Volunteer teams have offered a major boost for Joplin, where rebuilding continues.
After Tornado, Joplin Stays Strong
By Susan Kim*
May 22, 2012 – One year ago, when a devastating tornado cut a six-mile swath through Joplin, Missouri, people found their city crushed and their faith distilled down to the essentials. They lost 161 loved ones and 2,000 homes. United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase believes the disaster also changed the composition of their faith.
“In 32 minutes on May 22, suddenly faith was about God being alive for every person,” he said. “It was about the infinite value of human life. It was about finding our purpose in serving friend, neighbor, and stranger alike.”
As Joplin observes the one-year anniversary of the tornado, churches have been a foundational rock for long-term recovery. Some congregations have sent volunteer teams while other churches have hosted teams. Schnase said he has observed churches meeting unprecedented demands on their time and resources.
“Those churches will be forever different,” said Schnase. “But in an amazing way, they'll be forever stronger because of what this demanded and pulled out of them.”
UMCOR has contributed more than $500,000 to the Missouri Conference to help support both immediate and long-term recovery.
Volunteer teams continue to travel to Joplin, and the summer schedule shows 300 volunteers a day will work during peak weeks. Jeff Baker, who directs the Office of Creative Ministries for the Missouri Conference, said that people in Joplin are grateful for the response.
“Volunteer upon volunteer came from everywhere,” he said. “They have given up their time, money and effort to help.”
Baker said he hopes that response will continue in late August and September, when Joplin residents will still have unmet needs.
Looking around her community, volunteer coordinator Missy Nance said that the city is in all phases of rebuilding. “We have volunteer teams doing something as simple as yard work, while others are tackling more complicated task—replacing windows and flooring, or hanging sheet rock and drywall,” she said.
The continual, widespread response, said Bishop Schnase, has not only helped rebuild homes but people's lives as well. “I'm proud and humbled to be a United Methodist and to see, from day one, there has not been a single day that volunteers have not been there to help.”
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*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.