On Sunday, May 22, 2011 at approximately 5:30PM a category 5 tornado, the product of the convergence of three massive storm systems, touched down in Joplin, Missouri. The wind speed of the tornado was over 300 MPH as it touched down, then decreased to about 220 MPH as it slowly moved through the heart of the city. Tornados typically travel at ground speeds of 25-50 MPH. This storm crawled at 10 MPH, literally destroying everything in its path. The tornado carved a path of destruction one mile wide and more than 5 miles long through the heart of Joplin. Tornado touchdowns always leave wreckage in their path. This storm absolutely leveled the city, leaving it looking more like Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of WWII. Piles of rubble where homes once stood, trees twisted into shards of wood, still rooted in the ground. No words can appropriately describe the devastation to this community. 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” More than 150 of our brothers and sisters in Christ perished on that day. Many more are still hospitalized and the death toll is expected to continue to rise. But, the spirit of so many of those affected by this tragedy still remains fixed upon our Lord.
So many are thankful for the blessings received from the Lord, even in the midst of so much destruction. Even though over 9000 homes were completely destroyed and many more damaged extensively, there are so many thankful to have survived and have loved ones that survived this calamity. As we drove through the devastation that was once Joplin, we observed signs spray painted on the foundations of homes, often the only part of the house left standing. “Thank you Jesus for sparing us.” “Thank you Lord, we survived.” “I love you Jesus.” “Thank you to all the volunteers.” We observed the pouring out of God’s love by the numerous volunteers that came to Joplin to help in the cleanup and rebuilding. I was approached numerous times by residents of Joplin that stopped and thanked us for coming to help and how much we were appreciated. The 16 Wisconsinites from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church that partnered with the 24 Missourians from Lee’s Summit Methodist Church were accepted and welcomed in true Christian love. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in Joplin, Missouri. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in the over 50,000 volunteers that descended upon Joplin in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. The Holy Spirit is alive and well when God’s children can continue to praise Him, even after experiencing great personal loss.
Romans 8:16-21, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Joplin will be rebuilt. The Holy Spirit fills those who have endured great loss. Praises to our Lord continue to radiate from Joplin in spite of the toll from the storm. Do not forget our brothers and sisters in Joplin. Continue to pray for them and contribute what you can to help them rebuild. Everything we are, everything we have is a gift from God and we should share what we can with our brothers and sisters. Praise be to God!