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.