Big storms, bigger hearts in Joplin, Mo.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

WEBB CITY, Mo. — The Joplin tornado’s path of destruction can be seen all along Range Line Road, where a Home Depot, Walmart and other businesses lie in ruins.

Yellow “Caution” tape and shreds of wood flutter in the breeze amid bulldozers clearing debris and smashed vehicles abandoned after the May 22 twister that claimed 158 lives and left thousands homeless.

Drive a little farther, though, and a different scene unfolds.

“Disaster relief distribution,” say the bold black letters on a portable sign pointing residents two blocks off the main road to the Mt. Hope Church of Christ in Webb City, just north of Joplin.

In the shadow of the church’s white steeple, cases of bottled water are stacked outside the family life center, alongside boxes of all-purpose cleaner and diapers.

Inside the building, volunteers sporting red “Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team” T-shirts fill grocery sacks, help victims pick out shoes and blankets, prepare meals for chainsaw crews and provide stuffed animals for children whose families lost all their belongings.

While nine member families’ homes were destroyed, the twister’s path bypassed the Mt. Hope building. As a result, the church quickly became a hub for relief efforts.

In the kitchen, Karen Fozard, a member of the Carbondale Church of Christ in Illinois, works alongside Joy Cole, a Mt. Hope member for 38 years.

“Our congregation has a heart to help,” said Fozard, who drove six-plus hours to Joplin, joined by Carbondale preacher’s wife Becky Shaffer and Shaffer’s children, Jacob, 15, and Caroline, 12.

For Cole, the relief effort is more personal. She can barely drive down Range Line Road without crying.

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