By Stan Friedman
CARTHAGE, MO (May 24, 2011) – Evangelical Covenant churches in two regions of the country are helping with local relief efforts following catastrophic tornadoes that left trails of destruction on Sunday.
Although no members of Alfa y Omega Covenant Church were injured by the tornado that left much of nearby Joplin in shambles, several families have lost their jobs because their places of employment were destroyed, says Dave Benedict, associate superintendent for the Midwest Conference.
In addition to assisting those families, the church is helping to provide clean water, food, and clothing to other victims of the catastrophe. “There’s especially a huge need for water,” says Heber Mendoza, an Alfa y Omega member.
The church is need of financial help to purchase supplies, says Benedict. Covenanters wanting to contribute should mail checks to the church at 1411 Sophia Street, Carthage, MO, 64836, and designate it for “Joplin Relief.”
A team from Hillcrest Covenant Church is in Joplin to assess how the Prairie Village, Kansas, congregation can provide assistance. The church has experience in helping communities following major disasters. It established an ongoing rebuilding effort in two Gulf areas following Hurricane Katrina. “They are real pros at this,” Benedict says.
At least 116 people died when the half-mile-wide tornado flattened much of Joplin. It was the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since 1953.
Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, continues to work with other nonprofit organizations to help clear the damage left by a tornado that ripped through the north part of that city.
One of the church’s associate pastors, Kevin Farmer, has been guiding Sanctuary’s participation. On Sunday, he had tried to save the life of a 59-year-old man who died when a tree branch crashed through the windshield of a van.
Farmer and several other church’s staff members emerged from the office basement where they had sought shelter from the tornado when one of them spotted the driver slumped over in the van. Farmer, who has emergency medical training, ran to help.
“A lot of it was instinctual, you just react,” Farmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Although the man had a “barely discernible” pulse, it was clear that massive injuries to the right side of the man’s face would prove fatal.
He was the only person killed by the tornado. Another resident died while helping neighbors clean up. Officials said 48 people were injured, but none seriously. Click here to see one local television station’s news coverage.
Several members of the church suffered heavy damage to their homes. Among those was associate pastor Cecilia Williams, whose roof caved in when trees fell on it.
The tornado left hundreds homeless – many negotiated downed power lines and trees to begin sorting through the ruins of their former residences on Monday.
A video posted on YouTube shows the massive size of the approaching tornado. It touched down in three locations beginning in St. Louis Park, but caused the most damage in the Jordan neighborhood in Minneapolis.
The neighborhood already has had its challenges. Roughly one-third of the residents in the zip code live below the poverty line.
City officials estimated the twister caused at least $166 million in damage, but expect that figure to rise as they continue to assess the situation. They also reported that more than 600 buildings will need major repairs, with 35 homes destroyed.
The tornado was the largest one to strike the area since June 14, 1981, when one hit Edina, Minneapolis and Roseville. One person was killed and 83 injured in that storm.