Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Sorry about the emailing I was still a little scatter brained. I will start off by listing the major damage. The Joplin Stake Center is gone and there are some cool pictures of that with a picture of Christ untouched. The St. John’s hospital is, well not gone, but erased and they don’t know If there is enough damage that they will just have to rebuild, 75% of the city, FLAT, the feeling as you see it is unbelievable. The school that they built several years ago is just gone. Home Depot, Wal-mart, and Cherry-Berry are flat! I mention Cherry-Berry because we went there last week.
We were up in a suburb called Jasper having dinner with the Talbot family. They informed us on our weather status and we just had a joke filled pleasant dinner. Well, it was storming pretty hard where we were at and we even saw one car that or rather a truck with lights on it speeding to where a hill might be and we guessed it was a storm chaser.
They were very fun to be with. We were communicating by text with our exchange and the Zone Leaders. At 5:23 pm (central) we got a text from the Zone Leaders saying, “Elder& Sisters there is a good potential of tornados today please please be careful tonight if there are tornado warnings or sirens please take shelter!” Exact spelling and spacing. We were just going, “okay we will watch”
About this point the storm was beginning to pick up. At 6:07 pm our exchange, (someone that volunteers to go out and help us teach), texted us and said, “There is a tornado warning!” Meaning they are literally watching one. So that got us a little more on our toes so we checked the radar and it didn’t look that bad. Our dinner was hesitant to take us home but it was a little crowded and the two babies were making a fuss. We were finishing dessert when we got another text from Bro. Brad Fields, our exchange. He texted, “Ya its destroying Joplin!” (Joplin, Missouri). “I would stay inside and seek shelter!” 6:16 pm.
Now we are a little nervous. We were trying to make pleasant over ice cream (cookies and cream) and fresh baked cookie dessert. Bro. Talbot at this point was being kicked off his email by his neighbor and bro-in-law to check out the radar. Everyone else is checking over their shoulders and looking out the window, every other few seconds.
The next text, Zone leaders (dramatic pause) “How is everything…we got hit” (6:21 pm). We tried to call them and text them right after but nothing would go through. There are two sets of missionaries in Joplin. The zone leaders and Joplin 2nd ward Elders. We are just thinking that the storm is creating interference.
I am so glad that the members care about the missionaries. To the rest of the world it would be weird for someone to be so worried about two really strange men that are in their church for such a short while. Bro. Field’s last text, “Okay just stay safe! God bless! You should check with the Joplin missionaries and see if they are okay!” (6:24 pm)
That is exactly what we did when we got home. Both Joplin Elders and even the Webb City Elders were un-reachable. Because of all this we decided to call the assistants, but they did not answer. Si I decided to call President Merkley. I explained the situation and he said that he had also been trying to get a hold of them (the zone leaders). He told me I did the right thing to call him and that I brought him some peace of heart. He then charged us to contact the rest of the zone, and report. (about 7:20 pm).
We finally got a hold of everyone and even ended up working with Bro. Richinns (from the stake) to get all of the missionaries contacted. I called Pres. Merkley about every 30 minutes. I remember every time that I called him he said, “You’re a good man Elder Swanger. Thank you for keeping me updated.” I reported to President at 8:59 pm, right after the last of the missionaries were found safe. This is the order in which they were found. (by ward name) Nevada, Monett, Pittsburg, Granby, Neosho, Miami, Fort Scott, Webb City, Joplin 1st, and Joplin 2nd.
My companion seemed worried to a degree but I had an indescribable peace.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Dustin: Are you there today?
Leah: I am. How are things going?
Dustin: Things are going to be very busy but not at the same time. There are going to be so many people that are coming to help in the restoration effort that we have to be assigned to go there. We have 600 [people] from the Church in Joplin over the week end. 10,000 volunteers in general from across the country. You know about the Alabama tornado? We have surpassed them where the [recovery] work done is concerned! It is crazy and yes I now have my yellow shirt.
The Yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts go to any one that is joined with us to do the work. We have had investigators and non members in them. I would like to send you pictures but I am looking for the adapter. OH, having my boots would be nice. It is full of nails and fun stuff like that and they would like to have us in boots. I don't know when I will be there next. I have boots. The leather ones will be good.
Dustin: [More about the tornado] Think of it this way the tornado itself was 1/2 mile wide and it was left a 6 mile footprint. Inside the footprint most building don't even have frames left. But what I was talking about is we have done more recovery work than Alabama has done. All of the houses that can be saved are patched up and the debris is cleaned up off their yards and Alabama is still working on the second part. We have so many people here they just don't know what to do with them. To let you know, yes we were there yesterday because we were assigned, and I will tell you why the death toll is raising so slow.
Imagine a 5 gallon bucket of hands.
Leah: That means they are still finding body parts? I know that they are using finger prints and dental records to identify those killed and that it is a slow process.
Dustin: And DNA that is even slower. About a month. So how was your super busy week?
Leah: It hasn’t happened yet. [He is referring to the week leading up to seminary graduation.]
Leah: I was looking at pics online of the before and after. It is amazing.
I am sending a letter that is very detailed of the night of the tornado. I tell you how crazy life is right now. We have not had a single proselytizing day since the tornado!
Well the letter to the president is done and it looks like it is time to go.
Les amo( love y'all)