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The Road to Recovery - Joplin

June 8, 2011

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With a final death toll topping 140, the loss of life caused by the May 22 tornado in Joplin, MO, ranks the storm as the eighth deadliest tornado to hit the United States in recorded history. Over 8,000 homes in the area were damaged as the tornado ripped along its six-mile path of devastation, a path that ended up destroying nearly a third of the city and leaving 18,000 people without power.

Shortly after the EF-5 tornado had cleared through Joplin, Hope Force was on the scene to give the much-needed support to residents. In partnership with the Salvation Army, Reservists and staff members are filling key positions in warehouses, volunteer coordination and management of sector control facilities. But they also take time to listen to residents? stories, pray with them and demonstrate the love of Jesus in both practical and spiritual ways.

?A core philosophy and value of Hope Force is something we refer to as the ?ministry of presence,?? Hope Force Founder/President Jack Minton said. ?This is often just being there with people ? meeting their felt, physical needs in a way that often tends to the spirit as well.?

kdReservist Phillip O?Reilly was a part of Hope Force?s ?ministry of presence? after the recent devastation. He experienced the damage first-hand on his five-day deployment to Joplin after the tornado. ?Everywhere you looked there was destruction,? O?Reilly remembered.  ?The image that most stands out in my mind was the convoy of black trucks moving in to haul off the debris and remains of people?s houses and businesses.  In a few moments all they had worked for was totally destroyed and now being hauled off to a land-fill.?

Six years prior to the Joplin tornado, Hope Force had solidified a partnership with the Salvation Army, and the two organizations are working side by side to bring aid to those in need. O?Reilly assisted in the Salvation Army tent while in Joplin. He said his work consisted of providing information and spiritual care, keeping cold drinks and food available and transporting victims to various locations.    

?I think everything we did made an impact of presence,? O?Reilly said. ?I heard over and over again, ?thank you for what you are doing?.  The people sensed the genuine care and love. I cannot imagine what it would be like without the presence of Hope Force and other faith-based organizations. The people of Joplin would have felt abandoned completely.?

Hope Force has deployed 26 staff members and Reservists to Joplin, many of whom are manning key leadership positions, but is not alone in its efforts to help with the recovery effort. Aid workers from across the nation continue to stream into Joplin to assist those who were affected by the tornado. More than 70 organizations are working in the area to help with the hands-on labor involved in rebuilding, as well as to raise money aw2nd awareness for Joplin?s recovery. Each day, almost 1,000 people register at Joplin?s Volunteer Reception Center. But despite these efforts, Joplin?s road to recovery will still be long. 

According to Minton, ?this has been an unprecedented spring and summer of horror and tragedy across our country.  It is a terrible privilege to serve those who have suffered so much; terrible because of the suffering and grief?and a privilege because of the honor it is to follow the example of Jesus who laid his life down on behalf of others.? 

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