JOPLIN, Mo. —
A weeklong trip to Joplin last year proved so life-changing for a group of teens that they have written a song and earmarked the proceeds to directly help Joplin's ongoing recovery from the 2011 tornado.
That song -- "Turn Us Into Miracles (Song for Joplin)" -- went live on March 8 and is now available for sale on all major digital download services, including iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio and 25 others.
Allen Stare, First Presbyterian Youth Committee Chair for the group of teens from the Jacksonville, Ill.-based church that visited Joplin in August 2012, said he will soon know how much money the song has generated thus far for the nonprofit Rebuild Joplin organization.
Church groups such as Stare's collection of First Presbyterian Church youths continue to voluntarily rally behind the city's rebuilding efforts
"I'm still surprised at the distance some of the (groups) came from -- from California to New York," said Pastor John Myers, of Joplin Full Gospel, in a recent interview. "And some are still coming in. It's still going on right now. There's so many people who are still helping us out today."
In August of last year, a bus with 15 kids (high school-age sophomores, juniors and seniors) and four adults, including Stare, began a six-hour journey from Jacksonville, Ill. (population 20,000) to Joplin, 370 miles away.
The 19 Illinois residents spent a week in Joplin, arriving on Sunday, Aug. 4. They worked for hours each day, tirelessly. On a Monday, they watered trees -- 650 trees, in all that day. Later that week, they cleared lots, moving rocks and filling an enormous dumpster with debris from a demolition site. They even helped stack and box a half-acre of school books.
"We worked hard, but we also had a lot of fun," Stare said. "This was a great group of kids with a great sense of humor. They say that working for the Lord and for your neighbor can create a joyful heart. These guys truly embodied that attitude of thankful, happy service."
Countless times, Joplin residents would come up to Stare, the other adults -- but especially the always-cheerful kids -- and pat them on the back, shake their hands or even hug them.
"We hadn't been in (Joplin) for more than an hour before the first random citizen shook my hand and thanked us for being there," Stare wrote in what would later become a published book entitled "Making Miracles -- T he Story of the First Presbyterian Youth Group Joplin Song Project."
"That became a hallmark of the trip. Walking through the local Wal-mart while wearing our 'Presbyterian Disaster Assistance' T-shirts meant being stopped multiple times with questions like 'where are you from' and handshakes or hugs accompanied by 'thanks for helping out.'"