Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Joplin: Emerging from Disaster


Just after Joplin was struck by the tornado, I remember seeing picture after picture of trees that had been stripped of all of their leaves and branches. Some trees had lost their bark in the high winds of the EF-5 tornado. I had expected that all of those trees would have to be cut down. I had thought that they were effectively dead. While many were cut down, on Monday (July 4th) I noticed a number of trees that had begun to sprout new leaves like the one in the picture above.

The roots are there pulling water and nutrients from the ground. The trunk moves that nourishment up to the branches, but with the leaves and branches stripped away it has no where to go. It is at this point that new growth emerges pushed from the ground up.

IMG_0405And so it is with Joplin.

Yesterday, I mentioned the stages of rebuilding:
Joseph explained the process of recovery that he's witnessed so far. After survivors were rescued and the initial shock had passed, there was a lot of cleanup work. That's ongoing, but then came the heavy demolition. Houses that were no longer habitable were knocked down leaving only a foundation and sometimes not even that. That process will continue for a while; however, Joplin is now entering the construction phase. Houses that were salvageable are being repaired.
Joseph is the assistant preacher at New Creation Church which is located just outside the path of destruction in Joplin. Since the tornado, he's been working to help his neighbors get back on their feet.

IMG_0416 I asked him about the different roles that churches in Joplin are playing. He explained that some are really good at identifying the needs of people in the community, while others specialize in distributing food to the volunteer workers. One church had more open interior space than others. That space has been filled with donated furniture for the residents of Joplin.

When I asked what drove this specialization, Joseph said that it just kind of emerged over time. Initially all of the different volunteer groups were trying to do everything, but as the work has proceeded each has begun to recognize its own strengths and specialize accordingly. I asked what was driving that specialization. In part it is dictated by the realities on the ground--a church with a lot of open space can store furniture that others can't--but Joseph thought that the vision of each group's leader was often a determining factor.

Much like the leaves and branches emerging from those trees that were stripped of their foliage, we see new growth among the churches and volunteers in Joplin. It's this growth that is transforming the city. But this growth must be fostered with a steady stream of volunteers and supplies. The United Way has a page where you can learn more about volunteering in Joplin. You can also contact New Creation Church at 417.782.8200 or

1 comment:

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn