Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Holy Ground

It's just like they say -- pictures and words cannot do it justice.  Joplin is heart.breaking.  But God is doing so many amazing things here.  He is using tragedy and turning it into some miraculous.

Monday morning was our first day of work.  The wakeup call came waaayyy too early, but we somehow managed to roll out of bed.  After our breakfast and orientation, we ended up on Elli's team.  (She's our Samaritan's Purse team leader).  This is us preparing for our day in the "destruction zone." The church's parking lot is filled with disaster relief trailers like the ones from Samaritan's Purse and Billy Graham.

Our first house belonged to an elderly man named Clifford.  Clifford lives right in front of some railroad tracks.  The night of the tornado, Clifford came home, took his hearing aids out and sat down to watch TV.    Apparently, one of Clifford's neighbors had to come and tell him his roof was gone.  He thought the noise was just the train going by.  I'm not real sure how he missed the "breeze" that removed his roof, but I'm glad he was okay!  We spent the morning clearing debris and moving salvagable items to a new shed.

Every house in Joplin has something written on it.  It's usually spray painted code from the search and rescue authorities.  Sometimes it's a note that looks like this...

After finishing Clifford's house, we prayed with him and presented him with a Bible.

Clifford's house was on the very edge of the tornado's path.  As we drove to our second site, we ended up driving right through the middle of the destruction.  It was absolutely un.be.liev.a.ble.  So much destruction.  When we pulled onto the street of our second site, I could barely believe what I saw.  These were houses?!  Standing in the middle of the street, utterly surrounded by this pain and destruction....it's impossible not to cry.

We ended up getting kicked off this site by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  There was concern about asbestos in the house and the foundation was completely unstable.  I don't know how they will ever clean up that area.  It seemed like the devastation was absolutely endless.

But in the destruction there is still hope.

Our third site wasn't just one house.  We worked on 5 different houses on Alabama Street.  I could have raked for years and still be raking up glass and shingles.  In the midst of our work, a family was removing clothing from what used to be their house.  Now, the innards of the house are completely exposed to the outside world.  What used to be their private living room was now more of a stage piled high with clothes and other odds and ins.  Their roof was nowhere to be found.  The mom of this family asked us to help her carry clothes to their car.  Every step I took from their house to the car and back again made my heart absolutely break.  These people have nothing but the clothes on their backs (quite literally).  And I have somehow been given the task of carrying these treasures.  Overwhelming.  I spent the majority of the day just trying not to cry.

After the storm, people used their houses to leave messages for loved ones.  Messages like these are spray painted all over houses.

More of the destruction.  We worked on this street.

There was a team of volunteers from the company Vermeer.  They specialize in agricultural equipment.  They were a HUUUGE help in the clean up efforts!  My mom is dreaming of her very own skid loader!

Here's another house that went through the storm.

The landscape is hard to describe.  My mom likened it to something from Lord of the Rings....the really desolate and desperate parts.  The trees are so strange.  They're almost all completely leaf-less.  The few that have leaves are so misshapen they almost look humorous.  Just imagine every tree in your neighborhood and for as far as the eye can see looking like this.

Our final site of the day was another completely devastated house.

Once again we were charged with piling and clearing debris.  My mom and I along with some other Samaritan's Purse volunteers spent a few hours doing nothing but raking up shingles and glass and other debris and then shoveling it into wheelbarrows to be piled at the curb.  It's disgustingly dirty work.  But if you aren't working, you're focused on the magnitude of the devastation.  And so, if for no other reason than to keep from crying, I shoveled and raked.

By the end of the day we were absolutely filthy.  It was super windy all day and between the work and the wind we were covered  in dirt.  So much so that this is what my feet looked like.  I wore tennis shoes and socks and my feet were still filthy!

That was Day 1.  I'll blog about Day 2 and Day 3 tomorrow.  Things get more and more hopeful the longer I'm here.  God truly is at work.  Monday morning the Samaritans Purse volunteers led us in some hymns after breakfast.  We ended with "Holy Ground."  

Joplin, Missouri is holy ground.

We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
For we are standing in His presence on holy ground


  1. These photos remind me of the communities in Alabama that were devastated by the tornadoes on April 27. We've helped with cleanup and it just makes you so thankful for what you do have in your life. I take so many things for granted every day! Humbling...

  2. Well I actually just found your blog through Kelly's Korner. I clicked on it because I'm also in KC but we are actually moving to Joplin next week. (This was planned before the tornado.) Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for also helping out my future town. It really is devastating.