One year ago today, I was at church with our teenagers when my wife got a call that our hometown, Joplin, MO, had been hit by a massive tornado. Over the next few hours, we were able to connect with family and learn that my brother-in-law’s family was safe, although his home had collapsed around them. My grandmother’s house had suffered serious damage but they were safe. The rest of my family was blessed to be outside the storm’s path but many of my friends were not.
That night, the feeling of helplessness was tremendous. I learned that you might move away and you might put down roots somewhere else and you might build an entirely new network of friends and “family,” but home is always home. And when your home hurts, you hurt.
Seven days after the storm, our church sent me with a team of guys and significant financial resources to spend a week in Joplin, helping wherever we could find someone to help. I’ll never forget the first day I drove into the devastated area, nothing I had seen in the news had prepared me for what I was stepping into. And after a week wading through the debris and doing what we could, it was time for my team to head back home, worn out and trusting that we’d made a difference.
Looking back, God has stretched me in incredible ways over the past year and, in so many ways, it began that week in Joplin. The tornado was a terrible disaster and many people lost their homes and lives. But out of all the pain and brokenness, God has brought beauty and healing. He’s taken the broken clay of a town and molded new hearts and lives in the aftermath.
I am so blessed to serve a God who is in the business of restoration. He’s constantly at work, burning away the old, and ushering in the new.
If Joplin taught me anything it was this: Jesus is bigger than any storm that will ever come your way. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39)
To re-read some previous posts (by myself and others) about Joplin, follow these links…