Hope Rising in Joplin

There’s a lot going on in Joplin, Missouri.

That’s the first thing you notice when you drive through town. Everywhere, you see hand-painted or custom-printed signs that read “Rebuild Joplin.” A local coffee shop sports a gigantic map of the city with pushpins marking the May 22nd tornado’s path. 

There is as much work going on as there was when I first visited Joplin a few months ago, but the nature of the work is definitely shifting from immediate relief and clean-up to longer-term recovery.

First Christian Church is winding down its ministry as a distribution center for those affected by the tornado, and South Joplin Christian Church is still a construction zone, filled with a crew repairing damage throughout the building. The church's leadership is looking beyond the repairs and has started to make plans for the future. A long-term recovery committee has emerged and begun its work, and Week of Compassion partner Church World Service has helped provide support and training for the committee.

Picture taken in the days following the tornado in Joplin, MO.Geographically, Joplin sits on the Southwest edge of Missouri, a short drive from many communities in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas with active, mission-minded Disciples churches who have provided courageous, compassionate leadership in offering relief and clean-up to tornado damage in Joplin.

Last Wednesday, I gathered with Disciples pastors from Joplin and the neighboring tri-state community, committed lay leaders and ecumenical partners, and Ozark Lakes Area Minister Dr. G. Michael Weinman to flesh out a long-term recovery plan among Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, the Ozark Lakes Area, and supportive congregations. We had a great meeting, and I am happy to announce that things are in motion. 

As is almost universally the case with initiating a long-term recovery process, there are many pieces in play, including city zoning ordinances, recruiting and training disaster response case managers, and streamlining a volunteer coordination system for recovery, but, thus far, the plans are as follows:

  • Disciples Volunteering and South Joplin Christian Church will launch a mission station in Joplin sometime between November 2011 and February 2012. Neighboring churches in Neosho, MO, Pittsburg, KS, and Columbus, KS, will complement this initiative by offering additional and overflow housing for volunteers. Once the mission station opens, registration for week-long Disciples work groups will be managed by Disciples Volunteering.   
  • First Christian Church, Bentonville, Arkansas, will continue to provide housing for short term (1-3 days) volunteer work groups. Easily accessible for churches traveling from the south, FCC-Bentonville can be contacted for more details by following this link.
  • We are continuing to explore a partnership with the United Church of Christ in supporting the work of the South Joplin Christian Church Mission Station. As longstanding ecumenical partners, we’re all excited about the possibilities, and we’re working hard to make sure our policies and procedures are complementary.

As Joplin rebuilds, we are, through our partnership with Disciples Volunteering, ready to make things happen, and ready to be part of long-term, sustainable solutions. Thank you for the prayers, gifts, and hopes that you have all brought to the table, as we have prepared for this recovery. We’re looking forward to what our partnership brings forth.

For more information about Disciples Volunteering’s Disaster Response Programs in Joplin, MO, and in Tuscaloosa, AL, please visit their website

Hurricane Irene Update

Hurricane Irene has left extensive flood and wind damage from Puerto Rico to Maine, as well as causing at least 40 deaths; more than 4 million homes are still without power and more than 10,000 people are housed in FEMA shelters.

Our partners at Church World Service report that more requests are coming in for relief supplies. Most recently, the Salvation Army of North Carolina, based in Greenville, requested Baby Kits, School Kits, Health Kits and Emergency Clean-up Buckets.

The response to Hurricane Irene will rapidly deplete supplies of these emergency resources, especially Clean-Up Buckets. All efforts to replenish our supplies for future emergencies are greatly appreciated. Information on Clean-up Buckets is available at the Church World Service website.

As long-term recovery groups begin to form, CWS can provide small start-up grants to help them get started. CWS emergency response specialists are also receiving requests for assistance and providing advice on disaster recovery efforts. Specialists can be reached via the contact info at this website.

Responses Made 8/22-8/26

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Florida, storm damage
Virginia, earthquake

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
North Carolina (2), hurricane relief
Virginia (2), earthquake relief
Virginia, hurricane relief
New Jersey, flood relief
Washington, D.C., hurricane relief
Dominican Republic/Haiti, hurricane relief