JOPLIN – People who may have lost everything in the Joplin tornado are finding new life in Christ.
College View Baptist Church continues to reach out to those affected in Joplin by the May 22 tornado.
“It’s blowing my mind,” Pastor J.R. Slater admits. “It’s been so cool to hear our churches say, ‘We’re here, we’re not waiting, we’re going to do this right now.’ There’s a spirit moving through that is pretty impressive.”
College View mobilized moments after the tornado destroyed one-third of the city to get in touch with members. The church didn’t lose any members, but several had their homes, cars or jobs destroyed. The shock was unimaginable, Slater said.
“You think you’ll know how you’ll handle it, but with something of that magnitude, there’s just no way to put it into words,” he said.
The church opened its doors to house storm victims and volunteers. At first, they figured they could house about 50, but the population swelled to as many as 110 people staying inside and in tents on the church grounds – a number exceeding the regular weekly attendance of about 70.
As the Lord provided food and other needs, Slater said he felt compelled to minister to those they were serving.
“Through all this God had been faithful, but we were really praying hard about reaching the spiritual side,” he said.
He learned about a community known as Tent City, where about 75 people who had no help had ended up. They took food and water to those living there, One Sunday morning, he led a service at Tent City and 14 people accepted Christ and 16 others rededicated their lives.
College View also continues to minister from its building. About 500 people had stayed at the facility in the first month after the tornado. One couple showed up because they’d lost everything. While staying at the church, they took on chores in maintaining the building.
They also got saved. And thanks to help from church members, they now have a home, a car and both have jobs.
“God has been showing up in every way, shape and form,” Slater said.
In a month’s time since the tornado, College View has seen 19 people come to Christ and 22 rededicate their lives. They even held a baptism service in the parking lot.
Now that the church is transitioning to its new normal, Slater said the need will continue and asks Missouri Baptists to remember Joplin in three months and in six months in the difficult work of rebuilding.
“God is definitely here, he has shown us that. It’s just a matter of trusting him and working through it,” he said.
SUSAN MIRES/contributing writer