By Stan Friedman
JOPLIN, MO (May 30, 2011) – Goodwill is overwhelming this city devastated by a massive tornado a week ago yesterday, but that is creating a new set of problems.
The community has enough volunteers, and more arriving now would complicate problems rather than alleviate them, says Heber Mendoza, a member of Alfa y Omega Covenant Church.
Meanwhile, Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has helped to feed people in that city, which also was slammed by a severe tornado.
Mendoza emphasized he is grateful for the support that has been shown, but asks that people consider holding off at least another 10 days or so before traveling to the city. Mendoza said enough water is currently available for Joplin residents. That water also will be needed several weeks from now, however.
Alfa y Omega is located about 16 miles northeast of Joplin and was not damaged in the storm. However, members of roughly 10 families lost their jobs when the twister flattened the businesses where they worked.
“These are very hard-working people, always faithful with their tithes and offerings,” Mendoza says.
The congregation has been working with Journey Covenant Church in Liberty, Missouri, and Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Deerbrook Covenant Church of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has been working with another organization in Joplin.
Hillcrest is mobilizing its efforts through Covenant People Respond (CPR), a nonprofit organization the church established while guiding relief and recovery work in Plaquemine’s Parish following Hurricane Katrina. It has sent an experienced team to assess short and long-term needs. It already has sent a shower trailer and other equipment.
“We are continuing to watch for service opportunities for teams to come in,” said David Chan, Hillcrest pastor of missions. “Many are eager to come, but we want to make sure there is an organized way to plug them in.”
Dave Benedict, associate superintendent of the Midwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, suggests that Covenant congregations wanting to assist in Joplin work through Hillcrest because of the church’s experience responding to disasters.
Although Mendoza asked that volunteers wait several weeks to come, he added that financial assistance is greatly needed now. People wanting to make contributions can do so through Covenant World Relief or Covenant People Respond. Donations to Covenant World Relief can be made online through the Covenant website or checks can be mailed to Covenant World Relief, 8303 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL, 60631. Donations to Covenant People Respond can be sent to Hillcrest Covenant Church, 8801 Nall Avenue, Prairie Village, KS, 66207.
The death toll in Joplin has risen to 132 people. Another 156 people are still missing.
Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis has continued to serve its surrounding community, which was slammed the same day. It has fed several meals to neighbors (accompanying photos). The church has delivered groceries to people in need, as well.
Neighbors have been helping neighbors. Three thousand people over several days worked together to pick up debris so that assistance was no longer needed.
The tornado killed one person and injured at least 30 others. Although none of the Sanctuary members were injured, many suffered damage to their property.
To learn how congregations can best respond to disasters, visit the Covenant World Relief area of the Covenant website.