A tornado went through central Joplin at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The core of the city received extensive damage, with the reported death toll at 89 on Monday morning, and expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who grieve the loss of loved ones and who have suffered the destruction of homes and businesses following Sunday’s devastating tornado in Joplin. Several United Methodist churches have been directly affected. We pray for God’s comforting presence among those who feel completely overwhelmed. And we give God thanks for all those ready to help and serve and give and pray so that people can rebuild their lives. I invite United Methodists to respond prayerfully, courageously, and generously during these weeks to come. May God’s grace be known through our serving.”
Communication is very limited in the Joplin area at this time, as much of the cell-phone service is out, and several Internet providers in the area are down. Many roads are blocked with debris, and only professional emergency responders are being allowed in the area at this time.
Southwest District Superintendent Sandra Nenandal has been able to confirm the safety of all of the United Methodist pastors and their families who are in Joplin. St. James UMC has been destroyed, and Nenandal has heard that the Southwest District Office (located next to St. James UMC) also has extensive damage. At Saint Paul UMC (located near St. John’s Hospital) the sanctuary, worship center and fellowship hall have extensive damage, and the children’s wing is damaged to a lesser extent.
Missouri Conference disaster response coordinators are coordinating with the State Emergency Management Agency. The Missouri Conference equipment is being prepared to deploy. Personnel from UMPACT (the Conference property insurance provider) are standing by prepared to assess damages when they receive permission to enter the area.
Individuals and volunteer teams are urged not to self deploy at this time. Only professional emergency responders are being allowed to enter the damaged zone. There will be a large number of volunteer opportunities available after the area is secured. If you want to volunteer in Joplin, please e-mail Audrey Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will add you to a list of volunteers that will be notified when opportunities become available.
Trained Early Response Teams will be needed to respond to the Joplin tornado damage in the coming days. Right now it is important to note that we are still in the emergency phase of this disaster and we must wait for police, fire, rescue, and medical officials to make the area and those inhabiting it safe and secure. Early Response Teams should contact Audrey Phelps at email@example.com or 573-474-7155 and tell her how many people you would be able to bring and what resources you will have with you.
Individual donations for disaster response in Joplin can be made online on the Missouri Conference website at www.moumethodist.org/joplin.
Bishop Schnase is urging churches to collect a special offering this Sunday to assist with the disaster response in Joplin. The Missouri Conference has established a fund to receive monies into the Disaster Response account #7465. Churches are encouraged to collect a special offering this Sunday (May 29). Donations for relief may be made through the local church or checks marked #7465 may be made payable to the Missouri Annual Conference and mailed directly to the Treasurer’s Office at 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, Missouri, 65202.
Flood Buckets will be collected at Annual Conference Session next week. For a list of flood bucket contents go to www.umocm.com.