By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin-area residents, as a strong show of Christian love and their faith in God, overwhelmingly extended their help to tornado victims well into 2012 -- a year and a half after it touched down. Much of my writing from the past year has reflected these displays of humanity. I consider the following three columns some of the best examples of compassion from the past year.
Mission from afar
Janice Grimes and her Quilts of Compassion ministry created and delivered many masterpieces to Joplin tornado victims during 2012. Nearly 2,000 quilts were delivered to Freeman Health System during the year, in addition to the 200 delivered 10 days following the May 22, 2011, tornado.
The group, which is based in Toledo, Ohio, made, collected and delivered the quilts to the Joplin hospital on four different occasions.
As said in the Quilts of Compassion mission statement: Love comes from the hearts of those sewing the quilts. In turn, the love of God is demonstrated to tornado survivors, their families and friends.
Freeman chaplain Christine Iannucilli labeled the Quilts of Compassion donations as nothing short of an incredible blessing. Not only have the comforters (what an appropriate label) been distributed to tornado victims and their loved ones throughout the community, but also at the hospital itself.
Janice Grimes, founder and executive director of the ministry, said she believes God's hand is on every quilt that is made and prayers are offered for each one.
"I believe in the power of prayer and that people feel the presence of God when they are under these quilts," said Grimes, who started Quilts of Compassion on her own in 1999 out of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Those interested in more information or joining the ministry may contact Grimes at 419-708-9343. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook. Those with quilt tops for donations mail them to Quilts of Compassion, 2620 Centennial, Suite E, Toledo, OH 43617, where volunteers will get them ready for delivery.
Nazarenes build homes
The Joplin District Church of the Nazarene in Carthage, which has jurisdiction over 77 congregations in Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, spearheaded the construction of three new Joplin homes.
A request was made by the district office to the denomination's national headquarters in Lenexa, Kan., for funds to build the three homes. The $220,000 raised went toward three lots in the 2600 block of Pennsylvania Ave.
The homes were finished in June under the direction of general contractor Larry Lane. Three families were selected to receive them.
The houses were completed as part of the Nazarenes' Work and Witness program, which centers around a Christian project in which building or rebuilding is emphasized and witnessing happens by sharing the word of God.
Shortly after the tornado struck in 2011, Nazarenes from the area and around the nation pitched in to help with recovery. The district sent out an email for volunteers to help with cleanup, making plans for 250 to 300 helpers. However, nearly 1,000 showed up.
Labor of love
Scott Hettinger's book-signing event in 2012 marked the end of a labor of love inspired both by God and the faith shown by survivors of last year's tornado.
The Webb City man, a former teacher and coach at Carthage High School, said he wrote "5/22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith" to emphasize how people got through the disaster with their trust in God.
The yearlong task of interviewing survivors and writing his first-ever book climaxed with a public signing of his work at For-All Bible and Music Center inside Northpark Mall.
The 437-page book, which provides 65 stories of those who survived the tornado, is based on Hettinger's interviews with victims and their families. It not only details what tornado survivors went through, but also how they were able to cope in the aftermath.
All proceeds from the book are being turned over to the nonprofit organization Rebuild Joplin and will go toward building a new home for a tornado victim.
The book is on sale for $31 at For-All Bible and Walgreens in Joplin as well as online at Amazon.com or dorrancebookstore.com. A copy may also be obtained by emailing Hettinger at email@example.com.
Hettinger, co-owner of Overtime Gym in Webb City, said his only previous writing experience was on college research papers, but the work on this effort had to do as much with interviewing as writing.
"All the stories in this book are what I wrote from my interviews," he said. "This is the survivors' stories, word for word. It is also from what God put on my heart."
Hettinger said he drove into Joplin two days after the deadly twister touched down to see if he could provide assistance but sadly realized he couldn't do anything, because of his paralysis and being confined to a wheelchair.
Then, one night after praying and going to sleep, he said he awoke in the early-morning hours with the idea of writing the book as a way of showing God's strength and presence in the middle of the storm.
Hettinger began his interviews a month after the tornado, gathering as many as 300 story possibilities, but narrowed the field for publication purposes.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.