They call it the theology of the hammer.
It’s built on the idea that rebuilding a devastated area includes more than the physical labor of constructing houses — it also includes fellowship and friendship with the homeowner, the volunteers and everyone involved in the process.
“We recognize that rebuilding homes is more than just hammers and nails,” said Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service. “As we’re rebuilding their homes, they’re rebuilding their lives.”
Thousands of volunteers have quietly put that theology into practice in Joplin through their work with Mennonite Disaster Service, a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that serves disaster-stricken areas in the United States and Canada. Leland Hostetler, the Joplin project coordinator, said the group’s efforts would have been nothing without those volunteers.
“Without volunteers, you don’t have it,” he said. “There were days there were hundreds of volunteers, and every one of them picked up and moved 20 pieces of limbs to the curbside — that’s how much it didn’t cost the city to move it. I would say it is all due to volunteers.”
More recently, volunteers have helped rebuild houses for uninsured or underinsured homeowners, said Hostetler, who is from Buffalo, Mo. They also invited the homeowners to their headquarters each week for dinner, he said.
More than 3,300 people have volunteered through Mennonite Disaster Service since the tornado, primarily comprising around 30 sects of Mennonites, Amish and other types of Anabaptists, according to King.
“We may disagree about the cut of the cloth or how to baptize or whether women should be behind the pulpit, but we can agree to come here and work together and put somebody’s roof back on,” he said.
According to King, those volunteers completed 125 cleanups (which consisted of debris removal, limb cutting and the tearing down of structures), 23 minor repairs (rebuild projects consisting of less than 1,000 hours of labor), 25 major repairs (projects consisting of more than 1,000 hours of labor), nine complete house rebuilds and 12 assists (in which they aided other rebuild projects).
“I would say the volunteers have really showed here in Joplin what can happen when all the churches put aside their differences and work together side by side,” Hostetler said. “It makes a huger difference than if you try to do it by yourself. The volunteers have been absolutely awesome here. Everybody was more concerned about their neighbor than they were about themselves.”
The group wrapped up its Joplin operations in early April, tearing down its headquarters at Kenser Road and East 27th Street in Duquesne. The dismantled building will be stored until it needs to be rebuilt somewhere else after another disaster, King said.
“We must move on,” he said. “It’s painful, but we must move on for preparation for the next disasters.”
They call it the theology of the hammer.
- May 2011 Joplin tornado
City opens new round of shelter applications
Those who operate nursing homes, group homes and residential day care operations for at-risk adults and children may now apply for commercial-sized storm shelters available from the city of Joplin.
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Lost tornado photos find home at museum
Joplin resident Flo Taylor has a piece of her life back. Thirty pieces to be precise. “This is such a blessing,” she said as she explored the contents of a manilla envelope Friday morning at the Joplin Museum Complex.
NIST study: Clear communications essential for tornado warnings
After hearing the results of a two-year technical investigation into the Joplin tornado by the federal government Thursday morning, Dale Mermoud still had a question on his mind. He wanted to know this: “Why can’t they be more specific in their tornado warnings?” After a press briefing at Missouri Southern State University on the National Institute of Standards and Technology study, Mermoud posed that question to the people who worked on the study.
Rebuild Joplin celebrates 100th home since 2011 tornado
Nearly two and a half years after an EF-5 tornado destroyed about a third of Joplin, volunteers and supporters of Rebuild Joplin ceremonially cut the ribbons on the organization’s 100th home on Tuesday. “It’s an incredible milestone of progress,” said Chad Carson, executive director of Rebuild Joplin.
Tornado fund seeks new grant applications
The Joplin Tornado First Response Fund has about $275,000 left to give out, but there were no applicants for its third round of grants. Chairman Phil Stinnett told the board on Monday that there was a public advertisement of the grant round but no one applied.
VIDEO: Rebuild Joplin effort started in basement of Illinois church
Housewarming parties don’t get much bigger or more enthusiastic than the one held for Emily Morrison on Thursday morning. As she stood in front of her new house at 1312 E. 24th St. in front of a large contingent of volunteers and well-wishers, she said that it was difficult to put into words what the last few months have meant to her.
Closing of Transform Joplin Warehouse marks milestone
Tornado recovery in Joplin reached an unofficial milestone with the announcement that Transform Joplin has closed “The Warehouse” at the corner of 12th Street and South Wall Avenue.
Applications for storm shelters available; first round is for mobile home parks
Applications are being taken by the city of Joplin for storm shelters that are available from the former temporary housing sites set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the May 2011 tornado.
Lost Photos group slates claim days for July, August
Lost Photos of Joplin has scheduled several claim days in upcoming weeks, with the first of those set for 3 to 7 p.m. today at the Joplin Family Worship Center, 5290 E. Seventh St.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- City opens new round of shelter applications