spaces into pop-up parks


Road closures

Roads are wide open spaces. Put bollards at the ends of a street that doesn’t need full vehicle access, carry out tables and chairs, and you’ve got a huge new seating area. It has been done and works well.

Meyers Place (above and below right), Melbourne, is closed to through traffic and open for pedestrians and dining.
Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Before full closure.
Aplha/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Of course, closing a street permanently is quite a process. I worked with the community to pedestrianise a Melbourne laneway called Meyers Place. Negotiating the legalities took about 18 months. Emergency, bin collection and disability access requirements had to be met.

The restaurants can now put tables on the former road space, surrounded by trees and murals under a green wall. The thing is, we started out by closing the street for just two weeks. Businesses rolled out temporary tables and chairs, astroturf and potted plants. The lane went beserk with activity; we went from tentative support to heavy pressure for a permanent pedestrian space.

We took our inspiration from a much larger closure in Ballarat Street, Yarraville. It was also temporary and got removed, but was brought back permanently with funding from traders and overwhelming community support.

Ballarat Street, Yarraville, was transformed with strong community support.
Darren Sharp/Shareable, CC BY

Parking lot conversions

Outside our inner suburbs, the areas dedicated to parking get bigger. But Copenhagen offers an example of how big an opportunity a large car park can be.

Kødbyen in Vesterbro, Copenhagen, has become a hub for fine dining, galleries and nightlife.
thewavingcat/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

In the city’s former meatpacking district, you can find anything from high-end seafood to a craft beer pub that pumps heavy metal and barbecue smoke. The central car park serves as a giant dining area – when the weather’s good, chairs and benches come out and hundreds of locals turn up. This is super-simple stuff, mostly involving folding chairs and benches, plus lots of people. It’s adaptable, fun and very popular.




Read more:
Freeing up the huge areas set aside for parking can transform our cities


The concept seems to work too in Melbourne too. “Welcome to Thornbury”, a popular hub for food trucks and outdoor dining, used to be a car factory.

Welcome to Thornbury’, the former site of a car factory, is now a drive-in food truck park.
Welcome to Thornbury

We can start right now (and probably should)

Community engagement with Melbourne’s new Transport Strategy 2030 indicates broad support for reallocating street space to people.




Read more:
Move away from a car-dominated city looks radical but it’s a sensible plan for a liveable future


Now is the time to press ahead, because of what’s at stake – not just jobs and profits, but our collective identity and sense of place. Food and drink are a big part of city life and how we spend our time. The places we gathered with friends, nurtured romances and celebrated milestones are where memories live. Doing nothing could mean these experiences are replaced by numbing “For Lease” signs.

Luckily, taking action isn’t very risky. We can give our hospitality sector a boost right now by allowing businesses to trial a set of proven approaches. Everyone will then have a chance to experience the changes and decide what they’d like to keep.




Read more:
Kebab urbanism: Melbourne’s ‘other’ cafe makes the city a more human place


The Conversation


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Created with Poll Maker

Thami Croeser, Research Officer, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How an Australian-born pastor survived a Molotov cocktail


Wayne Zschech, the Australian-born pastor of Calvary Chapel Kaharlyk, just south of Kiev in Ukraine with a population 15,000, says he will never forget the events that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, October 14th, when attackers smashed a window at the church building, where he and his family live, and threw a Molotov cocktail (petrol bomb) into the building, reports Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST Ministries.

In an interview he gave me during my recent visit to Kiev, he re-lived the horrifying turn of events that could have caused the deaths of himself and his family as they slept.

“It all started when my wife Olya woke up in the morning to feed the newborn baby and she said she could smell smoke,” said Wayne. “We actually live in the church building and that night, there were six of us (including his mother-in-law) who were sleeping. We had actually sent the kids to school at eight o’clock in the morning and my wife said again that she could ‘really smell smoke.’ So we looked out the back window and there was smoke billowing out of the back of the church.

“Suddenly, it was all hands on deck. I called the fire brigade and then started finding where the fire was coming from. We originally thought that it was an electrical short because it’s an old building. I began opening up all the doors – because I didn’t want the fire brigade knocking them down – and looking in the basement trying to find where the fire was coming from.

“I kept going down into the basement and when I came up for air on the third or fourth occasion, I just happened to walk around the side of the building and suddenly the whole situation became clear. Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail through the side of the building into our children’s ministry room and had also left spray painted markings on the side of the building saying, ‘Get out of here, you sectarians.’ So suddenly it put a big a whole new spin on the situation.”

I asked Wayne if he had ever experienced trouble before and he replied, “Not directly. We’ve had a couple of youths smashing windows and so we had to put security screens on our apartment, but nothing like this. There was no warning.”

Sitting next to Pastor Zschech was his assistant pastor, American-born Micah Claycamp, who is married with four children, who then described what he saw when he arrived at the church that morning.

“I had come to the church to do a language lesson and, as I walked in, I saw a big hose running from the back of the church into the room that had been firebombed and I could smell smoke,” he said. “They had just finished cleaning everything up and I went around to the side of the building and saw what had been spray painted and started talking to Wayne who had got the situation figured out and he told me what exactly had happened.

“This was the first big thing we’ve seen in our town. It is pretty quiet for the most part. I don’t feel threatened living there but this obviously is a situation that is a lot different and when you walk into something like this it makes you appreciate the things that you see God do, the unseen things. It makes you realize how much God protects our lives in ways you don’t see every day. So it just makes you more appreciative of His protection.”

I then asked Wayne how an Australian from Brisbane whose family hailed from the Prussian part of Germany finished up in a small town in Ukraine.

“Well, to be perfectly honest, I think God played a trick on me,” he smiled. “I graduated from school and wanted to get into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and when I applied for the Australian Defence Force Academy I got the chickenpox and so they didn’t let me in that year, even though my academic achievements were fine.

“So I quickly did a deal with God and said, ‘I’ll give you a year of my life’ and the next thing I knew three months later I was in Ukraine and started a Bible-based English schooling programs in communist government schools where kids were learning about Jesus. I was just seventeen years old at the time and began travelling all over the country and I’ve been here ever since. That is some sixteen and a half years now.”

Had he seen big changes in the country?

“Yes, many changes,” he said. “We’ve had currency changes and also seen mindset changes. We see economic things going on and we’ve learned a lot of things. But along the way, I found a beautiful Ukrainian girl and we have a wonderful marriage and we have three Ukrainian kids.”

Wayne then spoke about how he got involved in this Calvary Chapel.

“Well, I got tricked also into becoming the pastor of this church in what was then a village,” he said. “The founding pastor who moved with me from Kiev to Kaharlyk went back home to Australia to do his deputation work and a couple months later, he wrote me an email saying that he was ‘not returning to be the pastor of the church.’ He added, ‘So congratulations. You’re the pastor.’ So not only did I become a missionary by hook or by crook but also became a pastor and I’m thrilled.

“I never wanted to be those things but God has turned things around totally and I’m absolutely content and happy and it’s a very exciting life to see what God is doing despite the fact that humans would have had other choices.”

I then asked Wayne what Kaharlyk was like when he first arrived.

“We are about 80 kilometers (nearly 50 miles) south of Kiev and it was a town that had been in economic ruin as most of the country had been after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he said. “Unemployment was rife. There were no jobs, no income and there was lots of mental and cultural baggage as the country was trying to reacclimatize to the real world situation.

“Now some 12 years later, we’re basically on the outskirts of Kiev although obviously the town hasn’t moved geographically. But it’s a thriving little town. It hasn’t grown numerically that much but you can definitely see there are changes. There are people moving out of Kiev to come and live in our town. That was never in our plan and we’re also seeing bits of investment coming in and things like that show what was once basically dead is now starting to show signs of life.”

I then asked him to describe the types of people who attended his church.

“We’re a young church and we’re different from the mainstream Orthodox and older style Baptist churches,” Wayne explained. “But the truth is that we are reaching out to orphans, to the elderly and we have a beautiful mix of all those generations in between. When you see a grandmother coming with her son and her grandson to church, you see the wholesomeness that the Gospel brings when God enters a family’s life.

“Back in the early days everyone was warned about people like us saying that these are the people ‘you’ve been warned about for all those years’ and that ‘they’ve come here to hypnotize you and take all your money.’ But that was more then based out of ignorance.

“We had an Orthodox priest back then and we had some very serious chats with him and he said, ‘Look publicly, I have to hold the government line or the Orthodox line, but personally I see that you’re a brother in Christ. So that was good. I wouldn’t call that major persecution, but I can understand the fear from their side.”

He then spoke about a unique business he has begun in the town.

“We decided that we had to become producers so people can put bread on the table and we have to show how God is in everything,” said Wayne. “So we have started a little mushroom-growing enterprise and now we’re making biodiesel. We actually collect oil from a number of restaurants, including McDonald’s Ukraine, and we make biodiesel and sell it and save money for the church and make money for the church and employ people and reinvest into the local town.”

Micah then said that he runs his car on biodiesel which he says smells like “fried chicken.”

“I can run it and I haven’t had any problems at all,” he said. “It’s also cheaper and I’ve put advertisements on the van to let people know the phone numbers so that people know what’s going on.”

It was Micah that picked me up at the Kiev (Borispol) Airport and drove me to my hotel and I have to confess that I didn’t catch a whiff of fried chicken from the exhaust of the van, though I did have a bad cold at the time.

I concluded by returning to the topic of the firebombing and asked Wayne if he had further thoughts about it.

“As soon as we discovered that it was intentional, you can just imagine the situation in your mind with totally charged different emotions,” he said. “We were targeted from the side of the building so that everyone in the town walking past it could see the damage and the spray painting.

“It was basically a political statement in that respect. The fact that the family was asleep in the building when it happened my mother in-law was staying at the time and she said that she heard some banging around at five o’clock in the morning and we looked at the fire damage and we see that it was a real a miracle. There was a fire but the damage was minimal. It should have been so much worse. What turned out to be a couple thousand dollars worth of damage when we could have lost the whole room.

“If they, for some, reason had chosen another window to throw it in, just the next window, the floor boards are totally bear there we don’t have thick linoleum on them, so the fire would have spread immediately. There’s a big air gap right under those boards and it runs right to our family’s bedrooms.”

I concluded by asking Wayne what his prayer needs were at this time.

“That Christ would be glorified to the maximum through this and the next circumstances and that He would save people and that the Christian body locally and throughout the world would pray harder to understanding the privileges that we have in our situations and that God can change them any time that He wants.”

Micah then added his prayer request: “That our church would grow together in this as they would see that God allows these things to happen to strengthen the body, to cause our eyes to be back upon Him and that for His glory to be done and bring more people to Christ.”

By the way if the name Zschech rings a bell with you, he is related to Darlene Zschech, who is perhaps most famous for the chorus "Shout to the Lord," a song that is sung by an estimated 25 to 30 million churchgoers every week, who has married in the Zschech family. “I was a Zschech first,” laughed Wayne.

Report from the Christian Telegraph 

ISRAEL: MESSIANIC JEW WINS SUPREME COURT BATTLE


Bakery owner had lost her Jewish dietary law certificate because of her faith.

JERUSALEM , July 15 (Compass Direct News) – For three long years a Jewish believer in Christ struggled to keep her bakery business alive after the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the country’s highest religious governing body, annulled her kashrut (Jewish dietary law) certificate because of her faith.

Pnina Conforti, 51, finally gave a sigh of relief when the Israeli Supreme Court on June 29 ruled that her belief in Jesus Christ was unrelated to her eligibility for a kashrut certificate. While bakeries and restaurants in Israel are not required to obtain such a permit, the loss of one often slows the flow of customers who observe Jewish dietary laws and eventually can destroy a business.

Conforti said that the last three years were very difficult for her and her family, as she lost nearly 70 percent of her customers.

“We barely survived, but now it’s all behind us,” she said. “Apparently, many people supported us, and were happy with the verdict. Enough is enough.”

Conforti, who describes herself as a Messianic Jew, had built her Pnina Pie bakeries in Gan Yavne and Ashdod from scratch. She said her nightmare began in 2002 with an article about her in “Kivun,” a magazine for Messianic Jews in Israel.

“Soon after, the people of the Rabbinate summoned me and told me that my kashrut certificate was annulled because I do not profess Judaism,” she said.

Food prepared in accordance with kashrut guidelines is termed kosher, from the Hebrew kasher, or “fit,” and includes prohibition of cooking and consuming meat and diary products together, keeping different sets of dishes for those products, and slaughtering animals according to certain rules. News of the faith of the owner of the Pnina Pie bakery in Gan Yavne spread quickly, soon reaching extremist organizations such as Yad le’Achim, a sometimes violent Orthodox Jewish group.

“They spread around a pamphlet with my photo, warning people away from acquiring products from my business,” Conforti said. “One such a pamphlet was hung in a synagogue. However, I refused to surrender to them and continued working as usual.”

Four years later, in 2006, Conforti decided to open another patisserie in Ashdod, near her original shop in Gan Yavne, in southern Israel. The business flourished, but success didn’t last long.

“A customer of mine, an Orthodox Jew from Ashdod, visited his friends and relatives in Gan Yavne,” she said. “There in the synagogue he came across a pamphlet from 2002 with my photo on it. In addition to boycott calls, I was also described as a missionary. My customer confronted me, and I honestly told him I was a believer.”

Soon thereafter the Rabbinate of Ashdod withdrew the kashrut certificate from her shop there, she said.

“Pamphlets in Hebrew, English and French about me begun circulating around the town,” Conforti said. “They even printed some in Russian, since they saw that the customers of Russian origin continue to arrive.”

The withdrawal of the certificate from the shop in Ashdod in 2006 was a serious blow to her business. Conforti decided to take action, and her lawyer appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court. Judges Yoram Denziger, Salim Jubran and Eliezer Rivlin ruled that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel overstepped its authority.

“The Kashrut Law states clearly that only legal deliberations directly related to what makes the food kosher are relevant, not wider concerns unrelated to food preparation,” the panel of judges wrote.

In response, the Chief Rabbinate accused the judges of meddling in religious affairs.

Soon after she petitioned the Supreme Court, Conforti said, the Chief Rabbinate had offered her a deal by which it would issue her business a kashrut certificate but with certain restrictions, such as handing the keys of the bakery to a kashrut supervisor at night. Conforti declined.

Tzvi Sedan, editor-in-chief of “Kivun,” said the Supreme Court verdict was paramount.

“It’s important not only for Messianic Jews, but also for every other business owner who has to suffer from the arbitrariness of the Rabbinate,” Sedan said. “But I still want to see this decision implemented fully in reality.”

At press time Conforti still hadn’t received the certificate. She was waiting for a team of inspectors from the Rabbinate to inspect the business prior to issuing her the certificate.

A Jew of Yemenite origin, Conforti said she was raised in religious family but came to trust in Christ following her encounter with a Christian family during a visit to the United States.

“There I found Christ and embraced him as my personal Savior,” she said. “I do not engage in [evangelistic] activity, but if someone starts a conversation about my faith, I will speak openly about it.”

Report from Compass Direct News