Joplin Tornado Hits UM Churches
Several UM churches in Joplin, Mo., were scrambling to provide shelter Monday morning for church members and others whose homes were damaged by a tornado on May 22 at 6:00 p.m. At least two churches also suffered extensive damage. The Rev. Christopher Sloan, pastor of Christ’s Community United Methodist Church, serves as a fire department chaplain and had helped set up an emergency medical services response center after the tornado struck. His church, which had power but no water, was open as a shelter and was receiving supplies and volunteers.
A disaster-response team from the Missouri Annual Conference is expected to use the church as its headquarters for tornado response, he said. Sloan confirmed that the sanctuary of another church, St. Paul’s UMC, was destroyed by the tornado, although the rest of the structure remained standing. The conference also reported that St. James UMC was destroyed and the Southwest District office next to it damaged. Members of a church youth group at Byers Avenue UMC, which had minor damage, rode out the tornado in a Sunday school room. The Joplin Globe reported 89 deaths as a result of the tornado. A major hospital, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, took a direct hit from the tornado and has since been vacated. Two firehouses were destroyed.
In a May 23 statement, Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase invited United Methodists “to respond prayerfully, courageously and generously” to the Joplin disaster. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who grieve the loss of loved ones and who have suffered the destruction of homes and businesses following Sunday’s devastating tornado in Joplin.” At least 14 UM annual conferences have been affected by tornados or storms this spring. UMs are also responding to deadly tornadoes that touched down over the weekend in Kansas and Minnesota. The twisters left at least one person dead in northern Minneapolis and killed another in Reading, a town of about 250 people in eastern Kansas. Winds ripped off the roof of Reading UMC, and the building may be a total loss.
Make donations online to help UMCOR respond to “Spring Storms 2011.”
—Linda Bloom, UMNS