Missouri community still recovering six months after tornado

Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by a tornado in May 2011. World Vision continues to assist with the long-term recovery efforts.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt
Published November 16, 2011 at 12:00am PST

On May 22, 2011, a massive tornado plowed through the city of Joplin, Missouri, leaving thousands without homes. World Vision was immediately on the scene, providing relief to affected families, and has been in Joplin during the months following the disaster, assisting in the recovery process.

Church becomes response command center

When the tornado ripped through Joplin, World Vision’s domestic disaster response team quickly determined that Grace Baptist Church was one church with whom they could partner.

The small church quickly mobilized into a command center for disaster response distribution efforts. Within weeks, World Vision had sent a truckload of relief materials, including hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and toys for the children of Joplin. 

As the months passed, we have shifted our relief efforts to recovery, with a focus on rebuilding. World Vision donors contributed building materials to help this vibrant Midwest community climb out of the destruction caused by the May tornado.

One of the biggest needs: storage

In the rebuilding phase, Grace Baptist Church soon heard from people that there was a huge need for storage. 

World Vision helped Grace Baptist Church build sheds for families to store possessions that they were able to salvage. They plan to build 250 sheds. One retired gentleman who lost his home said that he was paying $30 a month to store the items that he salvaged from the wreckage. While that might not seem like a lot of money, for him, on a fixed income, it was quite a financial burden. 

The church determined that they could create small sheds. Church staff, members, and volunteers from across the country would build the shed walls and roof at the church, then take these to the property and assemble them. World Vision came alongside the church, providing building materials, including roof shingles. 

Muchengetwa Bgoni, the youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church, says that when they first decided to build the sheds, they told about 10 people. By the end of the day, they had requests for 50 of the sheds. By mid-October, they had built 60 storage units, with the ultimate goal of 250 sheds.

Grace House provides shelter

Across the street from Grace Baptist Church sits a house damaged by the storm. The home’s owner sold the house to the church for $1,000 so they could use it to help with disaster relief.  

Grace staff decided to use the place to house families whose homes were destroyed by the tornado. They call it the Grace House. 

The church community identified a family with three girls in need of a home. World Vision provided building materials to help the church quickly repair this home so the family could move in. By mid-October, they had.

A sense of normalcy for children

For the children of Joplin, going back to school this year had a completely different feel. It was a chance to see how their friends were faring after the tornado. 

In years past, Grace Baptist Church has hosted backpack distributions by partnering with a local company who provided the backpacks. However, the May tornado heavily damaged the backpack company. 

For young mother Collisha Rauch, the simple backpack moved her to tears.“Thank God World Vision came along and said ‘OK, let’s partner together and be able to give backpacks to kids,’” says Muchengetwa. World Vision purchased the backpacks and donated them to the church, whose members filled them with school supplies.

For many, just getting backpacks and school supplies provided a welcome sense of normalcy in lives turned upside down.

For young mother Collisha Rauch, the simple backpack moved her to tears. She picked up three for her children, including 6-year-old Alli, who came with her. 

“It may seem like a little thing to some people, but whenever you’re 6 and everything else in your life has been turned upside down, it’s just a real blessing to have something to look forward to, something normal,” says Collisha. “It’s been so difficult lately. We’re just really grateful.”

How you can help

Pray for families in Joplin still struggling to recover from the May tornado. Pray that their homes and livelihoods would be restored.

Make a one-time gift to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help World Vision respond quickly and effectively to sudden-onset emergencies right here in the United States.