JOPLIN — In the wake of a tornado May 22 that killed 89 people, Missouri Baptists are praying for Joplin, a city in great distress.
“We Missouri Baptists are saddened by the Joplin tornado and its devastating effects,” said Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) President John Marshall, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield. “We are praying, and will be sending help in every way we can. I urge Missouri Baptist churches to seek out ways to work with Missouri Disaster Relief efforts, or to contact a sister church in the Joplin area to give aid through. May God help the people of Joplin.”
May 23 was devoted to search and rescue efforts in the city of about 50,000 people. State Disaster Relief (DR) Coordinator Rick Seaton said Ron Crow, pastor, First Baptist Church, Diamond, and a regional DR leader, was on site along with Steve Patterson, director of missions, Spring River Baptist Association. Crow and Patterson were there after the tornado hit and were helping citizens as much as they could. Seaton said he has received a lot of offers from out-of-state DR volunteers who want to help Missouri, and that those offers are appreciated.
“We are saddened by the devastation that took place last night in Joplin as a result of the tornado that destroyed a large part of the town,” said MBC Interim Executive Director Jay Hughes. “The MBC Disaster Relief personnel are assessing the situation and the MBC will do everything we can to assist in the days and weeks ahead. We are praying for the people of Joplin, the first responders and the volunteers that will come to help. Please join us in prayer during this tragic time.”
Wanda Shellenbarger, MBC women’s ministry leader, is a member of nearby First Baptist Church, Carl Junction. She reported that Harmony Heights Baptist Church is gone along with the high school across the street, and that Empire Baptist Church is also flattened.
“We’ve had massive destruction and devastation here,” she said.
She works part-time for an engineering firm, and at least six of her co-workers lost their homes. One employee may have been killed in a rescue attempt, she said.
“Please pray for all of us as we minister to so many hurting people,” she said. “God can use even this type of thing to reach more for Him.”
Emergency management officials are trying to estimate fatalities, but problems with power, landline phones and some cell phone towers persist, the Associated Press reported.
Gov. Jay Nixon has activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency. The State Emergency Management Agency is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stabilize the city. President Barack Obama has expressed his condolences to those who lost loved ones.
The search for missing people is ongoing. Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin is accepting food, water, first aid supplies, and infant care items. A DR Incident Command Center was set up May 23 at the Baptist Student Union of Missouri Southern State University. Pray for the work of this center. Donations through mobaptist.org/mbcdr are appreciated. Those who wish to help in person are being asked as a first step to email email@example.com. If a phone call is required, dial 800-736-6227, ext. 631.
ALLEN PALMERI / ASSOCIATE EDITOR