JOPLIN—Misty Frost remembers how inspiring it was last year to be a part of a Forest Park Baptist Church group that made multiple trips back and forth to Texas to learn how Mission Arlington shows Christ’s love by meeting physical needs in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
The preparations culminated in mid-May when about 10 members from Forest Park gathered to pray about how they would begin to reach people. Where were the people in need? How would they find supplies?
The answers came quickly.
“Seven days later, the tornado hit,” Frost said, referring to the May 22 disaster than killed 158 people and caused nearly $3 billion in property damage. “Nine days later we literally had semis pulling in right here.”
It all hit so swiftly that Forest Park’s leaders were thrown into crisis mode. Shelving went up in the bus barn and a rapid transformation took place that changed church vehicle space into a desperately needed distribution center. Frost was named director of Mission Joplin. The community outreach was on.
“It just feels like all of a sudden we were in the trucking business, all of a sudden we were in the grocery store business,” she said. “We got to learn how to work with volunteers. So everything’s just immediately. We were just praying for wisdom, and He guided our steps, made our paths straight, and then He just over and over has provided people and things that we need to help people. It’s an unbelievable blessing to just have on hand what people need. It’s God’s provision and we just get to be a part in it.”
Through it all Frost and her staff supervisor, Brock Cummins, have learned that the distribution center can function pretty well with 40 volunteers per day. Some come from the church, and some come from a daily pool of church members both in and around Joplin, if not from other states. The church response to Joplin’s tragedy has been excellent, Frost said.
“I don’t know that we actually need government support,” she said. “We just need the general population and churches to just step up and continue to step up and realize that it’s not over. It takes about 40 people a day to do that, and in my opinion the church is big enough to do this.”
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was part of a group of volunteers that came to the Forest Park center July 6 to help inventory the items coming off of the trucks. He was impressed with the volunteers.
“I can’t help but contrast this with some other disasters we’ve seen in other parts of America on TV in the last decade, where people sat around on rooftops waiting for the government to come save them,” Kinder said. “That’s not the spirit of Missouri. The spirit of Joplin is we roll up our sleeves and our neighbors come to help neighbors.”
Frost said early on they handed out a lot of cleaning supplies as people battled rain in their efforts to salvage their homes. Two months later, the crisis mode has been replaced by one of simple urgency as more than 100 families a day are served by Mission Joplin.
“People are broken,” she said. “It’s hard for them to think through the next step when they’re coming to make huge decisions. We do a lot of hearing their stories, a lot of praying, but to us it’s ministry above everything—to show them the love of Christ and give them hope. That’s the main thing. And then whatever physical need we can meet, then that’s great, too.”
Cummins, minister of missions and evangelism at Forest Park, said those who wish to become day volunteers at the distribution center should email their information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor