“I Am Joplin”

The following was written by Denise Rhodes Beck on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, and is re-printed with permission. She is serving as a missionary in Uganda

I am….(fill in the blank).

The white lady with all the kids.

Little left of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Joplin but its cross.

The one that is married to the really tall white guy.The one who tripped carrying her groceries from the market (coordination is not my spiritual gift).

Tonight I was the friend sitting across from Emilie over a platter of Ethiopian food.

In between cleaning up spills and coaxing our children to finish eating, our conversation ended up where every other conversation over the past week and a half ended up…Joplin. My home town.

Joplin High School with duct tape making an "H" and "E" after the "O" and "P" on the top line. The eagle is the high school's mascott. It was carved in a tree trunk after the tornado blew threw.

The place we both left exactly one year ago today.

The place my mom sent the email from that I awoke to on Monday morning entitled,

“We are all OK”

(those words are always followed by a “BUT”).

The place the tornado made famous.

To be so far away from people and places you love when they are suffering is heart wrenching.

I sat at the computer Monday morning (Sunday night U.S. time) and just sobbed as I read post after post and saw picture after picture.

My kids just stared and me (one brought me a vitamin…I don’t think they knew what to do with me).

Joplin's St. John's Hospital after the tornado.

I questioned so much why God had us so far away at this time.

So tonight Em and I shared our stories of weathering the storm from afar.

After a few stories in, I began to see why, and I thought you might like to hear, too. When tragedy strikes, those it strikes are put in an amazing position.

Joplin's 20th Street. Note chalk figure on the pavement.

A terrible, awful, amazing position.

It is as if they have been given a microphone and their life is now being lived four times louder.

The church is not a building. It is the people. This is where the Bethel Assembly of God building used to be.

People will now stop, look, and listen….FOREVER.It is like my friend here whose eighteen month old daughter was accidentally killed by a teammate’s car.

Thirty years later my friend’s life story still quiets a room and fills it with goosebumps as she speaks of her choice to love and forgive…and stay in Africa.

A wooden cross inside St. Paul's Methodist Chruch survived the tornadic winds.

Hundreds of churches have been planted as a result.Joplin…you have been given a microphone, and the world is listening.

I can say that because I am on the other side of it.

When I enter a local shop and one of my African friends has heard about the tornado and is questioning how there could be a God, I have an open door and we talk.

I believe this is the Joplin Morman Church.

When the kids’ art teacher’s face drops when he hears I am from Joplin; he wonders if my family is OK, I share God’s goodness.I begin to listen to Emilie tell of a friend, a young girl from Canada, who stopped by so full of searching and questions.

She doesn’t believe in God but she is having trouble processing what she is seeing on Aljazeera (the international news channel).

Joplin's Home Depot is in the background across the street from the demolished AT&T Store.

“They are talking about Joplin.

“They are saying they have never seen anything like it before.

“People are taking in strangers from the street.

“People are opening their homes to feed and clothe anyone in need.

“They are saying it is the church!”

The totality of the devastation in Joplin can be seen here.

And Emilie is invited into this young lady’s heart to share with an openness that has never before been possible.

Joplin, you are his hands, his feet, his light to the world.

His glory is being shouted from your microphone.

So many of you have lived through a nightmare.

A little girl has lost her doll baby.

I pray thirty years from now your decision to give God glory in the midst of your hardest days will be the stuff that causes a hush to settle over the room.You have been given an incredible gift.

Thank you for sharing it with the world.

So…who am I today?

If Joplin is selfless love, loudly proclaiming his glory, I hope at the end of everyday, I can say…

“I am Joplin.”

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All of the photos may be enlarged by clicking on them.


“I Am Joplin” — 1 Comment

  1. I think that “stick figure” on the pavement is actually a replacement for a missing street sign. If you click on the photo and look at it close-up it reads:

    DR PL

    With the signs gone I imagine they have spray-painted temporary signs on the pavement. Completely understandable considering the extreme devastation. My grandmother was born and raised in Joplin… I’m glad she’s not around any longer to see what has happened to her hometown.

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