“Tyvek” is now the most visible word in Joplin, and if you’re wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, that’s a name-brand insulating wrap that goes on underneath siding or bricks. Residential rebuilding has officially begun. New homes are scattered, so there are no scenes reminiscent of late-1940s Long Island when blocks of suburban houses sprang simultaneously out of nowhere, but progress is noticeable. It feels like Joplin has turned a corner, but as Forest Park Baptist Church’s senior pastor, John Swadley, writes in his blog this week (http://joplin.fpbc.net/blogs/read/september_12_update_from_pastor_john), the town and its people are still hurting. These are people who have lost everything. Their recovery will not be complete for many, many months.
Tornado survivors are still discovering Mission Joplin. Two high school volunteers from Oklahoma and I were assigned to deliver mattresses to five homes Saturday, two of which were FEMA trailers, two others were rental houses in the center of town, and another was a duplex in Webb City. Not everyone we visited wanted to talk, but those who did told us how much they appreciated us, Forest Park, and Denver Mattress Co. Two of the people told us their specific stories of survival. One man lived through the tornado two blocks west of the high school, hiding in his walk-in closet. The clothes protected him and his family, and something (we suspect God) prevented a sycamore tree from crashing into the closet and crushing them. He spoke of how wonderfully Joplin’s churches have responded to the disaster. He also told us that he will be living in his new rental duplex for a year before being able to rebuild. Another lady described how she, caught by surprise, had ridden out the twister in her vehicle outside her home. She, too, credits God not just with her survival, but with the survival of everyone else who was not where they should have been at the time. (An incredible number of people survived in their vehicles, while more people died in their homes than on the roads.) These are just two stories of thousands. In a future post, I’ll recount the story of my mom’s best friend and her church family’s survival when the tornado hit their church building directly across the street from the high school. They are still waiting to rebuild.
Last week, I introduced by cousin, Missy Lloyd, who volunteered with me at Mission Joplin last Saturday. Today, I am also sharing her thoughts. She is a John Brown University freshman from Hemet, California.
“I had an amazing time in Joplin on Saturday. Being from California I had never seen tornado damage before, and I didn’t realize how powerful they can be. While we drove through the devastated area, seeing the rubble and barrenness that the tornado left behind had me in awe. I liked some of the signs that we saw, saying things like ‘Thank You Volunteers’ and ‘God protected me.’ Also, I saw so many American flags that day, which really depicted the hearts and attitudes of the people of Joplin. Volunteering at Mission Joplin was such a humbling experience. I was able to visit and pray with people who had lost everything and help them get the provisions that they needed.”
Mission Joplin is still open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 7 and Saturdays from 9 to 3. Visit Pastor Swadley’s blog at the link above to see how you can donate goods, and please consider sacrificing one day to pitch in and help. Continue praying for the people of Joplin as well.
Written by Jonathan VerHoeven/Photo Credits – Missy Lloyd