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June 6, 2011

Joplin Aftermath 2011 Part 1

by Justin Williams
JoplinAid

I have been debating the last few weeks on whether or not to post my experience of the Joplin, MO tornado aftermath, and I concluded that I want to give God glory in everything I do.  So I want to lift up praise to Him for the lives that were spared, and the hearts that will be forever changed in the midst of this tragedy. 

Here is my story…

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It was Sunday, May 22nd, and my wife Katie and I were celebrating her birthday when we got the text from a church friend of ours who was a former resident of Joplin, MO.  “Joplin has been hit by a massive tornado, and has destroyed the city!” the text read.  My heart sank into my chest. My immediate reaction was that they were over exaggerating, but the news quickly became reality as we turned the TV on and watched the broadcast.  For me it was a complete shock.  I grew up just forty minutes south of Joplin, and spent much of my teenage years at the drag strip outside of town, and attended the annual Route 66 Festival.  I saw Skynard, Charlie Daniels, CCR, and many other great classic rock legends in Joplin.  My wife Katie had family in there, so for us it hit very close to home.  I struggled to sleep that night.

Monday, May 23rd: I couldn’t help but think about helping, and I wasn’t sure I would get the opportunity until my pastor buddy Jamie Jones and I got together and decided to provide some relief.  At first we thought we probably wouldn’t have access to the city so we decided to minister to the city of Reading, Kansas who was just destroyed by a tornado the week before.  That evening Pastor Jamie organized a collection of relief supplies, and we had a good response. We was able to obtain a trailer load of supplies, and some monetary donations that we would give to a struggling family in need.

Tuesday, May 24th: Next morning Jamie and I received news that we did have connections to a church on the inside of Joplin, and that we would be able to partner with them to provide disaster relief.  We had already gathered supplies for Reading, Kansas so we loaded up, and headed off to Topeka, KS where we met with a lady by the name of Jenn Hoover who was assisting us and organizing aid for the small community of Reading.  Jenn’s family has a passion for that community, and are providing a wonderful service to those there in need.  Please be praying for her and her family as they endeavor such a difficult task.

Once we finished up with Mrs. Jenn, we headed off to Wal-Mart where we loaded up three shopping carts full of supplies (water, toiletries, canopy, etc.), and from there, we headed south to Joplin on Kansas Highway 75.  While on our way, we were told that we might not be able to enter Joplin that evening and that we should head over to First Baptist Church, Galena Kansas, so we did.  Once we arrived, we were greeted by many friendly faces.  We were immediately put to work. We began loading the trailer with twin mattresses.  Earlier that day FBC Galena received 100+ beds to be used for Joplin disaster relief shelters.  We were able to partner with the Galena AOG church, and deliver these beds so that they might house those in need.  We did get the opportunity to go to Joplin that evening, and drop off our supplies, and survey the disaster. It was a lot to take in, and I knew we were going to have our work cut out for us in the morning.  We finished the day off by hanging out with some of my BMMI friends Dr. Ralph Izzard and Jim Brewer.  We had a good time of fellowship, and we reflected on our time together in Haiti, where just a  little over a year ago we provided earthquake disaster relief. Our fellowship and fun ended abruptly as the tornado sirens went off once again.  We quickly headed down to the basement where we remained for a good hour.  The storm did finally pass, and with all the excitement my pillow began calling my name, and I quickly hit the sack.

Wednesday, May 25th: We headed into Joplin where we would get our marching orders from Grace Baptist Church on 32nd & Wall St.  This particular church has been very supportive of North Lake and were about three/four blocks from major devastation.  We met with those in charge at Grace Baptist Church and were deployed to aid Miss Kuhn.  She had lost her entire roof and most of her walls.  It was a mess.  We worked in conjunction with another church from AR in clean-up of her property and transport of her household items that made it through the storm.  One group cleaned her yard while another packed boxes and loaded furniture.  We worked all morning and was able to get mostly everything out that was of use except for the fridge.  We took her things to storage, had lunch, and came back to her home that had just been declared condemned.  Miss Kuhn’s son was able to get the fridge out just before they had condemned it.  (Previous paragraph provided by Jamie Jones)

From there we split up into two teams. Myself and some guys from Maysville, AR were able to remove some trees from a couple of homes where we met a real nice lady named Peggy and a real friendly guy named Robert.  Jamie started working across the street with a lady named Ruth who needed help with some tree removal, packing and storage.  Once completed, we all met back up together with some good ol’ boys from Iowa who had loaded their trailer down with Ruth’s things.  Once loaded we headed off to storage.  We unloaded in the rain and then headed back to Grace for a good old-fashioned prayer meeting.  The day had ended, but unfortunately it was just the beginning for the people of Joplin, and the beginning of a heart ache that will haunt my mind for days to come.  Although Wednesday had many heart wrenching stories, it also contained many stories of miraculous survival.  We would not be so fortunate on Thursday however, we would face one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience.  Be sure to check out Part 2, where I continue the story of my experience with the 2011 Joplin Tornado Aftermath.

John 14:1- “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God…”

Nahum 1:7- The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Isaiah 54:10- Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

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