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
Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment
After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog
Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.
VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum
National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.
Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion
The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.
FEMA official recognized by city
A retiring official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who directed much of that agency’s response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado was recognized Friday by the city of Joplin. Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of FEMA, was presented a proclamation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean during his last visit to Joplin before he retires on Jan. 23.
Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud
Two Joplin men convicted in separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes. to pay $2,750 in restitution, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution.
Tornado fund board hears grant requests
Trustees of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund heard proposals Tuesday from 11 organizations for grant funding. The board is to decide how to spend about $225,000 remaining in the fund in what may be the final round of grants. The fund was established shortly after the 2011 tornado to receive donations from those who wanted to give direct aid to Joplin for recovery.
Joplin community publishes book of tornado experiences
Leaders in the Joplin community have published a collection of stories about the 2011 tornado and the recovery efforts that followed. First-hand accounts for the book, titled “Joplin Pays It Forward,” were written by city and school leaders; officials from health care centers and public utility companies; leaders in the business and media communities; representatives of churches and nonprofit organizations; and individuals with federal, state and local disaster relief groups and agencies.
New fire stations being readied for opening
After 2 1/2 years in temporary quarters as a result of the 2011 Joplin tornado, firefighter crews are moving into newly built replacement stations ahead of schedule. Firefighters last week began preparing a new Station No. 2 at 2825 W. Junge Blvd. for occupancy. It replaces a station at 2216 S. Maiden Lane that was destroyed in the tornado.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment