Disaster Relief offers ministry to thankful Northeast Mo.
ST. JOSEPH—More than a month after a brutal ice storm, northern Missouri continues to recover.
The storm first moved across southwest and central Missouri. Then on Dec. 10, it hit the northwest part of the state. Two inches of rain fell over two days, creating ice layers from a half inch to one inch thick. The ice bowed trees in half and snapped power lines.
“We were really hard hit,” said Dan Anderson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Union Star. “We had a lot of trees down.”
Power to the town of 425 people was completely knocked out and was not completely restored for six days. The Union Star church, which recently completed a new kitchen and fellowship hall, opened its doors and became the town’s emergency shelter.
“A lot of people really felt good that we were able to do that,” Anderson said.
The state provided a generator so the church could have heat and lights. Anderson said the first few nights, mostly children stayed at the church, but as houses got colder, more adults stayed at the shelter.
The ice coated a large swath of northern Missouri. In St. Joseph, 90 percent of the city lost power. Outages were vast across rural areas as main transmission lines were brought down by ice and tree limbs. Preliminary damage estimates from the state show $28.4 million in damage to public infrastructure in 42 counties.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were on the scene within a day of the storm. At the Civic Arena in St. Joseph, they prepared thousands of hot meals which were delivered to people staying at shelters and other locations.
Churches across the region ministered to their communities, even as members and pastors coped with power outages at their homes.
Laura Street Baptist Church in Maryville became a shelter for adults with special needs, including medical and mental health problems.
“We had opportunities to talk to them. We got to make a touch with them,” said Brian Sparks, minister of music and children at Laura Street.
Sparks and his family were without power, so they also stayed at the church shelter.
“It was neat that God put me there to serve. God’s love was shown through the community and our church family.”
He noted that one woman and her grandsons who are church members made meals for the people staying at Laura Street.
Southern Baptists from throughout the country came to the area to minister to needs. The week after the storm, about 45 volunteers from six different states came as part of chainsaw crews.
The short-term missionaries stayed at Green Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph. One group was from Pulaski Baptist Association in Missouri. The crew formed last year to help with the devastating ice storm that struck their own community.
The crews responded to requests from people seeking help with tree debris.
“It shows people you have a heart for them,” said Dwain Carter, a member of the Pulaski Association crew. “They’re surprised people are willing to come out and help in their need.”
The volunteers cleared away debris with their chainsaws, then presented a Bible and prayed with each homeowner where they worked. They said that most of the people they talked to were open to hearing the Gospel and some were led to the Lord.
“That’s what this ministry is all about, showing people you care,” said Roy Mitschele, another member of the team. “If people have a physical need, you can’t minister to the spiritual need until you meet the physical need.”
Some residents who were helped by the crews have since attended services at church.
After Christmas, more crews came in, working mostly in St. Joseph and Holt County. They handled about 500 requests from homeowners, mostly elderly, disabled and single-parent families, with help clearing tree debris.
The volunteer missionaries made a significant impact in the city, said Bruce Woody, Director of Public Works for St. Joseph. The city forwarded requests from residents to the crews.
The storm created about 25,000 tons of wood debris, he said, and the cleanup is expected to continue for another 8-10 weeks.
Some rural homes did not have power restored for two weeks.
“Most all of our churches in the association were affected,” said E.J. Barnes, director of missions for the North Grand River Baptist Association.
“This was sort of a wake-up call that we need to look at having a plan for emergencies.”