TORNADO DEATH TOLL SURPASSES 100 IN JOPLIN, MISSOURI
A massive tornado cut a six-mile long and as much as a three-quarter-mile-wide swath through the city of Joplin, Missouri, last night, leaving mangled vehicles, uprooted trees and piles of rubble where homes, businesses, schools and fire stations once stood, with at least 116 fatalities. According to reports, the storm had spawned tornadoes earlier in the evening in Kansas, then another tornado touched down on the west side of Joplin about 5:30 p.m. and began making its way through the city. Many local television reports had images of Joplin's St. John's Hospital, with its windows blown out and debris hanging from its structure, surrounded by nothing but flattened neighborhoods. Joplin Assemblies of God Sectional Presbyter Ken Robinson says the area resembles a war zone. "It's just unbelievable," he says. Robinson says that of the AG churches in the Joplin area, he believes Faith Assembly was the hardest hit. The church's roof was blown off and its windows and doors blown out. The church is believed to be a total loss. Today, heavy rains are falling across southwest Missouri, adding to the misery and hampering search and rescue efforts. Kurt and Jolynn Coleman, who pastor Galena (Kansas) AG, which is about four miles from the border of Missouri, have church members who live in Joplin. Jolynn Coleman confirmed that one of their church's children was killed last night. She says the mother was taking shelter in the bathroom with her two children, ages four and nine, and shielding them with her body. A utility pole then crashed through the house, bounced off the mother, and struck the nine-year-old boy, killing him instantly. The mother, who suffered severe injuries, and the four-year-old child are now at hospitals in Springfield, Missouri. Iva Griffin, wife of Larry Griffin, pastor of Faith Assembly, shares that she and her husband were on the way back from Dallas when they received a call from the associate pastor, Dr. Ron Cannon. "He told us, 'I'm in the middle of the church, looking up at the sky,'" she relates. "A few seconds later, the phone went dead." Since that time, she has learned that the church's evening service was just minutes from starting when the tornado hit, but the staff and ushers knew what to do and got people to the safety areas in time. "When the tornado was hitting the church," Cannon recalls, "we had the most amazing prayer covering . . . people praying and speaking in tongues, it was the sovereign hand of God . . . if you look at the church, it looks like a bomb hit us. God's hand had to be sovereignly upon us as not one person in the church was injured." "We had flag poles in front of the church that were guaranteed to never come out of the ground ‹ and they were blown out," Iva Griffin adds, giving an indication of the force of the tornado. Robinson reports that Second Assembly in Joplin also suffered damage, with windows being blown out. Also Cathedral Assembly reportedly has some minor damage while First Assembly did not appear to have any noticeable damage. However, confirmation on the extent of damages to some churches is difficult as phone lines are jammed and some cell phone towers were destroyed. In addition to the hospital being severely damaged, the Joplin superintendent of schools has reported that the high school, vocational school and an elementary school were destroyed, with at least two other schools sustaining heavy damage. The headquarters of the Pentecostal Church of God and the PCG's Messenger College, both located in Joplin, were reported as being spared any significant damage. However, PCG Bishop Charles Scott posted a Tweet, stating that their offices would be closed until further notice as several staff members lost everything in the tornado. However, the storm system didn't strike just southwest Missouri. In the northern part of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a tornado caused extensive damage to Morning Star Assembly of God, while Louis and Gloria Walton, pastors of Trinity Tabernacle, suffered severe damage to their home. Pastor Tom Hartwell of Morning Star AG says that despite the severe damage to the church, God's hand of protection was evident. Victory in Christ AG, a Hmong church, was meeting in the building when the tornado struck, with children in the upstairs nursery. Even though a portion of the roof was torn off the building, not one person from the Hmong congregation was injured. In southwest Missouri, Robinson says that he's just waiting for the word from the sheriff's office as he's coordinated churches to help with getting food into the area for relief workers. "We'll get them what they need, when they need it, where they need it," Robinson says. In addition, Convoy of Hope, headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, has already sent several truckloads of food, water and snacks to the Joplin area along with an assessment team to identify needs and determine how to best serve the community. The Assemblies of God is encouraging those who would like to help with the relief effort to partner with AG Disaster Relief and Convoy of Hope in rebuilding and restoring AG properties as well as helping with getting relief supplies to tornado victims. To give to the AG Disaster Relief effort, send checks to: AG Disaster Relief, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802 and indicate "Joplin Tornado Relief, Account #881-001" on the check. To give online, click this link: http://s2.ag.org/joplinrelief. To assist with Convoy of Hope efforts, see http://ConvoyofHope.org. --Dan Van Veen, Becca Dickson and Kara Chase (article from AG News)
If you would like to give to convoy of hope but do not want to do so online. Please contact my office at 287-3480. We will be happy to process your doniation. 100% of you donation will go to help people in Joplin.