By Emily Younker and Scott Meeker
Every two months, Joplin plays host to some now-familiar faces.
They’re members of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, and they have “adopted” the city as one of their mission projects since the tornado.
Visits to Joplin by Greentree members now total nearly a dozen, and more than one-third of the church’s adult members have served. Nancy Prott, one of the leaders, estimates that they have collectively donated more than 3,000 total volunteer hours since the tornado.
While in Joplin, church members work closely with rebuild projects at Samaritan’s Purse and at the warehouse of Mission Joplin, an outreach program of Forest Park Baptist Church. They have brought and donated food items and cleaning supplies; clothing, including 1,300 coats; furniture, such as chairs, desks, bed frames and tables; small appliances, including microwaves, toaster ovens and heaters; bedding and towels; and children’s items, such as bicycles, books and toys.
“It’s the full gamut, really,” Prott said.
Some of their work has been a little less traditional, but just as meaningful. During their December 2012 trip, church members “adopted” six Joplin families and provided them Christmas gifts. One of their adopted individuals, a 70-year-old woman, said she wanted only a new toilet for her house, which church members installed for her in return for a few homemade Christmas cookies, Prott said.
The church also conducted a “decoration drive” in St. Louis, collecting donations of strings of lights, ornaments and nearly two dozen prelit Christmas trees that they used to decorate the houses of their adopted families.
The church latched onto Joplin because of its focus on mission work. Church leaders soon made a two-year budgetary commitment to missions in Joplin. Their last official trip is scheduled for July, although many church members will likely continue to visit, Prott said.
When asked why the church has remained committed to Joplin for so long, Prott said it wasn’t an option to leave the city after only a few months.
“We’re not the type of church that does a hit-and-run ministry,” she said.
Although she insists that their volunteer efforts are not about them, but rather about getting local residents back on their feet, Prott said their work has been fulfilling and life-changing.
“I think part of it is coming and seeing empty shelves (at the Mission Joplin warehouse) and knowing we can fill them,” she said. “And to see houses at completion just fills us. ...Once you come, I can’t even tell you of a single person that hasn’t said, ‘I want to come back.’”