How amazing it is to serve in such a deep and meaningful way. We just returned from our volunteer service trip to Joplin, Missouri for tornado clean-up, and as a picture paints a thousand words, I wanted to share some images with each of you on our GO SOULAR site. Thanks again for all your love and support on our journey. Please click on the link below to view pictures:
Joplin Photo Gallery
I'm so grateful for our 19 volunteers who joined us from 9 different states to do God's work in this special way. We worked in 103+ degree heat, starting our days at 7:30am, digging through mounds of debris for as long as we could. In between water breaks or searching for shade, we'd find ourselves just stopping to look around at everything, again & again, stunned. That's something that really stays with me – is that you don't get desensitized to it. Day after day, it was as moving and deepening as the first day you drove through all of it. The personal belongings were everywhere, scattered & broken, among the wood, bricks, clothing, metal & roofing; and it was our spiritual job to see wholeness despite appearances. It's like you can feel these people's lives, right under your feet, and get a real understanding of how they lost so much more than just their homes. It automatically sends you into a prayerful state of awareness.
What was most heart-warming for me were that we were surrounded by SO much love and gratitude in Joplin, surrounded by it. Wherever we turned, people would be hugging us, sharing their stories, honking at our van & waving their thanks to us (we loved that!), and being choked up because they are so grateful that people like us are still showing up and helping their small town. It was like living inside a prayer.
Also along side of us, were other volunteer like us, or a construction worker, or a FEMA person, or AmeriCorps, United Way and Relief Sparks groups who were organizing and feeding the tens of thousands of volunteers who just keep coming & coming. Also, the Red Cross trucks would circle each day offering free water and snacks to all the volunteers. Talk about people banning together as ONE. It was so inspiring to see such an outpouring of love, willingness and service all in one place. It was everywhere. Just everywhere.
We heard many stories and one of my favorites, told to us by Search & Rescue personnel, is where a husband & wife were holding their 4-year old boy and the tornado scooped him up right out of her arms. He was found, alive, over a mile away, with a big white dog laying over him, covering him. The dog was also alive, and had scratches and scrapes all over him. The boy however, had hardly any. It turns out that in the tornado, somehow the dog connected with the boy, kept him protected in his body and held onto him until they hit the ground, saving the boy. When the parents found the boy, the first thing he said was "Mommy, I flew with angels."
Another story is from a 20-year old waitress, Allie, who told us that her grandparents are in their 80's and when the tornado came, they went into their pantry and just held onto each other. When the tornado was gone, they opened the door and their pantry was the only thing left standing, their rest of their home was gone. She also said her friend had a similar experience, where he got into his bathtub when it hit, and when it was over, the tub was practically the only thing still there, the apartment demolished.
Those are the types of stories we were hearing. Awesome. Amazing. Unbelievable.
Below details what we did at the different volunteer locations. It differed from person to person, day to day. Everyone was given the choice and honored for their decision of the place where they felt pulled to serve:
- 20th Street & Connecticut apartments - here we walked through the torn down homes, sorted as much as we could into piles of wood, metal, bricks, clothing, legal documents, pictures, and stuffed animals. All to be picked up later by gigantic trucks & cranes that constantly roam the streets.
– The Warehouse Distribution Center - receiving semi trucks full of donations, then sorting, documenting, boxing, wraping on pallets, and fork lifting to their designated area on racks that were about 50 feet tall, later to be picked up and delivered to those in need.
– United Way Donations Center - sorting & documenting incoming donations of clothes, shoes & food and then handing out that clothing or shopping carts of food directly to the people who lost big chunks of their lives. This was also a beautiful place of ministry where we got to simply listen, open our hearts, hold their hands, and BE with them, and pray with them as they waited in long lines to receive assistance.
– Animal Shelter - helping clean the cages & help with maintenance of the unclaimed cats and dogs. And several of us got the fabulous gift of being able to witness people showing up to adopt those pets!
– Clearing a specific house lot - we did this twice, working together cutting trees into smaller branches (with chain saws), hauling into trucks, and then creating a huge pile of all debris to be collected later. Also we cleared an entire foundation of a demolished home & garage on our last day together. At this location we were also interviewed by the local ABC TV affiliate who ran our GO SOULAR story that evening on the 6:30pm news.
And on our flight back home, the stewardess announced our volunteer team and the entire plane clapped for us - what a sweet, uplifting way to end our journey. So nice!
Please see the list below of our fabulously dedicated, strong, joy-filled & healing volunteers. My heart goes out to them for their hard work, love and light that they shined on the sweet town of Joplin:
Flo "Pony" Frew - Florida
Kittie Rodriguez - Florida
Rev Patty Rumpza – Oklahoma
Rev Ross Foti - Colorado
Sandra Erwin - Colorado
Sharon Wittmann - Texas
Cathy Joseph - Texas
Rob G. - Nebraska
Adam Martinez - California
Bob Kleypas - Idaho
Steve Childs - Idaho
Shirley Uhlemeyer - Missouri
Sharon Lanier - Nevada
Rita Heftler - Florida
Carol Baker - Texas
Artem Braginets - California
Deanie Wright - Oklahoma
Thanks volunteers! And thanks again to all of you on our GO SOULAR list for your ongoing love, support & kindness with our global outreach ministry. Peace & blessings,
GO SOULAR - Joplin Tornado Service Trip
July 23rd - 30th, 2011