Joplin Disaster Relief May 2011

Joplin Relief May 31-June 5

May 31-We are staying at The Salvation Army Sanctuary in Joplin.  They will feed us free 3 times a day.  Today we started cutting trees, shingling and cleaning debris from a home of a family that had 5 children ranging in ages from 7-18.  Chauncey found an 80 year old man running a skid steer.  Rachel said he told them stories about after the storm hit that he heard people screaming for help under debris.  This family of 7 had a place to stay tonight and from there on didn’t know where they would sleep.

We were overwhelmed with all of the help that people were offering from many states: food in trucks traveling house to house feeding victims and volunteers, little stands and big operations feeding people hot meals, giving clothes and paper products, chain saw sharpening, hamburger stand where they served 1000 hamburgers today, and pancakes in the morning, shower trailer with 3 showers, towels, soap, shampoo and washer/dryer, YMCA offered free showers with soap, shampoo and chocolates, a lady at The Salvation Army said she would do laundry for us at night.  We are ALL overwhelmed at the love that is shown to everyone.  We’ve been offering to pray for everyone that we visit at their homes.  They are all so grateful.  We took a break with Ashley the reporter and Jay for video footage.  We stopped by a catholic church and talked with two teenage girls.  All that was left of their church was the cross and some metal beams.  When they were in elementary school they used to go to the nursing home across the street to visit the residents.  The entire nursing home was destroyed and several of them still missing.  These two girls were small so during recue they had to crawl in small spaces to see if they could find some of the elderly people.  We saw the hospital that was hit.  Across the street there was a lady wading through the rubble, looking for her friend’s belongings.  She had a bouquet of silk flowers in her hands, but she wasn’t sure whose they were.  Her friend was thrown around by the tornado with multiple injuries and her friend’s mother was killed.  One story we heard is that a woman got in the bathtub and her husband laid on top of her to protect her.  A board was thrust through his chest in the storm, he was killed and he saved his wife’s life.  Another visitor in town went into town to get pizza for her friend’s high school graduation and she was killed.  We were told that we may have to take showers in the homeless shelter, but found out it was full.  We were blessed to find someone that came to Joplin with a shower trailer so we could shower after working very hard in over 90 degree weather.  Our team is amazing.  Three of them delivered meals with The Salvation Army in a food truck all day.  They found a woman that hadn’t eaten for three days.  They also found a family with 3 small children sitting in their yard in their damaged car and their home completely demolished.  We ended our day canvassing an area and will be gutting a house tomorrow.  We also helping an elderly widowed woman and also her neighbors, Jim and Loretta.  They were 69 years old.  He just had 8 stints put in his heart 4 weeks ago and is on dialysis.  His wife has a lung disease and she lost her son in January and her other son is in prison.  We helped them clean up their yard of debris.  Loretta, her 18 month old great grand daughter and the mom of the baby were all on top of each other in the bathtub.  The mom was hysterical after the storm because she didn’t know where her 3 year old daughter was.  So many tragic stories!  The area looks like an atomic bomb went off.  It’s destruction as far as the eye can see.  Everyone is so grateful!  God is good.


June 1-Today we gutted a house for a family.  The husband and wife have several health issues and are in their 50’s, Don, Diana and their son David.  The temp got up to 93 today so it was intense tearing out wet drywall, insulation, cupboards, flooring and trim.  When we started I was in the kitchen with Diana the homeowner.  She heard Tom starting to tear out the ceiling in the bedroom.  She began shaking and crying out, “is the the ceiling going to fall on my head, is the ceiling going to fall on my head?”  I did my best to reassure her.  Then I overheard her on the phone to someone and she was frantically crying repeatedly, “we’ve lost it all, they’re tearing it all down.”  We walked outside and she started having a seizure.  We laid her down on a driveway of rocks.  After sometime we carried her to their camper in the back where she continued to have more smaller seizures for the afternoon.  She is developmentally delayed, has: epilepsy, high BP, diabetic, COPD and asthma.  Her husband was surprised that she didn’t have a seizure before this with the stress of the storm.  We tore into their house and finished it by the end of the day, completely gutted, swept, and cleaned up.  They were all so thankful.  Don said, there was so much going on he didn’t even know what to do because he felt like he was just in the way.  Our team is incredible.  From 18-74 years old, from all walks of life, we’re pushing ourselves, sweating, tearing down drywall and insulation with masks on in 93 degrees.  It was rough, but the crew is pushing through.  We took a break for a couple hours and went by the nursing home and hospital that were destroyed.  There is a semi truck wrapped around a tree.  You just can’t even fit your head around the destruction.  We headed to the Hope High School that was destroyed just hours after their commencement exercises.  There is an operation set up in the parking lot for free food, counseling, and everything else imaginable.  During the day we even found a sign for free chiropractic services.  Two of our guys, Pastor Rob and Micheal, that were hurting went in for an adjustment.  While on the job site several individuals and organizations drove by with drinks and food: Salvation Army, Red Cross.  There was also a family in a car with sandwiches to pass out and another couple with a four wheeler with a cooler and cold drinks.  As we were leaving the job site we found this couple sitting on the edge of their basement wall taliking.  We stopped to see if they needed anything.  Their story was so amazing.  They were both in the bathtub during the storm.  Their house was completely destroyed.  They could see the black roaring cloud approaching.  Today as they sat on the ledge of their basement wall, they had a piece of cardboard on their laps and they were drawing up their new house plans.  They said they felt blessed because no one in their family was hurt.  They were laughing and very positive.  Their last comment to us was, “if we knew you were coming we wouild have straightened up a little bit.”  What an amazing positive couple.  They said it was hard, but they had hope.  They were looking to God.  We prayed with them for strength.  Once again we ended our day going to the parking lot of a Baptist Church where there is a “Shower Trailer” set up.  That’s our nightly shower spot.  Some of our team also went to the YMCA where they got free showers with soap, shampoo, towels and even chocolates.  Debbi and Wendy went out on the Salvation Army truck serving meals ALL day.  They had two little children run after the truck wanting food.  They were parched and very hungry.  Their Mom eventually came out of the house and we appeared very depressed.  It seemed as though they children were being neglected and it was very heart rending to see and experience.  The stench of rooting food, debris and dead animals was at times very overwhelming.  One team member was sick today.  We appreciate prayer.  After we got back to The Salvation Army our famous, Ashley Smith, the photographer turned on a microphone and we just shared stories from the week.  Four of our team members were heading home Thursday.


June 2– Day 3 was an intense day.  It was once again in the 90’s and very humid.  Our day started at Dennis and Marsha’s house.  Their house will have to be gutted, but at least they can rebuild.  They are in their 50’s.  We raked their yard, cleaned up debris, cleaned out the garage, helped pack things in the kitchen and moved items to storage that were salvageable.  At one point Dennis sat down on the sofa and began crying.  He said he lost his best friend in the storm.  In this suburb, Duquesne, there are 753 homes.  Of those homes, 698 were damaged or destroyed.  This city is only a 2 mile block of houses.  When our job was done at their house our team prayed for them.  Dennis said that he just started going to church two years ago and it’s the best decision he’s ever made in his life.  On Wednesday evening we made a decision to go back to Don and Diana’s house and offer to shingle their house.  Don was absolutely blown away and so blessed!  By early afternoon we started the roofing project.  I wish everyone could see the incredible hard work that everyone on our team has exemplified.  It’s so, so, so hot and yet we pound the water and go at it again and again.  It’s a sacrifice of love and we know that we all have it so much better than everyone else around us, so we just keep pushing ourselves beyond our limits!  We tore off all the damaged shingles that remained, pulled old nails, replaced rotten wood and even got tar paper on one side of the roof.  One of Ryan’s legs fell through the roof.  Big lump and bruising, but he’s fine.  Some cuts, nail punctures and scraps this week, but nothing major. I had a heart breaking moment yesterday.  Rachel, our daughter, and I went to get supplies and food for dinner.  We went back to the high school were they serve food all day.  We walked up to the food line and told them we need food to go for a team and family of 18 of us.  This little 80 year old woman began heaping food in containers for us and just saying that else can we get for you.  Thank you so much for all you are doing.  The tears started pouring down my face and I couldn’t stop crying.  I think I’ve held it together for days to be there for them and dig in and help them and encourage them.  Certain things all of a sudden just impact your life and you’re overcome with emotion.  Seeing it smelling it, touching it, hearing it from the person right in front of you just rocks your world.  Our friends from Madison, Dave, Kristen and Lydia Hansen joined us for the afternoon to work.  Little 3 year old Lydia brought toys to give to the children and then she spent the afternoon in the camper with Diana chatting with her.  Diana said Lydia was her medicine. God uses people of all ages if we dare to give Him our lives.  I stated Diana’s medical conditions earlier, but will repeat them: developmentally delayed, epilepsy, COPD, asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.  She told me that her view on all of these conditions is this.  “I don’t consider myself as being disabled, it’s just an inconvenience in life.   These conditions are a gift from God to touch other people.“

Deb and Wendy served on the food truck with The Salvation Army again today.  Many of the people just need someone to talk you and tell their story.  One such gentleman told them that his house was completely destroyed.  He happened to be at his mother’s house during the storm.  His mother is 80 years old and blind.  Everyone in the house was in the closet and his mom was coming down the hallway with the walker.  He knew she wouldn’t make it in time so he picked her up and piled her in the closet just in time as the storm hit.  He told of the chaos after the storm.  Many children were running around the streets crying out, “where’s my mommy, where’s my daddy.”  Then one particular child began to scream, “my grandpa and grandma are under this pile.”  At that moment he lost his composure and couldn’t finish the story.

Deb and Wendy have been sick for a couple days, but they continue to press through the heat and intense working conditions on the truck.  They organized the entire gymnasium, which is the warehouse for all of the food, cleaned bathrooms, sanctuary and foyer at the end of very hard days.

Another heart warming story they had was that they took along  several stuffed animals and handed them to a 15 month old baby.  Her face lit up as she got a simple little toy in the middle of all of the disaster.

We’ve been told that there have been over 100,000 volunteers here so far.  The challenge will be to keep them coming after the initial reports.  It will take years for this city and their lives to be rebuilt.

We worked until around 8 pm and then headed to the “shower trailer and YMCA”


June 3-Up at 5 am today to hit the shingling job before the heat is unbearable.  Everyone is exhausted, but we have a deep sense of fulfillment because of sacrificing our life to make their lives a little bit better.  We are compelled by love and compassion for them.  You can’t help but have that response!

Often times we’ll see messages painted on houses such as, “I’m done, Fixer upper, For Rent, Garage Sale, Down But Not Out, House ½ Price, Alive and Well, Joplin Is Made of More Than Bricks and Mortar Look and See!”  You can see by their words that some have no hope, others have a sense of humor.  To put a sign out in front of a pile of rubble “For Rent” says to me that they have hope.

Today we worked at Don and Diana’s house shingling.  Diana had another seizure today, but seems to be doing better this evening.  We quit for the afternoon because the heat was brutal.  There is free food everywhere you look.  Today we ate dinner at the Forest Lake Baptist church.  They have opened their church for volunteers to stay in.  Samaritan’s Purse is based there.  The sanctuary at The Salvation Army was being used for a meeting so we went to that Baptist Church and they let us sleep in their rooms for a couple hours for the afternoon.  Their parking lot is full of trailers offering free food to people.  If you’ve been disillusioned by Christians this out pouring of love and generosity by Christians will open your eyes.  You’ll see with your own eyes that there are a lot of amazing people in this world that call themselves Christians.

The door on our motor home broke and so Tom, Al, and Dave went to a store to find parts to fix it.  The man that took care of them said that his 27 year old brother was sucked out of his house by the tornado and lost his life.  Each day we hear tragedy after tragedy.

Today, Don, the homeowner asked me, “Why did you decide to work on my house when there is all of this other devastation here.”  I told him that we ask the Lord to direct our steps and we believe that He directed us to them.  Donny agreed that is the only thing that makes sense.

We worked until 10 pm with lights on the roof and then headed to the shower trailer!  As soon as we stopped at our “Home-Salvation Army” the motor home completely died, all electrical was out and it wouldn’t start.  Tom, Al and Jack spent two hours under the motor home fixing it.  Thankfully they got it up and running.  One am bedtime.


June 4-Up at 6 am and headed to the job site by 7.  We shingled until 11am and completed the job.  We gave Donny the privilege of pounding in the last nail.  He was very emotional and cried!  Diana was hugging everyone goodbye and she had her arms around Wendy and Debbi.  She turned to her Mom and said “look my new friends aren’t afraid of me!”  Because of her disability she has been made fun of and people have been afraid of her all of her life.

We prayed for the Willard family before we left today.  Donny wiped tears away and expressed such a sincere gratitude I can’t find words for it.  Our hearts are so full from giving and giving.  We gave until it hurt and the feeling is indescribable.

As we were leaving we drove past Sonja.  We sang happy birthday to her, prayed for her and she prayed for us.  She is a very precious lady from Germany.  We helped clean her yard a few days prior.  She was so impressed with our team and what we were doing.

We ate at Golden Coral for lunch today.  We talked to a waitress, Tara who relayed her story to us.  One of her manager’s husband was an atheist.  He refused to go to church or even go to his children’s church programs.  During the tornado, their 6 year old grabbed the family’s hands and prayed.  Since the storm the father has been praying and going to church because he saw how God spared him and his family’s lives.  Tara also shared a story of Home Depot being hit during the storm.  Inside was a Marine and his two babies.  His wife was not with them.  They found him under the rubble with his babies in his arms.  Some of these stories are more than we can handle hearing at times.

Looking ahead of us we see the suburban pulled over by a sheriff.  Evidently there was some kind of issue with the license plate.  Several of us got out of the motor home and started hauling debris.  When he saw all of our shirts with “Compassion In Action, Disaster Relief” on them he started back tracking, apologized for pulling him over and thanked us for what we were doing.  Leave it to Chaunc to bring a little excitement into the day!

Four more of our team members headed home this afternoon.  The rest of us headed for another site where an 80 year old blind woman lived.  She had two huge trees that had fallen on her house and garage.  Yikes the 90 degree weather is kicking us, but we pushed through, got them both cut and a lot of the branches hauled to the curb.

Returning to The Salvation Army we cleaned the facility and talked with some of the people there.  One man conveyed his story of staying at a campground while he is here serving with The Salvation Army.  He said the campground was full of people whose new home is their cars with all of the windows blown out.  FEMA where are you?


June 5-Up at 5 am and left by 5:30.  En-route we called Roger whose mom is the 80 year old blind woman that we helped yesterday.  We told him that we would like to come back to Joplin within the month and help rebuild his mom’s house.  He began to cry with gratitude.  His mom is in a wheelchair, blind and had a granddaughter and her two little kids living with her.  We have set the trip for July 2-9.  Our team is fried, but fulfilled.

More stories from Wendy and Debbi while on the Salvation Army Canteen We talked with 3 teenaged boys who were standing in front of what was left of their church all they could salvage was a few books they were looking at a bench that a corner was broken off of it as if they just wanted to piece it back together we gave them a cold drink and they said “We’re all gonna be ok”.

A mother and her 3 year old boy came to the truck to get some food and she told us that he had been staying with relatives because he was to scared to stay in the house and she told us they were going to try to get him to stay at the house for the first time since the storm that night she said “I hope he does ok”

We saw a little boy wondering the sidewalk looking around we thought he was alone, he looked very sad we finally asked someone about the boy and we were told he was mad because after all he had already been through in the storm someone has stolen his scooter.

The team saw 3 Santa’s handing out new toys to children in Joplin yesterday we saw children with big smiles as they were getting a brand new toy.

A storm chaser had a Doppler radio.  He knew the storm was heading for Joplin so we went through neighborhoods and started hollering, “Take cover a huge tornado is coming.”  People ignored him and keep riding bike, walking and going about their business.  After the storm hit he went back to that neighborhood and saw bodies lying all over.  He lost his composure.


June 6-It’s our first day home after a tough, but rewarding trip.  I have to fight back tears when I think about everything that I saw, touched, smelled and heard.  Seeing the immense devastation intertwined with the incredible outpouring of love is a deeply impacting experience.  We continue to press on, looking to the Lord to direct our steps.  We’re convinced that the residents of Joplin need to know that God hasn’t left them.  It’s like all the volunteers are God with skin on.  We can all say that we care about hurting humanity but when we put actions to our words, lives are deeply touched.  I won’t ever forget what I experienced.  So we come back home, get back to work and every spare moment we strategize about how we can best help them.  There are several things that we need to be more effective and help more people.

1-Finances are the biggest need.  You can donate online at or send your donation to Compassion In Action, M225 Turtle Ridge, Marshfield, WI

2-Come on the trip with us July 2-9

3-We need a skid steer and trailer, a bus, and an enclosed trailer for supplies/tools.



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