Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I am writing this on June 25th while on a mission trip to Joplin, MO. This month is 13 months after an F-5 tornado destroyed a large section of the city. It is difficult or impossible to imagine what happened that day over a year ago, even when you look around the city and realize that most of the buildings are less than a year old, or when you realize that there are sections of the city where there are no trees.

There are miraculous stories of survival. There is the tree clearing company that spotted a tree in a neighborhood they were driving through. They spontaneously decided to clear it out and stack it by the curb. When it came time to move the massive trunk they found, beneath the trunk, a door for a storm cellar. The opened door revealed four people sharing their last bottle of water. They had been trapped in the shelter for almost two weeks.

 There is the clean-up contractor who decided to skip the lengthy permit process and do repairs to the roof of Bethany Presbyterian Church, our host church during this trip, offering to pay the cost of any fines the congregation might incur because of the permit violation. The day after the roof was covered, more rain came. The contractor’s action saved the church tens of thousands of dollars in additional repair costs.

 There are the dozens and dozens of people who, daily, thanked us for taking our time and using our resources to come and help them rebuild their city.

 There is the man who stopped as we were tagging streets, a process of spray painting the crossing street’s name at intersections where there are no street signs yet, and thanking us for helping the residents find their way. It was an attitude adjustment for me at a moment when I was wondering why I had driven 10 hours to spray paint letters on the highway. He commented on how the landscape had changed so much that even residents had trouble finding their way when the street signs were down.

 Finally, but by no means lastly, there is the story related to the picture above. The sign originally read, JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL. All that was left of the word JOPLIN after the tornado was the “O” and the “P”. Creative students crafted out of silver tape the original sign replacement, which became a rallying point for the community and a theme for the recovery process. HOPE was what the new sign read. The original tape has worn and been replaced. I do not even know if anyone recognizes or knows who replaces it, but it is the sign of a community that will not give up, that will not give up on their town, that will not give up on their faith.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-4)

Pastor Craig

  (2009-03-19). Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible (NASB 1977 edition) (Kindle Locations 38635-38637). The Lockman Foundation. Kindle Edition.