GUEST COMMENTARY: Joplin residents show faith in face of disaster

Friday, June 24, 2011 | 11:35 a.m. CDT

The pictures just don’t do it justice — we turned the corner from what we thought was a devastating scene to see jaw-dropping destruction. Words, which are usually my friend, fail me as I seek to describe the sights seen by me and other volunteers who served the first of a series of free meals from our Joplin Farm Bureau office.

In the midst of utter disaster, it’s the little things that catch your eye. Maybe it’s just because the mind can’t comprehend what it’s seeing if we think about the big picture, but here’s what I noticed:

  • Looking right into a house with only three walls standing, but clothing hanging in a closet which has no door;
  • Red, white and blue bunting pierced by a tree and flapping in the strong winds at least 10 feet above the ground;
  • Trees, not only those with no leaves, branches or bark, but those that looked as if they had been through a wood chipper from the top down;
  • And evidence that this tornado was an equal opportunity destroyer — reducing not only older smaller wood- and aluminum-sided homes but substantial and newer brick homes and not only individual businesses but entire strip malls, a hospital, and numerous schools to scenes that I can only equate with those I’ve seen in movies about bombed buildings.

The people of Joplin have lost their physical landmarks, but it is obvious that their spiritual landmarks not only survived, but flourished. We saw and heard evidence of that in many ways.

  • There were the Bible verses, painted on plywood and propped up against what used to be the foundation of a home;
  • Church, Salvation Army and other charitable organizations’ tents offered shelter, food, prayer and counseling;
  • And to our group for serving a simple meal, and hopefully some small measure of comfort, we were the recipient of many people saying “God bless you."

The strength and faith of the people of Joplin shone through.

Blake Hurst of Westboro is the president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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