Christian churches, organizations band together to help Joplin Victims
Christian churches and organizations in the Bible Belt are coming together to lend a hand to victims of Joplin, Mo., after it was hit recently by an F5 tornado, claiming 125 lives and leaving 900 injured.
Considered one of the most lethal tornadoes in U.S. history, the twisters left a six-mile wide path of destruction with its sweeping winds at more than 200 m.p.h. It is not yet known how many people are missing. However, 8,000 buildings, or one-quarter of Joplin’s total infrastructure, was destroyed, Crosswalk said.
Dustin Lee Sisney, whose home was spared, told Crosswalk, “It was unbelievable and hard to describe what was going on. We need prayer and help to get through this time. This is a close-knit town and resilient, but we need prayer.”
Rick Brust, pastor of Bethel Christian Life, told Journal and Courier that a couple who rented a home (which does not have a basement), almost got sucked up by the twister. “They got into a small closet in the bathroom in the center of the house. They got cushions to cover their heads.”
Brust told Journal and Courier, “The doors blew off and the man’s wife started to float up. He grabbed her and then he started to float up. The man said, ‘God, I have a hold of her, but I need you to grab hold of me.’”
Although the house was severely damaged, the couple experienced only minor injuries. But there are stories others were sucked out of houses and cars, including one young man who had his seatbelt on, but was dragged through the car’s sunroof, Journal and Courier reported.
“Praying is a constant state of being right now,” Amy Rogers told Citizen-Times. She, her husband and two-year-old boy were spared. She has since been helping with search and relief work in the neighborhood.
Another couple that survived is Richard, 87, and Joanna Green, 86. Their house was destroyed but she told Citizen-Times, “I can’t believe we rode that out. The Lord was protecting us.”
Survivors could not explain to Citizen-Times why God allowed the tornado to occur. But many expressed certainty that God has a greater plan. Definitely Christian churches and organizations are responding.
A Red Cross spokeswoman told Citizen-Times that this has been the biggest disaster season since Hurricane Katrina. It has set up shelter for up to some 350 families. Marita Wenner, a Red Cross volunteer said, “Twenty years of disaster experience, and this is the worst I’ve seen by far.”
Bethel Christian Life is also conducting relief work in collaboration with several churches including several in Tippecanoe County, Lafayette Community Church, Sunrise Christian Reformed Church and Harvest Chapel, Journal and Courier said.
They are providing shoes, tarps, underwear, children’s items, toiletries, and others. Brust, pastor of Bethel, said some of the members of his church lost their homes or were injured, the Journal and Courier reported.
However, Brust said the response has been tremendous. He told Journal and Courier, “People are calling with truckloads of things. One truckload is coming from Kansas City and the Professional Bullriders Association. A church in Colorado is sending two truckloads.”
Also working together in relief work are Central Bible College, Assemblies of God and Convoy of Hope, Crosswalk said. CBC is sending relief workers to assist in distributing food, cleaning debris and running shelters on site.
Juleen Turnage, director of AG’s public relations told Crosswalk, “The Assemblies of God and Convoy of Hope have made long-term commitments to our neighbors in Joplin as well as to churches in other states impacted by the recent string of natural disasters. Yet, without the generous support of individuals and churches throughout our Fellowship, our ability to impact hurting people and communities through compassion ministry would fall far short.”
College Heights Christian Church in Joplin set up a distribution center, and hundreds have volunteered to assist in the distribution of food and supplies. Roger Lieb told Crosswalk, “The outpouring of help is coming out of the woodwork. People’s love and concern for others is seen vividly here.”