I know I speak for the whole team when I say that we do not intend for this Tour to bring the spotlight on to us but rather, we are the spotlight holders, shining light and offering a new perspective to stories you may not have seen.
Today was a day I will never forget. We saw Joplin through the eyes of one of our team members who is the pastor of St. Paul's Methodist Church in Joplin. He and his family live here and have played a huge role in the aftermath of the tornado. Trust me when I say, you don't understand the destruction until you are in the town and feel it. It was sobering to ride through the town that our friend has loved and served for 17 years, and have him show us the hospital and high school that are completely destroyed, along with hundreds of houses and businesses. It was heart-breaking to hear stories from some of his congregants of how they lost everything, including loved ones. But as we were experiencing all of this, something started to stand out. They have hope. It was in my misaligned thinking before the Tour that I was somehow going to bring them hope as we are present in these communities. But instead, I saw how a community that is wracked with pain possess so much peace and hope. They are present in their pain, present for one another and getting through it. At the end of our time with them, one of the riders asked them to share with us what message they'd like us to share on their behalf. Every one of them responded, telling us to let people know that God was here.
So many people, including myself, tend to ask the same questions in time of pain and suffering- Where was God,? How could he let this happen? etc. It became apparent today as stories emerged that he was here when the tornado hit and he's here now. Yes, there is mind-blowing devastation here. Yes, there are horrific stories of loss and tragedy. But we've already heard countless stories of lives being spared and God's hand being on them. Out of the ashes is coming a story of redemption. Already there is new construction, the school administration has been rockstars and gotten the kids in school on their scheduled starting day, people are reaching out to one another, volunteers are helping everywhere you look, and many have seen God's hand in all of it. I think what most people want in any circumstance that involves grieving is to know that people understand. Not that you have to be there with the perfect words or a certain emotional response, but that you get it. We hope you will keep following the Tour as we shine the light on more stories. Keep Joplin in your thoughts and prayers, they still need it.
Pictured are the hospital and high school, both of which were completely destroyed.