Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Aerial photo of Joplin, MO, circa 2009

Joplin after the tornado hit in May, 2011

I'm a suburban Kansas City native, meaning I grew up in Tornado Alley. I've never been in a tornado myself, but I have been blocks away a few times - don't believe the old wives' tale that it won't hit a city! Many towns close by, though, have been greatly damaged, such as Lawrence and North KC, or even experienced complete destruction like Greensburg and Joplin.

Tornadoes are a powerful enigma to me. A flood, an earthquake, a tsunami, a blizzard, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane, an avalanche, a drought - pretty much all natural disasters I can think of have a ground zero from which everything is equally damaged for the most part. But a tornado can seemingly pick and choose what it wants to destroy.

A story that illustrates this is one my dad shared with me many times growing up. He had a friend who got ready for bed one night and left his wallet lying open on the dresser. There were two $20 bills partially sticking out. In the middle of the night, there was a tornado, so he and his family took shelter. (I can't remember where - in their neighbor's cellar maybe?) After the storm, they emerged to find that their house was completely gone. All that was left was the slab it had been built on. Everything else had disappeared.

Except for the dresser.

And the wallet.

And the cash which hadn't been disturbed at all.

Can you imagine?

Sunday, Dan Mitchell, a pastor from Joplin and head of their outreach program, The Bridge, was a guest speaker at the church I attend. He walked us through the first few days of life after the tornado in Joplin. It was an amazing service. I've included the link to it here. If you get a chance to listen to it, you really should.

(I'm also including the link to his CNN interview. Please don't watch it until after you've listened to the service; the background story is what makes this so incredible.)

As we all know, there is a constant supply of happenings in the news, and an event from a few months ago is quickly forgotten. Unfortunately, for those who live through a catastrophe, day to day existence is difficult for much longer than that time. The town of Greensburg is still rebuilding after a tornado literally wiped it off the map in 2007. It's a long road to recovery for those in Joplin. But what can the rest of us do?

1. Pray. In general for the city and the government and the people and the rebuilding process.

2. Pray for the spiritual leaders of Joplin. Before Dan spoke Sunday, our staff gave us a startling statistic - 75% of clergy give up on being church leaders within two years of a calamity of this magnitude. The intense need of their flock plus their own dire circumstances can be too much to bear. Pray for strength for the pastors of Joplin to be able to minister to the needs of their parishioners as well as to remember to keep focusing on God. It's easy to get sucked into the immediacy of a disaster and try to take care of it as a human and forget to seek God's will first.

3. Volunteer. Though they are thankful for those who want to help, random everyday people showing up at this point is not very helpful. The needs they have now are very specific. If you are a skilled tradesman, they can really use your help.

4. Donate money. Our church collected clothes, toys, food, etc. the first week after the tornado, and our pastor and a couple of others headed down to drop it off the following week. When they got there, the distribution centers were overflowing with the outpouring of donations they had received. They didn't have room for any more. How amazing is that!?! So now what they need is actual money to fund the rebuilding. If you can make a donation, make sure to use a reputable organization such as The Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

Also, there's a Facebook page that has updates on specific needs as well.
Real Time Analytics