Heavy

Oi. I haven’t blogged lately. Our lives have been crammed full to max capacity, and will continue to be for at least 2 more weeks until we have our garage sale on June 10-11. Also? I have been kind of not wanting to process through the tornado in Joplin. About 10 years ago, I did an internship at a wonderful organization based in Joplin. It was my senior year in college, and I think we can all testify that around that age, when you’re about to embark on the “real world,” you do a lot of thinking and philosophizing about yourself, your life and your beliefs. I spent a formative 4 months living in Joplin, driving the streets, shopping the stores, working long hours for a ministry I truly believe in. I made life-long friends there, ones that I cherish and am still in contact with. It was only 4 months (with about 4 more visits over the next few years), but Jo, MO, as we called it, will always have a special place in my heart. I’m hesitant to write about this, b/c I think it can come across as “It’s all about me” kind of sentiment, but I just mean to say that my heart is heavy in a different way because of a connection while there.
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When I first heard of the tornado, it was a concerned mention on Facebook on Sunday afternoon. I immediately left messages for the two I’m closest with, a couple named Kevin and Debbie asking if they were ok. These 2 completely took me under their wings that summer–we traveled across the united states together from Missouri to California and back, with their three young boys (who are now all married!). At that point on Sunday, I didn’t know if they’d be laughing at my worry: “Oh Jen! We have tornadoes whip through here all the time! Silly west coast girl!” In fact, in the short time I lived in Joplin, we did have 3 tornado warnings in which we had to take cover in the basement. No one seemed particularly upset about the whole routine at the time. But as the hours went on last Sunday, and frantic posts and news reporst started to surface, I realized that my worry was valid. I was seeing “We’re OK, but this is BAD,” status updates from my other Joplin friends. Finally I saw on another friend’s post that Kevin and Debbie were OK, but that they did live near the devastation, their house was damaged and they had no power to get online. I won’t post it, to protect their privacy, but one news outlet posted a google map of the path of the destruction in Joplin. Out of curiosity, I took their address and google mapped it. Their address was definitely in the red path, just along the edge of the tornado. Their house was damaged, but they were spared. The one post Debbie has been able to update was full of grief–just down the street from them, the houses are leveled and lives were lost.
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I’ve been having major flashbacks to my feelings after the earthquake in Haiti. I had also experienced a life-changing visit to Haiti years prior. (But although that tragedy led us down the adoption road, don’t worry. We can’t apply for another one until this one is home. ;)) Somehow when a tragedy occurs in a place you are familiar with, it makes the stories and the situation seem so much more personal. You can’t just generalize the devastation and loss in an unknown mental blur. I can’t stop thinking of the times I was in that Joplin walmart and that home depot, and how full of terror the shoppers must have been when the walls, ceilings and debris came crashing around them, crushing them to death. Over 8,000 structures have been damaged in this SMALL town. I know of at least one alumni from the local Christian college (where most of my friends worked or attended) who lost his wife and 14 month old son. I literally had a nightmare last night about how that probably happened. I’m picturing the houses I visted in Joplin, and I already know that some of them are gone. I’m hearing stories of how my friends, their friends and their churches are working tirelessly to coordinate relief efforts, volunteers, and supplies. I have a guilty sense of relief that those close to me are safe, but many close to THEM are not. My friends are grief-stricken and have a long road ahead of them, but they are rising to the call. I don’t need to post specific pictures, because you’ve probably seen plenty, but THIS ARTICLE has the best and most powerful before and after pics I’ve seen.
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When we began our adoption process last year, and I started learning more about the plight of orphans around the world, I specifically remember praying this prayer: Break my heart for what breaks Yours. I have not always considered myself a compassionate person. Nice, yes, but compassion for those I don’t know was not my gift. It was easy to shout out a quick prayer for some far away catastrophe, then go on my day with no sadness. Although it is painful, and the empathetic sorrow can be overwhelming, I believe God has answered my prayer, and has used the disasters of these two familiar places to continue breaking my heart. To push me to a point of compassion and sacrfice, and out of my comfortable bubble. It seems a broken heart is much more willing to be changed and used than a whole heart. I remember a couple years ago, I read about how successful the Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns have been over the last several years. I thought to myself–ok, we’re aware. Now what? Awareness is only the first step. ACTION has to follow awareness, or it is useless. God has made me painfully aware of hurting lives, now I need to do something about that.
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In all reality, action often takes the form of financial support. If you are feeling broken over what happened in Joplin, here are some places to take action:
text “JOPLIN” to 864833 to donate $10 to Missouri United Way
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And please pray for Joplin.

2 Comments

  1. The tears are flowing freely as I read your words, Jen. I am right there with you sister – the feelings, the thoughts, the prayers are all the same. Thank you for putting it so honestly and eloquently. I’ve had a very hard time processing my own thoughts and feelings – all I can really say is that it’s hard to not have boots on the ground there to lend a helping hand. Knees on the floor will hopefully suffice at this time.
    Jo, MO is indeed a very special place on the map. Not just for it’s uncanny characteristic of having more restaurants and eateries per capita than anywhere else, but more for the hearts of the amazing people who live and work there that we’re blessed to call friends. God will indeed be glorified through the aftermath of this storm.

  2. The damage from tornadoes all over the U.S. has been overwhelming. When they hit Joplin, it hit a little closer to home for me. Growing up in IL I went to several summer CIY camps and did a couple of mission trips with them. I even went as a PCC rep to a couple of their summer camps during college. This organization changed my life.

    The physical and emotional damage is heavy on my heart.

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