Two other members of UBC’s young adults Bible Fellowship, Hannah Jenkins and Mindy Epp, drove with me to Joplin this past Saturday to volunteer at Mission Joplin, a donations collection and distribution center set up by Forest Park Baptist Church to aid victims of the May 22 tornado. We spent the day unloading pallets of nonperishable food items and stocking shelves, some of which emptied almost as quickly as we could fill them.
Mindy comments, “The staff and people working at Mission Joplin were all kind and generous. They run an efficient and organized area where families can come to get groceries and have an assortment of needs met. It is clear that people are still recovering and in need of support and even basic necessities. The laundry detergent, sugar, and flour were items that quickly left the shelves. I was told ‘thank you’ for my time as we left, but I felt I had given such a small contribution compared to the many hours and dollars others have dedicated to this cause. The people who are there day in and day out providing and uplifting those in need are the ones who should be thanked.”
Volunteers are needed for “personal shoppers.” I’ll let Forest Park’s senior pastor, John Swadley, explain that concept to you as well as the life-changing encounters it can lead to. From his blog at http://joplin.fpbc.net/blogs/john_swadley/:
“The greatest gift God ever gave us was the gift of Himself. That’s why we try to make ministry personal at Mission Joplin. Instead of setting up a “help yourself” experience, we take people through our distribution center one at a time. We listen to their stories. We pray for their needs. We attempt to show the love that God did when He came to this planet, PERSONALLY.
“It’s why the act of volunteering is more than just ‘being nice.’ It is putting skin on the love of God. It’s being a bridge which can help people connect to the GREATEST LOVE.
“It happened today. Stacey Johnson met a woman who thought she needed only furniture. We helped her with that. But it turns out that she also needed and wanted a personal relationship with God. She needed and wanted forgiveness through Jesus. She needed and wanted salvation. Stacey helped her receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She got all of that…along with a couch!
“Some of you live within driving distance of Mission Joplin but you have never volunteered. You don’t have to be a saint to do important work on our team. We need people to stock shelves, receive donations, and do office work. It takes a team effort. Here is my challenge: volunteer for half a day and see if this ministry is for you. Help us help people for just 4 hours. You can spare that, can’t you? The greatest gift you will ever give is the gift of yourself—just like God. We could also use pots and pans, blenders, mac and cheese and pull ups. Someone may come by tomorrow and think that all they need is a bag of pull ups. And God will give them SO MUCH MORE!”
Folks, Fayetteville is within driving distance, and just a few hours of your time on any given day could help make an eternal difference to people who have lost nearly everything except their lives, who lived through the tornado itself and are wondering how or why they survived. The stories are hair-raising, tragic, and miraculous; the opportunities to share the Gospel are plentiful.
Speaking of the tornado, on our way into town, we drove through the destruction. Parking next to the bare slab of Harmony Heights Baptist Church, Mindy and Hannah examined the high school across Indiana Street for the first time. “As a teacher,” Mindy writes, “it was so strange to see a school building with its walls ripped off but with some bookshelves still standing as if someone had peeled off one side so you could see in. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your home and workplace destroyed.” As hard as it is to imagine, this is life for thousands of Joplin residents, and Mission Joplin is one of the best places for you to help them get a new start, perhaps in more ways than one.
Written by Jonathan VerHoeven