JOPLIN – Within the walls of Wildwood Baptist Church, Doug and Renee Borushaski found shelter.
The couple survived the May 22 tornado inside their bathroom, then stepped into a world starkly changed from just moments before.
“From the time that the hail stopped, we came out of what was left at the front of the house and we didn’t have scratch on us,” Doug said. “I knew I had to go see if everybody else was okay. I helped those that I could and those that were dead, I closed their eyes and prayed for them.”
A week after the storm, the couple found their way to Wildwood, which was on the eastern edge of the tornado’s destructive path.
“We didn’t have any place to go,” Doug said.
The church gave them a Sunday school classroom to sleep in and in many other ways, a home.
“God put us in a position where we lost everything, but we gained so much more in return,” he said. “We’re not victims. We’re recipients of gifts. We’ve been blessed. I feel like we are there for a reason.”
The Borushaskis quickly joined in Wildwood’s disaster response, which started the night of the storm and continues to go strong. Renee coordinates volunteer schedules and lodging. Doug has been working to connect volunteers with people in the community who need assistance. The couple, who are recovering addicts, have since become members of Wildwood.
“We’ve gained so much throughout all of this because we are so blessed to be able to tell people our story,” Doug said.
Wildwood, its own building slightly damaged by the tornado, has been a place of refuge for displaced residents and volunteers helping with the cleanup.
“It’s been a long six weeks,” acknowledged Pastor Joe Morris. “We’re praying God will give us the strength to go forward.”
Through the disaster response and recovery, including 10 funerals Morris preached, they have witnessed God move in many ways.
“We feel like God’s shaking this area and he’s shaking the nation,” he said. “We’re hoping God will use these difficult times to wake everybody up.”
The City of Joplin is still in shock from the devastation and just now beginning to look forward, Morris said. He is stunned every day when he drives into the city and sees the familiar landscape ripped apart.
As the cleanup moves into a different phase with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers preparing to level blocks at a time, the response by local churches is shifting.
“Almost every room in the building has been utilized either with people living in it or housing food and supplies,” Morris said.
Wildwood is now transitioning to house skilled volunteers. The church held Sunday school for the first time since the tornado on July 3.
The Borushaskis also see their lives have changed since the storm. Doug says although they lost their house and car, their needs have been met.
“Now our prayers are, ‘Lord, show us how you would use us,’” Doug said.
SUSAN MIRES/contributing writer