Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Experiences in Joplin

Mother and son taking a break to
pose in front of the water before
finishing the work in the
hot, hot sun.
Yesterday my friends and I spent the whole day (left at 6.30a got home at 9.30p) helping the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. We worked with the Joplin Family Worship Center and more volunteers from all over the nation (literally as far away as Pennsylvania and as close as Webb City) unloading trucks, picking up debris, sorting supplies and getting to know our neighbors.

Things I learned in Joplin
(in list form for easy reading and skimming)

1] Sometimes what people want is for you to take the time to listen to them and their stories. We weren't supposed to be working outside I can't (never have been able to) take the heat, but when we got there things were in chaos because of a wedding (see #2) and we were sent to work clearing a yard of debris. I helped, but rested often and talked with the owner of the house, who was an older lady. She was grateful that her husband and children and two dogs were safe, however, they were going to be selling their house, as their neighbors were all moving and they had no reason to stay. My friend, Kate, called this spirtual counseling. Later in the day, we also talked to several victims as we checked them in for aid and a church member turned volunteer who lost her car, but not her husband, when Home Depot was hit. He worked two jobs the other was at St. John's hospital, which was also hit. She said that he was going to take the severence and become a truck driver. And, although it was their only means of transportation, God had already given them another car, money for the trucking school and a family who was safe and well.
2] Even in the face of immense suffering people will still find joy. While we were there the church people were preparing for a wedding that was taking place in the sanctuary later that day. It was so interesting to come in sweaty and smelly to see people dressed beautifully for the wedding, some of which signed up to volunteering later. The church members also wanted them to continue with the celebration.
3] Even in the face of immense suffering people will still lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. While I was checking people in (a job my friends thought was my calling as I am a social butterfly and a people person) I was told to tell people how much aid they would be receiving and to ask were they lived
In the cooler sorting the frozen food.
because there were people who were from surrounding areas claiming to be tornado victims who just loaded up on supplies (like taking whole pallets of items) that they didn't deserve. When I commented as such, the church member in charge said that we couldn't stop them and if they needed the items he hoped that they were blessed, but that we rationed to make sure that everyone got something. While my friends were unloading we realized that people will 'donate' anything including things that didn't sell at their own personal garage sale (stickers still on), items like home decor, an organ and broken things. They will also donate mostly used bottles of shampoo and soap...seriously...used hygiene items...not cool.
4] People should help others, do it because you're supposed to, not because it makes you feel good. I like that my friend Kate said something to the effect of that she wasn't necessarily getting a feel good feeling from helping, she was just doing what she was told. I agree. I love helping others not because I get some sort of adrenaline rush from helping, but because it's what I, as a child of God, should do!
5] Children are great stewards. When I came in and asked to do another job because it was really hot outside, my friends and I got the job of working in a frozen truck trailer arranging the food in 20 degrees, it stopped my headache. In the midst of all of this was my friend Liz's 7 year old son. He helped sort items on the pallet, worked in the yard clearing debris, never complained about the heat, wore his mask like he was asked and checked in people with me. There were several other children there as well helping, it was refreshing.

At the JFWC checking people in, some people only wanted to come in to shower.

I hope we go again and help some more.

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6.2


  1. This is so wonderful Stephanie! I agree with all you said.... I experienced many of these same things when helping Hurricane Katrina victims who were displaced. We were giving out debit cards, part of what the Red Cross set up, and we saw these people run right down the street to the nearest shoe store and buy expensive pairs of athletic shoes and clothes. But I also worked with kids who watched their grandparents get swept away, or who lost their pets. I'm so glad you wrote about these things........and if you were with Liz, of course it was fun! -Becky

  2. I so agree with number one. I used to volunteer in an old persons home when I was in secondary school and even though they were getting very good medical care, they just wanted someone to listen to them and hear their story.

    I think it's great that you helped, and what a worthwhile experience for the children that were helping too.

  3. Makes me want to go out and help others right now! We don't realize how blessed we are, and although there are liars and cheaters everywhere and all around us, what matters is that you are being a blessing and God sees it all! What an inspirational blog this is! Thanks, Stephanie, this really spoke to me on how I should be more of a blessing to those in need. P.S. It's so very hot in Texas, too!



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