Central UMC in Webb City is grieving. Three of the church’s members lost their lives in the Joplin tornado, and five more were injured and lost their homes.
Don Lansaw, age 32, did his best to protect his wife Bethany in their home at 2020 Mississippi St. in Joplin. She laid down in the bathtub, and he laid on top of her. When their home came down around them, the pillows on them blew away and Don received a severe puncture wound in his back from debris. After the tornado passed his wife was able to crawl out of the rubble and look for help. She ran to the street and found no one, so she kept going. She found a college student, and they found a police officer to call in the need for help. Then they found a few more people and rushed back to the Lansaw’s home, but Don was already deceased.
“People keep saying that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but if I could have taken twice as much damage just to have him alive I would have,” Bethany told a reporter from MSNBC. “He was such a great man, and loved by so many people.”
David Vandaerhoofveen, the piano player at Central UMC and a member of the church, was home with his wife Darion and 14-month-old baby Joshua. When their house at 2427 South Pennsylvania came apart, David got separated from the rest of his family. He survived, but his wife and child did not. As of Thursday, their bodies had not yet been positively identified. All bodies are going through DNA testing for positive identification before being released to mortuaries. The families have been informed that this may take two weeks. Dorsey, a police chaplain, has been working with authorities to help the families get all of the information that they can.
Margaret White lived at 2416 Williard, near Saint Paul UMC. Early in life, she lost both her parents and siblings to a tornado in another location. When the sirens went off in Joplin, she went to a backroom and prayed. When Dorsey was finally able to get to her home two days later to check on her, she saw old church bulletins and her Bible among the rubble, but saw nothing of White, who is in her 80s. She kept looking and found a document with a name and number of White’s power of attorney. She called the person, and learned that White had been found and evacuated, and was staying with an acquaintance in Newton County.
Ben Steubing, a young adult who is in a wheelchair, lived in the Plaza Apartments behind home depot. His care-giver helped him through the storm, and he is now at the Webb City Rehabilitation Center.
Don Reed, who lived at 2121 Grand, was also in a wheelchair and on oxygen. His caregiver stayed with him through the tornado and covered him with a blanket. Eugene Krudwig, age 91, at 2029 South Florida, lost his home. Elisha Gordon, who is seven months pregnant, and her husband Kyle lost their home at 2728 South Jackson Street.
Rev. Denizela 'Rena' Dorsey is doing what she can to help her congregation with their grief this week. And as always, the congregation at Central UMC is doing all they can to help their community. This week they provided hot meals to police and emergency workers who were working at the disaster.