The Joplin tornado affected nearly every person in the Four-State region. A wall of crosses in the Neosho United Methodist Church Christian Life Center is a prime example of the tornado's lasting effects.
Currently, about 50 crosses are hanging on a wall in the entry way to greet visitors to the Life Center. They are made of every imaginable material. Some are small, some are large. Some are ornate and some are simply two pieces of wood attached to make a cross.
Ever since the Joplin tornado, the Life Center has housed volunteer groups who came to help Joplin recover from its disaster. One of the earliest groups to stay there was the Manchester United Methodist Church from the St. Louis area.
Their work was serious; they worked to clear damaged homes of rotting food and other things which could become health hazards. They were instructed to "toss everything," but they couldn't.
In their work, the volunteers from St. Louis discovered personal items such as family pictures and they made every attempt to save and return these items. They also saved small items from the debris such as a metal yardstick, a smashed electrical plug in, and scraps of wood. These pieces of trash were formed into a cross and given to the Life Center in Neosho. This became one of the first displays on the Wall of Crosses.
Now crosses made by groups who have stayed in the Life Center are mixed with crosses given and/or created by members of the Neosho United Methodist Church. Every cross has a story.
One cross was made by a grandfather and his grandson. One cross was made by a group from Rockwell, Texas, who stayed at the Life Center. Recently, the Texas cross was delivered by a member of the church who happened to be passing through Neosho.
One small cross was formed from two pieces of a baseball cover. Another was made from wood salvaged from the 2008 tornado that passed north of Neosho and through Newtonia.
One is made from a collection of ocean beach stones.
Sarah Chaney, pastor of the local Methodist church, explained that a Wall of Crosses is not unique to the Life Center. She said that St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Joplin had a similar wall of crosses. After the tornado struck the church, the sanctuary was gone, but the wall of crosses remained.
Chaney feels the Wall of Crosses shows a “testament of faith” and that it represents all people, as every cross is different and unique.
The members of Neosho United Methodist expect the Wall of Crosses will continue to multiply, perhaps like the fishes and the loaves in the Bible. In conclusion, Chaney said, “It’s a good thing.”
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