By Elizabeth M. Truong
With 90 percent of the debris from the May 22 tornado now cleared from residential areas in Joplin, Mo., representatives of Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School in Joplin, the LCMS Missouri District, and LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) are planning a long-term recovery strategy for the devastated community.
Meeting Aug. 25 in Joplin, the Lutheran leaders shared information and discussed how best to guide future ministry efforts there. (To watch a video featuring several of the meeting’s participants, click here.)
Representing Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor Gregory Mech, Director of Christian Education Jason Glaskey and Director of Disaster Response Trent Davis provided an update on how the congregation and its Martin Luther School have served both the community and volunteers who have traveled to Joplin to help.
Since the tornado struck three months ago — destroying some 8,000 families’ homes and severely damaging another 1,500 structures — the church and school have served 40,000 meals to volunteer workers, opened their restrooms to 100,000 people and provided mobile showers for 1,000 workers.
The congregation has served as a link between volunteers and needs in the community, connecting some 1,000 workers with projects that needed their help.
Acknowledging that Immanuel is moving from the cleanup-and-recovery stage of response into the rebuilding stage, Mech, Glaskey and Davis shared ideas for ongoing recovery and ministry opportunities. Discussion centered on how a ministry affiliated with Immanuel and benefitting from the service of short-term teams of volunteers might be able to address the vast housing needs that are clearly visible throughout Joplin — with a focus on the uninsured and underinsured segments of the city’s population.
Others taking part in the meeting included:
- Deborah Rutt and Nicole Ridley of the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation, who shared their expertise in obtaining funding for and carrying out programmatic aspects of community-housing projects.
- the Rev. John Fale, interim co-executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission, who reported that $109,000 from WR-HC had been distributed to relief efforts in Joplin, and that another $227,000 received by WR-HC will soon be distributed to Immanuel Lutheran Church there.
- the Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of Disaster Response with the Synod’s Office of International Mission, who affirmed WR-HC’s ongoing commitment to supporting recovery efforts and ministry in Joplin. Noting that people’s needs will change somewhat, Merritt said that it can often be 90 to 180 days after a catastrophic disaster that other human needs — such as for counseling — become evident.
- the Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly, Missouri District president, who said the Missouri District had received and distributed $101,000 for ministry in Joplin.
The group agreed on several priorities to guide future steps, including:
- reaching out with counseling and financial assistance.
- addressing housing needs.
- finding ways to use volunteers.
- identifying the number of underinsured and uninsured families in need of home renovation and/or reconstruction.
“We recognize that we’ve had challenges,” Mech said, “but we receive with thanksgiving the opportunity God has given us to do good works in His name. Now, we just need to determine the best ways to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Mech said he knows that God still has plans for using His people to minister in Joplin: “We’re not at the end of this relief effort — we’re at the beginning.”
To contribute to LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s tornado response, click here.
Elizabeth M. Truong is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.
Posted Sept. 14, 2011