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Recovering from a tornado isn't an easy task. There's the heart-wrenching emotional response; the search for missing loved ones and personal effects; the clearing of debris; finding somewhere to live; dealing with insurance; fighting feelings of fear and helplessness; eating endless meals of hotdogs; and hanging on to the hope that eventually…things will get better.
Almost one year after Joplin, Missouri, residents went through all that and more, their resilience speaks to us about the strength of the human spirit and the faithfulness of God.
About seven months after the devastation, city officials said 50 percent of property owners had secured permits to repair or rebuild homes that were damaged or destroyed by the tornado.
Impressed by their will to rebuild, City Manager Mark Rohr said, "The spirit and determination of our residents has been the driving force in our recovery. The commitment they have made to staying and rebuilding in Joplin is inspiring."
The path of the tornado was three quarters of a mile wide and almost seven miles long. The entire strip of land looked like it had been hit by a bomb. Now most of the debris has been cleared away. Trees that shaped the landscape are gone. Now grass is growing there. It's a prairie of sorts, with a handful of structures rebuilt: a Wal-Mart store here…a gas station there. Some land has been purchased by developers. But residents are rebuilding.
"Things are coming along well with the rebuilding," said Shirley, a Joplin resident who lost her home. "But people are hurting. They're starting to feel the impact of what's happened and they need a lot of prayer. Our churches need prayer."
We're happy to say Shirley's home is in the process of being rebuilt.
"Things are progressing a lot faster than I thought they would be," she said, "Walls are going up, and a new kitchen stove and refrigerator will be installed."
Her rebuild didn't come easy. Shirley displayed an incredible amount of spiritual endurance to get to this point. And she's quick to give God the credit.
"God gives you so much power and strength and courage to do what needs to be done and you just don't think about it until it's over," said Shirley. "He gives you the faith you need."
And through our partners, He also sent reinforcements.
Along with government and state agencies and so many organizations and individuals who gave generously so that Joplin could thrive again, our partners have made a difference. When the tornado hit, Hand of Hope, Joyce Meyer Ministries World Missions immediately partnered with Convoy of Hope, Service International, and IgniteChurch.tv to bridge the gap between our partners and the people of Joplin.
In February, Convoy of Hope began the groundbreaking of six brand-new homes in Joplin, two of which are being built entirely due to funds raised by Hand of Hope―all thanks to the generosity of the friends and partners of Joyce Meyer Ministries. These energy-efficient, 200 mph wind-resistant homes are on target to be completed by the one-year anniversary of the tornado.
"You've really enabled us to have staying power here in Joplin―to continue meeting needs long after the disaster," said Hal Donaldson, President of Convoy of Hope. "We want to say thank you to Joyce Meyer Ministries and all of its partners."
Our partners helped clean up the mess and comfort families whose homes were destroyed. Our partners brought food, water, sturdy trash bags, and other needed supplies to their doors. And our partners helped give them hope to rebuild.
"Because of our partners, we can get the Gospel out all over the world, and then we can come in with humanitarian help in places like Joplin where people have another kind of need," said Hand of Hope CEO David L. Meyer. "They need you to put your arms around them and say, 'You know what? God cares about you. It may not look like it right now, but we love you, God loves you and this is all going to turn out okay. How can we help?'"
"The Bible talks massively about helping those in need, whether it's the poor, the widow, the orphan or those who are in prison," said David. "And Hand of Hope tries to touch every one of those areas.
"We respond to natural disasters whenever and wherever they happen. Sometimes you have to show people you love them before you can tell them you love them."
Ultimately, our ability to really reach people comes from God. And we are always humbled by how His work gets accomplished.
"To do this on our own would be impossible," said David. "God has always worked through our partners to provide the right kind of help at just the right time."
Thank you for helping rebuild and restore hope in Joplin, Missouri.
Hand of Hope is the missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Our goal is simply to help as many hurting people as we possibly can, to alleviate human suffering and to help Christians grow in their faith.