Eight members from the Lutheran Church of Peace in Platteville recently travelled to Joplin, Mo. to serve a community that was devastated by an EF5 tornado on May 22. The mission trip spanned the week of Oct. 23 through the 30th and was open to adult members of the church and community.
Pastor Jeff Pedersen, who led the trip, was accompanied by Jeff Huehne, Sue Peterson, Linda Peterson, Leon and Madge Neuheisel, and Lynn and Duanne Taival. They had planned during the summer to volunteer in Joplin.
The deadly tornado took the lives of 159 people and injured 1,150. The estimated damage to the town and all of the buildings within it equaled about three billion dollars. In addition to the physical damage, 5,000 jobs and 500 businesses in Joplin were also affected by the tornado.
The group first started their trip by collecting donations to take to the Joplin residents. When they left for Joplin, they had packed two pickup trucks and two SUVs with donated items. The generosity of the church and community was greatly appreciated.
Once in Joplin, the members of the Lutheran Church of Peace were then connected with members of Grace Baptist Church. They were introduced to one of their leaders, a Texas man named Howard. Howard was a carpenter by trade and had been in Joplin since the third day after the tornado had hit. He also was not planning on leaving any time soon.
"[Our leaders] were truly an example to all of us," Madge Neuheisel said.
The main job given to those on the mission trip was to help build storage sheds for the residents of Joplin. Believe it or not, some residents are storing items they could salvage from the storm up to two states away. Other jobs included helping residents pick up small debris from their lawns, painting, and helping residents tend to lawns that had been previously unattended to since the tornado in May. The group also visited the collection center where items had been donated.
"Volunteers have really made the difference," Pedersen said.
Although incoming volunteers have begun to slow in Joplin, there are always those like the group's leader, Howard, who plan on staying. The Lutheran Church of Peace is also planning another trip in the spring to assist Joplin residents.
"If at all possible, everyone should go on a mission trip," Madge Neuheisel said. "You come back with so much more than you give."
Anyone interested in the spring mission trip to Joplin can contact Pederson at 348-3166.