I was truly stunned when I drove into Joplin Sunday afternoon. There is a big gapping whole in the center of the city where 7500 homes were destroyed. The land is unbelievably flat because all the trees are gone. So you can see for miles – all the way across town to where the hospital was destroyed.
The second thing that startled me was the friendliness of the folks in the grocery stores and cafes. They call you “sugar” and ask to help you to the car with your things. The enthusiasm of young Amanda, an Americorp worker at the Rebuild Joplin office and the sweet memories of her side-kick, Amanda, who is a native of Joplin was so fetching. And then we met those who lost their homes. Janice is the unofficial block captain in her neighborhood and her compassion for each neighbor shines through as she instructs us on where to spread fresh dirt to repair the torn landscapes.
It was clear that many of the folks are really worn down from all the loss they suffered and all the rebuilding they have engaged in for 11 months now. But it was also clear that the community there is strong and so very grateful to those who have volunteered – over 120,000 so far.
The Disciples of Christ Mission Station in Joplin is VERY well run and a “5-star mission facility,” according to our well traveled mission team. I am proud that Disciples have teamed up with the United Church of Christ to host this station at South Joplin Christian Church.
In our first two days our team of 12 worked on 3 homes, worked at a clothing closet/food pantry and cleaned bricks from the destroyed high school so that they may sell the bricks in a fundraiser. Our backs ache but our spirits rise with hope.
More reports and photos to follow