Joplin Teams Working Around the Clock
With the devastation of Joplin, Missouri still tremendous, Hope Force Reservists, like Lenard and Serena Johnson are teaming up with the Salvation Army in order get food and clothes to those in need. The Johnsons spent one week deployed with Hope Force and worked in the distribution center where Lenard unloaded donations and boxed items for local residents, while Serena distributed toiletries and managed participating volunteers.*
"I think helping the clients to feel at ease as they came for help, listening to their stories and providing comfort was very important," Serena said. "It is very humbling to have to ask for help, and so I really tried to make them feel like they were important to us, and that we were honored to meet their needs."
In a time of such need, volunteers of all backgrounds came out to help. Serena described that while she was working, an Amish family arrived at the distribution center and Serena says she could tell they felt out of place. "I tried my best to acclimate them to what we were doing, and immediately involved them in the tasks at hand. For the duration of their time, we developed quite a rapport, so much so that those who could, stayed until we closed for the day."
Helping in the distribution center gave the Johnsons not only the opportunity to meet with volunteers, but with those affected by the storm. While working, Lenard met a Joplin resident who told him of her near encounter with death. She says she was talking on the phone with her son, who informed her of the tornado. She turned on her TV to see the tornado moving in her direction just before she lost power.
From inside her home, she could hear the tornado outside and began to pray, "Jesus wrap your hands around me, Jesus wrap your hands around me." As the storm brought her house down around her, her prayers were answered. Her kitchen wall collapsed on top of her ? she was pinned beneath its weight, unable to move and yet she had survived! Though her cell phone was still in her hand, her arms were pinned above her head. Her son, still on the phone came to the ruins, frantically screaming and searching for her. She was unable to cry for help, but instead grabbed a stick near her hand and began to wave it. She says that when the son saw the stick, he pulled her out as if she weighed nearly nothing.
"That wall falling on top of her is what saved her life," Lenard said. "The son promised her that she would never live alone again."
Despite meeting survivors and hearing their stories, Lenard says the most significant part of his time with Hope Force was being given the chance to pray with some who were truly affected by the tornado. "Seeing tears flow so freely when people received prayer was very rewarding," Lenard said. And although relief teams are working around the clock in Joplin, Both Lenard and Serena describe the great destruction and need that remains.
"There is one hill where as far as the eye could see, there was only devastation, with trees snapped in half and bare," Serena said. "I think the bark being completely stripped off the trees was mind-blowing and a difficult thing to grasp. I never saw tree bark as something that was vulnerable to any type of storm, but was definitely indicative of the fury of this tornado.
Serana and Lenard completed their Reservist training in Nashville in March of 2010, "In order to care for people in any capacity I must be whole ? not perfect, but whole. Everyone deserves honor because God has placed value upon them. The Hope Force training was amazing. Little did I know that I would be so changed as a result. I feel washed, clean, encouraged. The Mintons and their staff are genuine people. They live what they preach!"
* Hope Force International is a national partner of the Salvation Army, with a signed Memorandum of Understanding that provides a protocol for partnership in times of significant disaster events.
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