During Spring Break, 13 students and two Campus Ministry staff members traveled to Joplin, MO, to volunteer with Catholic Charities after the devastating EF5 tornado that swept through the town last May. The Alternative Spring Break group traveled by car to Joplin from the University of Dallas in two large twelve-passenger vans and stayed in an incredibly hospitable Nazarene Church on the north side of town, which was not touched by the tornado.
Thousands of people have volunteered to help Joplin since the recent tornado last spring and many of them have slept, cooked and prayed in the same church as the ASB group. The tornado swept through the middle of town, at one point becoming a mile wide, and flattened entire neighborhoods as well as many local businesses, restaurants and half of the hospitals and Catholic Churches in town, including St. John’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Since the storm, over 80 percent of the debris from the neighborhoods has been cleared and a memorial park has been constructed in honor of those whose lives, homes and businesses were lost in the storm. All that remains of St. Mary’s is a 40-foot-tall cross that previously stood in the narthex.
Each morning the students woke at 6 a.m. and begin their day with 7 a.m. daily Mass, followed by breakfast, packing sack lunches, morning prayer and a full day of work. At the end of each day, the crew had group time and dinner, showers at the local YMCA, night prayer and some personal time before bed.
For each meal the group would rotate between cooking for each other, and serving one another and washing dishes. The students were encouraged to intentionally look for the face of Christ in others and be His hands and feet throughout the week as they cared for each other and cleaned and painted Catholic Charities’ new Disaster Relief office complex.
The people encountered at Catholic Charities were seeking financial, emotional and material support, as were the parishioners at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, the local YMCA, the Pastor and members of the First Nazarene Church, and all other members of the Joplin community, who were incredibly hospitable and grateful for the support throughout the week.
In return, the group thanks them for their kindness and generosity and remains grateful for the charity of to all who supported the trip by participating in the Christmas Poinsettias, Angel Tree and St. Valentine’s Day fundraisers.