JOPLIN, Mo. (BP)--"We are praying and will be sending help in every way we can," the president of the Missouri Baptist Convention said in the aftermath of the tornado in Joplin that killed 116 or more people May 22 in a state already heavy leaden with Mississippi River flooding.
John Marshall, president of the Missouri convention and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, urged the state's Baptists "to seek out ways to work with Missouri disaster relief efforts, or to contact a sister church in the Joplin area to give aid through. May God help the people of Joplin."
Wanda Shellenbarger, MBC women's ministry leader and a member of First Baptist Church in Carl Junction near Joplin, reported that Harmony Heights Baptist Church was destroyed along with the high school across the street and that a second church, Empire Baptist, also was leveled. Three were killed when the tornado hit Harmony Heights.
"We've had massive destruction and devastation here," said Shellenbarger, who works part-time for an engineering firm. At least six of her co-workers lost their homes, she said, and one employee may have been killed in a rescue attempt.
"Please pray for all of us as we minister to so many hurting people," Shellenbarger said. "God can use even this type of thing to reach more for Him."
May 23 was devoted to search and rescue efforts in the city of about 50,000 people. Missouri Baptists' disaster relief coordinator Rick Seaton said regional DR leader Ron Crow, pastor of First Baptist Church in Diamond, was on site along with Steve Patterson, director of missions for the Spring River Baptist Association helping citizens as much as they could.
Seaton said he has received numerous offers from out-of-state DR volunteers who want to help and that those offers are appreciated.
A DR incident command center was set up May 23 at the Baptist Student Union of Missouri Southern State University. Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, meanwhile, is accepting food, water, first aid supplies and infant care items.
Jay Hughes, the convention's interim executive director, said Missouri Baptists' disaster relief personnel "are assessing the situation and the MBC will do everything we can to assist in the days and weeks ahead. We are praying for the people of Joplin, the first responders and the volunteers that will come to help. Please join us in prayer during this tragic time."
The search for missing people is ongoing. Emergency management officials are trying to estimate the number of fatalities, but problems with power, landline phones and some cell phone towers persist, the Associated Press reported. Gov. Jay Nixon has activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Donations for Missouri Baptist relief can be made through mobaptist.org/mbcdr. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-736-6227, ext. 631.
Publication date: May 23, 2011