Archives For Joplin Week

Help.

07/21/2011

Today was our last day of work, and tomorrow we’ll begin to head back to Virginia. We’ve done lots of work, much of it hard labor, some of which we didn’t understand at the time. But now we can look back and see some accomplishment.

We see a shed standing where it didn’t before. We see level ground where there were trenches. We see lives that we might have made better in a little way.

Tonight we finish our role as a small piece of the big picture. Churches and organizations will continue to work to rebuild, because of groups like ours, because of small parts played by people from across the nation. The city will be rebuilt on the backs on thousands, not just a few.

Beauty.

07/20/2011

We are three days into our work projects. One thing that has struck several of us has been the beauty in the midst of the chaos. We’ve seen flowers growing in wreckage, and crosses standing amongst the remnants of homes. The fact that despite the tremendous tragedy beauty is thriving has stuck out in our mind. Sure there have been people arrested for trying to steal from those who are left with so little, yet that’s been the exception, not the rule. I’ve seen aid workers sharing water with other organizations, friendly waves between volunteers and contractors. Despite the physical environment, it feels like being amongst family.

Our teams have continued our work building sheds, working on roofs, and anything else we get asked to do. But we’ve also had the chance to sit and listen. Listen to stories over a glass of sweet tea, listen to a couple older men sing hymns from long ago, listen to people as they struggle over losing everything. We’ve listened and worked, and listened and worked. We’ve heard stories of people who are having the last of their possessions stolen from their front yard, from people who finally have a shed to begin rebuilding their lives. Every person has a story, and every story matters.

Despite the struggles that many in Joplin are facing, there are many that are still clinging to God. Despite having to start fresh, many are trusting. It’s in these lives, that we see the real beauty.

Windows.

07/19/2011

After working another hard day in the extreme heat, we got a dinner invitation from a couple. Yet this wasn’t just any couple. This was a couple that had lost everything in the tornado. This tornado also destroyed the shed which we are rebuilding. We’ve had a crew out there the last couple days and tomorrow we’ll be roofing their new shed.

Tonight the couple invited us to their newly opened restaurant for dinner. We ate great food and had an opportunity to sit down with them for a while. As they told their story of sitting in their bathroom and hearing the storm rip their home apart, all the photos I’ve seen over the last couple months have turned into lives. It dawned on me that every photo represents a family, each one a different story.

The couple talked about hearing the sound of windows shattering and wondering if they were going to make it. They talked about the fear, the hope in God as protector, and the task of rebuilding.

If you’re reading this it’d be awesome if you took a second to pray for Dennis and Sue.

Hot.

07/18/2011
Our Group

Today was over 100 degrees in Joplin. Yet we had three teams in various parts of the city: building a shed, putting on a roof, and tearing out floors. We drank cases of water, used countless tools, and obtained a couple sunburns. Our groups worked with dedication, yet still had several great opportunities to interact with the people who have lost so much. We met amazing people who have triumphed over their difficulties.

Outside of the hard labor, we took some time to travel through the area most affected by the tornado. Trees are stripped bare; homes demolished, and streets are void of any signs. I was most surprised when I saw Irving Elementary School totally gutted. I spent two years working at Irving for the Joplin YMCA’s afterschool program. Once familiar places now look foreign; I find myself getting lost even though I lived here for four years.

Our group was also struck by the people. The aches of the tragedy are seen clearly on their faces. We see the pain and hear their stories, giving them an opportunity to process what they’ve survived. Seeing homeless moms with their little ones or elderly who will have to rebuild their life after 60 years. Every person has a story, and every story is a life.

Your prayers and encouragement are so appreciated, tomorrow we’ll be returning to our sites and working another full day.

Destruction.

07/17/2011

As we drove through Joplin the only word I could think of was “destruction.” We saw buildings that looked gutted, roofs ripped off houses. Countless people who no longer have a place to lay their head. We immediately knew we were needed. When we arrived at the church where we’ll be staying we were greeted by Rick who gave us a brief rundown of our week.

The plan is that we are going to be building sheds, finishing shower houses, tearing out a floor in a destroyed home, and/or possibly more things as they come up. We are going to have to be flexible, similar to most mission trips, and be willing to help in any way possible.

Rick told us several stories of people who lost everything – a couple in their 60s who paid in cash for their first home only to have it destroyed before they secured insurance, a mother, daughter, and granddaughter who survived in a closet, a lady who lost her leg in the tornado, and others just like these.

The stories were heartbreaking, but tomorrow morning we’re going to get the opportunity to help. It might not make a huge difference, but we can do something, and the next group will do something, and slowly Joplin will rebuild one group at a time.