I was reading one of my favorite photographer's blog (Shelley Paulson) and she posted about her visit to Joplin, MO about 6 weeks after the tornado hit, and I realized I never posted about it after I went. Three weeks after the tornado hit, a group from my church, Harvest Church International in Tyler, TX, went to Joplin for a long weekend to help with the relief efforts. We sorted clothes and canned goods, picked up people's yards, and went to some of the worst neighborhoods to ask people if they needed help and connect them with our partner churches.
The devastation was surreal. It was so expansive and so extensive...it was hard to know what to think or to say or to feel. So many people lost so much--but at the same time, there were so many stories of people's lives being miraculously preserved, you knew God had His angels at work. People feeling compelled to get into a certain closet, when that closet wound up being the only thing in the house still standing once the danger had passed. A high school graduation moved to a different part of town--and the football field where it was originally set to take place was directly hit by the twister. God clearly had His hand on the people of Joplin that night, even if it doesn't look like it. The intensity of that storm could have killed many more, but the Lord shielded and preserved and protected them. I don't know why so many DID die, but I thank Him for all those who could have and did not.
What was most inspiring was the gratitude and hope expressed by the residents they encountered. The waitress at the Waffle House was sleeping in her car at night with several dogs and cats, having lost everything else she owned--and she thanked US for taking time to come up and help out. In the midst of the destruction of the town, the churches were stepping up and people came together from all over the country to help their fellow man--the people of Joplin--recover and rebuild.
There really are no words to describe what it was like to drive down the main road and go from downtown to devastation in a matter of blocks. Pictures do not at all do justice to what it's like to stand in a neighborhood with the evidence of nature's fury all around you, but I will share them so that Joplin's story, and the story of God's presence in the midst of heartbreak, will be told.
This made us laugh! Somebody has a sense of humor. :)
Damaged hospital is in the background.
This was at the house with the "redneck port-a-pot."
Joann's is one of my favorite stores. :(
A highlight of the trip was that I also got to see some friends of my family whom we haven't seen in over a decade! They used to live in NC but moved back to the midwest, where they are from, when I was in 8th or 9th grade.
Mom's friend Sherry.
Sherry's daughter Hannah. She was a toddler when I last saw her!
Mom & daughter. :)
The church with whom we spent most of our time partnering had this cross at the front of their sanctuary. Look closely. The cross was created from the debris of the storm. The cross-beam branch has bark on one side, but not the other. The main beam is part of a telephone pole. Wrapped around their intersection and piled at the base is metal sheeting.
Beauty from ashes.