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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Parishioners worship in parking lot of destroyed Joplin church

  • Some of them hadn’t seen each other since the previous Sunday morning’s service, some were coming to the church to support friends and neighbors, but approximately 100 worshipers and members of the Peace Lutheran Church in Joplin joined hands and prayed together on Sunday in the parking lot of their ruined church.

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  • Some of them hadn’t seen each other since the previous Sunday morning’s service, some were coming to the church to support friends and neighbors, but approximately 100 worshipers and members of the Peace Lutheran Church in Joplin joined hands and prayed together on Sunday in the parking lot of their ruined church.
    Some worshipers had lost everything. Kathrin Elmborg lived across from her church and barely survived the destruction of her home. She held one of her two dogs on Sunday as she hugged her friends and fellow church members. The other dog is still missing.
    “She wasn’t even sure if she was injured,” said Lana Nelson, who lives on the north side of Joplin. Elmborg has been staying with Nelson since the tornado.
    Elmborg said she went to close her back door that had blown open, and she fell to the floor near her washer and dryer. Elmborg’s refrigerator fell on the washer and dryer and formed a triangle that protected her when the rest of the house caved in.
    Barbara Armstrong, Joplin, a long-time member of the church, said the house at 2727 S. Minnesota Ave. she shared with her husband, Bob Armstrong, was livable, but they can’t move back in because they are handicapped and the electricity has not been restored. Their home was on the southern edge of the tornado damage track.
    Armstrong said she and her husband rode out the tornado in a hallway. She said it wasn’t their first brush with disaster.
    “We just sat there and I kept saying oh God, oh God, help us,” Barbara Armstrong said. “It’s so devastating. I’ve been in tornadoes, I grew up in Nebraska. We moved here 15 years ago from Oklahoma City and my husband was on the fifth floor of the Murrah Building when it blew up. We had to get out of there and we’ve had a lot of close calls with tornadoes.”
    Stories like that were traded back and forth as the worshipers gathered in the parking lot.
    At the northwest corner of the parking lot, the remains of the one-story church covered the slab foundation.
    Cliff and Betsy Eighmy, who live in the Loma Linda area, have attended the church for 20 years. They remember details of the building that now live only in their memory.
    “You know this north wall was a big concrete wall and we haven’t found it,” Cliff Eighmy said. “It was covered in crosses that people had brought in. It was a big collage of crosses and we haven’t seen a one.”
    Peace Lutheran Pastor William Pape tried to put the destruction surrounding his parishioners into perspective in his sermon.
    Pape said he had returned from his home in Kansas City and was planning to work on his sermon at the church on the evening of May 22, but decided to go walking at Wildcat Glades, a park and nature trail south of Interstate 44 in Joplin. He then decided to go to his motel room to work instead of returning to the church.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Destruction came like nothing any of us have ever experienced before,” Pape said. “In less than 20 minutes, lives were changed — some for eternity — people still alive were changed — buildings and houses were changed — Joplin was changed. And it will never be the same for any of us. I will live for the rest of my life wondering why I decided not to come back here to work. And I will wonder why I was spared and others were not.”
    He said Joplin was hit by “one of the groanings of the whole creation, just as, for example, Japan was hit a few months ago.”
    Pape said the parishioners at the church will persevere and rebuild and continue praise God.
    “I am sure that Jesus is standing in heaven right now greeting those people from Joplin who have died and those who have lost their lives anywhere in the United States and the world and is saying to them, ‘Here is a place I have prepared for you,’” Pape said. “In the meantime, we as members of the Peace Lutheran Church and those of you who have come to worship with us today, we have a task before us. That task is to help, and to be with, and to cry with, and share comfort with, and provide help to all who have and are suffering so much in Joplin. I know many of you are doing this. With God’s help, Peace Lutheran Church will move ahead.”
     

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