Observations from Joplin, Mo.

Larry Thomas, KNCSB director of disaster relief, visited Joplin, Mo., and sent this report:

“I observed great devastation throughout the approximately 1-by-7-mile strip caused by the tornado in Joplin, Mo. The area of devastation is simply awaiting bulldozers, grappler crawlers, and dump trucks. The areas where chainsaw operations can be of benefit are limited. The chainsaw teams in place have been able to assist many people on the periphery of the affected area.

“The Missouri Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Director stated again today that chainsaw, feeding, and chaplain operations would be shut down by next week. I think that his assessment is correct regarding feeding needs and most chainsaw recovery needs. He may be jumping the gun with regard to chaplains’ support. The realization of actual loss of life, property, and in some cases the future as it was known, is far from over.

“At least three churches were forced to hold services in parking lots because they had been requesting and receiving donated materials and their churches have become warehouses. Cases and cases of bottled water are simply sitting out in the open in any flat area. Boxes of clothing are piled in parking lots and around Goodwill donation boxes. It is doubtful that much of the ‘stuff’ well-meaning people sent will accomplish much more than take valuable manpower effort from a valid need to find a final resting place in a landfill.

“It is my hope that the thousands of ‘disaster relief’ groups in place yesterday to ensure media photo opportunities have either left or leave soon. I believe that I observed the very best of efforts to assist victims as well as the absolute worst of those who prey upon disaster victims.

“Before anyone sets out for Joplin, please contact local emergency management people and confirm the need for the trip. I can’t have possibly seen all needs while I was there, and local people should be better informed about needs than me. You can find a good contact online by looking up the Spring River Baptist Association. The numbers are working and the office is manned. Steve Patterson is the association missionary and he is the vice-chair of the county organizations active in disaster group.

“Continue to pray for the people of Joplin, Mo. Your prayers accomplish more than you think.”

The Spring River Baptist Association Web site says it has received more donations of supplies than it can store. Monetary donations are needed most. Several giving options are listed on the Web site.