Jack Wisener and Dave Tresemer lost their homes on May 22, so as they watched the destruction wrought by tornadoes that killed 39 people across five Midwestern and Southern states last week, they shared a similar reaction.
“Saturday, I was feeling moved and hurt because I know what these people are going through,” Wisener said.
Tresemer said he felt the kind of empathy that can only come from experience.
THREE ON MISSION
By dawn this morning, the two and a third member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin were on their way to Indiana.
“We’re familiar with what they are going through,” Tresemer said Monday. “It’s still fresh in all of our minds.
“I was getting ready for church (Sunday), and I told my wife (Sharon), ‘I’m about this close to going to Indiana.’ I said, ‘All I need is a little push.’ Then I saw Jack at church and asked, ‘What are you doing for the next few days?’ and he said, ‘Nothing.’ Then I asked him if he wanted to go to Indiana.”
Wisener said he didn’t think twice: “I said ‘yes.’”
Pastor Aaron Brown of St. Paul’s said the congregation immediately began gathering supplies for the mission.
“Having been through what we’ve been through here and all the amazing help we’ve received, we were just ready to send some people somewhere, so when these guys stepped up, we were ready to get them equipped,” he said.
St. Paul’s was one of many churches in Joplin that were struck by the May 22 tornado. St. Paul’s worship center was destroyed, but despite the damage, the church was converted into a temporary triage center the night of the storm.
Brown said the reconstruction effort at St. Paul’s is continuing. He said steel for a new worship center will arrive in two weeks, and services could be held in the new worship center by September.
Brown said that if he could speak directly to survivors of the latest round of tornadoes, his message would be similar to the one he has preached to the Joplin community.
“The worst scenario isn’t the last scenario,” he said. “Death doesn’t get the last word, and destruction doesn’t get the last word.”
Wisener said he, Tresemer and Craig Bonnet will travel first to an emergency staging area in Jeffersonville, Ind., and then to two of the hardest hit Indiana communities, Henryville and Marysville.
The National Weather Service in Louisville, Ky., said the tornado that struck Henryville was as EF-4, packing winds of 175 mph.
Wisener said the trio will cook hamburgers, hot dogs and breakfast food, as well as distribute snacks and bottled water.
“We just want to set up and feed people as they come by,” he said. “Henryville was hit twice, and Marysville was almost wiped off the map. I was watching the Weather Channel, and it was the level of destruction in that area that made me want to go there.”
Wisener said he isn’t sure where the group will stay.
“We may be sleeping in our truck; we don’t know,” he said. “We’re flying by the seat of our pants right now. We’re taking sleeping bags, and if we have to sleep in the truck, that’s what we’ll do. We’re just going to (give) God’s love the way others did for us.”
Brown said another group of church members will leave this afternoon. He said the church is accepting donations for the towns of Henryville and Marysville.
“We are assuming that we will go back, so this isn’t a one-time thing,” he said. “So if people want to bring items like diapers and food, and of course monetary stuff like Visa gift cards to help people buy gas or a hotel room.”
Brown said his congregation remembers the kindness of others after the tornado last May.
“We know what it feels like to be the recipients of hope,” he said. “So when we send a team there to Indiana, it will offer them hope, because we made it through and they can make it through too.”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
Want to help?
PASTOR AARON BROWN said donations for Indiana storm victims may be taken to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 2423 W. 26th St.