Friday, May 25, 2012

The Aftermath: Remembering Joplin After The Storm



On this day last year, Crystal and I drove into Joplin, Missouri.  The whole nation had seen glimpses of the devastation caused by the tornado that was six miles long and a mile wide.  The twister destroyed one third of the town, razing it to the ground right through the heart of the city.  St. John’s Hospital made headline news because the facility was badly damaged.


St. John's Hospital

However, nothing we had seen on T.V.  could have prepared us for the devastation we witnessed on May 25, 2011.  We joined Daniel and Rhonda Davis, and the relief efforts of the Pentecostal Church of God, which were underway at Messenger College.  After arriving at Messenger’s gym, Daniel took us on a tour of the city.  Because buildings were flattened, one could see from the area of town where the tornado began in the west (not far from St. John’s Hospital) to Duquesne Village in the east.

Over the next few days, we had time to hear the stories of our family, all of whom survived the tornado.  My brother Bret’s twelve-year-old son Rio was with his mom and step-dad in their house near St. John’s Hospital.  By the time they knew the tornado was upon them, there was nowhere they could run.  Counting immediate and visiting family, there were nine in their house.  Without a basement, all nine crammed into their innermost room, a small laundry room.  Rio’s step-dad Daniel sat Rio on top of the washer and literally laid his torso over Rio to protect him.  Rio’s mom Monica sat on the floor clutching her small son Marko in her arms.  At one point, she could feel the vacuum of the tornado pulling Marko up into the air.  When it finally passed, they all looked up into the sky overhead where their roof had just been.  They emerged from the laundry room to discover it was the only room in the house that still had all four walls intact.  Crystal and I listened to Daniel tell the story, all of us tearing up, as we stood with him in the wreckage that was his house.


Daniel and Monica's Laundry Room
Looking Up Out of the Laundry Room

Later I met with my brother Matt and we walked through his father-in-law’s house, where his family was when the tornado struck.  Matt’s father-in-law Dennis received a last-second call from someone urging him to take cover because a tornado was on the way.  At that moment, Matt was at the back entrance watching the storm.  He saw the wind whip the trees violently one way, then bend them back violently the other way.  Then the sky suddenly changed color and he knew it was bad.  Matt started yelling, telling everyone to go to the basement.  Everyone was headed down the stairs, but Dennis suddenly turned back.  He is a car salesman and had a company car in the driveway.  He told Matt, “I gotta get the Escalade in the garage.”  Matt refused to let Dennis by, and moved him down the basement steps.  The instant Matt had turned and closed the basement door behind him, he heard the house ripping apart.  Thankfully, all were safe in the basement, by a split second.  Later, as they climbed out of the basement, they discovered that much of the roof and second floor were gone.  There were also projectiles all over the house, items that had flown through, many that were from other places.  Even though the main damage was on the second floor, there is a good chance someone would have been injured by a projectile on the first floor.

Matt's In-Law's Basement

Looking Up from the First Floor
The Missing Second Floor

Over the course of our six days in Joplin in the aftermath, we were honored to aid in the relief efforts.  However, we were blessed when people would entrust us with their stories.  We discovered that the split-second decisions our family made were not uncommon.  People just knew where to hide at the last moment, as if someone had told them, and in fact many claimed that someone did.  These stories are not easily dismissed, and are nothing short of miraculous.

What actually happened in the real world on May 22, 2011?  What if the veil that separates the physical world from the real world could be pulled back and we could see the truth?  As the reports kept funneling in, we realized that people knew what to do at the last second.  Some claimed a voice told them.  Others even claimed angels appeared.  Many children said butterflies led them to safety.  In the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, I believe I heard stories from people who were eyewitnesses to the Host of Heaven!

Joplin has suffered loss.  Families have suffered loss.  But Joplin is still rebuilding.  A tedious journey still lies ahead.  Yet God is still interested in this Mid-West town.  Although there were deaths, God showed His protection, when countless lives could have been taken.  He will continue to show His strength as Joplin faces each new day.


Psalm 91.1: He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  2: I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  3: Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.  4: He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.  5: Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6: Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  7: A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.  8: Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.  9: Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10: There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.  11: For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.  












2 comments:

  1. I'm looking for Daniel and Rhonda Davis, I recieved their world vision magazines because my son is a world vision sponser, also from Joplin. They sent us their mail, if you can give them my number? 417-626-7853 Thanks, Tammy

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    1. Thank you Tammy for all that you and your son are doing for World Vision. I have emailed this comment to both Daniel and Rhonda.

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