We returned from our week in Joplin ten days ago and I'm still processing the experience.
Two days after we arrived home, our team shared stories with our church family (look for the "sermon" video from 7-24-11 here). I found it surreal to try and bring others in to what I saw and felt just with my words (and a couple of photos). But try we did, and the response was genuine.
Suffice it to say, the week was unforgettable.
Two days were spent on the road. With all of the stops we made (gas, food, bathroom), it took 16 hours both ways to reach our destinations, which left little time for anything other than sleep. The four days in-between we spent sharing time with a church-turned-distribution-center, a wheat field, a donation tent, and an office building.
Our first drive through town was shocking. It was a struggle to take in what our eyes saw. Total destruction. Even though we arrived two months after the F-5 tornado struck this city, the damage was still too much to comprehend. Block after block of roofless homes, foundations where buildings used to sit, businesses in shambles, debris stacked sky high, utility poles torn in two, metal wrapped around trees, trees that used to be lush resembling toothpicks, cars reduced to junk, ponds littered with drywall, houses marked with spray paint.. it was eery. My eyes still well up with tears when I think about it, and I get that sinking feeling in my stomach.
© photo credit: Tim Bracker
This storm changed lives in an instant.
Congregants from the Riverton Friends Church in Kansas (about 10 miles from Joplin) hosted us during our stay.
The Joplin Family Worship Center was our main volunteer hub. We met there the first day and were assigned hours of sorting clothes in a donation tent. With the temperature at 100 and above every day, you can believe we all met our sweat quota for the year. No matter what we tried for blotting or prevention or cooling ourselves, the sweat leaked out of our pores like rain down a window pane.