Hurricane Sandy Relief Trip-Nov 25, 2012
Day one in Jersey and off to the races! We got to Greentree Church at 6am and settled in for a few hours of sleep. Breakfast at 9:30 and church at 10:30. What a beautiful service and dynamic worship. The members here are so warm hearted and gracious to us. We feel overwhelmed and humbled at their kindness and love. After a wonderful lunch provided by a church family we loaded the bus and headed out to canvas the area looking for anyone that needed help. Linda Long who graciously greeted us as we arrived and got all of us settled in, also came out with us for the day to find those in need. We always pray and ask the Lord to send us where He wants us to go. After a couple hours we were able to find many in need. One just led to another. As we drove through neighborhoods it was a common site to see heaps of household belongings thrown to the curb. It only takes moments to see the heartache in their eyes. Several of the residents that we spoke with have returned to their homes. With little space heaters, bare studs, and trash all over they are attempting to live in their homes once again. Several began to cry as we offered our help. One young man just couldn’t stop crying as we offered to strip the sheetrock and pull up his wood floor. One woman in particular asked over and over, “Why are you doing this? What is your motive? What do you get back?” We reiterate to her and many like her. We believe that the Lord calls us to help one another when we’re hurting.
The tears began to flow down the faces of our team members today as we walked into the homes of the precious people in this city. One thing I love about these trips is that we come to serve and give our lives away. However it seems that we run into the heart of God as we get dirty, work hard and gut houses. We take our simple little lives, do a small random act of kindness and God somehow invades our hearts.
Our team members are as follows: Ron Haas, Dave Root, Joe Kraus, Al Griepentrog, Kevin Mitchell, Jason Jasurda, Keith Miller, John Specht, Doug Zarnke, Lukas Long, Elisa Jackson, Julie Micheal, Beth Zarnke, Kim Corigall, Tonya Brown, Tom Shilts and Cathie Shilts. We really are having so much fun with one another.
After a full afternoon we returned to the church for a delicious turkey dinner with the fixings including pumpkin pie. Chris is our hostess in the kitchen. She made sure our meal was served on glass plates with real utensils! I feel like this church has rolled out the red carpet for us and it causes tears to well up in my eyes. They’re hurting and suffering and yet they serve us in this capacity. It’s overwhelming to all of us.
Linda and her husband, Doug opened up their home to us to watch the Packer game tonight. Really? There are 17 of us! What hearts! We have made a heart connection with so many already and have only been here 13 hours. It’s a beautiful thing to see hearts united with people that you’ve never met before.
As the evening draws to an early close several from our team are watching The Pack, others going for an early bed time to try and catch up on some overdue z’s! God is good all the time!
Monday, Nov 26
Day two and we hit the ground running! 6:30 breakfast and off we go. Our team was divided into 4 work sites. Fred and Doris, a retired couple from Greentree Church have joined our team for the day. We’re so thankful to serve alongside them.
Several of the team went to Crissy’s house, a single Mom. The order of the day was pulling hundreds of nails out of the floor and spraying fungicide on the floor joists in the crawl space. Tom, my amazing husband, suited up and belly crawled to do the spraying. Crissy says she was walking in circles and feeling overwhelmed not knowing what to do next. She was crying out to the Lord for help and then our team showed up. Striping out was completed in half a day.
Our second team served a family by the name of Jim, Kathy and their teenage son Jason. They had been doing some of the gutting out themselves. We were able to assist them in pulling up the flooring. They have chosen to stay in their home through it all. One small kerosene heater so their only source of heat, burr!
Next door, our third team had the privilege of helping Mirza, Sabina and their two children Aqib-11 years old and Aniqu-8years old. On Sunday as we were canvassing the streets. Mirza asked if we could just help him carry the furniture and some bags of plaster to the curve. Through our conversations we were able to convince him that we wanted to help him. So today our team proceeded to tear out sheetrock, wood flooring and pound in several hundreds of nails into the floors. Mid day Mirza bought food for our team: coffee, donuts, and roasted chickens. As several of our team members expressed, it is very difficult to receive food from those we are serving. Everything in us says, “we are good. Please keep your money so you can rebuild your home.” However we have learned that we honor them when we accept their gifts.
Today we saw hope restored in Mirza’s eyes. It seemed as though someone had lifted a thousand pounds off of his back. His smile was full of joy and peace in the middle of chaos. God is at work in the middle of the storm AND we have the honor of seeing Him at work. It’s a beautiful thing to behold!
Our fourth team worked at the house of Jerry and Diane. They are members at Greentree Church. It was difficult for them to ask for our help, but a friend convinced them to do so. As we listened to Jerry give us instructions on what has to be torn out tears welled up in his eyes. He said, “I’m just hoping for some sense of normalcy for Christmas. Jerry’s wife Diane had the outside of their house decorated for Christmas. She told us that she needed to do it so things could feel normal for her. As is our custom we offered to pray for Jerry and Diane. Once again Jerry’s eyes overflowed with tears. The trauma of the storm, their life in chaos and help arriving, all culminates for them. As our team members say, “and this is why we give up our vacation time and work tirelessly. It’s just to show one person that the Lord loves them and hasn’t forgotten them.”
Since Crissy’s team finished their project by 2pm we shifted them over to Donna’s house. She needed her garage emptied. Donna is a single Mom and is caring for her elderly parents, Gene and Delores. The water was 3-4 feet high in their garage. Donna and her parents were using the garage for storage space. They had many pictures, memorabilia, keepsakes, baby pictures, etc in boxes and bins about 8 feet high throughout the garage. It’s all of those items that you treasure and never hope to have destroyed. Imagine if you will, one month old, contaminated water sitting in bins and saturating boxes. Our amazing team began the task at hand. The smell was almost more than you could stand. It burned your nostrils. Donna told us that her mother was having sleepless nights worrying about everything in the garage and getting it cleaned out. Just as we were finishing up, Gene and Delores happened to stop by. You could hear the trembling in Delores’s voice as she walked by all of her keepsakes heaped on the curb. Once again they were so grateful for as they called it, “angels” showing up.
Chatting with another neighbor we learned that they have stayed in their home since the storm hit as well. Their basement is full of sewer water. They have one space heater for a two story home. They said that this morning when they woke up it was 38 degrees in their house. The news reporters are gone, but only one short month after the storm we are still finding family after family still living in mold filled, water damaged homes.
On another note we had a tailgate party for lunch on the back of our pickup truck. I drove to three different sites, set up our delicious hot beef sandwiches donated by Arby’s, Marshfield. Thank you so much Rhoda! What a treat.
As we wrapped up our day after dark and headed back “home (Greentree Church),” I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring down my face as I drove. I thought of our amazing team and how they shoveled and carried contaminated, water filled bins to the curb without one complaint. I could see the look in their eyes of, “wow this smells really, really bad,” but not one negative word. I thought about how much it pleases the heart of God when we get in the trenches with those in need and get dirty to serve them. I thought of the 75 year old gentleman with us, down on his knees pulling out nails. I thought of the smiles on the faces of those we helped today. I thought of the hope that was restored to a traumatized life today. I thought about God’s love and how he passionately loves us every day, all the time, no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
After dinner tonight our team was able to share their stories from the day and how after only one short day, their lives have been deeply impacted by serving. Kim described it as better than any vacation she’s ever been on.
Chris and her discipleship group prepared an amazing beef stroganoff dish, lettuce salad and heavenly dessert. They are an amazing blessing!
Chatting in the hallway at the end of the day, Linda, one of our hostesses invited us all to come to her house to relax and/or watch TV. “Oh and by the way,” she said, “I won’t be there, it’s unlocked, but make yourself comfortable.” Once again we’re humbled by the love of God flowing out of everyone around us.
Tuesday, Nov 27
Our days start early with a 6:30 breakfast and on our way.
We continued to pull up flooring, and pull down sheetrock and plaster at Mirza and Sabina’s house.
Our team got the go ahead to tear down at Nancy’s house on Genoa St. Plaster and lath board piece by piece, trim, and wood flooring all were demolished. I don’t think any of us can comprehend strangers coming into our home with hammers and flat bars and start ripping things apart. It can be overwhelming to many homeowners. Things they have worked for all their lives are reduced to rubbish on the curbside looking like everyone else’s rubbish. By the end of the day Nancy’s house was so close to done we could taste it. We actually had to shut the generator off so everyone would quit. At one point there were 11 of us in a small bedroom probably 10×10. We tore up the hard wood floor in about 15 minutes. It was a sight to behold.
It’s raining today and very chilly so that has brought an interesting dimension into our projects.
As we visited potential neighbors in need we came across a lady by the name of Michelle. She is a retired English teacher and she cares for her children and great grandchildren. As we visit with Michelle we learn that her husband passed away when he was 37 years old. During the course of the storm she lost decades of pictures and now has only 3 pictures left of her husband. It was in those moments of realizing that her pictures were gone that she broke down. Currently she lives in a larger two story home. They are keeping the house warm with the oven on and 3 space heaters. They can’t have the space heaters on at the same time because it will blow a fuse. Michelle runs the space heater in her bedroom while her two teenage grandsons are at school. Then when they come home she turns on the heaters in their bedroom so they can be warm. They are all taking cold showers because their hot water heater was damaged in the storm and no longer works. Michelle reports that this situation is not comfortable, but it’s not impossible. She continually states that she is so blessed because it could have been so much worse. Her glass is half full for sure, not half empty.
Our day ended talking with a neighbor. He tells us his story of asking Jesus to come into his heart when he was 17 years old. His life has been very difficult and has caused him to question many things about God. Nine years ago his son died of a heroin overdose. He questions where God was. These are some hard questions, but a few of our team members had the opportunity to affirm how much God loved him and we prayed with him. A grown man loving Jesus, slammed around by life, and suffering deeply from the loss of his son. To end our day we could offer listening ears, an understanding heart, and point Him to the One who loves him deeply.
Dinner was served by several beautiful people from Greentree again. We had stew, chicken nuggets, breads, salad and desserts. I think we’re going to roll home!
After dinner we shared our stories from the day. The Lord is moving in the hearts of our team. We’re being undone as we watch the hand of God moving in our midst.
Wednesday, Nov 28
With aching bodies, sore muscles and a bit of exhaustion setting in we head for the trenches. It’s in those trenches of life that God calls us to exercise our compassion and become the hands and feet of Jesus.
At the top of the list was returning to Genoa St where we completed the gutting process of Nancy’s house. She has become very dear to us in these short few days. Each day while we worked on her house she brought us Dunkin Doughnuts and coffee. Today we did more sheetrock teardown, pulling nails and cleaning up debris. Tom, Kevin, and the famous Tonya Brown suited up in hazmat suits to go into Nancy’s crawl space and pull down the plastic mesh that was stapled between all of the floor joists. As they pulled it down salt water poured out of the plastic onto their faces and bodies. Completing the job lifted a heavy burden from Nancy’s heart. Now she begin the building process.
Our second job site was for Michelle, a retired schoolteacher. Her back porch needed to be completely gutted with beautiful, huge storage cabinets demolished and thrown to the curb. Her positive attitude through it all was so uplifting. She continually thanks the Lord for her blessings and that it could have been so much worse.
Atlantic City was our next destination to gut a bathroom for Elaine. A follow up phone call expressed her deep gratitude for our help.
Pastor Days from Second Baptist Church in Atlantic City was referred to us. He said 7000 homes were destroyed in Atlantic City and they had a waiting list of people that needed help. The first family we were directed to was Brenda on Wabash Ave. It was one of the worst smelling jobs of the week. Imagine if you will, 17 people rolling on the ground covered in dog doo doo! That’s how we all smelled when we left. Our nostrils are still burning as I write. AND yet, not one complaint from our team members! It’s astounding!
Those alarms were just screaming this am at 3:45! It’s cold outside, the streets are bare and yet we are filled with excitement and joy. We have the privilege of leaving on a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief trip today. Our team of 17 represents 7 different churches. I LOVE breaking down denominational walls and serving the King by helping hurting people! I believe it blesses the heart of God. Our destination is Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Greentree Church has opened their doors to us. We are amazed at their hospitality and generosity. Since our ETA is 4am we will be attending the late service at 10:30. The pastor will be introducing our team and then inviting their congregation to link arms with us in the relief efforts for the week.
We are traveling in a 26 passenger bus pulling a tool trailer. Roger Krogstad has been gracious to allow us to use his trailer for packing our tools and luggage in. Thank you Roger! Our caravan also consists of a pickup truck and a fifth wheel which is our base of operation. Although the trip is long we’re enjoying getting to know one another. It’s a great bonding experience. Thank you to Mc Donalds, Arbys, Heather Wojcik, Marla Hawks, Ron and Jeanette Haas for providing lunches for us for the week. The bus is loaded with baked goods so we certainly won’t be going hungry this week. We’re so thankful that Doug got his CDL to help drive the bus. We can tell already that it’s going to be an amazing week. We’ve laughed hysterically and yet had deep conversations about God. It’s always so fun to see the team that the Lord builds for these trips. This is a first mission trip for several on our team. We are coming into this trip with great expectation. Whose lives will we be able to touch this week? Who will touch our lives this week? Love isn’t just a word, love plays itself out in an action.
Compassion In Action
Joplin Disaster Relief-April 21-28, 2012
April 21, 2012
We met at Zion United Methodist Church at 4:30 am and departed at 5:oo am. We have 27 participants on our team and we’re excited to see God move this week. We proceeded to the Methodist Church in Port Edwards where we picked up additional team members. Our vehicles are the bus, our truck with a fifth wheel and a van. About a half hour after Port Edwards, a tire blew on the fifth wheel. This proved to be an interesting development. Because it was 6:30 am on a Saturday morning help was scarce. Tom drove to Marshfield to get a new tire and three hours later we were rolling down the road.
The rest of our journey was peaceful and uneventful. We arrived at Joplin Family Worship Center about 11:30 pm. We’re so thankful that they are still housing volunteers. Our accommodations are shipping containers made into bunk rooms. There is a semi-trailer parked next to the bunk rooms with 20 showers. The girls get to shower the first half hour of a given hour and the guys shower the last half hour of any given hour. Restrooms are inside the building. When so many Joplin residents are still suffering the loss of all they had, we feel so blessed to have a roof over our heads.
April 22, 2012
Breakfast was at 8:30 this morning. We had a short orientation followed by a dynamic worship service at 10 am here at Joplin Family Worship Center. Following lunch we met Ben and Josh from Hammers and Hearts. They are amazing men. Ben formed Hammers and Hearts about 1 month after the storm hit. His goal was to unite and organize all of the volunteer organizations in Joplin. Hammers and Hearts have linked arms with Fuller, Catholic Charities, Methodist Relief, Immanuel Lutheran and Baptist churches to facilitate the rebuilding of Joplin with volunteers. Dr. Brian Ispen donated a warehouse in Joplin for this ministry. De Walt Tools has donated $100,000 worth of tools to Hammers and Hearts. Ben says that about 70,000 homes were destroyed in the tornado.
Ben tells a story of a man that has walked 2 blocks for 10 months to carry pails of water back to his home because he has no running water in his home as a result of the storm. Hammers and Hearts has been able to repair his water supply.
He also tells another story of an elderly man who has walked to the post office to get his mail everyday because his front porch was destroyed. After learning of this situation, Hammers and Hearts came in and repaired his porch in one day. This grateful elderly man sat on his front porch until 2 am because he was so thankful and overwhelmed that someone came to his rescue. The next day as the mailman delivered mail he proudly told him that he wanted his mail delivered directly to his home from now on.
Here is a story that two of our team members heard today. During the tornado in May of 2011, a woman was in a bathtub holding her children down. She noticed a guy behind her. He was hovering over her and he was pushing firmly on her back to keep her from being sucked out of the tub. When the storm passed she turned around and he was gone. When she was at the hospital they told her that she had two bruises on her back in the shape of two hands. This woman reported that she believes it was an angel.
We drove to several locations to see what work needed to be done on several houses and planned our work for the week. One of the houses was just a couple blocks from Roger’s Mom’s house. Roger came to see us and directed us to a lady that we would be able to help this week. She still needs some gutting done. We ended our evening by visiting with Diana and Donny. Donny greeted us with tears and Diana did as well. This is a heartbreaking, yet heart warming experience. Donny and Diana have become family to us. We helped them on our first trip and third trip to Joplin last year. Several team members know them because they’ve come on previous trips. Donny had to take us back in his shop to show us his race car with “Compassion In Action” so proudly painted on the back fender of both sides. We chatted with them for awhile and then prayed for Diana and Donny. Tomorrow Diana will be going to Kansas City to a neurological specialist. Her epilepsy has increased dramatically since the storm hit and the medication she is on is not working. Today when we prayed for Diana she had another seizure. You see this puts all of life into it’s proper perspective. As we got done, Donny laid his head on Tom’s shoulder and just wept as we prayed for him. These are the difficult things in life that we desperately need God to walk with us. Pulling ourselves away, we loaded the bus and other vehicles. As I turned around Donny was walking down the driveway sobbing. He said, “I need a hug from you guys, this is really hard.” We hugged and cried and hugged and cried. Do we see God in the little things in life? Do we see what an impact we can have in the world around us by simple little acts of kindness? Are we willing to lay down our lives for the sake of those less fortunate than ourselves? Today my heart was deeply touched once again. I have been doing disaster relief and mission trips for over 20 years and it NEVER and I mean NEVER gets mundane. I am convinced that the reason for this is because “When We Become His Hands, We See His Heart.”
April 23, 2012
As the day draws to close I only wish I could have been at five different locations all at the same time. We have a young man from Joplin that worked with us in October of last year that is joining us for several days this week. His name is Jim. With Jim on our team there are 28 total team members and we worked at five different sites today. On Empire St, we did some dry wall patching and mudding. Just across the street several from our team stained a fence. The most exciting news was that the local TV channel sent out a reporter because we have the amazing privilege of having a 92 year old woman on our trip. She helped stain the fence today and has such a beautiful heart to serve. I always tell her that I want to be like her when I grow up. On Wall St two of our guys installed cement board in preparation for ceramic tile to be laid. Wimer Place is where we are rebuilding for a gentleman and his 72 year old father. This elderly man lost his wife in the tornado last year. We have the privilege of doing the finishing touches on their home so they can return there shortly. The job at hand was installing laminated flooring, painting doors and trim, and ceramic tile repair.
The Belle Locke job was gutting an outbuilding where Patty will be living. The building is 12×16 and that will be her home. Her daughter and her family will live in the house in the front of the property when the repairs are done. At this point it is gutted and the wiring has been started. Today our team was able to gut the inside of the house, as well as the siding. We helped Patty sort through items in storage, cleaned debris from the lawn and mowed it. Interestingly there were onions growing wild on the entire lawn. It was a beautiful aroma as the lawn was being groomed! As we talked with Patty today she said that even 11 months after the storm she is still unable to talk about it.
We also had the opportunity to pray with Donny and Diana once again before they left for Kansas City. Of course Diana, right in the middle of intense medical issues, had to make sure we had fresh brewed iced tea, homemade carrot cake, chips and homemade salsa for snacks! We were so excited to see Diana having a better day today. She was able to speak normally and walked well. How many of us don’t know from one day to the next whether we will be able to walk or talk? There are so many things in life that we take for granted. Today maybe we should all take a moment and thank the Lord for the gifts that he has given us. Let’s look at what we have instead of what we don’t have. How long has it been since you gave thanks to your creator that you can walk and talk?
We have a picture on FB that you can access at http://www.facebook.com/cathieshiltsand also on the Marshfield News Herald web site. You will see a picture of Debbi Craft embracing Diane Willard just before she leaves for the hospital in Kansas City. Diana has suffered greatly from seizures since the storm hit in May of 2011. The Drs will be stripping all of her meds, observing her seizures and then developing a new medication regimen for her. As they embrace, she says goodbye to Debbi she asks if Debbi could come to the hospital with her.
Let me give you a perspective from Debbi’s point of view.
With tears dripping down her face, here are Debbi’s words, “I met Diana in May of 2011 when we came to Joplin for disaster relief. As we talked she told me that when she was growing up she didn’t have friends because of her medical conditions and disabilities. I told her I would be her friend. Over the past 11 months we have kept in contact through FB and email. I was looking forward to seeing her again on this trip. The day we arrived she was having a bad day and barely able to walk or talk clearly. When we drove into the yard Diana, with the help of her nursing assistant, came to the door. She grabbed me and we both cried. Since she was going to the hospital the next day we offered to pray for her. During our prayer she had a seizure. Tears poured down my cheeks. It was very difficult to watch. It is very fulfilling to feel like you’re making someone else’s life a little bit better by helping them and spending time with them. Even though we are not blood relatives she feels like a sister to me. It’s a heart connection. When she was ready to leave for the hospital and she asked me to go with her it was very, very hard. Part of me wanted to jump in the car and just go with her.”
Debbi also relays to me that going on a disaster relief trip blesses you so much. You get away from everyday life and your own problems and help other people. It helps them, but it also helps you and changes who you are. There are a lot of people that need help. They need physical help, but also emotional support.
You can be one of those people that will make a difference in someone else’s life. Often times we wait for that million dollars to give away or an avenue to give extravagantly. What about stopping for the one in front of you and give a kind word, a compliment, a cold bottle of water, a few dollars, a meal when someone is sad or has a crisis, a random act of kindness at home or work. If each of us would “stop for the one” and give away the love of God that resides inside of us, the world would be a better place and our lives would be full to overflowing!
April 24-25, 2012
Each day we start with devotions at 7:15, breakfast at 7:30 and on the road by 8 am. Jack faithfully packs all the coolers with ice and water for the day. We each pack our individual sandwiches and are so thankful that Joplin Family Worship Center is hosting our team.
Work continued today at Wimer Place. Painting, plumbing, texturing walls, installing countertops/sink and baseboard are all a part of the punch list. Carl is doing an amazing job overseeing this job site. The ladies had to move the painting inside because so much dirt was getting blown on the wet paint and causing problems. Some of the ladies also washed windows here for a bit today.
Empire St has had some dry wall patching done and then on Wednesday Tom sprayed out the entire house himself. I am married to an amazing, wonderful man and I thank the Lord continually for him. He quietly serves bringing no attention to himself. Most of this team refused to come back to church with the team at 5:30 for dinner because they wanted to get more work done. What hard chargers!
Rick and Tom P. have adopted the Wall St job for the week. They are doing an incredible job installing ceramic tile. Both of them are very precise so the tile looks great.
Back at Belle Locke several of our team continue to serve with compassionate hearts. At Donny and Diana’s house several of the ladies went to a nursery and bought plants to landscape the front of their house. They created a beautiful design and finished all of the planting, edging and mulching. I’m sure these gals must own a landscaping business. One of the gals on our team, Julie, brought a beautiful rock from Minnesota. She wrote a scripture on the rock specifically to place in Diana’s flower garden. Julie affectionately placed her rock in the midst of the plants. When Donny saw the finished product tears streamed down his face. He said that he was sure Diana would be very excited when she returned from the hospital.
At our second job site on Belle Locke we tore off shingles, built interior walls for Patty, and on Wednesday shingled the entire house. Many of the team went to work just after 6 am and finished by 11 am to beat the heat. It was in the mid 80’s today.
On Wednesday six of our ladies went to Abundant Life Christian Church to sort donations. We’re so blessed to have such hard working women with such servant hearts!
Roger took us to Ryan’s for lunch on Wednesday. It’s a buffet that absolutely rocks! Keep in mind, Roger still doesn’t not have a house. He’s too busy helping everyone else get their home completed. Yet, he paid for lunch for 28 of us. This kind of sacrificial giving is a rarity in our society. Our hearts are humbled because of his generosity. As I was returning to my seat a waitress came up to me and said, “I remember you from a previous trip you made to Joplin to help us. I waited on all of you.” Then, through tears, she shared briefly with our entire team about how she was so overwhelmed with gratitude because we haven’t forgotten about them and that we repeatedly come back to help. She shares her story of only loosing her car in the storm. Two weeks later at a raffle in the city she won a four-wheeler and a vehicle. It’s crazy what an impact we’re having even on a waitress. When we suffer, it brings us strength just to know that people care about us. I think that’s the case with this sweet waitress.
On another note, one really awesome thing is that now Roger is helping us on the jobs that we are doing when we come down. He helped us shingle Patty’s roof. What a guy, what a heart!!!!
On Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunity to talk with Patty and Alyssa. We are rebuilding Patty’s house on Belle Lock.
Alyssa, 20 year old daughter of Patty, recalls the late afternoon of May 22, 2011 as follows. “ I was about to take a nap and I got a text from a friend that there was a tornado watch. The sky was black and creepy. It truly sounded like a freight train and the ground was shaking. I grabbed by niece, LucyJane, who was 1 year old at the time, and headed to the neighbor’s storm shelter. Something just didn’t feel right to me. Pretty soon I could hear trees cracking and breaking. It was really scary. I tried to stay calm because I didn’t want to scare the baby. I was very scared because my sister and my mom weren’t in the storm shelter with me. They were still in their house and I thought both of them were dead. Then she heard her sister screaming, “Mom (Patty) needs help!” Patty’s ribs were broken. The baby, LucyJane, was scared and crying. The phone lines were jammed and no one could get ahold of anyone until after midnight. Trees were down all over. Water was pouring down the ceiling and the side of the house as blown off. The neighbor’s tree was through their front door. The cats were outside screaming and the baby kittens were up against a wall all safe. Before the storm I saw the mother cat pull a blanket with her mother and cover her newborn babies. My friend Dillon worked at Walmart in the photo department the day of the storm. On both sides of Dillon, there laid two bodies of people who had lost their lives. We stayed at our church for two months after the storm. My little neice LucyJane still whimpers and cries at bedtime even after a year of the storm hitting. I have repeated nightmares that LucyJane and I are in the storm shelter and that the wind pulls the shelter out of the ground and we are taken up into the tornado.”
Alyssa states, “the tornado has made Joplin a better place. People help each other more and give compliments more frequently. We came together and helped each other. The storm has changed me for the better. I get along better with my family because we almost lost each other so it’s brought us closer together. There are many people that lost family members and I can’t even imagine how hard that would be.”
As we sit in a house that is gutted, with wiring hanging down, Patty pours out details of the deadly storm that ravaged Joplin a year ago.-“I still cry even though it’s been a year. The last thing I saw was Alyssa in the Benson’s door going to the storm shelter. I have nightmares that the storm hit while Alyssa was standing there knocking on the door waiting to get in the shelter and they didn’t make it.
When Compassion In Action came to Joplin this week, I didn’t think you were going to help us. Then as you began walking through your plan, I thought you would take the siding off, but didn’t know we would be doing this extensive of work. I have more appreciation that anyone can ever imagine. Before the storm I actually started getting a bad view of the world. I had a cynical attitude. The day after the storm volunteers from all over the states began clearing out trees and debris. From that day on it was just different. I started praying prayers of thankfulness, rather than give me this and give me that. I can’t imagine these people helping me. As soon as this is finished I’m going to start doing mission trips. Roger helped me because I gave him a bag of cereal 2 years before the storm. She doesn’t even remember giving him cereal. If anyone has a big heart, it’s Roger. I am no longer cynical about people. I realize that there is so much more good in the world than bad. I go out of the way to say hi to people and the sour faced ones are the ones I go for. One thing I’ve always wanted to tell people, but never did is this. All the trees were down, people were parking up and down the road. I was angry. They’re coming to just gawk! I had no idea it had plowed people out, destroying so many homes and taking so many lives. These people were actually family members of my neighbors. They were checking to see if their family had survived the storm. The officials actually put the number on the houses of how many lived there and how many died. All of the semis at the business next door were in a big huge pile. I’ve always taken care of everyone and I didn’t know what to do, I was frozen. I kept asking God what I was going to do. I felt useless. Normally I’m very calm. Trees were down on both cars so none of us could leave. We put a gas lantern on and sat in rubble. As I was walking through the neighbors yard, there was a serenity prayer laying there and it reminded me everything would be ok. While I was in the bathtub I could hear the nails coming out of the roof, I could see outside through the walls. I wrapped my legs around Kristi to keep her from being sucked out of the bathtub. I kept asking myself how I was going to keep my legs around her if we’re lifted out of the bathtub. I started hollering for Jesus. It looked like an apocalyptic event. It was just a tornado, but it felt like the world came to an end. On the day after the storm, an EMT friend counted 100 bodies on stage at Memorial Hall, plus body parts. At one point there were 1500 missing. People calling in to the radio station saying they were alive. It’s a horrifying story, so many bad things, yet so many good things. It was like a bomb. In the back bedroom, glass was imbedded in the wall. People were telling my brother Terry that he couldn’t get through to us, but he refused to listen and came to our rescue.”
Patty is a very beautiful person. She cracked her heart open through tears and we reassured her that they were tears of healing. Patty comes to her house everyday and often times brings little LucyJane. Our hearts are being bonded together as we serve this precious family. We are encountering the love of God flowing freely from one another as we do our best to reach out to those still suffering from the storm. Their lives are changed and our lives are changed! What a beautiful thing. Hard work, long hours, exhaustion and yet helping those in need is so deeply impacting.
After dinner at the church and devotions some of us jumped on the bus and headed out to take pictures of the city. We found the block where Extreme Home Makeover built 7 houses in 7 days this last fall. Two particular homes were built next to each other for two single moms that each lost a child in the storm. Between the two houses a memorial rose arbor was built with a swing on it in memory of the children that had lost their lives. It was a sobering site and yet beautiful to see people honored that are suffering. Beautiful people don’t just happen, they are formed through adversity.
April 26, 2012
Our team ranges in age from 29-92. So, never say you’re too old to be used by God to touch a hurting world.
The following 9 churches are represented on this trip: Zion United Methodist-Marshfield, Substance Church-Roseville, MN, United Methodist-Port Edwards, Center City-Marshfield, St John’s Evangelical-Kellner, United Methodist Church-Wisconsin Rapids, Wesley United Methodist-Marshfield, Christian Life Fellowship-Wisconsin Rapids, Highland Community Church-Wausau.
Today on Empire St. we saw great progress. The entire house was primed in one day! Several of the team members really got into their job and were covered with paint! What a sight!
Wimer Place is really coming together. Two toilets were set today, all of the trim installed, the door painting was completed and cabinets started to get hung.
At the Wall St job, Tom and Rick once again pushed hard and got all of the ceramic tile installed. At the end of the day, the only thing left on the tile was to grout it. Great job guys!
The Belle Lock project at Patty’s house is progressing like a steam engine.
Some of the team worked at Donny and Diana’s today, cleaning, doing laundry and yard work. Donny and Diana arrived home from the hospital about 5 pm. Diana gasped and put her hands over her mouth when she saw the landscaping so beautifully done in the front of their house. She is doing well and came home even earlier than expected.
Lowell Lang, our host at Joplin Family Worship Center took a few minutes to share with us after we ate dinner Thursday night. Lowell oversees the volunteer housing, jobs and meals. He tells a story of a well-dressed woman that came to their church shortly after the storm. She told them that her and her husband were at Walmart shopping the afternoon of the storm. They returned to their 3rd floor apartment just behind Walmart when they saw the storm approaching. Her husband said to her, “This looks really bad, but I want you to know that I love you.” When the devastating tornado passed by she was in the bathtub untouched and her husband was standing holding onto the bathroom door. The only thing left standing was the bathtub and the door and frame that he was hanging onto. The couple walked down three stories of debris without a scratch crying, “why me, why am I still alive?”
Lowell relays another story of a family shopping at Home Depot. The grandson went inside to get something and the grandmother and two children were outside in the truck. After the entire building collapsed, they found the grandmother and one of the children at the other end of the store in the truck. The little boy had been thrown out of the vehicle and sustained head injuries. The top of the truck was crushed, glass blown out and holes in the vehicle. A beam had gone through the little girl and pinned her in the truck seat. When the EMT’s arrived she was perfectly calm and said to them, “do you see the guy sitting next to me? He’s holding my hand and he said I’m going to be ok.” The EMT’s saw no one. Miraculously both children were healthy and whole in a short period of time.
As relayed by Lowell, yet another Joplin resident was putting things away after a church picnic. They lived by the hospital. When the storm came they got in the closet. The house blew apart and the roof came off. When they looked up they could see nothing but a calm blue sky. He said, “we’re right in the eye of the storm.” At this point the woman became airborne and they were both being lifted off the floor. The husband screamed, “I have her arm God, now I need yours.” Suddenly he felt a hand take his hand and they both fell in the debris only slightly injured.
Lowell reports that God is turning hard things to good. Unity came to their community when 30% of the city was destroyed. He states that it is incredible what has happened since the storm. As a church their goal is helping get people in their home, not about a specific church. They’ve had 13,000 volunteers and 650 projects worked on. Joplin Worship Center has served 50,000 meals since the deadly tornado struck. Lowell encouraged us to go home and spread the word, “just say yes to whatever God has for you.” They want to pay it forward and do disaster relief nationwide. They are planning on constructing a building in the back of the church property. They’ll train and teach communities to get prepared before it happens. This facility will house 100 volunteers. Their plan is to do week long retreats to train communities to prepare for disaster relief. Their motto is: “Live it, learn it and pay it forward.”
It seems in this thing called life that our darkest hour is our time of testing, learning and growing. Through the deep, dark night of the soul there is a living God that will carry us if we will turn our heart to Him.
April 27, 2012
As we wrap up our final day of ministry here in Joplin many of us are very emotional. We see the hearts that have been deeply touched by our simple little acts of kindness. We feel the depth of how this trip has impacted our own lives. It is hard to wrap our heads around the miles and miles of flattened ground that once was called home for thousands of families. Our hearts have been knit together as a team digging in dirt, shingling a house, painting, sorting, cleaning, plumbing, raking and a multitude of other menial tasks.
Patty and Roger treated us to a Chinese Buffet for lunch today and shortly thereafter we began cleaning up our 5 job sites. We have had the beautiful privilege of touching 5 families during our short stay in Joplin.
As our afternoon came to a close, we loaded in the bus and visited all of the job sites so that our entire team could see the progress that we had made collectively throughout the week. Sometimes we feel like we are one simple, little person, asking how we can ever make a difference in the world. This week was living proof that 27 simple, little lives can radically touch a hurting world one person at a time.
For our final evening in Joplin we had the honor and privilege to take part in an anniversary party where Donny and Diana renewed their vows after 17 years of marriage. Several of the team helped with the preparations for the party. As Donny and Diana stood on their back porch, framed by white and pink tulle, tears began to flow. These past 11 months have been a very difficult time in their lives. Their house was destroyed. The seizures were out of control. They have had to face the trauma of the tornado and yet here they were, loving deeply, holding onto one another and to God. It was a precious time together as they affirmed their love and commitment to one another. Donny has laid down his life to care for his wife. It is very beautiful to watch this kind of love in action.
To top off the evening our son and his wife, Aaron and Renee, treated the entire team to a catered southern barb-b-que! Wow! The tables were loaded with smoked pork, southern style ribs, brisket, potatoes, beans, and the fixings. What a way to end the week. We’re so thankful for generous hearts.
As we say our good byes we reminisce about our week. Our hearts are so full. We feel tired, but energized at the same time. Tomorrow morning we will be hitting the road bright and early by 5 am to return to our normal lives. What is normal anyway? For Joplin residents their normal has changed. With 400 families still living in FEMA trailers parked side by side, not one day goes by that they are not reminded of how their lives have been altered just one short year ago.
None of us know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds it. In a few short minutes any one of our lives can shift and change. Life is fragile, so let’s do our part to love deeply, forgive fast, and give our lives away to reach out to those in need.
April 28, 2012
Certainly 4 am came a lot earlier than we wanted. However, despite a tired crew we load the bus and begin our trip home shortly after 5 am. Around 11 am we started having trouble with the transmission in the truck pulling the fifth wheel. We managed to limp home with it after a 20 hour trip. The rest of the team went on ahead and arrived home by 9:30 pm in Marshfield.
It’s always so fun to hear from some of our team members. Below are thoughts from a few of them.
For Carl and Pat, this is the first mission/disaster relief trip both of them. They are business owners and so many things were going on before they came, but they came anyway. They worked on the house on Wimer Place. Kenneth, his wife, their grandchild and Kenneth’s father will be living in the house. Kenneth’s mother lost her legs in the storm and shortly thereafter, lost her life. His father suffers from dementia. When Kenneth came to the house he was overwhelmed with gratitude. He said he couldn’t find words to express his feelings and that is was beyond words. He just kept hugging them all.
Carl says, “My life is blessed and I feel really good about giving back just a little bit. You can’t out give God. You’re tired, but it’s a good tired. We had so much fun together.”
Pat states, “when I saw the high school in a pile of rubble it tugged on my heart because I worked with the school district 19 years so it hits close to home. All I could think is where are they all going to school now? I had lots of thoughts running through head. I just feel good about being here and helping others. When I went to Home Depot for supplies everyone kept coming to me and thanking me for coming to help.”
Below is a poem written by Roger Allen, a Joplin resident that we have had the privilege to meet.
A disaster as far as I could see
People’s hopes, dreams lost in the debris.
Where to look, where to turn
Starting over at my age will be a lesson to learn.
Salvation Army comes marching through
Asking what do you need, we’re there for you.
Furnishing food, drinks, talk and a smile
Their open hand stabilized this trial.
Red Cross showed up, forced us to eat
Gave us confidence, strength not to accept defeat.
Can you imagine help coming right to your steps
Strangers with medical supplies, food and water, just help.
People coming from all over the country
And just jump in to help move the debris.
I asked who these people were
You get a smile and a handshake, “we’re volunteers.”
These people don’t get paid, they won’t take a dime
Just for you they take their time.
They want to hear the story I tell
But it’s more to put me at peace and get me out of my jail.
They say sit down you’ve been through enough
Let us take over even if it gets tough.
Just as you feel like you’ve made lifetime friends
The tide of time sweeps them away like the winds.
It seems that as a tear drop falls
These angels start to call.
They come marching in
Regardless of your background or sin.
They have one goal in mind
To help you get realigned.
You look and you see nothing
But when angels start to sing
You realize it’s not what you have in your hands
It’s what you hold in your hearts.
We live in a fast pace society. Our lives and homes are filled with things, things and more things. Our days are filled with scurrying here and there to meet deadlines, run the race, make more money, and live the American dream. When the day is all said and done, have we given room in our hearts for the living God, the maker of the universe to reside within? Do we fill our days with our own desires or do we give our lives away to reach a hurting and dying world?
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who served tirelessly on this trip. You took your simple little life, gave it away in simple little ways and made a deep impact on the hearts of hurting people in Joplin. You became His Hands and you saw His Heart!
Touched By The Master,
Compassion In Action Director
Compassion In Action Digs Their First Well
Clean, safe water is something most of us take for granted. On our mission trip to El Carmen, Mexico this year we became aware of a need. Many of the residents no longer have access to the water that was delivered to their houses from a truck every few days. Their homes do not have the luxury of plumbing. Water is stored in large barrels outside of their homes. Through the generous donations of many people we have raised $3000 and the order is in to dig the well! Thank you Lord Jesus!
We Became His Hands and We Saw His Heart
Our annual mission trip in March of this year proved to be a very inspiring experience for our entire team. Ranging in ages from 17-70, our team of 17 impacted the city of Monterrey and the village of El Carmen, Mexico.
Here are some of the highlights:
We held two Conferences on “The Father’s Embrace” for Pastors and Leaders and also at a Bible School. We ministered at the local prison and also at a church service for pastors wives.
Construction was completed on the 16×20 house that we built for a 75 year old widow that is raising her grandchildren. The project was done, including paint, in 3 1/2 days! Their normal shelters are made of cardboard, wood pallets and door panels with dirt floors. When we presented Goylleta will the keys to her new house, her tears of joy said it all!
The Children’s Hospital is always a heart breaking experience for our team. Most of the children are non-verbal in wheelchairs and several have spina-bifida. We did the chicken dance, blew bubbles, sang, prayed for them, and took them on rides outside. One little boy, about 11 years old, was laughing so hard he cried simply because two people on our team were blowing bubbles for him. It’s the simple things in life that change our world.
Serving at a Nursing Home proves to be a very rewarding encounter. This year we cleaned, helped with meal prep/clean up, and brought home-made cheese cake for the residents and staff. Spending time with them singing, praying and playing games was so fun. Their faces just lit up playing balloon volleyball!
Helping in a Soup Kitchen will definitely help get your life in perspective. We served about 100 very poor women and children that struggle having enough food for themselves on a daily basis.
Hair Cutting and the Toy/Blanket/Food Give Aways are a highlight for the community in El Carmen where we’ve worked for years. Many women and children had the privilege of a free hair cut. There norm is to use dry laundry detergent to wash their hair. We poured cold water over their heads out of a barrel and they whipped their heads back and forth in lieu of a towel. Oh the things we take for granted! We bring along little toys that our children “don’t like” anymore. They become treasures for the children who use a rock to play kick ball with. We purchase oil, rice, beans, and flour and give away bag after bag of groceries to needy families. The cost is about $3.00 per bag. I always ask myself if I would walk for 45 minutes to get a free bag of groceries worth that much money. Each year the elderly and children die from the cold weather. We make it our goal to bring blankets each year to give away which they are so thankful for.
Our team had the privilege of being invited to a Double Wedding in the little church that we built about 8 years ago on our final day in Mexico. We bought the dress and flowers for one of the brides. When they struggle with enough food to eat each day, wedding attire is not at the top of their list. Minutes before the wedding began several team members gave away their jewelry because we learned they had no jewelry to wear for their big day. What a humbling, unforgettable, beautiful experience. The reception took place in the dirt yard next to the church. We played children’s games in lieu of a wedding dance.
All of our hearts were filled with God’s presence at the end of the trip. We really did become His Hands and we saw His Heart! We go to serve and come back changed with a new view of life. Please consider joining us next year. Your life will be altered!
Joplin Relief Trip
Oct 1-9, 2011
We departed Marshfield at 5:30 am, picked up Julie in St. Paul and Pat in Albert Lea. We had an uneventful day of travel arriving in Joplin around 8pm.
Our team members are: Jack Smith, Stacy Wiesman, Jim Craft, Diane Lee, Kasondra Zieglmeier, Jennifer Kaminski, Carli Specht, Jason Jasurda, Pat Evans, Julie Dobesh, Josue Arriaga, Martin Wolf, Doug Zarnke, Tom and Cathie Shilts.
We had several people send food for us: Chad and Misty Fronk, Kathleen Hutchinson, Debbi Craft, and Louise Bores. McDonald’s, Arby’s, Pick N Save, and The Store donated gift certificates also. Jeff and Mike from WDLB have been so gracious to give us air- time to tell the story on several occasions.
Our accommodations are at Abundant Life Christian Center. They are graciously providing 3 meals a day, lodging, cots, mattresses and showers. One of the cooks has been preparing meals for volunteer teams since May 26. She still has a smile on her face and such an amazing attitude.
Our day starts with devotions and team prayer at 7 am, followed with breakfast at 7:30.
When we arrived at the Willard’s home, Diana was waiting on the front steps for us. She must have heard the bus coming around the corner. It is so beautiful to see how they greet us all with such love. They say we’re their family! Since we left in July, Diane has been knitting hats for the entire team and she was so proud to present our hats to us. Diane, Donny and David are living in their home and it’s completed. They continue to express their gratitude for all we’ve done to help them. Donny keeps saying I just don’t understand why God keeps blessing me so much by all the help you’re giving me.
The crew started hauling lumber to begin building a shed. You see there’s more to this project than a big shed for a guy. When the storm hit, Donny’s wife Diana had a series of seizures. She could not be left alone so Donny had to take time off of work to stay with his wife. Because of this, he lost his job. We go word of this situation and felt that the Lord was putting it on our heart to come back to Joplin and build a shed so that Donny could earn an income for his family. He is a machinist and his shop was destroyed in the storm. People were asking him to fabricate parts for him, but he had nowhere to do it.
With a full day of hard work, the team was able to build and raise three walls. These are 12-foot walls so it’s not an easy task to raise them.
The other half of the team began work at Evelyn’s house. She is an 80 year-old precious woman that is blind. On our previous trip in July we gutted part of her house and began the rebuilding process. In the past three months her son Roger has worked tirelessly alone to finish the house. So we brought reinforcement troops to finish the job. We scraped, primed, painted, and stained trim and windows for the day. We had the privilege of using squatty potties. That is the type of toilet where you find the most hidden tree that you can and make believe there are walls all around you! Then you squat fast!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh the mission field stories we could tell!
That evening Diane and David made dinner for us. I asked Diane to pray before we ate and while she prayed, Donny started crying very hard. He was just so overwhelmed that we were there to help them, he just cried. Diane keeps telling Donny you just have to accept the blessings that God is giving you.
Sunday evening two more of our team members, Marvin and Doug arrived safely. Marvin now takes the record for being the oldest to serve on disaster relief with Compassion In Action. He is 78 years old and was so excited to be here to serve the hurting people. What a heart! Never say you’re too old for God to use you!
We started the day with 3 team members out sick with a nasty virus.
We were told a story of a 6 year-old little girl that had a pipe pierced through her abdomen. When the EMT’s arrived she was unusually calm as she held onto the pipe. As they began inquiring of what happened, she told them that she wasn’t scared because she saw silver-blue butterfly people that kept coming to her and putting their wings over her. There have been about 30 children that have described those same “silver-blue butterfly people.”
At the Willard job site, we got the fourth wall up and the entire shed sheeted today. While the work was being done, some passers by stopped to take pictures. They were so amazed at what we were doing. They said to their daughter who was with them, “do you want to see the face of God? This is it right here.”
We had an interesting event happen today and I would like to convey it word for word from Jennifer. The encounter is as follows:
“I was strongly encouraged to use a nail gun for the first time. I gripped the gun tightly with both hands. I asked for the 3rd time how to use the gun so I had a full understanding on the operational machine in my hands. Jason was holding the boards that I was about to nail together. With encouragement from others and a lot of eyes watching, I pressed the nail gun to release the safety and shot. To my shock, it backfired and not only one, but TWO nails came out, one piercing the wood, the other, Jason’s leg. Tears began rolling down my checks. As I looked at Jason he said casually “Oh look, you shot me.” He seemed calm and cool about the situation. Tom pulled the nail out, which was about 2 inches in. I was still crying while we cleaned up the wound and blood. Jason is doing great, and has since assisted me in using power tools! From this day forward I have been affectionately been nicknamed, “Shooter!” We will forever be bonded by the mishap with the nail gun. ☺”
The order of business for the day at Evelyn’s house was more priming, painting, staining, varnishing and weeding outside.
Since the storm, Evelyn and Roger have been calling the power company asking for their electricity to be connected. Two days prior to today, Evelyn called them and they said, “Stop calling us we’ll get there when we can.” Julie decided to pray that her name would come to the top of the list. This morning the electrical company showed up, and they were working in the area. Tom asked them if there was any way that they could get Evelyn’s power hooked up today. They were non-committal. With a sweet voice Julie said, “We really need this hooked up now.” All of a sudden they were working on Evelyn’s house and the electrical was hooked up that morning! God answers prayer!
These same electricians said to Julie, “Do you work for someone in the area?” She said, I’m not getting paid, I’m volunteering.” They asked, who lives here? Julie replied, “I don’t know her name.” Their response was interesting. They said, “So you don’t know who lives here and you’re doing this hard work for free? Wow, you are a really a nice person.” They seemed quite puzzled. I guess God’s love is hard to comprehend sometimes!
All of the trusses were set today at Willard’s. It was a good days work and we’re so thankful that no one was hurt. This can be a dangerous job.
The schedule for the day at Evelyn’s house was painting the front porch area along with more trim priming/painting.
Paul, a Baptist pastor that is doing disaster relief full time, told us of a young man that he talked to. He saw his baby die before his eyes and then held his wife’s hand as she passed away. God is the only one that can carry us through!
Diane relayed to us the rally in Joplin before school started for the fall. They showed pictures of all of the children that lost their lives in the storm. All of the children from kindergarten through 12th grade were hanging onto each other. The MC then encouraged them to find their teachers and go hug them. It was a very emotional time for thousands. At this point the MC said, “We’re not supposed to pray here, but let’s pray.” And they did!!!!!!!
Today my heart was broken. I went to McDonald’s to try and upload pictures to everyone back home. An adorable little 4 year- old girl, Keana, began peeking between the booths talking to me. I started a conversation with her mom, Crystal and asked how they did in the storm. Cyrstal lost two of her children, 6-year old Trentan and 10 year-old Shante. She conveys the following story to me. Crystal and her 3 children were in the bathtub. At one point the bathtub was 10 feet in the air. She was conscious the entire time. Her and Keana landed close to each other on the ground. Crystal and Keana both had collapsed lungs and hospitalized for a week. Crystal had surgery on her leg to remove pieces of wood that were imbedded. She showed me a picture of her face and how bruised and swollen she was, beyond recognition. The house and all they owned was destroyed. Crystal says that the wind was so strong she couldn’t hang on to the children. Trentan was thrown about 30 feet and flown to Kansas City where he passed away the following day. Her parents, Aleta and Felix live about 15 miles away. They drove to Joplin when they heard that the storm hit. They had to travel by foot for over a mile through the debris to get to Crystal’s house. Aleta says it was the longest mile of her life. Through much heartache and tears Aleta tells me of their arrival at Crystal’s house. Her and her husband were unable to find any of their family members. They finally saw a rescue worker and he said to them, “I am so sorry to inform you that Shante is under the blanket over here in the lawn!” Shante was killed instantly. When you look into someone’s eyes and hear their words first hand, their pain pierces your heart. I told Crystal and Aleta that we would pray for their family. God is a big God and He is near to the broken hearted.
October 5 Wednesday
Sheeting the roof of the shed for Donny and Diana was the agenda for the day. We were able to completely sheet the roof, put the tarpaper on, wrapped the shed and installed the windows and entry door. Final touches in the Willard’s house included hanging some wallpaper border for Diane. Kasondra and Stacy helped Diane with some things on the computer. They needed to enter all of their personal items with a dollar value to submit to the insurance company.
Several of the team continued painting exterior windows and trim at Evelyn’s house. This was a very time intensive job, but our amazing team worked tirelessly.
Roger took us out for lunch at Ryan’s which is a delicious buffet. During our meal we learned of a young man that had just graduated from high school on May 22, the evening of the tornado. Shortly after his high school graduation he was sucked out of the vehicle that him and his father were in and they found him six days later in a pond. None of us know from one moment to the next what life will hold. That is why we should do our best to love well those who are around us each day.
After lunch Donny asked to talk to Tom and I. With a cracking voice, trembling lip and tears streaming down his face he presented us with a very generous gift of money. Although we stress over and over that we are not doing this for money, their goal was to give it so we could help more people. We affectionately call this “Paying It Forward.”
Jack hurt his back today carrying shingles up to the roof. We’re trusting God for a speedy recovery.
I honestly can’t remember what time we got back to the church every night, but it was somewhere between 8-10pm. I spent half of the trip very sick, so that is why these blogs are late.
Three team members were out today, Jack, Martin and myself. God faithfully provided 3 other volunteers. Hmm, I guess we’re all replaceable right?
Doug was nominated to lead the crew at Willard’s to put the ceiling on the shed. They did a great job and Doug showed us that he’s ready to lead with excellence and kindness. Way to go Doug!
Tom led the crew at Evelyn’s house today and they installed kitchen cabinets and reinstalled and leveled all the windows in the house. Landscaping, painting, staining and varnishing continued also.
Kasondra and Jennifer served in the distribution center at Abundant Life Christian Church where we stayed. They helped people load their carts with food and simply cared for them.
A crew from Abundant Life Christian Center came to the Willard’s home today and did an interview with Donny and team members. We’ll let you know when we get access to it.
Donny told us that his race car is in the shop and that he is having them paint Compassion In Action on both sides of the car. We feel very honored. He also offered to build a tool trailer for us.
Donny said that on Wednesday night he went out to the shed with a flashlight for 30 minutes planning how to set up his shop. Then he came in the house and cried for 30 minutes just overwhelmed that he could have his life back and make a living for his family.
Diane is determined to send us home fat and happy. Their family had a cookout for us that was incredible; brats, burgers, hot dogs and the trimmings. Doc and Betty, Diana’s parents, have been there each night for dinner. They ALWAYS make pumpkin pie and brownies for us on every trip. They are in their 80’s and just keep serving! They have become part of our family also.
One of the many highlights of the trip for me was the “Stories on the Porch.” We ended our evening by giving everyone an opportunity to talk about the trip and how it impacted our lives. You could feel God’s presence among us. It was a beautiful thing. I would have to say that in 20 years of doing missions and disaster relief, I have never seen so many grown men crying. It’s like our hearts collide with God’s heart when we help others. Those being helped collide with God and those who serve collide with God!
Imagine being a parent and seeing your children’s home and all they own destroyed. Everything within a parent wants to do whatever they can to rescue their kids. But Doc and Betty couldn’t physically help their children. In Betty’s words with a trembling lip she said, “You did what we couldn’t do for Donny and Diane.”
Tomorrow is Doug’s birthday so in our great big bus we tried to “loose” Doug on the way back to church so we could surprise him and buy a birthday cake for him. We were laughing pretty hard trying to figure out how we could “loose” someone with a big bus! We did it though and sang happy birthday to him when we returned!
So we work really hard, but we like to have lots of fun and laugh really hard to. I was getting ready for bed and all of a sudden three crazy young people from our team show up with dirt all over their faces and their shirts torn! They said they were attacked by wolves outside! They really did hear wolves, but then got a bit creative playing it out! They’re crazy and we LOVE it!
Each morning we have breakfast with the other teams that are staying at the church. We had the privilege to meet a gentleman by the name of Paul who does full time disaster relief. The following story was told to him.
There is a specific catholic church that was destroyed, but the gigantic cross was left standing. The rescue worker heard knocking on a door beneath the rubble. As they cleared debris children began streaming out from the area of refuge, 178 children to be exact. All of the children were unharmed.
This morning after breakfast Martin, Doug and Kasondra departed for Wisconsin after breakfast.
The agenda for the day is to continue working on Evelyn’s house with trim, cupboards, plumbing, etc.
Carli and Jennifer served at the Distribution Center at the church for half of the day.
Diane asked us several times to go to the Apple Butter Making Festival with her for a few hours so some of the ladies did that for the morning.
For the afternoon we returned to the neighborhood in Duquene where we worked on the first trip. We wanted to check on them and see how they were doing after 4 months. We just went door to door, reacquainted ourselves and offered to pray with them. Some have moved away, others are rebuilding their homes. We found Loretta in a house across the street from where she used to live. She is doing well, full of humor and very upbeat. Her husband Jim is in the hospital with congestive heart failure and kidney failure. Loretta and Jim’s grandchildren have bought houses next door so they have a little family community going on.
Mike from WDLB did an interview with Jennifer today and we’re so thankful for the publicity so we can get the word out of the enormous need that there still is in Joplin.
Donny went to Home Depot and talked directly to the manager about Compassion In Action and what we do. The store manager said he was very interested in what we do and wants to talk to us. We’ll see what happens.
Tonight we returned to the church for dinner after a long day of work.
It’s our last day in Joplin and so much to do. We are at Evelyn’s house doing our best to finish it so she can move back into her home. It’s like a beehive here. Everyone is just doing what it takes to get the job done in spite of being exhausted. The entire house is full of tools and materials in every room so it looks near impossible to finish. We’re putting up light fixtures, finishing the exterior trim painting, insulating in the cracks by the windows, installing window stops, counter tops, faucets, plumbing, cleaning and organizing.
While Josue was moving a sink with a garbage disposal attached, it fell on his hand. He ended up with a gash on his fingers and a very sore hand. We’re thankful it wasn’t broken.
Roger took us all out to eat for lunch at a Chinese buffet. It’s so humbling to receive from someone that has lost everything in the storm.
Evelyn has not been back to the house since the storm hit May 22. Around 5 pm today we had the privilege of showing her the house. As you know she is blind and in a wheelchair. Roger brought her in the house and explained each room to her. He took her frail little hand and placed it on the counter tops and sink to help her understand how the kitchen was laid out. That picture burns in my mind. How many times have I taken my sight for granted?
Heather, her friend and the children joined us also. Heather’s friend sang a song for us to express his gratitude. He is native American and he sang “Amazing Grace” in his native tongue. It was so beautiful!
We were given the sweetest gift from Evelyn. We call it “The Chocolate Lover’s Dream.” It was a basket loaded with every kind of chocolate you could imagine and huge amounts of it!
Roger was able to get Evelyn settled in on the sofa and while we finished little details several team members sat with Evelyn in the living room talking with her. With tears streaming down her face many times she just kept saying, “I don’t understand why you’re doing this for me?” I think God’s love is so big that often times our little human minds can’t wrap our heads around it. When can tell people that God loves them, but when we put actions to it, His love penetrates deeply into the hearts of those we serve.
Our final job at Evelyn’s house was to plant three trees. Roger had the holes dug and he asked each one of us to help plant them. He wanted them planted in honor of Compassion In Action!
During our last moments at Evelyn’s house, Roger expressed his gratitude to our team through trembling lips and tears of joy. He made a comment that he’s not a crier and doesn’t understand why he cries so much when he’s around our team. I think I may have the answer to that. When we take our simple little lives and reach out to hurting people through random acts of kindness, the God of the universe shows up on the scene. His love is poured out to those hurting people through ordinary people like you and I. It’s a love that this world does not know. It’s a love that cannot be reckoned with or explained in words. This love goes deep into the heart of a man and causes a shift if their hearts. This impact of love brings hope to the hurting. It shows a broken, troubled world that there is a God and that He passionately loves them.
This scripture from the Bible comes to my mind:
1 John 3:17 But if anyone has this world’s goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him?
1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity).
The incredible team that we had lived out this scripture for 7 days straight. They loved in action from early morning until late at night without any complaining.
As we boarded the bus tears flowed freely by most of our team. What many people don’t understand is that when we lay down our lives for the sake of others, God shows up on the scene in our lives also. We are intensely impacted in the process of serving. Two of our team members said that they wanted to come on the trip because they felt that they didn’t have compassion and they wanted it reignited in their hearts. It appears that God heard that cry of their hearts and did exactly that.
Our evening was concluded with a huge meal of ribs, ham, chicken and the fixings at Donny and Diane’s house. As I came around the corner to the back of the house I saw Donny and Tom with their arms around each other looking at the shed. Donny told Tom that he is the Dad that he didn’t have since he was 12 years old when his father passed away.
After we were eating dinner, Donny squatted down by Tom and I and took both of our hands. Through tears he once again poured out his heart of gratitude to us. We have watched him go from being very reserved and quiet to freely pouring out his emotions to all of us. God has opened up his heart and it’s such a beautiful thing to see. He has been very hurt by Christians in the past. God knew that He needed to see some good from people that call themselves Christians.
Diane made a huge care package for us to eat on the way home! She’s always caring for others in all she does!
We finished putting the border up in the kitchen for Diane and then watched a documentary of the storm called “Storm Chasers.” A couple had a Doppler radio and knew what was coming. They narrate and film the storm before, during and after, including rescue efforts.
In conclusion I would like to share one story from that documentary. A man with an 11 year-old son was severely injured in the storm. His family couldn’t find him for days. As the medics worked to rescue him they report that his clavicle fell out! That statement alone is incomprehensible. This man’s future was touch and go for several days. He was in a coma for 7 weeks. Just now after 4 months he is beginning to say words. His little 11 year-old son visits him on a regular basis. When was the last time that you thanked God that you could speak? The storm is over, but it’s not over. Thousands of people in Joplin have had their lives altered. Many of these residents are still living in a storm of sorts. They live with friends or family, FEMA trailers crammed together with hundreds of others or in homeless shelters. For thousands, all they owned is gone. The biggest tragedy of all is the loss of life which so many are facing daily. They are doing their best to recover from the tragedy, clinging onto God and one another. Many residents relay to us that God is bringing so much good out of this tragedy. Countless numbers of children are talking about the angels that were in the bathtub with them.
Up at 4 am and on the bus headed for home by 5. Our trip home was smooth sailing. We arrived in Marshfield at 7:30 pm.
What can you do today to make someone’s life a little richer? How can you put your love in action? I would like to challenge you to “Pay It Forward,” and then watch what God will do with your simple little life.
July 2- We left Marshfield at 5:45 am and had an uneventful trip to Joplin arriving around 7:30 pm. We’re staying at New Creation Church and they are providing lodging and 3 meals a day. The guys and gals have separate dorms this time so that’s a plus. We unloaded the remainder of the items that we collected at the Joplin Relief Project May 31 at New Creation. They are very organized and methodically put everything in it’s place in the basement of the church.
After unloading we met Roger at his mom, Evelyn’s house. Eleanor is blind and uses a walker and wheelchair to ambulate. Her granddaughter, Heather lives with her along with her two children, 9 year old Dwight, who is autistic and 3 year old Jade. Roger is very emotional and told us that during the storm he was at his mom’s house in the closet with her, his niece and her 9 year old and 3 year old. He went to his house and did search and rescue for 4 hours after the storm hit. They found many bodies and he struggles telling the story without crying. His two-story home was completely destroyed and will be bulldozed. As we chatted with the other volunteers in the dorm we learned that in a particular hardware store a dumpster had fallen through the ceiling and was bounced around the store like a ping pong ball killing 19 people. When it landed, 4 people were killed beneath it.
July 3-Breakfast was served at 7am and then we headed to the job site. Wow, it was tough. We gutted the ceiling in two rooms, packed up most of the contents of the house and moved it outside on sheets of plywood. It was very dirty, grueling work. Sheetrock and black dusty insulation was falling everywhere. Even with masks on we were coughing. The house is infested with mice and cockroaches. Over 30 mice scampered when we moved some furniture. There are literally hundreds of cockroaches everywhere in the house! I was taking papers out of a desk drawer and packing them in boxes. A mouse ran out of the desk drawer and I screamed like a girl and got up on a folding chair in the middle of the lawn screaming! I HATE mice! When we packed the kitchen I pulled the cans out of the cabinets with a plunger because the cupboards were loaded with mice droppings. The kitchen table had a towel on it and it was covered with the same. So gross, so gross! Jason grabbed a jar with a candle in it off of a high shelf and it was loaded with cockroaches that began to crawl out! Nasty! Many of the guys were covered with what looked like black soot! It was well over 90 degrees and we had to take breaks often to withstand the heat. Roger is letting us use one of his cars for the week so we don’t have to use the motor home to run errands. He took me to the house where he is living with his mom, niece and her two little kids. Eleanor kept crying when I was talking to her and asked two times when her house would be done. She said, “now how much do I owe you?” I told her it was free and the tears rolled even more. As I wiped the tears from her eyes, I couldn’t help but understand why the Lord had led us to help her. Her great-grandson is autistic and her great-granddaughter has several medical issues also. The Salvation Army has a tent on 26th St so we were able to get Gatorade and ice from them. They are continuing to offer sandwiches for volunteers and we saw their trucks still going out into the community offering food and water. A few blocks away Cindy and I found hundreds of moving boxes with the bottoms taped, just dumped in a parking lot for people to use to pack their things in. It’s amazing to see how so many people use their gifts and talents to serve in time of crisis. The shower trailer is still at the Baptist Church. The big distribution center at Hope High School is dwindling down. They are offering snacks and drinks now. It’s understandable that they can’t keep going forever. We had some interesting people work with us today from Indiana. There were 3 ladies and they are staying at the same church as us. I believe at breakfast someone from our team told them what we were doing and they said they wanted to do that. They had no idea where we were working in the city so they asked God to direct them to us. Pretty soon, one of the girls hollered, there they are, I see their green shirts. They worked very hard and are wanting to join us on future disaster relief trips. Roger told us that the winds from the tornado were clocked at over 400 mph. After dinner and showers, I took several of the team through the city to see the widespread damage. We pulled into an area where there were apartment complexes and saw a teenage boy. We went to talk to him and he told us to go through the apartment to find his parents in the backyard. Four from their family were in the bathroom when the tornado hit. It’s the only room in the house that wasn’t destroyed. They had just gotten home from church and the mom put her Bible and purse on the coffee table. The coffee table was gone, but her purse and Bible were sitting neatly in the living room where the coffee table was. The same thing happened with her husbands Bible. May 22 was their 14 year old daughter’s birthday. She really wanted to just enjoy being a teenager and not really follow after God. When the storm hit and they were safe, this teenager said, “Mom now I believe there is a God and He’s real.” The storm changed her heart towards God. We prayed with this family and asked the Lord to bless them. They said they’ve already been blessed in so many ways. A sister of one of them gave them her house and their daughter turned her heart to the Lord. Even though I have seen the devastation before, I still get sick to my stomach as we drive though it again. I have to fight back just weeping and weeping. God is doing a deep work in many people’s lives through this tragedy. We have an amazing team and are so thankful for every one of them! They ROCK! It’s 10 pm. Exhausted, we’re all heading for bed!
July 4-We got an early start today and left shortly after 7 for the job site. We are so blessed to be staying at this Presbyterian Church and have met some really awesome people from upstate New York, Indiana, and Ohio. Several of them wanted to come and work with us today so around 10 of them came and we got an amazing amount of work done. More demolition was the first order of the day. We finished gutting the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, cleaned up the yard by the deck and front door, put new rafters in the bedroom and began repairs on the roof. We are hoping that the contractor that Roger paid to put a metal roof on the house will show up tomorrow so we can sheetrock while we’re still here. The ladies saw lots of snakes in the backyard and I’m so thankful I didn’t get the honor of seeing them! Donny and Diana came to visit us today at the job site. They are the couple whose house we shingled on our previous trip. She is doing so much better and the progress on their house is coming along very well. I had to go to the grocery store today and I asked the clerk how she did through the storm. She began to cry and said she lost her house and car, but her family was safe. Then immediately she had to pull herself together to check the next person out and do her job. It made me realize that all these people that lost so much have to still go to work, pull themselves together and keep on keeping on. One of the gals on our team told us a story of a young man in his 30’s that they talked to by his destroyed apartment. As we walked with his walker he explained that his spine was injured and he had some nerve damage, but he is in therapy and they are expecting a full recovery.
July 5-We left for the job site shortly after 7 am. We repaired rafters, put sheeting on the roof, did a bit more demolition of moldy sheetrock, cleaned debris and then began the grueling task of cutting 21 huge trees on the lot. It’s been in the upper 90’s, but we just keep telling ourselves it’s 72 degrees! Roger took us to what used to be his home. It’s about six blocks from his mom’s house. After the storm he made his way through the rubble to get to his house. The streets were so covered with debris you couldn’t even find them. When he walked around the corner, he saw Taco Bell mostly in tact so he had hope that his house was ok. To his despair it was a pile of garbage and debris. All that is left is his front steps. There is a huge tree in his backyard and a long piece of pipe was driven completely through the tree. Roger came to the job site and handed us an envelope with money in it. He is a locksmith and told us that this is the first check that he’s gotten since the storm hit 6 weeks ago. The first two weeks after the storm he just did all of his work free and wouldn’t charge anyone. With a trembling lip, fighting back tears, he said, “I’m not sure when I’ll get another check, but I want you all to have this money.” Tom and I both reassured him that we weren’t doing this for money, but he absolutely insisted. He also took our team of 10 out for lunch at a Chinese buffet. The humbling part of this whole story is that Roger lives with his mom, niece, and her two children in a one-bedroom apartment that they rented after the tornado. When the insurance from his house was settled and he paid off his mortgage he has $11,000 left to rebuild. So he has no home, not enough money to get another one and yet he is giving us a donation of $1500. I just couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down my face. It’s so humbling to see this kind of generosity from someone who has no home, no household items and I’m sure very few clothes! In late afternoon AmeriCorps showed up and asked if we would like them to come in and cut down all of the trees and haul them out with a skidsteer/clam and a semi! The guys gladly laid down their saws. The trees were huge and a twisted mess with the temps in the high 90’s, so it’s not surprising they conceded. We ended the work day with sorting through the intense mess of wires hanging down from the ceilings and pulling the kitchen ceiling down. Oh yes, when we were at the Chinese Buffet for lunch we had 3 ladies come up to us and thank us for coming to help everyone in Joplin. They told this story. “We were in a burger joint called Freddies when the storm hit. The building was destroyed and it’s the most awful thing we’ve ever experienced in our lives. There was pregnant woman underneath all of the rubble and she went into labor. People were working very hard to get her out so that she didn’t deliver her baby buried under the debris.” One of these ladies worked at St John’s Hospital. She told us that there were two new babies born on May 22. The fathers held their babies in their arms, took cover and the new babies and their parents survived the tornado despite all the hospital being destroyed. We got back to the church around 7:30 pm, ate dinner, showered and went to bed exhausted.
July 6-The crazy men on our team decided they wanted to get to work before the heat hit so they got up before 5 am, had breakfast and got to the job site before 5:30 am. The agenda for the day was new wiring for the entire house and insulated ceilings. Insulating in the mid 90’s is a challenging job, but wow these guys are amazing, not one complaint!
There is an interesting thing happening with the trees in Joplin. If you compare the pictures from our first trip to the ones now, you’ll see what I mean. The bark was stripped off of most of the trees and they were all cut off at about the same height. To our shock, these barren trees are sprouting new leaves. We’ve had several people comment on how it’s symbolic of the people in Joplin. Tragedy struck, but life is emerging again.
On our initial trip to Joplin 8 days after the tornado hit, the street names were spray painted on the pavement because all of the signs were blown away. This time they have actually graduated to some of the street names being on a white piece of cardboard stuck in the dirt.
We went to Home Depot for supplies and talk to one of the clerks. This young man told us that a 63 yr old employee was killed at Home Depot when the building collapsed. He said he arrived at Home Depot 30 minutes after the storm hit and he never wants to see what he saw again in his life. He saw people in cars that lost their lives.
We learned that Lowes donated 1 million dollars to The Red Cross for Joplin Relief and froze prices for at least 90 days after the storm. Often times after a disaster local lumber companies raise their prices 2 to 3 times the normal amount. What an honorable thing for Lowes to do.
Cindy and I were on the deck cleaning debris, water soaked clothes, baby items and broken glass when Roger called me. He said, “when I was on the road today I was thinking and I realized that I have been very shut down since the tornado and I wasn’t talking. Somehow by all of you coming, I have been able to open back up again.” I began to cry, he cried! It amazes me how the Lord uses something as simple as hard work to help a traumatized person begin the process of emotional healing.
The men to cut trees and haul them away were continuing with their work today at Evelyn’s house. Jim, one of our team members, talked with one of the men in his late twenties. He relays the following story: When the tornados hit, he was with his family having a picnic. About 5:15 the weather got bad so they went in the house, 10 of them. They went into the bathroom and put the children on the bottom, moms crouched over kids, then a mattress over them and the men were on top of mattresses. It got dark and they couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden the sides of the house expanded and the roof came down. One of the 10 year old children were missing. They found him in the rubble upside down with his feet sticking upwards. They all survived. This young man, fighting tears, told Jim that before the tornado he was critical about everything. He never went to church on a regular basis. He said, there is a God and he is going to go to church more and re-evaluate his life and the way he does things. He’s going to be more conscious of other people. He said the people in Joplin are so grateful that all the volunteers have helped them. They don’t even know how to attempt to say thank you. He also said that the media blows in and blows out, but the volunteers keep coming for help and support. He’s been so impressed at how all of the churches have coordinated with one another to help so many people.
On our first trip to Joplin we worked with a family for several days, Donny and Diane. They invited us for a barb-b-que tonight and made so much food we felt like we were going to explode. Diane’s parents joined us, what sweethearts. We asked where all of the displaced people in Joplin were living. They said with family, friends, in hotels and tents. According to what they’ve been told the FEMA trailers will be arriving in 3 weeks, so that will be 9 weeks after the storm.
Before we left for the evening we walked down the street and visited Sonja and William. Sonja told us that when we prayed for them the first time we were there, it was a turning point for her in the middle of all of the tragedy. She said that she is always the one helping others and God was telling her it was her turn to receive from others. She was deeply touched by our work at her house and simply praying for her.
Somehow in the middle of this intense heat, sweat, indescribable stenches, dirty insulation, broken glass, debris, garbage, wet soggy clothes, mice/roach/snake infestation we find the heart of God.
July 7-With 6:30 breakfast and 7 am hitting it hard we were thrilled that the weather cooled off for awhile this morning. Insulating and drywalling was the order of business for the day. Cindy and I had lots of errands to run for supplies and some fun also. Diane needed help choosing paint colors and flooring for their house. We chose some pretty funky colors and they were all excited about their new look. It is so encouraging to see the hope in people’s eyes after experiencing such a tragedy.
Roger insisted on taking us out for lunch again today so we went to another buffet called Ryan’s. He invited his friend Dave who is replacing the roof on Evelyn’s house. During our lunch hour Dave sat across from me and I started asking him some questions. Him and his family suffered a great loss in the storm. What I am about to share is very heartbreaking, but I tell it so that you can get an accurate picture of real life in Joplin after the storm. His brother’s 29 year old son Rusty, a marine, was killed in Home Depot with his 5 year old and 19 month old children in his arms. I told this story from our last trip, but I didn’t expect to be sitting across from a family member that had experienced this great loss. Dave went to Home Depot the morning after the storm because he knew that Rusty and the children were in that store when the storm hit. As they began to lift the walls and rubble he hoped for a miracle that Rusty and the children would survive. They didn’t get the miracle they were hoping for. Dave was the one that had to identify the bodies after they were taken to the morgue. Rusty’s father is unable to sleep and was going to the Dr today to get some meds to help him cope. Rusty’s wife was at the hospital working when the tornado struck. Between loosing her entire family and suffering the tragedy of being at St. John’s when the storm came she is unable to work. Dave tells that they got an oversized casket in which they placed Rusty with his two children in his arms. I walked away from the dining room table after hearing this story unable to control the tears pouring down my face. These are things that we will never understand, but there is one thing I do know without a shadow of a doubt. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. It’s dirty, it’s heartbreaking, it’s hot, it’s God’s heart!
After a busy day we took a break for dinner and Roger came into the motor home. He began telling stories of the storm of which I will do my best to relay. Roger and his niece Heather were at Walmart 30 minutes before the storm hit. On their way home they could see that the weather was getting bad. They turned the TV on and the reporter said, “it looks like we have bad weather coming,” and they were showing a specific satellite view. Then all of a sudden the reporter showed a different screen and said, “take cover immediately and if we loose………” Roger knew it was serious so Heather and the children ran for the closet. He began throwing things out of the closet so they could fit into it. His mom was slowly coming to the closet when the windows began blowing out of the house. He grabbed his mom, threw her in the closet, got in and slammed the door and held on desperately to the handle. He said it felt like someone was throwing large items frantically through all of the windows. There were very odd sounds that obviously were the roof being blown off right above them. The children, 3 and 9 were screaming frantically. Evelyn who is 90 % blind told Roger that she saw a white hand on the door knob. Roger said I believe it was the hand of an angel, my hands aren’t white and my mom is blind. Roger did his best to keep everyone calm and about 20 minutes after the storm he started walking through the rubble to his house 6 blocks away. There were cars that had gone through the windshield of other cars. He was checking on people in cars and under the rubble, many injured, blood all over. Every few minutes as he is reliving the story he cries. There were no ambulances to pick up the injured because they went to the commercial buildings were there were large amounts of people in one place first. After about an hour and a half trucks began pulling and pushing debris off of the streets so people could get through. As they found injured people they would throw mattresses in the back of pickups and haul them to a triage center. One man was hauling injured people on a mattress in the back of his pickup and his tires were all flat because of all the nails. He kept driving his truck right on the rims because they were injured and needed help. The depth of sacrificial giving is like nothing I’ve even heard before. Roger cries often when he talks to us, but 90 % of it is when he tells stories about people helping them. One day as he was digging through the debris at his house a man brought him a bologne and cheese sandwich. Hardly being able to speak, Roger says that this sandwich meant so much because he knew this man and he knew that it was a great sacrifice for him to do this. It’s not JUST a bologne/cheese sandwich, it’s intense sacrificial giving that touches Roger to the very core of his being. I wish all of you could meet Roger, touch his heart, and listen to his stories. It is virtually impossible to come on a trip like this, see what we see, hear what we hear and not have your heart broken and changed.
July 9-Off to work at 7 am to finish wiring and drywalling. I’m thrilled to report that we didn’t leave the site until every piece of drywall was hung. Thank you Lord for the strength to keep on keeping on.
A guy showed up at the church from Connecticut. He said that he saw all the devastation on the news and google earth before and after. Greg said he had a roof over his head, a bed and all these people don’t have that so he just had to come. He is a firefighter and very skilled in carpentry as well. He has been a great asset to the team. He came by himself and wanted to be a part of a hands on project in Joplin.
While running errands I was canvassing some neighborhoods looking for some people to encourage and pray with. I came across an 81 year old lady and her daughter that lived close to the high school. She had a brick home and all that was left standing was one wall and a closet. Darlene and her husband were in the house when the storm hit. She got under the kitchen table and her husband was in the hallway. She said that she saw the tail of the tornado come in her house, whip around and then leave. The kitchen cabinets fell on the table and broke the table, which fell on her head. The kitchen cabinets fell on her legs and she couldn’t get up. After the storm she could hear people walking down the streets. She kept calling for help, would pray for a while and then continued to call for help and pray. The guys said they could hear her, but not see her. She was under the rubble and it took 8 men to lift the debris off of her and move her. She was hospitalized for some time with a concussion and injured legs. She was hauled to a hospital in the back of a pickup truck. Her husband has Alzheimer’s and she needed to put him in the VA hospital permanently now. Someone’s sofa had been thrown through the front windshield of their vehicle. The next door neighbor in his 50’s lost his life in the storm also. This was only the second time that she had seen what was left of her home and she just cried and cried. She has a strong faith in the Lord and that is what keeps her going. She said that she kept asking the nurses in the hospital to call her family, but they didn’t have any phone numbers so they couldn’t call. Finally two days after the storm, her children found them in the hospital.
Early evening Cindy and I visited Evelyn, Heather and the children. Evelyn wiped the tears from rolling down her face several times during our conversation. She said she just couldn’t understand why we would do what we’re doing for her. I assured her that it was because God loved her and her family so much. They spoke openly of the storm. Heather said that Evelyn was literally thrown in the closet on top of Jade who is 3. Because there was no where to go the night of the storm, they all slept in the living room in the middle of the broken glass and debris. That’s hard for all of us to wrap our heads around when we saw the condition of the house when we got here. Heather tells of a friend who lost two of her children in the storm. After the storm they found their 9 year old child in the front lawn passed away. Their 6 year old was hospitalized and passed away 2 days after the storm. The mom had to sign papers for her two children to be cremated before she was even released from the hospital. Now 6 weeks after the storm, their 3 year old child was being released from the hospital. This child has suffered cerebral fractures and has a long road to recovery. Heather told another story of one of her friends that lived behind the Walmart that was demolished from the tornado. She happened to be at Walmart when the store went down. People were screaming and crying as the debris was hitting them. She managed to dig her way out and went to her apartment building and helped with search and rescue efforts. Her friend found 142 body parts during that search and rescue attempt. With tears rolling down their faces, they told many stories of the storm that are unfathomable. You can’t help but cry with them, encourage them and pray for them. Evelyn and Heather gave their lives to the Lord today and they we’re so grateful that we came to rebuild their home. I wish all of you could see their faces, hear their stories and feel their heartache. It compels you to go above and beyond what you could ever imagine yourself doing to help them.
Our day ended around 9:30 pm after dinner and showers. We have an exhausted crew!
July 9-We got to sleep in today. We ate breakfast at 7:30 and headed for work slightly after 8 am. Three of our crew had to leave for Marshfield today because of responsibilities at home. It’s so hard to leave because we know that when we leave the work on the house will come to an abrupt halt. We are trusting the Lord to send more volunteers in to continue our work so Evelyn and her family can move back home.
Today our get up and go, got up and went. We’re fried, but we’re pressing in to get as much taping and mudding in as we can before we leave. We’re so thankful for the prayers of all of those who prayed during our trip. Without that there is no way we would have been able to do what we’ve done.
Greg from Connecticut joined us again for our final day. He is going to continue mudding after we leave. We have found it very interesting how the Lord has brought people alongside us to help with this project.
Another story that Heather told us was that she has a friend who is an RN that worked at the hospital that was destroyed. Evidently the top two floors twisted 4 inches. She also told us that one baby was sucked out of the hospital and found 3 miles away, unharmed. This is an amazing miracle.
Roger took us out to Fazoli’s for lunch again. During lunch he said that he was brought up to work hard and take care of himself. With a trembling lip and teary eyes he said, “I just can’t wrap my head around what you are all doing.”
We ended up working a full day and quit around 6. I went shopping and got everyone in their family a little gift. Most of the team had not met Evelyn, Heather and the children yet so we went to their house so everyone could meet them. As I handed out the gift bags Roger was fighting back the tears. Jade’s little face lit up when she opened her doll and said, “It’s my birthday!” I know that this entire family felt loved in a way they had never experienced before.
When we go on these trips there are so many things that happen inside our hearts. We see devastation beyond what the human eye can imagine. We work ourselves beyond human capacity in extreme heat. We literally give until it hurts. In that process our eyes are opened and we see all the love that is being shown to one another right smack dab in the middle of it all. That sacrificial love that is displayed to one another deeply impacts all of our hearts. If my house and all of my personal possessions were destroyed, would I give my first check away after not receiving one for 6 weeks? I hope so! We went to Joplin to help hurting people that were devastated by a deadly tornado. But because it’s God’s heart to help those in need, our hearts are more alive than ever. Somehow in the middle of the filth, stench, heartache and devastation, we saw God at work in their lives and ours. We come home changed, renewed and encouraged to press on! I want to live my life with an open hand and an open heart like we saw exemplified all over the city of Joplin!
July 10-On the road shortly after 5 am. Our team is totally spent. We had an uneventful trip home. Several of the team slept most of the way home. We arrived in Marshfield about 7 pm. We’re thankful for a beautiful trip and safety.
We are planning a return trip in the fall. In the meantime we are looking for businesses, civic groups and churches that would be interested in us presenting Compassion In Action to them. We can only continue this work with the help of others.
Thank you for taking the time to read all of the crazy stories from our adventures!
Joplin Relief May 31-June 5
May 31-We are staying at The Salvation Army Sanctuary in Joplin. They will feed us free 3 times a day. Today we started cutting trees, shingling and cleaning debris from a home of a family that had 5 children ranging in ages from 7-18. Chauncey found an 80 year old man running a skid steer. Rachel said he told them stories about after the storm hit that he heard people screaming for help under debris. This family of 7 had a place to stay tonight and from there on didn’t know where they would sleep.
We were overwhelmed with all of the help that people were offering from many states: food in trucks traveling house to house feeding victims and volunteers, little stands and big operations feeding people hot meals, giving clothes and paper products, chain saw sharpening, hamburger stand where they served 1000 hamburgers today, and pancakes in the morning, shower trailer with 3 showers, towels, soap, shampoo and washer/dryer, YMCA offered free showers with soap, shampoo and chocolates, a lady at The Salvation Army said she would do laundry for us at night. We are ALL overwhelmed at the love that is shown to everyone. We’ve been offering to pray for everyone that we visit at their homes. They are all so grateful. We took a break with Ashley the reporter and Jay for video footage. We stopped by a catholic church and talked with two teenage girls. All that was left of their church was the cross and some metal beams. When they were in elementary school they used to go to the nursing home across the street to visit the residents. The entire nursing home was destroyed and several of them still missing. These two girls were small so during recue they had to crawl in small spaces to see if they could find some of the elderly people. We saw the hospital that was hit. Across the street there was a lady wading through the rubble, looking for her friend’s belongings. She had a bouquet of silk flowers in her hands, but she wasn’t sure whose they were. Her friend was thrown around by the tornado with multiple injuries and her friend’s mother was killed. One story we heard is that a woman got in the bathtub and her husband laid on top of her to protect her. A board was thrust through his chest in the storm, he was killed and he saved his wife’s life. Another visitor in town went into town to get pizza for her friend’s high school graduation and she was killed. We were told that we may have to take showers in the homeless shelter, but found out it was full. We were blessed to find someone that came to Joplin with a shower trailer so we could shower after working very hard in over 90 degree weather. Our team is amazing. Three of them delivered meals with The Salvation Army in a food truck all day. They found a woman that hadn’t eaten for three days. They also found a family with 3 small children sitting in their yard in their damaged car and their home completely demolished. We ended our day canvassing an area and will be gutting a house tomorrow. We also helping an elderly widowed woman and also her neighbors, Jim and Loretta. They were 69 years old. He just had 8 stints put in his heart 4 weeks ago and is on dialysis. His wife has a lung disease and she lost her son in January and her other son is in prison. We helped them clean up their yard of debris. Loretta, her 18 month old great grand daughter and the mom of the baby were all on top of each other in the bathtub. The mom was hysterical after the storm because she didn’t know where her 3 year old daughter was. So many tragic stories! The area looks like an atomic bomb went off. It’s destruction as far as the eye can see. Everyone is so grateful! God is good.
June 1-Today we gutted a house for a family. The husband and wife have several health issues and are in their 50’s, Don, Diana and their son David. The temp got up to 93 today so it was intense tearing out wet drywall, insulation, cupboards, flooring and trim. When we started I was in the kitchen with Diana the homeowner. She heard Tom starting to tear out the ceiling in the bedroom. She began shaking and crying out, “is the the ceiling going to fall on my head, is the ceiling going to fall on my head?” I did my best to reassure her. Then I overheard her on the phone to someone and she was frantically crying repeatedly, “we’ve lost it all, they’re tearing it all down.” We walked outside and she started having a seizure. We laid her down on a driveway of rocks. After sometime we carried her to their camper in the back where she continued to have more smaller seizures for the afternoon. She is developmentally delayed, has: epilepsy, high BP, diabetic, COPD and asthma. Her husband was surprised that she didn’t have a seizure before this with the stress of the storm. We tore into their house and finished it by the end of the day, completely gutted, swept, and cleaned up. They were all so thankful. Don said, there was so much going on he didn’t even know what to do because he felt like he was just in the way. Our team is incredible. From 18-74 years old, from all walks of life, we’re pushing ourselves, sweating, tearing down drywall and insulation with masks on in 93 degrees. It was rough, but the crew is pushing through. We took a break for a couple hours and went by the nursing home and hospital that were destroyed. There is a semi truck wrapped around a tree. You just can’t even fit your head around the destruction. We headed to the Hope High School that was destroyed just hours after their commencement exercises. There is an operation set up in the parking lot for free food, counseling, and everything else imaginable. During the day we even found a sign for free chiropractic services. Two of our guys, Pastor Rob and Micheal, that were hurting went in for an adjustment. While on the job site several individuals and organizations drove by with drinks and food: Salvation Army, Red Cross. There was also a family in a car with sandwiches to pass out and another couple with a four wheeler with a cooler and cold drinks. As we were leaving the job site we found this couple sitting on the edge of their basement wall taliking. We stopped to see if they needed anything. Their story was so amazing. They were both in the bathtub during the storm. Their house was completely destroyed. They could see the black roaring cloud approaching. Today as they sat on the ledge of their basement wall, they had a piece of cardboard on their laps and they were drawing up their new house plans. They said they felt blessed because no one in their family was hurt. They were laughing and very positive. Their last comment to us was, “if we knew you were coming we wouild have straightened up a little bit.” What an amazing positive couple. They said it was hard, but they had hope. They were looking to God. We prayed with them for strength. Once again we ended our day going to the parking lot of a Baptist Church where there is a “Shower Trailer” set up. That’s our nightly shower spot. Some of our team also went to the YMCA where they got free showers with soap, shampoo, towels and even chocolates. Debbi and Wendy went out on the Salvation Army truck serving meals ALL day. They had two little children run after the truck wanting food. They were parched and very hungry. Their Mom eventually came out of the house and we appeared very depressed. It seemed as though they children were being neglected and it was very heart rending to see and experience. The stench of rooting food, debris and dead animals was at times very overwhelming. One team member was sick today. We appreciate prayer. After we got back to The Salvation Army our famous, Ashley Smith, the photographer turned on a microphone and we just shared stories from the week. Four of our team members were heading home Thursday.
June 2– Day 3 was an intense day. It was once again in the 90’s and very humid. Our day started at Dennis and Marsha’s house. Their house will have to be gutted, but at least they can rebuild. They are in their 50’s. We raked their yard, cleaned up debris, cleaned out the garage, helped pack things in the kitchen and moved items to storage that were salvageable. At one point Dennis sat down on the sofa and began crying. He said he lost his best friend in the storm. In this suburb, Duquesne, there are 753 homes. Of those homes, 698 were damaged or destroyed. This city is only a 2 mile block of houses. When our job was done at their house our team prayed for them. Dennis said that he just started going to church two years ago and it’s the best decision he’s ever made in his life. On Wednesday evening we made a decision to go back to Don and Diana’s house and offer to shingle their house. Don was absolutely blown away and so blessed! By early afternoon we started the roofing project. I wish everyone could see the incredible hard work that everyone on our team has exemplified. It’s so, so, so hot and yet we pound the water and go at it again and again. It’s a sacrifice of love and we know that we all have it so much better than everyone else around us, so we just keep pushing ourselves beyond our limits! We tore off all the damaged shingles that remained, pulled old nails, replaced rotten wood and even got tar paper on one side of the roof. One of Ryan’s legs fell through the roof. Big lump and bruising, but he’s fine. Some cuts, nail punctures and scraps this week, but nothing major. I had a heart breaking moment yesterday. Rachel, our daughter, and I went to get supplies and food for dinner. We went back to the high school were they serve food all day. We walked up to the food line and told them we need food to go for a team and family of 18 of us. This little 80 year old woman began heaping food in containers for us and just saying that else can we get for you. Thank you so much for all you are doing. The tears started pouring down my face and I couldn’t stop crying. I think I’ve held it together for days to be there for them and dig in and help them and encourage them. Certain things all of a sudden just impact your life and you’re overcome with emotion. Seeing it smelling it, touching it, hearing it from the person right in front of you just rocks your world. Our friends from Madison, Dave, Kristen and Lydia Hansen joined us for the afternoon to work. Little 3 year old Lydia brought toys to give to the children and then she spent the afternoon in the camper with Diana chatting with her. Diana said Lydia was her medicine. God uses people of all ages if we dare to give Him our lives. I stated Diana’s medical conditions earlier, but will repeat them: developmentally delayed, epilepsy, COPD, asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. She told me that her view on all of these conditions is this. “I don’t consider myself as being disabled, it’s just an inconvenience in life. These conditions are a gift from God to touch other people.“
Deb and Wendy served on the food truck with The Salvation Army again today. Many of the people just need someone to talk you and tell their story. One such gentleman told them that his house was completely destroyed. He happened to be at his mother’s house during the storm. His mother is 80 years old and blind. Everyone in the house was in the closet and his mom was coming down the hallway with the walker. He knew she wouldn’t make it in time so he picked her up and piled her in the closet just in time as the storm hit. He told of the chaos after the storm. Many children were running around the streets crying out, “where’s my mommy, where’s my daddy.” Then one particular child began to scream, “my grandpa and grandma are under this pile.” At that moment he lost his composure and couldn’t finish the story.
Deb and Wendy have been sick for a couple days, but they continue to press through the heat and intense working conditions on the truck. They organized the entire gymnasium, which is the warehouse for all of the food, cleaned bathrooms, sanctuary and foyer at the end of very hard days.
Another heart warming story they had was that they took along several stuffed animals and handed them to a 15 month old baby. Her face lit up as she got a simple little toy in the middle of all of the disaster.
We’ve been told that there have been over 100,000 volunteers here so far. The challenge will be to keep them coming after the initial reports. It will take years for this city and their lives to be rebuilt.
We worked until around 8 pm and then headed to the “shower trailer and YMCA”
June 3-Up at 5 am today to hit the shingling job before the heat is unbearable. Everyone is exhausted, but we have a deep sense of fulfillment because of sacrificing our life to make their lives a little bit better. We are compelled by love and compassion for them. You can’t help but have that response!
Often times we’ll see messages painted on houses such as, “I’m done, Fixer upper, For Rent, Garage Sale, Down But Not Out, House ½ Price, Alive and Well, Joplin Is Made of More Than Bricks and Mortar Look and See!” You can see by their words that some have no hope, others have a sense of humor. To put a sign out in front of a pile of rubble “For Rent” says to me that they have hope.
Today we worked at Don and Diana’s house shingling. Diana had another seizure today, but seems to be doing better this evening. We quit for the afternoon because the heat was brutal. There is free food everywhere you look. Today we ate dinner at the Forest Lake Baptist church. They have opened their church for volunteers to stay in. Samaritan’s Purse is based there. The sanctuary at The Salvation Army was being used for a meeting so we went to that Baptist Church and they let us sleep in their rooms for a couple hours for the afternoon. Their parking lot is full of trailers offering free food to people. If you’ve been disillusioned by Christians this out pouring of love and generosity by Christians will open your eyes. You’ll see with your own eyes that there are a lot of amazing people in this world that call themselves Christians.
The door on our motor home broke and so Tom, Al, and Dave went to a store to find parts to fix it. The man that took care of them said that his 27 year old brother was sucked out of his house by the tornado and lost his life. Each day we hear tragedy after tragedy.
Today, Don, the homeowner asked me, “Why did you decide to work on my house when there is all of this other devastation here.” I told him that we ask the Lord to direct our steps and we believe that He directed us to them. Donny agreed that is the only thing that makes sense.
We worked until 10 pm with lights on the roof and then headed to the shower trailer! As soon as we stopped at our “Home-Salvation Army” the motor home completely died, all electrical was out and it wouldn’t start. Tom, Al and Jack spent two hours under the motor home fixing it. Thankfully they got it up and running. One am bedtime.
June 4-Up at 6 am and headed to the job site by 7. We shingled until 11am and completed the job. We gave Donny the privilege of pounding in the last nail. He was very emotional and cried! Diana was hugging everyone goodbye and she had her arms around Wendy and Debbi. She turned to her Mom and said “look my new friends aren’t afraid of me!” Because of her disability she has been made fun of and people have been afraid of her all of her life.
We prayed for the Willard family before we left today. Donny wiped tears away and expressed such a sincere gratitude I can’t find words for it. Our hearts are so full from giving and giving. We gave until it hurt and the feeling is indescribable.
As we were leaving we drove past Sonja. We sang happy birthday to her, prayed for her and she prayed for us. She is a very precious lady from Germany. We helped clean her yard a few days prior. She was so impressed with our team and what we were doing.
We ate at Golden Coral for lunch today. We talked to a waitress, Tara who relayed her story to us. One of her manager’s husband was an atheist. He refused to go to church or even go to his children’s church programs. During the tornado, their 6 year old grabbed the family’s hands and prayed. Since the storm the father has been praying and going to church because he saw how God spared him and his family’s lives. Tara also shared a story of Home Depot being hit during the storm. Inside was a Marine and his two babies. His wife was not with them. They found him under the rubble with his babies in his arms. Some of these stories are more than we can handle hearing at times.
Looking ahead of us we see the suburban pulled over by a sheriff. Evidently there was some kind of issue with the license plate. Several of us got out of the motor home and started hauling debris. When he saw all of our shirts with “Compassion In Action, Disaster Relief” on them he started back tracking, apologized for pulling him over and thanked us for what we were doing. Leave it to Chaunc to bring a little excitement into the day!
Four more of our team members headed home this afternoon. The rest of us headed for another site where an 80 year old blind woman lived. She had two huge trees that had fallen on her house and garage. Yikes the 90 degree weather is kicking us, but we pushed through, got them both cut and a lot of the branches hauled to the curb.
Returning to The Salvation Army we cleaned the facility and talked with some of the people there. One man conveyed his story of staying at a campground while he is here serving with The Salvation Army. He said the campground was full of people whose new home is their cars with all of the windows blown out. FEMA where are you?
June 5-Up at 5 am and left by 5:30. En-route we called Roger whose mom is the 80 year old blind woman that we helped yesterday. We told him that we would like to come back to Joplin within the month and help rebuild his mom’s house. He began to cry with gratitude. His mom is in a wheelchair, blind and had a granddaughter and her two little kids living with her. We have set the trip for July 2-9. Our team is fried, but fulfilled.
More stories from Wendy and Debbi while on the Salvation Army Canteen We talked with 3 teenaged boys who were standing in front of what was left of their church all they could salvage was a few books they were looking at a bench that a corner was broken off of it as if they just wanted to piece it back together we gave them a cold drink and they said “We’re all gonna be ok”.
A mother and her 3 year old boy came to the truck to get some food and she told us that he had been staying with relatives because he was to scared to stay in the house and she told us they were going to try to get him to stay at the house for the first time since the storm that night she said “I hope he does ok”
We saw a little boy wondering the sidewalk looking around we thought he was alone, he looked very sad we finally asked someone about the boy and we were told he was mad because after all he had already been through in the storm someone has stolen his scooter.
The team saw 3 Santa’s handing out new toys to children in Joplin yesterday we saw children with big smiles as they were getting a brand new toy.
A storm chaser had a Doppler radio. He knew the storm was heading for Joplin so we went through neighborhoods and started hollering, “Take cover a huge tornado is coming.” People ignored him and keep riding bike, walking and going about their business. After the storm hit he went back to that neighborhood and saw bodies lying all over. He lost his composure.
June 6-It’s our first day home after a tough, but rewarding trip. I have to fight back tears when I think about everything that I saw, touched, smelled and heard. Seeing the immense devastation intertwined with the incredible outpouring of love is a deeply impacting experience. We continue to press on, looking to the Lord to direct our steps. We’re convinced that the residents of Joplin need to know that God hasn’t left them. It’s like all the volunteers are God with skin on. We can all say that we care about hurting humanity but when we put actions to our words, lives are deeply touched. I won’t ever forget what I experienced. So we come back home, get back to work and every spare moment we strategize about how we can best help them. There are several things that we need to be more effective and help more people.
1-Finances are the biggest need. You can donate online at www.mycompassion.info or send your donation to Compassion In Action, M225 Turtle Ridge, Marshfield, WI
2-Come on the trip with us July 2-9
3-We need a skid steer and trailer, a bus, and an enclosed trailer for supplies/tools.