Locally, here in Minnesota, I didn't learn of the Joplin tornado until evening because I was tied to our local news, alternating between the reports there and the sirens sounding outside my own door, knowing there was a tornado on the grounded headed in my direction.
When the warning got specific to my area, I realized this could be "it", and was relieved when the funnel that devastated north Minneapolis took another direction - away from the area where I reside. Still, for hours, I watched the ongoing reports of the tornadoes that same cell spawned over the Twin Cities area, and stood in shock when the first images of Minneapolis came to the screen.
Thankfully, there were only two reported deaths, and one came as a result of the aftermath - cleaning up right after the tornado struck. There were many injuries, not many serious. Given the heavy population of the north Minneapolis neighborhoods that were stricken, given the number of trees that were tossed about like chaff, it's amazing there weren't more human casualties.
Still, as one police department spokesman explained, it was already a "distressed" neighborhood (economically, high crime, etc), so this storm was even more devastating in terms of long-term effects and hidden effects than anyone can understand by viewing the mere images.
While our prayers and sympathy goes out to the residents of Joplin and their loved ones, we also have to remember those in our own vicinity as well. We have to remember those who are still trying to recover from the monster storm that took over 300 lives in several states earlier this spring. We have to respond to those who are waking up this morning to newly-leveled cities. Whever we are, there are people in need of help to recover from these storms.
Remember the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that happened in Japan a couple months ago? Up here in MN we were in the depths of what felt like the neverending winter, snowstorm after snowstorm, frigid temps, and I'd been complaining greatly, wondering somewhat rhetorically, "Why do we live here?"
Then THAT disaster struck and I realized: we live in Minnesota because we don't have earthquakes, we don't have hurricanes, we don't have volcanoes, we don't have tsunamis. We live overall in a pretty safe place. I began to feel a little smug over that, I'm ashamed to admit.
Problem is...no place is really safe. Up here, and throughout the midwest, from north to south and back again, we have some NASTY weather. We can be bopping along one day, happy as clams in a clam-ban, when suddenly a tornado comes along and wipes an entire town off the face of the earth.
No matter where we choose to live, there are natural disasters that threaten our lives and property, and even though we have warning systems - sometimes they fail. Like they did in Minneapolis on Sunday.
As I continue to read the reports of the recent tornadoes throughout the midwest, I can't help but marvel at the lives spared. I can't understand how so many people could survive so great a disaster, and in that, I see the hand of God. Not only did His hand spare so many, but it is the same hand that beckons the rest of us to respond with compassion, with urgency, with prayer and yes, thanksgiving.
There will always be disasters, and we must always, as Christians, be prepared to respond and offer hope to those who cry out for mercy in the aftermath.
Help for the Suffering
There are many organizations working hard to fulfill the needs of people directly affected by these terrible storms - and it's only May! There will be more to come. Having a garage sale? Check your inventory and see if you have items that can be donated to the Red Cross or other organization - they need everything, from food and medical supplies to furniture like beds and dressers.
At the very least, pray. Pray for the deceased, pray for the survivors, and pray that when the next disaster strikes, you will be ready - because your house might be next.