Photo (left to right): Jason Glaskey, Director of Christian Education at Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School, Joplin, Mo., Deborah Rutt and Nicole Ridley, Lutheran Housing Support
On Aug. 25, leaders of Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School, Joplin, Mo., met with representatives from the LCMS’ Missouri District and the LCMS World Relief and Human Care to discuss how the congregation and school have ministered in their community for the last three months and to plan for long-term recovery in the Joplin community.
Joplin was struck by a devastating tornado May 22, which destroyed 8,000 families’ homes and severely damaged another 1,500. Forty percent of the destroyed homes were uninsured or underinsured, which leaves many owners without sufficient resources to rebuild. Joplin’s population is 40,000, but an estimated 200,000 people work within the city, traveling from surrounding communities. These workers’ lives have also been affected by the city’s cleanup and recovery.
Representatives present for the meeting included Deborah Rutt and Nicole Ridley, from the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation. They shared their expertise in obtaining funding for and carrying out programmatic aspects of community housing projects. Rev. John Fale, interim co-executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission, and Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of Disaster Response, were also present. District President Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly and Dennis Klussman, vice president for the Missouri District Lutheran Church Extension Fund, represented the district.
The goal of the meeting was to develop an action plan that would guide ongoing ministry efforts in Joplin. Rev. Gregory Mech, pastor at Immanuel, Director of Christian Education Jason Glaskey, and Immanuel’s newly installed Director of Disaster Response Trent Davis provided an update on how God has used the ministry of Immanuel and Martin Luther School during the past three months to serve both the Joplin community and volunteers who have traveled to Joplin to help. Over the last three months, the church and school have provided 40,000 meals to volunteer workers, had 100,000 people use their restrooms and provided showers in mobile trucks for 1,000 workers. Immanuel has also served as a link between volunteers and needs in the community—connecting 1,000 people with projects that needed volunteer help.
The Immanuel staff recognizes that they are emerging from the “cleanup and recovery” stage of response and into the “rebuilding” stage. (As of late August, 90 percent of debris has been cleared from residential areas.) Mech, Glaskey and Davis shared ideas for ongoing recovery and ministry opportunities. Discussion centered on how a ministry affiliated with Immanuel and benefitting from the service of short-term teams could address the vast housing needs that are clearly visible throughout Joplin—with a focus on the uninsured and underinsured segments of Joplin’s population. Meeting these needs requires a long-term approach and strategy.
Merritt affirmed WR-HC’s ongoing commitment to supporting recovery efforts and ministry in Joplin. He noted that people’s needs will change somewhat. He said that it can often be 90 to 180 days after a catastrophic disaster that other human needs, such as counseling needs or new financial pressures, become evident.
The group agreed on several priorities to guide future steps. Some of these include:
- Reach out via counseling and financial assistance. Address housing needs
- Find ways to effectively use volunteers
- Identify the number of underinsured and uninsured families in need of home renovation and/or reconstruction
“We recognize that we’ve had challenges,” Mech said, “but we receive with thanksgiving the opportunity God has given us to do good works in His name. Now, we just need to determine the best ways to take advantage of this opportunity.” Mech said he knows that God still has plans for using His people to minister in Joplin. “We’re not at the end of this relief effort—we’re at the beginning.”
Fale reported that $109,000 had been distributed to relief efforts in Joplin from WR-HC and another $227,000, received by WR-HC, will soon be distributed Immanuel. Mirly shared that the Missouri District had received and distributed $101,000 for ministry in Joplin.
- Give to LCMS World Relief and Human Care in support of ongoing relief efforts in Joplin
- Watch a video highlighting outcomes of the discussion in Joplin on Aug. 25
- View photos from Joplin, three months after the May 22 tornado