Remembering Joplin one year later

By: Megan Palera

Today marks exactly one year since a deadly tornado tore through Joplin. Ceremonies were held to remember those who died and celebrate the rebuilding process. It's something that would not have been possible without the thousands of volunteers.

For the past year, Crossbridge Christian Church has been helping with the cleanup and rebuilding process in Joplin. They've touched countless lives and in the process, made a lasting impact that will forever give back to the people of Joplin.

The sky is the limit for the Crossbridge disaster relief team, a Lincoln church group getting dirty for Jesus. The task at hand, tearing down a house destroyed by a fire. It's a project the group is familiar with.

They've been tearing down and rebuilding Joplin for the past year. Ralph Bega was one of the first to make the trip last May. “Joplin really got a hold of my heart when I came down here and saw the need that was needed,” said Bega.

That need was insurmountable. The EF5 tornado killed 161 people and flattened an entire third of the town. St. John's hospital, one of two in town was completely destroyed. The Crossbridge Group is familiar with disaster relief, responding to the South after hurricanes Irene and Katrina.

But when tragedy struck Joplin, Missions Coordinator, Vern Schulte, says it was love that came from all of the pain. “The city of Joplin really came together and embraced all and any of the help that we were able to provide,” Schulte said.

That help meant 15 trips and more than 300 volunteers over the past year. The smallest group was two, the largest was 150. “Our youngest was probably 10-years-old all the way up to 89,” said Bega.

Their mission, mend the broken hearts one at a time. They partnered with a sister church and in addition to helping the community at large, build “the station.”

They transformed a Kwansa Hut, used as a gym, into a volunteer shelter that can house 36 people. It also includes a kitchen, living area, and bathrooms and showers. It only took nine months to build and to the group's surprise, is completely booked through the end of the year.

“If we hadn't been sent here to respond to this disaster, to be his hands and feet, this never would have happened,” said Schulte. Even long after the Crossbridge Disaster Relief Team leaves Joplin, they'll continue to serve the area through “The Station,” a lasting impact.

But the work in Joplin is far from over. The rubble still in piles, the scars still visible, a community still hurting. So the church group continues to give and will continue until they're no longer needed because they know how much the town is counting on them.

“Even today, a year later, we are out working in the community and we have people who drive by and have nothing to do with the project that we're with saying thank you for coming,” said Schulte.

As I said the need in Joplin is still great and there are ways to help other than traveling. There are “Bracelets 4 Joplin” like the one I'm wearing or shirts that you can purchase, and all the funds help to rebuild the city. Most of the organizations have Facebook pages you can access for more information.