A Memorial Day to Remember

By   •   May 30, 2011

When Will Graham looked out over Joplin, Missouri, this morning, he saw mile after mile of devastation. The May 22 twister left a swath one mile wide and seven miles long. “The community is literally ripped apart,” he said, trying to put words to the horrific scene he witnessed. “Nothing is left. The streets are wiped clean.”

Joining his father, Franklin, on a Memorial Day visit to the tornado-ravaged community, Will met with Rapid Response Team chaplains and Samaritan’s Purse volunteers working on a holiday to show the love of Christ to storm victims, and with survivors who shared stories of tragedy and triumph.

“We met one 83-year-old lady who survived the tornado by hiding in a little closet with her pet and a picture of Jesus,” said Will. “She was literally trapped in there until her son chain-sawed through the sheet metal to dig her out. But she was smiling and talking about her love for Jesus today.”

Will and Franklin also met a young man who said he had his values “upside down” before the storm. He survived the tornado by diving from his shower into a crawl space under his house. He realizes God spared his life. “After his world was turned upside down,” said Will, “this man’s values are now right side up.”

Both Grahams stressed the importance of prayer. “We come in the name of Jesus Christ and the greatest thing we can do is pray,” said Franklin. “This community has been hit hard. This tornado will go down in the record books. We are focusing on helping people who have lost absolutely everything.”

“Pray for the Rapid Response Team chaplains and the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who are ministering here,” said Will. “Also pray for the churches in this area. Here in the Midwest—in this beautiful, hard-working community—neighbors are helping neighbors. Christians are being the body. People from around the country have come here to help.”

Some 830 people showed up to volunteer on their day off work. “I want to thank the volunteers for all that they are doing,” Franklin said. “We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers.”

Overwhelming Magnitude

Preston Parrish, Executive Vice President of Ministry for BGEA, and Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs for Samaritan’s Purse, accompanied the Grahams on their visit today. An eyewitness to many disasters himself, Parrish found the scene in Joplin overwhelming: “This tornado has shaken both the community and the people volunteering in Joplin.

“Even the seasoned chaplains are saying this storm has affected them in a way that others haven’t,” Parrish said. “The magnitude of this tornado—you have to see it to even begin to understand it. There has been tremendous loss of life—everybody pretty much knows somebody who has either died, or been injured, or is still missing. You walk through these neighborhoods and smell death.”

Parrish said the tornado gutted several community landmarks, including the high school and hospital. Walmart and Home Depot are demolished.

“An everyday community in middle America has been forever changed,” he added. “People are in shock. Many people are grieving. I talked to a 10-year-old girl and asked if she was afraid as she looked to the future.”

The girl admitted that she was a little afraid, “but I know God is with us.”

People are looking at a future that not only includes rebuilding physically, said Parrish, “but toward a future of having to live, for the rest of their lives, with having been through an experience that has underscored for them that, in an instant, everything they know can change.”

Why We are Here

That, of course, is why we are here, Parrish added. “To help them experience the fact that God is with them, that He has not forsaken them, that He loves them, that while we cannot control the storms that come to us in life many times, we can choose to face them standing on the solid rock, the firm foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And that is the message that RRT chaplains are communicating. “We are praying with people who are realizing that for the first time now, through the wake-up call of this storm, they need to receive Christ,” said Parrish.

Perhaps no more powerful depiction illustrates the current mood in Joplin than the sign for the local high school. The “J” and “lin” were blown off in the tornado, leaving only “op.”

Somebody took paint and painted “h” before the “op” and “e” after it: “Hope.”

“That is a great picture of the message that can come from this crisis,” Parrish added. “While it’s an awful thing, the thing to learn out of this, is that through faith in Christ, the winds blow, the storms come, the rain falls.

“But if we are founded on the Rock, our lives, our house can stand.”

Be the Hands and Feet of Christ

As the Rapid Response Team ministers in Missouri and other areas, we appreciate your financial support. Please give today to help hurting people at home and around the world.


  • Praise God for the enormous outpouring of actual volunteer help, as well goods and supplies in the community. The spontaneous outpouring of assistance is a gift of God and something to celebrate and be thankful for.
  • Rebuilding will be an ongoing process and will take a long time. Pray that the victims of the storm will get the immediate encouragement they need, as well as the long-term support required so they won’t lose heart.
  • Also pray for area churches, which are doing a wonderful job of reaching out to the community. Pray that pastors have wisdom about how to effectively share the love of God and hope of Christ, in addition to providing tangible assistance in this hour.
  • Pray that the hope of Christ will shine in the dark hour for those grieving.

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  1. Claudia says:

    I am praying for you too. My niece was scheduled to work at the sport complex that was demolished 2 hours before she arrived. One of my nephews had his garage demolished and another nephew had the windows of their home blown out. My sister's storm shelter had 6 feet of water in it. But these are minor. They are alive and praising the Lord. I live in Canada, but my prayers are with all of you. Thank you Franklin Graham and all the others helping!!

  2. Carol says:

    Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God.”But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the lifter of my head.I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I lay me down and I slept. I awoke for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. For You O Lord are a shield for me, the glory and lifter of my head.Psalm 3; 1 – 6

  3. Joanne says:

    I am writing to share my thoughts. I DO beleive God is sending us warnings. We must get back to God!! Our state ND is suffering from floods and rains to prevent our farmers from getting their crops into the soil…I don't think some have even put a kernel in the ground. This is sad because it is their livelihood, but when we keep cursing and not thanking God how can HE possibly keep giving and WE JUST DON”T get it!!! My heart goes out to Joplin, Japan, North Dakota, and to the people who have just taken God out of their lives. God has to wake us up!! My prayer is Open The Eyes of your people. He loves them and so do I. Thank you for letting me share my feelings.

  4. Joanne says:

    I am low on funds, but high on the power of the Lord working through us to shine His Light on the people of Joplin and all who have served to bring His light to people! I am praying and will be praying!

  5. Donna says:

    I am praying that the God of all comfort gives you strength, courage and wisdom in the midst of having lost everything. Please know that God loves you with an everlasting love and don't lose hope.

  6. cynthia says:

    Know people of Joplin, i am praying for you. A mom in Michigan.

  7. cathy says:

    God Bless everyone in Joplin — Michigan prays for you. Our love to you all.

  8. Ann says:

    While we took a direct hit in the Cleora, OK tornado, that happened just after the Joplin hit, we have a lot of damage. My heart goes out the residents of Joplin. We have many friends and family living there. Our prayers and hearts are always with you!

  9. GINNY says:

    i am forwarding this e-mail from BGEA to everyone in my e-mail address book. Hopefully lots of folk will help in one way or another. P R A Y I N G Ginny Wilson

  10. Carolyn says:

    I grew up near Joplin and went to college in Pittsburgh KNOW we are praying for you all in SW FL . . .