Mercy in Action–Work Beginning in Joplin

LCMS World Relief and Human Care is already at work helping the people of Joplin. From their blog:

Jackie Duncan was recovering from brain surgery when a killer tornado ripped through St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo. The storm’s force pulled Gary Duncan’s 76-year-old mother “down the hallway, with debris flying everywhere,” says the operations manager at KFUO Radio, an LCMS broadcast ministry.

“When I watched news about the tornado unfold on TV, I had tears in my eyes knowing that my mom was there,” said Duncan, adding that he was thankful that his mother and a brother who was visiting her were not among the six people reportedly killed at the hospital in the storm.

That’s just one of many LCMS-related tornado stories shared with LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) since the May 22 storm, the deadliest single twister since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1950. Three days later, the reported death toll continues to climb, reaching at least 122. The EF5 (the strongest tornado rating) twister destroyed more than a thousand homes and businesses, including the St. John’s medical facility.

On May 25, WR-HC’s Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of Disaster Response, and Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations, were to arrive in Joplin to begin helping assess needs and offering pastoral care. They will work with the LCMS Missouri District through Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School in Joplin, including Rev. Gregory Mech, the church pastor.

As search-and-recovery efforts continue, Merritt said many in Joplin “are in a state of shock.” The Disaster Response team will assist the pastor and church leaders in encouraging survivors spiritually and, through local agencies, help determine appropriate staging areas to distribute relief supplies and “the right time” to facilitate volunteers to assist with massive cleanup needs.

Before heading to the battered southwestern Missouri city, Merritt talked about the twister and LCMS relief efforts with the Issues, Etc. radio program. Listen to the interview at For more about the LCMS response to the tornado, visit the WR-HC Facebook page.

On May 24, Missouri District President Rev. Ray Mirly met in Joplin with Mech, Martin Luther School Principal Jeremy Schamber, Immanuel Director of Christian Education (DCE) Jason Glaskey and church lay leaders. “They want to thank all who have responded with prayers, assistance and words of encouragement,” Mirly said in a report distributed the next day. “The challenges that they face are beyond words, but their faith in Almighty God is very evident.”

Fourteen Immanuel families lost homes or apartments in the tornado, Mirly said, and “countless others sustained significant damage.” Both the church parsonage and school have roof damage.

Glaskey shared with Mirly that the congregation’s teens, especially those who lost homes, are experiencing significant emotional difficulties. Several young people asked the DCE to accompany them to where their homes once stood to help them deal with their loss.

Members of First Lutheran Church, in nearby Neosho, also are suffering in the storm’s wake. The twister killed two of that congregation’s children, ages six and eight; their mother and her two-year-old child are hospitalized, Mirly reported. Several First Lutheran members who live in Joplin lost homes.

As Mirly prepared to leave Immanuel, Red Cross staff arrived to establish a command center at the church. “The challenge is that the church does not have large enough refrigerators and freezers to neither store food nor proper space for other donations that are starting to arrive,” Mirly said.

Volunteer and Donation Information

The following suggestions were compiled by the Missouri District with the WR-HC Disaster Response team and Jim Eckrich of Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri about future volunteer opportunities and other ways to assist with Joplin relief efforts:

  • Please keep survivors in your prayers.
  • Do not drive to Joplin to assist unless you are a qualified first responder. You will not be permitted into the area of the storm damage. Once search-and-recovery efforts are complete, cleanup volunteers will be requested.
  • Volunteers are being coordinated through United Way 211.  Groups can register by calling 211 (landline) or 800 427- 4626 (cell).  Or register online at
  • Please do not collect or attempt to take clothing to Joplin.
  • The water utility hopes to have safe drinking water flowing through its system by May 25. Bottled water is still needed.
  • Please do not call Immanuel Lutheran Church until further notice.
  • Immanuel volunteers are attempting to update the church website Please visit the website to learn about immediate volunteer opportunities and how you can assist with other relief needs.

Because the Synod’s mercy arm is getting so many requests for disaster relief, WR-HC ministry leaders are concerned if the LCMS Tornado Disaster Relief fund will have enough funds to provide urgently needed grants. To date, WR-HC donors have given $244,500 to assist congregations and communities during what has been a disaster-filled spring. New grants are in the works.

To make a gift:

  • Mail checks (noting “Tornado Disaster Relief” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
  • Call toll-free 888-930-4438.
  • To make an online donation, click the “Tornado Relief” button at the top of the page.


(Image: Associated Press)