This post is the first of two or three reflecting on Christian Student Fellowship’s Spring Break trip to Joplin, Missouri.
We drove past Joplin High School numerous times during our week there working with IDES. They told us that after the tornado hit, destroying thousands of homes and killing nearly 200 people, the only letters remaining on the “Joplin High School” sign were “op“.
Someone added an “h” and an “e”.
Hope rose in Joplin as the people there began rebuilding immediately.
Nearly one year later there is much rebuilding that still needs to be done. Driving through the city you can clearly see the path the tornado took. All that is left in some places are the concrete foundations. But the rebuilding continues.
Everyone we saw thanked us profusely for spending our week in Joplin. From our point of view, it was an honor to spend the week with such great people.
A group of fifteen went from Penn State Berks to work with IDES. As I spoke with the students prior to the trip, many of them did not know much about Joplin. Some did not even know there had been a tornado last year. A natural disaster that levels an entire major city like Hurricane Katrina garners national attention for months, if not years. A natural disaster that takes out a portion of a smaller city quickly fades from the news cycle.
But while the news moves on to other things and the disaster fades from our national memory, many in Joplin are still in need of help. As a pastor working with college students, I am proud of those who gave up their break to drive over 1,200 miles in cramped vans to help them.
You could say we did a lot for a group of mostly unskilled people: put up some siding, built a deck, painted a garage for a church (which is also used in their ministry to nursing homes and other places), caulked and began to paint another house, and helped a man move into his new apartment. There was no lack of work and the students worked hard.
Of course, you could say we did very little. How much can fifteen people do in five days to put a dent in the damage of a tremendous tornado?
That is where hope comes in. There is hope in Joplin – hope in a restored future, a better tomorrow.
That’s good hope.
For many residents, this hope is firmly rooted in a good God who took on flesh, suffered and died in order to win his creation back. Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days later, so there is hope that all creation will be restored and the destruction from tornadoes (and hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.) will become only a memory.