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Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,I guess a picture is worth a thousand words. I can’t imagine there are folks who can identify more with the feelings in Joplin than those who have been through Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav here in the Gulf Coast. And perhaps the folks who experienced 9/11 in New York.

I received the email below from Gerry Mansholt, who is a friend, and bishop of the Central States Synod (Missouri and Kansas) right here in Region IV. He’s a strong guy, LCMS raised and trained, and yet you can feel the weight of this in his writing.

I see that there is a Facebook invitation going around encouraging people to donate $2 to the churches of Joplin. I suggest you think about this in advance. You might want to consider encouraging this kind of generosity and have some envelopes available. We’ll be happy to send them on to the Central States Synod for you, hasta pronto, in support of Peace Lutheran Church.

Your servant,

Mike Rinehart, bishop

From Bishop Mansholt:

Here’s some of what I wrote to my staff this morning:

I got home around 11:30 last night following a trip to Joplin and visit with members of Peace Lutheran Church. Attached are two pictures of the Peace Lutheran building and neighborhood.

I guess pictures never fully capture and convey what a situation is really like, and that’s how I felt driving into Joplin and then seeing Peace Lutheran and the neighborhood around it. The destruction unbelievable, the landscape nothing but rubble. I heard one national disaster worker say this is the worst destruction he’s seen since Katrina.

Those who experienced the tornado said it lasted so long, just kept blowing, sucking, destroying. I’ve never been in a war zone, but I’ve a feeling tornado damaged Joplin is as at least as bad as the worst of war zones. One looks at the total devastation in awe of what kind of sky borne monster could possibly have wrought this destruction.

What the city will do with all this debris is a huge question. But clean up cannot begin until the missing are accounted for. I understand the state has released a listing of over 200 missing. Search and rescue teams were working their way through the neighborhoods.

I spoke with some young people on the parking lot of Peace. Two were from homes totally destroyed, as was their high school one block from Peace Lutheran. But their real sadness was in not knowing the whereabouts of a close friend. I thought of them later as I saw a rescue team crawling in and inspecting one of the hundreds of overturned and mangled autos.

Peace Lutheran will worship somewhere on Sunday, the place yet to be determined. Pastor Pape and some leaders want badly to worship in their parking lot. But access might be limited, traffic moves extremely slow, and the visit of President Obama on Sunday will present other logistical problems. But worship they will, somewhere. Janice Kibler of my staff will be there with them and again bring words of comfort and support of the larger Church.

No members of Peace were killed, though several (4-6) had homes totally or partially damaged. One, Kathrin Elmborg, 82 years old, was featured in an Kansas City Star article yesterday (May 25). She lives across the street from Peace, and survived in an interior room. She’s a hearty soul and her story one of the mysterious and miraculous wonders of these disasters, how one is taken and another lives.

About 30 or so people from Peace gathered for the 6:30 meeting at Missouri Southern State where Congregation President Judy Stiles works. After I led them in prayer, we listened to their stories and experiences, all varied, all moving. But then the conversation shifted to the future-clean up, rebuilding, next steps. I expect there will be much more grieving in the weeks and months to come as the magnitude of the loss, the reality of the situation and the challenges before them sink in. The folk were deeply grateful for our visit.

With me were Dan Glamann of my staff and Dan’s sister Deb, trained for CERT, Community Emergency Response Team. Also present Kevin Massey, Executive Director for LDR, Mike Nevergall, Associate Director LDR, and Maria Maldonaldo, LDR Administrative Assistant, and Jim Eckrich, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services and LDR State Coordinator. They were all in Kansas City for the annual gathering of VOAD, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters. (Maria, who has worked with LDR for 3 years, had never been onsite to a disaster and couldn’t believe what she was seeing.)

Earlier in the afternoon we were at a meeting with Governor Nixon and other religious leaders. Gov. Nixon has been onsite as have been some national FEMA officials. The challenges for Joplin are enormous, a community where suddenly 3,000 homes no longer exist, 500 businesses no longer exist, a high school and 4 elementary schools no longer exist. Gov. Nixon, a United Methodist member, expressed his own sense of this burden and need for strength from beyond.

We had magnetic Lutheran Disaster Response signs on the side of our vehicles. People noticed, and one KCPL driver gave us the thumbs up as we passed along the street.

It’s a long e-mail but I needed to process and review some of what we saw and experienced yesterday. I made a quip last night comparing our work to long distance running not realizing that also was LDR. But that is how Kevin Massey describes the work of Lutheran Disaster Response. LDR will be the last to leave. Last night was just the first step in what will be a long journey of walking with the people of Peace Lutheran Church and the city of Joplin.

Jerry Mansholt, bishop

Central States Synod

Be at peace with God and with one another,Michael Rinehart, Bishop
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