When I first arrived in Joplin, I was forced to obtain a new perspective, one that focused on what was really important. The houses and belongings were scattered, unrecognizable or just gone. The trees were shadeless stumps and there were no birds in sight. It was 100 degrees and I was immediately aware of the need for water, food and shelter and I wondered how many homeless people there were as a result of this storm. In my life, at age 17, I experience desire for wants, and because of the affluence of our area, often the difference of needs and wants becomes blurred. The destruction and devastation that I saw inJoplinhas had a profound effect on me.
Our team was assigned to clear debris from a house that had belonged to an older, widowed woman. The house was in poor condition, although relatively good compared to some of the surrounding houses. Prior to beginning our work, we were instructed to wear masks and watch out for nails, two pieces of advice that were almost immediately seen as imperative after stepping onto the property. The roof had been completely removed by the tornado. Additionally, three of the walls were missing– nowhere to be seen. I worked in the backyard sorting debris into piles based on the type of material they were made up of. For instance, metals were separated from tree limbs, which were also separated from shingles or wood that was used in building the house. I also worked in the front yard, as well as inside the house. I will always remember seeing belongings that were still in good condition amongst the chaos and destruction that had been her front living room. Finding clothes that were not damaged and a photo album intact gave us all hope and purpose. The woman was going to be coming by to pick up the personal items we were able to salvage from the debris. We also were instructed to keep an eye out for her cat.
There were other volunteer groups working nearby and we had several people stop to tell us where to go to get a free lunch. There was definitely a sense of community and appreciation that we were there to help. After a few hours, we welcomed a lunch break and air conditioning at a local church. After I ate the sandwich I brought from home I was told the church had delicious pulled pork sandwiches. I couldn’t pass that up! I ate two. We continued the cleanup effort into the afternoon. It was nice to get to know the other volunteers.
It was difficult knowing that, at the end of the day, it may appear as if you have not even left a dent in the amount of work that still needs to be done. However, we were told by our leader that this was not a job to be completed today. Our job was not to create a new system for fixing the problems but rather to advance the work of the volunteers who had come before us. Many hands over time can move mountains. We were reminded that this was a process and every little bit helps. These words put the work in perspective and would help me later as I left behind a seemingly insurmountable amount of work to be done.
Our time inJoplinmarked a small chapter in the large effort. I will definitely sign up to go down toJoplinagain. I hope this effort will continue into the fall when it is cooler.
My fellow COR teammates worked hard despite the weather and need for jeans and masks. We put ourselves at God’s will, asking that his will be done. I think it was.
– David Thompson