Gary Dowd  

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Joplin, MO

Joplin, MO

I returned from Joplin 2 days ago

…and I’m still processing everything. Seems as though, as it is in every other disaster, it’s now a faded memory on the news. But believe me, it’s still a very raw wound for the residents of Joplin. I’ve seen the aftermath of tornadoes before. I was in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham immediately following the disaster there. Comparing disasters has no purpose – all are devastating and, as Franklin Graham aptly put it, “Behind every one of these homes is a family that is hurting.”

Maybe it was because I had just been to devastated AL, but this last week in Joplin was very emotional for me on many levels. The community of Joplin welcomed Samaritan’s Purse, the organization I was working for, with open arms. This is the “beltbuckle of the Bible belt” as one person put it and it seemed as though there was a high name recognition of Franklin Graham, certainly Billy Graham, and definitely the orange shirts of the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. After nearly 20 years of working in disasters and conflicts, I’ve pretty much experienced it all. I don’t stay emotionally detached, I don’t think I could effectively do my job if I approached it dispassionately, but I can usually contain my emotions. I’m not ashamed to say that I lost it a few times this past week.

I had been able to call a group of volunteers to help sift through the remains of a young woman’s house. She was overwhelmed and hugged me like a long-lost father. We all cried as the Samaritan’s Purse team prayed with her and gave her a Bible to replace the one she had lost.

The Langfords, another couple that had given finding valuable receipts and papers to prove they owned their house had given up. With another storm approaching, SP volunteers were helping to sort though the debris that had been their home. I had just encouraged Amy that things can still be found, even in a home as utterly destroyed as theirs. Within seconds of the SP team praying with this couple, the papers were found in an area that had been gone over many times. (read the story HERE) Talk about emotional.

There are just too many stories from the past week to share here but there is no doubt in my mind that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing at just the right time to play a small role in helping families who have suffered so much in Joplin.

I hope you will take the time to look at the videos we sent back HERE. I hope you’ll continue to pray for those who lost loved ones, homes, and jobs. And I hope I’ll have an opportunity to revisit Joplin in the days ahead as it transitions from a hurting community to a healing one. There’s going to be plenty of need over the coming months and years. If you can’t volunteer to help, please help support those who can. Learn more about what Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief is doing HERE.