A team of volunteers from Clinton Evangelical Free Church departed this morning for Joplin, Mo., and will spend the week participating in the city’s ongoing relief efforts. The group will assist in demolition and debris removal, but its members are also hoping to have a positive effect on the people.
“There’s obviously a lot of need down there; we’re not exactly sure what we’re going to be getting into, but just whatever needs there are we’re hoping to be able to fill, both physically and spiritually,” said Jeff Reed, 43, of Clinton, who is among the volunteers.
The group of 21 individuals, 11 men and 10 women, range in age from high schoolers to retirees.
“I’m excited to go to Joplin because I get to help the people down there that have been devastated by the tornadoes,” volunteer Lindsey Norman, 16, of Clinton, said. “I think it’ll be challenging but rewarding in the end.”
Some members will stay at a KOA campground while the majority will bunk at Mystery Church of Joplin. Mystery Church has initiated a relief movement titled Mission Joplin, which works to coordinate volunteer groups to help in the wake of the May 22 F5 tornado. The trip was organized by John McClung, CEFC youth pastor, and co-coordinator Mike Ketelsen.
“We’re excited to go down and try to help and be the hands and feet of Christ while we’re there,” Ketelsen, 64, of Clinton, said. “(We’re) just looking forward to what God’s got in store for us.”
Relief coordinator for Mystery Church, Rodney Rambo, told McClung that CEFC volunteers would make up one crew and would work on one site at a time. However, sites can change hour-to-hour and day-to-day as there is need.
“Flexibility is a 100 percent requirement,” McClung said following a phone conversation with Rambo last Tuesday. “He told me what tools that we need to bring. Must-needs are sledge hammers, wheel barrows, chainsaws, hand saws, and any type of clean-up tool that you can think of, like brooms, mops, rakes, all that. And he said there are needs for sledge hammers, for chainsaws and handsaws that they would like for us to donate. I said we can do that.”
In the weeks prior to the trip, members of CEFC gave personal funds to put toward the purchase of tools that could be given to Mystery Church.
“Hopefully we can give money to the church because I’m sure they have a benevolence fund and 100 percent goes back to the community,” said McClung of any funds remaining after the purchase of supplies.
In addition, the church received equipment donations from area businesses.
“We had two contractors in the Quad Cities donate safety equipment, gloves, safety glasses, coolers for around the neck, sweat bands, things of that nature,” Ketelsen said.
According to information released by Mystery Church, approximately 2,000 buildings, which equals 25 percent of the city, were destroyed and an additional 6,000 buildings were damaged. The quantity of debris needing to be removed is “equivalent to a football field stacked 200 feet higher than the Empire State Building,” estimates Mystery Church.
CEFC volunteers are also anticipating extreme working conditions, as the forecast for the week is displaying temperatures in the 100-degree range with an excessive heat warning.
“We’re all going to be very careful, making sure we’re staying very hydrated, staying out of the sun as best we can, or (using) sunscreen, and that type of thing,” Reed said. “We have members of the group who do have some medical training who will be assisting in that.”
The group will return to Clinton on Saturday and will host a debriefing at the 9:30 a.m. church service Sunday, Aug. 7, at CEFC.
“I’m going to have (volunteers) give a re-cap...with video and photos,” McClung said. “We’ll share at that time with the church our experiences from the Joplin trip.”