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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Joplin Experience

Friday, June 24, 2011

This photograph shows the devastation the city of Joplin, Mo., suffered through when a massive tornado ripped through it May 22.
* Pastor Gary Scroggins recalls time in Joplin, Mo.

For Gary Scroggins, the devastation was almost unbelievable.

The Brazil Presbyterian Church Pastor felt compelled to travel to Joplin, Mo., recently after speaking with Joplin Presbyterian Church Pastor Dave Burgess.

This is a close up of the damage the St. John's Medical Center suffered as a result of the tornado.
"I said, 'What can I do to help,'" Scroggins said. "And he said, 'Please come.' I could not, not go. I knew I had to go.

"What must it be like to be a pastor of a church in Joplin," Scroggins said he wondered. "What must it be like to be a church in Joplin?"

Scroggins grew up in Springfield, Mo., about one hour away from Joplin. After consideration, he wanted to travel there to help in any way he could.

He took Interstate-44 from Springfield, Mo., to Joplin. While driving to the area, he saw signs posted as to where volunteers could exit to reach the city.

"The mechanism was already in place," he said.

When Scroggins arrived in Joplin, he met with Burgess, who immediately told him he should visit the portion of the city destroyed by a tornado that ripped through May 22.

"It affected one area of Joplin, not the entire city," Scroggins said.

The area, however, was more massive than Scroggins imagined.

"The devastation was six miles long and one-half mile wide," Scroggins said. "It just goes on forever. It would be as if all of Brazil was destroyed. The extent of it is just staggering.

"I'll never forget it. As far as I could see in front of me, it was absolute, utter devastation."

For approximately one week, Scroggins served as a volunteer assistant pastor for the Joplin church. He said he called displaced families and visited with them or they came to the church for visits.

"Our church was very supportive," Scroggins said. "They felt there was a sister church going through a rough time."

While in Joplin, Scroggins said he met with many people who survived the tragic storm.

"Everybody had a story to tell," he said.

Scroggins said he talked to one man who had gone into an interior room when the storm hit. That room was the only room in the man's home that withstood the destruction.

Another woman, 80, lost all of her possessions except a pile of clothing she was going to give away.

He also had a discussion with an elderly couple who were in the middle of a dispute on how to get home as quickly as possible while the storm raged through the city.

Scroggins said they realized they might be in trouble when debris began hitting their vehicle. Fear gripped the couple as the rear window of their vehicle was sucked out by the winds, but they managed to get home.

Scroggins said all but the letters O and P on the Joplin High School sign were ripped away. Later, someone duct taped an H and an E on the sign, spelling "Hope."

"My job is to tell the story," Scroggins said. "Everybody seemed very positive. A lot of people I talked to had just come through an incredible experience. They felt very fortunate they were able to survive."

Scroggins said the storm survivors have received lots of clothing and water from generous donors. But they really need help cleaning up the excess rubble.

"There is a huge need right now to clean up the rubble," Scroggins said. "It's more complicated than I realized. People can still pray for families, send money and consider serving as a volunteer."

Scroggins said his church has already established a fund and money will be forwarded to those in need as soon as possible.

"This is not going to be cleaned up in a month," Scroggins said.

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